Saturday, 11 August 2018

Odin After Ragnarok

It is generally believed that Odin will 'die' at Ragnarok whilst fighting the wolf Fenrir:

"Then the second grief of Frigg comes about when Odin advances to fight against the wolf, and the bright slayer of Beli against Surt; then the beloved of Frigg must fall." (Voluspa 53, Larrington translation)

Now note that it is said that Odin must "fall". He will be defeated yes but it does not state that he will 'die'. We are then told that Odin's son Vidar avenges His father by slaying Fenrir, the "kinsman" of Loki:
"Then the great son of War-father, Vidar, advances against the Beast of Slaughter; with his hand he stabs his sword to the heart of Loki's kinsman: then his father is avenged." (Voluspa 54, Larrington)

Now I am aware that Snorri Sturluson when writing in his Younger Edda states that "The wolf will swallow Odin. That will be the cause of his death." (Gylfaginning, Faulkes translation) However that is a very superficial understanding of the myth by Snorri. One must remember that the Poetic Edda is the elder of the two Eddas, whilst Snorri's Prose Edda is based mainly upon the earlier work although there are some details in the Younger Edda which do not occur in the older work. The Younger Edda is basically a teaching treatise of the techniques of skaldic poetry and whilst Snorri showed some sympathy for our ancient Gods it must not be forgotten that he was a Christian. He attempts to euhemerise the Gods both in his Edda and in the Heimskringla and this has caused a great deal of confusion amongst modern day seekers of truth who are led astray by some of his interesting but bizarre theories.

Can the Gods really die? I do not think so but I believe that they have the power to transform themselves if they so wish. Gods like all living beings are constituted of energy and energy cannot die: it changes or dissipates but it does not die. This is the First Law of Thermodynamics. If this is true of human beings then how much more so of the Gods? Indeed we have this remarkable passage in Gylfaginning:

"He lives throughout all ages and rules all his kingdom and governs all things great and small." (Faulkes)

If Odin "lives throughout all ages" then He is surely immortal? In fact after Ragnarok He will dwell in Gimle with the righteous dead as I have already discussed in my earlier article on Aryan Myth and Metahistory- Gimle-the Future Abode of Odin's Chosen The relevant Eddic passage which refers to this is:

"And all men who are righteous shall live and dwell with him himself in the place called Gimle or Vingolf, but wicked men go to Hel and on to Niflhel; that is down in the ninth world." (Gylfaginning, Faulkes) 

Currently no men, living or dead dwell in Gimle: it is the home of the light elves:

"But we believe it is only light-elves that inhabit these places for the time being." (Gylfaginning, Faulkes)

As my other article makes clear it will be the righteous believers in Odin who will find refuge from the fires of Surt at Ragnarok which I believe may very well be a nuclear holocaust. The devatation from this holocaust will be so severe that not only the earth but the heavens will be affected. However Gimle and its inhabitants will operate on a higher frequency of vibration as will Odin Himself as All-Father will dwell in Gimle after Ragnarok. The above verses make clear that this will be at a future time-after Ragnarok and Odin Himself will live for ever but He will abandon the stage to make way for the other Gods who will dwell on Idavoll "where Asgard had been previously." (Gylfaginning, Faulkes)

However Voluspa has this intriguing verse:

"Then the powerful, mighty one, he who rules over everything, will come from above, to the judgement-place of the gods." (Voluspa 65, Larrington)

Who is the "powerful, mighty one, he who rules over everything"? I believe that the clue is again found in Gylfaginning:

"He lives throughout all ages and rules all his kingdom and governs all things great and small." (Faulkes)


Monday, 28 May 2018

The Northern European Thunder God

Much can be learned about the religious beliefs of our pre-Christian Germanic ancestors by exploring the mythologies and folklore of neighbouring peoples such as the Balts, Slavs and Celts. Indeed we should not confine ourselves to just exploring Indo-European belief systems but also of those other peoples who share our northern European living space such as the Finns, Estonians and Sami. The similarities between the beliefs of the northern Indo-Europeans and the Finno-Ugric peoples is due to two factors: cultural exchange and an ancient common racial inheritance.

For the purpose of this article I intend to focus on one particular example-the northern European Thunder God. Our knowledge of the Germanic Thunor/Thunar/Donar/Thor is limited to primary sources such as the Poetic and Prose Eddas and secondary sources such as folklore and place name evidence. By exploring how this God was viewed by neighbouring peoples we can enrich our knowledge of this most important deity.

