Monday, 17 February 2014

Brigit, an Example of a Christianised Aryo-Celtic Goddess

With the enforced xtianisation of the Germanic, Celtic, Baltic and Slavic peoples their Gods were often either demonised, eradicated or given a xtian gloss. Often the Goddesses fared better than the male Gods and  underwent the process of xtianisation with very little change to their attributes or even names.

One such example is the Irish Goddess Brigit:

"The Dagda had several children, the most important of whom are Brigit, Angus, Mider, Ogma, and Bodb the Red. Of these, Brigit will be already familiar to English readers who know nothing of Celtic myth. Originally she was a goddess of fire and hearth, as well as of poetry, which the Gaels deemed an immaterial, supersensual form of flame. But the early Christianisers of Ireland adopted the pagan goddess into their role of saintship, and, thus canonised, she obtained immense popularity as Saint Bridget, or Bride." (The Mythology of the British Islands, Charles Squire)

The process of adopting the names and personalities of heathen deities in Europe is far more common than most people realise. Often these so-called mediaeval saints never existed as flesh and blood historical figures but were the ancient Gods and Goddesses of the European peoples given a xtian veneer. The Church realised that it could not initially succeed in suppressing heathen beliefs by the use of force as they initially lacked power unless supported by traitorous chieftains and kings so they used a mix of lying `miracles` and a false comparative mythological approach where they sought to show that there was little difference between their xrist and saints and the Gods of the indigenous heathen peoples.   

In addition to co-opting Indo-European Gods into the pantheon of xtian saints the Church also made use of heathen places of worship and existing temple buildings. Pope Gregory instructed Augustine, the apostle to the English to only destroy the idols within the temples not the temples themselves so long as they were first cleansed before being used as churches. The thinking behind this was firstly that the converted heathens would feel less of a stark transition if they were to continue to frequent their old places of worship and secondly if the buildings were soundly built why not make use of them?

"Daring attempts were also made to change the Tuatha De Danann from pagan gods into Christian saints, but these were by no means so profitable as the policy pursued towards the more human seeming heroes. With one of them alone was success immediate and brilliant. Brigit, the goddess of fire, poetry, and the hearth is famous today as Saint Bridget or Bride. