Nehalennia is known from more than 160 votive altars, which were almost all discovered in the Dutch province of Zeeland. (Two altars were discovered in Cologne, the capital of Germania Inferior.) All of them can be dated to the second and early third centuries CE.
Ever since I wrote a post on Polaris, I have been wondering, is there a south pole? Sadly, there isn’t, not really.
There are two candidates for a south pole star. By 14 000 CE Canopus will, because of the wobble in the earth’s axis, be as close as it will ever get to being the South Pole, about 10° from magnetic south. The other, Sigma Octanis in the Octant, is the closest star at present. The Southern Cross points to where a south pole would be, and like Ursa Minor is a circumpolar constellation, so it’s always above the horizon.
When you think of Norse myths, you tend to think of Thor, smiting the giants, or Odin, outwitting his opponents. Or perhaps you think of Loki, causing mischief wherever he goes.
But life is not all battles and uproar. Alongside the gods of war were the gods of peace and plenty, the chief of whom was the god Njord. Poets used his name as a kenning for “warrior”, so he must have been able to fight, but his real interest was good harvests, peace for his people, and wealth.
Njord’s nature reflects Norse society: we often think of him as a sea-god, but he really looked after sailors, merchants and all who travelled on the sea. Equally important, the god known as Njord the Wealthy would make your voyage worthwhile.
The Norse sun-goddess, far from being some sort of Northern aberration, is very similar to other Indo-European sun deities. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since “basic” deities like the sky, earth and rivers tend to keep their characteristics across a very wide swathe of Europe and Asia.
The Scandinavians believed that their gods came from two tribes: the Aesir and the Vanir. The latter, with their strong connection to water and ships, as well as the afterworld,
Geography made the Scandinavians a marine people, and not surprisingly ships of various kinds played an important part in their lives. It’s not surprising that they turn up in myth and art as well.
Ships played an important part in Scandinavian life, so it’s not surprising that they are also prominent in mythology and art. In these next two posts I will be discussing the cult of the Vanir and the role that ships play their myths, and then how those myths and associations also link up to death and the afterworld. The ship, like the Vanir, were associated both with wealth and prosperity, and also death and what lay after. Once again this a rather long piece, so I have split it into two posts:
Image at top: Solberg – Rock Art in Norway. Photo by greywether.