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The Horse in Norse Religion

August 21, 2019


Hello friends how are you? I’m rArith Härger And today I’m going to talk about Horses in the Norse religion in pre-christian times Just some quick notes but before we start this video I have two codes for you to use on the website VKNG Jewelry and the links are down below in the description as of today you have 30% discount during 48 hours in the whole store and 20% off on all Thor’s hammers during 15 days starting today Such as this one right here, which is quite beautiful. So, get your codes, use the links in the description and enjoy your time shopping at VKNG jewelry Now I may have a suggestion for VKNG jewelry concerning Thor’s Hammers If you allow me, of course, it would be interesting to have some made out of copper since Thor was connected to copper magic and talismanic magic using copper if you ever do one with copper Send me one now Given my previous video about divination in the germanic world I spoke about horses in the process of divination and linked to the god Freyr, in the case of Scandinavia and connected to Nerthus in the case of ancient Germans of Central Europe I purposely left for this video more about that specific subject and we shall start from there I’ve spoken about the divination process concerning horses in the cult of Nerthus horses pulling a special chariot where the divine presence would manifest itself on the chariot and it was up to the priests of Nerthus to look for the signs of the manifestation of the divine entity and From there making their own deductions of the will of the deity in the Icelandic accounts in the book of Settlements it gives us certain clues on how the divine presence was manifested Since… Older classical accounts somewhat failed to explain the manifestation of the divine in this particular aspect There is a reference to a Norse deity called Lytir, most likely, by the explanations It was one from the Vanir tribe of gods – the fertility deities more or less equivalent to Freyr Lytir seems to have been a Swedish God who presided over fate and related to divination rom old Swedish “liuta” – to cast lots objects for divinatory purposes As I’ve explained on the previous video Now, King Erik of Uppsala, had two wagons driven to a certain place where he sacrificed to this god Lytir The wagons being pulled by horses King Erik left one wagon alone all night in the place of sacrifice In the morning the King went back to the place to see if the god had come, but there was no sign of the deity The king left the wagon a second night, but nothing happened, so he made a fresh sacrifice We are not sure what kind of sacrifice After the third night, he found that the God had finally entered in the wagon the wagon was so heavy with the presence of the God that the horses fell dead while pulling it back to the King’s Hall The wagon was brought eventually into the Hall The King welcomed the God by draining a horn in his honour and so King Eric proceeded to ask questions of the deity Since Lytir was a God connected to fate and the God answered but unfortunately we are not told in which manner the god made his answeres known There are archaeological evidences of such wagons pulled by horses that serve to carry a deity in divination ceremonies little wagons of wood Beautifully decorated with carvings, have been preserved in several places such as the Iron Age examples of Denmark andthe wagon of the Oseberg ship burial Such wagons may be indeed surviving examples of the sacred wagons of Vanir deities Such as the ones that were once used in divination ceremonies and most likely the use of horses here maybe have been chosen the same way Horses were chosen in Central Europe in the Cult of Nerthus White horses that were kept in sacred groves and there would be a direct contact of the divine with the animals Most likely the sacred groves served as the environment Where the deity resided and the horses belong to the deity In the Scandinavian case the death of the horses that pulled the wagon May be a reference to sacrificing the horse of the deity precisely to call upon the deity in fact the death of the animal when offered as a sacrifice to the deity was precisely to guarantee that the deity itself Accepted the offering by taking the life of the animal and so in return would do what was asked for more information on horse augury, please watch my previous video about divination in the germanic world There is something I would like to talk about concerning Slavic ways of divination using horses that have some Scandinavian parallels The Slavic god Svantevit/Svetovid, a god of war and fertility greatly worshipped in the Island of Rügen The divination ceremonies held there and connected to this deity consisted in bringing a white horse Sacred to the God, just like the ancient Germans would use That was ridden by the priest No one was to ride the horse of the God except the priest The Slavic God Triglav – the three-headed one, also had a sacred horse but black when the Slavs of the Baltic Wanted to know these gods’ will, they would lay Spears on the ground three pairs of Spears for the God Svantevit, and nine Spears for the God Triglav in both cases the horse was led by the priest on its back and it was led over the spears and people would observe whether the hooves touched them – the