Tag Archives: thor

Ruins of 8th-century pagan temple found in Norway

Feasts and fertility celebrations would have been carried out at the site, before Christianity came along and purged Norse religion.

A digital reconstruction of what the temple would have looked like 1200 years ago. Image credits: University Museum of Bergen.

The Godhouse

By the end of the Viking period around 1050, most Vikings were Christians. But before that, they would famously pray to the Norse pantheon, which features gods like Thor or Odin. The transition wasn’t exactly smooth or clear: the two belief systems often intertwined and influenced each other in Scandinavia.

To this day, pagan celebrations of midsummer and midwinter remain very popular across the area, and in medieval times, they were extremely important to Norse society. The recently discovered “godhouse” was probably used for these celebrations — a large “phallus stone” found in 1928 supports this theory, as midsummer is essentially a fertility celebration.

Archaeologists have found this type of godhouse before, but never preserved as clearly as this one.

“We have discovered the most perfectly shaped godhouse of all the finds so far—I know of no other Scandinavian buildings in which the house construction is as clear as it is here,” Bergen University Museum architect Søren Diinhoff, who helped lead the excavation, tells Syfy Wire’s Elizabeth Rayne. “I think our building is central to document and verify this very special architecture.”

Archaeologists from Norway’s University Museum of Bergen unearthed the remains of the 8th-century structure in the village of Ose during construction work for new houses. Hidden between the fjords, Ose is a quaint little village, still embodying the vibe of Norwegian sagas and legends, while also looking towards the future — hence the new housing development.

A drone view of the foundation area. Image credits: University of Bergen.

The godhouse building itself is long gone, but the foundation can still tell us a lot about Norse society at the time. The building appears to have been 45 feet long, 26 feet wide, and up to 40 feet tall (14 x 8 x 12 meters). The fact that it was such a large building already shows that Norse society was in a transition stage.

In the Christian world, religion was centralized. You have large churches that operate as temples. Churches were often imposing and grand — spectacular architecture that would inspire devotion by making the viewer feel humble and awed. Nordic society, on the other hand, practiced outdoor prayer. Temples were smaller and more localized, and prayer was more intimate.

Things started to change in the 6th century when Norse populations made more contact with the rest of Europe. That’s when the first godhouses started to emerge. As the centuries passed, they started to look like Christian churches more and more. This particular building even featured a church-like tower, which would have been rather unusual in previous centuries.

But Norse gods remained the object of worship.

Another drone photo showing thwere the building and its tower would have been. Image credits: University of Bergen.

Archaeologists found cooking pits and animal bones that predate the building itself, as well as figurines depicting gods such as Odin or Thor. This all suggests the site was used for midsummer and midwinter celebrations for a long time. These would have featured lavish feasts, a good old fashioned pagan ritual. The researchers also found two traditional longhouses that contained a circular area, a shape often associated with religious practice in Nordic societies.

Ultimately, Norse religion was purged and Christianity became dominant in Scandinavia. Many Norse buildings were burned and destroyed in this purge, but it’s unclear if the one at Ose suffered the same fate. Researchers will assess the building remains to see if this was indeed the case.

5 Mythical Heroes we all want to be like

The salt and pepper of any religion, mythology or folklore is represented by legendary figures, known to us, mortals, as heroes; and with all the fascinating legends and myths, it’s really hard to choose just five of them, which is why there will probably be an epic sequel to this.

Heracles
heracles

Heracles or Hercules (meaning glory of Hera) is probably the best known hero. In Greek myths, he was the son of Zeus and Alcmene. Many stories surround him in a magnificent aura, but the most popular is that of the The Twelve labors of Heracles. Naming just some of them sheds light on how big his tasks were (killing the Lernaean Hydra, capturing the dreaded hell hound Cerber, and probably the best known, getting the Apples of Hesperides). Both respected and celebrated by the Greeks and Romans, he’s still a model of courage, bravery, and even wits (despite that’s not the best thing he’s known for). Alas, he did die, killed by Nessus who tricked his wife into giving him a poisonous blood soaked tunic. That wasn’t as bad as you’d think though, as after that, he became a god and joined his father in Olympus.

Gilgamesh
gilgamesh

The legend of Gilgamesh is the oldest one around. This epic tale has been told for thousands of years, and hasn’t lost anything of its charm (as a legend it’s actually considered the precursor of Heracles and other folk heroes by some). He was the fifth king of Uruk, and his mother was a goddess, and he is considered to be 2/3 god and 1/3 human. The epic of Gilgamesh is centered around his relationship as a distracted and disheartened king with his brave and wild friend Enkidu, who undertakes dangerous quests with Gilgamesh. Being credited by historians as perhaps the first literary work, it later shows the king changing for the better and searching immortality after the death of Enkidu. These Sumerian legends have been around for thousands of years, and they’ll be here for thousands more; and there’s a good reason for that.

Beowulf
beowulf

More than 1000 years ago, a man who’s name has been lost in history put pen to paper and transcribed an epic that had already been circulating for about two centuries. Thus, he became the author of the oldest piece of English literature extant today. The epic poem with the same name describes his adventures in which he goes in this area to prove his strength in almost impossible situations, against all sort of demons and malicious gods. Just naming all his accomplishments would take to long. Still, after many fights, when he becomes king, he is cursed because he took a piece of treasure he wasn’t supposed to, and has to fight a dragon. He manages to kill the dragon in what may just be the best known fight in all literature, but dies from the wounds. After he is cremated, Beowulf is buried in Geatland on a cliff overlooking the sea, where sailors are able to see his barrow. The dragon’s treasure is buried with him, rather than distributed to his people, as was Beowulf’s wish, because of the curse associated with the hoard.

Robin Hood
robin hood

We stray a bit from these early times and go nearer to our days; actually, let’s say we go less further. Robin hood is an archetypal figure in English folklore – we all know him, we all love him. He steals from the rich and gives to the poor, what more can you want? Along with his “seven score” group of fellow outlawed yeomen (known as Merry Men), he brought havoc to the rich tirans from Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire. There are many versions to this. In some he is known as Robin of Loxley, a nobleman who was unfairly robbed of his riches and now seeks justice; in some he fights against the Sheriff of Nottingham, a despotic figure, or against Prince John, based on the historical John of England. Still, one thing’s fore sure: despite the fact that it hasn’t been yet proven that he did or didn’t exist, he’s one of the most loved characters throughout England and the world.

Thor

thor
Despite the fact that gods aren’t really all that loved in mythologies, due to the fact that they abuse the powers and people can’t relate to them, Thor is without a single doubt one of the most cherished and respected figures in Norse mythology, and mythology in general. With his red hair and red beard, the god of thunder was loved because he was the protector against evil (and didn’t require sacrifices). The Norse believed that thunders appeared because he would throw his hammer (Mjollnir). He also wears a magical belt (Megingjard) which doubles his already fantastic strength. In the day of Ragnarok (meaning “Doom of the Gods”; the day when cosmos will end in Norse mythology with an enormous battle in which virtually every creature will take place) Thor will fight Jormungand, the serpent which is so big that it surrounds the entire world. The fight will be epic, Thor will kill the beast but die shortly after due to the wounds, leaving his hammer to his son.

thor