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

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Some Thoughts on Rig of the Rigsthula

The Rigsthula is one of the most important sacred documents that has survived the onslaught of xtianity in the Germanic realms and I make no apology therefore in returning to it time and time again for there is still much to be gleaned and learned from this poem found in the Elder or Poetic Edda.

The God Rig is credited with the formation of the Germanic caste system but this should not be confused with the creation of man which is dealt with as a separate event in both the Elder Edda and the Younger or Prose Edda. Rig's intention is to create an order of caste within Germanic society by the mixing of divine blood with that of mortal man. Of course we know that the caste system is to be found throughout the Aryan world. The Rigsthula is simply an account based on how the Germanic peoples thought of how the caste system came into being.

One question that we are faced with straight away is the identity of Rig and this is something which I have long pondered for several years now. The Rigsthula is prefaced with the following statement:

"People say in the old stories that one of the Aesir, who was called Heimdall, went on a journey, and as he went along the sea-shore somewhere he came to a household and he called himself Rig." (Carolyne Larrington translation)

It would seem from this that the Lay of Rig was already well known but it is possible that the writer of the lay may have repeated a mistake regarding the identification of Rig with Heimdall. Even  Miss Larrington states in her notes that "The identification of Heimdall with Rig is not absolutely secure, since it is based only on the prose introduction, but the beginning of the Seeress's Prophecy, asking for attention from all 'the offspring of Heimdall', seems to suggest that the god did have some connection with the creation of mankind."

Rig is said to be "derived from the Irish ri (rig in other cases) meaning 'king'." Why this term should be derived from an Irish source we can only speculate but I will leave discussion of that issue for another day. The important point to grasp is that the term is said to mean 'king' and this position was not Heimdall's but Odin's. Let us visit the line in question from the Voluspa in the Elder Edda:

"Attention I ask from all the sacred people, greater and lesser, the offspring of Heimdall;" (verse 1, Larrington translation)

Miss Larrington in her notes states that the 'sacred people' are the Gods but this is not how I read the line in its English translation. It appears to be referring to the 'offspring of Heimdall' as the 'sacred people' rather than the Gods and this makes sense when we consider that these people are divine offspring. In fact the translation of this verse by Benjamin Thorpe supports my contention:

"For silence I pray all sacred children, great and small, sons of Heimdall,"

So it is clear then that it is the men and women who are descended from Rig are 'sacred' but without studying the original Old Norse (something which I intend to do) I cannot be categoric in this. It is simply my initial theory.

From my understanding the introduction to the Rigsthula may have been written 100 years or so later than the poem itself by way of providing some insight into who Rig may be and if this is the case it makes the contention that Rig is Heimdall stand on a much faultier basis. Rudolf Simek seems to share the view that I hold:

"It is extremely doubtful whether Rigr can be identified with the god Heimdall, as occurs in the prose introduction added later to the lay. The picture of a god wandering about and spreading the knowledge of the runes would appear to fit Odin more than Heimdall." (Dictionary of Northern Mythology

My readers will note that Professor Simek states that the prose introduction was added later to the lay thus making it seem somewhat unreliable in my opinion. The whole picture of a wandering God who teaches runes to His son Jarl fits better with the qualities of Odin Himself who is known as The Wanderer and is the High Lord of the runes. Unlike Heimdall He is also the rig, the king of the Gods. Most ancient Germanic royal houses included Odin or Woden in their ancestry. Heimdall never appears in this way. Finally the main function of Heimdall is to guard Bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge. For Heimdall to leave His post for extended periods of time thus leaving Asgard vulnerable to attack does not make an iota of sense to me.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

The Celtic Caste System, a Comparison with the Germanic

On this blog and on my Aryan Myth and Metahistory blog I have written many times about different aspects of either the Aryan or Germanic caste systems. What I propose to do in this article is focus particularly on the Celtic caste system and discuss where it differs from the Germanic one.

