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Author Topic: Variation in Pantheons  (Read 1746 times)

Svipdagr

Re: Variation in Pantheons
« Reply #15 on: March 06, 2017, 08:46:11 am »
Quote from: Svipdagr;203461
You might be able to find archive sources if you want

 
I found a source for my claims about Freja and fruit-trees: http://luf.ht.lu.se/SerM/09001-09500/M%209273.pdf page 5. In my translation:

   The informant nr3 (Petter Danielsson. Born in Krokstorp around 1810. Died in Krokshult, parish of Älghult 1891), told me, when I as a child helped him collect apples in his basket. We had lots of fruit, and father would let the poor have some for free sometimes. Then Petter said the following: “You who have so many apples and pears, do sacrifice to Fröja I guess? My mother put some apples in the earth by the ward-tree when I was a child.” I then asked Petter: “What kind of tree is the ward-tree?” “It’s the oldest one in the yard”, said the old man. But what Fröja was he did not know. I asked my mother. She replied: “Don’t care about what Petter says. He’s old and has become childish.” I haven’t heard anything like that except for that one time, until your question made me remember.

Megatherium

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Re: Variation in Pantheons
« Reply #16 on: March 06, 2017, 03:40:47 pm »
Quote from: Svipdagr;203475
I found a source for my claims about Freja and fruit-trees: http://luf.ht.lu.se/SerM/09001-09500/M%209273.pdf page 5. In my translation:

   The informant nr3 (Petter Danielsson. Born in Krokstorp around 1810. Died in Krokshult, parish of Älghult 1891), told me, when I as a child helped him collect apples in his basket. We had lots of fruit, and father would let the poor have some for free sometimes. Then Petter said the following: “You who have so many apples and pears, do sacrifice to Fröja I guess? My mother put some apples in the earth by the ward-tree when I was a child.” I then asked Petter: “What kind of tree is the ward-tree?” “It’s the oldest one in the yard”, said the old man. But what Fröja was he did not know. I asked my mother. She replied: “Don’t care about what Petter says. He’s old and has become childish.” I haven’t heard anything like that except for that one time, until your question made me remember.

 
Thanks so much for the links, they look really interesting.

I've always been interested in folklore which features pre-Christian deities because it suggests ways in which these deities continued to interact with humans in the post-conversion period and may therefore represent a useful place to begin the reestablishment of those relationships.

In addition, since historical Heathen cultures would have passed their religious traditions through the family/community, it seems reasonable to do so when that opportunity exists.

This is one reason why Frau Holle/Holda is so important to me; my mother/grandmother didn't know anything about other Germanic deities, but they at least knew about Holle/Holda.
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Jainarayan

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Re: Variation in Pantheons
« Reply #17 on: March 07, 2017, 10:50:02 am »
Quote from: Megatherium;203285


I find this an interesting question because it seems to me that the way a particular culture understands its pantheon of deities is something which is in constant flux.

 
In the context of Hinduism, this is so true it's almost painful. The running joke is that Hinduism has 330 million gods (that came from a mistranslation of "types" and the word for "ten million" - 33 types of gods, not "33 ten million"). But it's probably not too far off. Literally, every village can have its own gramadevata, presiding village deity. And the next village may not have even heard of that first deity, having their own. The same can apply to families. One family can have a kuladevata (family deity) that another family never heard of. Deities come and go in worship. Some fall by the wayside.

Then we have regional deities... gods and goddesses known in one part of India, but unheard of in another. Every one knows Ganesha, the elephant-headed god. Most people know he is the son of Shiva and Parvati. What people don't know is that Shiva has two other sons and a daughter. One son is by a constellation of stars (Hindu stories are nothing if not colorful), the other is by a female form of Vishnu (it's a very colorful story), and the daughter is by... well, I don't know. She just is. The second son of Shiva and the stars is known as Murugan (and other names) in the south, and as Kartikeya in the north, but not as well known as in the south. He is considered Parvati's son and depicted in iconography with Shiva, Parvati and Ganesha as a family. Shiva's other son Ayyappa is almost unknown outside of south India. I don't think Parvati took to Ayyappa.

