Sunday, 11 November 2018

Wotan's Hunt

I am sure that most of my readers will be familiar with the concept of the Wild Hunt, known in modern German as Wilde Jagd (Wild Hunt or Chase) or Wildes Heer (Wild Host or Army). The English term is no doubt a translation from the German. However in my opinion the term Wild is incorrect. It is a faulty modern German and English translation of the far older Wutanes Her.

Jacob Grimm makes the connection between the God Wotan and wuetende heer in volume 1 of his Teutonic Mythology:
"The form wuotunc seems not to differ in sense; an unprinted poem of the 13th century says 'Wuetunges her' apparently for the 'wuetende heer', the host led as it were by Wuotan; and Wuotunc is likewise a man's name in OHG." (page 132)
Later in volume 3 of Teutonic Mythology Grimm goes into much more detail about the 'Furious Host', giving many examples from legend and folklore from all over Germany. I would recommend that my readers buy all four volumes of Teutonic Mythology, not just the more popular volume 1 as the whole set provides a wealth of detail on the continental Germanic aspects of Teutonic mythology, not merely the Norse or Eddic sources.

The God's name Wotan has thus been hidden in the German adjective wuetend-furious, angry. These are obviously qualities of the darker side of Wotan but it is this darker side which has been promoted by the church to the exclusion of His positive attributes. Let us make no mistake about this: Wotan is a God with both a light and dark side but these sides are held in balance. The clearest way to illustrate this symbolically is in the taijitu symbol of Yin and Yang. So Wotan's name has been hidden in a cognate adjective and wuetend in turn has been replaced with wild, a toned down form of the other adjective so that it is no longer cognate with Wotan. Thus it is my thesis that the term Wotan's Hunt is a more accurate term which we should endeavour to use, thus giving due honour to Him.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Thorgerdr Holgabrudr and Irpa

Thorgerdr Holgabrudr is a fairly obscure Norse deity and yet evidence of Her worship is to be found in no less than seven Old Norse sources: Jomsvikinga Saga, Njals Saga, Thorleifs Thattr Jarlsskalds, Skaldskaparmal (Prose Edda), Faereyinga Saga, Hardar Saga ok Holmverja and Ketils Saga hoengs. Her primary follower was Jarl Haakon Sigurdarson who was de facto ruler of Norway from about 975-995. According to Adam of Bremen Haakon was "of the stock of Ivar" (Ivar the Boneless). Ivar the Boneless was a son of Ragnar Lodbrok and Aslaug which thus makes him of Volsung lineage. Coincidentally my daughter is also descended from Ragnar and Aslaug. Haakon himself claimed descent from Odin via Saemingr, a king of Norway. There are also claims that Saemingr was descended from Yngvi-Freyr. Saemingr's mother according to the Ynglinga Saga was Skadi and his father Odin.

Thorgerdr's second name Holgabrudr is Old Norse for 'Holgi's bride'. It should be noted that 'Holgi' is an eponym of Halogaland, the most northern province of Norway. Snorri indicates in Skaldskaparmal that Holgi is also Thorgerdr's father:

"They say that a king known as Holgi, after whom Halogaland is named, was Thorgerd Holgabrud's father. Sacrifices were offered to them both, and Holgi's mound was raised with alternately a layer of gold or silver-this was the money offered in sacrifice-and a layer of earth and stone." (Faulkes translation)

Snorri however also lists Thorgerd as one of the 'troll-wives' later on in Skaldskaparmal. Andy Orchard in his Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend points out that the name 'Thorgerdr' can be broken down into two elements-'Thor' and 'gerd', the latter word meaning 'fenced in'. This has the connotation of being a guardian Goddess. Interestingly the Goddess Gerd is also referred to as being a jotunn and as my readers will be aware she is the wife of Freyr. There is a very thin boundary line between the races of the Gods and the jotunn who are loosely defined as being 'giants'. In a similar way in Greek mythology we have the contrast between the Olympian Gods and the Titans. The Titans were simply an earlier pantheon of deities who were eclipsed by the Olympians. So one thing is certain and that is Thorgerdr is a divine being regardless of whether she belongs to the Aesir, Vanir or neither of these groups.

