Germanic Animism-Polytheism: The Interconnectedness of Spirits and Gods

Written by Dyami Millarson

Germanic religion has been the subject of much discussion and fascination in my inner circle due to its unique blend of animism and polytheism. At its core, Germanic animism-polytheism revolves around the belief in Spirits and Gods, and the interconnectedness between them. Getmanic religion is like a coin with two sides: one side is the spiritual world, the other side is the divine world, and together these two sides of the coin form one whole and cannot be seen in isolation. We can, of course, differentiate between the two sides, but it is still the same coin.

Germanic animism-polytheism refers to the traditional belief system of the Germanic peoples, which included a complex pantheon of Gods and Spirits. In this belief system, there is a strong overlap between the spiritual realm and the physical world, with the natural world being inhabited by various Spirits and Gods.

Germanic animism-polytheism includes a wide variety of supernatural beings. These include Álfar, Dvergar, and Jötnar, among others. These beings are often associated with specific natural features and are believed to have their own unique abilities and powers.

Owing to the animistic side of Germanic animism-polytheism is the belief that everything in nature possesses a spirit, which is known as animism. This includes not only living creatures, but also inanimate objects such as stones and trees. These spirits are believed to have their own unique personalities and powers, and are often associated with certain natural features such as rivers or mountains.

The Germanic people traditionally believe that everything in nature, from the trees to the animals, is imbued with a spirit or essence. These spirits are traditionally believed to be powerful and could be both benevolent and malevolent. The spirits are not necessarily anthropomorphic in nature, but they were seen as beings with their own agency and will. To illustrate this point, I may bring up the fact that the Æsir and Vanir can also assume non-anthropomorphic forms, such as zoomorphic forms.

The Germanic people also have a traditional beleif in a multitude of Gods, who are considered to be responsible for different aspects of life and nature. Polytheism is, therefore, also a key aspect of Germanic animism-polytheism, with a complex pantheon of Gods and Goddesses being worshipped. These Deities are believed to have control over different aspects of the natural world, such as fertility, war, and death. Some of the most well-known Germanic Gods include Othin, Thor, and Freyja.

One important aspect of Germanic animism-polytheism is the close relationship between the Gods and the natural world. In this belief system, the Gods are not seen as separate from nature, but rather as integral parts of it. For example, Sól is associated with the sun, while Thor is associated with thunder and lightning.

In Germanic animism-polytheism, there is ultimately no distinction between Spirits and Gods. The Gods are Spirits, and the Spirits are gods. This interconnectedness between the two is exemplified in the Germanic belief in wights, or ancestral Spirits, who were believed to protect and guide their descendants. These Vættir were seen as a bridge between the spirit world and the human world, and were often given offerings and sacrifices to maintain their favor.

The concept of wyrd, or fate, is also an integral part of Germanic animism-polytheism. Wyrd is traditionally believed to be woven by the Nornir, who may be regarded as both Spirits and Goddesses; Their act of weaving of the Web of Wyrd determines the course of fate. This means that the Gods and Spirits are not just abstract concepts, but are intimately involved in the lives of the Germanic people, working their magic in the natural world and influencing the flow of things in the natural world.

Germanic animism-polytheism is a complex and multifaceted belief system that is deeply intertwined with the natural world. While it may be difficult for modern readers to fully comprehend, it remains an important part of the cultural heritage of the Germanic peoples and continues to be studied and celebrated by modern enthusiasts and researchers alike.

Let me briefly summarise the points of this article in a logical format:

  • Animism-polytheism is the belief in Spirits and Gods.
  • In Germanic animism-polytheism, there is no distinction between Spirits and Gods.
  • The Germanic people believed that everything in nature, from the trees to the animals, is imbued with a Spirit or Essence (called a Vættr in Old Norse).
  • The spirits were believed to be powerful and could be both benevolent and malevolent, and they were seen as beings with their own agency and will.
  • The Germanic people also believed in a pantheon of Gods who were responsible for different aspects of life and nature.
  • Therefore, Germanic animism-polytheism is a unique blend of beliefs in which Spirits and gods are interconnected and imbued with power and agency, with everything in nature being seen as possessing a Spirit or Essence, and with a host of Gods responsible for various aspects of life and nature

Six Aspects of Germanic Folk Religion

Written by Dyami Millarson

Germanic religion is a complex system of beliefs that encompasses various aspects of shamanism, polytheism, animism, totemism, fetishism, and heroism. Each of these concepts plays a crucial role in shaping the Germanic religious worldview and the practices associated with it.

