Thorism Defines Germanic Folk Religion

Written by Dyami Millarson

Analysing Germanic religion as Thorism, the veneration of Thor, is practical for comprehending Germanic religion since Germanic folk religion is essentially Thorism while Thor was popular among all Germanic peoples. Thor was the God of the Germanic herdsman/farmer. The roaring of thunder did not just speak to his imagination and the dynamism of the sudden, awe-inspiring occurrence of thunder did not just remind him of heroic deeds which were performed for slaying monsters and serve as a reminder for monsters to be scared of thunder, but thunder was also associated with the rain that would bring life to all plants. The Germanic peoples must have seen the correlation between drought and lack of rain, so thunder was a good sign that made them feel protection and hope; their life depended on rain.

Although the royals and nobles of the Germanic world did also depend on rain, they had a closer relationship with Othin and Frey respectively whilst farmers were closer with Thor. The Germanic peoples lived in a society with a tripartite division, and this also seems to have coincided with the worship of the Othin-Frey-Thor trinity. Whilst Thor was the commoners’ God, the worship of Thor was understandably widespread; it even spread to the neighbouring Estonians and Sami. As the commoners were far more numerous than the royals and nobles, it was easier for Thorism to spread far and wide; the dynamic phenomenon of Thorism was a defining and unifying aspect of Germanic culture.

Thor is a sturdy hero protecting the Gods from harm of wild nature as the Jötnar that Thor battled may be seen as representing wild nature. Thor as a central and iconic figure in the Germanic indigenous worldview protected the holy enclosure of the Gods, and this represents the farmer/herdsman protecting the sacred enclosure of the Germanic folk village. The farmer/herdsman had a very important function of protecting his ætt (family clan) from wild beasts and angry spiritual beings living outside the village. Wild animals and spiritual beings would not have been distinguished; they were the same thing essentially.

Thorism is still very close to the spirit of Germanic communities living in rural areas; it cannot be denied that Thorism resonates with the isolated Germanic communities, such as the various Frisian tribes, because farming and herding are traditionally about the relationship between earth and sky (please note that earth precedes sky according to the Germanic traditional order of this expression whereas the non-Germanic order of this expression is ‘sky and earth’). Njörthism should be analysed as the counterpart to the farming and herding lifestyle, as Njörthism is the aspect of Germanic religion that fits the coastal regions of the Germanic world. Inasmuch as Thorism resonates with farmers/herders and Freyism and Othinism is linked to nobles and royals respectively (Germanic dynasties even traced their lineage to Othin traditionally), Njörthism resonates with fishermen; the Germanic peoples were herders (cattle farmers), noble and royal warriors and fishermen since time immemorial.

The warrior culture of the nobles and royals seems to have caught the attention of modern (chiefly urban) people, and they might get the idea, for this reason, that the warrior ethos was all there was to Germanic society. However, while the warrior spirit was definitely ingrained in Germanic society, so was the spirit of the fishermen and the spirit of the cattle farmers an integral part of Germanic society. The chief Gods of the Germanic world represented key aspects of the Germanic spirit; namely, Thor, Frey, Othin and Njörth represented the farmer spirit, nobleman spirit, king spirit and fisherman spirit. The Germanic Gods are thus Gods of essential aspects of Germanic society; as spirits they embody various social functions and roles. One might express this spiritual embodiment with an Old Norse soul concept as follows: the Gods are the hamr (body) of key social functions and roles in Germanic society.

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