How to destroy gods

Bishop Absalon topples the god Svantevit at Arkona - created by Laurits Tuxen (1853–1927)

In the year 1168 a Danish bishop destroyed three pagan gods. The story is told in Gesta Danorum, by Saxo Grammaticus, which has recently been entirely translated into English for the first time.

Lughnasa and Lammas: Summer Holidays Lost and Found Again

John Linnell - The Harvest Cradle 1859

For centuries two holidays were celebrated by neighboring peoples on the same day. The people were the Celts and the Anglo-Saxons, and their holidays were Lughnasa and Lammas respectively.

Which Baltic God/Goddess Are You?

Olaus Magnus - On the Heathen Lithuanians Idolatrous  (1555)

Have you ever wondered who were/are the last pagans in Europe? Baltic Gods were never forgotten. Lithuanians have so many however who from the main ones do you resemble the most – Perkūnas, Žemyna, Vėlinas, Ragutis, Milda or Laima?

A note on the regional distribution of pagan burials in Iceland

vertical photo from the early stages of this season's excavations of a pagan grave field at Litlunupar in Iceland.  Photo by Dave /Flickr

Comparison of the distribution of pagan burials in Iceland with medieval information about the number of farmers in different parts of the country allows a division of the country into three zones of low, medium and high frequency of pagan burials relative to the number of settlements.

The Afterlife of the Dead: Reform in Attitude Towards Medieval Burials, Corpses and Bones

Rothwell Charnel Chapel. Photo courtesy of ITV.

The International Medieval Congress is taking place at the University of Leeds, I’m on hand this week to report on the conference. This blog post reports on my first session.

The Fairy Faith: An Ancient Indigenous European Religion

Fairies Looking Through A Gothic Arch by John Anster Fitzgerald 19th century

As Christianity arose in Celtic and Anglo Britain, the indigenous fairy beliefs were grafted into the Christian lexicon, altering beliefs further. Not only did powerful deities of mythology become shrunken into fairy lore, but ideas about fairies changed to fit the Christian paradigm.

Foundation Myths in Medieval and Renaissance Italy

Plaque of Regola, the VII rione of Rome. (Dailyphotostream.blogspot.com)

The 3 papers featured here looked at the development of the civic identities of Florence, Genoa and Rome through art, architecture and foundation legends.

From Runes to Ruins: Documentary looks at rediscovering the Anglo-Saxon past

tom rowsell from runes to ruins

In his latest film, From Runes to Ruins, Tom Rowsell examines how people in England are reclaiming their Anglo-Saxon heritage, including its religion.

Katherine of Alexandria: Decline of an Empire

Katherine martyred on the wheel

According to hagiographers, (C)Katherine was a princess, the daughter of Roman governor named Constus. She was well educated, beautiful and highly intelligent. She converted to Christianity at the age of 13 or 14 and caught the eye of the Roman Emperor, Maxentius (278-318 AD).

Environmental Crusading: The Teutonic Knight’s Impact After the Baltic Crusades

Malbork Zamek Krzyzacki. Wikicommons

Environmental archaeologist and Professor of Archeology at Reading, Dr. Aleks Pluskowski, examined Malbork and several other sites across Eastern and Northern Europe in his recent paper, The Ecology of Crusading: The Environmental Impact of Holy War, Colonisation, and Religious Conversion in the Medieval Baltic. Pluskowski is keenly interested in the impact the Teutonic Knights and Christian colonisation had on the region. His ambitious 4 year project on the ecological changes in this area recently came to a close at the end of 2014.

Choosing Heaven: The Religion of the Vikings

Picture stone with snake motif from Martebo church.

The Viking-age gods stemmed from two races – Aesir and Vanir.

‘Hag of the Castle:’ Women, Family, and Community in Later Medieval Ireland

Sheela-na-gig from the Fethard wall in Fethard, Co. Tipperary, Ireland, detail, 12th c.

In a letter written as part of his work for the Irish Department of the Ordnance Survey in 1840, Thomas O’Conor recorded his reaction to a “Sheela- na-gig” sculpture—the image of a naked woman shown exposing her genitalia (fig. 1)—that he saw on the old church at Kiltinane, Co. Tipperary.

