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Graduate Readings...

My reading for this week is Jon Hnefill Adalsteinsson's "Under the Cloak: A Pagan Ritual Turning Point in the Conversion of Iceland"

I've read through the Introduction & preface, as well as the first three chapters. It is a fairly dry read, but at least not a difficult or unwieldly one. It has some good historical/literary analysis. the primary source so far is landnamabok (or rather the various variations and derivatives of it). This source is essentially the accounting of how Iceland was settled, and gives soemthing of a listing of the original settlers. Although it cannot be said with certainty, the scholarly guess is that the majority of these settlers were primarily heathen, there were (according to scholars) Christians among them, as well as Christian influence.

Sometimes the hardest thing when dealing with our lore and history is that we really cannot say with anything approaching a voice of authority, or historical accuracy that we truly know such and such occured. That this truly took place. Literary sources are not free of Christian influence, and in many cases what lore that survives was written a couple of centuries or more after certain events. Then there are things where depending on what versin of the lore you are looking at their are vast differences. for instance, there is an account of Baldur's death that in no way shape or form has any involvement of Loki. Yet the most common accounting and accreditation given among lore that deals with things that scholars would construe of a mythological nature (stories of the gods, versus stories of heroes or historical mundane events) is usually (at least in the common sense) associated with Snorri, yet even within some of the texts attributed to being penned by him have what I call the Christian Disclaimer.

This disclaimer essentially stating that no real belief or credit should be given tot hese pagan gods. hell, Snorri euphemizes the gods. So that the impressin is given that instead of powerful deities, you have either men or demons who because they had some skill, some prowess, some luck were treated as gods by others who were foolish and did not know better.

The earliest accredited Skaldic verse goes back to around the Ninth century, a century or two after Christianity had taken root. From a historical viewpoint we're screwed. We had a primarily oral tradition, helll even the laws were oral, and at the annual althingi 1/3 of the law would be recited. Archaelogically... we have no earth shattering finds to date that really reveal to us about the religious context from which we take our roots. There's some iconography. Our best sources that at least are eye-witnessed accounts versus a century or two remove come from the Romans or the Arabs. Oi vey... this really just frustrates me, because you can never say with certainty that 'this was so' Even as pointed out by Adalsteinsson's "under the Cloak" he recounts how the various versions of the landnamabok have different focuses, some are obviously more Christian... yet compared with those that appear Christian free share same elements to the point it's difficult to tell who borrowed from who at times. Argh.