July 7, 2014

The Shape of the Soul: The Viking Mind and the Individual

Neil Price is an English archaeologist specialising in the study of Viking Age Scandinavia and the archaeology of shamanism. He is currently a professor in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

Born in south-west London, Price went on to gain a BA in Archaeology at the University of London, before writing his first book, The Vikings in Brittany, which was published in 1989. He undertook his doctoral research from 1988 through to 1992 at the University of York, before moving to Sweden, where he completed his PhD at the University of Uppsala in 2002. In 2001, he edited an anthology entitled The Archaeology of Shamanism for Routledge, and the following year published and defended his doctoral thesis, The Viking Way. The Viking Way would be critically appraised as one of the most important studies of the Viking Age and pre-Christian religion by other archaeologists like Matthew Townend and Martin Carver
Book description (Source: Amazon):
Magic, sorcery and witchcraft are among the most common themes of the great medieval Icelandic sagas and poems, the problematic yet vital sources that provide our primary textual evidence for the Viking Age that they claim to describe. Yet despite the consistency of this picture, surprisingly little archaeological or historical research has been done to explore what this may really have meant to the men and women of the time. This book examines the evidence for Old Norse sorcery, looking at its meaning and function, practice and practitioners, and the complicated constructions of gender and sexual identity with which these were underpinned. Combining strong elements of eroticism and aggression, sorcery appears as a fundamental domain of women's power, linking them with the gods, the dead and the future. Their battle spells and combat rituals complement the men's physical acts of fighting, in a supernatural empowerment of the Viking way of life. What emerges is a fundamentally new image of the world in which the Vikings understood themselves to move, in which magic and its implications permeated every aspect of a society permanently geared for war. In this fully-revised and expanded second edition, Neil Price takes us with him on a tour through the sights and sounds of this undiscovered country, meeting its human and otherworldly inhabitants, including the Sami with whom the Norse partly shared this mental landscape. On the way we explore Viking notions of the mind and soul, the fluidity of the boundaries that they drew between humans and animals, and the immense variety of their spiritual beliefs. We find magic in the Vikings' bedrooms and on their battlefields, and we meet the sorcerers themselves through their remarkable burials and the tools of their trade. Combining archaeology, history and literary scholarship with extensive studies of Germanic and circumpolar religion, this multi-award-winning book shows us the Vikings as we have never seen them before.
The book would be widely acclaimed by archaeologists working in European archaeology, and praised as a model for both future interdisciplinary research and for understanding past religious beliefs from an archaeological perspective.
Video Title: The Shape of the Soul: The Viking Mind and the Individual. Source: Cornell University. Date Published: December 11, 2012. Description:
Professor Neil Price delivers the third of three lectures, September 27, 2012, focusing on the fundamental role that narrative, storytelling and dramatisation played in the mindset of the Viking Age (8th-11th centuries), occupying a crucial place not only in the cycles of life but particularly in the ritual responses to dying and the dead.