Anglo Saxon beliefs
This essay look at AS beliefs from a Scandinavian view and then use rational sources and not use too much of mythology we do not know about. Normally we get only some god names and maybe an attribute but that do not tell about people living rural life
Old Edda songs, Snorri's Edda, Aser, Æsir, Odin, Voluspa, Three Thursa Maiden, Balder myth, World Order, Otherworld, existence, dreamtime, Sumerian legend, Loke, Ritual law, Custom law, Common law, By-law, place names, thane, thegn, weekday names, idol, archetype, kingdom
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Sources and influences
"Heimdall with Gjallarhorn guarding at Bifrost", is the text and he has caduce and winged shoes from the copy of Ólafur Brýnjúlfsen Kirkubjœr Iceland in 1760
The priest Ólafur copied both the Old Edda = songs and the Snorri's Edda and added his own illustrations to the books. They are now at Kungliga Bibliotek Copenhagen. Seemingly he added things from the Greek myths such as the caduceus of Hermes and the winged shoes for the Flyer.
The picture is a reminder that copying things can give another version since the copyist put his own view into it and the book seemingly live and get a new dimension. It is the syndrome of having a long row of people and we whisper some meaning in the ear of the one in the end and watch what comes of when the message travels along the row. It also tells us that no version could be the only true.
The myth live and especially when they were told from mouth to ear there were many local versions. Karl Kerenyi tells the Greek sagas with different versions from the provinces. From our place names we see the same variation of names in the landscapes.
It is also a reminder that Snorri and other reconstructed much of the legends and myth in pre-Christian times and then several hundred years afterwards. Snorri wrote in the early part of 13th century. In his prologue he like many others use folk-etymology and think that the name of the Asa god family sounds like coming from Asia. Others have tried other solutions in the same manner of folk etymology.
The Greeks made families in their pantheon since they were made for towns and places with family relations. They forgot the rural root and the thunderbolt of Zeus is the only sign from the oldest animated god of all the Thundering Man. Many of the myths are about power struggle and that is not the natural thing among the great majority of people living as farmers, fishermen and other labour. The Greek myths are like the Nordic written for the upper classes. With no towns Scandinavians lived all like farmers
Snorri goes a step further and make the Aser/ Aesir / Æsir human with Thor borne in Troy. Odin is born later in the clan and he wandered first to Westphalen in Germany made children and kingdom. Then he continued to Jutland and made more children and a new kingdom and his burial mound is near Viborg.
Odin moved to West Gautland and there he grew some corn in Odensaker and more children and he is buried in a couple of places. He was a known "person" since some vi/ wih was named after him in East Gautland and Smaaland and there are some names on "-vik" so he was also a sailor. Lastly he found a good place when he wandered to Svitjod = Maelardalen and made a new kingdom and founded the Yngling-clan. Now he lives forever I think.
In the rational word gods/ idols have no substantial existence and belongs to the abstract Otherworld of ideas and concepts use as models in life. In this essay we do not listen to mythologist making gods be human. However myths are made of man so something humanlike there is. Still we cannot know what people really believed and we can describe substantial evidence. The only rational way is that we can see the myths as allegories and metaphors for cultural influence
Late Thor Heyerdahl believed in the sagas written down by Snorri and others and went to Azerbadjan and found some "Nordic" rock-carvings from Bronze Age. He is right about the similarity in style and form, but get problem with the timeline and chronology. He made the elegant solution making Odin human. But as said, gods do not make children or anything else since they have no substantial existence except that they are words on paper.
I vote for the simple interpreting of the Nordic word "Aser" to be interpreted as English "as" and then it means it is the image of the abstracted concept that is understood. That means the observation point or stress is on the process and not on the icon/ archetype. In our time many people seek spiritual and cosmic explanations without any proof. I think most people were like the earthy rational people in countryside in my childhood.
For instance Tyr/ Tis stands for judge at thing/ court. It is nearly the same as ANSUR that is the local tribe hero. We see the same in the neo-Hittitian symbolism around 700 BC. I doubt there were leagues or families of gods before late Viking Age when it became fashion to use clan suffixes. The myth mirrors usually the customs in society and in Scandinavia we have no evidence of clans before Viking Age. On the Rauk stone they mention clans with name suffix -ungar and -ingar for instance.
