Dr. Mathias Nordvig

Dr. Mathias Nordvig is a visiting assistant professor of Nordic and Arctic studies at the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures at University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder). He teaches subjects on Viking history, Nordic mythology, folklore, Arctic culture and society, and Danish language. Dr. Nordvig earned his PhD in Nordic mythology in 2014 at Aarhus University in Denmark, his native country. He moved to Colorado in 2015.

Dr. Nordvig has a BA. degree in Nordic languages and literatures with a minor in Viking Studies. His MA. degree includes studies in medieval Icelandic history and saga literature, Viking Age archaeology, Nordic mythology, and Old Norse language. He wrote his PhD dissertation on the relationship between Old Norse myth and the Icelandic environment. The dissertation is titled: Of Fire and Water. The Old Norse Mythical Worldview in and Eco-mythological Perspective.

He has taught in Danish primary and middle school, high school, Scandinavian folk high school (folkehøjskole), open university, and in college. College courses he has taught include: The Reception of Nordic Mythology, Viking Age Religion and Myth, and The Harvard Viking Summer School at Aarhus University. At CU Boulder, he has taught Vikings, Norse Mythology, Scandinavian Folk Narrative, Medieval Icelandic Sagas, Scandinavian Culture and Society, 19th and 20th Nordic Literature, and Arctic Culture and Society.

His research interests include: myth and environment, pre-Christian Scandinavian religion and mythology, Old Norse memory culture, indigenous studies, Inuit, and Sámi folklore, mythology, and religion. He also takes an interest in contemporary cultural use of Nordic mythology and the Viking Age in media, music, and Neo-paganism.

Dr. Nordvig has lived most of his life in Denmark, but spent a considerable part of his childhood in Greenland. He has also lived in Iceland, and frequently travels to Iceland, Denmark, and Norway.

FAQS

  • How did you become interested in Nordic mythology? Nordic mythology is a consistent part of Scandinavian culture. Everywhere you go, there are references to our ancient gods and myths, whether it is street names, advertisements, or place names and monuments from the Viking Age and before. The myths are told to children in kindergarten, school, and by parents. My parents told me about the ancient gods and heroes, and I guess that sparked an early interest. I knew already in high school that I wanted to study this subject in college.
  • What do you think Nordic mythology can be used for today? Like any other product of human culture in the distant past, Nordic mythology is a window into the human mind. We can learn so much about ourselves by studying and engaging with the stories of past cultures. With Nordic mythology, we find that the Scandinavians back then were not so different from us today. They had the same concerns, fears, and delights as we modern humans have.
  • Why have you created the Nordic Mythology Channel? As an expert in a field that to many people is illusive or mysterious, I think it is important to make good, sober knowledge about that subject available to a broad audience. As an academic, I also believe it is my duty to make my knowledge available to the public. Scholars are often perceived as people who sit in an ivory tower, far away from “ordinary” folk. By using social media like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, I can come in contact with people who have an interest in this subject but do not necessarily have the possibility to go to college. Nordic mythology is part of our world’s heritage. As such, it belongs to everyone, and everyone should have access to it.
  • Are you Ásatrú? This is a difficult question to answer. Ásatrú is the modern revival of Scandinavian polytheism. It is not the same as the pre-Christian Scandinavian religion, it is more or less loosely based in the pre-Christian Scandinavian tradition as it was written down in medieval times, after people had converted to Christianity. The word “Ásatrú” is a modern invention, which comes from Icelandic and means something like “belief in the Æsir.” The word “Æsir” is the name for the Nordic gods in medieval Icelandic literature. If you consider yourself Ásatrú, then you probably have a set idea of what it means, and I doubt that my idea of it is similar to yours. I was raised with the stories and I have attended blót (ritual to the Nordic gods) most of my life. Just like Christians will use Biblical stories and the story of Christ to think about their world, I think about my world through the stories of the Nordic gods. However, I am not a member of any organization, group, church, or whatever you call it, and I do not subscribe to the ideas that most Ásatrúar talk about. Read more about the topic here.

Peer-reviewed publications

Myth and Environment in Early Iceland. Leeds, Arc Humanities Press in association with Amsterdam University Press (Monograph under contract 2020).

Aggressive Masculinity and Environment in the Icelandic Landnám. In ‘Limes. Studies and materials from the history of middle-east Europe: Grettis Little Sword. Constructing Masculinity in Old Norse Culture,’ eds. Remigiusz Gorgosz and Ásdís Egilsdóttir. Rzeszów, University of Rzeszów Press (forthcoming, 2019).