In Finland the Thunder God was known by various names, one of which was Tuuri. Tuuri is less well known than Ukko (derived from the Finnish word for thunder, Ukkonen) but at one time was considered to be the same axe and hammer wielding Thunder God. Over time He was relegated to the status of being a God of the harvest, luck and success and became effectively a separate being. Interestingly the modern Finnish word tuuri means luck. There is a village called Tuuri in Alavus, western Finland which appears to have been named after Him. Tuuri's name is cognate with the Estonian Taara who is likewise a Finno-Ugric Thunder God.

Those of you who are interested in Celtic mythology will no doubt have noticed the similarity between Tuuri and the Irish Thunder God Tuireann. Likewise there is an apparent similarity between Taara and the Celtic Taranis. Taranis was not confined to the British Isles but appears to have been a pan-Celtic deity, also worshipped in Gaul and Gallaecia, the Roman name for the north western part of Iberia. Taranis was part of the Celtic triad of Gods with Esus and Teutates. Triads of deities are a common feature in Celtic and Germanic mythology and of course the number 3 is significant in the symbolism and mythologies of the Indo-European peoples, representing the tripartite division of both divine and human societies. Taranis is derived from the Proto-Celtic word for thunder, *Toranos. Likewise the Germanic peoples also personified thunder as their (at one time) primary deity *Thunraz.

My recent studies of the extant heathen beliefs and customs of the Chuvash of the Russian Federation have revealed two very important aspects of their belief system, Vattisen Yaly (meaning 'Tradition of the Old'), the world tree (the Keremet) and their primary sky deity, Tura! Although speakers of a Turkic language their DNA is primarily a mix of Finno-Ugric and Slavic with a hint of Germanic and Turkic! This is reflected in the wide spectrum of facial profiles amongst the Chuvash. The worship of Tura and the centrality of the world tree in their belief system are reminiscent of course of our own Germanic mythology.

Also related to the Germanic Thor is the Sami Thunder God, Horagelles, derived from 'Thor karl' or 'Thor kalle' (Thor- fellow). The Finnish epic The Kalevala, a collection of Finnish and Karelian oral myths and songs also refers to Thor several times in Rune 47. It should be noted that the word ‘Rune’ in the context of The Kalevala refers to songs rather than the Runes as symbols. They were spoken or sung utterances. Likewise in our own Germanic system the term ‘Rune’ actually means the whispering of a secret rather than the Rune stave itself. There is thus the connotation of oral transmission of secret or esoteric knowledge.

As already stated Ukko is a far better known deity than Tuuri and His name is equated with Perkele which means 'devil' in modern Finnish. This is no doubt the result of the demonisation of this important deity by the Christian church. What the church did not incorporate into their own mythology they demonised! It is more than likely that Perkele was His original name and its similarity to the Slavic and Baltic Thunder Gods should be noted. The Baltic variants Perkonis (Prussian), Perkunis (Lithuanian), Perkons (Latvian) and the Slavic variants Pyerun (Russian), Perunu (Old Russian), Piorun (Polish) and Perun (Czech) show a marked etymological common origin. They are all traceable to the reconstructed PIE *Perkunos as is the Germanic Fjorgyn (the mother of Thor). I believe that the Sanskrit rain God Parjanya may also be derived from *Perkunos but scholars are divided over this issue.

Breaking down the elements of *Perkunos we get some valuable details about this God. Firstly *perkus-oak. The oak tree is considered sacred to the Thunder God, no doubt because of its susceptibility to being struck by lightning due to its comparative tallness and high moisture content. The prefix *per has the meaning of 'strike' which of course is what the club, axe or hammer of the Thunder God does. Closely related to these two terms is *pelekus, PIE for 'axe'. The axe, not the hammer was the original weapon of the Anglo-Saxon/Saxon Thunor/Thunar. “Se thunor hit thryscedh mid theare fyrenan aecxe” translated into modern English as “Thunor threshes with a fiery axe.” (Dialogue of Solomon and Saturn). The origins of the thunder axe can be traced back to the Neolithic and it is extremely interesting that the symbol of the axe can be found at Stonehenge. Seventy one axe engravings appear on five of the mighty sarcens. This should not surprise us as phases II and III of the building of Stonehenge is the product of incoming Indo-European peoples into Britain. The dominant culture at the time of phase III was the Wessex Culture, a highly aristocratic warrior culture as evidenced by the Bush Barrow burial find, consisting of a gold lozenge breast plate, three bronze daggers, a bronze axe, a helmet and a sceptre of rare fossiliferous limestone from Devon. Clearly this magnificent monument was dedicated by the Indo-Europeans to their supreme sky deity who we know as the Thunder God.