As far as the structure of the Celtic caste system is concerned it would appear that it closely followed the original Aryan one:

Irish caste system

Druids (including Ovates and Bards)-priestly caste

Flaith-noble/warrior caste

Bo aire-"cow herds"-producer caste

Gallic caste system


Equites (Knights)


I would like to make two points here. Firstly my readers will note the use of the term aire which has exactly the same meaning as the term Arya or Aryan. This puts paid to the lie of many 'academics' that our European ancestors did not use this term to describe themselves. Peter Berresford Ellis writing in The Ancient World of the Celts compares certain Old Irish and Sanskrit terms. The Sanskrit Arya is translated as 'freeman' and the Old Irish aire as 'noble'. In the Germanic caste system the noble was the Jarl caste whilst the freeman was the Karl caste, the yeoman (or artisan) in other words.  I have proved before this term is not limited to the Iranians or Indo-Aryans. See http://aryan-myth-and-metahistory.blogspot.co.uk/2008/12/aryan-term-not-confined-to-indo.html Indeed there is also a close connection between the Aryans and agriculture. The Aryan was not just a warrior but a farmer and he revolutionised agriculture by the invention of the plough. The English yeoman of the late Middle Ages is the epitome of this. See http://aryan-myth-and-metahistory.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/the-aryans-and-farmer-caste.html The second point that I wish to make is that the above mentioned caste system is typical of Ireland but Caesar writing in his De bello Gallica stresses the importance of the two highest castes:

“In the whole of Gaul two types of men are counted as being of worth and distinction. The ordinary people are considered almost as slaves: they dare do nothing on their own account and are not called to counsels.
“Of the two types of men of distinction, however, the first is made up of the druids, and the other of the knights.” (Book 6.13, Carolyn Hammond translation)

If Caesar is correct in his analysis then this may be an indication that the Celtic tribes of Gaul were more warlike due to the unsettled nature of the times with the threat that they faced from Rome. This situation would have increased the importance of the warrior caste whilst Ireland was largely free from conflict from external enemies and so the dominance of the two highest castes was not so evident. It would appear that there was a fair degree of mobility between the priestly and warrior castes of the Gauls but less so between these two castes and the third caste although it was also possible to rise from this caste to either of the other two but it took several generations for this position to be consolidated and to be fully recognised.

The term bo aire literally means cattle chief and cattle were regarded as an indication of wealth in both Celtic and Germanic societies and this is of course reflected in the Fehu/Feoh/Fe rune, meaning cattle or livestock as a  form of mobile wealth. Eventually land became an indicator of wealth as the tribes became more settled. This was of course before the introduction of 'money'.

The ancient Brehon Laws of Ireland date back to the Iron Age and they developed from oral laws as did the Germanic legal systems. It is said that they have their foundation in Proto-Indo-European or Aryan times. The Brehons were judges or arbiters of the law. The Brehon Laws describe the structure of Irish society and show that there were five main classes of people:

Kings of various grades from tribal Kings to the High King.

Nobles (which included Kings)

Non-Noble Freemen with property

Non-Noble Freemen without property or with little property

The Non-Free

The first three classes were known as 'privileged' and known as an aire. The nobility held land which they owned and thus were the aristocracy. Another term for this type of noble or chief was Flaith. The Freeman with property although not classed as a noble was nevertheless an aire. This would seem to equate to both the gentry and the yeomanry of late mediaeval England. The bo aire was the equivalent of the English yeoman or franklin as I have said previously. A wealthier bo aire could rise to the lowest rank of noble. The Freeman with little or no property were termed ceile or producers. The Freeman whether he be the owner of property or not would have equated to the Karl caste of the Germanic system. Craftsmen or artisans were also regarded as Freemen of the lower rank. The Non-Free were not all slaves and some could own small plots of land for subsistence purposes and they would have equated to the Thrall caste of the Germanic system. The Druids are not represented in the structure outlined in the Brehon Laws as this concerned purely the structure of lay society, not priestly.

It is clear that the Kings and Nobles equate to the Jarl caste whilst the Freemen of both classes equate to the Karl caste and the Non-Free the Thrall caste, thus reconciling the system in the Brehon Laws to the tripartite Indo-European system. If one considers that the Non-Free as a type of Sudra caste fall outside of the Indo-European tripartite structure then what we have is as follows:

Druids-priestly caste

Nobles (including Kings)-warrior caste

Freemen (farmers, craftsmen with or without property)

Non-Free-slaves and others of low standing falling outside of the aire and equate to the Indian Sudras.

