Old Norse Religion – Everyone Worshipped the Same?


Hello friends, how are you? My name is Arith Härger And today I’m going to talk a bit about worshiping in pre-christian Scandinavia I just want to give you a quick notion that things were not exactly as they are today in terms of religion, obviously or in terms of Northern European traditional paganism In our modern reconstructions of Nordic paganism there is a lot more focus in the same dozen gods, the usual celebrations throughout the year and a great mixture of other religious realities outside Scandinavia To give some sort of consistency to our modern neo-pagan paths of Old Norse religion and because of- foreigner religious concepts brougt into Nordic paganism There is the tendency nowadays to believe our Norse ancestors Worshiped the same gods we do today, and everyone was in some sort of religious unification and everyone subscribed to the same religion and gods, which isn’t true, of course Sometimes People tell me whith great certainty that Old Norse peoples did not worship Loki and other such deities, for instance Which also isn’t true Old Norse faiths were pagan in nature and if within such faiths a variety of beings are included you can be certain that someone worshipped them or at least certain entities are the remnants of ancient pagan cults and worshipping Nordic paganism isn’t dualistic in nature So divine entities and other beings aren’t placed in the myths and folklore just to fill a role to reinforce the eternal fight between good and evil and because of that we have to be opened to the possibility that people Worshipped gods such as Loki, Angrboda, Jormungandr, Hel, etc. Deities who are often put aside in our modern religious reconstructions of Nordic paganism Just because we put these gods aside nowadays doesn’t mean our ancestors did it and in the case of Loki for instance- It’s no coincidence he comes in the myths as often as Odin himself, and Loki continued to be called upon for magical purposes even after the Viking period in Icelandic magical incantations, as an example But of course today I’m not going to talk about the worshipping of these deities all these to tell you that just because nowadays neo-pagans within modern Nordic paganism decided to worship just a handful of gods and always the same gods Doesn’t mean in the past it was like that Not everyone worshipped the same even if they were introduced in the same cultural reality So let’s take a look at some examples and I hope you enjoy this video as I have said, in pre-christian Scandinavia People did not subscribe to the same religious reality Old Norse religion isn’t the name of a specific religion but a broad sense that covers a vast tradition of various religious realities of a culture you cannot put Old Norse religion into a big book and say “This is the religion and this is what you have to follow” Old Norse paganism is an extensive religious phenomenon with multiple spiritual concepts We have to take in mind that in pre-christian Scandinavia the pagan religious concepts of the time existed in a variety of geographical realities some of which had little contact with each other You had the general gods of the Norse pantheon worshiped in urban centers then you had small villages with their own local deities and celebrations and then you had ritual performances made by the priesthood, made by wanderers sorcerers, witches, rune-casters, a variety of people inside and outside society many variants of the same culture coexisted in some spaces But there were types of religious beliefs solely of a specific area region, city, village Etc some small communities adopted certain aspects of the general great tradition and on the other hand great urban centers, where the general religious tradition was performed, also adopted certain concepts of various locations they came in contact with exchange of religious beliefs and introducing them into the general religious tradition forcing it to constantly evolve constant shifting movements of cultural elements in pre-christian Scandinavia religious beliefs were not stagnated but constantly flowed in pre-christian Scandinavia much of the Religious ceremonies were led and performed, to a certain extent, by the nobility It wasn’t uncommon to see members of the nobility within the priesthood sphere people from outside nobility Physically and socially speaking outside the reality of the nobility Were permitted to attend some of the ritual performances and celebrations people from different social realities gathered at central places for worship in sanctuaries, for judicial assemblies Markets, etc So in certain occasions a lot of people from different backgrounds shared the religious phenomenon meaning that they were Aware of certain religious beliefs and share them with each other shared certain concepts in public gatherings These places served to spread religious beliefs and created certain religious points where people had points people had in common But then there were other realities outside these centers of public gathering the reality of a locality a Region, a county, a certain town, village, even the reality of the farm and other spaces scattered all over the Scandinavian geographical reality until we reach very remote spaces where people Lived and had their own beliefs aside from the main ones they came in contact with and adopted when they travelled to attend public gatherings A couple of festivities attracted people For instance in Sweden many Swedes would flock to attend the cult and market at Uppsala So these places, Cults and festivities were quite significant for entire regions However, these gatherings occurred sporadically most festivals were actually celebrated within local communities and within individual farms; very restricted celebrations Only certain fixed annual festivities linked to the changing of the seasons for instance Were attended by the majority of the population but a great portion of Festivities and cults were done either in private or just strictly within a community and that created other religious beliefs solely shared by the community or by a particular farming community and family creating religious beliefs