Sunday, 30 June 2013

The Swan, an Ancient Indo-European Solar Symbol

One of the most beautiful and ethereal of Richard Wagner`s operas or music dramas to use the correct term, is Lohengrin, first performed in 1850 in Weimar. It is particularly remembered by people for its Bridal Chorus in Act 3, marking the marriage between the hero Lohengrin and Elsa, the sister of Gottfried, Duke of Brabant.
Lohengrin is the son of Parsifal, another Wagnerian hero. He is the Swan Knight who comes from Hyperborea to rescue the wrongly accused Elsa who is being tried for the alleged murder of her brother. Lohengrin has appeared in Elsa`s dreams and she knows that these dreams have a prophetic quality. He thus arrives by a boat drawn by a swan. The swan is recognised by scholars as being an ancient pre-xtian Indo-European symbol, associated with the sun.

"Its manifestly prominent role in the solar cults of Bronze Age Europe, for example, doubtless helped to establish its permament position in the mythology and in the literary legends of later Europe."[Pagan Celtic Britain, 1967, Anne Ross].

In Germanic mythology we may recall the stories of swan maidens such as in the legend of Wayland the Smith. It would appear to be an inheritance that is common to both the Germanic and Celtic peoples and thus probably signifies a joint inheritance from Aryan[Proto-Indo-European] times.

"The impressive weight of evidence for the perpetuation of the motif of the chain-bearing, music making, boat-or chariot-pulling swans of Urnfield and Hallstatt Europe in verbal form in some of the stories current in mediaeval Ireland and in Germanic literature, is one of the most satisfactory illustrations of the extraordinary longevity of cult legends which had their origin in pre-Celtic Europe.The persistence and frequency with which motifs, clearly derived from earlier cult practice, are found in the literatures of the early Celtic world is noteworthy. The Germanic `Swan Knight` legends, having obvious affinities with the Celtic material, probably stem independently from the same cult source, although in all probability reinforced and given a fresh stimulus by contact with the Irish Church during its missions to Europe."[Ross]

The swan solar motif is not confined to the Celto-Germanic cultural area but can be found in other lands settled by Aryans such as India:

"The Irish gods and the Celestial Rishis of India take the form of swans, like the swan-maidens when they visit mankind."[Indian Myth and Legend, 1913, Donald A. Mackenzie]

There is no doubt that the motif of the swan as a sun symbol is extremely ancient and predates both the Celtic and Germanic peoples. How far back this concept goes is difficult to say but it certainly predates the Iron Age. Evidence from the Bronze Age in the form of bronze swan heads with rings for chains under their beaks have been found in central Europe.

Lohengrin is referred to in Wolfram von Eschenbach`s Parzival as being the son of Parzival and Condwiramurs. Wagner presents Lohengrin as a much more of a Hyperborean hero than his father Parsifal.
He mysteriously makes his entrance into the earthly plane of existence via a swan pulled boat and as we have established the swan is an ancient Indo-European solar motif. He forbids his wife Elsa to enquire of his name or land of origin. The penalty for doing so is that he would have to return to his land and leave her behind which in fact does happen. One is reminded of a similar condition from Greek mythology where Cupid forbids Psyche to enquire of his identity.

Some scholars seek the origins of Lohengrin in the Anglo-Saxon myth of Skeaf, the culture-bringing hero of the Anglo-Saxons.

"Scholars are now universally agreed that the origin of the Swan-Knight story is to be found in the myth of Skeaf, the reputed ancestor of the Anglo-Saxons. This legend relates how to the shores of these, our own ancestors, there drifted a rudderless boat, in which, cradled on a sheaf of corn, and surrounded by arms and treasure, there lay a sleeping child. To the child the Angles gave the name of Skeaf, from the sheaf of corn on which he lay. Grown to manhood he became their king, and from him they learned the arts of peace and of war. At length the king died, and obedient to his will they bare the body to the seashore, laid it again in the ship which had brought him hither, and the vessel and its burden drifted away into the unknown distance. From Skeaf sprang a mighty race of kings, and the folk were fain to believe that this mysterious ancestor of their rulers had been in truth a god."[Legends of the Wagner Drama, 1900, Jessie L. Weston]
 The God Hoenir was also connected to the swan myth via folk songs and folk lore surviving from the Faroe Islands and considered to a spring or light God.[See Weston, 1900]. Lug the principal Celtic Light God announces the birth of His son, the Irish hero Cuchulainn via a flight of unnamed birds which some conjecture to be swans. It would seem therefore that the appearance of the swan with the introduction of the hero is a way of announcing and indicating the arrival of a solar hero, a Sonnenmensch, a God-man.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Wessex, Ley Lines and the Rufus Stone

Many of us have been long  aware of the rich tapestry of pre-xtian religious sites that are to be found in the Wessex countryside. Wessex as many of my readers will know is an ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom founded in the 6th century CE and continued as a kingdom until the unification of the English state in the 10th century.
It is currently a region of England which consists of the traditional English counties of Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset, Devon, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and the Isle of Wight.