Shamanism, in the context of Germanic religion, refers to the belief in the shaman as an intermediary between the divine and human worlds. The shaman is seen as one who has the ability to travel between different worlds and access knowledge and wisdom that can be shared with the community. This belief in shamanism is often associated with the worship of Othin, the God of wisdom, who is often depicted as a shamanic figure.

Polytheism is another central aspect of Germanic religion, with multiple deities being worshipped and venerated. The Gods and Goddesses of the Germanic tradition are associated with different aspects of life and the natural world, such as Thor, the God of thunder and storms, and Freyja, the Goddess of love and fertility.

Animism, on the other hand, refers to the belief that all things in the natural world possess a spirit or soul. In Germanic religion, this belief is reflected in the worship of land spirits and the importance placed on sacred places such as burial mounds and sacred groves.

Totemism is another important concept in Germanic religion, with certain animals and objects being revered as symbols of power or as ancestral spirits. For example, the wolf is often associated with the God Othin and the concept of the werewolf, while the bear is seen as a powerful and respected animal in many Germanic cultures.

Fetishism refers to the belief that certain objects possess inherent power or magical properties. In Germanic religion, this belief is often associated with the use of amulets and talismans, such as Thor’s hammer, which is believed to protect the wearer from harm.

Heroism is a concept that is often associated with Germanic religion, with many myths and legends featuring heroic figures such as Sigurd and Beowulf. These heroes are often seen as embodying the virtues and ideals of their culture, such as bravery, honor, and loyalty.

Key points of this article are:

  • Germanic religiosity is a complex system of beliefs that encompasses a wide range of concepts such as shamanism, polytheism, animism, totemism, fetishism, and heroism.
  • Each of these concepts plays a crucial role in shaping the Germanic religious worldview and the practices associated with it.
  • By understanding these beliefs and practices, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the rich cultural heritage of the Germanic peoples.

How Does Gothic Paganism Work?

Written by Dyami Millarson

I published an article on the sources of Gothic paganism in 2022. The current article is a follow-up on the topic of Gothic paganism.

What does Gothic religion look like?

The three precepts of Gothic religion are:

  1. Find a sacred location
  2. Perform a blood sacrifice
  3. Invoke Gods with Their names

Sacred locations, blood sacrifices, and the Gods are the three key ingredients without which the recipe of Gothic paganism cannot be complete. These three parts constitute a sacred whole.

The three vital elements may be thus explained:

  • The Germanic Gods are magical beings. Therefore, they can inhabit any body of nature (see here). If a Goth comes across a supernatural place, he has found a divine body, to which he can sacrifice.
  • Blood sacrifices are magical rites that the Goths perform for their Gods. A blood sacrifice is the ritualisation of slaughter, which is necessary for the survival of Gothic people and Gods as both rely on eating meat, which is a rich source of nutrients.
  • The Gothic Gods are name-bearing sacred/supernatural beings. Thus, the Gothic Gods are not nameless. Instead, they go by many names among the sons of men. The point is that man gives many personal names to the sacred, the supernatural.

Temporal Proximity Argument: Defending the Sagas as Sources for Nordic Paganism

Written by Dyami Millarson

The Sagas were written in a time that was temporally closer to the Viking Age than we are. For that reason, the language, culture and folklore of the people who composed the Sagas were much closer to those of the people living during the Viking Age. Temporal closeness does matter; for it is much easier for lore to be retained when periods are temporally closer. If folklore can be retained over a long period of time, as the etymologies of supernatural beings found in later Germanic folklore traditions also seem to suggest, then surely Viking Age lore could easily be retained for centuries after the Viking Age.

I am inclined to assume that the folklore during the time of the Sagas was quite similar to that of the Viking Age. Likewise, the Dutch language of the 17th century is much closer to that of the 15th century than the Dutch language of the 21st century is to the Dutch language of the 15th century. How people spoke Dutch in the 17th century was, therefore, much more reflective of how people spoke Dutch in the 15th century than the Dutch language of the 21st century is reflective of how people spoke Dutch in the 15th century. Similarly, the Sagas are much more reflective of the language and culture that we see in the Eddas than lore from later times.

