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Thread: Socio-Cultural Impact of Religion Amongst the North-Western Germanic Peoples during the Early and High Medieval Ages?

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    Question Socio-Cultural Impact of Religion Amongst the North-Western Germanic Peoples during the Early and High Medieval Ages?

    Hails

    I am writing a research paper of the topic (of my chosing), Describe and analyse the socio-cultural impact of religion amongst the North-Western Germanic peoples during the Early and High Medieval Ages.'

    This essay is asking me to explain and discuss the differences between Pagan Germanic society and culture and Christian Germanic society and culture, the transition thereof, and the long term impacts this change had upon the Germanic peoples, focusing on the Vikings, Anglo-Saxons, Frisians, Saxons, Alamanni, Franks, and other North-Western Germanic ethnic groups, during the Dark Ages and High Medieval Ages in Europe, as these changes occurred across both of these periods. I will also be discussing the introduction of Romance/Latin aspects of society and culture which came alongside Christianity and the impacts thereof. I will also be presenting my argument on how this change was ultimately a negative impact upon Germanic society and culture. To assist me in this topic I will be using a variety of secondary sources, of which there are many, and the few primary sources I can find, of which there are few from the Germanic perspective. As most primary sources regarding this topic comes form the Christian perspective, bias will be an important factor to be mindful of.

    Does anyone have any beliefs or opinions relating to this topic that you could share with me for inspiration for my essay? I'm interested in discussing this topic a little before I write about it.

    Furthermore, if anyone could recommend me towards some sites or books or sources which would be useful for this study, it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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    Hello,

    There is the Heliand , meaning savior, described on Northvegr as “The Saxon version of the Bible in which Christ appears as a warrior.”

    There were many whose minds urged them to begin the reckoning of the runes, the word of God, those well-known accomplishments that Christ the mighty achieved among men in words and in works. Many of the wise wished to praise the preaching of Christ, those holy words, and with their own hands write a book, brightly-shining, how the bairns of men should carry out the commands of God.

    But among all these were only four, out of the many, granted the might of God, help from heaven and the Holy Ghost, strength from Christ. They were selected, they alone, to inscribe the evengelium, to write in a book the rules of God, the holy heavenly word. Of all the heroic sons of men alone they were to attempt it, since the power of God had picked the four: Mathew and Mark, so were these men named, Luke and John, loved by God, worthy of the work. The all-wielding ruler placed the Holy Spirit in their heroic hearts, with many wise words, and as well an attitude of holiness and a keen heart, to raise their voices, repeating the Gospel.

    There is nothing in words comparable in the world. Nothing could glorify our great Lord more; nor can anything lop each loathed thing, or wicked work; nor withstand better the aggression and enmity of the enemy. This, because the teacher of the tidings of God, though meek and mild, had a powerful mind; this was the master, the noble Almighty.

    The four were to write it with their own fingers, they were to set it down, sing it, and to say what they had seen and heard of Christ's strength - all the miracles, many, in word and deed, the mighty Lord preached, and achieved among men -
    and everything the Ruler said from the Creation, when He, by his strength, with a single word, first made the world and formed the universe; the earth and the heavens, and all that they hold, living or unliving, everything was set in place strongly by God's words. Then he determined which of the tribes would rule the most territory, and at which time the ages of the world would come to an end.

    One age remained before the sons of men; five were spent. The sacred sixth age would come through God's power, the Holy Ghost, and Christ's birth. He is the best of Healers, come to this middle world as an aid to many, to grant men's children a chance against the enmity of the enemy, and the concealed trap.
    The Runes stick out, and so does this Middle World.

    I can’t read Old Saxon, so taking this into consideration I could say that it may have been what the Christianity was like as we first expressed it, maybe also how it was presented to us, even harmoniously enough as if it was being expressed.

    The two poems give evidence of genius and trained skill, though the poet was no doubt hampered by the necessity of not deviating too widely from the sacred originals. Within the limits imposed by the nature of his task, his treatment of his sources is remarkably free, the details unsuited for poetic handling being passed over, or, in some instances, boldly altered. In many passages his work gives the impression of being not so much an imitation of the ancient Germanic epic, as a genuine example of it, though concerned with the deeds of other heroes than those of Germanic tradition. In the Heliand the Saviour and His Apostles are conceived as a king and his faithful warriors, and the use of the traditional epic phrases appears to be not, as with Cynewulf or the author of Andreas, a mere following of accepted models, but the spontaneous mode of expression of one accustomed to sing of heroic themes.
    This is a good story..

