A primary aim of this study is its attempt to uncover a prehistoric layer of cereal grain (barley) mythology and ritual that may have backgrounded the Beowulf-poem. Toward this end, the poem and the mythological figures of Byggvir, Beyla, Scef ‘sheaf’ and Scyld ‘shield’ are interpreted in terms of a conceivable ritual context. Moreover, cereal deities, their ritualized veneration and the possible associations between them are referenced to the scourge of ergotism that once threatened much of Europe. The scope of Beowulf as not only an heroic epic but as also a cultural repository is thereby amplified.
The runic inscription on a torc found in 1837 as part of a treasure at what is now Pietroasele, Romania, has long been taken to be a product of Gothic paganism. The torc is generally thought to preserve a reference to the Goths and to holiness, and to be a cultic artefact. Yet the Pietroasele treasure is typically argued by archaeologists to have been deposited at the time of the collapse of the Hunnic Empire and the adoption of Christianity by the Ostrogothic kings. The inscription may be better analysed as a Christian text that makes reference to the holy lands of the Goths.