spears and whether the horse put forward his right or left leg to step over them The divine would manifest its will through the horse Because the horse belonged to those specific deities and no one was allowed to ride the horse Except the priests that worked on behalf of the deities as if the deities manifested themselves on both the priests devoted to the deities in question, and on the horses that belong to the deities themselves We have Scandinavian parallels on this The horse Freyfaxi for instance mentioned in Hrafnkels Saga Which his owner shared with the god Freyr and which no one was allowed to ride only Hrafnkel was allowed to ride the horse of Freyr because Hrafnkel was a gothi of Freyr – a priest of Freyr so it’s perfectly normal to see some parallels between Baltic-Slavic and Scandinavian religious performances since geographically speaking These are two realities in close proximity There are obviously hundreds of parallels But today we are speaking of horses In pre-christian Scandinavia the horse was by far the most sacrificed animal to the gods which is a religious tradition that harks back to the Celts and even before that period we already notice during the early Bronze Age a great abundance of horse sacrifice in southwestern Europe along the Atlantic to the ancient Germans as I have mentioned on the previous video about divination in the Germanic world- the horse was seen as a holy animal in general Scandinavians often ate horse meat Which during the conversion was not allowed at least in public Much like every other Norse pagan celebration and cult the consumption of horse meat Was allowed as long as it was far from public view within the confinement of the domestic environment Which means the consumption of horse meat was also connected to the religious life By itself was a religious performance to eat the meat of the horse that was offered as a sacrifice to a specific deity and therefore share the meat with the deity itself as I have mentioned before On another video. Unfortunately, I don’t remember which one I’ve talked about Volsi – a lesser-known Scandinavian deity most likely- only worship in northern Norway The Cult of Volsi to a certain extent is connected to the horse The fertility cult of Volsi Volsi literally means penis, to be more precise it’s a horse’s penis this cult-worship is told off in an episode of Olafs saga hins helga a chapter in the Flateyjarbók codex, in the part entitled Vǫlsa þáttr – “The Tale of Volsi” In a quick summary of the account King Olaf, the one sanctified hears about some farmers who are still Heathens and one of these farmers is a Northern Norwegian farmer with his wife, son, daughter At one autumn when the farmer’s horse dies The family eats its meat, as I have said this was a common heathen tradition but the Thrall slave or paid worker of the family, cuts the penis off of the horse and Wants to throw it away However, the farmer’s wife thinks that whatever is of some use Should not be wasted and so she wraps it in linen and in herbs Leeks is one of such herbs greatly used in traditional Norse magic, by the way Anyway, she wraps the horse’s penis So that it will not rot. And so that the penis can Continue growing untill it can stand alone Next to the farmer’s wife Who places all her belief in Volsi Every evening Volsi is passed around and everyone says stanza over it, which ends with the refrain: (þiggi Mǫrnir þetta blœti) (“Accept, Mornir, this sacrifice”) Of course until King Olaf descends on the family one day and puts an end to their heathen superstitions It’s interesting to see that Volsi in here can be seen as a local deity or The personification of Freyr himself due to the various Cults around Freyr surrounding horse’s ‘ phallus ‘ and the sacrificing of horses but Volsi is without a doubt a cult-worship apart from the general worshipping of pre-christian Scandinavia but another interesting thing in this account is Mornir the plural of Marn Which is a name for the goddess Skaði in Haustlong – Old Norse “autumn long” skaldic poem of the early 10th century and preserved in the 13th century Prose Edda the sacrifice to the Mornir was directed towards a plurality of Fertility goddesses among whom the Dísir are also counted Some argue that Mornir is also recorded as a sword-name so in that case Mornir, just like Volsi, is nothing more than a phallus as such names are used as kennings to describe swords and comparing them to the phallus given the shape of the object as Freyr was characterized by the phallus as a fertility god, the Volsi sacrifice would be directed towards Freyr unfortunately Since this cult has no parallels with other accounts we can’t say for sure if Volsi was indeed a Deity, or the personification of Freyr, or the tool with which the cult was performed in the name of another deity such as Skadi or groups of female deities related to fertility, or even a kenning for Freyr in northern Norway or a phallus-cult, or even a horse cult-worship related to fertility nevertheless the presence of the horse penis as a fertility symbol and tool was preserved in the Cult and it wasn’t uncommon among pre-christian Scandinavians There is a clear veneration of the horse Concerning horse burials It’s not uncommon to find horses in pre-christian Scandinavian burials not only as a possible means of transportation of the dead into the afterlife