Friday, May 04, 2007

Hazards of Late Antique/Germanic History--Don't just guess!

From Martin at Aardvarchaeology (this is all him, so don't be confused by formatting):
The concept of an Old Norse religion (as it has been used by e.g. Karl Hauck and Lotte Hedeager) is useless. Such a non-codified, orally performed and transmitted body of mythology and liturgy cannot be coherent across time nor space. So all statements about Old Norse religion must be qualified with two questions: Where? When? And when things don't add up, this is only to be expected.

Think about it. Even heavily codified religions, such as Judaism or Christianity, aren't coherent.

This skepticism of monolithic coherent entities in societies of the past and present is actually a post-modernist viewpoint, and to my mind a valuable one. Unlike real po-mos, however, I don't draw the conclusion that anything goes in interpretation. Quite the contrary, I find it a strong argument to drop all discussion of anything not strongly anchored in source material. Wovon man nicht reden kann, darüber darf man ganz bestimmt schweigen, po-mo Dummköpfe.

This reminds me of something I wrote the other day in a letter to a charming Aard regular:

"The problem is often called 'essentialism', as I think you may have seen in my review of Herschend's The Idea of the Good. The argument presupposes that there's this huge block north of the Imperial border called Germanic Society, that this block has the same essence from the border to the North Cape, and that when the block changes, all of it changes at the same time, in the same way. All this is in my opinion a) pure speculation, b) very, very unlikely."

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