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Gods and Worshippers in the Viking and Germanic World Paperback – Illustrated, 6 Jun 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press (6 Jun. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752435906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752435909
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 1 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 702,348 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

History is more than just a series of dates and events for Thor Ewing - it's the story of real people whose lives and thoughts helped shape our world. A fascination with past cultures and how they connect with us today underlies much of his work.

His books help us rediscover that connection with our past, whether through the myths and religion of the Vikings, or the forgotten wisdom of the medieval Celts.

Product Description

From the Back Cover

Imagine a world where gods really do walk the earth, where mythical beings take on human form.

About the Author

THOR EWING studied medieval languages at the University of Durham and has published prize-winning translations of Old Norse poetry. He is the author of Viking Clothing (Tempus 2006)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Paul Mortimer on 30 July 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book tremendously. Mr Ewing has packed an enormous amount of information into this small book. He has not been content just to go over the old ground but has brought some intriguing new ideas to the discussion. Some of the evidence that he has put together has helped me to further develop my own thoughts in this area.
At the end of the book there is useful discussions of the variations of the Germanic burial rite.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Cynewulf on 18 July 2008
Format: Paperback
The only fault with this book is that it wasn't written a long time ago. This is one of the best (if not the best) `accessible' books I have read on the subject.
Most similar publication repeat the same references concerning observations from early church officials and travelling Arabs on heathen Germanic practices. This however has many more besides, much of which was new to me. In addition Thor's insights into the pre-Christians Germanic mindset and interpretations have more than a ring of authenticity about them. I was particularly in agreement with his emphasis on religions role in cementing a society's identity and the individuals within it sense of belonging.
Highly recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Clever, but too fanciful to be taken seriously 20 Dec. 2008
By Ned - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is a school of thought in mythological scholarship called "Euhemerism" which searches for real events in history to explain the happenings in mythology. Both Saxo and Snorri indulged in such speculation, and a more recent theory, that a peace-loving, agrarian matriarchal society was once overrun by an aggressive, patriarchal warrior society, which explains the myth of the Aesir/Vanir wars, was once in such vogue that it has impacted scholarship and new age philosophy to this day, despite the fact that it has long since been discarded as a feminist fantasy by serious scholars due to a lack of historical and archaeological evidence. Thor Ewing creates a new brand of Euhemerism with his "Gods and Worshippers".

Part One consists of familiar territory to any student of Germanic society, with occasional new angles on old ideas, but nothing revolutionary. It is a walk through a familiar wood, perhaps during a different season. The tome itself is pleasing, printed as it is on glossy paper with illustrations of most of the archeological evidence Ewing refers to, which is a welcome change from the numerous texts which describe but never illustrate such artifacts. The two stars I gave this book refer primarily to this first part and the quality of the book and its illustrations.

Part Two, however, suggests that there was a subculture of magic practitioners in Germanic society who both modeled themselves after and, in an atavistic sense, "were" Odin, Freyja, valkyries and norns, and who wandered the land as seers and magicians when not making their home on special islands practicing the (bi)sexual promiscuity and sibling marriage attributed to Odin and the Vanic gods.

Ewing proceeds by a sort of circular reasoning which criss-crosses wantonly from literature to history and back again. For example he notes that 1) though Odin is well-known in poetry and saga to travel as a one-eyed, hooded wanderer, mortal characters in the poems and sagas rarely recognize him by his appearance, therefore 2) in historical Germanic cultures there must have been numerous followers of Odin who put out one of their eyes and wandered hooded, creating "red herring" odins everywhere, which 3) explains why in the poetry and sagas the characters do not recognize Odin. A more simple explanation may be that this inability to recognize Odin in the poetry and sagas is a literary device. If the mortal characters recognize Odin as a god right off the bat, they will simply fall to their knees and do whatever he says. By not recognizing him, they make meaningful errors in their treatment of him and his words, which reveals their true natures, and thus brings out the meaning of the story. On the mythological side one might add: if the god of mind-fetters does not wish to be recognized, he won't be, regardless of his appearance.

Furthermore, if there were followers of Odin who put out one of their eyes and wandered as seers, where then are the followers of Tyr who lopped off one of their hands? Or worshipers of Thor who pounded whetstones into their skulls? Once you begin to read myths with such literalness, where do you stop?

Had this idea been presented in the context of a fantasy novel, it would have been very clever. Presented, however, as a serious academic study, it seems more like conspiracy theory than real scholarship.