outsite the general traditional religious beliefs Let’s see a couple of examples Sigvatr Tordarson was a skald who visited a village named Hof in Sweden To every farm he went he was denied entrance and no hospitality was given to him Everyone turned him away Because they were all- all of them Celebrating Álfablót, a sacrifice to the elves Not as in beautiful elven beings of the forest But a category of beings ranging from land spirits to ancestors Sigvatr was extremely annoyed by the entire situation because he was not familiar with the celebration of the Álfablót He was a Nordic but not everyone celebrated Álfablót. He certainly never had It was a celebration strictly held within private domains and in certain regions Another example in Óláfs Saga Helga tells us how the Christian King Olafr in late autumn Visited a farm in a very remote area in northern Norway where he found people celebrating a pagan feast related to fertility The details of the festivity have no equivalents in other sources No other pagan celebration of Scandinavia matches this one this festivity was focused on Völsi personified by the severed penis of a stallion How many of you heard about this deity named Völsi? Raise your hand. I don’t blame those who who never heard of it before because This might have been just a local deity for that specific area Certainly, this festivity was local, or at the very least a regional celebration with no other equivalents a unique pagan celebration within the Old Norse religious reality not shared by the majority of the Scandinavian population This is exactly what I have expressed in the beginning of this video Certain gods appear in mythology and we should not put aside the possibility that some of those deities received worship at a certain point or at least Might have been local gods later on introduced in the mainframe of Old Norse beliefs eventually brought into the general worshipping Of course a lot of polytheistic religions include a lot of deities that belong exclusively To the mythology and never receive worship, at least not in a broad religious reality They might indeed have been gods of specific communities Just think about the fact of a specific community worshipping certain gods and to bring that community into the fold their gods are included in the general pantheon to attract these people into joining with larger communities for a variety of reasons The Romans did that they included to their own Pantheon the gods of the people they wanted to aggregate to the Empire Why shouldn’t Scandinavians do the same? Maybe the mythological war between the Aesir and Vanir tribe of gods is an account of actual Scandinavian communities Aggregating each others’ gods in an attempt to pacifically unite Also take the case of the god Odin Odin who has more than a hundred names. Most of these names might have been of local deities that were Incorporated into the cult of Odin when it was introduced in Scandinavia the local gods lived on in the figure of Odin and this cult served to unite people into one single worship Take the case of Freyja She was also called Mardoll, Horn, Gefn, Syr, Thrungra and Skjalf It’s possible that some of these names originally denoted local and regional goddesses and for infinite reasons were later identified with Freyja Christians did exactly the same turning pagan gods into Saints to facilitate the conversion the pagan gods lived on has Saints within the new religion. It wasn’t just the gods that were incorporated, of course but also many festivities I mean, in certain Swedish regions so many local gods and local people were turned into Saints to facilitate the conversion that at a certain point the- the locals were frustrated with the church because There were so many Saints that it just created a hollow meaning to all of it There was nothing special about Saints anymore because virtually everyone was turned into a saint What I mean What I’m saying, is that throughout history It was a common political process to incorporate the gods of the people a certain political power wanted to make an alliance with So throughout Scandinavia Almost everyone shared common beliefs that were expressed in annual festivities or public gatherings and celebrations But the great majority of the festivities and celebrations were local and regional and many people worshipped other gods and had their own festivities worshipping, celebrations and even cults aside from the general tradition Not everyone worshipped the same; there were certain common religious beliefs that linked people to a general cultural tradition But many religious beliefs were unique and were either later on incorporated into the general cultural tradition or never were and remained local phenomenon and eventually disappeared and we are left with just the names of certain gods and no more than that So we cannot say with absolute certainty that certain gods were not worshipped Most likely they were at least in a certain location in a certain period in history Some gods disappeared and others remained and we are left with just a couple of tales or the names only It’s also possible that certain cults of local deities might have Spread over larger areas and in some cases might have been Incorporated into the general pantheon of gods and we are only talking about gods Let’s not forget that there were the cases of local spirits and other religious beliefs beyond the divine sphere Certain cults and magical performances not to the gods but to forces of nature locals spiritual entities, ancestors we have cases of people and communities in pre-christian Scandinavia, that did not worship a specific deity But were focused on keeping alive certain traditions to elements of nature giving offerings to, and performing rituals around, waterfalls, rocks, megalithic monuments, trees Clearly not specific deities but other traditions that survived in certain communities Completely outside the pantheon of Norse deities or any other pantheon Again, not everybody worshiped the same Alright, my dear friends. I hope you have enjoyed this video thank you so much for watching as always and see you on the next video and tack för idag!
(Thank you for today!)

