Heathenry in Pop Culture
As I am sure many of you have noticed, over the past few decades, Heathenry, or at least the mythos behind it, along with the many rich characters and archetypes, has become quite a popular topic in modern society. However, very few people know of the origins, or the significance that these ideas have on modern Asatruars/Heathens and Pagans.
So what kind of impact has Popular Culture had on heathenry and vice versa? What scale are we talking here? Well first off, whether pop culture has a positive or negative impact, there is definitely an impact. I do not think that anyone can deny that. Maybe what is influenced, but not the general idea that heathenry influences pop culture. Especially in the past few years. One can simply not get around this idea.
Today, I think it would be fun to go over some pop culture that has been directly affected by ancient European culture, Norse Mythology, and Asatru. Some of these I am sure you will know of, others are very obvious, and then there are some that you may never have guessed. Of course, there is no way for me to detail all of that has been influenced, so if you know of something not mentioned in this article, please share with us! Shall we get started?
From this point on, I will be using the term "heathery" (whether correct or not) to indicate all forms of Asatru, Paganism, Mythology, etc. Just to make it easier on myself, and the readers.
First, we shall explore how heathenry has affected pop culture. To understand this, we have to go back to the first time that pop culture began to have ideas that were heavily rooted in the northern mythos. Now, before we go on any further, I do not, nor will I ever claim that I know what I am talking about...so if you have different ideas, or know something else to be true, then please comment below!
Before we begin I would like to clarify one thing.
As many of you know, Norse Mythology was the last remaining "true" mythos of the European peoples. What do I mean by this? Well, many, if not most European cultures, especially those of the Germanic tribes, had a very similar belief system to the Nordic Peoples'. There really was not that much difference. But the reason we know so much more about Norse Mythology, vs. Germanic, or even Saxon, is because during the Christianization of Europe, the Northern lands were the last to go. Especially Iceland, which was converted around 1000 C.E. However, even after the Christianization of Iceland, the old tales lived on, and were written down by Snorri Sturluson in the Eddas, as well as many other various Saggas. So while it is referred to as Norse Mythology, and granted there are of course specific Norse elements, a large portion of Europe had the same mythos. It just was not preserved as well. Just thought that I would clear that up.
Up until the late 19th century, Scandinavian culture, was little more than that. Scandinavian. Its reach was not very far, especially in farther lands, such as the Americas. Never the less, someone (and it was about time) decided that the Norse Mythos was worth the time of the public.
"Antiquaries of the 19th century such as George Webbe Dasent brought the mythology of Scandinavia back to the popular notice of many people in Germany and England; in both cases, Norse mythology was recognized as the latest surviving form of Germanic paganism. Germany and England were Christianized far earlier than the Scandinavian countries and much of their own traditions were lost.
In Britain, William Morris composed poetry such as Sigurd the Volsung on Norse legendary subjects as well as translating Icelandic sagas into English. In Germany, Richard Wagner borrowed characters and themes from Norse mythology to compose the four operas that make up Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), though he also utilized medieval German sources and Germanized the names of the Norse gods." (1)
The Ring of the Nibelung, is very famous, even today. It tells the tale of the Volsungs, and has become very popular. However, there are many errors in it, such as Vikings with horned helmets, etc. The usual. After all, it was the romantic era.
Now we get to the early 20th century. The year is 1937, the day is September 21st. One of the greatest authors in history launches the world down a road from which it may never return. John Ronald Ruel Tolkien with his publication of The Hobbit. This changed the genre of Fantasy, and world of literature forever.
As many of you know, and all of you should know, nearly all of Tolkien's influences are from Norse Mythology. Gandalf himself is almost word for word a description of Odin. Not to mention all of the names of the dwarves in The Hobbit are from Norse Mythology, directly pulled from the sagas.
With the massive popularity of the writings of Tolkien, from The Hobbit, to the Silmarillion, ancient northern myths, ideas, and archetypes have been thrust into the modern world view through various books, movies, TV shows, etc. Every fantasy writer today takes something from Tolkien, whether they want to admit it or not. Today's fantasy was born with Tolkien, and his greatest inspiration was the northern world. Thus, all modern fantasy has, if nothing else, its deepest roots set in the framework of the northern mythos.
Tolkien, and fantasy in general is one of the greatest examples of how heathenry has affected the modern world, but there are many, many more.
Tolkien's impact on Norse Mythology, and vice versa is staggering. He literally, inadvertently almost single handedly showed the modern world what Norse Mythology was all about. You can learn a great deal from reading his works.
But of course, while Tolkien might be the greatest example, he is not the only one.
In August 1962, a very new form of the Norse Pantheon came into the minds, and hearts, of the people of the modern world. The issue, was "Journey into the Mysteries" issue #83. Thor appeared in his first Marvel Comic, and a new era was born. Personally, and this is of course my own opinion, but I hate marvel, and the Marvel Thor. Just putting that out there.
With Marvels inclusion of Thor, and a few others of the Norse pantheon, many people become familiar (with a erroneous form) of Thor and the Northern Mythos. Now, there are Thor movies, Avenger's movies, etc. All stemmed from Stan Lee's original comic featuring the mighty Thunderer.
Marvel's influence may be even greater than Tolkien's at this time, but still, the master is the master. Marvel may have no idea what they are talking about, but they have brought Thor to the masses.
Then of course, there is History Channels newest TV series "Vikings". Personally I love it, and think it is one of the most accurate TV shows out there. Of course there are errors, but nothing is perfect, stop complaining! It’s a TV Show!
I know many people who are becoming much more interested in Vikings and their culture due to this show, and this is of course a good thing for the heathen community. The more aware people are, the more accepting they are.
So, modern pop culture has so many northern influences it is hard to count. Of course there are so many movies, books, and tv shows that I have not gone over, only the main ones. There are so, so many more.
So what is the effect on modern Asatru? Generally I think that it is all positive. I mean, as I said I hate Marvel, and what they did to Thor, etc...but it is still positive. It gets the masses thinking, gets them to look up Thor. To research, and to learn. Through that, people shall become more understanding, and some people may even find that Asatru, or something similar, is the path for them. So overall, I do believe it is a positive, and can help forward our causes.
Then of course, there are some negative sides. That whole debacle with BBC and what they thought Thor's Hammer was, and what it stood for. They took a quote from Marvel, on what is on the hammer, and that was their main point. "He who wields this hammer holds the power of Thor", and acted as if those who wear Mjolnir feel this way. Thus, educating people wrong, and causing more mistrust, anger, and misunderstanding. Ignorance is one of our biggest enemies. So yes, there are negatives.
So what do you think? What is heathenry's affect on pop culture? Please comment bellow!
If you enjoyed this article, please share it, like it, and rate it.
Hail and thank you!
Other Good Reads on related topics: