Same Story, Different Characters

I wonder if there’s a good book about the overlap between Germanic paganism and Christianity. Wikipedia claims that a lot of ritual sites sacred to Odin were turned into shrines to St. Michael.  And a lot of imagery of Christ would possibly have been familiar enough–the god who hangs from a tree, who is stabbed in the side with a spear, as a sacrifice. Different sacrifices, obviously, but still.

And it occurred to me, that you often hear that Jesus became blonder and more Baldr-looking the more north he moved, as if conversion were, in some part, like a soap opera, where characters stay the same, but the actors change, where backstories are re-figured to account for new facts. And so, as much fun as it is to look at St. Sebastian all sprawled out, the legend is that he was shot full of arrows. But a ton of the iconography shows just one arrow. Like Baldr. It makes me wonder.

It seems like we have a good understanding of how St. Peter or Lazarus is sometimes Legba, too.

1.legba Saint-Lazarus-Lwa-Legba

And so I find it a little frustrating that I don’t know how other gods we might have wanted to save were, if they were. Though, it seems like, of course, they must have been–carried along in art and iconography until they faded away or were revived again under their own names.

I’d just like to know more about it.

2 thoughts on “Same Story, Different Characters

  1. If you’re looking for information about the Nordic gods, there is quite a lot of it out there. In many of the Icelandic sagas, the gods are mentioned as are the blots and rites, because the sagas tell you about life and that was a part of life. And many of the stories of the Aesir (or however you spell it in English) remained alive and well as fireplace stories, or children’s stories, until the present time. I knew the stories of Baldur, and Odin, and Thor, and the others, quite as well as I knew any of the biblical stories.
    Also, there are both wiccans who work with the Nordic pantheon, and actual asatru people around nowadays. You might be interested in the books and essays by Katie Gerrard in this; most can be found at

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