61 comments

  1. W-w-what, you trying to tell me there wasn't an official dogma, that was strict and organised?! They didn't risk excommunication, and damnation for following "false" and "heretical" doctrines?! Unbelievable, this is clearly impossible!"

    Obviously I'm being sarcastic, and this is a joke.
    Personally, I find it funny some people think religion/spirituality must be so dogmatic and hierarchical to function properly.

  2. Strange these things seems too common and obvious to me as an Indian. We grow up seeing all these differences.

    The idea of "conversion" doesn't exist outside abrahamic faiths. It was a pure political idea. One that has been disastrous to the West and middle East…

  3. god morgen! So in the series Vikings, when they went into muslim spain Floki was in awe of how the muslim worshippers bowed in unison etc. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Floki believed or wanted his people to believe and worship the gods in that manner and it’s part of the reason he left Kattegat and hence Iceland. So I know about Gardar Svavarsson and Ingolf Arnarson but was there a religious reason for going to Iceland?

  4. I imagine the local deities in old European paganism were something akin to those found in the Shinto and Hindu faiths

  5. I've been wondering, have you read: Hamlet's Mill: An Essay Investigating the Origins of Human Knowledge and Its Transmission Through Myth by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend?
    Just curious really. I find it to be another layer to the image of mythology/history. It shows us how to see just a little more than could previously be seen. It has expanded the way I view mythology and ancient civilizations, in a good way I think.

  6. Arith, I just wanted to send out a huge thank you with your videos and the work you've done~ I have an amazing Teacher and friend: "Sean Black" who has helped with runes etc. I have been following your channel since and thanks to you, there have been many that have truly helped with learning the runes and their history among how they're used~ Thank you so much for your hard work and shared knowledge and information~ ❤️

  7. hands up ! No I had never heard of Volsi until today , but it sounds very interesting and not unusual for people to worship the penis of a horse as a great fertility symbol , I think I heard that in some parts of the world the penis of a bull was worshiped for the same reason , and after all a penis is not the worst thing in the world to worship ! 🙂

  8. Thank you again my friend for another great video . Will you make more videos about food and hunting. And how the food was stored. And how the gathering of food was used to worship the gods.

  9. My explanation for why Loki was well known but not widely worshiped is because he may have been understood as the same deity as Lugh. The Germanic people may have understood him as the God of their Celtic neighbors and the fall of Druidry may have led to the Norse seeing him as more malevolent as there were no more Druids to defend "Lugus."

  10. FYI: you are correct that álfar are beings ranging from landspirits to ancestors, but landspirits refer to the spirits of people who had something to do with the land.

    So they are always the spirits of people. Nisser, tomte etc are the spirits of the first inhabitants that cleared the field on the farm, thus becoming firmly attached to it through hard labour (think about it: they had to clear a forest by hand and horse to make agricultural fields).

    All vættir, all álfar. Vættir might include other non-human spirits, i do not know about that.

    This according to folklore.

  11. Always a pleasure to hear your insights. Very informative. Your video on Rökkatrú, for instance, prompted me to learn more about some of the less acknowledged gods and goddesses, and seek out my path. I'm very grateful for your insights.