On top of that, a new goddess has come onto the scene in recent years. And then we have the cases of children born with deformities resembling characteristics of certain gods being worshiped. So yeah, they come and go. Given that modern educated Hindus believe there is only one God who takes myriad forms, the now-you-see-'em-now-you-don't comes as no surprise.
śivāya vishnu rūpaya śivaḥ rūpaya vishnave
śivasya hridayam viṣṇur viṣṇoscha hridayam śivaḥ
Vishnu\'s appearance is Shiva; Shiva\'s appearance is Vishnu
Vishnu is the heart of Shiva; Shiva is the heart of Vishnu - The Yajurveda
 
"Anyone can pray to the Gods in whatever manner he likes." - Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson
 

Megatherium

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Re: Variation in Pantheons
« Reply #18 on: March 07, 2017, 03:58:22 pm »
Quote from: Jainarayan;203511
In the context of Hinduism, this is so true it's almost painful. The running joke is that Hinduism has 330 million gods (that came from a mistranslation of "types" and the word for "ten million" - 33 types of gods, not "33 ten million"). But it's probably not too far off. Literally, every village can have its own gramadevata, presiding village deity. And the next village may not have even heard of that first deity, having their own. The same can apply to families. One family can have a kuladevata (family deity) that another family never heard of. Deities come and go in worship. Some fall by the wayside.

Then we have regional deities... gods and goddesses known in one part of India, but unheard of in another. Every one knows Ganesha, the elephant-headed god. Most people know he is the son of Shiva and Parvati. What people don't know is that Shiva has two other sons and a daughter. One son is by a constellation of stars (Hindu stories are nothing if not colorful), the other is by a female form of Vishnu (it's a very colorful story), and the daughter is by... well, I don't know. She just is. The second son of Shiva and the stars is known as Murugan (and other names) in the south, and as Kartikeya in the north, but not as well known as in the south. He is considered Parvati's son and depicted in iconography with Shiva, Parvati and Ganesha as a family. Shiva's other son Ayyappa is almost unknown outside of south India. I don't think Parvati took to Ayyappa.

On top of that, a new goddess has come onto the scene in recent years. And then we have the cases of children born with deformities resembling characteristics of certain gods being worshiped. So yeah, they come and go. Given that modern educated Hindus believe there is only one God who takes myriad forms, the now-you-see-'em-now-you-don't comes as no surprise.


What is interesting about the level of "pantheonic" (I made up a word! hooray!) diversity in India is that it has so many features that historical Germanic religion lacked. India has been a literate society for a long time, it has a professional priestly class, it has an incredible amount of written material (some of which is widely if not universally revered), and a greater degree of political unity (though political unification of the subcontinent was fairly sporadic until the Muhgal-British-Modern states more or less succeeded each other).

Given that ancient Germanic societies has none of these things, I don't think it would be outlandish to say that the level of pantheonic diversity may have even been greater in those societies than in modern India (although the subcontinent does have a level of population density relative to pre-modern Germanic societies which may provide ground for a higher level of diversity).

So, given the many wonderful responses, I have two main thoughts on this issue:

One is that while some people may see the level of pantheonic (there he goes again!) diversity as evidence of an inherent falsity of polytheistic traditions, I would disagree. I think humans are fundamentally unable to really understand Deities, and all of our myths, iconography, etc are ways in which we establish a point of contact with beings who are fundamentally other. I think there are many ways to establish such relationships and pantheonic diversity reflects the myriad of ways one can do so.

Secondly, this really emphasizes to me how the Germanic pantheon as described in the Eddas can only really be a starting point for a modern Heathen. Deities may interact with us ways that are new or long forgotten but still perfectly valid. This doesn't mean we should throw out the baby with the bathwater so to speak and declare Odin to be the God of cute cat videos, but I think there is some utility in a combination of UPG and "the Lore(!)" for the creation of modern relationships with the Gods.
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Re: Variation in Pantheons
« Reply #19 on: March 07, 2017, 05:07:15 pm »
Quote from: Megatherium;203516
"pantheonic" (I made up a word! hooray!)

