The Viking Age in Scandinavia was marked by a religious transformation. At the beginning of the Viking era, one of the major differences between the Viking peoples and those upon whom they most frequently preyed – the Irish, English, and Franks – was their religious beliefs: the Scandinavian peoples believed in pagan gods, but their main enemies were Christian. By the end of the Viking period, however, Christianity had spread throughout Scandinavia.
The spread of Christian beliefs and values among the Scandinavian peoples may well have been a factor in the cessation of the Vikings’ attacks against their neighbors, and the bringing to a close of the period of history known as the Viking Age. However, such speculation is not the topic of this article. Rather, this article provides a brief overview of the pagan religion of the Scandinavian peoples during the Viking Age.
Some caveats to this summary, or for that matter to any discussion of the pagan religious beliefs and practices of the Vikings, must be offered. First, the majority of material which has survived to this day upon which our knowledge of Viking religion and myth is based was written by Christian authors, often hundreds of years after the Vikings’ pagan religion had ceased to be actively practiced. For example, one of the most comprehensive sources of current-day knowledge about Viking myth and religion is the Prose Edda, a work of literature written in the early thirteenth century by Snorri Sturlason, an Icelandic poet and historian. Sturlason was himself a Christian, and Christianity had been the officially adopted religion of Iceland since 1000 AD. When Sturlason wrote the Prose Edda, therefore, the pagan religion of the Vikings had long since ceased being practiced in the land where he lived. We have no way of knowing how accurately his sources – at least some, if not most, of which must have been oral history, oral literature and folktales – represented the actual religious beliefs and practices of the Vikings that had existed over two hundred years earlier.
Our most detailed surviving accounts of the actual practice of the Vikings’ pagan religion were written by non-Scandinavians of other religious faiths. For example, a description of the pagan temple at Uppsala, Sweden, and the religious rites practiced there, was written by Adam of Bremen, a Christian writer who lived during the eleventh century and wrote a history of the efforts to convert the Viking peoples to Christianity. Although his descriptions of the temple and religious rites are detailed, they are based on secondhand accounts of unknown accuracy, for Adam himself never saw the site nor the worship practices he described. Similarly, religious sacrifices made by the townspeople of Hedeby, in Denmark, were described during the tenth century by a Jew from Moorish Spain who traveled to that town. His general distaste for and bias against the Viking peoples, reflected in the tone and descriptions of his writings, and may have affected the accuracy of his descriptions, or the degree to which he understood what he witnessed.
Finally, it is important to understand the distinction between mythology and religion. Reduced to their most basic components, religions consist of belief in some sort of deity(s) or other supernatural beings or forces, to which appeals are made through prayer, worship, sacrifice, or some combination of these, in an effort to obtain the intervention, assistance, and/or good will of the supernatural power. Religious belief systems frequently also involve belief in some kind of existence after death.
Religious mythology, by contrast, consists of stories created by humans to add color and detail to the basic core of their religious beliefs. An illustration of this distinction between religion and religious mythology can be seen in the pagan religion of the ancient Romans, about which we have an abundance of reliable information. Like the Vikings, the ancient Romans believed in a variety of gods with specific powers or areas of jurisdiction: Venus, for example, was the Roman goddess of love and beauty, Mars the god of war. The Romans built temples to their various gods, and offered sacrifices to them to attempt to gain their favor and assistance. But separate and apart from the actual worship of their gods, the Romans over time (and the Greeks before them, who worshipped the same gods by different names) created a substantial body of literature about the ‘lives’ of their gods – their adventures, exploits, and romantic involvements – that, strictly speaking, had no real impact on or direct connection to the actual practice of their religion. The same is clearly true of the pagan religion of the Vikings. Much of what we know today of the so-called ‘religion’ of the Vikings, from sources such as the Prose Edda and the Voluspa, seems more likely to reflect religious mythological stories, rather than the religion actually actively practiced by the Viking peoples.
The Vikings were a warlike people. So, too, were their gods. In their mythological tales, the Vikings’ gods were often involved in combat with other tribes or races of supernatural beings – most often the jotnar, or giants — and the Vikings’ mythological tale or belief concerning how the world will end involved, in part, a great final battle between the gods and giants.
The gods themselves belonged to one of two distinct families or tribe-like groups: the Aesir and the Vanir. According to the Vikings’ religious mythology, in the past the Aesir and Vanir had been enemies who warred against each other, but by the ‘present’ time of the Viking Age the two groups had made peace and were allied.
