Norse Religion: Cult of the Dead

Hello friends, how have you been? I’m Arith Härger and today I’m going to talk about the cult of the dead in Old Norse religion in Old Norse literature the great majority of the evidences for the cult of the Dead concerns burial and not cremation the deposition of the dead in the earth, on the perspective of continental Europe mostly Norway and Sweden Which are the realities I’m going to focus on today’s video that doesn’t mean the cult of the Dead and ancestor worship didn’t exist in Iceland, but Iceland in Scandinavian history is a rather recent reality not to mention that it started off as a colony with some Old Norse pagan beliefs within their society, surely, but the rapidly changing religious reality with the introduction of Catholicism also changed the manner in which people Were deposited in their graves, and the entire religious perception towards the reality of the afterlife So Iceland might give us good examples, indeed, of course, and without a doubt memories of An older pagan past Surely were carried by settlers into Iceland, but because Norway and Sweden kept a pagan mentality for thousands of years before Christianity came into the religious panorama both countries hold a lot more evidences for a longer historical period Norway and Sweden give us a lot more information about the pagan cult of the Dead and ancestor worship within the Old Norse religion so Let’s explore the conception of the continuation of life in the grave mound in Scandinavia in heathen times as well as the relationship between the living and the dead I’m going to speak about the howe dwellers burial mounds, elves, land spirits, gods Good gracious There’s plenty to talk about. I hope you enjoy this video and just one quick note by the end of this video I’ll put the bibliography for you With no more delay. Let’s get started Perhaps we should start this video with the worship of the Dead and their grave mound in Old Norse literature We have indeed a couple of mentions of the worship of men after their death for instance We have an historical figure named Grímr to whom sacrifices were made after his death It was believed that he had some Beneficial power and gave good fortune and so people worshipped him and gave offerings to him Most likely placing the offerings in the grave mound We are not sure what qualities this man had in life But to have been worshipped after death and linked to good fortune Certainly his good qualities might have been similar to the Ones of the next historical character we are going to talk about next Which is King Hálfdan whose reign had been blessed with great seasons which influenced fertility of the land and subsequently the crops. It was a very prosperous time under king Halfdan’s rrign and people placed so much trust in the king that when he died his body was immediately carried to Hringaríki which is in- nowadays Ringerike in Norway. Just a few miles northwest from Oslo The point here is that people meant to bury his body in that place So that the blessings of fertility during his reign could continue on after his death The King was meant to be worshipped after his death To propitiate the fertility of the soils where he was to be buried However, many influential men from different districts Wanted the King’s body for their own to bury him in their own lands to secure Or to ensure prosperous seasons in their own regions so what people did was to divide the King’s body and bury each part in different places so everyone could continue to worship him to have his beneficial influence bestowed upon them the King’s head, for instance, was buried in a burial mound at Stein in Hringaríki and each person of various regions that came to the funerary ceremonies Took a part – a piece – of the body and laid it in a burial mound in their own regions a burial mound raised with the sole purpose to place part of the King’s remains and make sacrifices to the mound to acquire the King’s blessings and good fortune, to continue to propitiate fertility in the land These burial mounds are known as the Howe’s of Hálfdan so it’s quite interesting this direct connection between the body of The dead man and the fertility of the earth Adam of Bremen made an interesting statement about the swedes That the swedes made gods out of mortal men And worshipped them after their death which is interesting given the fact that the god of the swedes – Freyr – starts off precisely like that as a legendary mortal king whose reign had been of peace and plenty prosperity and great fertility So when Freyr died they buried him at old Uppsala where indeed we find a tremendous amount of burial mounds and Indeed we know about the fertility celebrations held there in honor of Freyr sacrifices made to ensure the continuation of peace and prosperity in the land and the fertility of the soils for good crops and plentiful food and here’s another interesting example King Olaf Well, he has a terrible dream, a premonition that a terrible plague would fall upon his people So he instructed the construction of a great burial mound where silver should be placed and to where the king himself would be carried when he dies He instructed the construction of his own burial mound where he intended to spend his existence after his own death The king was preoccupied with this dream about plague and upcoming famine So his objective was to dwell in the burial mound after death to prevent this plague so people could continue on to worship Him and give offerings – silver So fertility and prosperity could go on to fight against this upcoming plague What is also interesting about this account is that when His story was finally written down by Christians. They made some alterations and gave a few lines to the king himself supposedly the king warns people That after the creation of his burial mound no one was to continue the tradition, it must end the sacrifices and the trust people placed in the dead The king says he does not believe that the dead have any power to help the living and then, well, he goes on explaining the results of that tradition Which is an evil practice and should stop etc it’s curious because his story starts off precisely with a very pagan tradition and The cult of the dead and to prevent the plague and famine by worshipping the dead King in his burial