 
And it is a cromulent word, and also potentially very useful.:thup:

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Re: Variation in Pantheons
« Reply #20 on: March 07, 2017, 06:44:27 pm »
Quote from: SunflowerP;203517
And it is a cromulent word, and also potentially very useful.:thup:

Sunflower

 
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ehbowen

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Re: Variation in Pantheons
« Reply #21 on: March 07, 2017, 07:04:06 pm »
Quote from: Megatherium;203516

One is that while some people may see the level of pantheonic (there he goes again!) diversity as evidence of an inherent falsity of polytheistic traditions, I would disagree. I think humans are fundamentally unable to really understand Deities, and all of our myths, iconography, etc are ways in which we establish a point of contact with beings who are fundamentally other. I think there are many ways to establish such relationships and pantheonic diversity reflects the myriad of ways one can do so.


As the token monotheist (yes, I know I'm far from alone!), I'd like to comment upon this. No Christian, Jewish, or Islamic tradition which I am aware of denies the existence of a plethora of spiritual beings of different personalities and power. What I see it boiling down to in my own monotheistic paradigm is that there is One GOD...but that even then that God is manifested as at least three (but I personally believe ten) different Persons.

Below that supreme level, though, there is (IMO) a dizzying array of spiritual beings that I only know enough about to get myself in trouble. I'm now convinced that there are a LOT of angels...so many so that, even if only one percent of them are really interested in events on earth, that one percent is sufficient to supply personal guardian angels for every individual human being, and also angels with responsibility to oversee churches, neighborhoods, cities, governmental entities, possibly even major corporations--and the waiting lists are centuries long....

Baptist practice generally frowns on excessive interest in angelic or spiritual matters, which gave me a few guilty feelings when I first began to seriously consider these matters some thirty-plus years ago. However, I felt then that if you wanted to really get to know a factory owner then getting to know the workers who had been on his factory floor for many years was not a bad step. Since then I've become more comfortable in my fascination with angels; I think that God intentionally designed them to be fascinating creatures.

However, I do see this Reality in the overarching context of a bitterly fought spiritual war in which there is a great deal of espionage, deception, and counterfeiting. Within that context, the monotheistic ideal makes a great deal of sense. If you approach the man at the top and make a positive and direct connection with Him...then working with those in the hierarchy under him becomes easy.
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Jainarayan

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Re: Variation in Pantheons
« Reply #22 on: March 08, 2017, 10:02:45 am »
Quote from: Megatherium;203516
What is interesting about the level of "pantheonic" (I made up a word! hooray!) diversity in India is that it has so many features that historical Germanic religion lacked. India has been a literate society for a long time, it has a professional priestly class, it has an incredible amount of written material (some of which is widely if not universally revered), and a greater degree of political unity (though political unification of the subcontinent was fairly sporadic until the Muhgal-British-Modern states more or less succeeded each other).

 
I think this can be attributed to the harshness of life in the north of Europe compared to the variety of climates and eco-systems in South Asia. There are rivers that boats fish on; rivers fishermen can wade into and cast nets; the seas are calmer than than the North Sea and North Atlantic; the climate in South Asia is conducive to growing a wide variety of vegetation and raising animals. Just about the only time of the year when things stop is the monsoon season.

Given all that, there was more opportunity for philosophy, poetry, science, medicine, technology, religion, linguistics, to flourish. In a word, people had the luxury of time. The people of Northern Europe were no less intelligent, because they did come up with some humdinger ideas and technologies. Their focus was more on survival, witnessed by the number of gods and goddesses, and other beings that had to do with the fertility (or not) of the Earth: Jord, the Earth herself; Freyr; Thor; Sif; the Jotnar who were always looking to wreck things; Skadi and Ullr being gods of the harshness of winter; the gods of war Odin, Freyja, the Valkyrjur.