The Germanic system does not have a separate priestly caste as this function was subsumed by the noble caste and we see the two functions of the Jarl caste divided into soverignity (Tyr) and magic-religion (Odin) and thus the Thralls which would not have been regarded as aire by the Irish are formed into the third caste, the other two moving up one level to replace the lost priestly one. I have already discussed the reason for this in http://celto-germanic.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/the-germanic-caste-system-reappraisal.html

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Woden Remembered in German Harvest Incantations

Long after our ancestors ceased to worship the deities of our folk their remembrance lingered on in many rural folk customs. I stress here, rural folk customs for it is in the rural villages and smaller towns that our ancient customs survived the longest. The cities and larger towns were mainly the product of people being drawn into larger urban centres from the time of the Industrial Revolution, seeking employment. After 2 or 3 generations many people forgot who their ancestors were. Thus they generally lack any real continuity. As an aside I remark here that those of us who have ancestry rooted in rural areas are more likely to trace our ancestry back to the 1400s and 1500s than those whose ancestors came from larger urban centres. This causes the descendants  unfortunately to 'forget' their ancestors, having no real idea where they came from although this happily can be remedied in part by the latest autosomal DNA testing which can identify ethnic origins and even which regions of the British Isles your ancestors came from to 10 generations back (great great great great great great great great grandparents-1024 lines of descent!). Thus the larger towns and cities have always been the enemy of our folk.

Up until fairly recent times (19th century) the Gods were still being remembered in songs and folk customs, usually related to the changing seasons of the year. There are some very interesting examples referred to by Jacob Grimm in his Teutonic Mythology volume 1. In Mecklenburg Grimm tells us of a certain formula or incantation which was spoken over the last sheaf of harvest:
"Wode, hale (fetch) dinem rosse nu voder,
            nu distil unde dorn,

            tom andern jar beter korn!"

This translates as "Wode, fetch now food for your horse!" An alternative version of this incantation from the same region is:

"Wode, Wode,
            hal dinen rosse nu voder,

            nu distel un dorn,

            aechter jar beter korn!"

This is written in a German dialect and thus not easy to translate but I believe that it equates to "Wode, Wode, fetch now food for your horse, now thistle and thorn, avoid the better corn!"

"He adds, that at the squires' mansions, when the rye is all cut, there is Wodel-beer served out to the mowers; no one weeds flax on a Wodenstag, lest Woden's horse should trample the seeds; from Christmas to Twelth-day they will not spin, nor leave any flax on the distaff, and to the question why? they answer, Wode is galloping across. We are expressly told, this wild hunter Wode rides a white horse."

Grimm also tells us that in Schaumburg the mowers go out in teams of either 12, 16 or 20 scythes. They so arrange it that on the very last day of harvest they all finish at the same time:
"or some leave a strip standing which they can cut down at a stroke the last thing, or they merely pass their scythes over the stubble, pretending there is still some left to sow. At the last stroke of the scythe they raise their implements aloft, plant them upright, and beat the blades three times with the strop. Each spills on the field a little of the drink he has, whether beer, brandy, or milk, then drinks himself, while they wave their hats, beat their scythes three times, and cry aloud Wold, Wold, Wold! and the women knock all the crumbs out of their baskets on the stubble. They march home shouting and singing. Fifty years ago a song was in use, which has now died out, but whose first strophe ran thus:

         'Wold, Wold, Wold!
          haevenhuene weit wat schuet,
          juemm hei dal van heaven suet.'

          Vulle kruken un sangen haet hei,
           upen holte waesst (grows) manigerlei:
           hei is nig barn un wert nig old.
           Wold, Wold, Wold!

This translates as:

“Wôld, Wôld, Wôld”!
H“Wôld, Wôld, Wôld”!
Heaven’s giant knows what happens,
He, looking down from heaven,
Providing full jugs and sheaves.
Many a plant grows in the woods.
He is not born and grows not old.’s g
            “Wôld, Wôld, Wôld”!

Grimm goes on to state that if the ceremony is omitted then the next year will bring bad crops of hay and corn. It is interesting that here Woden is referred to as "Heaven's giant" which accords with a very ancient conception of Woden as Wod, a storm giant.
"The primitive conception of Odin is the German storm giant Wode, leader of the 'wild army', O.H.G. Wuotis-her, i.e. the procession of the homeless dead through the air. The development Woden raises the name on to the same level as royal titles like Gothic thiudans and Scandinavia drottinn. (page 227, Our Forefathers the Gothonic Nations Volume 1, Gudmund Schuette)

 "The German Wode=O.N. Odr is a storm giant, the Wild Huntsman and Leader of the Host of the Dead who is finally exalted to the chief god under the name of Woden, Odin." (Page 216)
Also from Schaumburg he states that:

"On the lake of Steinhude, the lads from the village of Steinhude go every autumn after harvest, to a hill named Heidenhuegel, light a fire on it, and when it blazes high, wave their hats and cry Wauden, Wauden!" 