Apart from Wessex being a vitally important and powerful Anglo-Saxon kingdom its landscape is replete with sacred pre-xtian sites such as Stonehenge, Durrington Walls, West Kennet Barrow, Avebury, Wayland`s Smithy, the Uffington White Horse, the Westbury Horse, the Cerne Giant and  the Long Man of Wilmington to name but a few. What a wonderful part of the world to live in, being so close to such sacred sites!

My readers  I am sure will also be familiar with the concept of Ley Lines, brought to the world`s attention by Alfred Watkins in The Old Straight Track, a no-nonsense analysis of the apparent connecting lines between mounds, moats, mark stones, beacons and sacred sites published in 1925.
David Ride takes this concept further in his The Ancient Symbolic Landscape of Wessex[2010]. Dr Ride interprets some significant features that are `written` into the landscape of Wessex using the Ley Line concept and comes to the conclusion that the ancients constructed Stonehenge as an image of the Pole Star in either the Neolithic or Bronze Age and continued to draw connecting lines between sacred features using mathematical principles in order to reflect mythological principles which are also to be found in the heavenly constellations.

Dr Ride does draw upon Germanic and Indo-European mythology in his work and there is one particular part of his work which I wish to discuss. He starts off with focusing on the Rufus Stone in Canterton Glen in the New Forest. The stone which is currently there is a modern green painted cast iron marker. The author repeats a story that the original stone which had a grating placed over it in 1841 may have been stolen by Canadian soldiers in WWII. Trying to find out exactly what happened to the original stone is confusing and the Internet does give conflicting information about the origins of the original stone and even the current one.
Like the original stone the current one is triangular and there may be some esoteric significance to the shape.
It inscription reads:

"Here stood the oak tree, on which an arrow shot by Sir Walter Tyrrell at a stag, glanced and struck King William the Second, surnamed Rufus, on the breast, of which he instantly died, on the second day of August, anno 1100. King William the Second, surnamed Rufus, being slain, as before related, was laid in a cart, belonging to one Purkis to take the king's body to Winchester Cathedral on his cart., and drawn from hence, to Winchester, and buried in the Cathedral Church, of that city."

The stone is meant to stand as a marker for the dead oak tree which once stood upon this spot, marking the supposed location and means of the death of  William Rufus. Although tradition states that this is where the king died there is documentary evidence which suggests that he died in the southern part of the forest and a new triangular stone memorial has been erected there which the author does not mention in his book.
Dr Ride demonstrates that the Rufus Stone marks a sacred centre. He draws a parallel between Canterton and the oracle at Delphi. Apparently the Anglo-Saxons did hold a Witan at the nearby East Wellow, the last documented evidence for this was in 931 CE. The Germanic and Celtic peoples are known to have held their legal and sacral meetings at mythically or geographically important central locations

King William Rufus was apparently accidentally killed by an arrow which glanced off the oak tree, fired by Sir Walter Tyrell. A charcoal burner named Purkis carried the king`s body by cart to Winchester. Dr Ride identifies an axis or lay line between the Rufus Stone, Winchester Cathedral and Waltham Abbey, the alleged burial place of the head of the Saxon King Harold II. This line represents a midsummer sunrise line!
Dr Ride argues that Waltham Abbey  is a symbol in this context for Walhalla, the Wal prefix meaning "slain warrior".
This line intersects with a horizontal line from the Rufus Stone to Battle Abbey knoll where Harold was killed. The Greenwich Meridian connects the ends of these two lines.

Dr Ride connects the name of the chracoal burner Purkis with Perkos the " the god of thunderclap and lightning". He incorrectly alludes to Perkos as being a  "chief pagan god" from the "German wildwood" and "the title of the Teutonic god of the oak tree."
He is of course confusing Perkos with Donar, the German equivalent of the Anglo-Saxon Thunor and the Scandinavian Thor. He rightly draws a link though with the name of Perkos with the oak tree.
The author is no doubt thinking of Perkons, the Latvian Thunder God or Perkonis[Russian], Perkunas[Lithuanian], Perun[Czech] or even Perkele[Finnish]. The reconstructed Proto-Indo-European[PIE] term for this deity is *Perkunos.

