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Gods and Myths of Northern Europe unknown Edition
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Davidson's book is a fine overview of the subject from a more scholarly perspective. It is a book of modest scope and the author is conservative in her assertions. At times her diffidence is endearing, at others it is frustrating. Clearly, the book is a product of its time. Overall, it has withstood the test of time and I anticipate it will be used for decades to come.
Odin and Thor each get their own chapters, as well as sharing a chapter on their attributes as underworld deities. Freyr and Freya also receive a chapter dedicated (mostly) to them as fertility deities. Yet another chapter considers sea deities, and a catch-all chapter discusses the remaining gods.
Perhaps the greatest shortcoming of this overview is Davidson's failure to discuss the differences between the Aesir and the Vanir. Although these are pointed out, the significance is not discussed in detail. Could the warrior cult of the Aesir have edged out the fertility cult of the Vanir during the chilling of the climate that has taken place over the past 2,500 years or so? Does this competition reflect the Indo-Kurgan invasions that Gimbutas wrote about, where we see the gods of the victors gaining supremacy over the deities of the conquered? What of the giants? Do they represent deeper, primal forces and archetypes? Or are they the gods of yet an earlier culture?
Those who seek a "Norse" Wicca, will do well to read about the Vanir, Freyr & Freyja. This chapter lays out a nice outline of the nordic fertility tradition (which is congruent with Wicca, unlike the battle tradition of Odin & Thor). Davidson discusses the roles of the "volva" or witches/seers and their magic or "seithr."
This is an excellent comprehensive overview for somebody who would like an introduction to the Norse Mythos.Read more ›
And then there are the secondary sources--that is to say, sources written with the purpose of interpreting and understanding the primary sources. You'll want at least one of the dictionaries: Lindow to start out with, then either Simek or Orchard (or both), maybe a good general-purpose Viking book like Roesdahl's "The Vikings"...
...And you'll want this book. You simply must have this book, if you're any kind of fan of Norse Mythology at all. It's a classic. It's not even half as big as my Lindow dictionary, but somehow it seems to contain five times the information. It's superbly written. It hits on most of the major characters, stories and phenomenon and describes them thoroughly, but it also digs up obscure tidbits of archaeological information, tying one thread of this myth to another, fitting in tiny pieces of the puzzle that you didn't even know existed.
For this book Davidson drew on what must have been her staggering and far-reaching knowledge of mythology and folklore, not simply Norse mythology but mythologies from far and wide, as far away as India. She takes you far, far back into the primordial days in which the roots of these myths took hold, trying to understand the hows and wheres and whys of their origins. She makes no outlandish assumptions, draws no unfounded conclusions: she simply presents what is known and what is, unfortunately, unknown, and points out what might have been.
Can you tell that I'm a fan?Read more ›
Davidson relies on three main sources, Procopius (writing in the early 6th Century in Byzantium), Tacitus (writing in the later Roman Empire), and Snorri Sturlson who attempted to set down the story he found in Iceland in the Prose Edda in the early Middle Ages.
Davidson says of Sturlson, "There is little doubt that on the whole Snorri has given us a faithful picture of heathen mythology as he found it in the poets." Davidson has some reservations about the Prose Edda, however, because it records what had heretofore been an oral tradition. However, all early history has an oral basis, including the Bible. Modern archeology is providing much evidence that what is found in these older texts has a basis in fact.
Why should you read this book? If you are an opera fan, you will learn more about the Valkyries, Valhalla, and the Ring Cycle. If you're a fan of literature you will gain insight into the symbols contained in poems and prose. You might better understand Beowolf or Elliot's poem "The Wasteland." If you are interested old paintings, you might better understand some of the attributes of saints, or other "holy" people. Tarot readers may better understand the cards. If you puzzle over fairytales and nursery rhymes you may find enlightenment.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I though the book was well-written and very informative. Keep in mind that this book is written from an academic perspective and doesn't read like a novel or story book, but if you... Read morePublished 15 days ago by CK3137
Very interesting. Too short to be really comprehensive, but a good introduction.Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
As someone who tries to study every book that I can find of the norse people I'm glad to have found another source!Published 3 months ago by Sigvarr
This was a gift and the recipient said it was great, just what was wanted.Published 4 months ago by Ann E. Tyminski
The easiest way to talk about Gods and Myths of Northern Europe by H. R. Ellis Davidson is to talk about it in relation to Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals and... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Steven M. Long