Vidar – The Silence of Vengeance

 

Speaking about Víðarr, the Norse god of silence and vengeance. All we know from this deity concerning literary and archaeological sources. On this video I shall also speak about a specific archaeological Viking Age burial context (weird, creepy and grotesque), linking it to this Old Norse deity – the case of the Lady with a pig’s jaw.

 

 

Both the Gosforth Cross (Anglo-Saxon cross) and Thorwald’s Cross at Kirk Andreas (Isle of Man) are both from the 900’s, and are a combination of Christian religious symbols with Nordic religious symbology, showing evidences of the impact of Christianization of Scandinavia, and the changes in the Nordic religious mentality. Both cases have many depictions of events specifically occurring during Ragnarök, which was a myth that gain more focus after Christianization rather than in the actual Heathen Period of Northern Europe. Considering Ragnarök, there seems little doubt that the scenes on the cross at Gosforth in Cumberland, executed about the first half of the tenth century in Northern England (at a time when Viking settlers were well established there) have been based on an account of Ragnarök closely resembling that given in Völuspá, from which Snorri (in the 13th century) took inspiration from. Here monsters struggle in bonds; a woman holds a bowl beside a bound figure, suggesting Sigyn and Loki; a figure battles with a monster, holding open its jaws with hand and foot; we have a figure with a horn and a warrior riding into battle. Whoever made the Gosforth cross deliberately grouped together a series of scenes. All these scenes were capable of a Christian as well as a heathen interpretation, and as there is a Crucifixion scene on the other side of the cross, there is no doubt that it was erected as a Christian monument. In the same church there is a stone, probably part of another cross, which appears to show Thor fishing for the World Serpent. The myth of Ragnarök gained more emphasis and religious focus after Christianity, deliberately creating and altering a series of heathen myths and symbols to equate with the event of the Apocalypse. Other carved stones which have been thought to show incidents from the final battle of the gods have been pointed out in the Isle of Man. Those who raised these monuments were Christian, familiarize with Nordic myths, either being converted heathens or Nordic Christians for a very long time since Christianity was already known in Scandinavia as early as the 7th century, and due to trading routes many Northern European peoples had adopted Christianity – some were Christians and others were Christian and Heathen both at the same time, so it was somewhat easy the fusion of religious elements. The existence of these stones implies that there was a body of material available in the tenth century dealing with the end of the world and with the destruction of gods and men, which has been used in Völuspá. These were symbols and interpretations sufficiently important to be used as symbols of the overthrowing if the forces of evil by Christ, since this seems to be the message of the Gosforth Cross as a whole. The destruction of the world, and even of the gods, by the monsters, was a fitting symbol of the power of death, like the devouring dragon in Christian mythos. These carvings, along with literary sources, give us indications that the Ragnarök theme, mainly, was a widespread popular image in the heathen north from the 10th century onwards. The account of Völuspá (written around the 10th century as well) is linked with two natural catastrophes which men must have feared constantly in the Northern Europe: destruction of life by intense close, and the flooding of rivers and sea over inhabited land. There’s no doubt that a tradition about the end of the world and its subsequent rebirth of the sea existed in pre-Christian times in Northern Europe, but many elements seem to have been added to this theme after Christianization, equating with the theme of the Apocalypse; such account probably having been written by a pagan Icelander with knowledge of Christianity, which was not uncommon during this period. The Völuspá and raised stones with such religious symbology of the 10th century, show a clear fusion between heathen and Christian religious elements. These would greatly influence the 13th century Christian Icelander Snorri Sturluson (who was writing for Christians and not for pagans) in the composition of the Prose Edda.

 

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