CONFERENCES: The Stellinga, the Saxon Elite, and Carolingian Politics

Battle of Fontenoy - The battle as depicted in the fourteenth-century Grandes Chroniques de France. Grandes Chroniques de France, France, Paris, Cote : Français 73 , Fol. 150

This is my summary of a paper presented at the Institute of Historical Research on the causes of the Stellinga uprising in the Carolingian period.

Nourishment for the Soul – Nourishment for the Body: Animal Remains in Early Medieval Pomeranian Cemeteries

Medieval depiction of animals

Late medieval sources clearly refer to souls, which in traditional folk beliefs were periodically returning to feed and warm themselves by the fires made by the living. This kind of conception can be merged with Slavic eschatology. There is multiple evidence to confirm that belief some form of spirit or soul was spreading amongst the people, who in the early medieval period, bordered directly with Pomerania.

Bárðar saga as a source for reconstruction of pre-Christian religion?

Eldar Heide

Paper by Eldar Heide given at the second meeting of the Old Norse Folklorist Network

The Goddess Frig: Reassessing an Anglo-Saxon Deity

Frigg, enthroned and facing the spear-wielding goddess Gná, is flanked by two goddesses. One of whom, Fulla, carries her eski, a wooden box. Illustrated (1882) by Carl Emil Doepler.

The world of the Anglo-Saxon gods will forever remain a mystery to us, existing just beyond the reach of written history.

ARTICLES: The Deflation of the Medieval in Joyce’s Ulysses

Marilyn Monroe Reading Ulysses

For James Joyce, Irish nationalism, with its appeal to patriotic emotionality and promotion of interest in the archaic and medieval Irish past, was suspect.

Fast and Feast – Christianization through the Regulation of Everyday Life

Haakon Jarl (Haakon Sigurdsson) was given missionaries by the king of Denmark, but before departure, Haakon sent the missionaries back.

This article will illustrate that an important part of rulers’ wish to create a Christian society was the introduction of Christian legislation.

Hungary’s Conversion to Christianity: The Establishment of Hungarian Statehood and its Consequences to the Thirteenth Century

Mummified right hand of Stephen I of Hungary - canonized in 1083 A.D.

The Carpathian Basin occupies a peculiar place in history. It was the ground where Roman-Germanic world met that of the Slavs and mounted nomad peoples, where no group had achieved sustained unity before the state of Hungary was founded.

Saints’ Cults in Medieval Livonia

Medieval Saints

Saints’ cults played a crucial role in medieval society. Although we know very little about the beliefs and rituals of the indigenous peoples of Livonia, either before or after the thirteenth-century conquest, we may assume that the process of Christianization must have caused major changes in their religious practices.

To Be or Not to Be… a Christian: Some New Perspectives on Understanding the Christianisation of Estonia

Medieval baptism

The Christianisation of Estonia has been a subject of extensive research already for a couple of centuries. Archaeologists generally agree that some elements of Christian religion were present in Estonia already prior to official Christianisation at the beginning of the 13th century.

Death as an architect of societies Burial and social identity during the Viking Age in South-western Scania

Viking age burial - Ribe, Denmark

In my opinion, the mono-cultural Viking Age is largely the product of one past social group, that had imposed on us their narration about the events, through production of tangible and durable monuments and sources. If analysis of the past should be of any value, it needs to be not only specifically spatially located, but also socially located.

Making Sacrifices: Beowulf and Film

The Thirteenth Warrior

This essay reviews opening scenes in some recent film Beowulfs, which, although they have nothing at all to say about Scyld Scefing, suggest a sacrificial reading of the prologue and perhaps even the whole poem.

The Uses Made of History by the Kings of Medieval England

Kingship

The kings of medieval England, besides using history for the entertainment of themselves and their courts, turned it to practical purposes. They plundered history-books for precedents and other evidences to justify their claims and acts. They also recognised its value as propaganda, to bolster up their positions at home and strengthen their hands abroad.

Viking Human Sacrifices: Hollywood vs Reality

vikings sacrifice

In his article, ‘Plastic Pagans: Viking Human Sacrifice in Film and Television’, Harry Brown notes a very key difference between how it is being portrayed and how it was in reality.

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