    Raud the Strong is honored by many each January 9 for his refusal to abandon his Old Gods in favor of the Christian faith imposed at swordpoint by Norwegian King Olaf for political reasons

    by Snorri Sturlson (1178–1241)

    Of Raud's Being Tortured.

    Bishop Sigurd took all his mass robes and went forward to the bow of the king's ship; ordered tapers to be lighted, and incense to be brought out. Then he set the crucifix upon the stem of the vessel, read the Evangelist and many prayers, besprinkled the whole ship with holy water, and then ordered the ship-tent to be stowed away, and to row into the fjord. The king ordered all the other ships to follow him.

    Now when all was ready on board the Crane to row, she went into the fjord without the rowers finding any wind; and the sea was curled about their keel track like as in a calm, so quiet and still was the water; yet on each side of them the waves were lashing up so high that they hid the sight of the mountains. And so the one ship followed the other in the smooth sea track; and they proceeded this way the whole day and night, until they reached Godey. Now when they came to Raud's house his great ship, the dragon, was afloat close to the land. King Olaf went up to the house immediately with his people; made an attack on the loft in which Raud was sleeping, and broke it open. The men rushed in: Raud was taken and bound, and of the people with him some were killed and some made prisoners.

    Then the king's men went to a lodging in which Raud's house servants slept, and killed some, bound others, and beat others. Then the king ordered Raud to be brought before him, and offered him baptism. "And," says the king, "I will not take thy property from thee, but rather be thy friend, if thou wilt make thyself worthy to be so." Raud exclaimed with all his might against the proposal, saying he would never believe in Christ, and making his scoff of God.

    Then the king was wroth, and said Raud should die the worst of deaths. And the king ordered him to be bound to a beam of wood, with his face uppermost, and a round pin of wood set between his teeth to force his mouth open. Then the king ordered an adder to be stuck into the mouth of him; but the serpent would not go into his mouth, but shrunk back when Raud breathed against it. Now the king ordered a hollow branch of an angelica root to be stuck into Raud's mouth; others say the king put his horn into his mouth, and forced the serpent to go in by holding a red-hot iron before the opening. So the serpent crept into the mouth of Raud and down his throat, and gnawed its way out of his side; and thus Raud perished.

    King Olaf took here much gold and silver, and other property of weapons, and many sorts of precious effects; and all the men who were with Raud he either had baptized, or if they refused had them killed or tortured. Then the king took the dragonship which Raud had owned, and steered it himself; for it was a much larger and handsomer vessel than the Crane. In front it had a dragon's head, and aft a crook, which turned up, and ended with the figure of the dragon's tail. The carved work on each side of the stem and stern was gilded. This ship the king called the Serpent. When the sails were hoisted they represented, as it were, the dragon's wings; and the ship was the handsomest in all Norway. The islands on which Raud dwelt were called Gylling and Haering; but the whole islands together were called Godey Isles, and the current between the isles and the mainland the Godey Stream. King Olaf baptized the whole people of the fjord, and then sailed southwards along the land; and on this voyage happened much and various things, which are set down in tales and sagas, -- namely, how witches and evil spirits tormented his men, and sometimes himself; but we will rather write about what occurred when King Olaf made Norway Christian, or in the other countries in which he advanced Christianity. The same autumn Olaf with his fleet returned to Throndhjem, and landed at Nidaros, where he took up his winter abode.

    From the Heimskringla
    The conversion to Christianity can be seen as a horrible show of dishonour..as by Charlemagne..

    The binding factor among these tribes was a shared belief that Irminsűl was holy. They believed
    that without this pillar, the sky would come crashing down upon their heads. To show them that
    they were wrong, Karl2 cut down the tree in 772. The pillar fell, but the sky did not. The Saxons,
    during this time, had lost all of their chieftains. Karl had murdered approximately 5,000 Saxon
    chieftains by tricking them into attending negotiations unarmed.

