A Tentative List of Systems of Religion Applicable to Germanic Religion

Written by Dyami Millarson

I have previously discussed how systems of religion may be defined in universal ways despite their particular origins (e.g. Roman, Greek, and so on) and may then again be defined in a particularly Germanic way such that they are useful for understanding Germanic religion (see my article on universal and particular definitions of systems of religion). Having gained this insight, we may then proceed to ask the following question: which systems of religion are applicable to Germanic religion? There are quite a few systems of religion that are applicable to Germanic religion. Giving an exhaustive list is beyond the scope of this article, as this article is merely meant to demonstrate such a list could potentially be made. Consequently, here follows an incomplete list of systems of religion that appear to be applicable to the Germanic context if defined in a way that fits Germanic religion:

  • Theism (polytheism, Vættirism, Vættir faith, Vęrðirism, Vęrðir faith, Godism, Goð faith, Mögnism, Mögn faith, Böndism Bönd faith, Męginism, Męgin faith, belief in High-Ranking and Low-Ranking Gods), animism (spiritism, spiritualism, spirituality)
    • Ginnręginism (Ginnręgin faith, Uppręgin faith)
    • Æsirism (Æsir faith, Ręgin faith)
      • Ásynjurism (Ásynjur faith)
    • Vanirism (Vanir faith)
    • Hero worship (Einhęrjarism, Einhęrjar faith, Saint faith, virtuous men worship, glorious men worship, brave men tradition, great men worship, strong men worship, deified ancestor worship, fallen hero faith, great ancestor worship, prime ancestor worship, homourable men worship)
      • Valkyrjurism (Valkyrjur faith)
    • Elemental Spirits, Nature Spirits, Place Spirits, Mithgarth Spirits
      • Landvættirism (Landvættir faith)
        • Landdísirism (Landdísir faith)
        • Stone Spirit Faith (Steinvættir faith, Hörgvættir faith)
        • Tree Spirit faith (Lundvættir faith, Trévættir faith, Trémęnn faith, Skógarvættir faith, Viðarvættirism)
        • Household Spirit faith (Húsvęrðirism, Húsvættirism, Húsvættir faith)
        • Hill Spirit faith (Bjargvættirism)
      • Nykrarism (Nykrar faith, Marvættir faith, Marmęnn faith, Fjallvættir faith, Forsvættir faith, Vatnavættirism, Vatnavættir faith, Sævættir faith, Kęlduvættir faith)
        • Marmęnnillism (Marmęnnill faith)
          • Margýgrism (Margýgr faith)
    • Álfarism (Álfar faith)
      • Dísirism (Dísir faith, Álfkonur faith)
      • Ljósálfarism (Ljósálfar faith, Himinvættir faith, Loptvættir, leukotheism)
      • Dvergarism (Dvergar faith)
        • Dyrgjurism (Dyrgjur faith)
      • Svartálfarism (melanotheism)
      • Dökkálfarism (achluotheism)
    • Fylgjurism (Fylgjur faith)
    • Hamingjurism (Hamingjur faith)
    • Nornirism (Nornir faith)
    • Mörurism (Mörur faith)
    • Maltheism (belief in evil, harmful or hostile Gods, Meinvættirism, Íllskuvættirism, Úvættirism)
    • Eutheism (belief in friendly Gods, Hjálpvættirism, Holl Ręgin faith)
    • Draugarism (Draugar faith, zombie faith)
    • Ormarism (ophiotheism, Ormar faith, Drękarism, Drękar faith, ophiolatry)
    • Jötnarism (Jötnar faith, Þursarism (Þursar faith, trollism, troll faith)
      • Gýgjarism (Gýgjar faith)
  • Traditionalism (siðr, blótism, perspective, philosophy, worldview, way, code, thought, ritualism, custom, rite, superstition, Germanic sacrificialism, hemotheism)
    • Germanic fatalism (Ørlögism, Wyrdism, Urðrism, Urðarbrunnr faith)
      • Shamanism (Seiðrism, faith in magical wisdom, Galdrism, Görningism, Vittism, belief in Trolldómr, heroism, messianism, miracle-worker faith, sōtēres faith, soteric faith, soterotheism, Seiðmęnnism, Seiðmęnn faith, Spámęnn, Spámęnn faith, Görningamęnn, Görningamęnn faith, Galdravættirism, Galdravættir faith, Görningavættirism, Vittavættirism, Vittavættir faith, witch faith, sorcerer faith)
        • Belief in the quality of hamramr (shape-shifting, metamorphosis, transmutation)
          • Zootheism (animal worship, theriotheism)
            • Aviotheism (bird worship)
            • Lycotheism (wolf worship, lycanthropism, werewolf faith, vargúlfar faith, belief in eigi einhamr, hamramar faith, kveldúlfar faith, wolf-themed naming tradition)
            • Hippotheism (horse worship)
            • Arctotheism (bear worship, werebear faith, bęrserkar faith, bear-themed naming tradition)
            • Bootheism (cow worship)
