Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Dictionary of Northern Mythology

The Dictionary of Norse Mythology by Rudolf Simek was originally published in German in 1984 and appeared in an English translation by Angela Hall in 1993, with some revisions by the author. Of the current available reference works that are available on the subject, this is by far the most expansive, and detailed. Simek makes full use of information from Christian accounts, Eddic Lays, runic inscriptions, Roman authors, votive stones, place names and archaeological finds. He includes a wealth of reliable second hand accounts which he cites. In 425 pages he covers the broad spectrum of the mythology of the Germanic people from the gods themselves to ideas of death and the afterlife, magic, cults, and customs, ranging from Scandinavian material to information found throughout other parts of Europe.

While referred to as a dictionary, the book functions much like an encyclopedia that delves deeper into concepts than most of the text books found on the expansive subjects it covers. The Etymology of names is heavily explored, (more so in this book then any I have seen thus far) providing elements to the myths, places, and characters that would otherwise never be grasped by reading the lore. The entries are cited, and can easily be tracked back to their primary as well as secondary sources.

This all translates into an invaluable edition to any heathen collection. Simek masterfully presents the entirety of Germanic belief in a resource book that can and should be used as a guiding
map through the wealth of lore that we have available. It can also be read from cover to cover. Some minor weak points do exist throughout it, however. Because it is a translation, occasionally the
sentence structure or word choice is odd. Some of the internal references are missing, as well as a couple sources which he refers to but does not include in the otherwise expansive bibliography. There is no index since it is a dictionary, but this has caused some irritation when combined with the few instances where he refers to a word as if it is commonplace, but seems to have no entry for it. Overall however, the cons pale tremendously compared to the pros, and this book is a must have.