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'Valkyries Really Did Exist', Says New Book
New book ''Gods and Worshippers in the Viking and Germanic world'' completely rethinks the nature of pre-Christian religion in Northern Europe.
By: Thor Ewing
In his new book Gods and Worshippers, Norse scholar Thor Ewing turns our view of Viking religion upside down, suggesting that for pagan believers, mythical beings could be embodied in real people. Not only valkyries, but elves and even gods like Odin and Freyja had a double existence as both spirits and real people, he says. And these earthly divinities lived as wayfarers with their own laws and bizarre moral code.
Ewing also argues that the links between sacred and secular worlds were much closer than previously thought, with warlords doubling as priests, and criminals offered as sacrifices.
Despite a slew of books retelling well-known myths, this is the first to get down to the nitty-gritty of pre-Christian religion. Ewing sets out to answer the simple question ‘How did it work?’ The answers are straightforward enough, but often quite unexpected.
* legal punishment was intimately connected with sacrifice;
* priesthood was identical with secular power;
* religious festivities were also lawcourts & parliaments;
* gods and mythical beings could sometimes appear as men and women.
But though it was a society dominated by religion and ruled by priests, it was not a theocracy; these chieftain-priests represented their people to the gods and not vice versa. Neither was it a society based on faith; its religious bonds were pragmatic, and personal belief was less important than public worship.
Drawing on evidence from archaeological and historical sources combined with careful probing of mythical sources, Gods and Worshippers examines the interplay between religious and secular power and explores the realities of worship and organisation in pre-Christian religion.
Imagine a world where gods really do walk the earth, where mythical beings take on human form.
Gods and Worshippers in the Viking and Germanic world is released on 21 July from The History Press
Cover Price: £14.99, 160 pages, 50 illustrations
Available from all good bookshops, amazon.co.uk or thehistorypress.co.uk or thorewing.net
Contact the publisher on 01453 883300
Author’s website: http://thorewing.net
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Thor Ewing studied Medieval Literature and Languages at Durham University (Old Norse, Old English, Germanic Myth & Legend). His books and articles are widely respected, including the monograph Viking Clothing (2006). He has published prize-winning translations from Old Norse poetry, and has presented papers at international academic conferences and universities.
Thor Ewing is also a self-employed Viking and Medieval storyteller and musician, working in museums and schools across the country.