Sacral rulers in pre-Christian Scandinavia: The possibilities of typological comparisons within the paradigm of cultural evolution
Keywords:sacral rulers, pre-Christian Scandinavian religions, pre-Christian Hawaiian religions, Robert N. Bellah, cultural evolutionary theory, cultural evolution, typological comparisons, chiefdom religion
AbstractThis article offers a new perspective on the century-old discussion of sacral rulers in the history of religions generally, and pre-Christian Scandinavian religions specifically, namely the application of a cultural evolutionary theoretical framework based on the work of Robert N. Bellah. In doing this, the article opens the possibility of wider typological comparisons within this paradigm and suggests a nuancing of Bellah’s typology with the addition of the category of ‘chiefdom religion’. This is utilised in the main part of the article, which features a comparison between the figure of the sacral ruler in pre-Christian Scandinavian and pre-Christian Hawaiian religions through an analysis of: 1) the position of the ruler in society, cult, and ideology; 2) the societal structure in which these religions are found; 3) the idea of a ruler sacrifice; 4) incestuous relationships and their ideological implications; and, finally, 5) the idea of a double rulership. Following this comparison, the perspectives in and the usefulness of cultural evolutionary theories in the history of religions are briefly evaluated.
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