Saturday, October 4, 2008

Temples And Images Of Ancient Scandinavians

Temples And Images Of Ancient Scandinavians Cover In common with other peoples, the ancient Scandinavians erected special buildings in which to worship their gods, and in which their images were placed. These temples (called hof, goda-hof, goda-hus, and blot-hus) must not be thought of as in any way comparable to those erected by the more cultured Aryan races, such as the Greeks and Romans. It is true that Adam of Bremen describes that at Upsala in Sweden, which he calls nobilissimum templum, as being 'all of gold,' while a note to the passage says that it was surrounded by 'a Golden Chain hanging on the pinnacles of the building, and seen glittering afar by those who approach the place'; but it is very doubtful how far this description is trustworthy. In any case the Upsala temple would naturally be much superior to those in less central localities; from other indications it appears to have been specially well endowed with landed and other property. Unfortunately there is no evidence from which any general idea of the heathen temples in Sweden and Denmark can be obtained. In Norway they were, like the ordinary houses, constructed of timber, and in many cases were probably of small size and insignificant appearance. Mention has already been made of the temple of Thor in the island of Mostr, which Thorolf took down and carried off to Iceland when he went to settle there. The same thing is told of Thorhadd, who was priest of Maerin in Thrandheim; he also took down the temple, and carried with him the temple-mould and the chief pillars. Some of the building, no doubt, may have been more imposing, and even to some extent furnished with costly ornaments. When Olaf Tryggvason gave orders to burn down Earl Hakon's temple at Hladir, 'he made them take all the treasure and ornaments out of the temple and off the images of the gods.' A large gold ring was also removed from the temple door, but it afterwards proved to be only brass internally. It may also be noted that various accounts of temples speak of them as being lighted by glass windows 'so that there was no shadow anywhere in them.' Beside the great temple at Upsala there was a sacred grove, and the evidence of place-names shows that similar groves existed elsewhere in Sweden and Denmark: as regards Norway and Iceland there is no positive Information on this head.

The temple being a holy place, there were naturally certain restrictions attached to it, of which a prominent one was that no weapons were to be taken inside it. This is clearly Illustrated by an incident in Vatnsd?la Saga, where Ingimund enters the temple first, and Hrafn the Norwegian follows him, wearing his sword. Then Ingimund turned to him, and said, 'It is not the custom to carry weapons in the temple, and you will come under the wrath of the gods unless you make amends for it.' Then Olaf Tryggvason entered the temple of Maerin in Thrandheim, he carried a gold-mounted staff, but his own men and those belonging to the district were weaponless.

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Asbjorn Jon - Shamanism And The Image Of The Teutonic Deity Odin
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William Alexander Craigie - Religion Of Ancient Scandinavia