Germanic Mythology

Background: The PIE People
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Pieces of PIE

PIE culture, short for Proto-Indo-European, originated thousands of years ago in the steppe country north of the Black Sea. Or, by an alternate theory, it all began in Anatolia. Either way, the PIEs spread far and wide, providing the common origin to Germanic, Baltic, Celtic, Slavic, Italic, Hellenic, Anatolian, Persian, and Hindu cultures and their respective mythologies.
The spread of culture over many centuries is related to the evolution of language groups. Both of these are affected by the migration of population groups, the separation of groups into isolated tribes, or the trade, conquests, and intermarriages that merge population groups together. By a variety of means, PIE culture spread westward into Europe, eastward into Persia and India, and southward into Anatolia and Greece, changing and evolving along the way.

Some PIE tribes lost contact with each other. Some disappeared entirely. Others traded ideas with surrounding peoples they encountered. Their languages and beliefs drifted and changed. Their stories changed. Tribal religions added new gods, emphasized different gods, or merged multiple gods into one. Tribal mythologies developed a fascinating variety of stories, including Norse, Greek, Celtic, and Roman, but if we dig deep enough, we can find echoes of those original PIE tales.

Iron Age Germanic Tribes

  Early Germanic tribes probably didn't refer to themselves as "Germanic," but used a name that's been lost to history. The origin of the name "Germanic" is in dispute, but may derive from a term that meant "noisy neighbors" in the language of the nearby Celts.   2,000 years ago, Roman sources attested the presence of Germanic tribes in north-central Europe. Descendants of these tribes would later colonize the British Isles and Scandinavian lands.   Worship of PIE-derived Germanic gods was the region's dominant religion into the Middle Ages.  

Germanic Mythology Sources

  Few written records survive from the time before Christianity took hold. Sources we have were written down and preserved by Germanic Christians and notably include:  
  • The Poetic Edda,
  • The Prose Edda,
  • Skaldic verse,
  • The Nibelungenlied, and
  • Beowulf.
  • Germanic Mythology Regions

      Germanic subcultures can be divided in several different ways. One possible taxonomy is:  
  • Anglo-Saxon
  • Continental
  • Frankish
  • Gothic
  • Old Norse
  • Because the Norse were the last Germanic tribes to be Christianized, their mythology tends to be the best preserved and most widely studied.

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