mound, and then right after this the king as a completely different speech contradicting himself In here is- it’s quite evidently that we have a Christian compiler Who is writing about the history of the king and the pagan traditions and he comes to a point when- He is absolutely perplexed and worried about the heathen religious traces. And so He goes on about explaining why it is a bad tradition and the death turned into fiends and causes harm to worship the dead The Christian compiler writes an extensive dialogue of the King against the heathen traditions he was supposed to compile but couldn’t remain impartial about it and that if people continue to sacrifice to the dead, the dead turn into trolls But still The compiler kept certain hidden aspects of the cult of the dead, this tradition Probably because he wasn’t quite aware of the meaning people ended up anyway making the burial mound to King Olaf and sacrificed to him for plenty and Thereafter they called him Olaf Geirstadaálfr – álfr, elf Take special notice at that. King Olaf after death becomes an elf And we shall talk about that further ahead This particular account as both pagan and Christian ideas expressed in here We can read it- We can read this account from the perspective of a somewhat concerned and fearful Christian writer Who doesn’t quite understand the heathen traditions and goes on about- ponderously Explaining why such traditions are bad And this is the exact point, the very fact that this account is presented in such an obviously misunderstood manner and in constant contradiction to the religious beliefs here expressed makes it even more convincing about the established active cult of the dead in Scandinavia this type of cult – the worship of the Dead and the grave mound and… In relation to the Fertility of the land – was very present in pre-christian Scandinavia and so widespread that it was clearly one of the points Christianity was focusing and twisting this cult to try to dissuade people from Continuing with their pagan practices and deifying the dead Who had been mortal once It’s just an inconceivable idea for the Christian religious mentality who worships only one God While the pagans were making gods out of mortal men, just like Adam of Bremen mentioned But we shall return to this Olaf Geirstadaalfr when we talk about elves and rebirth but all these examples are by no means the only ones about the worship of the dead and the burial mound on the video about necromancy in Old Norse religion I’ve already talked about Hervarar Saga which if you are both a fan of JRR tolkien particular the Lord of the Rings and if you are I don’t know… maybe interested in the case of the restless dead and rising-dead and necromancy you should definitely read that saga, in which King Gudmundr was worshipped after death and those who worshipped him called him their God And of course there are other accounts But suffice it to say that the worship of men after death was a notion That wasn’t unfamiliar to the Norse mentality So we already know about the worshipping of those who reside within the burial mounds but what about the burial mounds themselves the tradition of the worshipping of the dead within the burial mounds Has a quick transition from the worshipping of the known person to the worshipping of the mound itself as the physical symbol of the cult of fertility linked to the dead What I mean is- that obviously at a certain point people simply forget who was buried there But that didn’t stop people from continuing on with this cult the burial mound itself became the very symbol of expression of faith and To which people continued to make sacrifices for the same reasons people made sacrifices to those Buried there in the first place when they knew who those people were so there is a transition from the worship of the burial mound dweller to that of the burial mound itself and One good example of this is the God Freyr as previously spoken in the Ynglinga saga indeed we read that Freyr was secretly buried in a great burial mound actually in a howe, which can either be perceived as the mound for the dead or the hill that leads to the under- to the underworld, underground in which supernatural entities live and propitiate fertility to the land Surrounding the hill the swedes Continued to pay tax money to Freyr, pouring gold silver and copper through three openings in the mound itself in the saga of Olaf Tryggvason the same picture is painted but with more detail Freyr was a king of the swedes and was buried in a mighty mound people would offer wooden figures to Freyr. The swedes also made a door and two windows in the mound and continued to pour in gold silver and copper You see the interesting part about this is that the swedes- Thought that Freyr was alive and living inside the moind And so they made a house for him and continue to give offerings to their beloved king For three years, and after that they concluded that he was dead But they didn’t stop with the offerings They continued to sacrifice to Freyr and called him their God It’s rather curious that for instance in Grimnísmál It is said that Freyr is the lord of Álfheim, the land of the elves – Álfheimr or Álfheimar Which is- well let’s say for now a sort of “fairy land” Which is the realm of the elves (the álfar) and their king is the god Freyr, the God of light In Scandinavian fairy tales and folklore the elves haunt the hills hence to them it is also given the name Huldufolk – the hidden people the elves are land spirits that dwell in the burial mounds; in the artificial hills made for the dead to rest the houses of the dead These elves were the original dwellers of the burial mounds who became elves spirits of the place and their power influenced the surrounding areas just like the previous example of Olaf Geirstadaalfr He became an elf So it’s curious this link between Freyr and elves. Freyr being the lord of the elves so in other words the lord of the dwellers of the burial mound both Freyr and elves – álfar – propitiate fertility precisely because they live within the earth and So their power is of the earth directly connected with the earth In the segas we often read about treasure and the burial mound or rather The practice of sacrifice and offerings, treasure in general connected with the burial mound we even have indications