William Alexander Craigie - Religion of Ancient Scandinavia (4.3 MB)
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The native religion of the ancient Scandinavians was in its main features only a special form of that common to all the Germanic peoples, and this again was only a particular development of primitive beliefs and practices characteristic of the whole Aryan race. It is impossible to say how far back in time the special Germanic and Scandinavian developments of this religion may go, and of their earlier stages we have absolutely no knowledge beyond what may be doubtfully reached by the methods of comparison and inference. Even ... More >>>
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The native religion of the ancient Scandinavians was in its main features only a special form of that common to all the Germanic peoples, and this again was only a particular development of primitive beliefs and practices characteristic of the whole Aryan race. It is impossible to say how far back in time the special Germanic and Scandinavian developments of this religion may go, and of their earlier stages we have absolutely no knowledge beyond what may be doubtfully reached by the methods of comparison and inference. Even of the later stages our information is much more scanty than might be expected. Among the Goths, the southern Germans, and the Anglo-Saxons in Britain, paganism gave way to Christianity at so early a period, that very few details relating to it have been recorded by the civil or religious historians of these peoples they were indeed more inclined to supress than perpetuate any lingering knowledge of this kind. The absense of such information is a great bar to the proper understanding of many points in Scandinavian religion, which, instead of being thus illuminated from without, has continually been forced to throw light on the heathen worship of the other Teutonic peoples.
In the following account of the ancient Scandinavian religion, an attempt has been made to exhibit what is really known of the religious beliefs and practices of the people as distinct from the mythological fancies of the poets. With the evidence which we possess, it is impossible to determine how far the latter ever formed any part of a real popular relgion: in some respects there seems to be a decided opposition between the two. The mythology, as it is found in the old poems and in the Prose Edda, has been the subject of much learned speculation, and various theories as to the original functions of the different gods and goddesses have from time to time been advanced, and have met with more or less acceptance. Much has also been written on the question how far the original conceptions had been modified under classic and Christian influences even before Christianity was finally accepted in the north. All discussion of these matters is here omitted in favour of a more direct investigation into the purely religious aspect of the old faith, so far as the existing materials admit of this.
Sir William Alexander Craigie (13 August 1867 - 2 September 1957) was a philologist and a lexicographer.
A graduate of the University of St Andrews, he was the third editor of the Oxford English Dictionary and co-editor (with C. T. Onions) of the 1933 supplement. From 1916 to 1925 he was also Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon in the University of Oxford. He married Jessie Kinmond Hutchen of Dundee, born 1864 or 65, died 1947, daughter of William.
He lectured on lexicography at the University of Chicago while working on the Dictionary of American English and the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, a project he pioneered. Many twentieth-century American lexicographers studied under Craigie as a part of his lectureship, including Clarence Barnhart, Jess Stein, Woodford A. Heflin, Robert Ramsey, Louise Pound, and Allen Walker Read.
During his career as a man of words, Craigie edited loads of other dictionaries, the Temple Classics edition of 'Burns' and wrote monographs (detailed scholarly pieces of essay or book length on a specific subject) and textbooks on the English language. Craigie also wrote a large number of papers for the Society of Pure English, founded by Robert Bridges, including several on the evolution of English spelling. In addition to his grasp of what Anthony Burgess called the 'Anguish Languish', Cragie was the author of many other works that became definitive texts on the philology and literature of Scotland and Scandinavia. If you're interested in things like 'ologies' and 'uistics' and 'ographies', philology is the study of language from written historical sources, lexicography is the art or craft of compiling, writing and editing dictionaries, and linguistics is the scientific study of human language.
Craigie was also fluent in Icelandic and an expert in the field of rimur. He made many valuable contributions in that field. His interest was awakened by a winter of study in Copenhagen, then the centre of Norse philology. He compiled the complete Oxford edition of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales, with previously untranslated tales being supplied by his wife. He befriended many of the great Norse philologists of the time and came across sera Einar Gumundsson's seventeenth-century Skotlands rimur, dealing with the Gowrie Conspiracy. Being a Scotsman himself, there was no way back, and he continued research in that field till the end of his life.
Cragie's brainchild is now known as 'DOST' and covers the language from the era of 'pre-literary' Scots, when there was a very meagre, extant literary output (literally nothing more than Barbour's 'Brus' and the 'Legends of the Saints'), through that of 'early' Scots (1375 to 1450), to 'middle' Scots (up to 1700). The dictionary was intended to present the entire Older Scottish vocabulary as it was preserved in literary, documentary and other records. In a 1937 preface to the earliest volumes, Cragie wrote that "it may not be superfluous to mention that in undertaking and carrying out this work I have had the advantage of a familiar knowledge of the Scottish tongue from my earliest years, and an interest in its older literature from the age of twelve." Sir William Alexander Craigie died at the age of ninety years and one month, in Watlington, in Oxfordshire, on the 2nd of September, 1957.