  12. I cant help wondering if Odin having so many names is in fact the true origin of "all-father" not because he was the father of everyone, but because he was dozens (or hundreds) of different patriarchal deities combined into one .
    I like this, it may not be true, but it also may not be false
    This actually makes a lot more sense to me, and right or wrong this is how i will think of him (them) from now on
    … and so another puzzle piece falls into place
    Thanks Arith

  13. Here is an interesting question… Were Lugh and Loki at one point understood as being the same deity?

  14. Great video! Your assertions seem very plausible. Throughout my Norse studies, I came to the same opinion that the Asir and Vanir war is the story of the melding of regional cultures and made palatable to the constituency through bards and festivals. And, I think this is a good thing. One of the reasons I enjoy the Old Ways is that I allow myself the luxury of private thoughts, imaginings and beliefs that aren't practiced by anyone but me. It is more of an expression than a ceremony or ritual. It allows me to address what is written on my heart instead of what is in a book.

  15. I learned of a Goddess called Ran of the sea but couldn't find out anything about her. What does she look like? Is she Aesir? Vanir? Disir? or Thursir? Could you do a video on this chaos deity?

  16. I discovered you by accident, watched my first video and subscribed! I watched several and must say, you bring a voice of clarity, real factual education, provenance in your points, and the most enjoyable educational presentation one could hope for! Realistic, fair and with well needed caution you finally bring what has been needed to separate beliefs, myths and assumptions from what actually occurred.
    Thank you!

  17. Excellent video. I especially like and have great respect for the organic nature of true “pagan” religion where instead of following a rigid pantheon the local “numina” of the area can be respected and the elemental power of the land and ancestors acknowledged and honored. These beliefs are even echoed in strange local customs found in rural areas throughout Europe to this day.

  18. From what I understand is that you are saying there was a loosely general belief but not a dogma or a strict ritual. But that people urban and rural could worship different Gods of the same group depending on the local traditional views. Christianity does something similar having local saints but believing they are part of the larger picture.

  19. Thank you for this video. I was happy to hear you touch on religious practices that didn't involve the gods towards the end. I hope you will speak more in depth on that in future. Thanks again

  20. Still playing catch up. I love Faust’s truthful sarcasm. It makes me wonder though what the estimate might be for people in Scandinavia today who are following or have gone back to paganism in general? Now with the huge influx of middle eastern immigrants into Sweden how will that shape society and religion?

  21. I have wondered if Ask and Embla, and Baldr resurrecting after ragnarok was influenced or included by Christianity to make conversion easier. There are several similarities like that but who know which came first. Since alot of it was recorded by Christian monks there's no way to ever be certain.

    Also wonder if Fenrir was worshiped. He wasn't actually a god and he was the one to kill Odin but he is a major force nonetheless. There's the cave in Iceland where people brought sacrifices to appease Surtr, so maybe Fenrir had something similar.

    Anyways I enjoyed the video.

  22. The ancient hedning or heathen culture pre-viking worshipped 8 nature Powers. Hel,Bock,i,Oden,Ra,Tor,Frey and Freya..After the Viking times only 5 of these powers were recognized.Hel,Oden,Tor,Frey and Freya..Bock,i and Ra were left out. Bock is the family of Jul Bock, i was the prick of the Bock and Ra was the King..These 3 powers that were left out are critical in understanding the heathen culture of these times.

  23. Excellent video. This centralizing tendency many have, erroneously believing that late Viking-era Icelandic religion is somehow THE organized standard of all Norse or even Germanic traditions, is definitely a vestige of Abrahamism and, as you indicated, at its root is political and not so much spiritual. But there is a very liberating feeling knowing that our broader ancestors were tribal and regional, because through those traditions that have come to us as "Christian" but can easily be discerned as Pagan, we can cut through this Abrahamic exterior and deconstruct what our ancestors actually practiced. Archaeological findings are also very enlightening in this process.

  24. Yet another great video Arïth. I have incorporated your video's together with Bjorn Andreas Bull-Hansen's & Jackson Crawford's videos as my 3 "start-up Sunday morning 1st thing to-do". Great work!

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