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:....."