H. Munro Chadrick is of the opinion that Thorgerdr was regarded as little more than a 'troll' and that her worship did not gain widespread acceptance:

"How then is Hakon's worship to be explained? The reason is that he traced his descent from the ancient kings of Halogaland. When his ancestors migrated to the south, they must have brought their family cult with them. The persistent nature of family worship is shown by the fact that we find the family settled in the neighbourhood of the Throndheim Fjord at least a century before Hakon acquired the government of Norway." (The Ancient Teutonic Priesthood)

Chadwick adds a footnote that "it is curious that in Eyvindr's poem (Haleygiatal), of which only some fragments remain, Hakon's genealogy is traced, not to Holgi and Thorgerdr, but to Othin and Skadi. The introduction of Othin's name may be due in part to the influence of Ynglingatal, but it is probable also that Hakon may have wished to conciliate popular opinion by tracing his descent from the generally accepted deities. Skadi, a goddess of Lappish character but accepted in the Northern pantheon, has been cleverly substituted for the hated Thorgerdr."  Chadwick also points out that although "Thorgerdr is never mentioned as a member of the divine community either in the mythological poems or in Gylfaginning, nor does she stand in any kind of relationship to the rest of the gods."  and that "Her cult formed no part of the orthodox religion of the North." nevertheless she concedes that "In the North the clearest case of a tribal cult is that of Thorgerdr Holgabrudr." Chadwick is of the opinion that "Thorgerdr seems to bear a distinctly Lappish character, e.g. in her use of the bow and in the practice of magical arts." I am inclined to agree with her on this point and it is quite possible that Her cult was imported from the far north into Norway and thus is not entirely indigenous. She certainly appears to be a much wilder and archaic deity than those of the Eddas although She is referred to in Gylfaginning.

Apart from Earl Haakon other prominent followers of Thorgerdr were Ketill Haengr and Grimkell:

"She seems to have been one of the powers revered by the Halogalander Ketill Haengr, who, like other members of his family, did not worship the generally recognised gods. She is also said to have been worshipped by an Icelandic settler named Grimkell, who came from Orkadal, a district to the south of the Throndheim Fjord." (Chadwick) 

Regarding the name 'Holgabrudr' this is generally interpreted by scholars as indicating that the deity was to be considered as the 'wife' of the ruler of Halogaland. We can compare this to the Irish High Kings 'marrying' the Sovereignty Goddess. The Goddess gives legitimacy to the king's rule. By this 'marriage' both king and land are united. This may be behind the story of Thorgerdr and Haakon. Hilda Ellis Davidson also makes a connection between these concepts in her Roles of the Northern Goddess:

"If Helgi were the mythical founder of Halogaland, this would explain Thorgerd's name 'Bride of Helgi', since she could become the wife of each ruler of the kingdom in turn. The idea of the guardian goddess welcoming the king in death was essentially an aristocratic concept, just as was that of kings and leaders granted entry to Valhalla, and this is one important aspect of the goddess in the Viking Age."

Rudolf Simek is of the opinion that Thorgerdr "is probably a local deity from Halogaland, perhaps even a family goddess connected in some way with the family of Hakon who was ruling over Halogaland at the time  (Storm), since in the extant sources the cult of the goddess is almost always associated with Hakon." (Dictionary of Northern Mythology). I am inclined to agree with him.

A temple was dedicated to her in 10th century Gudbrandsdal in Norway. She was accompanied by Her sister Irpa. Her name translates as 'dark brown'. The references to Irpa are limited to the first three of the aforesaid sagas. Irpa may derive from the Proto-Germanic *erpa which again means 'brown' or 'light brown'. Irpa is very much overshadowed by Her sister Thorgerdr.

We have a very interesting description of the powers of this deity in the Jomsvikinga Saga. During a pause in the Battle of Hjorungavagr Haakon feels that the tide of this naval battle (excuse the pun!) is going against him and so he sets off to the island of Primsigned which is to the north of Hjorunga Bay and thus not far from the battle. On the island he faces north and prays to Thorgerdr for divine assistance.

"Thereupon the earl went up on the island of Primsigned, and away into a forest, and fell on his knees and prayed, looking northward. And in his prayer he called upon his patron goddess, Thorgerd Holgabrud. But she would not hear his prayer and was wroth. He offered to make her many a sacrifice, but she refused each one, and he thought his case desperate. In the end he offered her a human sacrifice, but she would not have it. At last he offered her his own seven-year old son; and that she accepted. Then the earl put the boy in the hands of his slave Skopti, and Skopti slew him." (Hollander translation)

The translator suggests in a footnote that Thorgerd was angry with Haakon because of his earlier acceptance of Christianity. Our Gods do not suffer disloyalty gladly. However it would appear that this 'conversion' had been forced upon Haakon by the Christian zealot Harold Bluetooth. The sacrifice convinced Haakon that the Goddess would intervene in the battle in his favour for his fortunes began to turn.

"And right soon the weather began to thicken in the north and clouds covered the sky and the daylight waned. Next came flashes of lightning and thunder, and with them a violent shower. The Jomsvikings had to fight facing into the storm, and the squall was so heavy that they could hardly stand up against it. 
"Havard the Hewing was the first to see Thorgerd Holgabrud in the fleet of Earl Hakon, and then many a second-sighted man saw her. And when the squall abated a little they saw that an arrow flew from every finger of the ogress, and each arrow felled a man. They told Sigvaldi, and he said: 'It seems we are not fighting men alone, but still it behoves us to do our best.'
"And when the storm lessened a bit Earl Hakon again invoked Thorgerd and said that he had done his utmost." (Hollander)

Haakon won the battle thanks to his Goddess and Her sister Irpa. They interceded very much like Valkyries, taking on the cruel warlike nature of those beings. 

