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The Investigation Continues - More recommended reading, please!


Guest Lorelei
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Hello all,

 

After spending the last few weeks reading and thinking and trying to find where (in terms of possible pantheons) I feel a pull too I've discovered that the Celtic pantheon may not be quite right for me. So, I am looking to investigate the Norse and Anglo-Saxon pantheons as I have ties to them based on where I live, so it's possible that they may resonate with me better. With that in mind, do any of the heathens on here have any recommendations for someone just starting their exploration of this panetheon and culture?

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Anyone mind if I add some comments to Davkin's list?

 

the main original texts are :

Carolyne Larrington The Poetic Edda

Anthony Foulkes The Prose Edda of Snorre Sturluson

 

The Poetic Edda is the elder ( and often known as the Elder Edda, with Snorri's as the Younger Edda) as many parts of it may date to a much earlier time. It also has a romantic true story about its discovery, which Larrington tells in her introduction. it's basically a collection of translated poems. poetry had very strict forms in that era, with one of the most popular depending on alliteration, rather than the rhyming patterns we tend to use. The other major thing about that sort of poetry is that it relies on a form otherwise unknown to modern Western poetry, known as kennings. these have been intensely helpful (in Snorri, see below). What they are are allusive references to the gods, or to myths, using other myths. So, for example, one of the stories in the Elder Edda is of a conversation between a strange Ferryman (Odhin in disguise) and Thor. As a result of this, Odhin is often referred to by Heathens as 'The Ferryman'.

 

one other form of poetry unknown outside this culture is that of the 'flyting' or ritual insults. There a re a few examples in the elder Edda, the tale of the Ferryman and Thor being one of the lesser ones. The great tale is 'Loki's flyting': the Lokisenna. In it he insults each god in turn.

 

 

Snorri was a Christian priest who was anxious to preserve those poetic forms and prevent them from being lost. The Younger Edda is in two parts, the former part being a retelling of many myths (enlarging on some parts of the elder Edda, and introducing us to otherwise lost fragments) and the latter part being his treatise on poetry. It can be boring, but it is fascinating to those with a grasp of kennings, as it lists so many. Its importance to Heathen study is that, among the lists, it's obvious that we have no access to many myths that would have supplied the explanation for the kenning. For example, had the Elder Edda been lost to us, we might never have known that odhin could be known as the Ferryman.

 

You can supplement that with any number of other original texts, including;

Tacitus The Germania

Bede The Ecclesiastical History of the English People

History of the Danes Saxo Grammaticus

 

Snorre Sturluson Heims Kringla The Norse Kings Saga and

The Icelandic sagas such as:-

Egils Saga

Njals Saga

Grettirs Saga

Saga of the Volsungs

 

Personally, I'd go for the sagas first, as they are much more accessible. The three Davkin lists are rattling good yarns. Many of the sagas list places that still exist, and people that modern Icelanders, who have kept exact records of their lineage, record as their ancestors. In general, the sagas record the flight of many Norwegian Vikings from their native home to settle on Iceland, and their continuing inter-relationships with the Norwegian political situation. Egil's Saga, for example, records Egil as having a personal argument with a king who ruled part of England. That (the king and the fact he ruled the Danelaw from York) is on record elsewhere.

 

Rudolph Simek Dictionary of Northern Mythology is worth it's weight in gold.

 

and it's to be found as one of the principal reference works on the bookshelves of any Heathen. Another of the same kind that I'd recommend is Cassell's dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend, by Andy Orchard. But, if you can only afford one (which is quite likely!) I'd go for Simek every time.

 

Anything by Hilda R Ellis Davidson

 

YES!!!! She is the principal academic writer on anything Norse. She studied under one of the most famous scholars of all things Celtic - Nora Chadwick (whose book on the Celts is also a must), and HRED's book on "Myths and Symbols in pagan Europe" is a must for anyone wishing to read an in-depth comparison of the Celtic and Heathen cultures in pre-christian Europe. There are so many similarities in the cultures - and so many differences in the world-views.

 

Another must is her "Gods and Myths of Northern Europe". And her "The Road to Hel" is available as a free pdf via the internet.

 

Brian Branston Lost Gods of England

Kathleen Herbert Looking for the Lost Gods of England

 

Herbert is a great Anglo Saxon scholar, and this slim volume is another must for any Heathen bookshelf.

Branston was a broadcaster, and his book reflects his journalistic background - it's a fascinating and easy read. However, he completely fails to reference anything, which can be infuriating. But the book was intended to bring the Anglo Saxon religious culture to a wider audience, and not as an academic work.

 

Jacob Grimm Teutonic Mythology.. if you can find a copy :~)

E.O.G Turvill-Petere Myths and Religion of the North … if you can find a copy

 

if you do find these, the cost will probably put you off. I can't recall how much the Grimm is, but the last time I looked up Gabriel Turville-Petre's "The religion of Ancient Scandinavia" it was selling for around $120. Grimm (IMO) is deadly boring, and more academically questionable. Some US Asatru (Heathens) have built whole systematic belief systems based on Grimm. <yawn>

 

Gwyn Jones A History of the Vikings

 

personally, I'd go for Else Roesdahl's "The Vikings", which should still be available in a penguin paperback. However, if you're willing to splash out a bit, I'd seriously recommend Richard Hall's "Exploring The World of the Vikings".

 

Kevin Crossley-Holland The Norse Myths

 

Crossley Holland draws together the myths from both Eddas and presents them in a really good, readable form. It's another basic on the Heathen bookshelf, and there's a lot of second hand copies available.

 

Runes

 

The Rune Primer by Sweyn Plowright

http://www.mackaos.com.au/Rune-Net/Primer/

Books by R.W.V. Elliot and R.I Page on Runes

S. Pollington Rudiments of Rune Lore

 

For me, the Pollington is a must. There's another great book I'd recommend, by the great Anglo Saxon academic Page, which is delightful in its wit and easy reading, but the Pollington is the essential.

 

Oh, one more not on Davkin's list, but another essential if you can find a copy (and much better than the Branston!): "The Rites and Religions of the Anglo Saxons" by Gale R Owen.

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Kevin Crossley-Holland The Norse Myths

 

just bought this brand new from borders only to find it cheaper on amazon brand new lol, its on sale or something because when i last checked it was £12.99

 

definatly worth it, im really enjoying it. id start with the poetic eddas as they are amazing and really fun to read too

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Thanks for that MH, that's really helpful. I'd actually already earmarked the Crossley Holland as one I intend to buy this month, so it's good to know that it's worth it.

 

I don't suppose anyone can point me toward the Road to Hel pdf can they?

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