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Pagans – Sacred Landscape : Episode 4

A strong pagan belief is that the natural world is embedded in all of us. One method of defining the landscape is by building monuments. The construction of tombs at the boundaries of territory illustrates to outsiders that the area is rightfully yours, since it belonged to your ancestors. A succession of ritual monuments known throughout prehistoric Europe, from wooden trackways to henges (stone or wooden circles), suggest the strong influence of altering the landscape as a way of defining territory within the pagan belief system.

So what happens when people cannot lay claim to their territory by marking it with the graves or other signs that their ancestors lived there? In 874 AD Viking leader Ingolfur Arnarson threw two lengths of timber into the sea and swore that he would settle where they came ashore. They landed at the site of present day Reykjavik in Iceland. At the time the island had virtually no links with any past society, but this last new pagan European society survived because its members lived with the natural world rather than fighting against the harsh terrain. By 940 Iceland witnessed the first parliament of leaders in a pagan general assembly at a time when the rest of Europe was gradually becoming Christian.

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