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IMC 2009: Sessions

Session 123: Christianity and Scandinavian Pagan Heresy

Monday 13 July 2009, 11.15-12.45

Organisers:Torstein Jørgensen, Centre for Medieval Studies, Universitetet i Bergen
Bertil Nilsson, Department of Religious Studies, Theology & Classical Philology, Göteborgs Universitet
Moderator/Chair:Bertil Nilsson, Department of Religious Studies, Theology & Classical Philology, Göteborgs Universitet
Paper 123-aSome Paroemial Usages of Ignoble Heathens in Grettla and Fóstbrœðra
(Language: English)
Richard L. Harris, Department of English, University of Saskatchewan
Index terms: Folk Studies, Language and Literature - Scandinavian, Literacy and Orality
Paper 123-bHrafnkels saga and Medieval Concepts of Natural Religion
(Language: English)
Matthew Brendan Scribner, Department of English, Queen's University, Ontario
Index terms: Language and Literature - Scandinavian, Pagan Religions
Paper 123-cDealing with Pagan Heresy in the Early Norwegian Provincial Laws
(Language: English)
Torstein Jørgensen, Centre for Medieval Studies, Universitetet i Bergen

Paper -a:
Þuríðr, of Grettis saga, and Gríma, of Fóstbrœðra, are used by their sagas' respective composers as paroemially enforced voices challenging the Christian societal norms. Placing these episodes in a converted Iceland where 'margir gneistar heiðninnar [váru] eptir', such composers express anxiety over traditional saga treatment of the heathen presence when Þuríðr, and by extension, Iceland with her, 'var ung ok menn váru heiðnir'. Such anxiety is further expressed by the role inversion in these two figures' use of proverbs traditionally expected from the mouths of the good and the wise rather than from non-Christian dissidents.

Paper -b:
In the medieval period, an individual is typically imagined to belong to one recognizable religious group or another. How, then, would Hrafnkel have been understood by a medieval audience after he renounces his gods? This paper will examine Hrafnkel by using the concept of a natural religion, an ideology described by Aquinas and other medieval thinkers that allows for religious ethics without any identifiable religious affiliation. In demonstrating the ethics of Norse paganism without believing in its gods, Hrafnkel shows how Christians can share these ethics on the basis of natural religion, despite their not being grounded in Christian revelation.

Paper -c:
All four Norwegian provincial laws contain a particular section dealing with religious and ecclesiastical matters. The texts seem to have been shaped during the consolidation phase of the new Christian religion in the 11th and early 12th century. A main aspect was the dealing with different kinds of traditional pagan practices and beliefs. In this paper we will focus on some burning issues as they are testified in a borderland area between Christianity and Scandinavian paganism.