Probably in last millennium BC it was use to have some monument/ pole representing the hero/ archetype that gave name to the settlement. We have examples form Glejbjerg near Esbjerg Jutland that is the Trihead Thurs and in the neighbourhood there is a place "Stenmannen = Stoneman". In Norway we have the Rossland bust in stone.
This explanation maybe satisfy those who suggest "beam, pillar and column". However I am afraid they are looking at the image and not at what it stands for. Maybe they just want our ancestors to be primitive beings and then the blame is on our days' onlooker and not on pour ancestors. But we need the rational meaning and purpose. In Ritual Age they lived and worked in the name of their local hero or some other deity. That we learn from the place names in dative. Nowadays we have still the signpost telling the name of the torn/ village. Only those working for the commune are working directly for the "name" that could several thousand years old.
Nowadays they reconstruct the reconstructions and systemise them as the Asa-faith. On my Hobbyhorse I ride farther back at the timeline to show that the so-called gods and idols are much older than 13th century AD or near pre-Christian times. I think that we should as often as possible back up our descriptions with substantial evidence. We should also compare with known cultures and place the Anglo-Scandinavian world in the World Community. We have so many ties to the so-called Old World that we are a part of it.
Folk memory does not have a timeline and it stores only fragments, icons and words enough to remember some event. So when Snorri and other reconstructed the songs they met difficulties in writing about the things in the songs. Seldom there is any possibility to prove that the events have been real. Too many time mythologists make reality out of fiction and tell about impossible things and things that lowers our ancestors reputation. They were not fools and seemingly naive songs and burlesque tales are maybe written for the children.
The song of the seeress Vala = Voluspa = 'Vala foretell' is maybe one of the oldest poems besides the life wisdom in Havamál. We recognise different parts in the song starting from Creation; World order in Verse 6; Three maiden came Verse 8, The Seeress in Verse 29; Balder Myth Verse 31; fettering Loke Verse 34 and in Verse 37 Ragnarauk begins.
If we see some of it ass allegories the Creation is just giving some beginning to it all. World order was created with the planned Heavenly Round as and the asterisms as lead and formulated around 4000 BC. Soon after that the agriculture myth was created with the Three Maiden = Three Thursa Maiden = with capacity of growth. They seem to come from the Sumerian myth. The pollen curves would date it to beginning at 3400 BC. We see them for instance in the rock- carvings in Leirfall Norway and they gave name to the three summer months May, June and July and the starry aspect is Virgo, Libra and Scorpio.
We see the scene with the leader instructing the cultivating Maiden in the rock-carvings at Evenstorp around 2000 BC and that is maybe the Isis myth in some version. That is in Verse 29 followed by theBalder Myth in Verse 31 and there are a dozen golden bracts with scenes from the myth. The inventor Loke lured the blind to shoot Balder = the harvest with the Mistletoe and Verse 34 is about the fettering. The scene is seen on the Gosforth Cross where his wife saves him from the poison dropping on him.
That is the rational part about origin and rituals of the year. The last part is about Ragnarauk that is end of the world, but which world? Is it the end of the harvest; the end of the individual or the entire world. Naturally they could imagine that even the world would end at some point in Time. But they saw the natural seasons come and go and the poem ends with the resurrection next year. The last 30 verses is mighty imagination about the fictive beings /idols / gods fighting in the end.
Cut from Laukeberget Bohuslen
Some carvings are clearly made on one occasion and for ritual purpose like a calendar. In these cases we can try to interpret what we see and perhaps come nearer the truth than just speculating around. Laukeberget is one of the largest ritual carvings. This section is the beginning of a clear half circle of motifs in moments. Maybe we here se some of the main idols from the Edda at this early stage during Bronze Age.
