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  1. #1
    Ultimate Member Ascended's Avatar
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    Default Thor & The Resurgence of Norse Myth in the Real World.

    So, I dunno how wide-spread this is or anything but I hear that Norse myth is actually making something of a come back in certain parts of the world.

    Or so I hear. I'm not terribly well informed about religion in general, Norse myth even less so (though I do enjoy the old stories, just as I enjoy Greek myth).

    Anyway, my question is this. People throw a fit over stuff from active, practiced religions being "misused" in comics. We've seen it recently with the Second Coming title by Mark Russel, which was originally going to be a Vertigo title before DC pulled the plug. We also saw violent backlash against the Charlie Hebo publishers for the way they showed Mohammad.

    So, assuming that Norse myth is actually coming alive again, should that change the way Marvel handles the characters?

    It seems to me that only a couple religions actually get any level of "protection" while all the rest, from Hindu to Wicca, get twisted up and abused and used for any story a writer has in his/her mind (and even the "protected" ones aren't terribly well protected, especially if an original creation was just spun off the myth). So odds are, not a problem as far as the publishers go. If they don't care about misrepresenting the third biggest religion on earth they're not going to care about a handful of people following the old ways either. And I personally don't believe that a religion should be "protected" in fiction anyway. But I was curious what everyone else thought. If the Norse gods are becoming an active faith again, should that change how Marvel handles their characters?
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  2. #2

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    I hope not.
    About the only "high profile" news references I see (mostly online) to contemporary Norse religion practitioners tend to be white supremacist types, who I have no respect for, and hopefully Marvel's Thor has no respect for, either.

    So with due deference to the history of the mythology, I have no interest in seeing it grow to become "mainstream" because I know what's coming along with it..

  3. #3
    Incredible Member charliehustle415's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hypestyle View Post
    I hope not.
    About the only "high profile" news references I see (mostly online) to contemporary Norse religion practitioners tend to be white supremacist types, who I have no respect for, and hopefully Marvel's Thor has no respect for, either.

    So with due deference to the history of the mythology, I have no interest in seeing it grow to become "mainstream" because I know what's coming along with it..
    Unfortunately this is the case; however, there are legitimate practitioners who are trying to reclaim their ancestral religion. There are even plans to build a new temple to Odin & Thor, the first in a millennium.

    https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/asatru-pagan-temple

    https://icelandmonitor.mbl.is/news/c...ears_ready_in/

  4. #4
    Astonishing Member kjn's Avatar
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    From what I can tell, there are several strains of the modern-day Norse religion revivals, based on different approaches. Many of them here in the Nordic countries are focusing more on the cult practices than on the mythic content, and that is a choice rooted in active discussion. That's why several of them has shifted names centering on Asatru or equivalent to names equivalent to the Old/Nordic Custom/Practice. Few of them are missionary in any way. They also tend to be highly individualistic.

    In a way, there is already a cultural acceptance and ground for different interpretations of the Norse gods, since our main source about the myths—Snorre Sturlasson—was a Christian and explicitly reworked and reinterpreted them to work in a Christian context. As long as there is some respect for the source material, the stories are well told, and the Æsir are portrayed in a vaguely positive way, I don't think the serious practitioners here care that much.

    There are various far-right groups as well, but as far as I can tell they mostly don't care about the myths or the practices except as symbols to latch onto and shout about.
    «Speaking generally, it is because of the desire of the tragic poets for the marvellous that so varied and inconsistent an account of Medea has been given out» (Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History [4.56.1])

  5. #5
    Extraordinary Member JKtheMac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kjn View Post
    From what I can tell, there are several strains of the modern-day Norse religion revivals, based on different approaches. Many of them here in the Nordic countries are focusing more on the cult practices than on the mythic content, and that is a choice rooted in active discussion. That's why several of them has shifted names centering on Asatru or equivalent to names equivalent to the Old/Nordic Custom/Practice. Few of them are missionary in any way. They also tend to be highly individualistic.