Ewing challenges the skeptical reader in his conclusion, claiming that anyone who doubts his theory must caution themselves "against allowing personal preconceptions based on modern society from colouring our judgment about what might have been likely in past societies." I would turn this question about to the author and ask what preconceptions he possesses which encourage him pick and choose bits of lore to read literally in order to create a sort of "hippie" subculture in Germanic Europe?

Ewing's second challenge to doubtful readers is to find another theory which explains the "multitude of norns", "earthly valkyries" or the numerous names of Odin. I would reply that multiplicity and contradiction are well-established aspects of mythology the world over because the human psyche, which created these myths, has a tendency to create multiplicity and contradiction. And, in the words of H.R. Ellen Davidson: "Attempts to interpret the descriptions in the poems literally...have never wholly succeeded, because the impression the poems give is not a planned and rational world, but rather a series of vivid images which build up a vague but powerful world-picture." When fragmentary sources which span hundreds of years are assembled to create a neat and complete puzzle picture, one wonders if this picture has not been inspired more by cleverness than truth. I would suggest that the tension between the law-giving Aesir and the natural and instinct-driven Vanir in poetry and saga is one that existed in the hearts of men and women in ancient times, as it does to this day, and not in two separate societies.

Those Heathens inspired by occult, new age or neo-shamanistic interpretations of the lore may find Ewing's tale of an organized subculture of sexually free magic-users operating within Germanic culture compelling. Those who take a more sober and scholarly route along the Northern path may find that Ewing's premise requires a suspension of their learned disbelief that reaches rather too far up into the clouds.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
A good first half, then it degenerates into New Age drivel 23 Mar. 2009
By Spence the Elder - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Gods and Worshippers", is a work that was much anticipated in the Heathen/Asatru community. I think these expectations were too great for the book to meet. If the author had only published Part 1 of the book I would be much kinder in my review. This alas, is not the case.

Part 1 of this work is quite good and well written. It broadened my outlook a bit without pushing the envelope too far. I liked Ewing's look at ritual songs and how they may have been passed down through the years and avoided clerical censorship. Additionally, Ewing's comparison of the similarities in the various political gatherings of the Althing, Gulathing, etc. and how that these gatherings were likely to be as much religious/spiritual as they were secular was quite intriguing. When you think about it just makes sense. I hadn't seen it stated so plainly before. The book itself is well put together with a nice glossy cover, quality paper and decent size type face. A few of the photos were a tad blurry but overall well done.

Part 2 however, steps off the edge of reason into the realm of circular logic that is at best flawed and at worst down right fantasy. A separate society of priests and seer's living within the culture? Based on secluded islands or hidden enclaves while practicing bisexual and incestuous rituals? Show me a shared of creditable hard evidence to support this. A troop of one eyed wanderers tramping around Northern Europe? All of them claiming to be the All Father while begging for food and coin is a bit much, don't you think? I also noticed that Ewing's sections on Norns, Mothers and Maiden Norn/Valkyries rang very similer to the "Maiden- Mother-Crone", concept of contemporary Celtic witchcraft. I don't know if this is an attempt to merge the Germanic and the Celtic traditions or just a coincidence.

All and all I do recommend reading this book. If nothing else Ewing makes you think and question your premises. I would however, place it at the bottom of your priority list.

In Frith,
Spence the Elder
"Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc"
M. Addams
7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Essential Reading 8 Feb. 2010
By Eric the Unfashionable - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is really a great book that has been unfairly misrepresented by some of the reviewers. For instance, I don't think it has anything to do with euhemerism.

Even the first part of the book is quite original - in fact it's more original than Ewing makes out. It's one of the best descriptions I know of Viking temples, rituals and so on - certainly the best you can get hold of easily - and with some great insights. I found things I'd never come across before, but the main thing is that it's a completely fresh angle on the whole thing.

The second part is pretty revolutionary, and it looks like some people really don't get on with it. Ewing's conclusions might be radical, but it's not true that he doesn't argue the case well. It's carefully argued with a sense of caution, and I really don't think it relies on circular logic - in fact everything seems to be argued from about three angles. And the breadth of evidence is really impressive.

I'm not sure yet what to make of Ewing's conclusions, but I don't want to prejudge the issue. It seems pretty outlandish, but you can't knock it down easily without simply ignoring a lot of the argument and evidence he presents. I'm beginning to think he's probably right.

Because of the debate it raises, I don't think you can be a real student of Viking religion unless you've read this book - there's also an excellent summary of Viking and Germanic funeral customs. But steer clear if you don't want to shake the old romantic view of Germanic paganism.
I love it 9 Sept. 2014
By Linda Parson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Awesome as usual
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