The one-armed is in the beginning of the loop and we can suppose him to beTyr/ Tis, archetype for the judge at thing/ court. It can also be compared to figures with cut arms in Egypt and other places used to specify a certain star. However in the oral tradition there should be a story about the idol. The gods tied the beast Fenrisulven/ Fenriswolf with non-existing thing or in fact words. That is the method to choose some stars as a certain observation point.
We se the wolf/dog/fox in many places in the figurative art and it is a line between the dog and some other stars across the round. Usually it is a line between Sagittarius and Crab. However once they made the story they found that a man with experience of pain could also understand victims and other hurt people, so what, he could be an idol for a judge.
It would be natural that he stands in the beginning of the calendar carvings since the season beginning with a thing/ meeting. Above him is the arm-less man that maybe is Hanno his counterpart that "always let others decide" and like gods and human leaders he does not work and need no arms.
Above that we see the speared Eagle and Loke hanging there since some put glue on the spear. That is a fragment of the myth about Idun's apples, which Tjatse (frost) stole. See moreMessenger of Gods with the scene "mourning mother" and Loke lure Hoeder to shoot Balder … and the Gille at Bro where we see the entire suite.
This is just a reminder that some of the myths are much older than we think. Another archetype is Thor with the rock carvings at Vitlycke showing him marrying a couple. There are at least two rock carvings showing him use the ox-head as bait when he goes for Midgaards Worm. On theGosforth Cross he is lured to try to lift the worm in "The legend of the Cauldron". The Cauldron was an important icon in Bronze Age and it is an allegory of the feast that ended the season. Sometimes we see it in the beginning of season "to be filled" like the empty boat on ritual calendars.
On the Gosforth Cross is also the scene "Gunnar in the Snake Pit" however he is also crucified so it is showing the mix of old and Christian images. Naturally we all are heading for the pit with earthworms … if not just being Smokey and the Ka soul heading for Orion like the Egyptian soul.
The folklorists mostly tell us that old customs and rites began during medieval and Christian times. For them Christianity and lack of knowledge set the limits and timeline. But the science and the rock-carvings show that "already" in Bronze Age people celebrated rituals and used idols.
Here we deal with Anglo-Saxon times 449 AD to 1066 AD. There are not too many sources so we have to use also early medieval literate sources. Still it is better to try being scientific and demand for substantial evidence before we describe those days if we want to be true to our ancestors. To often interpreters go the easy way and copy each other and have no critical look at the evidence from 13th century.
The picture above mirrors an earthy and straight worldview. There is no bottom for speculating in them having deep spiritual beliefs. People of our days seek spirituality in the past, but the fact is that earthy nearness to Mother Earth and practical farming is so far from the urban people at it sounds like magic and cult. We can prove that rural people followed year ritual but we cannot prove any kind of mystic cult. Cult seems to be for people living in cities and warriors trying to sublimate their fears when going to the "Otherworld of War"
Creation of World Order
Saturday 17th August 2002 I wake up, "Now I understand algebra" was the first sentence in my mind. Since I am the slow thinker it took time as it seems. Naturally I have calculated in younger days, but by using rules/ axioms without really understanding what I was doing. In such cases the faults with plus and minus is around the corner.
We know that the Sumerians taught algebra in school in 3rd millennium BC and the principle is several thousand years older than that. Bartering with goods was the first practise were they needed the scale/ balance to make an equal deal. In our rock-carvings we have a few balances telling that they maybe used the method.
Often it is understood behind principle such as "swearing the oath". In Nordic we have the special word "edgang/ edgaang= oath-going. I think we have the pedagogic foundation in my neighbourhood. It is two mounds with a bank = ed = ford between them. The process is that at A is the state of no oath/agreement and by going to B one comes to the new agreement/ holly promise and legal state. Commerce and bartering work in the same manner.
To get a World Order some more or less sacred collective oaths and agreements are needed. We call them conventions that everyone should understand. It starts with the reference point or World Pole. The convention of cardinal directions makes it possible to orientate in the wilderness of those days in roadless land and also tell mothers about directions.
Next step is the lead in time and space. All people working with some planning has a "planner". That is the book where they write down meetings in future and other things that should be done. The heavenly round was precisely the same and suitable for the homogenous countryside were everyone lived on farming. Civilisation is when mankind learns to follow a lead or plan and locally be a suite.