of people who come upon a sacrificial mound – blóthaugr Due to a storm and heavy rained parts of the mound fall and treasure inside is revealed even in Olaf’s saga olaf himself commands his own men to break the sacrificial mound of the heathens to find treasure and he goes on to explain why it is named sacrificial mound – blóthaugr that the heathens whenever they made a great sacrifice for the season of prosperity and for Prosperity itself in general, they had to go to this mound and sacrifice to it Carrying treasure with them and offering it to the mound so the same principle as in the sacrifices to Freyr and other examples previously given Like the silver in the mound of the other king Olaf, the one that became an elf In the Prose Edda we have a curious passage about king Helgi. Both Helgi and is daughter were worshipped with Sacrifice in their burial mounds, both gold and silver were the sacrificial offerings to the mound Not only Helgi was worshipped like a God but his own daughter was worshipped like a goddess to whom in fact Jarl Hákon worshipped her He was a devoted worshipper of this daughter of Helgi I believe her name was Torgerdr, a goddess Now, let’s jump into the tradition of sitting on a burial mound. I’ve talked about that already Well several times including on the videos about Icelandic magical staves as there are certain performances with in Icelandic modern sorcery that requires sitting on burial mounds or Sometimes well, the great majority of moments crossroads as pathways of the dead But also of course the more restricted traditions and celebrations within the domestic environment, or rather within the property of a family and sitting on the burial mound of their ancestors On the archaeological perspective We have a number of cases of burial mounds – barrows from the migration period which are not rounded at the top as the ones from the late Iron Age and Viking period they have been purposely flattened at the top to give them an appearance of plataforms You have examples such as the ones that you can visit in the burial mounds at Husby and old Uppsala Burials with a flattened top with a slight slope suggesting a sort of stage in which action would be visible from those standing below It is believed that in cases such as these Stones were set on top of the burial mounds to form a seat where someone would actually sit perhaps perform ritual or utter words, or on a rite or celebration. It’s curious because most Scandinavian burial mounds Even in Scandinavian colonies are situated in close proximity with the local assemblies or Þings Among such burial mounds we can find other burial mounds With their tops purposely flattened, so it seems clear these specific burial mounds were intended for some public ceremony and if we look into Old Norse literature indeed, we have cases of kings sitting on their burial mounds or sons of Kings sitting on their fathers’ burial mounds and wait for their right of succession to be passed on to them for instance in the Flateyjarbók, we read- we can read that a boy of 12 called Björn the son of King Olaf Set on his father’s burial mound after his uncle clearly shows that he has no intention to let the boy rule Björn after sitting on his father’s burial mound for three consecutive springs He becomes the king the right of succession is passed on to him We have other examples for instance Thorleifr in Hallfredar Saga, which you can read Saxo Grammaticus also mentions that Hotherus had the custom to give out decrees to people from the top of a high mound, a burial mound; in Norse mythology the king of Giants, Thrymr, sitting on a mound in Jotunheim; and other examples, similar examples of kingly figures- Sitting on the burial mound such as in the Hjalmders Saga Gongu Hrolfs Saga, and so on and so forth We have a series of old norse accounts of kings and their sons or figures of great power sitting on top of the burial mounds and either receiving blessings or simply appearing and giving out blessings or uttering speeches and decrees Which resembles the performance of Seidr actually Seder is the name given to the divination rite in which the volva took part The volva set upon a seat raised high above the ground The seat is called Seidhjallr (seidr platform). The volva stood there high above the ground sitting on her seat of power while people came to her One at a time to receive her wisdom to receive the words of her prophecy – divination Supposedly the volva set on this high platform to “see” what was normally hidden from men’s eyes There is also a certain resemblance here with the seat of the great Thul/Thulur from norse mythology The special seat of the god Odin or perhaps another figure of great power and wisdom from which it is said this figure of great power could see all the worlds and utter wisdom, judgment even, by the well of Urdr in the underworld and a connection here with the underworld the world of the dead, and a raised seat of power for instance we have an illustration of such a platform on the 9th century tapestry from the Osberg ship burial in norway and The burial itself said to be for either a vulva or a priestess of freya clearly a person of great renown and power and I think perhaps we can find another good example of sitting on a burial mound and Link all of this- to to all of these ideas: in Flateyjarbok on the Olafs Saga Tryggvasonar we have the case of a shepherd named Hallbjorn who had the habit of sitting on the burial mound of the poet Torleifr Hallbjorn would often sleep on top of the barrow, and he would compose poetry in honour to the dead poet, to the barrow-dweller, but unfortunately he had no skill in poetry, but he did try One day he fell asleep again and in his dream the burial mound opened up and a man Came out It was Torleifr himself, the poet, the skald, and he climbed the mound and set beside the shepherd Hallbjorn The poet thanked Hallbjorn for his efforts in composing poetry, and bestowed a gift on him, that he should never find poetry hard to compose any longer He recited a verse and told the shepherd that he would memorise it and when we woke up he would become a great poet Sure enough Hallbjorn woke up and in the waking world he caught a glimpse of the poet, Torleifr, Going back to his burial mound The shepherd Hallbjorn remembered the verse and thus