Sunday, 10 October 2010
"Ing was first among the East-Danes
seen by men until he again eastward
went over the wave; the wain followed on:
this is what the warriors called the hero."
[Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem, translation by Edred Thorsson taken from `The Nine Doors of Midgard`]
Who was Ing? Clearly it is more than the name of a Rune stave. We probably have the answer in the following passage taken from Tacitus Germania 2.2:
"In ancient lays, their only type of historical tradition, they celebrate Tuisto, a god brought forth from the earth. They attribute to him a son, Mannus, the source and founder of their people, and to Mannus three sons, from whose names those nearest the Ocean are called Ingvaeones, those in the middle Herminones, and the rest Istvaeones."
The `they` that Tacitus refers to are of course the Germanic peoples. It is generally believed by scholars that the `Ocean` which Tacitus refers to is either the North Sea or the Baltic Sea.
Are there any other traces of this myth to be found in any other ancient writings? Indeed there is one other reference to this myth which is to be found in the Frankish `Table of Nations` from 520CE:
"there were three brothers, first Erminus, second Inguo, third Istio, from them developed thirteen peoples."
Pytheas also encountered a people called the Inguiones on the coast of the North Sea in which case the name dates back to at least the fourth century BCE.
Could the Ing of the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem be the same Inguo of the 6th century CE Table of Nations? The clue is in the line: "Ing was first seen among the East-Danes."
The royal families of the Angles and Danes who lived in what is today`s Denmark and northern Germany have a smiliar origin myth which is to be found in the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf where the funeral of Scyld Scefing is referred to along with his mysterious arrival: "They provided him with no lesser gifts, treasureof the people, than those had done who at his beginning first sent him forth on the waves, a child alone. Then also they set a golden standard high over his head, let the water take him, gave him to the sea." This Scy;d son of Scef[sheaf] is clearly the same person as Ing.
The Danish kings traced their ancestry back to Skioldr[Scyld] and were referred to as Skioldungar[Scyldungas]. Curiously over the passing of time they began to be called Ynglingar like the Swedish royal family after the vanic God Yngvi-Freyr.
It is Freyr and not the asa God Woden who is reckoned to be the ancestor of the Swedish royal house. The cult of Freyr was particularly strong in Sweden.
H. Munro Chadwick in his `The Origin of the English Nation` posits the theory that the Swedes originally worshipped the Goddess called Nerthus who had a sanctuary on an island off the Baltic coast which was frequented by a confederation of seven tribes referred to in Germania. Over time he believes that Nerthus transformed into the male Freyr and that Freyr`s sister Freya represented an intermediate stage. This follows the general trend of Germanic society becoming increasingly agnatic.[Descent and inheritence via the male line as opposed to cognatic-via the female line].
Tacitus refers to the worship of this Goddess in Germania 40.2-4. The seven tribes are listed as the Reudigni, the Aviones, the Anglii, the Varini, the Eudoses, the Suarines and the Nuitones. He states: "There is nothing noteworthy about them individually, except that collectively they worship Nerthus, or Mother Earth,...."
The worship of Nerthus, Freyr, Freya and Ing was clearly an important and central aspect of the religion of one or more of the Germanic tribes who gave their name to the land which came to be called England, the land of the Angle, Engle or the people of the God Ing. Interestingly England is pronounced as Ingland in the English tongue.