Geatish Society

Geatish Society

The Geatish Society, or Gothic League ("Götiska Förbundet") was created by a number of Swedish poets and authors in 1811, as a social club for literary studies among academics in Sweden with a view to raising the moral tone of society through contemplating Scandinavian antiquity ("EB" 1911). The society was formally dissolved in 1844, being a dormant society for more than 10 years.

In the context of contentious debate over the suitability of Norse mythology as subjects of high art, in which the strong neoclassical training of northern academies, both Swedish and Danish, furnished powerful prejudices in favor of Biblical and Classical subjects, the members of the "Götiska Förbundet" sought to revive "Viking spirit" and related matters. When in 1800 the University of Copenhagen had made the debate the subject of a competition, the Danish Romantic Adam Gottlob Oehlenschläger expressed himself as in favor of Northern mythology because it was native, because it had not become hackneyed and, characteristically for the direction northern Romanticism was to take, because it was morally superior to Greek mythology (Kuhn). In 1817 "Förbundet" announced a competition for sculpture on Northern themes.

The club published a magazine, "Iduna", in which it printed a great deal of excellent poetry, and ventilated its views, particularly as regards the study of old Icelandic literature and history. The members wrote extensively on the Æsir and other parts of Norse mythology. The historical writings of Olaus Rudbeck were also revived and used for creating vivid imagery. In their poems, especially the rich illustrations, actual Norse elements would be mixed with, for instance Nordic Bronze Age, Celtic, Greek and Roman elements in order to create a modern mythology of the past.

Among the most famous members were Esaias Tegnér and Erik Gustaf Geijer, both editors of "Iduna". Some of their most famous poems were composed under the influence of the ideas and sentiments of the Geatish Society, notably "Frithiofs saga" by Tegnér, as well as other minor poems named "Vikingen", "Odalbonden" and "Skidbladner". The latter were published in "Iduna". Other well-known members were Arvid Afzelius, an editor of the ground-breaking anthology of Swedish folksong, "Svenska visor från forntiden", the lyric poet Karl August Nicander, Gustaf Vilhelm Gumaelius (1789-1877) author of the historical novel, "Tord Bonde" and Pehr Henrik Ling.

Members of the society would write extensively on the Vikings, often in a way that described a kind of brave ancient people that had nothing in common with the actual Vikings. Members of the Geatish Society would occasionally wear horned helmets, which is the source of the myth that Vikings would have worn such helmets. (Actually they never did.)

In 1844 part of the library accumulated by the "Götiska förbundet", together with its archive, was given to the library of the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities ("Vitterhetsakademiens bibliotek"; there the materials are maintained among the special collections [] .

The mythology and imagery of this movement was also very popular in the German Empire, where comparable societies were part of the "Völkisch movement" that was taken up in Nazi Germany, and remains popular among Nazists to this day. Ideologically there seems no obvious connection, save the common concerns with sentimental patriotic interest in ethnic folklore, local history and a "back-to-the-land" anti-urbanism that are commonplaces of National Romanticism.

External links

* [ Hans Kuhn, "Greek gods in Northern costumes: visual representations of Norse mythology in 19th-century Scandinavia"]
* [ "Encyclopaedia Britannica" 1911:] "Swedish literature")

ee also


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