Fate of the Gods
Exhibition on Norse mythology and myths. The world of the Gods vividly appears through visual arts,storytelling and music. The exhibition is put together by reputable Icelandic contemporary artists and experts in Nordic studies to form an impressive and modern work of art about ancient cultural heritage. Audio guides are available in four languages; Icelandic, English, German and Danish.
The exhibition Fate of the Gods will introduce you to the world-view and religion of our ancestors some one thousand years ago. Here you will also become acquainted with the society of pre-Christian Scandinavians and meet the gods and goddesses they worshipped.
In Scandinavia around the year 850 A.D. people believed that the earth was round and flat and surrounded by water. In this ocean at the edge of the world lay the terrible Midgard serpent; he encircled the earth and bit his tail. The world-tree Ash of Yggdrasil was the axis of the flat earth. In the world of the gods the three norns of fate watered the tree every morning to keep it alive; if the world-tree dried up, withered and died, the world would be destroyed.
In Asgard, far above the world of men, the gods lived. Their leader is Óðinn, the god of rune-magic, wisdom, poetry and war. Once in the beginning of times when the world was still young and evil had not yet entered it Óðinn was walking along the shore with his two brothers, Vili and Vé. By the shoreline they came upon two tree-trunks that had floated thither down a river. Of the tree-trunks they made two human bodies, a man and a woman. Then they stood and looked at the lifeless figures and realized that more had to be done. Óðinn gave them life and breath, Vili gave them thought, sense and movement and Vé gave them faces, speech, sight and hearing. The two humans were named Askur and Embla. The gods gave them Midgard to live in and from those two all mankind is descended.
Mankind fought for survival on the flat circle of the earth. The existence and welfare of men was however entirely reliant on the goodwill of the gods. They constantly had to renew and maintain the gods’ benevolence towards them. This they did by performing various religious rituals and ceremonies on various occasions and in different seasons. That was how they worshiped their gods.
In each region people engaged in ritualistic worship a few times a year. Such assemblies were usually held and organized by the greatest chieftain and all free-born men of the district came to his homestead and took part in these ritual feasts. In late summer people gathered together to thank their gods for good crops and the gifts of the earth, but also to secure mild weather in the coming winter. In the middle of the dark winter people worshiped their gods to secure that the sun would start its course anew and the seasonal cycle continue. Finally, by the end of winter people carried out their rituals to ensure growth and fruitfulness of the earth during the summer season, to ask for plentiful fishing and good health and fertility of man and beast.
There were also special rituals for victory in wars and luck on long journeys.
At such religous rituals the gods were usually offered votive gifts, both weapons and precious things which were thought to please them. Often animals were sacrificed too. One part of the rituals was to drink a sacred mead as a tribute to those gods whose influence was most needed at each time.
Every nine years a great religious and communal festival was held to ensure the continuous existence of the world. People travelled from far and wide to these gatherings, which lasted nine days. The festivals were usually held outside and the ritual activities performed in holy groves. Such groves were considered to be boundaries between the worlds of men and gods and the trees there were holy because they were symbols of the great world tree itself, the essence of creation