Norse - Gamla Uppsala - Adam of Bremen
Type of Spiritual Experience
The Temple at Uppsala was a religious center in the ancient Norse religion once located at what is now Gamla Uppsala (Swedish "Old Uppsala"), Sweden attested in Adam of Bremen's 11th-century work Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum.
In Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum, Adam of Bremen provides a description of the temple. Adam records that a "very famous temple called Ubsola" exists in a town close to Sigtuna. Adam details that the temple is "adorned with gold" and that the people there worship statues of three specific gods that sit on a triple throne. What is interesting about his description is that he makes the correspondence between the gods of the Vikings and the gods of, for example, the Roman pantheon thus
“Wodan is in armor as our people depict Mars and Thor has a mace, liken unto the god Jupiter”.
Adam adds that, in addition, "they also worship gods who were once men, whom they reckon to be immortal because of their heroic acts [...]."
Adam of Bremen was the Christian Bishop of Hamburg. He never visited Gamla Uppsala and relied on paid witnesses to give him details.
Adam detailed ‘sacrificial practices’ held at the temple; despite the fact he had never seen them. The feasts and sacrifices continue for a total of nine days, and during the course of each day a man is ‘sacrificed’ along with two animals.
Rudolf Simek says that, regarding Adam of Bremen's account of the temple, "Adam's sources for this information are of extremely varying reliability, but the existence of a temple at Uppsala is undisputed." And Orchard (1997)states that "it is unclear to what extent Adam's description has a basis in historical fact rather than lurid fiction" yet that Adam's account contains "a good deal of useful information (as well as considerable speculation)."
There are some aspects of the account however that tie in with al other mystic movements and their beliefs. He does say that there is a sacred grove, which is considered extremely sacred, so much so that each singular tree "is considered to be divine." He also indicates that near the temple stands a massive tree with far-spreading branches, which is evergreen both in summer and winter. At the tree is also a spring where ‘sacrifices’ are also held.
Thus we can look on Adam of Bremen as a moderately reliable source for the architectural details – the sacred grove, the central tree of life, the sacred spring of life and the palace. But the rest is probably garbage – an interpretation of a symbolic act as literal.
It is possible that the last nine-day blót was performed in 1078. The Temple at Uppsala was probably destroyed by king Ingold I in 1087. For quite some time there had been civil war between Christians and pagans, and this was the year of the last battle.
According to Snorri, there was a main blót at the Temple at Uppsala in February, the Dísablót, during which they sacrificed for peace and for the victories of the king. The blót was also performed to see how large the next harvest would be. Then the Thing of all Swedes was held and there was a grand fair, the Disting. The Disting survived Christianity, and the tradition has never been interrupted. The fair is still held every first Tuesday in February in Uppsala, even though the date has sometimes been moved within the month. In 1968, the tradition of discussing official matters was resumed.
In the year 2000, the blót were resumed at Old Uppsala after more than 900 years, by the Swedish Ásatrúar.
A description of the experience
Adam of Bremen - Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum.
Thor was the most powerful god and ruled over thunder and lightning, wind and rain, sunshine and crops. He sat in the centre with a hammer (Mjolnir) in his hand, and on each side were Odin, the god of war, in full armour and Frey, the god of peace and love, attributed with an enormous erect phallus. All the pagan gods have their priests who offer them the people's sacrifices. If there is disease or famine, they sacrifice to Thor, if war to Odin and if weddings to Frey.
Every ninth year there is a blót of nine days, a common feast for everyone in Sweden. Then they sacrifice nine males of each species, even men, and the bodies are hung from the branches of a grove near the temple. No one is exempt from this blót and everyone sends gifts to the shrine, even the kings. …………..
The incantations which are usually sung in the performance of a libation of this kind are numerous and disgraceful and it is better not to speak of them
The source of the experienceNorse
Concepts, symbols and science items
Science ItemsSacred geography
Sacred geography - altars
Sacred geography - ancient trees
Sacred geography - artificial hills
Sacred geography - barrows
Sacred geography - beacons
Sacred geography - bridges
Sacred geography - crack or crevice
Sacred geography - cross
Sacred geography - crossroads
Sacred geography - cursus
Sacred geography - enclosures and camps
Sacred geography - henges
Sacred geography - hollow roads
Sacred geography - labyrinths
Sacred geography - ley lines
Sacred geography - mapping the spiritual onto the physical
Sacred geography - mark stones
Sacred geography - obelisk
Sacred geography - palace
Sacred geography - pole
Sacred geography - rivers and streams
Sacred geography - sacred grove
Sacred geography - underground secret passages
Sacred geography - water sites
Activities and commonsteps