Whilst the thunder axe morphed into a hammer amongst the Germanic tribes the Balts, Slavs and Finno-Ugric peoples retained the weapon as an axe in their mythologies and folklore. However even more ancient than either axe or hammer is the thunder stone, the original projectile of the Thunder God. Amongst the Anglo-Saxon peasantry a whole array of different types of fossils, flints, stones, belemnites and ammonites were used and carried as amulets for protection against lightning. Naturally holed stones known as holey stones, hag stones and Odin stones were hung on nails in barns and houses for protection. According to the scholars J.P. Mallory and D.Q. Adams in The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World the Proto-Indo-Europeans believed that they lived under a stone vault and stone axes fell from the sky so this belief is extremely ancient indeed. They state that the Lithuanian Perkuno akmuo-thunder stone means literally Perkuna's stone! Thus we have three important elements in the term *Perkunos-the oak, the axe and stone, all integral aspects of the mythology of the northern Indo-European Thunder God.

There are many aspects of the worship of the Baltic Perkonis/Perkunis/Perkons that can be incorporated into the worship of our own Thunor/Thor such as the placing of brass or bronze images of the God under oak trees or on remote hill tops. On our own household altars a perpetual fire can be lighted and maintained before an oaken image. Such practises can help to deepen our own faith and daily walk with the Gods of our ancestors. By showing honour and devotion to the Gods in these small ways we will inevitably reap their blessings and enjoy their protection.

Due to the comparatively late christianisation of the Baltic lands in the 15th century a great deal of genuine heathen lore has been retained amongst the Lithuanians and Latvians and I believe that much of this lore can help us to understand our own heathen Germanic heritage if we recognise that there are common elements of belief amongst the various Indo-European peoples.

Relevant works:

The Divine Thunderbolt. Missile of the Gods, J.T. Sibley
The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World, J.P. Mallory and D.Q. Adams
Stonehenge: The Indo-European Heritage/Stonehenge and the Origins of Western Culture, Bruce Kraig and Leon, E Stover
Stonehenge City: A Reconstruction, Leon. E Stover
Stonehenge of the Kings, Patrick Crampton
Perun: The God of Thunder, Mark Yoffe
Dictionary of Northern Mythology, Rudolf Simek
Comparative Mythology, Jaan Puhvel
A History of Pagan Europe, Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick
Pagan Celtic Britain, Anne Ross
The Kalevala
The Poetic Edda
The Prose Edda

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Gauts, the Ancestral God of the Goths

Very little information is available in book form regarding the spiritual beliefs and practices of the Gothic tribes, certainly not in the English language although I have seen a number of publications which have been published recently. As I have not had a chance to obtain and read the aforementioned books I will not comment on them at this stage. From an esoteric point of view I can recommend two excellent books which cover various aspects of their beliefs which were published some years ago. These are Nigel Pennick's The Inner Mysteries of the Goths (1995, Cappall Bann Publishing) and Edred Thorsson's The Mysteries of the Goths (2007, Limited First Edition, Runa Raven Press).

What gave me the impetus to write this article were a series of recent meditations that I had on the ancestral aspect of the Gods and this ancestral aspect is particularly pronounced in the beliefs of the Goths. According to Rudolf Simek:

"Anses. A Gothic term for 'gods' used by Jordanes (a Christian historian from the 6th century) that refers to a mythical dynasty which, according to Jordanes, used to be honoured as heroes (semideos). Etymologically speaking, the Anses are identical with the Aesir and the word-element Ans is found in numerous personal names from the Migration Age, although it is not totally clear what it means." (Dictionary of Northern Mythology)

My readers will surely note the similarity between Anses and ancestors. However I would point out that this word has French and Latin roots, being absorbed into Middle English as ancessour. (See Concise Dictionary of English Etymology (Walter W. Skeat) Whilst Anses has a similar meaning to Aesir to me it reminds me far more of our ancestral connection to the Gods. This short article is not the place for me to discuss the various ways in which we can claim kinship with the Gods. I intend to explore this concept more fully on my Aryan Myth and Metahistory blog in the near future. 

