Honey and Poison
Reframing the Pagan Past at Ǫgvaldsnes and Elsewhere
The Ǫgvaldsnes episode from Oddr munkr’s Óláfs saga Tryggavasonar and Acallam na Senórach, two roughly contemporary and somewhat similar texts, show how different strategies have been employed to reframe the pagan past and neutralise the poison of this material that worried early doctors of the church such as St Basil. The two texts propose different answers to Alcuin’s oft-cited question about the relationship between Christianity and pagan traditions. Both solutions entail depriving the former divinities of their numinous powers, but each strategy also comes at a price. The Old Norse text opts for demonisation and exclusion while the Irish text strives for domestication and subordination. It is not claimed that these two texts are representative of the ways in which the Old Norse and Irish traditions at large handled this question. Rather, the choices of these strategies are probably dictated by the particular historical circumstances of each author, their respective aims, and the literary circuit to which they belonged. Some parallels with the two main texts and alternative ways of reframing the pagan past are also briefly discussed.
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