Friday, 26 August 2011

The Antiquity of Thunor`s Hammer

Contrary to the assertions of many writers on Germanic religion Thunor`s hammer was already worn as an amulet and religious symbol prior to the Viking Age and was common throughout the Germanic world, not just limited to the Scandinavians.
I give as an example the discovery of hammer amulets in 7th century Jutish graves in Kent.
"Amulets made in the charecteristic shape of Thunor`s hammer were carried by women buried in the seventh century at Gilton and Kingston in Kent. They were worn with other trinkets, including the little spears which were the amulets of Woden."
[Page 25 of Rites and Religions of the Anglo-Saxons by Gale R. Owen]
Owen goes on to state: "Thunor`s signs-hammer and swastika-link him, therefore, with both cremation and inhumation graves in England. Although his name has not survived as a place-name in Anglian areas, the sign of the swastika on Anglian urns is evidence of his influence."
Of course one could argue that the wearing of the hammer by Anglo-Saxons, Jutes and Frisians in post migration Britain was indicative of a heathen reaction against the encroachment of the slave religion of Christianity but it is more likely in my opinion that this practice goes back to deep antiquity but it may have become more popular in the 6th to 7th centuries with the arrival of Christianity.
A passage from page 110 of Brian Branston`s brilliant work The Lost Gods of England states: "There can be little doubt that the Old English Thunor was regarded as the son of Woden and Earth, driving over the storm clouds in his chariot drawn by two goats while he flung his thunderbolt from mountain peak to mountain peak. Many Old English place-names incorporating Thunor have as their second element Old English -leah meaning `wood` or `woodland clearing` and it is certain that the Saxon part at least of our forbears connected the god with trees and particularly with the oak tree. The `blasted oak` has become a cliche because of the tree`s susceptibility to being struck by lightning. No doubt the ancient Indo-European speakers gazed in awe at the riven forest giant after a storm and thought of the god who wielded the thunderbolt. No missile was ever found after the fire and fury were spent, but the searing damage was plain to view: so must have arisen the report of a terrible hammer or axe which flashed from the god`s hand and returned there like a boomerang when its work was done. This weapon was old, older than Thunor. The Indo-European weather god had hurled it. It was found in Crete as the labrys or double-axe[lately to turn up so thought-provokingly on our own doorstep carved in the rocks of Stonehenge]; it occurred in Asia Minor as an attribute of the Hittite weather god, and in the hand of Jupiter Dolichenus. The sign of the double-axe or hammer, a T-shaped mark, has indeed been discovered in the French department of Seine-et-Oise. These marks had been branded so deeply that the skulls still show the scars:....."


Ariki said...

I just thought of another thing for you to look into: Ukonvasara/Ukonkirves, the hammer/axe (respectively) of the Finnish thundergod Ukko.

The hammer/axe of Ukko is "boat-shaped" and the Battle-axe culture's stone hammer-axes are said to be "boat-shaped" too. A possible connection might be interesting to research.

Wotans Krieger said...

Thank you Ariki.
Strangely, my research is carrying me in the same direction. The Gods seem to be urging me to look further at the whole issue of the antiquity of the northern European axe-hammer in a religious and cultural context.
During the week I have been drawn to research Finnish prechristian antiquity.

Kenneth S. Doig said...

Great article. I am so glad that you're one of the bloggers who cover Gmc linguistics among other things, who use the Anglo-Saxon forms,'Thunor' & 'Woden' (not really different forms, but different pronunciations of the selfsame etymon, mostly affected by time more than any given dialect's phonology) many would say that (Thunor,Thunaer, Þunor, Þunær) & their much later OHG & Old Frankish forms,(Donar, Donner, Donder) & (Woden,Wóden,Wodan) & their much latter, OHG & OF (Wuotan,Wodan, Wotan) along with many variants. People don't realize that even a Sweden in 700 AD would have pronounced "Woden" *Wóðinaz or * WóþinaR pretty much as in PGmc and "Thunor" *Þunoraz or *ÞunraR as North-Germaninc (Scandinavian, Norse) did not lose the initial "W" before rounder vowels, "o" and "u" before c. 800 AD.K.Doig
From Wikipedia "Word-initial 'w' was lost before rounded vowels in Proto-Norse, e.g. wulf corresponds to ulf, and Wulfing/Wylfing corresponds to 'Ylfing', because the i in the second syllable causes an umlaut in the first syllable u->y." Wikipedia
Kenneth S. Doig

Kenneth S. Doig said...

Woden has no analogs in older IE mythology as he was not born until c. 150 AD, while the thundergods in old "Arya", Zeus, Indus, Dyauspater, Iuppiter, were worthshipped at least 3000, probably 10K or more years prior. Thunder is the analog to these gods. Thunor and Thunder are the selfsame word. The "d" was added to ease pronunciation. K.Doig
(Wikkipedia) "Epenthesis of a consonant, or excrescence" Also called 'Sandhi', 'Intrusive consonants'. As a historical sound change
Latin tremulare > French trembler ("to tremble")
Old English 'thunor' > English "thunder" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epenthesis
Phonological laws are as axiomatic as mathematics, if there be an exception, there is a law for that)
Kenneth S. Doig kendoig@aol.com

Kenneth S. Doig said...

Woden, born in N. proto-Germanic, on today's Danish Island of Fyn, Funen, Fjón. He was most likely a proto-WestGerman,a mighty chieftain-warrior whom his ancestors and others deified. He became legend. Snorri´s acct, is a fictionalized account, thru a patriotic West-Norwegian/Icelandic lense who had to be careful of papal censors. His works, a long with Saxo's cannot be taken as gospel. If any of their stories, (on anything, let's say, circa 100 AD) & are backed up by enemy, unfriendly, unrelated or neutral histories with no stake in the tale, no glory, no shame, then we can except them. But both Snorri & Saxo were Norsemen, happy to spin this story. There is ZERO mention of any god with any name sounding like "Woden, Odin" and had there been, his name would have been Latinized to "**Vodenus" (LATIN V = W, ALWAYS & it was usually written "u", just a "j" = "y" but was written "i". So "civis" is [keewiss], Jupiter,[yoopittehr] usually spelled "iupitter". "**Vodenus" or "**Uodenus") would have been very close to the true way Woden himself would've said it, '*Wóðanaz', '*Wódinaz' or some similar for, but it by phonological law must've started with a "W" sound. Just as Tacitus describes the Ingaveonic lake-deity, he called in Lat. 'Nerthus' but in ON, "Niörðr, Sw. "Njord", but scientist trained in etymological reconstruction have come up with *Nerþuz in PGmc.
Kenneth S. Doig
p.s. (delete this before posting) I agree with you politics)