The Spiritual World of Northern European Nations in the Middle Ages

The Scandinavians were pagans. Their mythology is a collection of stories about the warlike gods who lived in Asgard – the Scandinavian Olympus.

In Asgard, three major gods dominated – One, Thor and Freyr. The Supreme God was One – the god of war and wisdom. He was one-eyed, because he gave the second eye to gain wisdom and knowledge. It was said that Odin sweeps over the world on an eight-legged horse with faithful companions-crows Thought and Memory. These crows daily flew around the world and informed him of everything that they saw and heard. Odin’s wife was the merciful, beautiful goddess Frigt. She cared about the health of adults and children, was the patroness of marriage and fertility. Thor the god of thunder and lightning – was the son of Odin and moved across the sky in a chariot drawn by two goats. He defended the world of people from giants, scarlet spirits, various monsters, as well as from hunger and cold. He was portrayed as a strong red-bearded man with a battle-hammer that allegedly strikes lightning.

Freyr was a god of prosperity and fertility. His sister Freya, the goddess of beauty, led the army of warlike Amazons Valkyrie. It was believed that, at the end of the battle, they were the ones who accompanied the heroes who died in battle to Valgalla, to the luxurious palace of Odin, where eternal bliss awaited them.

In addition to the main, the Scandinavians had other gods, as well as elves, good and evil spirits, etc. Especially interesting are the legends about ugly little trolls protecting treasures hidden in rocks or underground.

According to one of the legends, it was from the underworld that God the One brought the Rune – the original signs-symbols, specific letters, which became the basis for the writing of Scandinavian peoples. Some letters looked Latin, and others had a shape that allowed them to be easily cut out on a tree or bone. Runic texts were also made on special stones and used in religious ceremonies. From time to time, runic inscriptions were decorated with precious metal products. The first six letters of runic writing formed the word Futhark, what the Ukrainians call ABC. Completely Scandinavian Futhark consisted of 16 runes. With the spread of Christianity, it was replaced by the Latin alphabet.

Religious rituals have become an important element of the daily life of the Northern European peoples. The places where they worshiped the gods were considered sacred. As a rule, this took place in the open air – in a grove or on a hill, on the edge or near a rock, in a meadow or near a stream. There were Scandinavians... and sanctuaries – sanctified temples. However, they did not survive to this day, because as a result, Christianizations were completely destroyed.

XII century. From the work of the monk Odd “The Saga of Olav Tryggvason” about the Christianization of Norway

Konung Ulav went with his army to Grandheim… and ordered the people to be summoned to the Thing. After the opening of the ting, the word took the king and began to demand that the people adopt Christianity. On behalf of the bond, Skeggy Iron spoke… “We want, konung, that you bring sacrifices, as the konungs did before you.” After his speech, people laughed approvingly. Then the king said that he wants to go to the temple and look at their customs when they make sacrifices…

And then King Ulav goes to the temple… When the king entered there, he saw an image of Torah adorned with gold and silver. King Olav raised a gilded stick… and struck the Torah so that the statue fell from the dais. After this, the king’s men ran in and threw off the exaltation of the other gods. While the king was in the temple… before the gates leading to the temple, Skeggy the Iron was killed… This was done by the people of the king

When the king returned to the people, he offered the bond to choose one of two: either they all must accept Christianity, or they must fight with it. It was decided to submit to the king and accept what he demanded…

The conversion of the peoples of Scandinavia into Christianity began at the turn of the 10th-11th centuries. This process lasted almost two centuries. Missionaries actively introduced Christianity.

Exhausted by the cruelty of the Vikings, Christian Europe hoped that the new faith would somehow pacify the Scandinavians and put an end to endless invasive campaigns. The northern peoples took Christianity very hard. Even turning to Christ, they continued to secretly worship the pagan gods for a long time.

Long winter evenings the Scandinavians spent at home, listening to interesting tales of campaigns and battles, of gods and heroes. These stories have been passed down from generation to generation for centuries and have been called the Sagami. In the XII-XIII centuries. Icelandic monks recorded sagas on parchment, saved them from oblivion. A vivid example of poetic and prose is the mythological Scandinavian epic “Edda”. Poems were also Skalds. At first the skalds were singers in the military squads of the kings, and later became professional court poets. But God gave Odin to the legend, a poetic gift, and appointed a patron, the god Braga, the beautiful singer and narrator. In their works the skalds glorified kings and heroes.


The Spiritual World of Northern European Nations in the Middle Ages