How Can Shamanism Be Adapted to the Germanic Context?

Written by Dyami Millarson

Shamanism, when used in a Germanic religious context, must be defined in a way that fits Germanic religiosity. I define shamanic religion as a religion which to be seen from the perspective of an intermediary. A shaman is, in this definition, an intermediary. So when I say that Othin has a shamanic function, I am saying that He has an intermediary function, namely He travels between worlds to gain knowledge and He ultimately shares His wisdom with mankind.

The concept of shamanic religion is akin to the concept of priestly religion. A priest — not unlike a shaman — is an intermediary between the divine and human worlds. While the study of shamanic religion and priestly religion is basically the analysis of religion as seen through the eyes of the shaman and the priest, we can say that shamanism is equal to polytheism, anamism, fetishism, and totemism; what the Germanic priest/shaman sees is a polytheistic, animistic, fetishistic, totemistic world.

We can say that Germanic shamanism has, strictly speaking, to do with the shaman, but ultimately it is just Germanic religion, albeit seen from a particular angle. Since a shaman or priest operates within Germanic religion, what he sees is ultimately the same as any Germanic folk religionist; he is as much a polytheist, animist, fetishist, totemist as any other Germanic person; so, he cannot be seen in isolation.

There is, in the end, no distinction between Germanic shamanism, animism, polytheism, fetishism, totemism; they all belong to the same system, even though they are particular angles of looking at the same thing. It can therefore be safely concluded that in the Germanic context, shamanism is nothing but a synonym of Germanic religiosity.

Bog Worship Among the Germanic Peoples

Click here to access the article titled Bog Worship Among the Germanic Peoples.

Article synopsis: The logic behind bog worship is explored. Germanic theology legitimises the view that the Gods can assume any body of nature. This may be termed the fetishistic principle or the principle of divine immanence, which is why the worship of bogs and other bodies of water can be predicted for Germanic sacrificial religion.

The Sum of Monotheistic Faiths Equals Polytheism

Written by Dyami Millarson

This article narrates the history of the Amish as follows: “In the 1400s the printing press revolutionized Europe, enabling mass distribution of printed material fast. The Reformation roiled Europe in the 1500s, in no small measure due to Gutenberg’s invention. In the wake of Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli came a variety of sects, including the radical Anabaptists, who believed in adult baptism and strict separation of church and state. In 1693 the Anabaptists splintered into three sects, including the followers of one Jakob Ammann. They called themselves Amish.”

Before the emergence of the sects after the Reformation, there was the Schism between the Western and Eastern Church. And yet before that, there was a variety of different early movements such as Arianism. (As a quick introduction to the various historical sectarian developments of Judeo-Christianity, one may take a quick look at this Wikipedia page.) Judeo-Christianity has a long history of sectarianism as a result of different interpretations of God. These doctrinal differences amounted or amount to different Gods, and together they constitute polytheism.

One way to enforce doctrinal unity was through the sword, but this was not always possible. Eventually this became entirely unfashionable, particularly aftet the advent of the printing press in Europe. In the context of this less violently restrictive environment, new sectarian splits within Judeo-Christianity could increase exponentially. Therefore, it can be said that many new Gods emerged. However, even in pre-Reformation times the amount of Gods in Judeo-Christianity only increased as the amount of Saints ever grew. It was never a non-polytheistic system; for even before the belief in Saints, there was already the belief in angels and demons, which also clearly amounted to polytheism. Furthermore, the Judeo-Christian Scripture itself hints in multiple places at a multitude of Gods, but emphasises the supremity of one particular God.

Did One God Create All Gods?