became a great poet This is a good surviving example of sitting on top of the burial mound and in a dream receiving wisdom and blessings just as the volva would sit on a High seat and see what is normally hidden and receive wisdom, receive prophecy It is interesting to notice that in Irish stories there are a lot of mentions of sitting or lying on top of burial mounds as a means of entering into communication with the supernatural world and even receive prophecy Knowledge, divination, visions. Even in Irish and Scottish folklore there are also references to Cairns and burial mounds, barrows Where it is said that those who sleep on top of them would contact their ancestors and receive information from them in dreams or would receive visions of circumstances relative to the future events of their lives – divination So it’s quite interesting this reality of both Celtic and Norse worlds sitting on burial mounds and receive information from the ancestors while dreaming Receiving useful knowledge from the dead residing in the burial mounds which seems to have- to have been a widespread phenomenon and We can still find traces of it in medieval literature however, as we have previously seen the religious pagan traditions of being in contact with burial mounds and sacrificing to the burial mounds was progressively put aside due to Christianity and well Finally came to a stop which is why in the literary sources the traces of this cult are a bit blurry but they are still there and it’s still perceptible and my next assessment, I might be wrong, but I believe the tradition didn’t really died out But there was a sort of shift, a transition form- to something else It might be that this tradition became what we know as sitja uti or “sitting out” Which is a type of shamanic divination mentioned in a few sources including in Snorri Sturluson’s Heimskringla Sitja uti – meant to spend the night out on cross ways amidst invocations to the powers of darkness to reveal secrets from supernatural entities Sitja uti is equivalent to the performance uti-seta recorded in later Icelandic folklore. I think the origins of this Norse shamanic practice practice of sitja uti comes from sitting on the Barrows, on the burial mounds and The “sleep” previously mentioned in the Old Norse literary sources as well as Irish folklore legends and literature, is not actual sleep, but this exactly shamanic practice of entering in a trance state or perhaps out-of-body experience and Come in contact with the Barrow dwellers with the ancestors living in the burial mound to receive knowledge from them as shamanism is in the great majority of cases to indeed acquire knowledge from the underworld from the world of the spirits, world of the ancestors as Christianity progressively spread all over Scandinavia and the Cult around the dead and the burial mounds was prohibited, people continued in another way performing sitja uti, sitting out on crossways, crossroads Which is often associated with paths of the Dead where the dead ancestors and other spiritual entities are said to cross and from them hidden knowledge- Secret wisdom can be obtained I might be wrong, of course But it seems to be the shamanic origins of sitja uti, which were originally performed on top of burial mounds Let’s not forget that the pagan Norse believed that the dead in their burial mounds Would become álfar – elves – spirits of the land that dwelt inside the Hollow Hills The burial mounds themselves, and have influence upon people, so people would with contact- with the spiritual entities by sleeping on their habitat on top of the burial mounds to receive their blessings and hidden knowledge Knowledge given by the ancestors which after death inhabited the burial mound and became elfs Wights of all sorts, land spirits, which is what we are going to talk about next So here we go elves and land spirits This is a subject intimately tied with the concept of reincarnation in the aspect of rebirth But that is something I would like to fully explore on another video If you are familiar with Scandinavian folklore You already know that elves are connected with mounds In the sagas as well We have that perception even in cases when people are directed by somebody else to- to go to the burial mounds while alive to be healed from wounds Supposedly the álfar, the elves, have the power to heal serious wounds Provided that the person seeking healing brings them sacrifice to the burial mound itself The elves are the dwellers of the grave mound So let’s go back to the previous account of Olaf Geirstadaalfr it was only when King Olaf died and was laid in his burial mound and That sacrifices were made to the mound and its dweller for plenty, that the name Alfr was given to him After his death and becoming a barrow dweller, he becomes an elf I’ve already talked about in this channel about the álfablót sacrifice to the elves and there is a particular interesting account of this celebration in Heimskringla that I’m sure you are quite familiar with it already When the poet Sigvat visits a farm in Sweden as he is refused entrance in the farm, No hospitality is given to him because the family is holding a sacrifice to the elves It’s a private celebration to which no outsiders are allowed to attend There’s another saga. I don’t remember the name, but I’ll put it in here eventually, where a witch is said to have Support of both elves and the Norns the witch skuld Said to be the child of an elf woman In a variety of Edda poems the elves are clearly also represented as beings of a different race But are always associated with either the Aesir or the Vanir a race apart from the gods but seem to walk freely among the gods so it is interesting the conception of elves as beings of magic and great power associated with the divine even, but that’s exactly where I want to get We seem to have an older perception of the elves being the dwellers of the burial mound the spirits of the dead who become beneficial land spirits, residing in the mound or hallowed Hills to which a person- people sacrificed to receive beneficial effects – the álfablót celebration seems to be that exactly – a celebration which enters in the religious panorama of ancestor worship worshiping the Elves as ancestral entities residing in the burial mound In the burial mound within the property of