Tuesday, 11 August 2015
Thus, the Alvarings who live in the thorp are "heathens," in the root sense of dwellers on the heath. I cannot be sure that Anderson intended the word "heath" to suggest "heathen" but it fits. The Alvarings still worship the ancient goddess Niaerdh as much or more than the more recently imported Anses whereas the Geats, occupying the other half of the island, worship Niaerdh less and by implication the Anses more.
The king of the Alvarings sacrifices a man to Niaerdh in thanksgiving when his daughter Edh survives early childhood. Edh becomes devoted to Niaerdh and addresses her as "'All-Mother...,'" the feminine form of "All-Father, " Odin's title. Edh's Niaerdh receives the dead into her hall and leads them in a hunt and is a war deity with command of the elements and the moon. She receives women who die giving birth just as Odin receives dead warriors.
Here, from within heathenism, is the potential for a Goddess-worship that will appeal to women, who will in turn influence their children, and thus will successfully resist Christianity when missionaries of that faith arrive centuries later. Heading off such a development is a job for the Time Patrol.