|Bjørn Nørgaard: The Viking Age. Tapestry, Christiansborg Castle|
|Ygdrasil, Silkeborg Museum|
|The Midgard Serpent, Silkeborg Museum|
|Johannes Gehrts: Valhalla|
Iceland gave with Vøluspa and Snorre Sturlasson great literature and a magnificent insight into the old religion of the Vikings. The ancient myths in the Edda, all very different and from everywhere, old legends and religious traditions, foreign and local ideas and thinking, the story of the figths of gods and jotuns, the æsirs and the vanirs' pantheon. In the center is the residence of the gods, Asgard, where the major god Odin has his Valhalla with 640 gates and from where he in his high seat looks across all creation, and here is the bridge Bifröst, the trembling rainbow, that divides heaven from earth. Around the disc of the earth lies the ocean with the big monster, the Midgard Serpent, and by the faraway shores stretches the homeland of the Jotuns, Jotunheim with the castle Udgard. Under the disc of the earth is the kingdom of death, Hel. And in the corner is the mighty ash, Ygdrasil, in itself a worldly image of good and evil, of joy, sorrow and pain. Mighty is Ygdrasil. Its crown reaches the sky, its branches overshadow the earth, its three roots reach Hel and Jotunheim and down under Midgard, the world of humans. At the trunk of the ash is the spring of the god of wisdom, Mimir and the spring of the goddess of fate, Urd - in the branches sits the eagle, and between the eyes of the eagle is a hawk, paled by wind and weather; at the root of the ash a snake gnaws, and between the snake and the eagle a squirrel brings evil words up and down. Four deer bit off the young buds of the ash, and the trunk is rotting along the side. Indeed - the ash Ygdrasil suffers more than humans know. But the norns give solace at Urd's well, where they pour water over the ash each day to prevent it from drying out. And the bees are nourished by Ygdrasil's honeydew. Upon a sacred place at Urd's spring are the gods gathering at the Thing, and here live the highest norns, the goddesses of past, present and future, Urd, Verdandi and Skuld. In the middle of the world, above the humans, lies the residence of the gods, where the families of the æsirs and vanirs live.
|Dagfinn Werenskjold: The Norns, Oslo Town Hall.|
|Johannes Gehrts: Ragnarok|
|Lorenz Frölich: Heimdall.|
The last words gives a clue about a new and victorious religion, the replacement of the ancient belief. Christianity is not mentioned at all, but the old religion feels and predicts its own final. It is all a great death- and resurrection drama.
|Arthur Rackham: Odin|
|J.H. Füssli: Tor|
Tyr, Balder, Heimdall, Ull.
|Frank Dicksee: Balder's Death.|
|Bjørn Nørgaard: Freya|
|Arthur Rackham: Loki|
There is not much knowledge about the Viking cults, the heathen services or the heathen temples, only few informations exist, partly archaeological, partly from literature, from Adam of Bremen, Tietmar of Merseburg and Snorre Sturlasson. There was a flowering heathen assembly in the big temple in Gamla Uppsala in Sweden. This temple was the heathen center and the strongest fortification against Christianity. It was dressed in gold outside and inside, a golden chain hang above the roof, and the building was shining far away across the plain, where it was built. The plain was surrounded by mountains in a circle, like a theater. Inside were three statues, in the middle of the hall was Thor with Odin and Freyr on each side. Priests were assigned to the gods, they came carrying the sacrifice gifts from the people. If sickness and hunger threatened, they sacrificed to the idol Thor, if war to Odin, if a wedding had to be celebrated the sacrifice was for Freyr.
|Carl Larsson: Midvinterblót|
|J. I. Lund: En Offerscene (Sacrifice)|
The Lesser Gods.
|Ethel Larcombe: Elves|
|Freyr, Swedish, Bronze|
|Harald Bluetooth's rune stone in Jelling.|
"The past is behind, learn from it. The future is ahead, prepare for it. The present is here, live it".
Source: Johannes Brøndsted : Vikingerne, Gyldendal, 1960.
(click to enlarge pictures, especially the Carl Larsson: Midvinterblót).
Collection of pictures from Norrøn Billedkunst: Dagfinn Werenskjold, Bjørn Nørgaard, Lorenz Frölich, Frank Dickee, Ethel Larcombe, Arthur Rackham, Johannes Gehrts, J.H. Füssli, J.I. Lund, Carl Larsson. , Carl J. Bilmark
Photo Silkeborg Museum: stig bachmann nielsen, naturplan.dk.