Fragments of the past: how to study old Norse religion
By Britt-Mari Näsström
Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis, Vol. 17:2 (1999)
Abstract: The state of the sources of the Old Norse religions presents a great problem. Most of them were written down two hundred or even three hundred years after the Christianization of the North, based on an oral tradition going back to the pre-Christian ages. This situation has led to an intense discussion about the Christian influence or even interpolations in the text or what are genuine proofs of Old Norse religion.
The examples represent varying methods of overcoming source problems show that it is necessary to put new questions to the source material such as: What was the purpose of the sacrifice? Who sacrificed and who received it? Which sacrifices took place in calendar rites, in rites of passage or in crisis? And what are the areas of purification or avoidance in the sacrificial situation? A combination of methods encompassing both the comparative and the linguistic aspect provides an opportunity to overcome the difficulties encountered by the students of Old Norse mythology, especially the problems with the sources.
Top Image: Odin, Thor and Freyr or three Christian kings painted on a 12th century church tapestry