Timeless Mythology ~ What to Read After Watching Avengers: Infinity War

Recently I was reading Daniel McCoy’s  GREAT new book “The Viking Spirit” and his website which is filled with interesting explorations of Norse mythology. I was also in the process of writing a book review, when my husband invited me to go to the movies to see “Avengers: Infinity War.” So I set aside my work to take a welcome afternoon break.

The serendipity became more evident as I started recognizing nordic mythological characters in the movie. While I do not claim any expertise in the Marvel culture, I could not help but notice how timeless these myths truly are. McCoy helps tease out the relevance  of those ancient archetypes to the modern imagination.

Viking, Nordic mythology,
This drawing is from a tapestry dating to 1066 Norman Conquest. by L.S. Berthelsen

McCoy delineates between history and myth in an interesting manner that does not necessarily satisfy the modern need for concrete boundaries between rational facts and personal experiences.

So generally speaking, mythology endures as the collective memory as reimagining of the old stories through the lenses of the current psyche. In order to really ‘get’ the old Nordic mindset, we are asked to set aside our dualistic assumptions of good and evil in order to allow them to have a civil conversation.  I recognized this same theme in Avengers: Infinity War.

In reading McCoy’s book, I was reminded of how modern imagination blurs the line between Templar history and lore.  Sorting through extrapolations to separate fact from fiction is seldom easy.  The historic Templars were however flesh and blood men, who were tied to families which extended into multiple cultures throughout Europe. The Templars were organized by Provinces, according to language groups and cultural boundaries…. including the Norse heritage of Scotland.

The Nordic pantheon described forces of nature and personalities which helped them make sense of their world and cope with the harshness of life. Love and laughter lived alongside starvation and deprivation. To the Nordic psyche, the skies were as dangerous as the seas. Humanity  kept vigil along every horizon, and accepted a universal order that does not easily translate into modern terms.

The Nordic imagination melded to a certain extent into the larger zeitgeist of northern Europe. Their beliefs also sailed  with them throughout the British Isles, North Sea, the Rhine, the Seine, the rivers of the low countries and into the Mediterranean and Black seas during the early middle ages. Their notion of land, sea and sky dimly infiltrated the resident mindsets and also shaped them over time. Thus we find similarities between Norse mythology and the Celts, the Sufis and Shamans of Mongolia.

As a Templar historian, I see how The Viking Spirit offers insights into how the medieval psyche operated and how the Templars viewed the natural world. After all, they shared northern Europe for two centuries. Toward the end of the Templar era at the end of the 13th century, the Norse were only beginning to write down their oral traditions.

Granted, Templar mythology is not the same as Templar military history; neither is the Nordic imagination synonymous with their history of war and conquering.  But neither can we say that mythology should be called a religion. They are stories which contain  kernels of authentic information that originate in personal human experiences within the collective imagination. Now fast forward to The Infinity Wars, and we have another thread linking human psyche to  collective memory and imagination. How about that?

In short, I would highly recommend The Viking Spirit  AND Avengers: Infinity War!