    http://www.burzum.org/files/books/irminsul_eng.pdf
    The Saxon Wars were the campaigns and insurrections of the more than thirty years from 772, when Charlemagne first entered Saxony with the intent to conquer, to 804, when the last rebellion of disaffected tribesmen was crushed. In all, eighteen battles were fought in what is now northwestern Germany. They resulted in the incorporation of Saxony into the Frankish realm and their conversion from Germanic paganism to Germanic Christianity.
    Despite repeated setbacks, the Saxons resisted steadfastly, forever returning to raid Charlemagne's domains as soon as he turned his attention elsewhere. Their main leader, Widukind, was a resilient and resourceful opponent, but eventually was defeated and baptized (in 785).
    The Saxons were divided into four subgroups in four regions. Nearest to the ancient Frankish kingdom of Austrasia was Westphalia and furthest away was Eastphalia. In between these two kingdoms was that of Engria (or Engern) and north of these three, at the base of the Jutland peninsula, was Nordalbingia.

    First phase
    The wars began with a Frankish invasion of Saxon territory and the subjugation of the Engrians and destruction of their sacred symbol Irminsul near Paderborn in 772 or 773; at Eresburg. Irminsul may have been a hollow tree trunk, presumably representing the pillar supporting the skies—similar to the Nordic tree Yggdrasil. Charlemagne's campaign led all the way to the Weser river and destroyed several major Saxon strongholds. After negotiating with some Saxon nobles and obtaining hostages, Charlemagne turned his attention to his war against the Lombards in northern Italy. But Saxon free peasants, led by Widukind, continued to resist and raided Frankish lands in the Rhine region. Armed confrontations continued unabated for years.
    His second campaign came in the year 775. Then he marched through Westphalia, conquering their fort of Sigiburg, and crossed Engria, where he defeated them again. Finally, in Eastphalia, he defeated them and their leader Hessi converted to Christianity. He returned through Westphalia, leaving encampments at Sigiburg and Eresburg. All Saxony but Nordalbingia was under his control, but the recalcitrant Saxons would not submit for long.
    After warring in Italy, he returned very rapidly to Saxony (making to Lippe before the Saxons knew he left Italy) for the third time in 776, when a rebellion destroyed his fortress at Eresburg. The Saxons were once again brought to heel, though Widukind fled to the Danes. Charlemagne built a new camp at Karlstadt. In 777, he called a national diet at Paderborn to integrate Saxony fully into the Frankish kingdom. Many Saxons were baptised.
    The chief purpose of the diet was to bring Saxony closer to Christianity. Missionaries, mainly Anglo-Saxons from England, were recruited to carry out this task. Charlemagne issued a number of decrees designed to break Saxon resistance and to inflict capital punishment on anyone observing heathen practices or disrespecting the king's peace. His severe and uncompromising position, which earned him the title butcher of Saxons, caused his close adviser Alcuin of York, later abbot of Saint Martin's at Tours, to urge leniency, as God's word should be spread not by the sword but by persuasion. But the wars continued, as the Saxons fought ferociously for their freedom.
    In Summer 779, Charlemagne again went into Saxony and conquered Eastphalia, Engria, and Westphalia. At a diet near Lippspringe, he divided the land into missionary districts and Frankish countships. He himself assisted in several mass baptisms (780). He then returned to Italy and, surprisingly, there was no Saxon revolt. From 780 to 782, the land had peace.

    Middle phase
    Charlemagne returned in 782 to Saxony and instituted a code of law and appointed counts, both Saxon and Frank. The laws were Draconian on religious issues, and the native paganism was gravely threatened. This stirred a renewal of the old conflict. That year, in Autumn, Widukind returned and lead a revolt which resulted in much assaults on the church. The Saxons invaded the area of the Chatti, a Germanic tribe already converted by Saint Boniface and firmly in Charlemagne's empire. Widukind annihilated a Frankish army at the Süntelgebirge while Charles was campaigning against the Sorbs. It was in response to this setback that Charlemagne allegedly at the Blood court of Verden ordered the beheading of 4,500 Saxons who had been caught practising paganism after converting to Christianity, while Widukind escaped to Denmark again. Upon this Blutgericht modern (ie archaeological) research has cast some doubt, as no archeological evidence of such a massacre has been found and the original source may mistakenly have said "beheading" (decollabat) when it should say "exiling" (delocabat). The massacre led to two straight years of constant warfare (783-785), with Charlemagne wintering in central Saxony, at Minden. In 783, battles in Saxony saw Saxon women throw themselves barebreasted into battle. One of them was Fastrada, daughter of a Saxon count, who, in 784, became Charlemagne's fourth wife. Gradually, the Franks gained the upper hand. The turning point came in 785, when Widukind had himself baptized and swore fealty to Charlemagne. It was with the conclusion of this war that Charlemagne can have claimed to have conquered Saxony, the land had peace for the next seven years, though revolts continued sporadically until 804.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saxon_Wars
    Nietzsche pointed out the real messed up stuff with Christianity.