    In a way, there is already a cultural acceptance and ground for different interpretations of the Norse gods, since our main source about the myths—Snorre Sturlasson—was a Christian and explicitly reworked and reinterpreted them to work in a Christian context. As long as there is some respect for the source material, the stories are well told, and the Æsir are portrayed in a vaguely positive way, I don't think the serious practitioners here care that much.

    There are various far-right groups as well, but as far as I can tell they mostly don't care about the myths or the practices except as symbols to latch onto and shout about.
    I agree. I don’t believe any of the groups will be particularly upset with a superhero that has been around for decades. As I usually point out when this topic comes up, a group that researches Norse myth with any form of authenticity will be forced to recognise there is limited source material and have to get creative. A creative focused religion is hardly going to be against mainstream creativity. Most of the more problematic aspects have been based on people pretending that the stuff they made up was provable and true, which in the modern world is a more difficult stance to take without being challenged.

  6. #6
    Traveler of omniverses Thor-Ul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JKtheMac View Post
    I agree. I don’t believe any of the groups will be particularly upset with a superhero that has been around for decades. As I usually point out when this topic comes up, a group that researches Norse myth with any form of authenticity will be forced to recognise there is limited source material and have to get creative. A creative focused religion is hardly going to be against mainstream creativity. Most of the more problematic aspects have been based on people pretending that the stuff they made up was provable and true, which in the modern world is a more difficult stance to take without being challenged.
    Don't understimate the capacity of some people for being offended.

    Also, en Denmark, the cult to norse gods is still alive, as a practice which was called as Asastro (The old way) in the 19th century. But you don't need than a religion to be too much ancient, you just need people who really follow a movement and that people to be really, really easy to be thin-skinned and/or quarrelsome.
    Internet Rule 14: Do not argue with trolls — it means they win.

  7. #7
    Astonishing Member Raye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hypestyle View Post
    I hope not.
    About the only "high profile" news references I see (mostly online) to contemporary Norse religion practitioners tend to be white supremacist types, who I have no respect for, and hopefully Marvel's Thor has no respect for, either.

    So with due deference to the history of the mythology, I have no interest in seeing it grow to become "mainstream" because I know what's coming along with it..
    I don't think it's that most practitioners are white supremacists, it's that like with most things, the bad apples get the most attention. There are lots of people who are not racist that practice it and are trying to reclaim it from the ones using it to further their own agenda of racism.

    I have a friend whose wife is a practitioner of Norse Heathenism, they had a Norse wedding and the whole bit, and she is anything but racist, nor are any of her friends that practice it.

    Generally the white supremacist call themselves 'Odinists' treating it as almost a monotheistic belief with Odin way at the top and all the other gods below him. (what we know of the original beliefs seems to suggest the gods on a more equal footing in terms of importance to the followers. Odin and Thor were more important, but not a massive amount. They all had spheres of influence and you prayed to the one that best applied to the situation) And they don't actually follow the tenets of the religion, or at least what we can piece together of them, they use it as more of a symbol, because they want a religion with white roots to follow, and they disregard the parts of it that conflict with their racist beliefs, which is a lot of it.

    As for taking offense to modern depictions, most that I've encountered are pretty chill about it, and have fun with the Marvel stuff even if they know damn well Marvel has made some changes, and treats the gods as fictional characters. But I only know a couple, and as mentioned above there are a few different groups who may take a more hardline stance. Though unlike Islam etc. there isn't anything in the beliefs themselves about depicting the gods, which is where a lot of the problems with Islam actually arise.
    Last edited by Raye; 05-28-2019 at 12:27 PM.

  8. #8
    Extraordinary Member JKtheMac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thor-Ul View Post
    Don't understimate the capacity of some people for being offended.