but also as sacrifices to the deity to which the deceased are supposed to go to Some people were devoted to a specific deity and the horse was their animal So by sacrificing the horse to that deity the deity accepts the offering and the horse will ride and take the deceased back to the deity in question the only problem is the horse was the most important animal in the religious panorama of pre-christian northern Europe Which means the horse was the animal of a variety of deities so in a burial mound we don’t know to which deity the horse or horses were sacrificed to Unless there are other clues that link to a particular deity It’s not like for instance the dog wolf Raven and Hawk Which are the animals of Odin; or the boar to Freyr and Freyja, even cats to Freya; goats to Thor There are specific animals that belong to just specific gods but the case of the horse and its importance in the religious panorama of the Norse Links the animal to a variety of deities Lytir, Freyr, Volsi, Odin, a general animal of the Vanir fertility cults, etc. So we must assume in the great majority of cases The horses in burial mounds served as transportation Unless like in the case of the Oseburg ship burial The horses in there seem to be an offering to the goddess, Freyja judging by all the material culture linked to the deity herself and it all points out to being a burial to a woman devoted to freyja or even being the burial of freyja herself, as in the manifestation of the deity through a priestess Horse burials in Scandinavia seem to be linked to people with high social status While in other archaeological realities of the Germanic and anglo-saxon world horses were buried with Warriors or just the skull of the horse at the feet or next to the head of the deceased some horses in full battle gear or Decapitated horses. Well a variety of burial realities is concerning horses but in the pre-christian Scandinavian panorama Horse burials seem to always be connected to people with high social status It’s curious to notice that in the myth of the death of Baldr This God’s own horse is placed in the pyre to accompany his master There isn’t much emphasis on the horse in this particular account Which makes me think that the the horse started to lose its importance progressively in the religious panorama and became a sort of secondary offering But the remnants of this tradition is still perceptible in this particular mythological account But judging by other myths of going to the underworld on horseback the horse indeed in earlier periods May have been of the utmost importance in the Ynglingasaga there is a kenning for the goddess Hel Which is Glitnis gná goddess of the horse This might be a trace of the surviving religious beliefs of the horse being the animal that carries the dead into the underworld making Hel, the very goddess of the underworld, a Goddess of horses or at least the specific horses that carry the dead In the Norse myths Odin being a death God and God of inspiration and ecstasy rides Sleipnir- the eight-legged horse Aside from Freyja, which is also a Goddess connected to death Odin seems to be the only God that can travel to the underworld Possibly on Sleipnir’s back. Hermodr is the only other male god that can go down to the underworld to Hel To plead with hel, the goddess, into returning baldr to the Aesir But Hermodr is only able to go to the land of the dead because he rides on Odin’s horse – Sleipnir so Sleipnir in here indeed plays the role of being a vessel that makes the travel to the land of the dead, possible Without Sleipnir the gods can’t enter the underworld the concept of an eight-legged horse as a means of transportation to the underworld Isn’t solely exclusive from Norse religious perspectives. Such unique horses are mentioned as being used by shamans in their ecstatic travels throughout the cosmos and It’s a motif that can be found in surprisingly- In a surprisingly great number of indigenous traditions from all over the world Sleipnirr is the spiritual symbol of the very journey to the Otherworld so the horse isn’t just Connected to fertility cults divination ceremonies and death ceremonies but seems to also have been regarded as the spiritual vessel to- communicate with the spiritual realm Perhaps- a good archaeological example of this belief of going into the afterlife on horseback is the Stora Hammars Picture stone of Gotland, with clear mythological and religious motifs with clear battle scenes carnage and Ritual sacrifice and horses being brought into the scene or better still the Tjängvide image stone whose bottom half depicts the same boat motif with warriors in it as in the Stora Hammers picture stone, But on the top half you can clearly see a rider on his eight-legged horse Maybe a reference to Odin on Sleipnir, or a dead man Who is arriving to Valhalla on Odin’s horse itself or just the general religious motifs of riding to the world of the Dead, or the spiritual world, on an eight-legged horse as previously mentioned The Gotland picture stones have this apparent nature as memorial stones for the dead, with depictions of beliefs about the character of the afterlife The Tängelgårda stone is another good example Both in here and on the Stora Hammar’s stone the dead man depicted in here is The only one riding a horse; the living are not riding horses and other horses in the scene seem