Her main thesis is that contact with Early Christian Roman society between 0 AD, through the German migration circa 400 AD up until the Viking Era, had a profound effect on the status that the female gender role enjoyed in Germanic religion (regardless of sex or sex orientation) . There was a strong shift after contact with Rome she writes, and tangentially suggests that contact with Semitic/Christian ideas of gender role itself modified pagan religion, before Germanic people even adopted Christianity.
Traditional anthropological theory on tribal societies around the globe suggest that women originally had a stronger role in religion and tended to be associated with certain types of supernatural powers and phenomena. Classical example include the fertility goddess symbols found around the world. She notes that earlier societies were considerably more tolerant of transgenderism, even giving a special category and assigning special powers to those who fell outside of the gender binary, precisely because of the role femininity played in religion.
The Roman texts on early Germanic tribes seem to support traditional anthropology expectations, she argues.
Hence in the early middle ages, femininity became conflated with submission or weakness in society, and thus a male being called feminine became an insult, a male being raped was a crime (not the other way around), and curiously the crime tended to be punished severely only if that male victim was a free man as opposed to a slave, a woman, an indentured servant or a warrior's teenage apprentice of some sort, in which case there either was no crime at all, or it was a much lesser crime, such as property violation (sounds patriarchal enough to me).
She argues femininity became shameful at the same time that femininity increasingly became associated with witchcraft and mischief - and earlier accounts on Germanic people suggest their society was different. She suggests changes in Germanic religious beliefs are actually reflected in the Eddas.
The interesting part to me is the faint evidence that the female gender role was a fundamental trait for practising certain kinds of magic, and even that there were males who would cross-dress in order to performs said rituals. Now this a hypothesis that I forwarded in my creation of the Engelfolk and Luftschiffengel characters. Namely that a 3rd gender people would hold "special powers" and enjoy a place in society because of that,
Now I have a tribe, and possibly a time frame for the origin of the Engelfolk. But I'm afraid the Engelfolk would not have had an easy time at the hands of the other Germanic tribes, especially as Germanic religion increasingly became more intolerant and patriarchal. They may have been persecuted for centuries before the Catholic Church took over.
I already have a tribal origin. Now I have to account for the Engelfolk's survival into the 19th. C, dig up some ancient names, and perhaps religious significance which would survive into the 19th. C - all of which start completing the picture of my characters.
Why/how would these Elf-like creatures be tolerated? How would the Catholic Church do it? Why? Could the same Roman Catholic institution which slowly turned the Germans into patriarchs, actually protect the ancient pagan beliefs and give room to the "transgendered Elves"?
It's not unheard of. It did happen with the Aztecs and the Catholic Church in Mexico. Initially oppressed, eventually the Church incorporated and folded Aztec beliefs such as "The Day of the Dead" into Christian dogma. It happened with the pagan Samhain which eventually turned into Halloween. It was not a fiery death at the stake automatically for a new convert to Christianity.
This is not essential information for my story - but it can provide more details. And it's so much fun to think about...
I'm having fun making my "elves."