Norse Rituals

Norse Rituals

Norse pagan worship is the traditional religious rituals practiced by Norse pagans in Scandinavia in pre-Christian times. Norse paganism was a folk religion (as opposed to an organised religion), and its main purpose was the survival and regeneration of society. Therefore, the cult was decentralized and tied to the village and the family, although evidence exists of great national religious festivals. The leaders managed the cult on behalf of society; on a local level, the leader would have been the head of the family, and nationwide, the leader was the king. Pre-Christian Scandinavians had no word for religion in a modern sense. The closest counterpart is the word sidr, meaning custom. This meant that Christianity, during the conversion period, was referred to as nýr sidr (the new custom) while paganism was called forn sidr (ancient custom). The centre of gravity of pre-Christian religion lay in religious practice — sacred acts, rituals and worship of the gods.

Norse religion was at no time homogeneous but was a conglomerate of related customs and beliefs. These could be inherited or borrowed, and although the great geographical distances of Scandinavia led to a variety of cultural differences, people understood each other's customs, poetic traditions and myths. Sacrifice (blót) played a huge role in most of the rituals that are known about today, and communal feasting on the meat of sacrificed animals, together with the consumption of beer or mead, played a large role in the calendar feasts. In everyday practice, other foodstuffs like grain are likely to have been used instead. The purpose of these sacrifices was to ensure fertility and growth. However, sudden crises or transitions such as births, weddings and burials could also be the reason. In those times there was a clear distinction between private and public cult, and the rituals were thus tied either to the household and the individual or to the structures of society.

It is not certain to what extent the known myths correspond to the religious beliefs of Scandinavians in pre-Christian times, nor how people acted towards them in everyday life. The Scandinavians did not leave any written sources on their religious practice, and Christian texts on the subject are marked by misunderstandings and negative bias, since the Christians viewed the Nordic beliefs as superstition and devil worship. Some archaeological evidence has been discovered, but this is hard to interpret in isolation from written material.

Read more about Norse Rituals:  Worship of The Gods, Public Cult, Private Cult, Types of Rituals, Sources On Norse Paganism and Their Interpretation

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