There is much more that I can relate of this story but I will have to leave this to a future article so that I do not digress! I do however recommend that those of you who are interested in England`s symbolic landscape read this book. It is a complex  but fascinating work and will require at least two readings to begin to appreciate it.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

The Harii, an Ancient Germanic Maennerbund

In pre-xtian Germania a band of warriors flourished called the Harii. According to Rudolf Simek in his Dictionary of Northern Mythology Harri was a latinised term for the Gothic harjis meaning `army`. The meaning that Tacitus was trying to convey is that of `warriors` rather than `soldiers`. Today there are no real warriors in the western world only soldiers, a Latin derived term from solidus, a gold coin. This implies that the soldier as opposed to the warrior is little more than a paid mercenary, another Latin derived term. This tells us a little about the character of the Germanic `warrior` as opposed to the Latin `soldier`.

Tacitus refers to the Harii in his Germania:

"For their part, the Harii, besides the military might in which they surpass the peoples listed above, savage as they are, enhance their inborn ferocity by trickery and timing: their shields are black, their bodies stained, they choose dark nights for battles, and thus inspire terror with the shadowy horror of a ghostly army. None of their enemies can withstand that strange and so to speak hellish sight: for in every battle the men are overcome first."[Rives translation]

I prefer the Mattingley translation:

"As for the Harii, not only are they superior in strength to the other peoples I have just mentioned, but they minister to their savage instincts by trickery and clever timing. They black their shields and dye their bodies, and choose pitch dark nights for their battles. The shadowy, awe-inspiring appearance of such a goulish army inspires mortal panic; for no enemy can endure a sight so strange and hellish. Defeat in battle starts always with the eyes."

Simek draws an interesting link between the Harri and the Einheriar:

"The name of this shadowy army of warriors also reminds us of the einherjar, who do not necessarily represent an old detail from the concept of the Germanic warrior`s paradise. A more likely explanation is the night-time activity of the Wild Hunt, which O. Hoefler convincingly interpreted as a band of warriors, which he associated with the cult of Odin."

Caesar in his de Bello Gallico refers to a similar staining of the body by the ancient Britons:

"All the Britons paint themselves with woad, which produces a dark blue colour: by this means they appear more frightening in battle."[Book 5,14]

Woad[vitrum or isatis tinctoria] is a plant from whose leaves a blue dye was pressed. So either the Celts shared a similar cultish practise to the Teutons or perhaps Caesar was inadvertantly referring to a colony of Teutons already established in England as some scholars such as Oppenheimer proposes in his groundbreaking work The Origins of the British which I referred to in my articles The Belgae and the Ancient Germanic Colonisation of England and The Ancient Presence of the Germanic Peoples in England both posted on my Celto-Germanic Culture, Myth and History blog on 11/4/13 and 24/6/12.

The Harii were not a tribe in the usual sense of the term but a band of brothers sworn and bound together by sacred oaths to Woden[the God who binds], to their lord and each other. Their bonds were considered more sacred than the bonds of family and tribe.

Hoefler identified the Harii with the God of storms and battles, Woden and he was right to do so for this God is the one who was primarily honoured by the warrior elite and most of the Anglo-Saxon royal houses acknowledged Him as their divine ancestor, thus conferring legitimacy for their right to rule.

In addition to Woden it is quite possible that the Harii also honoured other battle deities such as Hariasa. An old but now lost stone from Koeln in the Rheinland refers to this Goddess. Her name reminds one of the valkyrie Herja. An inscription on a 1st-2nd century BCE helmet fom Slovenia refers to a God Harigast. This could be an alternative name for Woden whose alternative names include Herass[`army-god`] and Herblindi[`the one who blinds the enemy army`].

I believe that the Harii chose black not just as a means of camouflage or to inspire terror but also for more spiritual and cultic reasons. My readers will recall from my article The Significance of Red, White and Blue/Black in Aryan Society and Cosmology posted on this blog on 8/4/13 that the colours in the combinations of black/blue/green, white/gold and red feature on the flags of most European nations and are a manifestation of the deep cosmological significance of these colours for the Aryan peoples.

