ECU Author/Contributor (non-ECU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Savannah DeHart (Creator)
East Carolina University (ECU )
Web Site:
Michael J. 1944- Enright

Abstract: This thesis investigates the religiosity of some Germanic peoples of the Migration period (approximately AD 300-800) and seeks to overcome some difficulties in the related source material. The written sources which describe pagan elements of this period - such as Tacitus' Germania Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People and Paul the Deacon's History of the Lombards - are problematic because they were composed by Roman or Christian authors whose primary goals were not to preserve the traditions of pagans. Literary sources of the High Middle Ages (approximately AD 1000-1400) - such as The Poetic Edda Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda and Icelandic Family Sagas - can only offer a clearer picture of Old Norse religiosity alone. The problem is that the beliefs described by these late sources cannot accurately reflect religious conditions of the Early Middle Ages. Too much time has elapsed and too many changes have occurred. If literary sources are unavailing however archaeology can offer a way out of the dilemma. Rightly interpreted archaeological evidence can be used in conjunction with literary sources to demonstrate considerable continuity in precisely this area of religiosity. Some of the most relevant material objects (often overlooked by scholars) are bracteates. These coin-like amulets are stamped with designs that appear to reflect motifs from Old Norse myths yet their find contexts including the inhumation graves of women and hoards demonstrate that they were used during the Migration period of half a millennium earlier. In view of this puzzle the present thesis proposes to analyze both the lacunae of the literary evidence and their potential solution in the iconography of bracteates. I document the transition of Northern European pagan religiosity beginning with a set of beliefs based around healing and fertility which by the fifth and sixth centuries developed into a set of beliefs focused around war and ancestor worship. This thesis will assess the value of these amulets as an empirical guide to early Germanic religiosity. 

Additional Information

Date: 2012
History, Medieval history, early medieval studies, Germanic peoples, pagan amulets, pagan religion, pagan religiosity
Germanic peoples--Religion
Bracteates (Ornaments)

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TitleLocation & LinkType of Relationship
BRACTEATES AS INDICATORS OF NORTHERN PAGAN RELIGIOSITY IN THE EARLY MIDDLE AGES described resource references, cites, or otherwise points to the related resource.