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Germanic religion


Germanic religion, pre-Christian religious practices among the tribes of Western Europe, Germany, and Scandinavia. The main sources for our knowledge are the Germania of Tacitus and the Elder Edda and the Younger Edda. Although it is possible to perceive certain basic concepts that were important to the pre-Christian Germans, there was no Germanic religion common to all the Scandinavian and Teutonic peoples; neither can we know whether a ritual or legend peculiar to one Germanic tribe was common to all Germanic tribes.

Conversion of the Germans to Christianity began as early as the 4th cent. A.D., but it took many centuries for the new religion to spread throughout the northern lands of Europe. In Nazi Germany the spirit of the old religion and the heroic attributes of the Germanic gods were revived as part of the propaganda program of the Nazi party.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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