each family hence being a private celebration restricted to the family, to the ancestors of the family a very personal celebration to the ancestors of that particular family so outsiders are not allowed to attend and then in the Eddic poems the elves start to be associated with the gods and I think this is already a change of mentalities possibly Christian influences Because in the case of King Olaf at a certain point he changes from an elf spiritual entity into “Olaf of the Holy” Represented as being born again Into the world of the living – he is reborn but I believe this rebirth aspect is pagan in nature and the only Christian influence in here is precisely the fail in understanding the conception of rebirth for the pagans and Trying to seek parallels with the Christian myths hence why we start to see elves connected to the divine, to the gods I don’t believe the Norse pagans linked the elves to the gods Originally I think indeed the elf is the representation of the rebirth of the deceased. Not coming in flesh in its own body, again as perceived by Christians, but becoming a land spirit, a different entity This is the measurement of the conception of rebirth in paganism for Northern Europe This animistic notion that death is merely physical and in truth life is eternal Because the deceased or the dweller of the burial mound will go through a process of transformation and become something else an ancestral spirit within the category of elves and elves in this case are no more than ancestors that remain attached to their burial mounds I think which becomes – the burial mounds – their dwelling, and they ascend, so to speak, to the category of land spirits an elf is just that, an ancestor that becomes a land spirit living in the burial mound not a land spirit of a mountain, a river, a field, a rock or a forest but specifically a land spirit of the burial mound which is called álfr – elf of course you can ask yourself, but what about the draugr? The draugr is something else, as I’ve explained on the video about necromancy in Norse religion, I believe The drug is the animated corpse. It’s a physical entity it is indeed the dweller of the mound in person so to speak, but the corpse is Animated the draugr is not a land spirit, but the spiritual entity that inhabits the corpse, which is quite different so All these to tell you that within the cult of the dead in association with the burial mounds there seems to have been indeed elf-worship we are dealing in here with different levels of worship Within the cult of the Dead we have the cult of the burial mound, and within the cult of the burial mound- We have the elf worship or sacrifice to the elves – álfablót Which is all part of the ancestor worship and as previously said not just in this video, but several other videos, elf-worship is associated with the god Freyr and Freyr being their Lord. This is suggested within Grimnísmál for instance. You can read that as one of the sources What we know of Freyr’s cult suggests indeed association with both fertility and the dead But what’s quite fascinating at least for me are the cup markings on rocks Traditionally associated with the elves especially in Sweden which might give us some clues about the fertility cult associated With the dead that became elves These stones with cup marks Are often found in association with tombs of the Stone Age up until the Iron Age in Sweden there is a long long tradition of offerings made to these stones by pouring milk and other drink offerings; pouring the offerings into the little concavities man-made holes in Sweden these stones are often called either as älvkvanar or älvkvarnar and people until recent times would pour offerings into the small pits and when times were specially hard in terms of lack of fertility of both humans, animal and also the soils people used to have sexual intercourse on top of these stones and leave the human body fluids in these pits as a sacrificial offering These stones are not exclusively from Sweden. We can find them in many other places throughout Europe in fact there is one nearby where I have recorded the video out Odin The Raven God. I’m recording this in Portugal by the way So indeed, there is a fertility cult associated with these little holes and the elves It’s quite possible that- Originally this cult of the cup marks in stones might have been associated with a fertility cult to the earth offerings to the earth and as the belief still in prehistory changes to include the abode of the dead within the earth With the construction of earthly tombs and burial mounds for the dead to the fertility cult of the earth it was also added the cult of the dead as well, since the dead dwell in the earth The dead start to be associated with fertility during the Neolithic at least and perhaps there is this idea that the earth Being the womb of life and the shape of the burial mound resembles exactly a womb It might give us some indication that the Dead return to the womb of the earth hence the fetal position of the dead when deposited in prehistoric graves, and by returning to the womb they are reborn hence this association with the earth, the dead and fertility and rebirth expressed precisely in the accounts previously given including Olaf Geirstadaálfr and the dead are reborn into spiritual entities, land spirits, álfar – elves Perhaps I’m pushing this a little bit too far, but we can clearly see some parallels in here So the burial mound represents the womb of the earth The residence of the dead, in which a transformation occurs and they become land spirits – elves propitiating fertility Which is why the burial mounds were built within the property of a family where they would cultivate the ground the burial mound during the Neolithic was indeed a marker of property that that land belonged to a family Since within the burial mound generations after generations would be buried there; the burial mound became the house of the dead the ancestral home of a particular family Let’s not forget that in the primordial stages of the Greeco-Roman world in prehistory the cult of the ancestors involved or Revolved around the tombs of the deceased family members Cooking food near the tombs and leave offerings to the ancestors. Which later on This cult gave rise to the cult of the Lares and the Manes – ancestral