From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Leif Ericson: Lucky in religion?

Leif Ericson, allegedly the first European to set foot in North America (not counting Greenland), was called “Leif the Lucky.”  Although some might think this was because of his conversion to Christianity “at the behest of the King of Norway, Olaf I,” it was actually because of his fortuitous rescuing of Icelandic castaway Thorir – thus getting to keep Thorir’s cargo.

King Olaf I not only “persuaded” Leif the Lucky to convert from the religion of his ancestors to the religion of Olaf I’s bidding, but he also “persuaded” thousands of others to do the same.  According to Wikipedia, Olaf I did not convert the masses through inspiring sermons, but rather through “forcible, on pain of torture or death” methodology.

Leif, however, was lucky once again. reports that his conversion experience was a lot more genteel.  Here is that report:  One day while playing chess with Leif, King Olaf told him of how he used to also worship the gods that Leif did.  He also told him of how a plague had struck Norway and how many people had died.  Then he told Leif of how he turned away from those gods and began to worship the living Christ.  He was baptized along with thousands of Norwegians, and then the
plague stopped.  (Just like that – poof!) goes on to explain that Leif had not been very faithful to the Viking gods, anyway.  He therefore agreed to be baptized, and even brought a priest back to Greenland in order to spread Christianity there.  (Betcha this new group of converts did not include Leif’s outlaw father, Eric the Red, nor his outlaw grandfather, Thorvald Asvaldsson.)

Wikipedia instead reports that Eric the Red, known also for founding the first lasting Nordic settlement in Greenland, “remained a follower of Norse paganism.”  Norse paganism” is further defined as “the religious traditions of the Norsemen, a Germanic people living in the Nordic countries.”  Norse worship often occurred in sacred groves, at homes, and/or in front of simple altars made of piled-up stones.  English
weekdays continue to be named after the Norse gods and goddesses:  Tuesday (Tyr’s Day), Wednesday (Odin’s Day), Thursday (Thor’s Day), and Friday (Freyja’s Day).


Copyright October 9, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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