Sunday, 26 June 2016

The Status Of The Gods

"Hrolf answered: 'His own doom sets the life of every man, not yonder spook.'" (Hrolf Kraki's Saga, p. 224)

By "yonder spook," he means Odin. Hrolf has no images of gods in his hall. (p. 171) The Norns determine the lives of gods and men. The Aesir cannot prevent Ragnarok when the old gods will die. I believe that gods are personifications, not persons. However, even if they were the latter, they would not be the ultimate reality. In Buddhist teaching, they also are on the Wheel. The Buddha is a teacher of gods and men. In Japan, local gods are honored on one altar and Buddhas on another. This strikes me as appropriate.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

While of course I might be wrong, I'm frankly skeptical any king of Dark Age Denmark would either be so skeptical of the Aesir or have no images of those gods in his halls. Mention is also made of Hrolf discontinuing the seasonal sacrifices to the pagan gods, which I also find implausible, if only because it might be politically risky to anger or alarm the farmers.

Are we meant to think certain Greco/Roman and Christian ideas were already reaching sixth century Denmark? Possibly!


Anonymous said...

Kaor, Sean!

Poul Anderson didn't make this all up; there apparently were men in Viking Age Scandinavia, including, according to legend, Hrolf Kraki and his warriors, who "trusted to their own might and main," rather than relying on sacrifices to the pagan gods. That didn't make them Christians, nor atheists, nor students of Greek philosophy, so far as I am aware. They would, I presume and conjecture, participate in pagan festivals to a minimal degree, but not expect much from the unfaithful Odin, or even the more likable Thor, just win or lose in this life as best they could.

Best Regards,
Nicholas D. Rosen

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Nicholas!

Yes, that makes sense, I can imagine hard headed, practical men, both kings and warriors, trusting more to their own strength and skill in war than in sacrifices to the treacherous Odin or even the more likable Thor. All the same, King Hrolf's behavior vis a vis the Aesir still seems odd to me. And we do see mention of him having to calm down delegations from farmers and landowners anxious about his discontinuing of the usual sacrifices to the gods.

So, I still wonder what was the exact religious situation in mid sixth century Denmark.

Regards! Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Nicholas and Sean,
Also, Buddhists can acknowledge the existence of gods although meditation is a practice separate and distinct from the making of offerings to gods.