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Krigarna i Odins sal: Dödsföreställningar och krigarkult fornnordisk religion
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, History of Religions.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8583-1505
2003 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
The Warriors in Othin’s hall : Conceptions of death and the afterlife in Old Norse Religion (English)
Abstract [en]

The crucial question in this study concerns the relationship between the motifs of Valhall and Othin in the epically worked out myths, and the more vague and intuitive religious beliefs. Archaeological remains as well as Old Norse literature constitute the source material.

The warriors’ aristocracy was the social and religious centre of the cult of Othin and the belief in the warriors’ paradise Valhall. This class was the hub of the pre-Christian society, socially and economically, as well as politically. Fundamental to the power of the class were the bands of warriors, which the chieftains gathered around them in their halls. Here warlike ideals were exposed, and war was believed to be given from the gods and to offer a way to join them after death. Among these warrior groups we find the prototype of the mythical motif of Valhall, as well as the model of the description of the relation between Othin and his warriors. However, these mythical motifs are epically formed, and probably, they were not believed as such, i.e. in a literal sense. Instead, they might, metaphorically, convey such religious truths, which in their real forms are beyond human understanding. The motif of the warriors’ hall could be used as a symbol of the religiously “true” Valhall, because it was in the warrior cult in the hall that the insights into Othin’s paradise could be experienced.

In the cosmological myths there is a fundamental difference between Valhall in the realm of the gods and Hel, the abode of the dead in the nether world. In the more vague religious beliefs the differences seem not to have been expressed with the same clarity. These circumstances were discussed by studying funeral cults. The rites of passage intended to bring the dead to the other world and incorporate them in the afterlife. But most rites were carried out independent of the deceased’s cosmological destination after death. This shows that the structuring explanations of the myths concerning men’s fate after death were not identical with the more vague and intuitive religious belief.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Religionshistoriska institutionen, Stockholms universitet , 2003. , 348 p.
Keyword [en]
Othin, Valhall, war, warband, aristocracy, aristocratic hall, the afterlife, burial customs, Hel
National Category
History of Religions
Research subject
History of Religion
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-124449ISBN: 91-7265-650-6OAI: diva2:889186
Public defence
2003-05-22, G-salen, Biologihuset, Frescati, Stockholm, 13:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2016-01-04 Created: 2015-12-22 Last updated: 2016-01-04Bibliographically approved

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Nordberg, Andreas
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