Edited by Eric H. Kessler and Diana J. Wong-MingJi
Cultural mythology and leadership in Sweden 167 pre-Christian religion, beliefs and legends of the Swedish people.2 In the following we will have a brief look at stories of creation, the first humans, prominent gods, and the eschatology in Sweden before Christianity took hold during the eleventh century AD. Creation and Human Beings The Norse creation story3 begins in the borderland between two cosmic regions, the frozen world of ‘Nifelhem’4 and the hot realm of ‘Muspelhem’, a setting recalling the ice age and its ending, icy terrain and volcanic activity, but also freezing hostile winters and agreeable, life-bringing summers. Five frost giants including Ymer and Bure, emerging from the interaction of the two regions, ruled the cosmos. Bure’s three grandchildren – Oden, Vile, and Ve – eventually killed the cruel Ymer, and his body was transformed by the three cooperating creator gods into the world as we know it. The Norse creator gods had the power to breathe life into objects and created the first man and woman, Ask (meaning ‘ash’) and Embla (‘elm’), by giving life to a pair of tree trunks. The three creator gods told Ask and Embla that it was their responsibility to look after the plants and creatures, and the couple settled down at Midgård (‘the middle farm’) to nurture their realm and start their family.5 Gods and Demigods As in Greek mythology, the Norse deities were easily recognizable to people by their distinctively human traits of emotion, bounded rationality, risk- and loss-aversion, and overconfidence. The familiar...
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