How Is Germanic Polytheism to Be Defined?

Written by Dyami Millarson

English dictionaries offer the following definition of polytheism based on orthodoxy: the belief in or the doctrine of many Gods.

Simultaneously, many dictionaries offer an alternative definition based on orthopraxy: the worship of many Gods.

Polytheism tends to be not only based on shared beliefs, but shared rites. The latter are at least equally important, if not more important, in any polytheistic tradition.

In the case of Germanic polytheism, the emphasis lies clearly on rites. Truth be told, the Germanic polytheists were indeed firmly convinced of certain things, but there can be no doubt as to their priorities; for their beliefs were all geared towards sacrifical rites.

The working definition of Germanic polytheism should be adapted to the Germanic situation: Germanic polytheism is the sacrifice to the Gods. Whilst everything was geared towards sacrificial rites in relation to the Gods, the essence of Germanic polytheism is sacrifice and the Gods may be simply defined as the ‘recipients of sacrifice’.

Therefore, theism exists in the Germanic context only in relation to sacrifice and its definition ought to include a notion of sacrifice. In the Germanic tradition, theism cannot exist outside the context of sacrifice; for all Gods accept sacrifice.

Germanic (poly)theism is based on the underlying assumption that sacrifice is the legitimate or true way to communicate with the Gods; sacrifice is the holiest of acts or deeds in this context and so we cannot escape defining Germanic (poly)theism in this way.

Thus, we may conclude that the Gods exist in the Germanic tradition to be sacrificed to, and that there are necessarily many recipients of sacrifice in Germanic theism, so that this theism cannot escape being polytheism.

Polytheism is philosophically intrinsic to the Germanic tradition; for the Germanic sacrifice required many recipients. The Germanic peoples sent gifts to nature in all of its aspects; they took from the nature beings, but they also gave back directly to nature beings.

In essence, the Germanic peoples did not conceive of nature as an abstract uncountable concept but as living countable beings, and therefore it is more apt to speak of nature beings in the Germanic context rather than nature, which is an abstraxt concept alien to Germanic culture, which only recognised multiple nature beings and no single nature.

Germanic culture only recognised natural diversity and rejected unity as unnatural, which shows how Ancient Germanic people looked at the universe. Indeed, Germanic religion may be termed Germanic universism because it is a peculiar way od looking at the universe.

One may say one forest is a whole, but a forest is actually many trees. The Germanic peoples did not see there is nature, but based on their strict observation, they only saw many beings and they did not require the conceptnof nature as they stuck to their philosophical basic definition of the world they lived in: nature = many beings.

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