Edred Thorsson refers to four principal deities in his book: Gauts, *Teiws, *Fairguneis and *Iggws. My readers will note that only Gauts does not have an asterisk before the name. This is because Gauts is historically attested whilst the latter three are reconstructed deities using the disciplines of comparative linguistics and comparative mythology.

Gauts is said to be the original ancestor of the Goths and He has the alternative appellation of Gapt. Edred makes the interesting observation that "Gaut is identical with ON Gautr, which is in fact one of the many heiti, or bynames of the Norse god Odinn. In ON the name seems to have something to do with being a progenitor. This is very much in keeping with Odinn's general function as the All-Father. Like Gauts, Woden appears at the head of the Anglo-Saxon genealogies of kings." Rudolf Simek makes the additional observation: "The name Gautr is also found in the form of Gapt/Gaut as the mythical ancestor of the Langobards, as Geat in the genealogies of the Anglo-Saxon royal houses and as Gausus in the Langobardian Edictus Rothari. As such, he should be considered as the eponymous ancestor of the Goths who perhaps was identical to Odin in the common Scandinavian homeland of the Germanic tribes, which would explain why he was worshipped as an ancestor in so many places." Regarding the alternative form of the name Gapt he states: "According to Jordanes, the ancestor of the kings of the Amales, who was worshipped as a god. The generally accepted interpretation of the name is that Gapt is a misspelling here for Gaut which is connected with the ON name for Odin>Gautr and Anglo-Saxon Geat." According to an early 14th century saga Bosa saga ok Herraud King Hring of Ostergotland is the son of King Gauti, the son of Odin of Sweden. Some versions of the lineage of the House of Wessex place Geat above Woden but scholars view this as a later interpolation.

As I have made clear in the preceding paragraph the Gothic version of Odin places great emphasis on the chief deity being the ancestor not only of the royal house but the entire tribe or nation. We see an aspect of this in Eddic mythology in the Lay of Rig in the Elder Edda. Although Rig is generally identified with the God Heimdall I believe this to be an error and have argued this point before on my blogs when discussing the Germanic caste system. I believe that Rig (King) is none other than the ALL-FATHER Himself, Odin. As such he implanted His divine DNA in all the castes of Germanic society, making Him our divine progenitor in the same way that the Goths viewed Gauts. http://celto-germanic.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/the-germanic-caste-system-reappraisal.html

Regarding the other principal Gods, Edred comments that the Gothic *Teiws is the same deity as Tiwaz/Tyr and points out that the Gothic letter tyz is reconstructed by scholars as *teiws which corresponds with the Elder Futharc *tiwaz Rune. The God *Fairguneis is the reconstructed Gothic Thunder God and my readers will remember I discussed the possibility of a 'lost' alternative term for the Proto-Germanic Thunder God *Thunaraz in my article http://celto-germanic.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/fjorgynn-early-term-for-thunaraz.html I pointed out how this early name acted as a linguistical 'bridge' for similar deities in other Indo-European cultures. Edred states: "This name etymologically is connected to a word for the oak, and would have translated 'oak-god'. This name would then have been related to the weapon the god carried (an oak club, perhaps)." *Iggws is linked by Edred to the Germanic Ingwaz, known as Yngvi-Freyr in Sweden. Edred makes the claim that there is real evidence for the existence of this deity in the Gothic family of Gods and "that he was consciously syncretised with the new Christian cult. Iggws is the Gothic letter which corresponds to the Greek letter X (Chi)

In this short introductory article I have attempted to give my readers a taster of Gothic mythology and I maintain that we need to engage in further exploration of this fascinating Germanic culture as part of our general efforts in reviving the exoteric outer religion of Germanic heathenism amongst our peoples.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

The Heathen Temple of Goodmanham

Many of my readers will be familiar with the account in Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People of the desecration and destruction of the heathen temple in Goodmanham in the East Riding of Yorkshire, part of the ancient Anglian kingdom of Northumbria. There are some aspects of this account which I wish to reflect upon in this article. I am indebted to the author of A Pagan Place blog. His article on Goodmanham is most interesting: http://pagan-place.blogspot.com/2011/09/pagan-sites-of-europe-remembered-13.html