Guardian spirits In fact in ancient Rome the entire concept of property belonging to a family was because their ancestors were buried there within the property a place belonged to a family not because of the house in there or the land and those who worked it But because of the fact that the ancestors of that family were buried in those grounds That was the legitimate reason why a property belonged to a particular family because of the ancestors buried there the same thing in Scandinavia – the burial mounds within the property of a family and the ancestral cult or domestic cult to the ancestors Which was the álfablót, asacrificial celebration to the ancestors residing in the family’s burial mound hence, the reason why it was a private celebration worshiping the álfar – the elves – the ancestors that became land spirits and dwellers of the Barrow I have mentioned the connection between Freyr and elves and let’s get back to the cup marks on the stones previously spoken so elves are associated with Freyr Both Freyr and the elves are connected to the Sun in Gylfaginning it is said that Freyr controls the rain sunshine and the fruitfulness of the earth and the sun itself in several times throughout the sources is called Álfrödlull – the glory of the elves This is particularly interesting because the cup markings of course were carved in the shape of a hollowed half of a sphere resembling a womb Possibly connected to the fertility cult of the earth as previously spoken, but to these little holes There seems to have been later on It was added Circles, rings, spirals, sun-like figures, and we seem to have an association with the Sun as well Possibly during the Neolithic onwards and quite prominent during the Chalcolithic when the Sun Became the personification of the divine power of fertility let’s not forget that before indo-europeans to the native peoples of Europe both the Sun and the earth as representations of divine power of fertility, were already linked together in the religious panorama of- pre-indo-european expressions of faith So these cup marks at a certain point seemed to start to be associated with the Sun wheel The worship of the Sun and the cult of fertility in nature So this could have been the beginning when elves started to be indeed associated with light and the god Freyr God of fertility associated with both the Sun and the earth Sunshine and the fruitfulness of the earth as it is mentioned in Gylfaginning Clearly without a doubt these cup marks in Scandinavia are indeed associated with elves because that factor alone remained within the Swedish folklore for- to this day and Such stones are still called elven Mills Now this was just a side note to what was previously said that may give us some insight into the cult of fertility associated with the elves as being ancestral dead that went through a transformation and became elves but this aspect of Sun, sunshine, the Sun wheel as a ertility symbol, might be the reason why elves in Old Norse literature started to be associated with the gods in conclusion I think it’s safe to say that the burial mound in Scandinavia was very much part of the cult of the Dead and Associated with fertility and blessings given to those who sacrificed to the burial mound and its dwellers blessings given by the ancestral spirits – the Barrow dwellers There seems to have been this perception that the dead went through a transformation within the burial mound and I think that transformation is reflected on the very concept of Náströnd Which I haven’t talked about in this video and I wont, but I did a video solely about that the concept of Náströnd indeed seems to express pretty well this idea of transformation of the dead within the burial mound and the burial mound in pre-christian Scandinavia at least Seems to have been perceived as the abode of the Dead where the dead go through a transformation and become spirits either going into the afterlife as I’ve expressed on the video about Nastrond or trying or- sorry- staying behind among the living and becoming elves, land spirits Dwellers of the burial mound to bless the land and those who sacrifice to them it’s not clear if the dead had any choice in all of this or how or why some Dead would enter the burial mound and go to the underworld and why others simply stayed behind and became land spirits; perhaps there was no choice at all since the underworld for pre-christian Europeans was perceived as being Literally the earth beneath our feet, and we have that well expressed in the very concept of Hel itself Hel being literally the underground, the ground down there in the earth That’s the realm of the Dead in general, and perhaps the burial mounds served as the house Where the dead would inhabit and get out into the surface and propitiate all sorts of blessings to the living Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why in Celtic folklore The burial mound was perceived as being a gateway into the underworld or the other world in general maybe we are dealing in here with just that a construction that served as the physical connection between the world of the living and the underworld and the guardians of order dwellers of the burial mound Were the elves in Scandinavian folklore and the fairies or the good people – fae folk – in Celtic folklore If you look into the burial mounds and their entrances, indeed, you are literally walking towards the inside of the earth Towards the womb of the earth The underground, the underworld, the burial mound for the living was a place of initiation Tiny entrances you are forced to crawl to get into it Very narrow entrances you go through until you reach an arched way, a vaulted chamber, a new world, a new reality the abode of the dead But to the Dead entering there was not initiation but transformation – rebirth The dead enter and get out as spiritual entities being reborn All right, my dear friends I hope you have enjoyed this video and I hope you have enjoyed this beautiful burial mound I think there is people inside it Don’t go away just yet. By the end of this video I’ll have the bibliography for you, the sources I have consulted if you are interesting in continuing the study of this subject Once again, thank you so much for watching. See you on the next video and as always tack för idag!
(Thank you for today!)