Some writers suggest that the story about the war between the Aesir and the Vanir reflected an actual ancient conflict between two separate religious cults, which was eventually resolved by a merging of the two belief systems. The different natures of the Aesir and Vanir give some support to this theory. Many of the Aesir are clearly the same gods worshipped hundreds of years earlier by the Germanic peoples, when those tribes first began coming into contact with the Roman Empire, and thus became known to recorded history. The Viking gods Odin and Tyr, for example – both members of the Aesir – seem clearly descended from the older Germanic gods Wotan and Tiw. The Aesir gods as a group tended to be personifications representing abstract concepts or powers, such as wisdom, death, war or marriage. By contrast, the Vanir – whose origins are far murkier – as a group seem more like nature deities, closely tied to fertility and allied with supernatural spirits connected with the earth and sea.
Though numerous gods and other types of supernatural figures appear in Viking mythology, the most significant were:
Odin, the leader of the Aesir, was the overall chieftain of the gods. Sometimes referred to as the All-Father, Odin was the god of wisdom, poetry, and poetic inspiration, but was also the god of death, revenge, and of war.
Through his interference in the affairs of men, Odin was believed to cause the occurrence of battles and wars. Men prayed to him for victory in battle, and for power over their enemies. Odin was a god of stratagem and guile, who won many of his victories over his enemies more by cunning than force. Kings, leaders and other great men were likely to have sought support for their ventures from Odin.
Odin repeatedly displayed a willingness to accept pain and loss in order to gain advantage. For example, he gave up one of his eyes – the One-eyed God was another of his nicknames – for the right to drink from Urd, the well of wisdom located at the base of the World Tree. He hung in suffering, impaled by a spear upon the World Tree, for nine days, in order to gain knowledge of the runes for the gods and for men.
Odin ruled from Asgard, the great citadel of the gods. In his feast hall there, named Valhalla, he played host to the mightiest slain heroes of men. Odin was served by shield-maidens called Valkyries, supernatural woman-warriors who would collect fallen heroes from the battlefield and bear them back to Valhalla.
Odin was also served by magical animal allies: two ravens, named Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Memory), who flew over the earth each day and reported the doings of men to Odin, and Sleipnir, an eight-legged horse, the fastest alive, which could gallop on air and water as well as land. Two of his most prized possessions were magical artifacts made for him by dwarves: Gungir, a spear which never missed its mark, and Draupnir, a gold ring from which eight more identical gold rings would drop every ninth night.
Odin is one of the three gods known to have been most regularly, actively worshipped by the Vikings. To gain his aid or favor, or to appease him, sacrifices – usually of animals, but on occasion, humans – were offered to him.
Thor, also of the Aesir, was probably the most popular and widely worshipped of the Viking gods. Where Odin was the god of kings and great men, Thor was the god of the common folk, and even of slaves. Where Odin at times was depicted as maliciously interfering in the affairs of men, Thor was far more benevolent and kindly disposed toward mankind.
Thor was the god of thunder and lightning, of rain and of good weather, and as such was particularly revered by sailors, who prayed to him for fair weather, and by farmers, who asked him for rain and bountiful crops. Thor was the god of physical strength, and was considered the protector of men and of the gods – Viking mythology is filled with tales of Thor battling the giants. Thor was the god most concerned with the maintenance of law, and as such was the god of oaths.
Thor’s main weapon, besides his great strength, was Mjollnir, a magical hammer made by the dwarves, which would return to him after being thrown. The hammer was the symbol of Thor, and Thor’s-hammer amulets, worn for luck, are one of the most common items of male jewelry surviving from the Viking period.
Thor traveled in a chariot drawn by goats. Thunder was said to be its rumblings as he rode across the sky, and lightning the strike of his thrown hammer.
Freyr, one of the leaders of the Vanir family of gods, is another of the Viking gods definitely known to have been the subject of regular worship. Freyr was a god of fertility, believed to control the sun and rain and fruitfulness of the earth, who was prayed to for good harvests and for peace. Images of Freyr often represent him with a large erect phallus.
Freyr was the son of the god Njord and the giantess Skadi, and the brother of the goddess Freyja. He was believed to rule over Alfheim, the realm of the elves, and was considered the forebear of the Yngling dynasty of kings who ruled in Uppsala, Sweden.
