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Author Topic: Norse paganism: Questions to be asked for a short story  (Read 828 times)

poptarts1

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Norse paganism: Questions to be asked for a short story
« on: February 01, 2018, 11:41:25 am »
How's it going everyone? I'm currently working on a short story that will have a main character that grew up Around Norway, Iceland, and Greenland around 1000 common era. Seeing as though the main religion was Norse Paganism I'm needing some specifics filled it concerning certain beliefs of that faith. Any insight you have would be most welcomed. My questions are as follow:

1. Do the current beliefs of norse paganism differ from that of the beliefs held as far back as 500 to 1000 common era? If so, how?

2. Is the "All-Father" the same as the god "Oden"? In what ways?

3. There are certain star constellations that are supposed to represent certain gods. How are they regarded/viewed by the faith? What significance do they hold?

4. How did the world begin?

5. Describe the process of dying/ reaching Valhalla. What is Valhalla like?

6. Does your faith have an equivalent to purgatory?

7. The conversion to Christianity that started to overtake the areas previously mentioned was brought about around this time by Lief Erikson. How was/is this viewed by your community? Note: His father, "Eric the Red" refused to be converted. "Red's wife however, did convert.

Thanks for the help!
« Last Edit: February 01, 2018, 11:43:40 am by poptarts1 »

Darkhawk

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Re: Norse paganism: Questions to be asked for a short story
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2018, 11:50:32 am »
1. Do the current beliefs of norse paganism differ from that of the beliefs held as far back as 500 to 1000 common era? If so, how?

Things that you should keep in mind:

- we do not know for certain what any ancient beliefset was, beyond what was written down, which is in the case of most cultures very minimal, and likely also only reflective of the practices of the elites

- we do know that cultural religions tend to be much more concerned with practice than belief in any case, as practice is what is actually relevant to binding a community together and belief is stuff that only exists in the skulls of individuals

- our understanding of what people practiced is likewise sketchy.  Practices do not leave easy to interpret archaeological finds, and tend to be primarily reported by outsiders who want to exaggerate their differences from "normal" behavior.  We've got Stuff, and we've got Sites, and we've got some ideas about some of how people used the Stuff at the Sites, but there's a lot of argument about what that means in practice.

So the answers to your questions boil down to "Yes, of course" and "Who knows?" though there are more nuanced specifics available to people whose field of study this is.
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ehbowen

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Re: Norse paganism: Questions to be asked for a short story
« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2018, 02:41:31 pm »


So the answers to your questions boil down to "Yes, of course" and "Who knows?" though there are more nuanced specifics available to people whose field of study this is.

Not that I presume to speak for Darkhawk, but my takeaway from the above is that as long as you do not deliberately malign or distort the tradition, you can use a good bit of leeway and justify it as author's license. From all accounts most deities have a decent sense of humor, and those who don't probably need a good poke anyhow.

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Megatherium

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Re: Norse paganism: Questions to be asked for a short story
« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2018, 07:07:36 pm »
How's it going everyone? I'm currently working on a short story that will have a main character that grew up Around Norway, Iceland, and Greenland around 1000 common era. Seeing as though the main religion was Norse Paganism I'm needing some specifics filled it concerning certain beliefs of that faith. Any insight you have would be most welcomed. My questions are as follow:

1. Do the current beliefs of norse paganism differ from that of the beliefs held as far back as 500 to 1000 common era? If so, how?

Undoubtedly yes. The biggest difference is that historical Heathens would have inherited their religious traditions as part of the culture - it was the water they swam in so to speak. Modern Heathens have to actively study past cultures, and then decide how and what to incorporate into a modern context. That means that there are not just differences, but that historical and modern Heathenry are fundamentally different types of religions. There are, however, likely some very general similarities with the worship of multiple deities, the importance of ancestors and community, the use of offerings as part of religious ritual, etc.

2. Is the "All-Father" the same as the god "Oden"? In what ways?

"Allfather" is one of many names used to refer to Odin. There are a lot of them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_names_of_Odin

3. There are certain star constellations that are supposed to represent certain gods. How are they regarded/viewed by the faith? What significance do they hold?

The only one of these I am familiar with is a vague association of Frig with "Orion's belt". I don't think there is any widely accepted meaning to this association.

4. How did the world begin?

The only creation story we have was written by Icelanders after conversion. It likely reflects some aspects of traditional beliefs and also incorporates elements which historical practitioners would not recognize. There is also a very good question of how literally (perhaps not much) historical Heathens saw their myths. In general the story appears to contain elements of different creation stories - there is an emergence of the world naturally (without divine creation) between two realms of fire and ice, there is the murder of a giant and the creation of the world from his body, and there is a giant cow licking folks out of the ice. It is likely different cultures had different versions of these myths and what we are left with today is an amalgamation of some of them.

5. Describe the process of dying/ reaching Valhalla. What is Valhalla like?

It is vital to understand that Valhalla was likely not a significant part of Heathenry or relevant to most historical Heathens. Afterlife beliefs appear to have varied greatly, but there does seem to be some common idea that the dead continued to be part of their community after death. Valhalla appears to have emerged in later periods as a "consolation prize" for people who died in combat far from home, and were therefore not physically able to maintain their links to their community. It is not a Heathen equivalent of Heaven.

In terms of the process, it appears that the Valkyries (vaguely female figures associated with battle) would select some of the most important warriors and take them to Valhalla although half of those warriors are supposed to have gone to Freya rather than Odin.

6. Does your faith have an equivalent to purgatory?
Nope. There a very few indications of judgement after death in Germanic traditions, and those which exist may well be Christian imports. The closest thing to a moral judgement would be if you were seen as a problematic/evil/dangerous person by your community which would then not actively maintain their links with you in death.

7. The conversion to Christianity that started to overtake the areas previously mentioned was brought about around this time by Lief Erikson. How was/is this viewed by your community? Note: His father, "Eric the Red" refused to be converted. "Red's wife however, did convert.

You get a lot of views on the spread of Christianity among Heathens. Generally, as we find there to be great value in the traditional religions of the area, we don't view the conversion an entirely positive event. Attitudes can range from a somewhat hysterical bitterness and anger to a more neutral acceptance of the change.

Thanks for the help!

You are most welcome.
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-George W. Bush

SunflowerP

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Re: Norse paganism: Questions to be asked for a short story
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2018, 12:28:38 am »
7. The conversion to Christianity that started to overtake the areas previously mentioned was brought about around this time by Lief Erikson. How was/is this viewed by your community?

Speaking for myself here, rather than for any community, and not from a specifically-religious perspective: I view it (as phrased, bolding to indicate what I'm taking issue with) as historically dodgy, and a perspective that doesn't reflect verifiable Icelandic culture of the time well.

Yes, Leif Erikson was a convert to Christianity and an enthusiastic proselytizer - but just one of several, and political pressure (by King Olaf Tryggvason of Norway), rather than evangelical pressure, seems to have been far more influential on the Christianization of Iceland. Even more to the point, the actual Christianization itself was the result of debate and mediation, rather than of strife and arbitrary imposition.

Attributing the Icelandic conversion to Leif diminishes the significance of the Althing (an institution that has been active almost-continuously from the 10th century to this day) as a central aspect of both medieval and modern Icelandic culture.

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