Germanic mythology

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Germanic mythology in a narrower sense describes the mythologies of the various Germanic cultures of the Iron Age and the Migration Period , whereby the myths must be distinguished from religious ideas and rites . The pre-Christian beliefs of the Germanic peoples went with the Christianization to varying degrees in the respective popular belief (see also syncretism ), for the world of gods see Nordic mythology .


“Both archeology and, more recently, literary studies have been able to show that the sources give us such an inconsistent picture that is difficult to homogenize because the Germanic religion was extremely differentiated regionally, socially and chronologically, so that we actually tend to think of ' Germanic religions' would have to speak. The sources must therefore be used very differently and much more critically today than was possible then, soon after many literary medieval texts were first published. "

The indigenous tradition of Germanic mythology is available today in different types of sources. The most important of these sources are

The surviving traditions show a multi-layered picture in which myths , epics , fairy tales , folk tales, legal and memorable sayings , proverbs or magical formulas and prayers mix. Most of these written traditions are of Northern European origin, going back to the Northern Germanic, geographically to Scandinavia and Iceland. The myths and epics of the southern or continental Germanic peoples have only been passed on in traces. Written records worth mentioning no longer exist. Einhard reported that Charlemagne had certain texts written down, but neither the scope nor the content are known. With regard to the further allegation that Ludwig the Pious had it destroyed because of pagan content, there are no indications. The existing old Germanic traditions are available in written, poetic or prosaic poetry and as literary works that draw from myths and epics that were once handed down orally. The authors of this literature were the anonymous authors of saga literature, skalds frequenting aristocratic circles or scientifically oriented mythographers, men whom Felix Genzmer in a commentary on Hymiskviða calls fairy connoisseurs , whom Karl Simrock calls scholars of God (Old Norse goðmölugir) in his Edda translation. The oral tradition also led to overlaps and misunderstandings (see Nibelungenlied and Thidrekssaga ). The age of the narratives these authors used is largely lost in the obscurity of history. What is certain, however, is that Icelandic monks from the 9th century to the 13th century were intensively involved in the writing, compilation or scientific and literary processing of regional mythological traditions, although it is also questionable whether a monk was already practicing Christian teaching at this time had fully received and internalized. For Christian influence see also sources on Nordic mythology .

Fishing and Saxons in England

The north-west European Germanic tradition of Angling, Saxons and Jutes in England is particularly evident in the great Beowulf epic, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and several smaller works. These texts show a narrative tradition closely connected with Scandinavia.

Continental Germans

Interesting, if only partially reliable, ancient texts on continental Germanic mythology and religion are the Germania by Tacitus and De bello gallico by Caesar . Early medieval spells and other smaller works also attest to ideas of the continental Germanic religion before Christianization.

Northern Germanic in Scandinavia

The richest tradition is the Nordic mythology . The written evidence of Scandinavia came into being after Christianization and was therefore influenced to varying degrees by Christian belief and monastic formation.

The most important sources are provided by Eddic mythology . This is highly artificial poetry from medieval Iceland. It was written in connection with the Icelandic, learned medieval early history up to the 13th century, but does not represent the popular beliefs of this time identically. The North Germanic gods, heroes and creation mythology is

  • in the poetic song Edda, sometimes referred to as older (also called "Older Edda" or incorrectly called Sæmundar Edda ) and
  • in the two-part, prosaic Snorra Edda (or Prose Edda or "Younger Edda"), in which mythological knowledge (in the Gylfaginning ) and a textbook for skalds (the Skáldskaparmál ) are handed down.

The Lieder Edda is also divided into two parts:

The songs of the gods are, on the one hand, a poetry of knowledge that transmits extensive cosmogonic knowledge ( Völuspá , Grímnismál , Vafþrúðnismál or Baldrs draumar ), but on the other hand it is a moral and ethical poetry ( Hávamál ). The heroic songs tell of the heroic deeds of Helgis, Sigurðr and Jörmunrekr in three independent myth circles. The Lieder Edda contains an older and a younger layer of poetic poems of gods and heroes, which go back to an old manuscript (the Codex Regius ). The Codex Regius is a manuscript found around 1640 , which contains the poems of the Song Edda and which, based on palaeographic and linguistic criteria , could be dated to the year 1270 . Until the 19th century, the texts of the Codex Regius were ascribed to the priest Sæmundur fróði (the wise), Iceland 's first poet ( 1056 to 1133 ). Since this attribution now contradicts the state of research, the term Sæmundar-Edda is no longer used.

See also


In the order of the year of publication.

Web links

Portal: Mythology  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of mythology
Commons : Germanic Mythology  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Rudolf Simek: Middle Earth - Tolkien and Germanic mythology. CH Beck, Munich 2005, p. 11.