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Thunor and Irmin Suggested as Ancestors of the Thuringii

There may be an association between the God Thunor and the ancient Germanic tribe of the Thuringii and certainly there has been some speculation about this by scholars in the past. Like all Germanic tribes they did of course wander over Germania but they finally settled in the area of Germany now known as Thuringia or Thüringen to give it its German name. This modern German state or Land borders Lower Saxony or Niedersachsen in the Harz Mountains.

The word Thuringii consists of 2 elements, Thur and ing. This would seem to suggest that those who called themselves Thuringii were the sons of Thur, Thor or Thunor. This idea has been subject to a certain amount of speculation by German scholars in the 19th century and has been repeated by more recent scholars such as Frithjof Sielaff and others (see The Baiuvarri and Thuringi: An Ethnographic Perspective, 2014 by Janine Fries-Knoblach and Heiko Steuer).

The earliest historically testifiable king of the Thuringii is Bisinius (450-500), the 5th and last one Frisud who lived about 100 years later. After this the Thuringii were conquered by the Franks who appointed dukes to govern them. However the legendary history of the rulers of the Thuringii stretches further back than Bisinius. Predecessors appear such as Merwig II, Weldelphus, Merwig I, Erpes, Hoger, Thurus and Irmin. I don't know how much credence should be given to this information as it is difficult to track down sources but it is interesting that at the head of the legendary ancestry of Bisinius, the first historically identifiable king, we have the God Irmin and Thunor is reckoned as His son, from which the Thuringii allegedly derive their name. This would therefore suggest that they belonged to the Irminone division of Germanic tribes or they were descended from earlier tribes that belonged to this division.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Donnerkeile and Odin Stones, a Protection Against Lightning

Northern European folklore is replete with information and stories about Thunderstones or to use the German term, Donnerkeile. Our ancestors believed that they were the physical remnants of thunderbolts where the core had become spent. Often farmers would collect them and take them home, siting them in their houses and barns as protection against lightning. Sometimes beer was poured upon them as an offering to the Thunder God. Hag Stones, Holey Stones or Odin Stones also served a similar process. When an oncoming storm was detected the householder would swing it three times around his head and then throw it at the door. Odin Stones made this easy as they were naturally perforated with a hole to allow the thread to pass through. I have in my possession an Odin Stone of good size which is threaded with a red thread; red representing the colour of Thunor's beard. I also have a Donnekeil amulet which is inscribed in Runes on its wooden mount. Another smaller Odin Stone is attached to the head of a runic wand which I have crafted.

Donnerkeile and Odin Stones again remind us of the link with our Neolithic past when our ancestors were far more in touch with their environment and its numinous qualities. They understood that stone was not lifeless as assumed by modern man but vibrated with a different and lower frequency but nevertheless were alive and were repositories of energy and power.

"In Germany, Stone Age celts known as Donnerkeil ('Donar's wedges') were supposedly thrown to earth by the thunder god. Similar ceraunia were also treasured in Viking-period Scandinavia, as well as elsewhere in Europe into the nineteenth century." (The Divine Thunderbolt. Missile of the Gods, J.T. Sibley)

Donnerkeile could of course also be carried on the person as a general means of protection, especially in warfare as J.T. Sibley states:

"Until about 1870, a German soldier would carry a Donnerkeil (cerauniam, especially a Stone Age arrowhead) in his pocket as a protective ward against rifle fire." 

This ancient tradition has not died out. Indeed a cursory look on the Internet is sufficient to indicate that their use is enjoying a revival as our folk rediscover their ancient spiritual and magical pathways.

In England these ceraunia have been interpreted as elfshot or arrows, causing sickness and so have a malevolent interpretation but this may be a later  Christian interpretation as most of our lore was of course demonised and a contrary interpretation applied. However people still wore them as protection against disease! If mixed with or dipped into water they could effect a cure.