  1. It's always cool too watch your videos, I've converted to Norse pagan faith and am getting a better understanding of the faith from the videos on this channel.

  2. Hi Arith, great content. I'm new follower of your channel, i like it very much. Your content have an excellent quality. I have an interesting theory for share with you and some of my thoughts. I want to know what you thing about this aspect. Some people speculate with the idea or posibilities of what happened to the vikings and his mysterious sudden disappear in greenland settlements by the year 1.400 AC aproximately. Hope you can answer

    I have my personal view about this. My theory is that several viking nobility and people went down into deeper and huge subterranean caves with capability to sustain life and vegetation with masses of fresh water and algae, fitoplanctum that generates oxygen and food that can mantain a population in this subterranean caverns within the earth. This theory is shared by an author who's name is Robert Sepehr, he is an antrophologist from california that is specialized in indo-european and aryan culture and populations. I strongly recomend you to read his book with a theme closely related about what i'm saying to you, his book is named: "Gods with amnesia, subterranean worlds of inner earth".

    I will leave you an extract of two articles of science magazine about this and a book from the autor robert sepehr:

    Why did Greenland’s Vikings disappear?

    "In 1721, missionary Hans Egede sailed a ship called The Hope from Norway to Greenland, seeking Norse farmers whom Europeans hadn't heard from in 200 years in order to convert them to Protestantism. He explored iceberg-dotted fjords that gave way to gentle valleys, and silver lakes that shimmered below the massive ice cap. But when he asked the Inuit hunters he met about the Norse, they showed him crumbling stone church walls: the only remnants of 500 years of occupation. "What has been the fate of so many human beings, so long cut off from all intercourse with the more civilized world?" Egede wrote in an account of the journey. "Were they destroyed by an invasion of the natives … [or] perished by the inclemency of the climate, and the sterility of the soil?""