In Hinduism there is only one god who is associated with preserving and maintaining balance in the universe and on Earth: Vishnu. There is only one goddess associated with good fortune and is the Earth herself: Lakshmi (Bhudevi or Bhumidevi is her aspect as the Earth), Vishnu's consort. I think the comparisons and contrasts can go on. But I think there are definite reasons for the disparity in pantheons and cultures.
śivāya vishnu rūpaya śivaḥ rūpaya vishnave
śivasya hridayam viṣṇur viṣṇoscha hridayam śivaḥ
Vishnu\'s appearance is Shiva; Shiva\'s appearance is Vishnu
Vishnu is the heart of Shiva; Shiva is the heart of Vishnu - The Yajurveda
 
"Anyone can pray to the Gods in whatever manner he likes." - Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson
 

Darkhawk

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Re: Variation in Pantheons
« Reply #23 on: March 08, 2017, 12:09:59 pm »
Quote from: Jainarayan;203533
I think this can be attributed to the harshness of life in the north of Europe compared to the variety of climates and eco-systems in South Asia. There are rivers that boats fish on; rivers fishermen can wade into and cast nets; the seas are calmer than than the North Sea and North Atlantic; the climate in South Asia is conducive to growing a wide variety of vegetation and raising animals. Just about the only time of the year when things stop is the monsoon season.

 
This is one of the things I've thought a lot about in terms of the development of theologies.

To throw another one into the mix, Egyptian cosmology has the world as fundamentally good and abundant, so it partakes of that similarity with the Hindu.  However, the Egyptian paradisical status is precarious and requires constant maintenance: they were aware of the interplay between the powers of the river and the powers of the desert, poised between flood and sandstorm, and saw the idealised state as one in which each was in its proper place and poised to balance the other, because only when all of those interlocking forces were correctly aligned could the proper conditions be upheld.

So while there is no need to have every power focused on the production of abundance or the harshness of nature, every power must be subordinated to the obligation to participate within the bounds of upholding the balances among all the powers, because otherwise all the bits go to pieces.

(It's not just the river and the desert in the dualisms; the entire landscape was written in those delicately poised oppositions, down to 'the river flows south to north and the prevailing winds are north to south', and thus the world is made for travel by river so long as those forces continue doing their thing properly.)
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

Jainarayan

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Re: Variation in Pantheons
« Reply #24 on: March 08, 2017, 03:06:57 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;203535
This is one of the things I've thought a lot about in terms of the development of theologies.

To throw another one into the mix, Egyptian cosmology has the world as fundamentally good and abundant, so it partakes of that similarity with the Hindu.  However, the Egyptian paradisical status is precarious and requires constant maintenance: they were aware of the interplay between the powers of the river and the powers of the desert, poised between flood and sandstorm...

 
Very true. I think we'd find some kind of balancing act or way of maintaining equilibrium in most cosmologies... light and dark chasing each other, weather and seasonal cycles, etc. The Hindu concept is not as obvious. The duality is between the (major) gods and goddesses.

For example, the goddesses Lakshmi, Radha and Sita (aspects of Lakshmi); Durga and Kali (aspects of Parvati, Shiva's "wife"); and Saraswati, the respective consorts of Vishnu, Krishna, Rama; Shiva; Brahma are more than female counterparts or "wives". When Vishnu takes an earhly avatar, Lakshmi incarnates along with him. They are actually the energy (shakti) of the male gods. Without their energy, the male gods cannot act. Without the male gods, the goddesses have no purpose. Without acting on anything, what is the purpose of energy?

There's a story about Vishnu and Lakshmi in which Vishnu was greatly disrespected by a prominent sage. The sage kicked Vishnu in the chest. Vishnu forgave him (he's forgiving to a fault), but Lakshmi was outraged, more at Vishnu for tolerating and forgiving such disrespect. It must have been a particularly egregious act of disrespect for the goddess of good fortune, grace, charm and beauty to be outraged. She did the divine equivalent of going home to mother... she left Vishnu, alone and upset. He wandered around, letting his duties fall by the wayside. Because without his energy, shakti, wife, he couldn't do anything. After some convolutions in the story Vishnu and Lakshmi were reunited and all was well with the world and Vaikuntha (their spiritual abode).

