Publicada por Arith Härger / 2:46 PM /
Unlike our European societies after christianisation, whose religious leadership is held by the church, in the scandinavian societies things were different and religion was no less important to them as it was for the early christians. Religious ceremonies and its administration was performed by the local leaders of the communities. For instance, a Jarl* of a farmstead took on the duties of administration, not only in the Thing*, but also conducting ceremonies related religion, the seasons and harvest times, new births, accessions, deaths, and so on.
The Jarls were of course very powerful and had a very active contribution in their communities. But not only Jarls had the power to conduct ceremonies and such. There were the Hersar (sing. Hersir). The "landed men"; local chieftains with family lands and many tenants and dependants, who preside over their district Thing. Of course the Hersar were more busy in increasing their wealth, and often led raids.
Women also had a very important and active role when it came to religious administration and other related actions. Many performed acts such as telling the future, healing the sick, and worked as the shaman/seeress of the local community. Women were seen as the keepers of the magic arts and able to communicate with divinities and otherworld spirits. Of course not all women were wielders of magic, but magic was their domain. Obviously there were men practicing the magic arts, but they were too few and were seen as effeminate for their unmanly behavior.
*Jarl - Powerful regional magnates. The highest men in the land under the king. Some Jarls were as powerful and wealthier as their kings, and had bands of warriors which rivaled the size of the kings' own armies. Many led raids to increase their status and wealth.
*Thing - and assembly where laws were discussed.
Publicada por Arith Härger / 4:39 PM /
In the countries of Norway, Sweden and Denmark, people worshiped a set of deities belonging to two different tribes of gods - the Aesir and the Vanir. The Aesir were the deities associated with the arts of war and were ruled by Odin, the god of wisdom, war and death. The Vanir were the deities associated with the fertility of animals, humans and the land itself. The latter, in time, became a subclass of gods within the Aesir and vs versa, all gods were important. By the 10th century, Christianity came into these countries and brought an end to the polytheistic worship of the Northern European peoples, thus creating three new realms unified under one faith, under one god.
The Christianization of Scandinavia wasn't held in one day. It was a process which took time, and a long and painful time it was indeed. It is obvious that the Scandinavians had their own conflicts, and battles were common between them, but with the coming of Christianization war took a whole different meaning. Wars in great scale, murdering for no purpose, solely for the new faith, the new god and the hatred which was spread by lies that poisened the minds of monarchs. Denmark was the most easily transformed country. The Viking raids slowly introduced the new religion, due to the christians brought as war prizes. The Danes were often in contact with England and Normandy, allowing them to continued exposure to the new religion via political interactions. At first, there was little struggle in assimilating the two faiths, and they were able to coexist under the individual decrees of the Danish tribal leaders. This assimilation began around the 930s of our common era. The baptism of war leaders and kings built a new path for the christian faith to spread, for the kings and warchiefs demanded that their subjects had to be converted as well, since the new faith was now part of their culture. The danish tribes were united under the flag of this new god. The canonization of Canute IV in the 12th century, the Christian ruler of Denmark in the late 1000s, declared Christianity as Denmark's official religion.
The earliest recordings of Christianity in Sweden were in the 700s. In the 830s, Saint Ansgar (a monk with the mission to bring Christianity to Northern Europe), came to the northern shores to spread word of the new faith at the bid of the Swedish king of that time. However, his church at Birka was highly rejected, so it was not until Olof Skötkonung, (the first Christian king of Sweden), agreed to a toleration of the two faiths in the late 900s that Christianity found a place in Swedish culture. He established the first episcopal center in Skara rather than near Uppsala in Uppland, as there is written documentation that the largest worship center to the Norse gods existed at Uppsala. This might have been a wise choice of the king, to avoid war between the followers of the two faiths. It was King Inge later, in the 1080s, who disregarded the risks of war and ended the sacrifices at Uppsala, ultimately serving as the moment of transition between Paganism and Christianity in Sweden. Although, the result of this instance was Inge's temporary exile by his brother- By the year 1130 Christianity gained a permanent stronghold in Sweden and spread to become the foremost religion in the land.
Norway was the most difficult to transform from polytheism to Christianity, as its history was filled with rulers who constantly dictated the religion. Most of the conflict was seen during a fifty year period (from 950 to1000 CE), under King Haakon. Haakon's method was simple: temples were left to the pagans with churches built right beside them, and though he refused on his own part to sacrifice to the Aesir and Vanir, he also refused to punish those who continued this practice. Haakon was able to begin the spread of Christianity throughout this region by showing kindness to the established polytheistic religion.
