Sacral rulers in pre-Christian Scandinavia: The possibilities of typological comparisons within the paradigm of cultural evolution

  • Simon Nygaard Aarhus University
Keywords: sacral rulers, pre-Christian Scandinavian religions, pre-Christian Hawaiian religions, Robert N. Bellah, cultural evolutionary theory, cultural evolution, typological comparisons, chiefdom religion

Abstract

This 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.

Author Biography

Simon Nygaard, Aarhus University
PhD Fellow, Department for the Study of Religion, School of Culture and Society, Aarhus University
Published
2016-06-01
How to Cite
Nygaard, S. (2016). Sacral rulers in pre-Christian Scandinavia: The possibilities of typological comparisons within the paradigm of cultural evolution. Temenos - Nordic Journal of Comparative Religion, 52(1), 9-35. https://doi.org/10.33356/temenos.49454
Section
Articles