The original name of this ancient village is Godmunddingaham, meaning "Homestead of the family or followers of a man called Godmund." (A Dictionary of English Place-Names by A.D. Mills, 1991) The first question which springs to mind is who was Godmund and what was his position? One explanation is that Godmund is derived from the Old Norse name Gudmund, meaning 'protected by god'. However a Norse origin does not make any sense. Bede was writing in the 8th century about an event which occurred in the year 627 CE, well before any Danish colonisation. However it should be remembered that the Angles did come from the same area as the Danes. Also we must ponder whether the 'god' referred to is the name if the Christian god or the heathen English one, probably Woden? If Goodmanham was an important temple site which it appears to have been then it may very well be a reference to Woden. However we do not know for certain what the name of this village was in 627 CE, only what it was called at the time of Bede writing his account in about 731 CE. It is quite possible, maybe even probable that the name of the village was changed after the destruction of the temple.

Here is the appropriate text regarding the event:

"THE king, hearing these words, answered, that he was both willing and bound to receive the faith which he taught; but that he would confer about it with his principal friends and counsellers, to the end that if they also were of his opinion, they might all. together be cleansed in Christ the Fountain of Life. Paulinus consenting, the king did as he said; for, holding a council with the wise men, he asked of every one in particular what he thought of the new doctrine, and the new worship that was preached? To which the chief of. his own priests, Coifi, immediately answered, "O king, consider what this is which is now preached to us; for I verily declare to you, that the religion which we have hitherto professed has, as far as I can learn, no virtue in it. For none of your people has applied himself more diligently to the worship of our gods than I; and yet there are many who receive greater favours from you, and are more preferred than I, and are more prosperous in all their undertakings. Now if the gods were good for any thing, they would rather forward me, who have been more careful to serve them. It remains, therefore, that if upon examination you find those new doctrines, which are now preached to us, better and more efficacious, we immediately receive them without any delay."
Another of the king's chief men, approving of his words and exhortations, presently added: "The present life of man, O king, seems to me, in comparison of that time which is unknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the room wherein you sit at supper in winter, with your commanders and ministers, and a good fire in the midst, whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail abroad; the sparrow, I say, flying in at one door, and immediately out at another, whilst he. is within, is safe from the wintry storm; but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, into the dark winter from which he had emerged. So this life of man appears for a short space, but of what went before, or what is to follow, we are utterly ignorant. If, therefore, this new doctrine contains something more certain, it seems justly to deserve to be followed." The other elders and king's councillors, by Divine inspiration, spoke to the same effect.
But Coifi added, that he wished more attentively to bear Paulinus discourse concerning the God whom he preached; which he having by the king's command performed, Coifi, hearing his words, cried out, "I have long since been sensible that there was nothing in that which we worshipped; because the more diligently I sought after truth in that worship, the less I found it. But now I freely confess, that such truth evidently appears in this preaching as can confer on us the gifts of life, of salvation, and of eternal happiness. For which reason I advise, O king, that we instantly abjure and set fire to those temples and altars which we have consecrated without reaping any benefit from them." In short, the king publicly gave his licence to Paulinus to preach the Gospel, and renouncing idolatry, declared that he received the faith of Christ: and then he inquired of the high priest who should first profane the altars and temples of their idols, with the enclosures that were about them, he answered, "I; for who can more properly than myself destroy those things which I worshipped through ignorance, for an example to all others, through the wisdom which has been given me by the true God?" Then immediately, in contempt of his former superstitions, he desired the king to furnish him with arms and a stallion; and mounting the same, he set out to destroy the idols; for it was not lawful before for the high priest either to carry arms, or to ride on any but a mare. Having, therefore, girt a sword about him, with a spear in his hand, he mounted the king's stallion and proceeded to the idols. The multitude, beholding it, concluded he was distracted; but he lost no time, for as soon as he drew near the temple he profaned the same, casting into it the spear which he held; and rejoicing in the knowledge of the worship of the true God, he commanded his companions to destroy the temple, with all its enclosures, by fire. This place where the idols were is still shown, not far from York, to the eastward, beyond the river Derwent, and is now called Godmundinghan, where the high priest, by the inspiration of the true God, profaned and destroyed the altars which he had himself consecrated."