We have only a few feasts left of the old ritual calendar based on the Animal Round. The feasts/ days in May were the most important since it was time of sowing. In the Egyptian symbolism they rose the djet-pillar. In some Sumerian seal we see a Twig after the sowing and the Archer/ Bearwatcher guarding the corn and over it all Lady of Rain and Thunder. Some made a story about the "Hidden Sun" since they symbolise the corn with the sleeping sun, which naturally is right since sun-flow, fertiliser and rain crate corn.
Setting up the twig or Rowan told that "field is sacred" until it is harvested. But the agreement was also that the grower should fence in his cornfield. In most places in Scandinavia the farmers were mixed cattlers and growers so there was no real struggle in these kinds of production. So the possible battle between "Aser/ Aesir and Vanir is much dramatised fiction made by the bards.
The birth of civilisation was more than 6000 years ago. The leading people created the ingenious idea of seemingly substantial gods with the incarnation of asterisms in the sky. The stars were physical moving "beings" and the myths made people believe in this parallel world. Language and mathematics developed in pace with the new ideas and growth in population and developed technology.
When people began to manipulate the world and people they needed to create the Otherworld or the abstract world of ideas that is like a parallel room/ space where the plans are made. Then we get two major kinds of existence. On one hand the real time space where we can see and operate the object and the surroundings. On the other hand the Otherworld of abstract ideas, memories and experience we can reuse whenever we need. That is the great step to civilisation when mankind learnt to store food, supplies and knowledge.
Children have the gift to alter between fairy tales, pretending, fantasy and real time space. They use both brain halves. Soon in school Westerners learn to use only the rational half. Some lonely children pretend they have "a friend" but they know that it is not for real.
The child discover that it is of no use to escape from guilt by blaming the "friend" when one has done something the parents do not like. The parents cannot see the "friend" and in crisis they bring in real time and do not play the game any more.
It is quit the same with mythic idols and religion that we need two categories of existence. The one we can se in real time and the other that is depending on unspoken conventions and understood behind as virtual role model. I have studied the development of human thinking and civilisation for a long time and I am still searching for words.
The carrier of the World Order have been on one hand the conventions carried by folk memory and on the other hand physical icons that carry the myth over time and generations. It works as long as it is needed and at least some people remember how, when and what to do.
We cannot really mix these two "worlds" without be aware of "this world and the otherworld of ideas and experiences". Some people laugh at the Celtic use of the concept Otherworld. However we use it unconsciously as old conventions all the time. It is the analytic kind of thinking and communicating in the Western world.
There are other ways than ours as for instance dreamtime that is intuitive use of folk memory and using both brain halves. But they also need some seemingly existing objects to hang the memory on. One bandying wall are the rock-carvings another that the myths are tied to things in their surroundings.
They need some starting point and in Kimberley Australia it is Gwion Gwion that is the name of a long-beaked bird which pecks at the rock face to catch insects, and pecks into tissue, sometimes drawing blood. In Ngarinyin cosmology the Gwion Gwion started out as a spirit-man. He cracked open rocks to reveal the stone tools locked inside, the gimbu (knife), spear point and axe. The gimbu was then able to be used for initiation, and with the other stone tool technology, for hunting and gathering.
Here we can remark that there is no timeline or time scale in folk memory. They refer to Stone Age as the time of Gwion Gwion. But mankind has used tools for a million-year and more. But here is the question when did they invent the axe with shaft? Maybe just the long-beaked bird gave the idea. But when? The rock art in Kimberley is at least 17000 years old so they are not speaking about Stone Age with our terms of 6000 - 8000 years
The Sumerian written history mentions the time when they used a stick for digging roots. But when was that? In South Africa there are rock pictures showing women using the invention "stick with weight" more than 20000 years ago.
