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Freyr's offspring: Rulers and religion in ancient Svea society
Uppsala University, Humanistisk-samhällsvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Faculty of Theology, Department of Theology.
2000 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This study attempts to elucidate the relationship between rulers and religion among the Svear of the Late Iron Age. Previous research has to a large extent followed the paradigm of sacral kingship when interpreting the Scandinavian sources. Since this paradigm implies a number of methodological difficulties, a new approach is here taken, which also entails a rejection of the hypercritical line of research. Focus is placed on a limited area, Svetjud, in order to make it possible to account for the specific cultural and historical contexts.

The ideology of the ruling stratum in Svetjud was partly based on religious elements, more specifically the idea of the ruler's divine descent. Concrete expressions of this ideology, for example, are present in the genealogical lists and poems, which also involved judicial matters, such as claims to property rights. The Svea rulers were also engaged in rituals of different kind, which concerned legitimacy and other aspects as well. The calendaric feasts contributed to maintaining a system of redistribution. If a ruler acted unjustly or lacked the qualities of a legitimate ruler, he could be removed from office, sometimes under ritual forms. Rulership ideology, which pertained not only to the great rulers of Uppsala, the Ynglingar, but also to local chieftains, was adapted to a decentralised society in which the power of rulers was limited by the thing congregations.

Contrary to what has been stated in recent research, some elements of pre-Christian rulership ideology and practice persisted until the Early Middle Ages. These elements represent certainly a continuity hut set in a new Christian context.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis , 2000. , 371 p.
Keyword [en]
Religion, rulership ideology, ancient Scandinavian religion, Svear, genealogies, legitimacy of power, redistribution system, sacral kingship
Keyword [sv]
National Category
Religious Studies
Research subject
History Of Religions
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-792ISBN: 99-3387297-4OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-792DiVA: diva2:170371
Public defence
2000-12-16, Dekansalen, Dekanhuset, Uppsala, 10:15
Available from: 2000-11-25 Created: 2000-11-25Bibliographically approved

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