King Edwin (c. 586-632/633 CE) was king of the sub-kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira which later became unified into the kingdom of Northumbria. It was at this very time-627 CE that Edwin converted to Christianity and was baptised. What a coincidence therefore that at this time the High Priest Coifi decides to renounce his ancestral Gods and adopt the Christian religion. His real motive had nothing to do with a true spiritual revelation but was solely due to his realisation that a heathen High Priest would not fare well under a Christian king. So we see here the treason not only of Edwin, the secular ruler but Coifi, the religious reader. Like all conversions of the Germanic peoples they were from the top down, not genuine and subsequently enforced by violence. One can only speculate but it is highly probably that Coifi entered the Christian priesthood after his renunciation of the true Gods. Bede seeks to imply that Edwin's counsellors, his Witan of which Coifi was a member persuaded him to adopt the Christian religion but it is clear to me from the opening sentence that Edwin already had this as his intention and Coifi knowing 'which way the wind was blowing' took advantage of this. Bede being a Christian propagandist obviously has put his own 'spin' on the account which after 100 years became distorted anyway! Even Bede's own words make it clear what Coifi's motivation was-material gain!

It is more than likely that the church in Goodmanham, All Hallows was built upon the site of the heathen temple but contrary to what some allege it was not built from the materials of the temple. As most of my readers will be aware the Anglo-Saxons did not build temples of stone. All their structures were built of wood. The only part of the temple which would have been of stone is the altar. To the best of my knowledge no archaeological excavations have been conducted in the precincts of the church.

Bede makes it clear that Coifi was a High Priest and this implies that there was an organised priesthood. Some commentators claim that the Germanic peoples did not have an organised priesthood but this thinking is based on the faulty claims of Caesar in his De Bello Gallico:

"The customs of the Germans are very different from those of the Gauls. They have no druids to preside over religious matters, nor do they concern themselves with sacrifices." (Sixth Book, paragraph 21, translation by Carolyn Hammond) 

We know that this was not the case as Tacitus writing in the following century makes reference to a Germanic priesthood. Both animal and human sacrifices were carried out by the Germans. It may be that Caesar intended to say that the priesthood of the Germans was not as structured as that of the Druids of Gaul but a priesthood it never the less was.

It is generally considered that the temple at Goodmanham was devoted to Woden but this is mere guesswork as Bede does not mention Woden or the name of any other Germanic God in the quoted passage above and generally Germanic temples were devoted to more than one deity. It is significant though that Coifi cast a spear into the temple in order to desecrate it. Weapons were forbidden in the sacred gatherings of the Teutons and Coifi through his actions makes this clear just as the priesthood was forbidden to bear arms and I note, to ride a stallion although permitted to ride a mare. By riding a stallion and bearing arms he soiled his office and by casting the spear into the temple he committed an act of blasphemy. The spear is of course the sacred weapon of Woden and the horse one of his totemic beasts so by riding a stallion and by using this type of weapon to commit his act of sacrilege it is assumed by some that this temple was devoted to Woden which may of course have been the case but we cannot be sure.

Another thing that we can glean from Bede's words is that the temple contained sacred images or 'idols' to use Bede's terminology and this is something which we should therefore encourage in our own rites and to use on our own altars. The temple appeared to have more than one altar and as this was the location of the High Priest it may have had a similar status and significance as the temple at Old Uppsala in Sweden. The next time that Goodmanham is mentioned is in the Domesday Book, commissioned by William the Conqueror. A sacred well is situated near the church and is dedicated to St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine the Great. It is more than likely that this well like so many others in England was in itself once a sacred heathen shrine.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

The Old Saxon Baptismal Vow-Saxon or Franconian?

This article should be read in conjunction with Saxnot, Tribal God and Divine Ancestor of the Saxons
The vow is repeated below with its modern English translation:Ol
Old Saxon

End ec forsacho allum dioboles uuercum and uuordum, Thunaer ende Uuôden ende Saxnôte ende allum thêm unholdum thê hira genôtas sint.

Modern English

I renounce all the deeds and words of the devil, Thunaer, Wōden and Saxnōt, and all those fiends that are their companions.

The language of The Old Saxon Baptismal Vow is disputed by scholars. Dutch scholars, some of whom may be more influenced by Dutch nationalism rather than scholarly objectivity argue that the language is not Old Saxon (Old Low German) but  Old Franconian (Old Dutch) and for this reason it is also (by Dutch scholars) called the Utrecht Baptismal Vow. The more honest (and objective) position to take (in my view) is to state that we simply do not know if it is Saxon or Franconian due to the great similarities between these two West Germanic languages. One only has to consider the similarities between modern Dutch and Platt Deutsch (which my Saxon mother was able to understand) and realise that the boundaries between languages or dialects is often very narrow. I would add that the manuscript was found not in the Netherlands but in the monastery library at Mainz in Germany although this is not definitive evidence that it is German in origin of course.

