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Beliefs, rituals, and mythology of the pre-Christian Germanic peoples, in a geographic area extending from the Black Sea across central Europe and Scandinavia to Iceland and Greenland. The religion died out in central Europe with the conversion to Christianity (4th century) but continued in Scandinavia until the 10th century. The Old Norse literature of medieval Iceland, notably the Poetic Edda (c. 1270) and the Prose Edda (c. 1222), recounts the lore of the Germanic gods. The earth was held to have been created out of a cosmic void called Ginnungagap; in another account the first gods formed it from the body of a primeval giant, Aurgelmir. There were two sets of gods in the Germanic pantheon, the warlike Aesir and the agricultural Vanir. Germanic religion also encompassed belief in female guardian spirits, elves, and dwarfs. Rites were conducted in the open or in groves and forests; animal and human sacrifice was practiced. Ragnarok is the Germanic doomsday.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Germanic religion, visit Britannica.com.
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