Freyr’s most valuable and famous possession was the magic ship Skidbladnir, built by dwarves, which always had a following wind, was large enough to hold all of the gods, but could be folded up and put in a pocket.
Freyja, the Vanir goddess who was the sister of Freyr, was the goddess of love, sensual pleasure, marriage, and fertility, particularly the fertility of women.
In many of the mythological tales concerning Freyja, she was often represented as having a lusty, licentious nature – she slept with many, if not all, of the gods, slept with dwarves to obtain a magic necklace crafted by them, and was the object of lust and frequent plots by the giants.
Freyja traveled in a chariot pulled by cats, or sometimes used a magic cape made of feathers to transform herself into a falcon.
Frigg, the wife of Odin and the queen of Asgard, was a mother goddess associated with the hearth, pregnancy, and women in labor. She was considered the goddess of marriage and the giver of children.
One of the Vanir gods, Njord was the father of Freyr and Freyja. Like his children, Njord had some associations with fertility, but was also strongly associated with the sea and with ships.
Tyr was the Aesir god of battles and war, clearly derived from the earlier god Tiw, the god of war who was a very important deity in the early Germanic religion. By the Viking Age, Tyr’s function as god of war had largely been supplanted by Odin, and it is not certain that he was actively worshipped. Within the religious mythology of the Vikings, Tyr was the god who managed to bind Fenrir, a monstrous wolf, though he lost one of his hands in the course of doing so.
Although a frequent associate of the Aesir and a key figure in many of the religious mythological tales of the Vikings, Loki was the son of giants, rather than one of the gods. Though portrayed as highly intelligent and cunning, he was an amoral, malicious trickster. Loki possessed the ability to change both his sex and his shape, and during periods when transformed he gave birth to a variety of unusual creatures. After changing himself into a mare, for example, he gave birth to Odin’s magic, eight-legged horse. After Loki mated with the giantess Angerboda, she gave birth to Fenrir, a giant wolf which was one of the banes of the gods, and to the giant Midgard Serpent, which lived deep in the ocean.
Through trickery, Loki caused the death of Balder, a beloved son of Odin and Frigg, for which he was confined and tormented. At Ragnarok, the end of the world in Viking mythology, Loki joins Fenrir, the Midgard serpent, and the giants in a great battle against the gods.
The Norns, three wise and ancient women figures, possibly sisters, were in a sense the most powerful of all supernatural beings in Viking religious belief, for they controlled the fates of all men, and even of the gods themselves.
The Norns were often portrayed in myth as sitting at the base of the World Tree, where they wove the fates of men on their looms. Once the Norns decided to end a man’s life, his demise could not be avoided.
The Vaettir were disembodied spirits who inhabited the land and were guardians of it. If driven away, the land would suffer. In Iceland, to protect against such an occurrence, crews were required to remove their dragon heads from their ships’ prows before coming in sight of land, to avoid frightening the land spirits.
Alfar, or elves, often were considered a type of land spirit, in that they were believed to be tied to, and to live in, local geographical features such as hills or waterfalls. However, unlike the amorphous Vaettir they had forms similar to those of humans. In mythological tales there are references to a race of high or ‘light’ elves closely linked to the gods, who lived in their own separate realm, Alfheim. There is mention in several sagas of sacrifices being offered to elves, so apparently they were sometimes the subject of actual worship.
According to Viking mythology, dwarves were small, cunning, human-like creatures who lived underground. Dwarves, who were molded from the earth when it was created from the body of the slain giant Ymir, were all males. They were skilled craftsmen in metal and jewels, who made most of the gods’ greatest treasures and also brewed the mead of poetry.
A primary characteristic of worship as practiced in the pagan religion of the Vikings was the offering of sacrifices to the gods. A number of descriptions of such sacrifices exist. Ibrahim Al-Tartushi, a traveler from Moorish Spain who visited Hedeby in Denmark in the tenth century, related the following description of religious practices in that town:
They hold a feast where all meet to honor their god and to eat and drink. Each man who slaughters an animal for sacrifice – ox, ram, goat or pig – fastens it to a pole outside the door of his house, to show he had made his sacrifice in honor of the god. 