    Also, en Denmark, the cult to norse gods is still alive, as a practice which was called as Asastro (The old way) in the 19th century. But you don't need than a religion to be too much ancient, you just need people who really follow a movement and that people to be really, really easy to be thin-skinned and/or quarrelsome.
    19th century revisionism can certainly have its quarrelsome people, but nobody really listens to them. Druidism for example is a thing, but nobody aside from a few blinkered people would suggest that it was anything to do with the original druids, because "No one knows who they were or what they were doing". (Sorry, couldn't resist the quote.)

  9. #9
    Ultimate Member Ascended's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hypestyle View Post
    I hope not.
    About the only "high profile" news references I see (mostly online) to contemporary Norse religion practitioners tend to be white supremacist types, who I have no respect for, and hopefully Marvel's Thor has no respect for, either.

    So with due deference to the history of the mythology, I have no interest in seeing it grow to become "mainstream" because I know what's coming along with it..
    Oh yeah. I had heard about them. Slipped my mind when I started the thread but I've heard of them.

    Well, f**k those people and their stupid racism.

    Is it weird that those people make me feel dirty? Like, I'm not a follower of Norse faith (though I do have a Mjolnir necklace I'm very fond of), and if I have any Norse blood it's not much (mostly Irish/Scottish, far as I know) and I still feel kinda gross that people are trying to use that mythology to support racism. Even if it's not my homeland or my ancestors it's still too close to home, yknow?

    Quote Originally Posted by Raye View Post
    As for taking offense to modern depictions, most that I've encountered are pretty chill about it, and have fun with the Marvel stuff even if they know damn well Marvel has made some changes, and treats the gods as fictional characters. But I only know a couple, and as mentioned above there are a few different groups who may take a more hardline stance. Though unlike Islam etc. there isn't anything in the beliefs themselves about depicting the gods, which is where a lot of the problems with Islam actually arise.
    It's true that Islam's thing about showing some of their figures (at least one, anyway) seems to be the biggest hurdle with this sort of thing. I just find it intriguing where people draw the line between "acceptable" and "offensive to the faith." I mean, it doesnt seem like anyone has a problem with an original fictional character like the Spectre, who's supposed to be god's hand of vengeance, but using Jesus in Second Coming crosses a line. But it seems to me that the existence of the Spectre, who's a very Old Testament kinda guy, says a lot about the christian faith and not all of it is positive.

    I just find the line where creativity smashes up against real-world considerations (like business or religion) to be endlessly fascinating.

    So....here's a hypothetical; let's say that the Norse religion/s actually become major religions. Decades and decades from now. Would it still be okay to use Thor and Odin in comics like Marvel does, or would that have crossed a line because its a direct adaptation of actual figures from the doctrine? And would these future Norsemen care in the first place?
    Last edited by Ascended; 05-28-2019 at 07:19 PM.
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  10. #10
    Astonishing Member JudicatorPrime's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hypestyle View Post
    I hope not.
    About the only "high profile" news references I see (mostly online) to contemporary Norse religion practitioners tend to be white supremacist types, who I have no respect for, and hopefully Marvel's Thor has no respect for, either.

    So with due deference to the history of the mythology, I have no interest in seeing it grow to become "mainstream" because I know what's coming along with it..
    One of the most entertaining discussions I've ever had was with a Christian gentleman who still believed that Jesus Christ was white. Sadly, he imparted that view to his children and his children's children. But it was fun watching his face as he sorted out his own twisted logic.
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  11. #11
    Astonishing Member Raye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ascended View Post
    Oh yeah. I had heard about them. Slipped my mind when I started the thread but I've heard of them.

    Well, f**k those people and their stupid racism.