Myrkur as Mother North: Feminist Digressions in Black Metal Culture. In ‘Digressions,’ ed. Morten Nielsen and Marianne Keisalo, Aarhus, Aarhus University Press (forthcoming 2019).

Katla the Volcanic Witch: A Medieval Icelandic Recipe for Survival. In ‘American/Medieval Goes North: Earth and Water in Transit,’ eds. Gillian R. Overing and Ulrike Weithaus, Göttingen, V&R Unipress (forthcoming 2019).

Chapter 32a: Cosmogony. In ‘Pre-Christian Religions of the North. Histories and Structures,’ eds. Anders Andrén, Jens Peter Schjødt, and John Lindow, Turnhout, Brepols (forthcoming 2019).

Chapter 32b: Cosmology. In ‘Pre-Christian Religions of the North. Histories and Structures,’ eds. Anders Andrén, Jens Peter Schjødt, and John Lindow, Turnhout, Brepols (forthcoming 2019).

Nature and Mythology. In ‘Handbook of Old Norse Memory Studies: Interdisciplinary Approaches,’ ed. Pernille Hermann, Stephen A. Mitchell, and Jürg Glauser, Berlin, De Gruyter (2018): 539-548.

Neo-paganism. In ‘Handbook of Pre-Modern Memory Studies: Interdisciplinary Approaches,’ eds. Pernille Hermann, Stephen A. Mitchell, and Jürg Glauser, Berlin, De Gruyter (2018): 728-733.

Are There Echoes of the AD 536 Event in the Viking Ragnarok Myth? A Critical Appraisal. ‘Environment and History,’ 24,3 (2018): 303-324. With Felix Riede.

Creation from Fire in Snorri’s Edda. The Tenets of a Vernacular Theory of Geothermal Activity in Old Norse Myth. In ‘Old Norse Mythology in Comparative Perspectives,’ eds. Pernille Hermann, Stephen A. Mitchell, and Jens Peter Schjødt, with Amber Rose, Cambridge Massachusetts and London, The Milman Parry Collection on Oral Literature, Harvard university, Harvard University Press (2017): 269-289.

Learning from the Past – Teaching Past Climate Change and Catastrophes as Windows onto Vulnerability and Resilience. In ‘Teaching Climate Change in the Humanities,’ eds. Stephen Siperstein, Stephanie Lemenager, and Shane Hall, New York, Routledge (2016): 126-135. With Felix Riede, Annette Højen Sørensen, Jan Dietrich, Mogens Skaaning-Høgsberg, and Esben Bjerggaard Nielsen.

At fange havets ånd. Økoviden i den nordiske mythologi. In ‘Chaos. Skandinavisk tidsskrift for religionshistoriske studier,’ 64 (2016): 77-98.

What Happens When ‘Hider’ and ‘Screamer’ Go Sailing with ‘Noisy’? Geomythological Traces in Old Icelandic Mythology. In ‘Past Vulnerability. Volcanic Eruptions and Human Vulnerability in Traditional Societies Past and Present,’ ed. Felix Riede, Aarhus, Aarhus University Press (2015): 75-88.

Skjaldemjødens betydning i den oldnordiske kulturkreds. Belyst i to litterære fremstillinger fra middelalderens Island. In ‘Drikkekultur i middelalderen,’ eds. Kasper H. Andersen and Stefan Pajung, Aarhus, Aarhus University Press (2014): 27-48.

A Method for Analyzing World-Models in Scandinavian Mythology. In ‘Approaching Methodologies, 2nd Revised Edition with Introduction by Ulrika Wolf-Knuts,’ eds. Frog and Pauliina Latvala with Helen F. Leslie, Sastamala: Annales Academiae Scientiarum Fennicae (2013): 377-398.

A Method for Analyzing World-Models in Scandinavian Mythology. In ‘RMN Newsletter. Special Issue: Approaching Methodologies’ no. 4, May 2012, Helsinki, University of Helsinki (2012): 196-208.

Service as editor:

The International Saga Conference. Sagas and the Use of the Past. 5th-11th August 2012. Aarhus University. Preprint Abstracts. Aarhus, Department of Aesthetics and Communication, and Department of Culture and Society, Aarhus University (2012). 

RMN Newsletter 3, December 2011. Helsinki, University of Helsinki.

RMN Newsletter 2, May 2011. Helsinki, University of Helsinki.

RMN Newsletter 1, December 2010. Helsinki, University of Helsinki.