Keyser Rudolph - The religion of the Northmen

Author : Keyser Rudolph
Title : The religion of the Northmen
Year : 1854

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Preface. The present work on the Religion of the Northmen is a translation of "Nordmændenes Religionsforfatning I hedendommen," by the learned Professor Keyser, of Christiania. It was written by him in order to give a more extended publicity to a series of lectures on the Popular Life of the Northmen in Heathendom, which he delivered before the University of Norway, and is properly the first of a series upon that subject. In his Preface the Professor says: "Not only the growing general interest in our Fatherland's Antiquity, but also the student's demand for a guide to the early history of the Northmen in some measure adapted to his wants, has at length induced me to publish in a wider circle, what for a series of years I have delivered to a limited one. I have made a beginning with an Exposition of the Religious System of the Northmen in Heathendom, both because this forms the natural background in the delineation of the popular life of the Northmen in Antiquity, and because the greatest peculiarities of that popular life are connected with their heathen Faith, which extended its influence over the popular character long after its own fall. In presenting the dogmas of the heathen Faith I have been as brief as possible. I have kept to the more important myths in their natural connection, in order to give a clear conception of the nature and principles of the Religious System. I have thought it the more necessary to be brief in this part of the work, since our literature already possesses a detailed exposition of the heathen myths of the Northmen in Prof. P. A. Munch's excellent work-The Mythologic and Heroic Legends of the North-which may serve as a guide to those who wish to study them in detail and have not an opportunity to search them out in the original manuscripts, to which I have merely referred. The Interpretation of these myths is naturally adapted to the preceding Exposition of them, and is, accordingly, brief. But in the Delineation of the Religious Institutions, such as they appeared in the public and private life of the Northmen, I have deemed it important to be more detailed, partly because a clear and thorough understanding of them is very important to every one who would gain a correct knowledge of the popular life of the Old-Northmen, and partly because this subject has hitherto been less explicitly and carefully treated of." In this Translation the original has been faithfully followed; the only deviation from the text has been in introducing, occasionally, a phrase or a sentence from the authorities referred to, when it seemed allowable for the sake of imparting additional light or interest to the subject on hand. Many notes, merely of reference to the Eddas and Sagas, have been left out of the First and Third Parts, while the notes to the Second Part have been materially enlarged and increased in number. The Introductory Chapters grew up of necessity. The subject before us and the constant reference to the Eddas and Sagas - the sources of Scandinavian Mythology and History - make it desirable, and even necessary, to have some knowledge of their character and thier history. Unfortunately there is not yet, in the English language, any history of the Old-Icelandic literature and its Restoration, to which reference can be made. An Abstract has, therefore, been here compressed within the limits of an "Introduction," where it must, of necessity, be brief. In preparing it, the writer has availed himself of Nyerup's "Survey of the History of Studies in Scandinavian Mythology," Koeppen's "Literary Introduction to Northern Mythology," the publications of the Royal Society of Northern Antiquities, of Copenhagen, and the works referred to, generally. It is gratifying to know that while the desire of penetrating further into this field of ancient literature is daily increasing, the facilities for gaining a knowledge of its rich stores are still more improved. The student of Scandinavian lore may now rejoice at the treasures which are brought within his reach by the Astor Library, by which a journey to Europe is rendered no longer absolutely necessary in the pursuit of his studies. In the department of Northern literature the collection of this Library is probably the fullest now existing out of Scandinavia. Should this volume, in its presentation of the Life and Literature and Religion of the Old-Northmen, awaken a desire for a more familiar acquaintance with the works of their skalds and historians, and give some assistance to those who are already interested in the subject, it will be a source of heartfelt gratification to the writer, and an encouragement to further labors in the field he has entered upon. B. P. Kennet Square, Pa., December, 1853. ...

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