Germanic paganism refers to the religion practiced by the Germanic peoples from the Iron Age until Christianisation during the Middle Ages. It was an essential element of early Germanic culture. From both archaeological remains and literary sources, it is possible to trace a number of common or closely related beliefs amid the Germanic peoples into the Middle Ages, when the last areas in Scandinavia were Christianized. Rooted in Proto-Indo-European religion , Proto-Germanic religion expanded during the Migration Period , yielding extensions such as Old Norse religion among the North Germanic peoples, the paganism practiced amid the continental Germanic peoples , and Anglo-Saxon paganism among the Old English-speaking peoples. The Germanic religion is best documented in several texts from the 10th and 11th centuries, where they have been best preserved in Scandinavia and Iceland. Germania was the Roman term for the area east of the Rhine and north of the Danube and up to the islands of the Baltic Sea [1] its namesake originates from Julius Caesar, who used it in his treatise on the Gallic Wars, Commentarii de Bello Gallico. The Germanic core area, Magna Germania , was located in ancient Europe in the northern European lowland, which mainly includes present-day Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and the Scandinavian peninsula. Later, elements from the Roman culture were mixed into the Germanic culture, which includes archaeological evidence of Roman gods, statues, and gold mining. Germanic people have never really constituted a uniform group with a common or ubiquitous culture, but some general core beliefs system are known from medieval texts, which may be the result of a fusion of various beliefs across the expanse of Germanic tribes throughout central Europe. Among the East Germanic peoples, traces of Gothic paganism may be discerned from scant artifacts and attestations. According to historian John Thor Ewing, as a religion, the Germanic version consisted of "individual worshippers, family traditions and regional cults within a broadly consistent framework". Few written sources for Germanic paganism exist, and few of those that do were written by participants in that religion. Traditional oral literature associated with the pre-Christian religion was most likely deliberately suppressed as Christian institutions became dominant in Germany, England, and Scandinavia during the Middle Ages. Only in medieval Iceland was a large amount of Germanic-language material written on the subject of pagan traditions, principally the mythological poems of the Poetic Edda , Prose Edda , and skaldic verse. However, these sources were recorded after Christianity became dominant in Iceland by writers who themselves were Christians. Medieval and post-medieval folklore has also been used as a source for older beliefs. But this too was influenced by Christianity and changed in shape. However, whereas stories can travel quickly and easily change over time, making late texts unreliable evidence for early Germanic culture, language changes in somewhat more predictable ways. Through the comparative method , it is possible to compare words in related languages and rationally reconstruct what their lost, earlier forms must have been, and to some extent what those earlier forms must have meant. This in turn allows the reconstruction of the names of some gods, supernatural beings, and ritual practices. Proto-Germanic, therefore, surely had a similar word with a similar sense. Little is known for certain about the roots of Germanic religion. Early forms of Germanic religion are known exclusively from archaeological remains and can therefore only be interpreted on the basis of comparative studies with other religions or through the evaluation of Scandinavian literature, who, as the last converts among the practitioners of Germanic religion, maintained a written account of their religion into the Middle Ages. Description of the oldest forms of the Germanic religion are based on uncertain reconstructions, which in turn are based on comparisons with other material. Captives might have their throats cut and be bled into giant cauldrons or have their intestines opened up and the entrails thrown to the ground for prophetic readings. Christianity had no relevance for the pre-Christian Germanic peoples until their contact and integration with Rome. One of the oldest written sources on Germanic religion is Julius Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico , where he compares the very intricate Celtic customs with the perceived very "primitive" Germanic traditions:. The German way of life is very different. They have no druids to preside over matter related to the divine, and they do not have much enthusiasm for sacrifices. They count as gods only those phenomenon that they can perceive and by whose power they are plainly helped, the Sun, Fire, and Moon; others they do not know even from hearsay. Their whole life is spent on hunting and military pursuits. Caesar, Gallic War 6. Caesar's descriptions of the religion of the Germanic tribes differ greatly from what other sources show, and so it is not given high source value by modern religious researchers. In general, he describes Germania as a barbaric wonderland, very different from the Italy from which he comes.

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