A more recent manifestation of the Harii as a Maennerbund is of course Germany`s Waffen SS, a pan-Germanic body of highly trained mystical warriors devoted to the lord-retainer concept which features not only amongst the Teutonic peoples but other ancient Aryan peoples as well. A scholarly work which explores this concept amongst the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic peoples of Britain is Lords of Battle by Dr Stephen S. Evans. The associations between the Maennerbund and Woden are fully explored in Kris Kershaw`s Odin: The One-Eyed God and the [Indo-] Germanic Maennerbuende. I have only a German translation of this work, the English language one being long out of print and the cost of second hand copies being quite prohibitive.An essay titled The Woden Maennerbuende by the leader of our Order, Wulf Ingesunnu was published in Troy Southgate`s Woden, which I highly recommend.

One will recall the ceremonial black uniforms of the SS with their silver insignia incorporating such ancient Germanic symbols as the Totenkopf and the Sigel runes.  As a Woden Mannerbund today we follow this tradition in our donning of black which I tend to wear all of the time. This visually sets us apart from the masses and reinforces  in our minds that we are mystics and warriors sworn to Woden and the Maennerbund in which we serve with the higher purpose of engaging in spiritual warfare for the destiny of the English, Germanic and Aryan folk.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

The Two Hammers of Thunor-Evidence From the Eddas

Many times on my blogs I have referred to the mythological fact that Thunor`s Hammer was originally a stone not an iron weapon and that it was an axe which in northwest and western Europe evolved into a hammer. Some Thunor`s Hammers are indestinct from axes. What I have not discussed before is the mythological explanation for the shift from a stone axe into an iron hammer in the Eddas. I will attempt to do so in this article.

In the Prologue of the Prose or Younger Edda Snorri Sturluson refers to Thunor being fostered out to a man[probably a giant] called Loricus and his wife Lora/Glora who He susbsequently kills once He inherits His foster-father`s weapons. It was the norm in pre-xtian times for the sons of noble men to be fostered out to others in order to foster alliances and for the boy to have a greater range of life experience. This was of course in the era before schools!

"When he was ten he inherited his father`s weapons." and also "and then he killed his foster-father Loricus and his wife Lora or Glora."

There is a presumption of course that the hammer was one of the "weapons" he inherited from His foster-father. The Asatru Edda clarifies this whole episode as follows:

"Thorr was brought up in Jotunheim by a jarl named Vingnir, and when he was ten years old, he received the stone hammer, Vingnir`s Mjollnir."[XVI.7]

This passage makes it clear that this particular hammer was made of stone. This follows on from the research of Viktor Rydberg[1928-1895]. In his Teutonic Mythology volume 1, chapter 111 Rydberg states:

"In the Teutonic mythology, Thor`s hammer was not originally of metal, but of stone........ "

Then again in his Teutonic Mythology volume 2, part 1 he states:

"Thor`s oldest weapon is made of stone. The name itself says so, hamarr, and this is confirmed by the folk-idea of the lightning bolt as a stone-wedge."
Elsewhere in the Younger Edda Loricus is referred to as Vingir by Sturluson. We must remember that many of the personalities in the Eddas had multiple personal names. Rydberg did extensive research into this and bravely attempted to untangle some of this spider`s webb and found that many of these so called different personalities in the Eddas could and should be conflated together. Volume 1 of Teutonic Mythology focuses on bringing clarity to the Eddas and presenting them as one continuous Germanic and Aryan epic. The Asatru Edda follows in this same light of scholarship and is well worth reading.

In Skaldskaparmal 4 Thunor is described as the "foster-son of Vingnir and Hlora". No doubt Hlora is the same person as Lora and Glora in Sturluson`s Prologue.

After Ragnarok, Thunor`s sons, Magni and Mothi will inherit His hammer:

"And in the poem, verse 51, it is said that Thor`s sons shall possess Vingnir`s hammer after the battle of Ragnarok-doubtlessly referred to as such, because Thor received his first hammer either from Vingnir or in a battle with him."[Teutonic Mythology volume 2, part 1]

The above passage makes it clear that the receiving of the hammer from Vingnir/Loricus was not an alternative myth to the gift of Mjolnir from the dwarf Sindri. On the contrary these were two separate events and account for two different hammers. As I have mentioned before in earlier articles the cult of an Indo-European Thunder God can be traced right back into prehistory, into the Neolithic. The myth of Vingnir`s stone hammer is a reflection of this earlier phase of the Aryan Thunder God.

Significantly it is this stone hammer not the iron Mjolnir that Magni and Mothi recover. Will the iron one be destroyed in the chaos of Ragnarok? Does this signify that the new Golden Age will cause us once again to revert to an earlier and more earth-friendly kind of technology? I would like to think so!