The identity of Saxnot is also a matter of dispute as Jacob Grimm considered that it was an alternative and Saxon name for the God Zio (Tiu/Tyr) whilst Rudolf Simek argues an identification with the God Yngvi Fro. My own view is that He is a separate God and moreover that He was a tribal God of the Saxons. His name appears in the divine ancestry of the Kings of Essex as a son of Woden. Apparently earlier version of this genealogy do not include Woden and have instead Saxnot at its head. The issue of the Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies is worthy of a study in their own right. One could argue that if this vow were Franconian in origin then why does it feature an obviously SAXON God?

Monday, 27 November 2017

The Goat and its Relationship to the Northern European Thunder God

I have spent some time recently reflecting on the meaning and importance of the goat in relation to the Indo-European Thunder God. My article from 2013 is particularly relevant to this subject: The Goat, an Indo-European Solar Symbol

Misinformed bloggers on mythology would cite the evidence of Thor's goats in the Eddas as an indication of His 'lowly' status amongst the Aesir, particularly when compared to Odin. Believe it or not I have seen these foolish comments made by charlatans dabbling in mythology who have probably never even read the Eddas!

Most of my regular readers will know that I give great primacy to Thunor/Thunar/Thonar/Thor for He is more than likely the most ancient of our Germanic deities and unlike any other has close mythological cognates with the Baltic, Slavic, Celtic and Finno-Ugric peoples. However He is more often than not compared unfavourably with Odin but these who make such comparisons lack genuine understanding not only of our historical and sacred writings but of the very essence of the God Himself. I do not wish to digress further as this issue alone deserves a separate article and I wish to focus here on the goat and its significant relationship to the Thunder God amongst northern Europeans.

We know from both the Eddas that Thor's chariot was pulled by two goats. The Younger Edda gives the names of these goats:
"Thor has two goats whose names are Tanngniost and Tanngrisnir, and a chariot that he drives in, and the goats draw the chariot. From this he is known as Oku-Thor." (Gylfaginning, Faulkes translation)
Rudolf Simek defines Oku-Thor as 'driving Thor':
"He derives the name aka 'to drive a chariot', as Thor does indeed drive a chariot pulled by two he-goats; the origin of the idea of Thor's chariot driving could be the rumbling noise of thunder." (Dictionary of Northern Mythology
There is a close resemblance between Oku and the name of the Finnish Thunder God Ucco although Simek discounts this as an explanation of the term, arguing that the flow of cultural transfer tends to be from the Germanic to the Finno-Ugric peoples but that is not in my opinion a sufficient argument for ruling it out altogether! Ucco or Ukko is derived from the Finnish terms for 'old man' and 'grandfather'. Ukko may originally have been called Perkele, a Baltic term. Like Thor Ukko possessed a Hammer, called Ukonvasar, 'hammer of Ukko'. Sometimes His weapon is depicted as an axe and called Ukonkirves

Heathen Finns like their Germanic, Baltic and Slavic counterparts would wear hammer or axe shaped amulets. The Sami had a similar deity, Horagelles whose name is similar in meaning to Ukko: 'grandfather' or 'great grandfather'. Interestingly the Sami also called this deity Thoron and even Thor!

It is natural that our ancestors conceived of the rumbling thunder as the sound of a chariot being driven across the sky but we must ask ourselves why it was pulled by goats rather than say horses? Both the Germanic Thunder God and the Balto-Slavic equivalents feature a chariot being pulled by goats:

Perkunas. Lithuanian. The thunder god, the equivalent in LITHUANIA of PERKONS, PERKONIS, PERUN and PYERUN. Perkunas was perceived as a vigorous red-bearded man brandishing an axe who was drawn rattling, across the sky in a chariot drawn by a billy goat. "(European Myth & Legend, Mike Dixon-Kennedy, 1997)

The chariot of Perkunas is sometimes pictured as pulled by horses but often by goats, one black and one white which is a very obvious hint of solar symbolism. The goat is of course a solar symbol but the presence of both black and white ones strengthen this association. Additionally the male goat is a symbol of masculine virility, potency and vigour. The German Donar is particularly associated with mountains, many being named after Him. The Donnersberg in the Rheinland-Pfalz is a particularly well known example. The goat is also an animal which is at home in mountainous regions and its milk and meat would have formed a staple part of our ancestors' daily diet.

