Health and healing has not been prominent in research on Old Norse mythology, for the obvious reason that it is not prominent in our medieval mythological texts – in stark contrast to mainstream Christian mythological texts like the Gospels and saints‘ lives, where healing and disease are prominent both in their own right and as metaphors for spiritual health. The article seeks to establish a dialogue between traditional mythologies and discourses of health and healing in the medieval North. Its core evidence is two runic texts (the Canterbury Rune-Charm and the Sigtuna Amulet) which conceptualise illness as a þurs [‗ogre, monster‘]. The article discusses the semantics of þurs, arguing that illness and supernatural beings could be conceptualised as identical in medieval Scandinavia. This provides a basis for arguing that myths in which gods and heroes fight monsters provided a paradigm for the struggle with illness.
Asclepio: revista de historia de la medicina y de la ciencia, 61.1 (2009), 195-218.