Written by Dyami Millarson

It is possible that the Germanic Creator Trinity (or Trinities) is actually one Deity, namely Othin (see this article). Plato considers that one Deity the demiurge, i.e. the Primordial Craftsman or Primordial Creator (Dutch: oerschepper). If the Gods are the creations of one God or trace their descent to one common divine ancestor, then they are equally legitimate; on that basis, we can only affirm that these beings, who are not as old as the Primordial Creator, are, by their very nature, as equally deserving of being called Gods as the Primordial Creator. All Gods are Creators, because all Gods inherently possess creative potential, just as all humans do; consequently, after the Primordial Creator produced many Gods somehow, there ceased to be only one Divine Creator. After the cessation of the primordial situation where there was only a single creative being, creation ceased to be monopolised; the creation of other beings like oneself inevitably leads to the cessation of the monopoly on creation. The Primordial Creator invariably creates beings in its own image; this is the natural theme of reproduction, because the Primordial Creator has the magical ability to reproduce through creation. After all, creation and reproduction are closely linked.

Followers of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam assert that one God created all and that the creations of this one Deity are sacred. As a logical consequence, they must also believe that the other Gods, which peoples from around the wotkd believe in, are created by one Deity. Since all Gods must be creations of the one God, they must be sacred creations. After all, the process of creation is sacred, and therefore what is created is held sacred. Since monotheists assert that one God created everything, they cannot escape that other Gods are also sacred creations of God. Either that, or the one God did not create everything and is not as all-powerful as claimed.

Thus, either monotheism regards itself as inevitably creating polytheism, or it rejects polytheism as having nothing to do with itself, in which case it chooses to abolish itself. Out of self-preservation, monotheism needs to openly admit to some link with polytheism. Some 19th-century monotheists ascribed to the idea that monotheism is the father of polytheism, as they claimed that peoples must originally have been monotheist and then became polytheist. Yet other people living in the 19th-century suggested on evolutionary grounds that polytheism preceded monotheism, and that monotheism was simply a more advanced evolutionary stage; in other words, polytheism is the mother of monotheism. Monotheism cannot define itself without polytheism; it tries to define itself as opposed to polytheism, but is ultimately part of the human polytheist ecosystem. Polytheism does not need to define itself as opposed to monotheism because it is the original situation; monotheism sprang originally out of polytheism, and was originally a young revolutionary sect opposed to polytheism which was elder. The original state of human religiosity is polytheism, and humans are constantly returning to that original state, hence monotheism has to define itself as opposed to polytheism, and will always inevitably have a relationship with polytheism, even to the point that, despite all efforts to define itself as different, monotheism always still ends up being fundamentally indistinct from polytheism (see previous article).

In any case, if one believes that one God created all other Gods, then rejecting the other Gods means rejecting God’s creations. Therefore, the thesis of the all-powerful Deity runs into the issue where rejecting other Deities delegitimises itself; if some creations are illegitimate and others are legitimate, then God is not infallible. Therefore, creating other Gods must be part of an infallible plan, and rejecting belief in those Gods must consequently be rejection of an infallible plan. In other words, monotheism cannot escape polytheism; there is no way for monotheism to deal with the reality of polytheism except for embracing polytheism, and coming to terms with the self-debunking of monotheism. The situation of monotheism is actually both believing in multiple Gods and claiming to believe in only one God; this means that monotheism is in reality anti-polytheistic polytheism.

However, being anti-polytheistic is being anti-creation, because polytheism is the inevitable result of creation (which I explained in my previous article). So either creation is sacred because it comes from God or it is not sacred because it does not come from God, and if polytheism is not the result of one Deity responsible for all creation, then polytheism must be the result of another Deity or other Deities, and in that case, there is a primordial polytheism, which birthed polytheism and monotheism. We were not there during the primordial situation and so all we can do is reason logically. Whilst it is relevant to philosophise logically about this primordial situation, we have to take into account the present situation as well, where polytheism is the ultimate reality; and as I have explained here, monotheism plus monotheism is still polytheism. Even if there were only multiple purely monotheistic religions and sects, there would still be polytheism; the plurality of monotheisms amounts to polytheism, or in arithmetic terms, the sum of monotheistic religions equals polytheism.

Belief in Multiple Supernatural Beings Is Animism-Polytheism

Written by Dyami Millarson

Encyclopedia Britannica says in its entry on polytheism: “Polytheism characterizes virtually all religions other than Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which share a common tradition of monotheism, the belief in one God.” Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are not really exceptions to the general rule that religions tend to be animistic-polytheistic; for the aforementioned religions include belief in angels and demons. Belief in a multitude of supernatural beings is endemic to all ancient religions. From the ancient polytheist perspective, angels and demons meet the definition of Gods, since they are supernatural beings. Followers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam even describe the Gods of polytheists as such beings, confirming that angels and demons are indeed what the ancient polytheists would consider Gods.