Sacrifices could be offered to ask for the assistance of the gods, or to thank them for aid already given. For example, Ibn Fadlan, an Arab who traveled up the Volga River in 922 AD, described worship practices at a trading site on that river built by Rus (Vikings from Russia and/or Sweden) merchants who had traveled down the river to sell slaves and other wares. At the site, the Rus had set up a large wooden post with a face carved into it, and offered food, drink, and other sacrifices to the image asking for profitable sales of the goods they had brought. A tenth century Greek account of Rus traders who traveled down the Dnieper River to Byzantium describes them as sacrificing poultry at an enormous oak tree located on an island in the river, as a thanks offering for having safely completed the long and dangerous journey.
In their own communities, the Vikings had temples they used as centers for worship of their gods, but relatively little is known about them. In approximately 1070 AD, at a time when the Vikings’ pagan religion was still being actively practiced in some areas of Scandinavia, a Christian writer in Frankish Germany, Adam of Bremen, described the pagan temple and religious center at Uppsala in Sweden, as well as some of the worship practices there:
These people have a celebrated sanctuary called Uppsala, not very far from Sigtuna and Birka. In this temple, entirely covered with gold, are three idols which the people worship: Thor, as the mightiest god, has his throne in the center of the hall, and Odin and Frey [Freyr] are on either side of him. Their fields of action are the following: Thor, it is said, rules the air – thunder, lightning, storm, rain, fine weather, and the crops. The second, Odin, is the god of war who inspires men with courage to fight their enemies. The third is Frey, who gives mankind peace and sensuous pleasures. His idol, therefore, they endow with a mighty phallus …
Attached to the gods are priests who offer the people’s sacrifices. If sickness or famine threaten they sacrifice to the idol Thor; if war, to Odin; and if a wedding is to be celebrated they sacrifice to Frey. There is also a festival at Uppsala every nine years, common to all the provinces of Sweden. Attendance at this event is compulsory and it is the universal practice for kings and peoples and everyone to send offerings to Uppsala and – a cruel thing – those who have become Christians may secure exemption on payment of a fine. The sacrifice on this occasion involves the slaughter of nine males of every creature, with whose blood the gods are placated. The bodies are hung in a grove near the temple, a sanctuary so holy that each tree is regarded as itself divine, in consequence of the death and decay of the victims. Dogs and horses hang there beside human beings, and a Christian has told me that he has seen as many as seventy-two carcasses hanging there side by side. 
Although recorded by a Christian, and based on secondhand accounts, Adam of Bremen’s description is a surviving account written about pagan Viking religious practices which were still occurring at the time he wrote it. Other accounts corroborate many details of his description of Viking worship practices. Around 1000 AD, the German writer Theitmar of Merseberg wrote of a religious center at Lejre in Denmark, on the island of Sjaelland, where, as at Uppsala, a great religious festival and sacrifice was held every nine years. The sacrifices offered at the Lejre festival supposedly included ninety-nine each of humans, horses, dogs, and cocks.
The Trondelag region of northwestern Norway long resisted conversion to Christianity. An early conflict between the pagans and Christians in Trondelag occurred during the reign of Hacon the Good, who ruled from 934 to 961 AD. King Hacon, a Christian, was forced while visiting the region to participate in a pagan sacrifice and feast. The Heimskringla’s History of King Hacon includes the following description of pagan worship at the temple at Lade in the Trondelag:
Sigurd, the Jarl of Lade, was a great sacrificer … [who] upheld all the blood offerings for Trondlaw on the king’s behalf. It was an old custom, when they made an offering, for all the bonders to come to the temple and bring their eatables which they would need as long as the offering lasted. At that offering all men should have ale. There they also slew all kinds of cattle and horses, and all the blood which flowed from them was called laut, the bowls in which the blood stood were called laut-bowls and laut-steiner, which were made like a sprinkler, with all this they should stain the stalls red and likewise the temple walls inside and out and likewise sprinkle it on all the men; the flesh was cooked as meat for the guest feast. There should be fires in the midst of the temple floor and thereover should hang kettles; they should carry bowls to the fire and he who was making the offering and was chief should bless the bowl and all the flesh, but he should first bless Odin’s bowl (which should be drunk for the king’s victory and power) and afterwards the bowls of Niord [Njord] and Frey [Freyr] for good seasons and peace.
The pagan temple at Lade in Norway is again mentioned in the Heimskringla, in the History of Olav Trygvasson, who during his brief reign (995-1000 AD) imposed Christianity across much of Norway, often by brute force. King Olav sailed into Lade with a strong force, took all of the goods and ornaments from the temple and idols there, including a large gold ring given the temple by Hacon the Jarl, then burned the temple down. At another temple, at Maeren in the Trondelag, King Olav cut down the idols of Thor and the other gods with an axe, while outside the temple his men murdered the local chieftain.