In Njals Saga we have an account of the theft of gold bracelets from the images of Thorgerdr and Thor and the burning of the temple at  Gudbrandsdal:

"Meanwhile, Earl Hakon was attending a feast at Gudbrand's home. During the night, Hrapp the Killer went to their temple. Inside it, he saw the statue of Thorgerd Holgi's-Bride enthroned, massive as a fully-grown man; there was a huge gold bracelet on her arm, and a linen hood over her head. Hrapp stripped off the hood and the bracelet. Then he noticed Thor in his chariot, and took from him another gold bracelet. He took a third bracelet from Irpa. He dragged all three of the idols outside and stripped them of their vestments; then he set fire to the temple and burned it down." (Chapter 88, Magnusson and Palsson translation)  
(This was a clear act of desecration and not just theft). Haakon comments:
"A man must have fired the temple and dragged the gods out. But the gods are in no haste to take vengeance; the man who did this will be driven out of Valhalla for ever."(Magnusson and Palsson) 

We have a description of Her temple in Faereyinga Saga:

"They set forth along a certain path to the wood, and thence by a little bypath into the wood, till they came where a ride lay before them, and a house standing in it with a stake fence round it. Right fair was that house, and gold and silver was run into the carvings thereof. They went into the house, Hacon and Sigmund, and a few men with them. Therein were a great many gods. There were many glass roof-lights in the house, so that there was no shadow anywhere. There was a woman in the house over against the door, right fairly decked she was. The Earl cast him down at her feet, and there he lay long, and when he rose up he told Sigmund that they should bring her some offering and lay the silver thereof on the stool before her." (Chapter 23, translation by F. York Powell)    

The astute reader will note that Haakon, even though he was a jarl did not hesitate to prostrate himself with reverence before the Gods. There is a lesson here for modern heathens who think that it is beneath their Germanic dignity to do likewise.  

Hilda Ellis Davidson refers to a temple containing an image of Thorgerd in Trondheim which the Christian religious maniac Olaf had destroyed:

"In the Saga of Olaf Tryyvason in Flateyjarbok (I, 326:408), Olaf is said to take Thorgerd's image from the temple at Trondheim, strip it of its fine robe and gold and silver ornaments, drag it along at his horse's tail and finally break it up and burn it along with the image of Freyr……..When he destroyed her image, Olaf declared that now she had lost Hakon, her husband, 'who was very dear to her', and added that the chiefs of the land had been loyal to her in turn, and had given her high praise." (The Lost Beliefs of  Northern Europe

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Krodo-Further Reflections

Some time ago I posted some articles on the lesser known Saxon God Krodo who had a localised cult in the Harz Mountains which covers the modern German states of Lower Saxony and Thuringia. See: Krodo, a Lost Saxon God, Traceable to Aryan Times , Irmin and Krodo, Saxon GodsKrodo Represented in Saturday and The Worship of Krodo and Ostera by Sacred Fire It is important that you read these articles as well as I do not intend to cover old ground in this article.

Since then I have carried out some further research into Krodo and I wish to report some of these findings in this short update. We have of course references to this God in Grimm's Teutonic Mythology where Grimm refers to Conrad Bothe's Sachsenchronik which refers to this deity. It should be noted that the Sachsenchronik dates back to the 15th century so those of you who may be tempted to write this God off as a 19th century 'forgery' need to think again! Our ancestors worshipped many deities other than the major ones which most people have heard about such as Woden and Thunor etc. Many of these deities had very localised cults of worship which may not have extended beyond certain geographical limitations and may be Gods associated with particular mountains, hills, rivers, streams and wells etc.

According to Bothe the God Krodo was the same deity as the Roman Saturn but was referred to as Krodo by the "common people". An image of Krodo was erected on the Harzburg and subsequently overthrown by Charlemagne. Bothe describes the image as representing a man who stands on a column on top of a great fish, a basket of flowers in his right hand and a wheel in his left. According to Bothe the image of Krodo is representative of the four elements:

Fire. The wheel may be a sunwheel and thus representative of the sun.
Earth. The basket of flowers is an indication of fruitfulness of the earth.
Air. The blowing tails of his coat represents the wind, the 'breath of life'.
Water. The fish.

Bothe indicates in his writings that he has found references to Krodo in other sources which are presumably now lost to us. There is nothing to indicate that any of this has been made up by Bothe. There are references to many other Saxon and German Gods in ancient German writings which many modern 'scholars' are dismissive of for no (in my opinion) valid reason. There is a tendency among many modern academics to reject anything that does not neatly fit into their paradigms. This was not the case in the 19th and early 20th centuries when scholars were more open-minded (surely a necessary prerequisite for any authentic research?).

