Nordic Research

The Northern Scholars Lectures: Jens Peter Schjødt

About the lecture

As opposed to most of the big religions of the modern world, which belong to the category, designated as ‘secondary’ by Jan Assmann, or post- axial by Robert Bellah, the religious type to which the religion of pagan Scandinavia belonged (primary religion, archaic religion) have no strict boundaries. Among many modern scholars dealing with this religion, the singular ‘religion’ has even been substituted by the plural ‘religions’, mainly because there apparently never was a unified system of beliefs and practices which was specific to this area (as opposed to for instance, Saami religion, Slavic religion or Celtic religion). If we accept this fluid character of the pre-Christian religion(s) of Scandinavia, it becomes relevant to ask which period and which geographical area, Old Norse religion or Old Norse mythology actually cover. What about Germanic religion and mythology of the early Middle Ages, or even the postulated IndoEuropean religious and mythological structures? Which role do they play for our reconstructions of Old Norse religion, and are they relevant at all. In my opinion the answer should be ‘yes’; for if there are no clear boundaries, it must be up to the individual scholars to decide what material is relevant for these reconstructions. In the paper I am definitely not going to come up with final solutions to these problems, but I hope to be able to illuminate aspects of them, and to come up with a few suggestions.

About the speaker

Jens Peter Schjødt is a Professor of the History of Religions at Aarhus University, Denmark. His areas of research are Old Norse religion, mythology and ritual, Indo-European religions and the phenomenology of religion. He is the member and originator of various scholarly networks, such as the Scandinavian Network for the Study of Pre-Christian Religion of the North, and the Teacher Mobility Network under the NordPlus Programme. Jens Peter has published numerous articles and books and he is the author of 'Initiation Between Two Worlds: Structure and Symbolism in Pre-Christian Scandinavian Religion' (2008) and the co-editor of 'More than Mythology: Narratives, Ritual Practices and Regional Distribution in Pre-Christian Scandinavian Religions' (2012). His latest contribution is ‘History of Religion’ in the 'Handbook of Pre-Modern Nordic Memory Studies: Interdisciplinary Approaches' (2018).


This lecture is part of the Northern Scholars series at the University of Edinburgh and of the annual Thinking About Mythology in the 21st Century colloquium hosted by Celtic and Scottish Studies, and Scandinavian Studies, in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC). It is free to attend but registration, via Eventbrite, is essential.

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About the Northern Scholars 

The Northern Scholars Scheme was established at the University of Edinburgh in 1956.

Its role is to foster co-operation between scholars of Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and colleagues in the University of Edinburgh.

Mutual areas of interest include aspects of linguistics, and historical and other cultural studies which are common to these countries and to Scotland. 

Each year, the Northern Scholars Scheme Committee sponsors visits by scholars of the member countries to Edinburgh, during which time they give departmental seminars and public lectures.

Recent Northern Scholars include Dr Svetlana Pogodina (University of Latvia), Dr Danita Burke (University of Southern Denmark), and Professor Klemens Kappel (University of Copenhagen).

Nov 10 2018 -

The Northern Scholars Lectures: Jens Peter Schjødt

'How to deal with mythological and religious boundaries in oral societies – where does Old Norse mythology end?'. A free public lecture by visiting Northern Scholar Professor Jens Peter Schjødt.

Project Room (Room 1.06)
50 George Square