    THE ANTICHRIST
    1.
    —Let us look each other in the face. We are Hyperboreans—we know well enough how remote our place is. “Neither by land nor by water will you find the road to the Hyperboreans”: even Pindar,[1] in his day, knew that much about us. Beyond the North, beyond the ice, beyond death—our life, our happiness.... We have discovered that happiness; we know the way; we got our knowledge of it from thousands of years in the labyrinth. Who else has found it?—The man of today?—“I don’t know either the way out or the way in; I am whatever doesn’t know either the way out or the way in”—so sighs the man of today.... This is the sort of modernity that made us ill,—we sickened on lazy peace, cowardly compro mise, the whole virtuous dirtiness of the modern Yea and Nay. This tolerance and largeur of the heart that “forgives” everything because it “understands” everything is a sirocco to us. Rather live amid the ice than among modern virtues and other such south-winds!... We were brave enough; we spared neither ourselves nor others; but we were a long time finding out where to direct our courage. We grew dismal; they called us fatalists. Our fate—it was the fulness, the tension, the storing up of powers. We thirsted for the lightnings and great deeds; we kept as far as possible from the happiness of the weakling, from “resignation”... There was thunder in our air; nature, as we embodied it, became overcast—for we had not yet found the way. The formula of our happiness: a Yea, a Nay, a straight line, a goal....
    [1] Cf. the tenth Pythian ode. See also the fourth book of Herodotus. The Hyperboreans were a mythical people beyond the Rhipaean mountains, in the far North. They enjoyed unbroken happiness and perpetual youth.
    2.
    What is good?—Whatever augments the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself, in man.
    What is evil?—Whatever springs from weakness.
    What is happiness?—The feeling that power increases—that resistance is overcome.
    Not contentment, but more power; not peace at any price, but war; not virtue, but efficiency (virtue in the Renaissance sense, virtu, virtue free of moral acid).
    The weak and the botched shall perish: first principle of our charity. And one should help them to it.
    What is more harmful than any vice?—Practical sympathy for the botched and the weak—Christianity....
    3.
    The problem that I set here is not what shall replace mankind in the order of living creatures (—man is an end—): but what type of man must be bred, must be willed, as being the most valuable, the most worthy of life, the most secure guarantee of the future.
    This more valuable type has appeared often enough in the past: but always as a happy accident, as an exception, never as deliberately willed. Very often it has been precisely the most feared; hitherto it has been almost the terror of terrors;—and out of that terror the contrary type has been willed, cultivated and attained: the domestic animal, the herd animal, the sick brute-man—the Christian....
    4.
    Mankind surely does not represent an evolution toward a better or stronger or higher level, as progress is now understood. This “progress” is merely a modern idea, which is to say, a false idea. The European of today, in his essential worth, falls far below the European of the Renaissance; the process of evolution does not necessarily mean elevation, enhancement, strengthening.
    True enough, it succeeds in isolated and individual cases in various parts of the earth and under the most widely different cultures, and in these cases a higher type certainly manifests itself; something which, compared to mankind in the mass, appears as a sort of superman. Such happy strokes of high success have always been possible, and will remain possible, perhaps, for all time to come. Even whole races, tribes and nations may occasionally represent such lucky accidents.
    5.
    We should not deck out and embellish Christianity: it has waged a war to the death against this higher type of man, it has put all the deepest instincts of this type under its ban, it has developed its concept of evil, of the Evil One himself, out of these instincts—the strong man as the typical reprobate, the “outcast among men.” Christianity has taken the part of all the weak, the low, the botched; it has made an ideal out of antagonism to all the self-preservative instincts of sound life; it has corrupted even the faculties of those natures that are intellectually most vigorous, by representing the highest intellectual values as sinful, as misleading, as full of temptation. The most lamentable example: the corruption of Pascal, who believed that his intellect had been destroyed by original sin, whereas it was actually destroyed by Christianity!—
    6.
    It is a painful and tragic spectacle that rises before me: I have drawn back the curtain from the rottenness of man. This word, in my mouth, is at least free from one suspicion: that it involves a moral accusation against humanity. It is used—and I wish to emphasize the fact again—without any moral significance: and this is so far true that the rottenness I speak of is most apparent to me precisely in those quarters where there has been most aspiration, hitherto, toward “virtue” and “godliness.” As you probably surmise, I understand rottenness in the sense of décadence: my argument is that all the values on which mankind now fixes its highest aspirations are décadence-values.
    I call an animal, a species, an individual corrupt, when it loses its instincts, when it chooses, when it prefers, what is injurious to it. A history of the “higher feelings,” the “ideals of humanity”—and it is possible that I’ll have to write it—would almost explain why man is so degenerate. Life itself appears to me as an instinct for growth, for survival, for the accumulation of forces, for power: whenever the will to power fails there is disaster. My contention is that all the highest values of humanity have been emptied of this will—that the values of décadence, of nihilism, now prevail under the holiest names.