Apart from the reference to Krodo in the chronicle of Bothe there exist localised myths which make reference to Him. I draw my readers' attention to the fascinating collection of tales contained in Marie Elise Turner Lauder's Legends and Tales of the Harz Mountains, North Germany (1885).

"In the grey days long ago, when paganism ruled the land, there stood on the hills near the cave called the Steinkirche-altars to the gods.
          Bright were the fires to Krodo in the darkness of the night, and on the opposite cliffs rose
          the fire pillar in honour of the goddess Ostera.
          The crackling flames illuminated the country and the mountains, and invited the
          inhabitants of the nearlying vales and heights to the wild customs, the bloody sacrifices,
          and the raving dance of heathenism."

By virtue of a supposed 'miracle' a Christian 'holyman' managed to convert these heathen Saxons. Consequently:

"And the hearts of the wild Sassen were opened...…..They vowed to a man henceforth      to forsake the worship of Krodo, to remain true to the new faith." 

We are told in Lauder's account that this 'holyman' was a "hermit" from a "southern land". On hearing the noisy celebrations the hermit climbed the mountain and commenced preaching to the Saxons and  "he began to condemn the gods so dear to them, and challenged them to break in pieces their idols, and turn to the worship of the only true God, their rage kindled." (Not surprisingly!) The Saxons voted unanimously that the hermit should die. They led him to the summit of the mountain "to a place suitable for the execution." The hermit prayed to his god for "strength and courage in the trying moment" and receiving strength managed to free himself from them, seized a wooden battle-axe from one of them and "addressed the bloodthirsty multitude."

The hermit boasted that with the power of his god he could use the axe to split the rock which he succeeded in doing. "When he had uttered these word, he struck with trembling arm the rough cliff, and lo! the firm rock yielded like soft clay to the weak blow of the wooden axe!" The crowd accepted this trick as a 'miracle' and were subsequently baptised by him in the river Oder. On the cliff they built a chuch in an ancient cave-the Steinkirche ('stone church'). This became the meeting place of these first Christians in the Harz mountains.

If the reference to Krodo in the Sachsenchronik is entirely fictitious then this does not explain the existence of this legend which more than likely is based on (possibly distorted) fact. Friedrich Gotthelf in his Das Deutsche Altertum (1900) states that "In Einhard there is no news of Charlemagne's destruction of such an image, neither in the Life of the Emperor Charlesmagne nor in the Annals."  Whether the image of Krodo was overthrown by Charlemagne or not, that does not matter. The important point is that an image and a cult existed. Again if there is no truth to this legend then why was the 11th century Krodoaltar in Goslar named after Him? Indeed we find certain places in the Harz named after Krodo such as Grotenleide (Crotenlaide) and Goetzenthal ('valley of the idol'-a reference to Krodo).

Johannes Pomarius writing in his Chronika der Sachsen und Niedersachsen in 1588 refers to "the Idoll SEATER, fondly of some supposed to be Saturnus, for he was otherwise called CRODO, this goodly god stood to be adored in such manner as here this picture doth shew him. First on a pillar was placed a pearch, on the sharpe prickled backe whereof stood this Idoll. He was leane of visage, having long haire, and a long beard: and was bare-headed, and bare footed. In his left hand he held up a wheele, and in his right he carried a paile of water, wherein were flowers, and fruites. His long coate was girded unto him with a towel of white linen. His standing on the sharpe finnes of this fishe was to signifie that the Saxons for their serving him, should pass stedfastly, & without harme in dangerous, and difficult places.  By the wheele was betokened the knit unity, and conjoined concord of the Saxons, and their concurring together in the running one course. By the girdle which with the wind streamed from him was signified the Saxons freedome. By the paile with flowers, and fruits was declared that with kindly raine he would nourish the Earth, to bring foorth such fruites, and flowers. And the day unto Name unto which he yet give the name of SATER-DAY, did first receive by being unto him celebrated, the same appellation."    

The reference to Saturday is an interesting one and Grimm speculates that the original Germanic name of this day was Roydag and thus sacred to Krodo.

Albinus in his Novce Saxonum Historiue Progymnasmata has this description of Krodo: "Crodus is an old man, in the form of a reaper, standing with naked feet upon a little fish, called a perch. He was clad in a white tunic, with a linen girdle, in his left hand a wheel, in his right a small vessel filled with water in which floated roses and every sort of garden-fruit. The picture is in the Brunswick Chronicle."

The Steinkirche by the way does exist and is located near Scharzfeld in the Harz. It is rumoured that the hermit was none other than Boniface ( about 675-754) who felled Donar's Oak at Fritzlar in northern Hesse. However there is no way that this can be substantiated.

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.