    Is it weird that those people make me feel dirty? Like, I'm not a follower of Norse faith (though I do have a Mjolnir necklace I'm very fond of), and if I have any Norse blood it's not much (mostly Irish/Scottish, far as I know) and I still feel kinda gross that people are trying to use that mythology to support racism. Even if it's not my homeland or my ancestors it's still too close to home, yknow?
    My family is Danish on my dad's side, my mom's side is.... uh... North American going back a couple hundred years, pretty much, but with general European roots, from Irish to Scottish to Dutch, and who knows what else, probably a bit of everything at this point... but yeah, my dad's family is pure Scandinavian, until my grandparents immigrated to Canada. (my dad was 10) They have legit genealogical records tracing the family back to Erik the Red, they're full on viking ancestry. So that is actually a part of my heritage, even if the actual Norse gods didn't come up much (whole family is atheist, so...) and most of the family I know on that side are just the nicest people, not racist at all. And yeah, it does annoy me to see their/my heritage used as a racist thing. It makes wanting to connect with my own heritage in a non-racist way, just, that's where my family is from, feel kinda... tainted, i guess.


    It's true that Islam's thing about showing some of their figures (at least one, anyway) seems to be the biggest hurdle with this sort of thing. I just find it intriguing where people draw the line between "acceptable" and "offensive to the faith." I mean, it doesnt seem like anyone has a problem with an original fictional character like the Spectre, who's supposed to be god's hand of vengeance, but using Jesus in Second Coming crosses a line. But it seems to me that the existence of the Spectre, who's a very Old Testament kinda guy, says a lot about the christian faith and not all of it is positive.

    I just find the line where creativity smashes up against real-world considerations (like business or religion) to be endlessly fascinating.

    So....here's a hypothetical; let's say that the Norse religion/s actually become major religions. Decades and decades from now. Would it still be okay to use Thor and Odin in comics like Marvel does, or would that have crossed a line because its a direct adaptation of actual figures from the doctrine? And would these future Norsemen care in the first place?
    As mentioned, I was raised an atheist, so i may not be the best person to ask, since i have no personal experience with having a god I worship being treated as a fictional character. But I think it depends to a large extent on how it's handled. As you mentioned, the Spectre seems to get a pass, likely because it's treated respectfully. A lot of books/tv shows/movies also use Satan as a central figure and people aside from a fringe seem ok with that, as long as he's used as the bad guy. You see it a lot, where Satan is treated as a real thing, and sometimes angels, and people seem cool with that, but they generally refrain from getting into Jesus and stuff. Though a few have, like American Gods, where while he's not one of the central figures, Jesus does make an appearance, or Punk Rock Jesus for a comic. Once you get into something, like the band Ghost, recently, that gets into praising Satan, then more people seem to get upset.... but they still won a Grammy, and are super popular. (for a metal band) There's also much more critical takes using elements of Christianity like Garth Ennis' Preacher which does piss off some people, for sure, but it still got published, was popular, and then got turned into a TV show. Jason Aaron has The Goddamned going off and on, too. Yeah, most of these aren't in mainstream Marvel or DC, and they'd likely want to play it safer, Marvel in particular kind of dances around Christianity, creating stand ins like Mephisto rather than using the actual devil, but... it does show people are sometimes willing to accept a fictionalized version of a major religion. (not necessarily their own, but maybe)

    Also, while we've focused mainly on the Judeo Christian religions, that doesn't mean they've stayed away from all major religions. People use gods from Hinduism, for instance, including in Marvel, who have used Ganesha and other Hindu gods at times, and there are over a billion Hindus in the world. Same goes for Shinto gods, Shinto is a major religion in Japan, with millions of adherents, even if it's not real popular over here. No, they haven't made many appearances in Marvel's books, they're nowhere near the Norse pantheon's level of popularity and use... but they do exist in Marvel canon. now, a lot of this has to do with the fact that those are major religions outside of North America, in North America, they are a fairly small minority. Marvel's books are primarily aimed at North American audiences, so...

    ok that was real rambly, so... basically i guess it comes down to treating it with respect that will determine how accepted it is. Also the individual, some people will be chill while others will be offended, no matter what you do. But even if they don't treat it with respect, aside from depictions of Muhammad, it's not like it's stopped people from using elements of other major religions in stories. I don't think we will reach a point where Marvel will feel they need to excise the Asgarians from continuity or stop publishing Thor comics, even if they've kind of shied away from using elements of Christianity previously.

