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Freyja’s Cats

Perspectives on Recent Viking Age Finds in Þegjandadalur North Iceland

By Brenda Prehal

[Snip] Introduction: Despite its modern popularity, the domestic cat has been overlooked a
s a valuable tool in symbolic and interpretive understandings of the Viking Age. The cat’s importance in some cultures, such as Ancient Egypt, is abundantly clear, but since they rarely appear in the Norse archaeological record, they are overlooked. This project proposes that the scarcity of the cat in the Norse archaeological record is in fact quite telling of its significance, and it can be an effective tool in recognizing Norse beliefs and cultic practices. Although somewhat hidden, cats are there and quite prominent. One just needs to know how to find them and distinguish their meaning.

What we know of the Norse religion is that it was a part of everyday life. (Gräslund 2000:56; Lindow 2001:34; Price 2007:26) It centered on the intertwining of man and nature, where everything from rocks to groves and animals were sacred. (Lindow 2001:33; Williams 1920:363) In Germanic cultures, such as the Norse, animals were foundational in the worldviews, “…not strictly for one part of a society, but more widespread.” (Bond 2006:89) Animals are seen all throughout the Norse material and literary culture. From jewelry to sacrificial rituals, animals are everywhere.

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