            • Ichthyotheism (fish worship)
            • Myotheism (mouse worship)
        • Spá faith (millenarianism, omenism, omen belief, prophet faith, sooth-saying faith, prophesy faith, belief in fortune-telling, belief in foresight, belief in clairvoyance, Völurism, Völur faith, Seiðkonurism, Spákonurism)
          • Belief in drawing lots
          • Belief in interpreting animal speech (animal speech faith, animal-whispering faith, Speaking with animals
          • Belief in interpreting intestines
          • Belief in interpreting flight of birds
          • Belief in interpreting breezing of horses
          • Belief in foreboding dreams
        • Fetishism (magical items faith, magical objects faith) 
          • Magical weapons
          • Blótspánn faith
          • Totemism, idolatry, idolotheism, idolism
            • Pole God worship
    • Vé worship (sanctuary worship, Friðr observance, irenotheism, sacred space rites, sanctity faith, friðstaðr faith, hęlgistaðr faith), topotheism (place worship, landmark worship, landscape feature worship), nature worship (heimism, universism, cosmism, ‘naturalism’ redefined as the worship of natural events and forces of nature), Odinism (rex deōrum worship, animus mundī worship, King of the Gods worship; King of the Gods = King of the Heavens worship, King of the Clouds worship, worship of the ruler of the whole universe, worship of regnātor omium deōrum, Tīwaz worship)
      • Gardism (worship of the two garths, worship of Mithgarth and Asgarth)
        • Dendrotheism (tree worship, sacred grove worship, wood veneration, xylotheism, blótlundar faith, sacred tree worship, blótviðir faith, blóttré faith, sacred forest worship, hylotheism, blótskógar, forest worship, ‘arborism’ redefined as blóting to trees, dendrolatry, arborolatry)
          • Baduhennism (worship of Baduhenna’s forest)
          • Donarism (worship of Donar’s oak)
          • Yggdrasilism (world tree faith, axis mundī faith)
        • Hydrotheism (vatnablót, water worship, blóting to bodies of water, hydrolatry)
          • Njördism (sea worship, sæblót)
          • Blótkeldurism (sacred well worship, telmatotheism, bog worship, lake worship, blóting to lakes, Sacred spring worship, fanism, fanotheism, blótbrunnarism)  telmatolatry)
          • Forsism, waterfall worship (blóting to waterfalls), stream worship, brooklet worship
        • Ouranotheism and chronotheism (sky worship, heaven worship, heavenly body worship, celestialism, himinblót, ouranolatry; time worship, season worship, chronolatry)
          • Sólism (sun worship, heliotheism, solarism, heliolatry)
          • Mánism (moon worship, selenotheism, selenolatry, lunarism)
          • Thorism (thunder worship)
          • Sumarrism (summer worship, sumarblót, miðsumarblót)
          • Vetrism (winter worship, vetrarblót, miðsvetrarblót)
          • Dagrism (day worship, hemerotheism)
          • Nóttism (night worship, nyctotheism)
        • Geotheism (land worship, geolatory)
          • Blótvęllirism (field worship, heath worship)
          • Jördism (Earth worship, Mother Earth worship, jarðarblót)
          • Island worship (fositism, véey faith, eyblót)
          • Blóthaugar faith (ancestralism, ancestral rites, ancestor worship, howe worship, mound worship, gravehill worship, fęll faith, natural hill worship, arrificial hill worship, terp worship)
          • Sacrificial pit worship (blótgrafir faith, ground-hole worship, sacrificial hole tradition)
        • Petrotheism (Cairn worship, Hörgar worship, Kumbl worship, blóting to a heap of stones, hörgblót, petrolatry, border stone worship, liminal deity worship)
          • Worship of Freyja with cairns 
        • Domotheism (worship in houses, worship confined within house walls, worship in domestic environment, worship of divine houses, worship of dwelling place of deity, álfablót, Temple worship, Hófism, blóthúsism, hófblót, Díar faith, Goðar faith, Gyðjur faith)

Dismissive and loaded interpretations of Germanic religion are superstition and mythology, which we should seek to abolish when speaking of Germanic theology as we should we sympathetic to Germanic religion when studying it, whilst hostility to the object of study only clouds our judgement and understanding. A similarly loaded and dismissive term in the science of language is dialect, which should be abolished just like the terms superstition and mythology when referring to Germanic religion or any other folk religion.