King Olav’s slaying of the chieftain at Maeren may not have been motivated solely by a desire to disrupt and intimidate the rebellious local populace. Local chieftains, also known as godi, were typically not only social, political and military leaders of the free landowners who lived in the surrounding area, but also were responsible for maintaining the local temple and officiating at sacrificial feasts. By killing the leader of the bonders at Maeren, King Olav probably intentionally killed their priest at the same time he was destroying their temple.
Not all worship was conducted in temples. Particularly when in foreign lands, sacrifices would be conducted out of doors, often on or in connection with oak or ash trees, considered sacred to the Viking gods. One example of this is the previously described practice of offering sacrifices at a great oak tree on the Dnieper River by Rus Vikings, after their successful passage down the river. Another probable example occurred along the Seine River in western Frankia in 845 AD. After an invading Viking force won a major victory over the defending Frankish army, the Vikings executed 111 captured Frankish prisoners by hanging them – in all probability, a sacrifice giving thanks for the Vikings’ victory. At Uppsala in Sweden, a sacred grove of trees near the temple was used to hang bodies of sacrificed humans and animals during the great festival held every nine years. Near Dublin, in Ireland, a grove of trees considered by the Vikings to be sacred to Thor was destroyed around the end of the tenth century by the Irish King Brian Boru.
According to the Vikings’ religious myths about the creation of the world, in the beginning the universe consisted of Muspell, a realm of fire, Niflheim, a realm of ice, and Ginnungagap, a great, empty void. In the region where the fire of Muspell came into contact with the ice of Niflheim, melting its fringes, the body of a great frost giant, named Ymir, and a giant cow, named Andumla, were formed. Ymir suckled at Andulma’s udders and gained strength, and the first of the race of giants sprang from his legs and armpits. Andulma licked the salty ice, uncovering a being named Buri, the first of the gods.
By a giantess, Buri fathered a son named Bor, who in turn fathered three sons who became the creators of the earth. One of these three sons was Odin.
Odin and his brothers fought with Ymir and killed him. They dragged his body to the center of the void, then used his flesh to create the land, his bones to create the mountains, and his blood to create the waters. They used Ymir’s vast skull to form the vault of the sky, and put glowing embers from Muspell in it to form the sun, moon, and stars.
The three brothers divided the new world they had created into two realms: a cold, mountainous outer region called Jotunheim, which became the realm of the giants, and a warm, fertile inner realm called Midgard, which became the realm of the gods and of men. The gods built their own home, the citadel Asgard, high above Midgard.
After they had created their new world, the gods found two tree trunks, of an ash and an elm, washed up upon the shore. From the ash they created Ask, the first man, and from the elm they created Embla, the first woman, then they gave the newly created humans Midgard as their home.
The Vikings’ concept of the universe is difficult to smoothly reconcile with their myths about the creation of the world. The Vikings viewed the universe as being supported by a giant ash, the World Tree, or Yggdrasil. According to at least one source, the World Tree spanned nine different worlds or realms, including Midgard, Asgard, Jotenheim, and Niflheim (which at some point evolved from one of the two original realms of the universe into the realm of the dead, and which was sometimes also called Hel after the goddess who ruled over it). The Well of Urd, from whose waters Odin drank to gain wisdom, was located at the base of the World Tree. The Norns also lived at the base of the World Tree, and from there created the fates of the gods and men.
The Vikings’ mythology included a vision of the future doom of the gods and the destruction of the world, an event called Ragnarok. According to their myth, the end will be preceded by a period when there will be great battles throughout the world of men, and when the bonds and duties of kinship – very important in Viking culture – will be ignored, and brothers, sons, and fathers will fight and kill each other. There will be three years of extremely harsh winters, with no summer in between. Then the sun, moon and stars will disappear from the sky, and the land will be shaken by earthquakes so strong that trees will be uprooted, and mountains destroyed.
The earthquakes will destroy the bonds that secure the monstrous Fenrir wolf and the evil god Loki, and will also arouse and anger the great Midgard Serpent, which will rise up out of the ocean where it lives and come onto the land, spewing poisonous venom everywhere.
