Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences

School of English Research Seminar

Declan Taggart (UCC), Searching for an Old Norse Theology

In Old Norse mythology, gods like Odin, Freyja and Thor walk, talk, eat and even die, just as humans do. Was there more to them in the minds of their worshippers than that? My paper will discuss the possibility that a non- anthropomorphic understanding of the Old Norse gods was once widespread and the impact that this seems to have had on literary material related to their existence. After offering a stipulative definition of theology, I will examine prominent theories from the cognitive science of religion which propose that anthropomorphic portrayals of deities are more natural than non-anthropomorphic portrayals. I will then challenge these theories by referring to Old Norse runic texts, theonyms and mythological passages concerning Thor’s role as a protector god as well as comparative evidence from other religious traditions. Based on that argument, I will present a new way of considering theology, as a natural product of human engagement with the environment, and highlight a series of mythological concepts that may be elaborations and creative rationalisations of that natural engagement with the environment.

Declan Taggart is currently working on an IRC Postdoctoral Fellowship at the School of English under the mentorship of Dr Thomas Birkett. His work examines Old Norse traditions from an angle that focuses on religious material as a product of ordinary human cognition. Declan is the author of How Thor Lost His Thunder, which is adapted from his doctoral thesis ‘Understanding diversity in Old Norse religion taking Þórr as a case study’ (University of Aberdeen). Previously he graduated with a BA in English Literature from Durham University and an MA in Medieval Studies from the University of York, and has undertaken a short postdoctoral project at Stockholm University’s Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, sponsored by the Royal Gustavus Adolphus Academy for Swedish Folk Culture.

Category: Public Lectures and Seminars: Arts Celtic Studies and Social Sciences
Time: 3-4pm
Location: Room 2.12 O'Rahilly Building
Target Audience: All welcome
Admission Price: € Free
Contact: Clíona Ó Gallchoir
021 4902664

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