I used the plurals Æsir, Vanir, Jötnar, etc. to form Æsirism, Vanirism, Jötnarism, etc. to denote that it is not just about one of the Æsir, Vanir, Jötnar, etc. Thus, I used the plurals in the ism-formations to bear the same meaning as poly- in polytheism.

Germanic polytheism requires Æsirism, Vanirism, Jötnarism, Dvergarism, Álfarism, Fylgjurism, Hamingjurism, Nornirism, Nykrarism, Mörurism, Einhęrjarism, Seiðmęnnism, Draugarism, Ormarism, Meinvættirism, Hjálpvættirism, i.e., belief in the existence of the Æsir, Vanir, Jötnar, Dvergar, Drękar, Álfar, Fylgjur, Hamingjur, Nornir, Nykrar, Mörur, Einhęrjar, Seiðmęnn, Draugar, Ormar, Meinvættir, Hjálpvættir. The exact relationship with these divine beings may differ, as some require worship and others should be warded against. Similarly, Judeo-Christianity requires God faith, Angel faith and Devil faith, i.e., belief in God, Angels and Satan. This is simply how Judeo-Christianity works.

The full package of beliefs native to Germanic polytheism appears quite complex, yet we should not forget that the bulk of the religious emphasis in Indogermanic polytheism lies in (intuitively) recognising supernatural beings whereas the emphasis in the various strands of Semitic monotheism lies in a centrality and reduction of beings  by enforcing strict rules. The natural human situation is recognising a multitude of beings and the opposite can only be achieved with strict rules prohibiting the natural human situation.

Germanic religion certainly meant a reverence for whatever was native to the North or more specifically the Northwest of Europe, as this was practical; being in harmony with one’s local environment by having a natural sense of respect for said environment is healthy. This may be described as North worship, Nordic veneration, Northern veneration, or septentrional veneration. After all, septentrional languages was a term used in the past to designate the Germanic languages and it would therefore not to be so strange to speak of septentrional veneration or septentrionalism as a key tenet of Germanic society.

Being Northern is a part of Germanic identity since time immemorial. Names such as Northvegr and Northmenn attest to this. Nevertheless, an even more important current in Germanic thought was the concept of centrality. Germanic identity, as seen in the concept of Mithgarth, was linked with the notion of centrality in ancient times. The Germanic peoples perceived themselves as being in the middle of the world, and so while the perception of being Northern has ancient origins, the prevailing Germanic view was that the Germanic peoples were central in the world, meaning that they were the closest to Yggdrasil, the world tree, at the centre of the world. A comparable perception has existed among the Chinese peoples since ancient times, who perceived themselves as living in the Central Kingdom, which is a concept that ultimately has the same intended meaning as Mithgarth.

Germanic religion has different theistic aspects: belief that Gods who have a favourable disposition towards mankind exist (eutheism), belief that Gods who are may or may not be evil, i.e. morally ambiguous, exist (dystheism), belief that Gods who are evil, i.e. misanthropic, exist (maltheism). 

Terms for a folk religionist are: blætr kumbla, blótmaðr. A female folk religionist is a blótkona. A folk religious priest is: goði, blótgoði, blótjarl. Folk religious priests may also be called díar. A female folk religious priest is a gyðja, blótgyðja.

Belief in shape-shifting is intimately related with the tradition of animal-themed personal names, the belief in werewolves and werebears (bear-skins), and the belief in the Fylgjur and Trolls who can appear in a great many animal forms — not even to speak of the shape-shifting abilities of the Gods. Witchcraft is the domain of the trolls, hence the term trolldómr. Troll means Werewolf-Witch-Giant, and can by extension also be used to possess the same magical powers as trolls. Cleasby and Vigfusson say that “the evil spirits of the heathens were trolls and giants” and that the Old Norse concept of trolls “conveys the notion of huge creatures, giants, Titans, mostly in an evil, but also in a good sense.”

I gave more prominence to Nykrar than Sævættir, Vatnavættir, etc. because Nykrar are a generic water sprite. Furthermore, a salt/fresh water distinction is not of primary importance for water spirits; Nykrar occur in both salt and fresh water environments. For example, the Dutch nikkers may be found fresh water.

See the examples of the use of hjálpvættur in Icelandic in this online dictionary.

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