Saturday, 31 August 2013

Further Reflections on the `Two Hammers of Thunor` and Hercules

This article should be read in conjunction with my earlier one "Two Hammers of Thor" posted here on 17/1/10 and the more recent The Two Hammers of Thunor-Evidence from the Eddas on 2/6/13.

My previous article revealed that Thunor according to our mythological texts did in fact possess two hammers, initially a stone one followed by one made from iron.

Viktor Rydberg writing in Teutonic Mythology Volume 1, Chapter 31 states:

"The hammer is Thor`s most sacred weapon. Before Sindre forged one for him of iron[Gylfaginning], he wielded a hammer of stone. This is evident from the very name hamarr, a rock, a stone. The club is, as we have seen, the weapon of  the Teutonic patriarch, and is wielded side by side with Thor`s hammer in the conflict with the powers of frost."

In Chapter 111 he also states:

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

A reference to Thor possessing a club is to be found in Saxo Grammaticus` The History of the Danes, Book 3:

"But Thor shattered all their shield-defences  with the terrific swings of his club.....
"Shields, helmets, everything he drove at with his oak cudgel was crushed on impact..."

The handle of the club was lopped off and the Gods fled. His weapon now became useless. This club or cudgel is clearly separate from his hammer for not only is it obviously different in form but it is made of oak not stone or iron. Oak is sacred of course to the Thunder God for its excellent ability to attract His lightning.

"Brass (bronze?)  idols of the god would be placed under oak trees, as well as on the mountain tops, and also under oak trees. Perpetual fires to the god were made with oak, similar to the custom of the Old Prussians. Perkunas and the oak tree were considered one being. The place where there was a large oak which had an idol of Perkunas under it was called Perkunija; this word also means `thunderstorm`.[The Divine Thunderbolt. Missile of the Gods, J.T. Sibley, 2009]

The Baltic and Slavic Thunder Gods were also known to carry a club as did the Roman Hercules. In Southern Germany followers of Donar wore club amulets, very much like the ones worn by the followers of Hercules. These are known as Donarkeule. There are references in Tacitus` Germania to Hercules being worshipped in Germany:

"Hercules and Mars they appease with lawful animals."[Germania 9.1]

No doubt the reference to Hercules and Mars in this specific context relates to Thunor and Tiw. However in another passage Tacitus refers to a hero of the same name:

"They relate that Hercules also lived among them, and on their way into battle they sing of him as the first of all heroes." [Germania 3.1]


"For rumour has spread the report that pillars of Hercules still stand untried: perhaps Hercules really did go there,.....[Germania 34.2]

It is difficult to discern to what extent  Hercules the hero is to be identified with Hercules the God as a potential equivalent to Thunor and whether the Teutons referred to him by his classical name.
Writing in his Annals Tacitus states further that the enemies of Germanicus met in "a grove sacred to Hercules" in order to make plans against the Romans. In Lower Germania there are some dedications to a God called Hercules Magusanus. The dedicators had Germanic not Roman names. Magusanus may be connected to the Old High German word magan, meaning `power, strength` and is cognate with the Old English maegan.

J.B. Rives in his commentary to Germania states:

"The identity of this Germanic Hercules is uncertain. Many scholars assume that he was *Thunaraz, i.e. Old High German Donar and Old Norse Thor."

He points out that "the hammer of Thor corresponds to the club of Hercules." He also states that both Hercules and Thunor were killers of monsters. However if Thunor was to be equated entirely with Hercules then we have a problem for at the same time he was equated with Jupiter! In other parts of his commentary Rives distinguishes between Hercules the hero and Hercules the God. It is more than likely that Hercules the hero is to be equated with the Germanic dragon slayers: Beowulf and Sigurd/Siegfried.

As far as the hammer is concerned it is obvious to me that it was orginally made of stone and not iron as my initial quotation makes clear. Rydberg further 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. Likewise, Indra`s oldest weapon was made of stone; it is called the `celestial stone`(Rigv. II 30,5) and is said to be `four-edged`{Rigv. IV, 22,1,2. This `four-edged` weapon has its symbol in the swastika, a figure that is rediscovered in the realm of Germanic memory and therefore must have derived from the Proto-Indo-European era." [Teutonic Mythology Volume 2, Part 1, Chapter 29].

The concept of the two hammers, the original one being made of stone is accepted in The Asatru Edda:

"Thorr was brought up in Jotunheimr by a giant named Vingnir, and when he was ten years old, he received the stone hammer, Vingnir`s Mjollnir.[Page 27]
The iron hammer was made by the dwarf Sindre, no doubt to replace either a lost or not as effective stone hammer. The concept of a stone hammer makes it clear that the cult of the Thunder God goes right back to Neolithic times when the hammer was originally an axe, from which the hammer developed.
The replacement of the stone ax/hammer by an iron hammer shows the progression of Thunor from the Neolithic to the Bronze and then the Iron Age.

It is possible that the original stone hammer may have survived or rather will survive Ragnarok as there is a reference to Vingnir`s hammer being inherited by Thor`s sons, Magni and Mothi:

"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]


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