  12. #12
    Extraordinary Member JKtheMac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JudicatorPrime View Post
    One of the most entertaining discussions I've ever had was with a Christian gentleman who still believed that Jesus Christ was white. Sadly, he imparted that view to his children and his children's children. But it was fun watching his face as he sorted out his own twisted logic.
    In a way this is very similar to suggesting Thor was sent to earth by his all powerful father as a human to learn humility. The heavily Christianised slant of Thor comics could be considered a reinterpretation of already partly Christianised sources by a modern Christian culture to make it more appropriate to itself.

  13. #13
    Astonishing Member JudicatorPrime's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JKtheMac View Post
    In a way this is very similar to suggesting Thor was sent to earth by his all powerful father as a human to learn humility. The heavily Christianised slant of Thor comics could be considered a reinterpretation of already partly Christianised sources by a modern Christian culture to make it more appropriate to itself.
    Many of the world's religions, some of which we now call myths, have parallels. Attribute that to centuries of borrowing and influencing throughout the ages. Not just pagan traditions borrowing from and influencing Christian traditions, but Christian traditions borrowing from and influencing pagan narratives. Just imagine being alive around 30 AD. It was a time when many of the so-called pagan gods were not only believed to be quite real, but were on equal footing (if not superior) to Judeo-Christian concepts in the eyes of the then existing population. Stories of gods coming down to the heavens to learn humility...whether by deliberate design or by happenstance, abound. Stories of ultimate sacrifice and resurrection of deific figures abound. Stories of a chief god battling a serpent or dragon for the fate of all of creation abound. And that's without taking into account Eastern religions, which also have common elements found in some of the great faiths and visa versa.

    According to some texts, Norse religion was probably created around the first or second century after the death of Christ and thrived for 600 years more before the Christianization of Scandinavia (c. 8th - 12th centuries). That Thor has so many common elements as the Christ narrative should surprise no one.

    It's not a coincidence that these traditional narratives have found a home in the hearts and minds of the modern day reader. It's practically in our DNA. But it was a stroke of genius for Stan, Larry and Jack to introduce as their "Superman" a character who spoke to their audience's predominantly Christian leaning viewpoints.
    Last edited by JudicatorPrime; 05-29-2019 at 02:38 PM.
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  14. #14
    Extraordinary Member JKtheMac's Avatar
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    I don’t really want to get into a discussion about comparative religion, basically because it’s pseudo history with very little grounding or support in modern academia. The raw facts are that we have no idea whether there were any similarities to christianity and the most similar aspects seem to be of a very late tradition.

  15. #15
    Astonishing Member JudicatorPrime's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JKtheMac View Post
    I don’t really want to get into a discussion about comparative religion, basically because it’s pseudo history with very little grounding or support in modern academia. The raw facts are that we have no idea whether there were any similarities to christianity and the most similar aspects seem to be of a very late tradition.
    Well, yes, that's one opinion. But most of what we know about world religions is indeed the result of rigorous scholarly research. But I agree that the history and interpretation of the facts will always have an asterisk. It's more theory than conjecture, but that's true of most disciplines of study.

    Whatever the case, fortunately, we don't have to take a great leap of faith on what Stan intended. We have his words -- and it sounds like he was very much willing to incorporate various mythologies, as well as their own creative license, into building their unique version of the God of Thunder:

    2005 issue of The Jack Kirby Collector quotes Lee on the origins of the Marvel superhero: “Before starting the series, we stuffed ourselves to the gills with Norse mythology, as well as almost every other type of mythology – we love it all! But you’ve got to remember that these are legendary tales – myths – and no two versions are ever exactly the same. We changed a lot of things – for example, in most of the myths Thor has red hair, Odin has one eye, etc. But we preferred doing our own version.

    https://www.norsemyth.org/2011/09/bl...snt-wrong.html
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