Book Series Medieval Texts and Cultures of Northern Europe, vol. 32

Making the Profane Sacred in the Viking Age

Essays in Honour of Stefan Brink

Irene Garcia Losquino, Olof Sundqvist, Declan Taggart (eds)

  • Pages: xii + 336 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:23 b/w, 1 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2020

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58604-5
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58605-2
  • E-book
  • Available

The contributions in this volume by world-leading scholars of archaeology, history, history of religion, literature and onomastics provide new insights into the construction of the sacred in Old Norse culture and society.


“This volume will almost certainly become one of those key works which will continue to stimulate and influence future researchers for many years to come within landscape studies and archaeology, for folklorists and those concerned with studies in religion, and indeed for anyone working in Scandinavian and early medieval studies more broadly.” (Erica Steiner, in Parergon, 38/2, 2021, p. 214)

“Overall, I found the collection both enjoyable and inspiring to read, with a wide range of approaches offering various types of scholars of Viking-Age religious life something familiar as well as something that might be different from their usual foci. The volume is especially interesting and valuable in its attempts to bridge the gap between written and material evidence. The multifaceted and multi-disciplinary approach is difficult, but important for progression in this field.” (Sofie Laurine Albris, in SAGA-BOOK, XLVII, 2023, p. 168-169)


This collection has three editors: Olof Sundqvist is Professor in the History of Religions at the Department of Ethnology, History of Religions, and Gender Studies of Stockholm University. He has written the books Freyr's Offspring. Rulers and Religion in Ancient Svea Society (2002) and An Arena for Higher Powers. Ceremonial Buildings and Religious Strategies for Rulership in Late Iron Age Scandinavia (2016). Declan Taggart is a researcher of Old Norse religion and literature, especially of the cognitive underpinnings of representations of pre-Christian gods and morality. Irene García Losquiño is a researcher of the Viking diaspora, currently focusing on interdisciplinary approaches to Viking contact with the Iberian Peninsula. She has previously worked on early runic inscriptions.


The term ‘sacred’ is often used in relation to the pre-Christian religions of Iron Age and medieval Scandinavia. But what did sacred really mean? What made something sacred for people? Why was one particular person, place, act, or text perceived to hold a sacral quality, while others remained profane? And what impact did such sacrality have on wider society, culture, politics, and economics, both for contemporaries and for future generations?

This volume seeks to engage with such questions by drawing together essays from many of the pre-eminent scholars of Old Norse in order to reinterpret the concept of the sacred in the Viking Age North and to challenge pre-existing frameworks for understanding the sacred in this space and time. Including essays from Margaret Clunies Ross, Stephen Mitchell, John Lindow, and Judy Quinn, it is a treasury of commentary and information that ranges widely across theories and sources of evidence to present significant primary research and reconsiderations of existing scholarship. This edited collection is dedicated to Stefan Brink, an outstanding figure in the study of early Scandinavian language, society, and culture, and it takes as its inspiration the diversity, interdisciplinarity and vitality of his own research in order to make a major new contribution to the field of Old Norse studies.



Part I: Understanding Sacredness

What Does heilagr Mean in Old Norse? — MARGARET CLUNIES ROSS

Landscape – Sacred and Profane — JENS PETER SCHJØDT

Sacred and Profane, Visual and Lived-in: A Note on some Creative Tensions in the Landscape — MATS WIDGREN

Part II: Sacredness and Space

Ritual Places, Sacral Place-names, and Wetlands: Some Spatial and Archaeological Contexts from the Baltic Island of Öland — JAN-HENRIK FALLGREN

Ritual Space and Territorial Boundaries in Scandinavia — TORUN ZACHRISSON

Karlevi: A Viking Age Harbour on Öland — PER VIKSTRAND

Stafgarþar Revisited — ANDERS ANDRÉN

Sacredness Lost: On the Variable Status of Churches in the Middle Ages — BERTIL NILSSON

Part III: The Sacred and the Text

Tradition and Ideology in Eddic Poetry — JOHN MCKINNELL

Sacred Hero, Holy Places: The Eddic Helgi-Tradition — CAROLYNE LARRINGTON

Fifth-Column Mother: Týr’s Parentage according to Hymiskviða — JUDY QUINN

Part IV: Sacredness Across Contexts

From Legend to Myth? — JOHN LINDOW

The Landscape of Thor Worship in Sweden — TARRIN WILLS

Conversion, Popular Religion, and Syncretism: Some Reflections —ANNE-SOFIE GRÄSLUND

Swine, Swedes, and Fertility Gods — BO GRÄSLUND

The Goddesses in the Dark Waters — TERRY GUNNELL

Part V: Afterlives of Sacredness

Valhǫll and the Swedish ‘Valhall’ Mountains of the Dead — ANDREAS NORDBERG

Place-names, Periphrasis, and Popular Tradition: Odinic Toponyms on Samsø — STEPHEN A. MITCHELL

Sacred Sites and Central Places: Experiences of Multidisciplinary Research Projects — CHARLOTTE FABECH AND ULF NÄSMAN

A Bibliography of Stefan Brink’s Publications, Compiled with Assistance from Per Vikstrand