"'Fairies,' says Grose, 'sometimes shoot at cattle with arrows headed with flint stones; these are often found and are called elfshots. In order to effect the cure of an animal so injured, it is to be touched with one of these elfshots, or to be made to drink the water in which one is dipped." (Curiosities of Indo-European Tradition and Folk-lore, Walter Keating Kelly)

It should be remembered that before the introduction of the thunder axe or hammer the Thunder God would cast down thunderbolts to the earth in the form of these stones and thus they were much highly prized. There is a possibility that these stones at times did literally fall from the sky as fragments of meteorites or a remembrance of such events. It is conjectured by some that Thor's Hammer may indeed have been forged from meteorite stone or iron from the stone.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Hrungnir as a Proto-Thunder God

I have many times in the past discussed the transformation of the Neolithic axe into the iron hammer of the Germanic and Indo-European Thunder God. A story contained in Skaldskaparmal in the Younger Edda relates how Thor defeated the giant Hrungnir in a dual. The story begins with Odin's visit to Jotunheim on His eight-legged steed Sleipnir. Odin arrived at the abode of Hrungnir who commented:

"Then Hrungnir asked what sort of person this was with the golden helmet riding sky and sea, and said he had a marvellously good horse. Odin said he would wager his head on it that there would be no horse as good to be found in Giantland. Hrungnir said it was a good horse, but declared he had a horse that must be much longer-paced, it was called Gullfaxi."

What follows is a chase by Hrungnir of Odin who led him through the gates of sacred Asgard and into the hall of Valhall. After the drinking of much alcohol Hrungnir boasted that he could "remove Val-hall and take it to Giantland, but bury Asgard and kill all the gods, except that he was going to take Freyia and Sif home with him,..." Tiring of his boasting the Aesir invoked the name of Thor who immediately entered the hall. Thor could not slay Hrungnir on the spot because he had been invited there by Odin and so the giant was under His protection. Thor agreed to a duel which was planned to take place on the frontier at Griotunagardar which is at the frontier of Jotunheim. To slay anyone in the sacred precincts of Asgard would have been an act of sacrilege and also the giant was unarmed and so it would also have been considered as a dishonourable act.

Hrungnir was regarded as the strongest of the giants and so much was at stake on the outcome of this duel, namely the continued existence of Jotunheim and indeed even Asgard as Thor was considered to be the strongest of the Gods. This duel was not just a contest between Thor and Hrungnir but also between Thor's servant Thialfi and a clay giant called Mokkurkalfi, constructed by the giants and given a heart of a mare. This image which became animated was designed to strike terror into the hearts of Thor and Thialfi. However the reality was that the clay giant quaked with fear when he saw the God of Thunder approach. Interestingly Skaldskaparmal makes this interesting comment concerning Hrungnir:

"Hrungnir had a heart that is renowned, made of solid stone and spiky with three points just like the symbol for carving Hrungnir's heart has ever since been made. His head was also of stone. His shield was also stone, broad and thick, and he had a whetstone as weapon and rested it on his shoulder and he did not look at all pleasant."

Because of the triangular nature of Hrungnir's heart it has been associated with the valknut and triquetra. Hrungnir's weapon of choice was a whetstone. Christopher Fee in his rather good Gods, Heroes, & Kings: The Battle for Mythic Britain makes the point that the collision of the whetstone and the iron hammer caused divine sparks to fly for this was the meeting of flint and iron. Like wise in Lappish mythology:

"As late as the end of the seventeenth century, some Lappish clans still worshiped a thunder-god shaped out of a block of wood, holding a hammer, with iron nails and sometimes flint imbedded in its head. The association of the thunder-god with sacred fire such as might be sparked in this way seems to have been a commonplace throughout the Baltic region and Scandinavia, and was exported abroad with the Germanic invasions." (Fee)

Subsequently Thor had a piece of this broken whetstone lodged in His head. This fits in well with picture that we have of the Thunder God in Lappish mythology. Intriguingly in Irish legend the hero Cuchulain has a bright shining 'Champion's Light that protrudes from his forehead like a whetstone.

Naturally Thor defeated his opponent but the most interesting part of the story for me is the way in which Hrungnir is in my mind represented as an earlier Neolithic thunder deity, supplanted by the Iron Age Thor. During the Neolithic Age flint and stone had sacred properties and the Thunder God of this era wielded a stone axe which morphed into a hammer. The duel between Hrungnir and Thor is a mythological representation of this change.

The Eddas have further examples of more ancient thunder deities amongst the races of giants and I will speak of these in future articles.

*The translation of Skaldskaparmal which I have used is by Anthony Faulkes