The Sumerian legend about the fish-being Oannes that brought civilisation to Sumer is maybe much younger and as old as the first cities. Some fragment tells that they learnt the idea of storing things from the fox Kiel. That is how humankind learnt from the surroundings. The Sumerian explanation of creation and overview of the world can seem simple and naive to us. We have much more details and do no not see the simple structure. It was enough for them and was maybe created for the pro in asking question that is The Child. Every child has to discover the world and language from the very beginning.
"Audhumbla licks Bure out from the stones and four milk streams come from the udder"
At Swedish funerals the last words are, "From soil you came, to soil you return", or something like that. In a time when everyone lived in nature everyone were aware that they should care for everything in nature since they saw they lived of what the soil give.
… Everyone should care for nature and especially capitalists, management, science and all decision-makers. It is not possible to compromise with nature like our leading class does these days. Now humankind has become predestined to pollute and destroy the biosphere. That is why I sometimes remind that our ancestors were brighter in some sense than we are.
The illustration could seem primitive and naive however I think it mirrors the simple life and the essentials in life those days. The sagas sound like fairy tales for children and that is also the point that they taught the children in a simple way. If we laugh at such things we are the fools.
We still call the belt with many stars in our near universe Watergate and Milky Way as a reminder of the days when they abstracted the rains as the heavenly river. It is the first step to get rain that feed grass that feed cows that fee us and then we are feed from the soil and we are Mother Earth's children. We are just like hair on her skull that live for a short time. The poetic language still works today and there is nothing wrong in the metaphors.
Our technical explanations are of no use for a child. The explanation of BIG BANG would be bigger than our universe. So we usually start our story at end of Ice Age and we have some speculations about the origin of species. The story is not much better than the short sagas in The Edda. The term Edda is here used for the Old Edda, Snorri's Edda and some sagas that complete these two.
Do we need to know? Sumerians and Nordic early writer are much alike. They rather tell about the near Midgaard (Middle-yard) that surround us and we are separated from Outgaard (Neighbouring world). We have our own World Pole as reference. In the periphery the big Midgaard's Worm separates us from the unknown chaos.
In centre of Allheimr, the world stands Yggdrasil a tree we have in common with the other cultures in the Old World. They have put in some other animals and beings as long as their fantasy found examples to the ideal place. There is more than one myth about creation of man. Maybe the cowboys saw it one way, the potmakers another way and those having trees as favourites told their story. That is the way it is in the manifold.
In 13th century AD nearly all the connections to the starry sky were gone. In the symbolism of 5th century we only see some stars and theTyr myth with sure origin in astronomy. The Balder myth is difficult to connect to the ritual astronomy, however it is about harvest time. The main theme is the moral question of killing some living being that is the animated corn or crops.
The elegant solution is that inventor Loke lure the blind Hoeder to use the innocent Mistletoe. However the initiating inventor Loke is later punished for that. Still he is also the principle of "locking" and here the harvest to be stored. On the Gosforth Cross we see the scene were his wife save him from the dropping poison. We know of the much older scene at the rock-carvings in Bohuslen where Loke lures Hoeder.
Mourning Mother in upper left corner. Under that Loke helping to kill Balder
For people living far from the countryside it is impossible to see the metaphors that already when Snorri and others wrote them down were more like free-standing sagas. Urbanised people are more interested in soap-stories about human relations than about doubts about the right to kill other beings. Crops are not seen as beings.
This myth is in the same family as the hunting myths about beating the fallen bear to release the guilt of killing. They buried the bones to give Mother Earth the opportunity to let a new bear grow and keep the balance. These were mostly symbolic rituals concerning only "high animals" for people to remember the bonds to nature.
… Nowadays our hunters think they are forced to correct Nature and Creator when there are too animals in the forests or maybe these "beasts" intrude on private property since man thinks he owns nature and is God. The Norse have 2500000 sheep but cannot afford to have 10 wolves in spite of the richness from oil.
The Christian Easter, Ascension and Whitsun replaced the forecasting Balder myth. Rituals are just celebrating and have not much to do with the labour and production. So it was no big deal if the Christian ritual calendar was made for the environment in Palestine. People followed their old time marks and maybe replaced them with suitable days in the Saints' calendar. Surely there has also been by-law from early times that regulated the season and the Church could only watch it and adapt local customs.
