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Or were they seen more as folklore, like, for example, Holger Danske or St George and the Dragon?

  • I think this is better on history – bleh Aug 4 '17 at 1:25
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    @bleh - See the help center, note that "Historical or societal context of a myth" is explicitly on-topic. – femtoRgon Aug 4 '17 at 15:07
  • That's a myth, but this is how the vikings viewed a mythology. – bleh Aug 4 '17 at 19:34
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Yes, they did. The god Freyr was popular in Sweden, and had a huge temple at Uppsala. According to Adam of Bremen, a Christian historian, the temple also had images of Thor and Odin, flanking a central image of Freyr. (He was considered an ancestor of the royal family, making him the main god.)

The temple, which Adam describes as something like Roman ones, was probably uncommon, but sacred fields and groves were set aside for various deities, and sometimes the name of the place reflects this, i.e. Odinsve, which might have been a shrine or simply a space dedicated to Odin.

All this makes it sound as if Thor had no cult, but his hammer was a symbol of blessing, and the sagas record the Icelandic settlers' devotion to the thunder-god.

Further, Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla describes the gods as mortals, but still tells how people made offerings to them after they "died", his way of rationalizing the sacrifices that people had offered to them before Christianity took over.

  • One interesting point would be to see what they were worshipping exactly. I have a close parallelism with the Achaemenid (the Persians). We know for sure Cyrus the Great was mentioning Ahura-Mazda making him a Zoroastrian. But still, it's true religion is quite unclear due to the absence of other figures (including Zoroaster, or Mithra or Anahita, mentioned quite later, Artaxerxes III). so we know without a doubt he was Zoroastrian the question being what Zoroastrianism exactly. – Gibet Aug 5 '17 at 19:53

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