    "Archaeologists still wonder today. No chapter of Arctic history is more mysterious than the disappearance of these Norse settlements sometime in the 15th century. Theories for the colony's failure have included everything from sinister Basque pirates to the Black Plague. But historians have usually pinned most responsibility on the Norse themselves, arguing that they failed to adapt to a changing climate. The Norse settled Greenland from Iceland during a warm period around 1000 C.E. But even as a chilly era called the Little Ice Age set in, the story goes, they clung to raising livestock and church-building while squandering natural resources like soil and timber. Meanwhile, the seal-hunting, whale-eating Inuit survived in the very same environment."

    "In 1976, a bushy-bearded Thomas McGovern, then 26, arrived for the first time on the grassy shore of a fjord in southern Greenland, eager to begin work on his Ph.D. in archaeology. The basic Norse timeline had already been established. In the ninth century, the advances in seafaring technology that enabled Scandinavian Vikings to raid northern and central Europe also opened the way for the Norse, as they came to be known in their later, peaceful incarnations, to journey west to Iceland. If the unreliable Icelandic Sagas, written centuries later, are to be believed, an enterprising Icelander named Erik the Red led several ships to Greenland around 985 C.E. The Norse eventually established two settlements, with hundreds of farms and more than 3000 settlers at their peak. But by 1400, the settlement on the island's western coast had been abandoned, according to radiocarbon dates, and by 1450 the inhabitants in the Eastern Settlement on the island's southern tip were gone as well."


    – Why did Greenland’s Vikings disappear?

    – The Greenland Viking Mystery


    – Erik the Red Norse Viking Settlements – ROBERT SEPEHR


    – Gods with amnesia, subterranean worlds of inner earth, by author Robert Sepehr

  3. [0:30] Keep to the green grass. Don't you go a-meddling with old stone or cold Wights or prying in their houses, unless you be strong folk with hearts that never falter.

  4. Actually I don't see the difference between the cult of the dead and the Catholic cult of saints.
    Both were human, specially blessed who when dead were subjects to a cult.
    The shared relics of the Nordic kings had their exacts equivalents with the saints relics.
    Catholicism had probably no choice to continue this old pagan custom, it adapted it.

  5. I would think there would be many problems connected to this practice nowadays, in our era of constant migration/displacement, where most people no longer possess an ancestral land. I know that my ancestors are buried all over the place and I suppose that they can benefit the lands where they are buried, but I personally am no longer there to venerate them or to directly benefit from the blessings that they may bestow on that particular area. While I am settled now, not a single ancestor of mine is buried nearby. Perhaps one could broaden one's sense of veneration to the prominent families that retain a solid foothold on the land where one resides, once you choose an area in which to settle, even if those families are no direct kin to you? These families are clearly represented by the roads in my area that bear their names, for example, and in many cases historic buildings/dwellings, not to mention the names in the cemeteries (ancient cemeteries are scattered everywhere). I live in a rural area where there are many centennial farms still owned by the same families and the descendants of these founding families are still here and still bear their names. A pride in local history is extremely strong here. But in my case, veneration must rest upon veneration of the land itself. I can't point to any particular mound or gravestone, but must broaden my perspective to the overall community in which I now dwell.

  6. Hey Arith, there is this conception of supernatural creatures and entities all around the Norse and Icelandic mythology, could you make a short compilation of those creatures and entities….I mean, when you speak of king Olaf "becoming an elf", what are the elves and how are they seen by the old (and maybe pre-christian) norse comunities.
    Love your work here on youtube.
    – Fenris

  7. Christianity " dont worship the dead "
    Now here is our symbol a cross the Roman's used to kill our God… worship him…oh wait .
    "Heaven is were you go when you die.. if your good so follow the rules or you will go to a pit of fire to burn for eternity in excruciating pain forever when you die …were a giant demon rules ….don't forget jesus loves you though …he proved it through …being killed and dying ……but we arnt a death cult I swear !
    My god the hypocrisy.

  8. I cannot express how much i enjoyed this video Arith……. I have spent most of my life searching out burial mounds in Britain …. and have always loved sitting alone within them to connect with the spirits of the place …. strangely i always feel at home in them …..I have a passion for all ancient sites and am lucky that the British isles is full of them … the one in the video is very beautiful !

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