The archetype Loke is naturally the most difficult principle/ god to understand, since in the thinking he occurs whenever something should be locked in or invented … even when for us bad things is invented. He was also the Ferryman like Greek Hermes at least in the beginning and his asterism was Capricorn. He was often symbolised with the caduceus and entwined snakes around it. It is the building and destroying forces in life.
…Later Christianity tried to deny the destroying forces and made the Evil of the Snake as well as of Loke. That is like the metaphor with the ostrich putting the head in sand when trouble comes. In real life we have to meet the Bull on its terms if it is needed.
Common law and by-law
Ritual Lawswere made in beginning of civilisation and we see the beginning of written law in Sumer 3rd millennium BC and also in the rock-carvings of Dal around 2300 BC. The ritual laws were made in the name of the gods / idols and were more like canonical law for people to follow. Common law was made at thing/ court as a decision of the people and that began maybe in the late part of Bronze Age.
The law thing was traditionally in autumn. Thing/ court places, mounds and stone circles are hard to date but surely older than age of Great Migration since already the Romans set up stelae to mars Thingsus. It is hard to sort out the term "moot hill" from old Germanic and Celtic customs and for instance Tynwald Hill and other thing (court) places. There was a common ground before the migrations.
In Scandinavian we make two categories of early laws. Custom law is the collection of codes made at thing with no order and when the kings were established they made their "domas" and completed the collection. Common law is the codified law where codes are made and written down. The codes are brought together according to different aspects of society such as religion, king, marriage, land, community, commerce, inheritance and crime ...See also Origin of Law
The Norse Gulating written law is from 11th century and the other Scandinavian laws were written down in 13th century most of them. However it seems plausible that they started to write law down when they got the clergymen from the church and that would be in 10th century. They think the first county division of syssels in Denmark was made in 10th century. We know that the Norse king Olof Haraldsson in beginning of 10th century dwelled at Gotland that is the big island in the Baltic. That is maybe why we see some influences from the Norse law in the Gutae Law written in beginning of 13th century.
It is the same as with the Edda myths that we can not immediately apply the evidence on a time 800 years earlier. However we can assume that the by-law generally was the same in early Anglo-Saxon times. The By-law consists of the codes regulating life in the villages.
The year rituals completed the by-law by giving a timetable for the by-law. In the AS- chronicle they tell about some of the migrating people were lead by their aldermen. That is just a sign of the by-law where the chosen old wise man led the people. Generally we have to kind of people. That is the people lead by their aldermen and on the other hand nobility with their tenants.
The thane/ thegn was leader of the county and his own property of at least 5 hides. The number tell us that there was some standard size of farms at least those owned by the freemen = nobility. In Denmark the system of nobility was that their property the "ornum" was split from the class of men = free farmers.
The AS place names furnish us with early pre-Christian symbols/ manifestos of the ritual year. We cannot call it belief, however some myths were connected to some of the feasts that celebrated the rituals. The are place names telling about ritual places such as vi/ wih, stoke, stone, harrow, stow, speaker's grove, Holy Oak, low besides the normal by-law organisation of by, torp, thwaite, holm, ton, take and maybe some other concepts from the organisation.
Wih/ vi, stoke, stone and harrow tell us about pre-Christian ritual places, which were used for deciding and celebrating thing/ court and feast in connection with beginning of season, maybe Beltaine and Lugnasad / Ramadan. The "wih" is surely one of the oldest monuments used for celebrating "She steps down" or the New Moon at spring equinox aligned with the fixstar. Surely the same monument was used at least at Ramadan when they aligned moon year and sun year. The other monuments are just variants on the same theme.
The first king and queen of Denmark are buried at Jelling near Vejle Jutland. There has been a wih/ vi consisting of a V-shape made of small stones. On the centreline there was the mound and perhaps a wooden temple and they think there has been a pole/ stoke also. One swallow seldom make a summer but they have documented the same kind of wih/ vi at Tingsted Lolland and at Tibirke North Zealand. However on these is only a mound between the wings of the V of each.