to be sacrificial offerings or we may be in the presence of what was previously said about a specific horse belonging to a deity and the only person that can ride the horse is the priest devoted to that specific deity, although Maybe in here we have to discard that possibility since indeed these stones seems to show battle scenes and funeral processions and the person riding the horse is the deceased – the Fallen warrior of great renown a hero! a dead person had his reception in the Otherworld now if you look close at the Tängelgårda stone Each frame seems to show a single rider progressively going downwards starting with a battle scene The rider falls from his horse and dies then the funeral procession and the dead man rides on the horse to the Otherworld The people in the funeral procession turn their back to the rider Letting him go On the next frame he continues to ride the horse and others accompany him wwith sort of rings on their hands and Someone seems to be taking his horse At the end of the picture stone, we see a long ship which might be the final transportation to the actual land of the dead as it isn’t uncommon the mention of crossing a body of water to reach the afterlife and since these pictures stones are from the island of Gotland completely surrounded by water obviously This reality was indeed quite present in the religious beliefs of the people of Gotland having to often cross the sea to reach others so maybe the horse in here plays the role of Taking the dead along the road of the slain – Valsini . as it is mentioned in Old Norse poetry Up until the point of having to cross a body of water to reach the actual afterlife To finalize this video I think there is a particular aspect of Germanic paganism that should be mentioned and Obviously connected with the horse the Wild Hunt now I’m not going to develop in this video about the Wild Hunt but It’s interesting to see that those who ride on the Wild Hunt are not random or ordinary dead The riders of the Wild Hunt are the Restless dead with a direct connection with Odin or the Odinic cult of death and battle ecstasy the ghosts of the slain I’m obviously talking about the Wild Hunt as it was perceived before the introduction of Christianity as we have seen before people of great renown would travel to the Otherworld on horseback the horse as the transportation of the dead wasn’t for ordinary dead and it seems the horse was the mount that led the dead along the way to the Otherworld but not into the other world itself for germanic and Scandinavian pre-christian religious understandings But the Wild Hunt is the other way around Not going to the Land of the Dead but coming from it into the world of the living on horseback in fact, it’s more common to find written sources mythology and folklore of the dead coming To the world of the living on horseback, then going on horseback into the afterlife For instance, in Helgakviða Hundingsbana, The lay of Helgi, 2nd part, Helgi rides from Valhalla back to his burial mound in the world of the living on horseback This is just one single example because I don’t want to extend this that much but indeed in both continental Germanic pagan religious beliefs and Scandinavian as well the dead seem to go to and fro between the world of the living and the world of the dead or the spiritual world which seems to be a belief remoting to a more shamanic past and The use of the horse as the vehicle of the shaman between worlds because as we have seen before It seems some of the dead go into the afterlife on horseback and then catch a boat to cross a body of water to actually reach the afterlife and They also use the horse to get out from the land of the dead into the world of the living while a boat or ship Seems to be only connected with the crossing Into the afterlife, and not using these means of transportation into the world of the living Only the horse seems to be the means of transportation between worlds which Again seems to come from a far older shamanic perception of Using the horse as the mount of the shaman to reach the world of the spirits and back The boat or ship motif is- in the in burial is indeed connected with the death and the- the dead and their crossing! but the horse on the other hand is the means of transportation between the physical and the spiritual There are several accounts, mostly Icelandic sagas, where those who claim the dead also ride on horseback. so it’s not just the dead or groups of specific dead with great renown or with high social status But also those who claim the dead that ride on horseback as well Odin Valkyries, dream-women, and a whole variety of characters and supernatural entities that claim the dead so the horse indeed to pre-christian Germanic and Norse peoples played an important role in the religious and spiritual sphere Divination and Augury, fertility ceremonies, funerary processions, sacrificial offerings Mythological and folklore personification of the journey after death, etc Alright, my dear friends. I hope you have enjoyed this video don’t forget to use your Promotional codes at VKNG jewelry. I leave down below in the description all the links, codes and information you need Thank you so much for watching. See you on the next video. Ride hard and never look back tack för idag!
(thank you for today!)

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