It is clear from Gylfaginning that Thor regarded His goats Tanngrisnir ('teeth barer') and Tanngnostr ('teeth grinder') as sacred due to the anger which He displayed when He discovered that Thjalfi had split the thighbone of one of the goats causing it to become lame. Scholars such as Simek point out that the names of the goats "are surely an invention and probably from Snorri himself as they are nowhere to be found except in Gylfaginning 20 and the thulur." The fact that the names are not mentioned in the Elder Edda does not make them an 'invention'. Snorri could have obtained his information from other sources including oral tradition but regardless of whether he 'invented' the names or not the fact remains that the goat has a long association with the northern European Thunder God as is evidenced from Slavic and Baltic sources. It is relevant for me to point out at this point that the Baltic mythology contains material so ancient that it can be traced back to Proto-Indo-European times.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

The Rúnatal-an Observation

We know from a section of the Hávamál  (Sayings of the High One) from the Elder/Poetic Edda that Odin gained the Runes or knowledge of them via an act of self sacrifice. This section of the Havamal is called the Rúnatal:

"I know that I hung on a windy tree
           nine long nights,

          wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin,

          myself to myself,

         on that tree of which no man knows

         from where its roots run.

         No bread did they give me nor a drink from a horn,

         downwards I peered;

         I took up the runes, screaming I took them,

         then I fell back from there. (verses 138-139, Larrington translation)

A more poetic yet older translation by Benjamin Thorpe translates the Old Norse as:

"I know that I hung, on a wind-rocked tree, nine whole nights, with a spear wounded, and to Odin offered, myself to myself; on that tree, of which no one knows from what root it springs.

         "Bread no one gave me, nor a horn of drink, downward I peered, to runes applied myself,                    wailing learnt them, then fell down thence." (verses 140-141)

As I am sure that my readers will agree the Thorpe translation being older is more poetic but it needs to be borne in mind that newer translations tend to be more accurate. Without studying the relevant passages in the original Old Norse I cannot at this stage comment on whether the version of this passage by Carolyne Larrington is more accurate. The translations though are essentially the same apart from one important point. Thorpe states Odin "applied" Himself to the Runes and "wailing learnt them". By contrast Larrington does not say that Odin learned the Runes only that He "took them".

The translation of the second verse by Hollander:

"Neither horn they upheld nor handed me bread;
I looked below me-
aloud I cried-
caught up the runes, caught them up wailing,
thence to the ground fell again."

Again, no reference to learning the Runes. The translation by Bray:

"None refreshed me ever with food or drink,
I peered right down in the deep;
crying aloud I lifted the Runes
then back I fell from thence."

The translation by Bellows:

"None made me happy with loaf or horn,
And there below I looked;
I took up the runes, shrieking I took them,
And forthwith back I fell."

The translation by Terry:

"They brought me no bread, no horn to drink from,
I gazed towards the ground.
Crying aloud, I caught up runes;
finally I fell."

The translation by Auden:

"They gave me no bread,
They gave me no mead,
I looked down;
with a loud cry
I took up runes;
from that tree I fell."

And finally the translation by Chisholm:

They dealt me no bread, nor drinking horn.
I looked down, I drew up the runes,
screaming I took them up,
and fell back from there. 

Out of the 8 translations the one by Thorpe is the only one which makes reference to 'learning' the Runes but that fact of course does not in itself make Thorpe's translation of the verse incorrect. When translating from ancient languages into a modern one the translator often does not know the exact meaning or the nuance of the word he is translating and just as in modern English a word with identical or similar spelling can have a radically different meaning. Despite Thorpe being 'out on a limb' with this verse it is his translation which I feel captures the essence of it best! It is quite clear that Odin after having gained the Runes would by necessity have had to learn and interpret them. The Runes did not originate with Odin but He discovered or more likely rediscovered them and then gave this knowledge to man for immediately after the Rúnatal we have the Ljóðatal which goes on to list 18 Rune charms or songs.

Readers of this article are advised to also read Odin on the World Tree