Book Review: Encyclopedia of NORSE and GERMANIC FOLKLORE MYTHOLOGY and MAGIC By Claude Lecouteux

As a teacher of Norse Shamanism and Germanic mythology this is one book I was delighted to receive and hold in my hands! It is a beautiful hardback book with many illustrations.

As an encyclopedia it is not so much a book most people will read from A – Z (quite literally as it is organised alphabetically!) but it is a book to dip into when you are checking a reference. Maybe the name of an obscure god, or a symbol you cannot quite place … and so forth. Who were Hvedrungr or Eyrgfjava for instance?!

A few decades ago, in secondary school, I had a teacher of Latin and Greek who was an absolute stickler for accuracy and for using faithful reproductions and spellings of names or words from foreign languages. He taught in Dutch, in the Netherlands, where I grew up. His attitude ignited something in me that has stuck with me for life and today I suspect I sometimes bore my own students with authentic if inaccessible spellings of names taken from Old Norse or classical Greek!!

For that reason I was pleased to see that the publisher and editor have taken great care to honour original orthography (fancy word for spelling!) There is even a note on correct pronunciation of letters from Old Norse and contemporary Icelandic.

What I did next was leafing through the book to check entries on terminology and more obscure figures (in Germanic mythology and folklore) where I have been disappointed in other reference type books I have consulted. That was the “litmus test” for me and this book passed with flying colours. It is obvious that a lot of scholarship and research has gone into compiling this. The author has not just taken entries from other sources and reproduced them uncritically.

Before the actual encyclopedia part there is a lengthy introduction of Norse and Germanic Mythology and Folklore. The sources are explained, the gods are introduced, the historical context is provided, even the runic letters are introduced and reproduced.

The author takes great pains to explain that the various Germanic or Nordic countries did not all share the same course of historical development over time. This is very important because, as a teacher of this material, I know that many students arrive looking for a “correct spelling” or “historical accuracy” on various matters – and this simply does not exist. I always reply with a question, when people press me on this: what language are we in? What location are we talking about? What period are you referring to?! – This is material from a vast geographical area (with many local tribes and sub cultures) stretching across centuries (where material continued to evolve over time).

I have not yet read all entries from A – Z. (I am working on that!) but I am thrilled to say that I am very impressed by all I have read so far. This is a book I will keep at hand and make available to my students of Norse mythology, Germanic folklore and shamanism!


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Imelda Almqvist, 4 November 2017, London UK


About the Author:

Imelda Almqvist’s book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books on 26th August 2016.  She is based in London,UK and teaches shamanism and sacred art internationally. 

For Amazon information, click image below.