King Haakon was one of a kind, unfortunately, a rare sort of man in this period of great changes. After his death, Jarl Haakon replaced him, himself being a pagan man. All the Christianization that King Haakon had established was utterly destroyed. In acting this way, not only did Jarl Haakon create a stricter war against Christianity, but in the years to come he forged a reason for the Norwegian Christians to detest the Aesir and Vanir followers. With the end of the 10th century, the Christian king Olaf Tryggvason was very much ready to eliminate every pagan follower of the old religion. King Olaf had had a very strict christian education, and pagans were seen as the evil sort of "creatures" which worshiped the devil.
However, Tryggvason only ruled for five years, (from 955 to 1000 CE), but he made certain that they were prolific years. He travelled all over Norway to enforce the Christian faith, destroying pagan areas of worship, including temples and everyone we could find. Those who refused to submit to the new religion were tortured and severely punished, ending up dead anyway. By the end of the 12th century, Tryggvason's successors saw Christianity dominating Norway.
With the rise of the new religion, there came a need for building structures linked to the faith. The first church buildings were modelled most specifically from the longships, towering structures that loomed toward the sky like the future Gothic cathedrals with dragon heads on the roof reflecting the strength and power. These churches, called stave churches because of the stars at the heart of their post and lintel structure, were the highlight and symbol of the new religion that had swept through Scandinavia and became a symbol of the unification between the three lands at the cost of many wars, bloodshed and suffering.
Publicada por Arith Härger / 6:20 PM /
In 2013, archaeologists found in Kurgan (Russia) what seems to be a Sarmatian burial mound. In the southern Ural steppes this amazing finding shows some peculiar items that may suggest that the individual buried there was a shaman.
A little bit of history is needed to know who the Sarmatians were. Most people though for an age that they were natives to Europe in the region we now call Poland. However, the Sarmatians were Iranian (an Indo-European people such as the Alans/Alani, very caucasian-looking) flourishing from around the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD. The burial mound found in Russia, dates to early in the range, corresponding to the Early Iron Age within the region. The Sarmatians spoke a Scythian language and later their territory corresponded to the western part of greater Scythia (mostly modern Ukraine and Southern Russia nowadays). Around 100 BC, the Sarmatian tribes ranged from the Vistula River to the mouth of the Danube and eastward to the Volga, bordering the shores of the Black and Caspian seas as well as the Caucasus to the south. The Sarmatians traded with the Mediterranean cultures to the west, although, they retained their own customs and traditions, rooted in their nomadic lifestyle.
In the burial mound, in the grave itself to be more precise, 26 golden deer statues have been found, which may have been representations of Gods or spirits to the people that put them there. Further excavations were carried out and a body was revealed. Archaeologists first found a bronze cauldron (of great size) in the entrance passage to the grave, which might have been especially made for the burial. It is definitely in the Sarmatian style as the handles are made from two griffons. Such animals are prominently features in the art of the region and may represent spirit animals since griffons are mythical creatures.
The grave was richly furnished and, since the remains comprised those typically found with female burials, as well as a quantity of fine jewellery, the burial was concluded to be that of a woman. A small wicker case was found near the skull. It was stuffed with items including a wooden box, leather pouches, glass, horse teeth with red pigments, a cast silver lidded container, bathroom flasks, silver and earthenware and gold pectoral cages. There was also a large silver mirror that lay nearby. It was decorated with gilded stylised animals on the handle, and an embossed decoration on the back. The image of an eagle sat in the centre of the mirror, surrounded by a procession of six winged bulls. Mirrors at this time were very rare and such intense decoration suggests a spiritual use. It is common to link Iron Age mirrors to Shamanism because they were used for such purposes.
Archaeologists also uncovered equipment used for tattooing, including two stone mixing palettes and gold-covered iron needles, as well as bone spoons used to blend paints. The pens were decorated with animals. It is impossible to say whether the body had tattoos as only bones remain but, elsewhere, waterlogged kurgans reveal tattooed bodies with depictions animals such as those found in this burial mound. Tattooing at this time is often linked with shamanism and many of the other tattooed bodies contain items used in a spiritual lifestyle.
Later tests on the body revealed that the body found is not a woman at all, but actually a man. Now the items on the grave take a total different meaning.
In the Greek literature, there is an account about Enaree (a Scythian shaman described as effeminate or androgynous).Transvestite shamans in Scythian culture lived in the guise of the opposite gender. There are some details about these androgynous figures, suggesting that they received serious damage to their manhood through riding and therefore live the rest of their lives as women. Such transformation clearly marked them out as shamans. Blurring gender and sexual boundaries for spiritual practice still occurs in the area and is also found in many other parts of the world, where many male shamans live as women.
This might explain the items placed with the body in the Samaritan burial mound. This person might have been a male shaman living as a woman, and providing spiritual guidance to the local community. He was buried with his beautiful clothes and jewellery, vanity items, and also the tools of his shamanic trade. Given the wealth of grave goods, he was clearly highly esteemed by his community both during his life but also after his death.