I’m probably about to get the internet trolls and deniers attacking me in an online community where I recently responded to someone else’s posts where they said in angry response to some asshole: “Even my Gods don’t ask me to kneel. Bye.”
The idea there is no kneeling or similar practices to our Gods is erroneous, there’s references abounding to it in the lore.
The real question is how common it was, or if such practices were unique to specific cultic worship, specific deities, specific celebrations or observances?
We see it in Tacitus’ Germania from the first century mentioned in the description of cultic worship of one of the Germanic tribes and their sacred grove:
“Reverence also in other ways is paid to the grove. No one enters it except bound with a chain, as an inferior acknowledging the might of the local divinity. If he chance to fall, it is not lawful for him to be lifted up, or to rise to his feet; he must crawl out along the ground. “
Again in Ibn Fadlan’s observations of the Rus in the 10th Century, he describes a wood carved idol with a person prostrating in worship before it.
In the Landnámabok it mentions bowing to the east to hail the rising sun.
There’s some other references too I just don’t remember them off the top of my head.
Beyond our Gods, there’s the tradition of utiseta, mound sitting by the graves of one’s ancestors. There does seem to be a tie to this tradition to receiving inheritance and title. As if the mound was hallowed by the numinous dead ancestor.
You think a culture that had people sitting on the ground by their ancestors wouldn’t have other traditions at least in certain circumstances that they did more than merely stand in the holy places for their Gods?
I think as modern men and women we live our lives in a way far removed from ancient mindsets. We’ve lost, for the most part, that sense of awe and wonder of natural forces and numinous powers. We must remember that the grisly truth is human sacrifice was an ancient practice. You think if they felt awed enough to sacrifice people, they wouldn’t feel the awe to prostrate themselves in certain circumstances?
King Domalde of Sweden supposedly was sacrificed to put an end to three years of famine. Now while the historicity of Hrimskringla is under debate, it merely illustrates that sacrifice was present and the thought that kings served the people and their Gods wasn’t a foreign concept. We see that among the Anglo-saxons with their Witans who could be a power check on their leaders, but who also met during the three high holy tides confirming that part of the role of the King was to officiate rituals to the Gods.
We know that the Witans, or ruling councils of the Anglo-Saxons, gathered during specific days from the Christian calendar: Saint Martin’s Day, Christmas, and Easter/Whitsunday. These three Christian religious observances sync with the pagan timing of the three high holy tides we find amongst the Scandinavian sources: the start of Winter or Winter Nights, midwinter or Yule, and the start of Summer or Ostara. Not only did the Witans meet at these times, but when these councils came together to meet the Anglo-Saxon Kings of old would also specifically wear their crowns at this time. No doubt this is an old carry-over from expected duties of the King during the heathen religious celebrations. We certainly see in Ynglinga saga that the King of Sweden in his role as high priest at the temple of Uppsala conducted religious rites.
The King had a sacred role to fulfill. If people didn’t think that was important, that the Gods didn’t deserve worship and sacrifice, then we wouldn’t see references to this across the lore.
The Gods and Goddesses, the Ancestors, and yes even the land Vaettir ALL make our very existence possible; without Them or Their blessings we wouldn’t exist at all. We can NEVER offer enough to make up for the very gift of existence They’ve bestowed upon us. To forget that awe and wonder ancient man who worshipped these Gods before Christianity came along is a mistake.
Simply put kneeling, prostration, and subservience to the Holy Powers happened. There was a reason for it (piety, reverence and awe), with codified cultural times and places for it that the specific details may have been lost to history. But no doubt that it did happen.
There’s no shame in it. It’s respect.
Does it make a man lesser when he kneels before a woman to ask for her hand in marriage? Does it make a soldier less that he takes a knee when a comrade has fallen?
Of course not.
And more than that I think the mindset that there was no kneeling tends to propagate from those whom are abandoning Christianity and wanting to reject religious connections to kneeling in those traditions. It is also a far more prevalent attitude among Americans, if you look at our founding history it is kind of a giant f-u to authority (being rebels and all), we’re gonna do what we want. That attitude has definitely filtered down, including in small ways when the US flag bearing Olympic athlete won’t “dip” their flag to the host country’s dignitaries.
Practices that showed piety such as bowing, kneeling, prostrating happened. So it’s long past time in our modern practices we recognize there is no shame in showing the Holy Powers respect and piety. In fact, there are times for it.