Simon Nygaard

M.A., PhD Student

Simon Nygaard
See relations at Aarhus University

Project title:
Ritual and Memory Specialists in Pre-Christian Nordic ReligionThe Ritualised Oral Transmission of Religion

My project focuses on ritual and memory specialists and the ritualised oral transmission of cultural memory in pre-Christian Scandinavian Religions. Memory specialists appear to have been important for the transmission of knowledge in Pre-Christian Scandinavian Religions, often in ritualised settings. Such memory specialists include the Icelandic lögsögumaðr (lawspeaker); the Swedish minnunga mæn (men with good memory); skalds who were in possession of a vast amount of mythological knowledge compressed into the kenning system; political and social leaders (rulers) in their ritual capacity; and ritual specialists as the þulr also plausibly played a significant role as orators and transmitters of memory in PCSR – a role which has not yet been explained satisfactorily. 
I am investigating these specialists, using memory and performativity theories, as well as theories about orality and ritual thereby shedding new light on the role of these specialists in PCSR with a primary focus on the collective ritual setting in which memory was presumably transmitted, in order to assess how and to what degree they may have functioned as transmitters of cultural memory.
My project also has a comparative angle to it, as I aim to compare the ritual and memory specialists in pre-Christian Scandinavia with how similar specialists functioned in for example Polynesian Chiefdoms and African Kingdoms – societies which were similar to the Viking and Iron Age North that have been studied by ethnographers and anthropologists historic times. In this way I hope to be able to get inspiration for what to look for in our fragmented source material.
This ties into another research interest of mine namely the application of cultural evolutionary theories to PCSR. The cultural evolutionary theories of especially Robert N. Bellah have inspired and formed my views on religion and the history of religion in general. I suggest using this approach as a way of gaining new insight into old issues, such as the question of sacral rulership by being able to use new typological comparative angles provided by this approach and not least substantiate them in a methodologically and theoretically sound manner.

Jens Peter Schjødt and Terry Gunnell


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