Some Hindus also hold that one cannot obtain Krishna's grace without appealing to or being devoted to Radha. Their divine love is so intense that they're often referred to and thought of as a single entity, Radha-Krishna. Shiva and Parvati also have a combined form.

It seems balance is something humans need, can't get away from, and weave into their mythologies and cosmologies.
śivāya vishnu rūpaya śivaḥ rūpaya vishnave
śivasya hridayam viṣṇur viṣṇoscha hridayam śivaḥ
Vishnu\'s appearance is Shiva; Shiva\'s appearance is Vishnu
Vishnu is the heart of Shiva; Shiva is the heart of Vishnu - The Yajurveda
 
"Anyone can pray to the Gods in whatever manner he likes." - Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson
 

Hildeburh

Re: Variation in Pantheons
« Reply #25 on: March 18, 2017, 06:45:20 am »
Quote from: Jainarayan;203533
The people of Northern Europe were no less intelligent, because they did come up with some humdinger ideas and technologies. Their focus was more on survival, witnessed by the number of gods and goddesses, and other beings that had to do with the fertility (or not) of the Earth: Jord, the Earth herself; Freyr; Thor; Sif; the Jotnar who were always looking to wreck things; Skadi and Ullr being gods of the harshness of winter; the gods of war Odin, Freyja, the Valkyrjur.

I'm not sure that the number of gods/esses in Germanic societies is a consequence of survival,  the Romans, Egyptians and Hindus have quite a few, possibly a good number more than the Norse. Considering the Norse of the Viking age traded, raided and settled all through Europe and as far as Central Asia, I think we can safely say they had a wider focus than survival.

Freyr and Thor are certainly connected to fertility but that is not their only focus of their cult, as for Sif, so little is written about her and no active cult has been found so it is difficult to assess her role; other that wife of Thor and mother of Ullr.

Whilst to is easy to assume that the Jotnar are always assosiated with opposition and chaos, it is not so simplistic. The dichotomy between gods/esses and Jotnar in Norse mythology is not so clear cut; Jord for example is the daughter of a giantess (Nott) which makes Thor part Jotnar, Odin is the son of a Jotnar (Bestla), Skadi is a Jotnar and Freyr married a Jotnar (Gerd); kinship is a complicated issue in Norse mythology.

Ullr (whose name means glory) has become the god of snow, there are in fact Ullr festivals in ski resorts, but it appears from the sources that he was attested as a member of the Aesir gifted with a bow, skis, the son of Sif and stepson of Thor and kennings that suggest he was a warrior. There was an active cult of Ullr near Stockholm, many oath rings were found in this excavation, possible suggesting oaths were sworn to him or associated with him.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2017, 06:46:48 am by Hildeburh »

Hildeburh

Re: Variation in Pantheons
« Reply #26 on: March 18, 2017, 07:42:30 am »
Quote from: Megatherium;203285
So I’ve recently been a little fixated on the following article (http://odroerirjournal.com/pantheon-what-pantheon/) which, very briefly, questions the extent to which the “Norse Pantheon” as articulated in the Eddas is an accurate representation of how historical Heathens saw their Gods and the relationships among them.


The Eddas reflect Viking age Scandinavia and in the case of the Prose Edda the Pantheon has been systemised and euhemerized. The Eddas are a snapshot of a specific age and time, they do not reflect the entirety of historical heathenry which would have exhibited  variations according to time and place.

Tyr and Thor as sons of Odin is a good example, given that Thor was more widely worshipped across the Germanic world it is likely that Thor may have become son of Odin when Odin's cult gained ascendancy. Tyr is named in the Prose Edda as son of Odin and in the Poetic Edda as son of Hymir but Tyr literally translates as god as is cognate with Zeus, so it seems he may have predated Odin.

Quote from: Megatherium;203285
I find this an interesting question because it seems to me that the way a particular culture understands its pantheon of deities is something which is in constant flux.


Not necessarily in constant flux but cults would have had regional variations, in terms of the empasis on specific gods/esses, local cults, times and places dedicated to honouring deities. Warfare, trade and migration would have lead to syncretism or even complete anilation of regional cults, this could be a slow or rapid process.