Moreover, these beings which followers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam believe in are, undoubtledly, supernatural beings and polytheism constitutes, ultimately, belief in a multitude of supernatural beings. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are not religions which claim there is only one supernatural being; it is not “monosupernaturalism,” i.e. belief in a single supernatural being. However, they claim there is a supreme supernatural being ruling over the other supernatural beings. It meets, without a doubt, the definition of animism-polytheism. Wondering about the definition of what Gods are helps us comprehend animism-polytheism. So what are Gods? What are Divine Beings? They are supernatural beings; simultaneously, They are spiritual beings. Likewise, if God is not supernatural, then that is not God; God is, by definition, a supernatural being. Polytheism has an inextricable relationship with animism; for, to the ancients, Gods are Spirits and vice versa. This overlap of the divine, spiritual, and supernatural can be clearly seen in the Chinese term (shén) which means ‘God, Spirit, Soul, Supernatural Being, Magical Being,’ and which serves as a reflection of the nature of polytheism.

Artificial distinctions between the divine, spiritual, and supernatural can be attempted, but these distinctions are certainly not ancient. Furthermore, a definition of polytheism which does not accept the ancient overlap between the aforementioned three aspects is useless; because Gods in polytheistic religions are inherently spiritual and supernatural. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam cannot escape this either; for their Gods are inherently spiritual and supernatural as well. After all, the Gods of polytheistic religions can be identified with angels and demons, which are supernatural beings that Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe in, and the angels and demons of superficially “monotheistic” religions can be identified with the Gods of polytheistic religions, which, in conclusion, makes Judaism, Christianity, and Islam polytheistic as well, and therefore they are no exceptions.

The distinction between monotheism and polytheism is based on a false dichotomy; there is only theism, which embraces the plurality of the supernatural. Human religiosity is simply inherently polytheistic; there is no way to escape the notion that since ancient times, to be human is to be polytheistic. Not even monotheists can escape being human. After all, nobody believes in “monoanthropism,” i.e. that all humans are one, but everyone believes “polyanthropism,” i.e. that humans are many. There cannot be one soul underlying all humans, all humans are distinguished by soul according to human beliefs since ancient times, and thus plurality is linked with animism-polytheism. Furthermore, worshipping one supernatural being, as monotheists claim to be doing, may realistically also be made sense of as ultimately worshipping a collective, because humans can use grammatical singulars in their languages to refer to something that is actually plural in reality. We can likewise refer to languages as “language” even if we mean multiple languages. The reality of plurality is a rule of nature which religion must obey; for religion is but a reflection of nature. Consequently, religion simply cannot be mono-something but only poly-something, no matter how hard believers try otherwise; the universe simply forbids the mono-something because such is not congruent with the plurality of the universe. One can try worshipping only one God, but one will still always end up believing in multiple Gods, i.e. a plurality of supernatural beings. Worship of one suprrnatural being does not negate belief in multuple supernatural beings.

We can analyse stars in the universe as Creator Gods; for stars are magical objects associated with gravity. We can say there are countless creators since there are countless stars. If the Big Bang truly occurred, then it created countless Creator Gods, who would go on to create planets with gravity. Creation continues after the Big Bang because there are many stars. Only in the beginning could there perhaps be a mono-situation, but the further we get removed from the beginning, the more the poly-situation develops; we cannot return to the mono-situation and the poly-situation is an inevitability. Since such a poly-situation is inevitably created even if the starting point may be a mono-situation, plurality is apparently sacred; for if the plurality is created by a singularity, then the plurality is also divine, spiritual, and supernatural as it pertains to the singularity — the relationship between plurality and singularity, supposed in this case, makes it inevitably so. The aforementioned singularity can also be identified with fate, i.e. an inorganic force which created all beings including supernatural beings. But plurality can also be recursive; when we try tracing the origin of plurality, there may also be eternal plurality.