All of the enemies of the gods will band together to attack Midgard and Asgard. Fenrir, Loki and the Midgard Serpent will be joined by the giants, and the folk of the fire realm Muspell, led by their ruler Surt. The gods will ride forth to defend the earth, and fight a heroic but losing battle. Odin will be killed by Fenrir, who in turn will be slain by Vidar, one of the sons of Odin. After a lengthy struggle Thor will slay the Midgard Serpent, but will die immediately after from the serpent’s venom. Surt will slay Freyr, then will fling fire across the earth, burning it. In the end, the flaming earth – Midgard – will sink beneath the sea.
All life will not end with Ragnarok, however. A few of the gods, led by Vidar, will survive. Yggdrasil, the World Tree, will not be destroyed by the fire and flood, and a single man and woman will survive, sheltered in its branches. The earth will rise again from the sea, Vidar and the surviving gods will rebuild it, and mankind will grow again from its two survivors.
A History of the Vikings, Gwyn Jones (Oxford University press, Second Edition 1984)
Edda, Snorri Sturluson (Everyman Library, Orion Publishing Group 1995)
Encylopaedia of the Viking Age, John Haywood (Thames & Hudson 2000)
Gods and Heroes From Viking Mythology, Brian Branston (Schocken Books, NY 1982)
Heimskringla, or The Lives of the Norse Kings, Snorri Sturlason (Dover Publications, NY 1990; edited by Erling Monsen/trans. A.H. Smith)
Medieval Scandinavia: an Encyclopedia, Philip Pulsiano, editor (Garland Publishing, Inc. 1993)
Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe, H.R. Ellis Davidson (Syracuse University Press 1988)
The Celtic and Scandinavian Religions, J.A. MacCulloch (Constable and Co, Ltd., London 1993)
The Vikings, Else Roesdahl (Penguin Books, Second Edition 1998)
The Vikings, Johannes Brondsted (trans.Kalle Skov)(Penguin Books 1986)
 One known source of the Prose Edda’s information about the mythology of the Viking pagan religion is the Voluspa (The Prophecy of the Seeress), a poem believed to have been composed around 1000 AD, which relates the Viking’s mythological version of the history of the world and the nature and identity of the gods. Although believed to have been composed by a pagan author, even this relatively early source reflects knowledge of and possible influence by the beliefs of the rapidly encroaching Christian religion.
 He describes the Danes’ singing, for example, as sounding like growling dogs.
 Jotnar is translated as ‘giant,’ and in some of the mythological tales the giants clearly were gigantic in size. However, in other tales it is not clear how greatly the gods and giants differed in size, for the mythology of the Vikings contains a number of tales of giants lusting after goddesses and gods lusting after giantesses, and even occasions of actual mating between the two groups.
 Carvings and other representations of Odin that survive from the Viking Age often depict him riding an eight-legged horse.
 In the pagan religion of the Vikings, either there was considerable overlap of functions of the various gods, or else their true areas of power became distorted or confused by the time the first written accounts of the old pagan gods were made, long after Christianity had replaced the actual practice of the pagan religion. Both Freyr and Thor, for example, supposedly controlled the rain, and were prayed to for good harvests.
 Translated excerpt from Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe, by H.R. Ellis Davidson (Syracuse University Press 1988), page 37.
 Translated excerpt from The Vikings, by Johannes Brondsted (trans.Kalle Skov)(Penguin Books 1986), page 285.
 Bonder or bondi was a term meaning a free landholder.
 Excerpt from The History of Hacon the Good in Heimskringla, or The Lives of the Norse Kings, by Snorri Sturlason (Dover Publications, NY 1990; edited by Erling Monsen/trans. A.H. Smith), page 87.
 The Heimskringla was written in Iceland in the early thirteenth century by Snorri Sturlason (sometimes also spelled Sturluson), centuries after some of the events it describes. However, Sturlason drew upon oral sagas, poems and tales which were composed close in time to the actual events, and many details of his histories of the Norse kings can be corroborated by other sources. His accounts of pagan temples and worship, for example, are consistent with accounts, such as those by Ibrahim Al-Tartushi, Adam of Bremen, and Theitmar of Merseberg, written while the Vikings’ pagan religion was still being actively practiced.
 The difficulty may arise in part due to the fact that one of the primary sources of our knowledge of Viking Age mythology, the Prose Edda by Snorri Sturlason, was written several hundred years after their pagan religion was supplanted by Christianity.