The place name Tibirke would be "Tis' birke" and "birke" meant surely jurisdiction of the special place. The word is still use for "town court", but those days it meant an area taken out from the land for special purpose or special owner like the nobility. Much the same as "ornum" that could be read "to the boars" Then we have the connecting to Tis/ Tyr and binding the Fenriswolf that was metaphor for Ramadan.
Stow, low, speaker's grove and Holy Oak are more indefinite thing/ court or feats place where they could have celebrated the same season feast as at the other monuments. We have from the rune stones the title "Taler/ Thula" = Speaker = thane/ thegn that was the ritual leader and also judge I suppose. Hard to see much crime in such small communities, but there would always be quarrelled about property and borders.
We should not forget Tynwald Hill at Isle of Man that was founded as the Common Court of the island. We have the memory of a smaller thing place in the same style here on Dal. We know that Tyr/ Tis was the archetype of judge at the court. He was the experienced man that knows what pain and foolishness are.
Marrying scene at Vitlycke Bohuslen
The sword of the idol date this scene to around 1250 BC. We see that the couple is tied together leg to leg and that is a ritual that still is in use in some places. We do not know what was the name of the idol. It is convenient to give him the name Thor since some late myths tells about him as the ceremony master and also at other occasions like duels, making oaths and other agreements.
The doubts are not about the archetype but about the name they used during Migration Age. Place names with Thunor/ Thor occur only in Saxon areas in England and there is only a single text from Norway in early runes mentioning Thor.
Noble World Order
Unfortunately science set the "He-goat as Gardner" when it let Christian Faculty of Religion research the ancient ideas. It is not good modern science to use our frames on times long before our kind of society. Einstein sorted it out in his special relativity theory telling that apples and pears should not be mixed in analysis. That is why we are told to search for "gods" that tend to be doers with existence and that are thought to have been worshipped. Here we seek for real evidence about their World Order
The Romans and Greeks living in cities worshipped a little part of their pantheon maybe. But most of the feasts build on old rural customs that were preparation for season events and works. Rural people living in small societies have not the resources to heavy rituals. Organised religion became fashion when they build temples and churches. People in town needed some mysticism while rural people have it in everyday life.
In Ritual Age 6000 - 2000 BC they made life ritual with the heavenly idols/ asterisms as dynamic leaders that seemingly moved in pace with the year. The first principle in civilisation is the "suite" that indoctrinates people to follow a virtual leader. Sun symbolised and was/ is the source of warmth and energy flow. The Moon symbolised rain and Watergate/ Milky Way was the heavenly river. The spring festival was when "She steps down" meaning the flood and Water-snake was the Womb of Earth.
We have signs that they really saw earth/ soil as a mother. They did perhaps not use the high language Mother Earth but different names that sounded more familiar such as "Goan" Goodie and whatever they used. Women offered to her in spring and maybe else when need. Folklore tells about milk, seed and butter offered in the cupmarks on the rocks. Others offered in water and rivers.
We know about this dear mother that also could be the New Moon Maid and perhaps the big star Venus in noble families. Surely people also needed the dark force of the night symbolised with the Owl and the Greek name is Hekate. The nobility bartered with the Romans and Greeks and myths and legends were brought to the unknown parts of Europé.
The Hoby finds from Lolland Denmark is an example with substantial carriers the silver service with motifs such as the Naked Diana, fragments from the Iliad and understood Greek gods. On the big island of Gotland they set uptombstones 4th to 7th century with pictures that were influenced from Greece. On the stone from Smiss we see the Naked Goddess with two snakes we know from Knossos on Crete. She is the same as Sheela Na Gig in 12th century as sculptures in/ on churches in England, Ireland and France
Another proof of the AS pantheon is the weekday names with Moon, Tis/ Tyr, Wedne, Thurs, Frey, Laur/ Saturn and Sun. It seems that it was invented around the same time as the Roman week in 4th century. The place is surely Rhineland and the people are the traders that needed and would keep it in memory. Laur is the energy flow and correspond to Saturn the Harvest.
