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Old Customs: The Vernacular Word siðr and Its Cognates in the Study of (Lived) Religion in Viking and Medieval Scandinavia
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, History of Religions.
Number of Authors: 12018 (English)In: Temenos, ISSN 0497-1817, E-ISSN 2342-7256, Vol. 54, no 2, p. 125-147Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Although they highlight the Norse (religious) term sior 'custom' and its cognates, some researchers of pre-Christian Scandinavia suggest that the concept of religion involves a Christocentric discourse and should be used cautiously, or even only for Christianity. Some scholars there-fore recommend a categorical distinction between pre-Christian (religious) sior and Christian religion. This paper contributes to this ongoing discussion. I argue that while it is meaningful to highlight the term sior and its cognates, the distinction between pre-Christian sior and medieval Christian religion is problematic. 1) While sior had various meanings in vernacular language, the current debate emphasises only its religious aspect, thus turning the indigenous term into an implicit etic concept. 2) The word sior and its cognates were also used in medieval Scandinavian languages as designations for Christianity, and hence, the categorisation of pre-Christian sior and medieval Christian religion is misleading. 3) The distinction between popular sior and formal religion is fundamentally based on the two-tier model of popular/folk religion-religion. 4) The vernacular (religious) word sior in the sense of 'religious customs, the religious aspects of the conventional way of life' and the heuristic category of (lived) religion are in fact complementary in the study of religion in both Viking and medieval Scandinavia.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. Vol. 54, no 2, p. 125-147
Keywords [en]
Viking and medieval Scandinavia, Old Norse religion, Christianisation, emic-etic, forn siðr (old customs), lived religion
National Category
Philosophy, Ethics and Religion
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-163742ISI: 000453706600002OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-163742DiVA, id: diva2:1276938
Available from: 2019-01-09 Created: 2019-01-09 Last updated: 2019-01-09Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
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