Quote from: Megatherium;203285
I suspect that cultures which have a (relatively) high level of literacy and/or political unity, a professional religious class, and denser populations (such as Greco-Roman, South Asian, and Chinese cultures) may have a greater degree of pan-cultural coherence in the way in which a pantheon is understood than in cultures (such as temperate European ones) which are lacking some of the above mentioned factors.


Heathenry was tribal, there was no centralized state or state religion as there was in classical Greece or Rome. But even in pre Christian literate societies where there was a state religion there also existed local and family cults, which exhibited great variation.

Megatherium

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Re: Variation in Pantheons
« Reply #27 on: March 19, 2017, 10:52:08 am »
Quote from: Hildeburh;203841
The Eddas reflect Viking age Scandinavia and in the case of the Prose Edda the Pantheon has been systemised and euhemerized. The Eddas are a snapshot of a specific age and time, they do not reflect the entirety of historical heathenry which would have exhibited  variations according to time and place.

Tyr and Thor as sons of Odin is a good example, given that Thor was more widely worshipped across the Germanic world it is likely that Thor may have become son of Odin when Odin's cult gained ascendancy. Tyr is named in the Prose Edda as son of Odin and in the Poetic Edda as son of Hymir but Tyr literally translates as god as is cognate with Zeus, so it seems he may have predated Odin.


I've always felt that the idea of Odin as the father of all the Gods;

- Was a late development
- Reflects the dominance of a particular social class rather than a universally held idea
- Seems like an attempt to force a hierarchical structure on a religion that didn't have the level of self-organization to exhibit such traits

While the idea that Tyr had a more prominent role than Odin is difficult to directly prove, the links between Tyr and Zeus/Jupiter are interesting, and I imagine that in some times and places there was likely a Germanic deity with a name related to Tyr that had a prominent role.
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Hildeburh

Re: Variation in Pantheons
« Reply #28 on: March 19, 2017, 08:02:50 pm »
Quote from: Megatherium;203912
I've always felt that the idea of Odin as the father of all the Gods;

- Was a late development
- Reflects the dominance of a particular social class rather than a universally held idea
- Seems like an attempt to force a hierarchical structure on a religion that didn't have the level of self-organization to exhibit such traits

While the idea that Tyr had a more prominent role than Odin is difficult to directly prove, the links between Tyr and Zeus/Jupiter are interesting, and I imagine that in some times and places there was likely a Germanic deity with a name related to Tyr that had a prominent role.

 
The names of the Old Norse Tyr,  Old English Tiw (named in the futhorc as Tir), Gothic Tyz (named in the Gothic Tyz rune) and Old High German Ziu decend from the proto German Tiwaz (named in the proto germanic futhark) which in turn decends from the Proto Indo European  *deiwós (shining one).

Of the reconstructed PIE pantheon Dyḗus Ptḗr (shining sky father),  was the likely head of the pantheon, through sound changes this name eventually became the Proto German Tiwaz and through further sound changes became the various Germanic names for Tyr. So Tyr's name has an excellent pedigree. The word Tyr is the noun for god so bynames that include the word god once alluded to Tyr rather than Odin.

It is likely Odin superceeded Tyr, when Odin's cult gained ascendancy and along with that adopted some of the mythos surrounding Tyr. We can see from Tacitus that it is Tyr that is equated with the Roman war god Mars not Odin. Even the later (11th century) Adam of Bremen's account of the cult centre of Uppsala rates Thor as the "mightiest" god who sits on the central throne.

As evidence goes in Heathenry there is a strong case that Tyr was pre-eminent and predated Odin. Cults waxed and waned and varied from region to region in the polytheistic world, unfortunately due to the paucity of written sources we have a rather skewed veiw of Germanic mythology.

Odin was definitely the god of warriors and kings that fact is pretty clear from the literature but hierarchical structures were already present within these societies, the most powerful being the comitatus. I think attempts to organise polytheistic religions stems from a Christian worldview.

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