Anyone who is vaguely familiar with the Germanic/Norse myths is somewhat knowledgeable of the creation story; fire and ice collide and produce the proto-giant Ymir (the basic building blocks of matter). And eventually Odin/Wodan and his brothers use Ymir to create the Nine Worlds, the universe. In my opinion, it smacks of the Big Bang Theory. There are many examples of world collisions that history reports, albeit at times lacking all the facts in favor of the dominant view. The collision of worldview is just one that history, until recent years, has had little or nothing to speak about, unless it was the dominant view. Those days are over.
One of the world views in question is that of the Abrahamic Monotheists, in particular, Christianity. The world view of all of the latter is that of life and world rejection; forgo all of life and the world's benefits in exchange for a promise of some kind of glorious ethereal life after death, provided you play by their rules. For those who are interested, Buddhism also falls into this category. This is/was the dominant view, based on doctrine and dogma of salvation (salvation in the overall sense is one of a glorious ethereal afterlife based on doctrines that make less sense then Grimm's Fairy Tales). The other worldview that stands in opposition to Christian Monotheism in particular, is the life and world accepting worldview position of the Germanic/Norse. These two views have been colliding for almost 1700 years. And like oil and water, they do not mix well.
This is not a condemnation of Christianity, but frankly, their world view did not lose any sleep over how they tried to muscle their views onto others. Southern Europe was easy; the gross social anomie that was present with the decay and eventual fall of the Roman Empire gave them more than wiggle room to fit in and take over. To paraphrase George Carlin, the Roman Empire did not fall, it just changed management. Here is the BIG KEY: life and world rejecting religions and philosophies will only thrive in an atmosphere of gross social anomie (social, political, and economic upheaval). After a period of time, people who have been displaced and dispossessed in so many ways (after a few generations) find the rejection of this world and the promise of a glorious afterlife appealing. Family, social structure, law, order, and status just disappeared for these folks and Christianity came along and filled all those categories/needs. This situation did not repeat north of the Alps.
The Germanic peoples were secure within their family, clan, and tribal environments; social anomie did not exist at any level. When early missionaries revealed some Christian doctrine and dogma to northern Heathens, they were sharply rebuked; it did not come close to matching the Germanic worldview (I will not discuss the Visigoths supposed conversion in 376 to Arian Christianity to appease Emperor Valens in this post). Over centuries, with the help of Pope Gregory the Great, the Church developed a policy of accommodation accompanied by some "smoke and mirrors" showmanship.
The accommodation to heathen worldview was supposed to be temporary; it did not work out that way. Accommodation led to synchronicity between the two worldviews. A simple example of this is how Yuletide became the twelve days of Christmas with all the greenery, etc. Another factor that was stressed by Christianity was how total nations were converted, at one time; that just did not happen. A chieftain, Duke, Prince, or King decided, for whatever the reason, to convert to Christianity (Roman Christianity). At baptism that leader would vouch for his people. After the leader's baptism, it was their responsibility to educate their people and baptize them into the new faith. History has shown that that never happened. And, the proverbial man on the street, on the farm, etc, was clueless as to what or how their leaders "worshiped." If asked, they just may have said, "Just like us." The Roman Church did not have the resources and for whatever their reasons the baptized leadership just did not make the effort.
The Church discovered that they could not reveal doctrine and dogma to the majority of the Germanic peoples before baptism without suffering some major embarrassments; the world rejecting doctrines and dogma of Christianity did not mesh with the Heathen world accepting worldview. The tale of Ragbod, King of Frisia is a great example.
Good King Ragbod reluctantly went on his way to meet the Christian cleric Wolframm to receive baptism. Obviously, Ragbod was a thinking man. When they met, Ragbod asked Wolframm some questions about the new religion with Wolframm dancing around the answers. But Ragbod was not a stupid man and pressed on. Finally, when he got the answer about his family, kin, and ancestors Ragbod heard enough. In old Frisian King Ragbod told the Christian cleric Wolframm to take a flying leap off of a very high cliff. The world rejecting worldview of Christianity was not then and is not now compatible with the life and world accepting views of Heathenry. The failure of Wolframm to baptize Ragbod was a shot heard throughout the Christian hierarchy. History does have in its possession many Church communications that simple state - don't do a Wolframm. This led to the position - don't tell the Heathen nothing but bullshit and daffodils until after baptism, and then slowly reveal doctrine and dogma over many years. Due to a lack of any kind of post baptismal instruction this did not happen. This led to more accommodation and synchronization. And then we have the smoke and mirrors.
Great showmen have existed throughout the ages and Christianity understood the power of the sleight of hand and the bamboozling of the multitude; they used it. Various clerics challenged Heathen deities to do certain things in a certain way at various Heathen holy sights. And after the clerics "won," a line of the bamboozled formed to receive baptism, only to go home and put the baby Jesus among their other Gods on their home alters. Boniface was a great showman.
We must give Boniface credit; he was a powerful speaker and a master organizer. This cleric thought that by cutting down Donar's Oak, he could kill Heathenry and institute Christianity. And to assure the greatest affect, he sent his minions out far and wide to announce the contest, for months. When the time came, Boniface hacked at the oak a few times and left the rest for his entourage to finish off. Since nothing earth shattered happened, many of the bamboozled lined up for baptism and then went home and added the baby Jesus to their home alter. In all cases, our ancestors just thought that the Christian God had a little more juice at the time then Thor or Wodan. One day Boniface and his entourage were in route to do a mass baptism in Frisia. When they got there, Boniface and his entire company were killed. Who knows, maybe Ragbod's relatives were still pissed.
To many leaders like Pepin, Charles Martel, Charlemagne, and Olaf of Norway (Olaf the Law-Breaker) baptism meant total acceptance and conversion. They were wrong (there was the booty collection needed to fund the leader's activities). Alcuin, a lettered churchman (and others), not just believed but stated that baptism meant nothing without pre-baptismal and post baptismal doctrinal education. And according to Alcuin, the post baptismal doctrinal education had to continue for at least three generations. This churchman understood that conversion had little to do with changing religions and everything to do with changing worldview. Any thought that leads to the belief that northern Europe was totally Christianized by the end of the eleventh century is an illusion, worthy of the best smoke and mirrors. Christianization did not totally happen until the sixteenth century with the onslaught of the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter Reformation. However, the folklore and art forms continued up to our present era.
Today these world views still butt heads, but something amazing is happening. Life and world affirming views are gaining ground and people are returning to their ancestral roots. This does not mean an overnight massive change in world view but it is a start. If we use Alcuin's stipulation of three generations, we are well on the way.
Copyright @2015/2017 Terry Unger