Helsinki has been among the world’s foremost centers for folklore research for more than a century, so it is only natural that the theme of this year’s event be Folklore and Old Norse Mythology.
Across roughly the past decade, research on Old Norse mythology has exhibited a boom of interest in both folklore collected under the aegis of Romanticism and the perspectives and insights of today’s folklore research. Folklore and Old Norse Mythology is an international event organized to meet this growing interest by gathering specialists from a wide range of disciplines to share and discuss their views and approaches.
This conference is the most recent form of an annual international event on Old Norse mythology that brings together leading international scholars in the field along with promising new talent for rich and fruitful discussion. The event is commonly known as the ‘Aarhus mythology conference’, since it was established there in 2006–2008 (and anticipated in 2005), after which it has travelled to Aberdeen (2009), Reykjavík (2010), Zürich (2011), Bonn (2012), Harvard (2013), Aarhus (2014), Stockholm (2015), Berkeley (2016), and now to Helsinki.
Covering Three Domains
The theme, intentionally broad to bring a wider range of perspectives into dialogue, covers three broad domains:
- Historical relations between Old Norse mythology and later Scandinavian, Finnish, Sámi and other folklore.
Research on Norse mythology emerged with a broad inclusion of evidence of more recent traditions. Changes in paradigms, theories and source-critical standards made the earlier research look more intuitive than analytical and led to reimagining such comparisons as impossibly problematic. Today, comparisons are being cautiously reopened on the basis of current knowledge and new methodologies, pioneering into a long-neglected area of research.
- Folklore, orality and performance behind sources for Scandinavian mythology
Mythology can also be a form of folklore, as are oral poetry, legend traditions, vernacular ritual and magical practices, and so forth. Medieval written sources present us with text of poems that may present transcriptions of performances, though more likely from dictation or from a writer’s own knowledge and memory; prose sources present knowledge and stories from oral traditions adapted to written form; burials in the archaeological record present material outcomes of traditional practices. These sources are not the traditions per se, but they represent and reflect traditions that people knew and used in society, and thus these sources provide fragmented glimpses into the folklore behind them.
- Analogical comparisons with later folklore to shed light on the mythology and religion
Traditions recorded in the nineteenth century through the present were documented in far greater detail than those of the Middle Ages. The different situation created the possibility of discussing performance processes, practices and meanings with people who lived the tradition or understood it from the inside. Corpora collected could also be vast with one or two hundred examples rather than only one or two, offering perspectives on variation, transmission, reinterpretation and change. Such material is applied analogically to produce new insights into traditions of the Old Norse world.
Perspectives from diverse disciplines will shed new light on questions in each of these three domains, their problems and potential. When brought together, discussions will bridge across these areas, exponentially increasing the potential to produce new knowledge.
Folklore and Old Norse Mythology is organised by Folklore Studies of the Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies, University of Helsinki, the Academy of Finland Project “Mythology, Verbal Art and Authority in Social Impact”, the Finnish Literature Society (SKS) and the Society for Medieval Studies in Finland Glossa ry., with support from the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies and the Donner Institute.