Life may have started with a single organism, but may also have started with a multitude of similar organisms which sprang into existence simultaneously, but either way, we cannot deny that life is synonymous with plurality today. No matter the origin of plurality, i.e. regardkess of whether the source of plurality is primordial singularity or recursive plurality, plurality is, without a doubt, the truth of the universe in which we now live, and this plurality must be linked with the divine, supernatural, and spiritual as it is linked with (continuing) creation. We can refer to all organisms with the collective noun life as a collective noun, and likewise we can refer to all human beings as man, mankind or humanity, each of which is a singulare tantum (= a grammatically singular-only form), and likewise we can refer to all supernatural beings as “God,” “Godkind” or “the Divine,” but such language tricks do not change the fact that there is underlying plurality. Gods will always be plural, so will humans and stars. Unless, of course, Gods, humans and stars die out; but as long as they continue to thrive, there will always be many and not just one. After all, plurality is a sign of success in our cosmos; Gods, humans, and stars multiply successfully. Since With each deviating definition of God, a new sectarian split is created in Christianity, for example, and since that a different definition of God means one is fundamentally not worshipping the same God, a new God is worshipped by the new sect; Judeo-Christianity keeps producing new Supreme Gods (see here), and therefore even at the higher level, it contributes to the inevitable further development of polytheism which is not unlike the inevitable expansion of our universe. Christianity moves forward in time like all religions, so it cannot help but create new Gods. The principle underlying animism-polytheism is that as time progresses, only more Gods spring into being; the totality of Gods ever known to man only keeps expanding with time.

Expansion is a recurring theme in the universe; in the end, everything either expands or dies, which is also why our terrestrial ecosystem must and should expand to other planets, and humans, as the deputies of the Gods and as protectors and leaders of all organisms on Earth, have a moral duty towards all life on Earth to help our terrestrial ecosystem expand to other planets in our solar system and beyond. We must expand the beauty of nature found on our Earth, i.e. the living kind of nature, to other barren wastelands; plants and animals must grow on distant plants everywhere. We have the moral duty to seed life everywhere; for expanding plurality is the rule of the universe. Nature, as we know it on Earth, should reach the furthest corners of the galaxy, and eventually expand to the rest of the entire universe. Nature must grow, and only if we spread the spirits of nature everywhere, we as humans will be rewarded by the Gods for our stewardship over all life, which mirrors the stewardship over nature by the Gods; in such manner, humans can live in harmony with all stars, Gods, and organisms of the cosmos, and that is why humans have a huge moral responsibility.

Worship of Frey in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland According to Craigie

Written by Dyami Millarson

William A. Craigie says on pages 24-26 of The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia: “[A]n image of Frey, which was worshipped at Thrandheim in Norway, had been sent there from Sweden. The story of Gunnar Helming also makes mention of an image of Frey in Sweden which was carried about the country, and to which sacrifices were offered […]. […] The frequent occurrence of Frey- in Swedish (and Danish) place-names […] indicates the prevalence of the [worship tradition] in both of these countries. The worship of Frey, however, must also have been very popular in Norway, from which it passed to Iceland with the early settlers. As late as 998 the men of Thrandheim are represented as refusing to break their image of Frey at the command of King Olaf, ‘because we have long served [H]im and [H]e has done well by us. He often talked with us, and told us things to come, and gave us peace and plenty.’ In Iceland itself the traces of a popular [worship tradition] of Frey are very clear, and more than one prominent person mentioned in the sagas bears the title of Freys-goði, or ‘priest of Frey.’ Of one of these, Thorgrím, brother-in-law of Gísli Súrsson, the saga says that ‘he intended to hold a festival at the beginning of winter, and greet the winter, and sacrifice to Frey.’ When Thorgrím was murdered, and had been laid in a grave-mound, it was noticed that snow never lay on the south or west sides of the mound, and the ground never froze there: ‘and it was supposed that he was so highly esteemed by Frey for the offerings he made to [H]im, that the [G]od did not wish it to freeze between them.’ Great attachment to this [D]eity also appears in the story of Hrafnkel, who loved no other [G]od more than Frey, and gave to [H]im joint possession with himself of all his most valuable things. Among these was a horse, which on that account bore the name of Freyfaxi. Another Freyfaxi belonged to Brand in Vatnsdal, and most people believed that he had a religious reverence for the horse. Horses owned by Frey are also mentioned as existing in Thrandheim […].”