Some scholars such as Rudolf Simek[Dictionary of Northern Mythology] doubt the existence of the Saxon God Irmin. Their argument is that apart from the Irminsul which presupposes a God Irmin there is no independent evidence to support the theory of there being a God called by this name. They interpret Irmin to mean `great, tall` and thus the Irminsul to be nothing other than a tall column or pillar. This argument is shallow and does not stand up to indepth critical analysis.
My first question is why our Saxon ancestors would erect great pillars to worship if they did not symbolise an actual God? Of course one could equate the Irminsul of the Saxons with the Yggdrasil of the Scandinavians and I believe that this on one level is a valid thing to do. However there is only very limited evidence that the Scandinavians used such great pillars as part of their rites. The Irminsul is a thing that seems to be peculiar to the Saxons and the tradition lives on today in Saxon areas of Germany and in England in the form of the Maypole.
Again there are some who say that "there is no evidence" to link the Maypole with the Irminsul but they are otherwise at a loss to explain the Maypole`s origin! Some in typical Freudian style view the Maypole as a phallic symbol despite there being no evidence to support this. A more likely comparison between Maypole dancing would be the dancing sunwise around certain megaliths which continues up to the present day. Often the people who carry out these customs do not understand the true purpose of the activity or that they are indeed carrying out a prextian sacred rite in honour of the Sun and/or Irmin. It is significant that this is both an English, Scandinavian and a continental Germanic custom. The spread of this customer may have started in Saxon Germany and spread northwards and into England with the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons. Of course with the growth of the English empire this custom spread to other parts of Britain and modern English speaking countries.
The customs that the Church could not suppress or plagiarise continue today in our folklore. A useful guide to such customs is to be found in In Search of Lost Gods. A Guide to British Folklore by Ralph Whitlock.
In addition to the Irminsul the name of Irmin is to be found in one of the three tribal designations referred to in Tacitus` Germania:
"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. Some people, inasmuch as antiquity gives free reign to speculation, maintain that there were more sons born from the god and hence more tribal designations-Marsi, Gambrivii, Suebi, and Vandilii-and that those names are genuine and ancient."[Germania 2.2]
The Frankish Table of Nations from around 520CE states:
"there were three brothers, first Erminus, second Inguo, third Istio; from them developed thirteen peoples."
Other classical writers such as Mela and Pliny also mention the Hermiones. The use of the `h` at the beginning of Hermiones or Herminones is purely a Latin aspirate and was not used by the Germanic peoples.
Our ancestors would have referred to themselves as Irmiones/Ermiones or Irminones/Erminones or something cognate with this term. It is interesting that all three Germanic tribal divisions are said to alliterate, ie they each start with the same letter: Ingvaeones, Irminones and Istvaeones.
"The aspirate given by the Romans to Herminones, as to Hermunduri, is strictly no part of the German word, but is also very commonly retained by Latin writers of the Mid. Ages in proper names compounded with Irmin."[Teutonic Mythology, Volume 1, Jacob Grimm]
Interestingly the Hermunduri occupied the region of Saxony and Thunringia and undoubtedly were in part the ancestors of the Saxons and belonged to the tribal division of Herminones.
We know that there is evidence to support the argument that the Ingvaeones were named after their ancestral deity Ing. It is conjectured also that the Istvaeones were named after the first Germanic man, Askr[see Teutonic Mythology, Volume 1]. It is logical therefore that the Irmin of Irminones must be a divine ancestor.
Irmin can be found as part of many ancient Germanic names,eg:
Hermanaric, Hermann, Ermintrudis, Irminfrith[King of the neighbouring Thuringi], Irmansuint, Irmingart, Irminolt, Irmandrut, Irmanperalit, Irmandegan, Irmandeo, Eormenric, Eormenred, Iiurminburg, etc.
Of course the great prince of the Cherusci who thrashed the Romans in the 1st century CE was named Arminius or Hermann. He was of course an historical figure but one can see how such figures can become embroiled in myth when comparisons with the legendary Siegfried are made.
Scholars are tempted to equate Irmin with other deities such as Saxnot who is purely a Saxon God like Krodo but also He has been compared with Tiw and even Woden. I think it best that we consider Him on His own merits until further research of a conclusive nature is carried out.
In an earlier article titled Aryaman/Airyaman/Ariomanus/Eremon/Irmin-the Divine Concept of Aryanness, published on my Aryan Myth and Metahistory blog on 17/8/12 I demonstrated that Irmin has His origins in an original Aryan deity even though over time amongst the Germanic peoples His worship appears to have been confined mainly to the Saxons. This deity reconstructed name is *Aryomn. We are thus genetically and spiritually Ar-manen or Ir-minen, Arya. There should now be no doubt about the validity of our use of this term as a self-descriptor.