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/19322...-h/19322-h.htm

    Would anyone care to learn something about the way in which ideals are manufactured? Does anyone have the nerve?…Well then, go ahead! There’s a chink through which you can peek into this murky shop. But wait just a moment, Mr. Foolhardy; your eyes must grow accustomed to the fickle light…all right, tell me what’s going on in there, audacious fellow; now I am the one who is listening.

    “I can’t see a thing, but I hear all the more. There’s a low, cautious whispering in every nook and corner. I have a notion these people are lying. All the sounds are sugary and soft. No doubt you were right; they are transmuting weakness into merit.”

    “Go on”

    “Impotence, which cannot retaliate, into kindness; pusillanimity into humility; submission before those one hates into obedience to One of whom they say that he has commanded this submission--they call him God. The inoffensiveness of the weak, his cowardice, his ineluctable standing and waiting at doors, are being given honorific titles such as patience; to be unable to avenge oneself is called to be unwilling to avenge oneself--even forgiveness (“for they know not what they do--we alone know what they do.”)
    Also there’s some talk of loving one’s enemy--accompanied by much sweat.”

    “Go on”

    “I’m sure they are quite miserable, all these whisperers and smalltime counterfeiters, even thought they huddle close together for warmth. But they tell me that this very misery is the sign of their election by God, that one beats the dogs one loves best, that this misery is perhaps also a preparation, a test, a kind of training, perhaps even more than that: something for which eventually they will be compensated with tremendous interest--in gold? No, in happiness. They call this bliss.”

    “Go on”

    “Now they tell me that not only are they better than the mighty of this earth, whose spittle they must lick ( not from fear--by no means--but because God commands us to honor our superiors), but they are even better off, or at least they will be better off someday. But I’ve had all I can stand. The smell is too much for me. This shop where they manufacture ideals seems to me to stink of lies.”

    “But just a moment. You haven’t told me anything about the greatest feat of these black magicians, who precipitate the white milk of loving-kindness out of every kind of blackness. Haven’t you noticed their most consummate sleight of hand, their boldest, finest, most brilliant trick? Just watch! These vermin, full of vindictive hatred, what are they brewing out of their of poisons? Have you ever heard vengeance and hatred mentioned? Would you ever guess, if you only listened to their words, that these are men bursting with hatred?”

    “I see what you mean. I’ll open my ears again--and stop my nose. Now I can make out what they seem to have been saying all along ‘We, the good ones, are also the just ones.’ They call the thing they seek not retribution but the triumph of justice; the thing they hate is not their enemy, by no means--they hate injustice, ungodliness; the thing they hope for and believe in is not vengeance, the sweet exultation of vengeance (‘sweeter than honey’ as Homer said) but ‘the triumph of God’ who is just, over the godless’; what remains to them to love on this earth is not their brothers in hatred, but what they call their ‘brother in love’-- all who are good and just.”

    “And what do they call that which comforts them in all their suffering--their phantasmagoria of future bliss?”

    “Do I hear correctly? They call it Judgment Day, the coming of their kingdom, the ‘Kingdom of God.’ Meanwhile they live in ‘faith,’ in ‘love,’ in ‘hope.’”

    “Stop! I’ve heard enough.”

    From The Birth of Tragedy & the Genealogy of Morals translated my Francis Golffing..pages 180-182
    Maybe you have already thought of all of this, I don't know..? If not, what do you think..? Is it even along the proper lines..? It's what I think when I think of "what happened."

    Later,
    -Lyfing

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