Monday, June 14, 2010

The Great Gods Thor And Odin

The Great Gods Thor And Odin Cover In common with the other Aryan races, the ancient Scandinavians recognised, as the basis of their religion, certain supernatural, usually unseen, powers ruling the world and exercising an influence on the affairs of mankind. In the ideas which prevailed as to the nature of these powers certain Correspondences can be clearly traced in the various Aryan religions, in spite of the fact that our knowledge of them dates from widely different periods of history. Even the Romans, when they came into contact with the Germanic races, noticed some of the similarities, and applied the names of several of their own deities to the corresponding figures among the barbarian gods. When closer intercourse between Roman and German had established itself, the result of these equations was made prominent in the names adopted by the latter for the days of the week, several of which, in most of the Germanic tongues, still bear witness to the old religion of the race. Thus the counterpart of the Roman Mars was found in the god Tiw, and consequently dies Martis was rendered by forms now represented in English by Tuesday. In the same way the Roman Mercurius, Jupiter, and Venus were identified with the Germanic gods called by the English Woden, Thunor, and Frig, whence the names of Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. In making these equations, of course, neither German nor Roman did more than consider the most obvious points of resemblance between the deities; how close the Correspondence actually was in each case it is impossible to say, as we know so little of the precise form which the native religion had among the southern Germans. It is only to a certain extent that the details suggested by these Translations of the Roman names are supported by the evidence from the Scandinavian side, but it is extremely probable that some of the more striking discrepancies are due to difference in time as well as in place and people.

The three gods and the goddess whose names are thus commemorated in the days of the week hold also a prominent place among the Scandinavian deities, where they appear under the names of Ty (Tyr), Odin (Odinn), Thor (?orr), and Frigg. But while Odin and Thor actually hold the place which they might be expected to occupy as objects of worship, the warlike deity Ty has apparently become of secondary importance. This is indicated not only by the native Scandinavian evidence, but also by what can be gleaned from external sources. In an Old English sermon (1) by the Abbot AElfric, about the year 1000, the mention of some of the Roman deities leads the preacher to introduce the corresponding Danish names. Jove or Jupiter, he says 'was called Thor among some peoples, and him the Danes love most of all.' Mercury, too, 'was honoured among all the heathens, and he is otherwise called Othon in Danish.' Of Ty there is no mention, although Mars is one of the Roman deities specified by name. In another homily by AElfric there is the same identification of Thor and Odin, along with 'the foul goddess Venus, whom men call Frigg,' but here also Ty is ignored.

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