The Romans set up stelae to German and Nordic gods in Rhineland and other places. They thought that the one armed Tis/ Tyr was their war god Mars and wrote Mars Thingsus. Wedne/ Woden they saw as Mercurius, the trader. We get sure evidence of Nordic use when they wrote MERCURIUS CIMBRI from Jutland, while M REX, M. HANNO (Fyn) and M. LEUDISIO perhaps were for traders from the Danish Isles and Skaane. Not so crystal clear and something to dispute about and some of them could be from Saxon areas or from Friesland. .
Thurs is the tri-head idol from the Celtic moon year symbolism with finds of statues and place names in Rhineland and Northern France. There is also the four-head seen on picture stone at Gotland and that was Ælle/ Elle = age = four seasons like Indian Vishnu. From the Migration Age many of the golden bracts has the trisected and/ or four-point symbol like the swastika.
The tricky thing is that we could hardly use the word "god" about Tyr, Thor and other ideas that are more like idol / archetypes or role models in society. We are back in the model of simple pragmatic ideas guiding society and we can not prove that they were worshipped like gods we know better. Then we cannot talk about beliefs when we analyse it the rational way.
We should see these idols/ archetypes as icons for parts of their World Order. The concept World Order suite the order of society where they set up icons for important events such as spring equinox, Ramadan, the trisected moon year, the four-part sun year and half years with the important growing season. Some of them were animated as "gods" and that is the confusing part for us.
People of those days could look back four or five thousand years and remember fragments of the ritual order that was painted in the sky. The real giants were the animated asterisms in the sky. The program for growing was painted in the sky and could be used as a dynamic calendar.
In the big cultures we see that in pace with growth of population and power the nobility became god-begotten or told people they were half gods. We see it in Mesopotamia during the Akkad dynasty around 2300 BC the priest king became worldly king still with duty to lead the ritual in society. We see the same development in Greece and Rome that in time pure power became lead.
My conclusion from the Scandinavian Golden Age is the formalism and the ritual items like neckrings and the golden bracts speak for the nobility leading the rural society where the year ritual was the rule. In the Anglo Saxon Chronicle we see that the kings became god-begotten and were heirs of Woden and other concepts of society.
The kingdoms were born earlier in Anglo-Saxon England than in Scandinavia although we know too little about the time between 7th and 10th century. In Denmark the kings were elected at thing in the landscapes until the crowning in church began in middle 12th century. Then the kingdom was given by God and not by the people at thing/ court. After that began feudalism we still prefer.
On the rune carvings from Ramsund Saudermanland East Sweden they think they see the Sigurd Saga. But when we look closely it is encircled with two snakes plus a bit and that is in same ways as they symbolised the moon year at Haugsbyn on Dal around 2000 BC or maybe earlier. There is also the symbol for "ascending node" of the moon and that connects that part to the celestial sphere and practical astronomy.
The same we see in for August on some medieval calendar sticks. Surely the stick has been a method of remembering long before that. On some sticks/ calendars we see instead head or tail of the Dragon for the two nodes of the moon. The Dragon is remembered in some place names too.
Some people of today try to see much of mysticism and spirituality in those days. They think they can solve the problems of today by seeing it that way. I think it is better to se the rational simplicity of their World Order. They cared only for what they could manage in their own Midgaard. They were cautious if they did not know the consequences of mankind manipulating Mother Earth. The animated language and the nearness to nature made it natural to love nature and its beings.
They speculate in cosmology too. But our ancestors' celestial world was not the planets and physical objects. It was the grid or the asterism they painted in the sky. They tied their World Order as a fiction of the ideal society. The viewpoint is in the ideas and not in beliefs that the stars as objects could affect peoples' life. We can never generalise about such big concepts but here it is question about the world of ordinary people. Surely there was mystics among the people those days too.
We have no proof of how they thought those days. We would not really understand what they meant since we do not know the meaning of all icons. If we have some descriptions from south they are not representative for the Northern World. They should be read with care and we should not believe it all if we want to be fair to our ancestors. It should stand even in court. It is much about attitude. Some people want to be heir of wild, primitive beings … however gorillas and orang-ou-tangs look lovely at a distance.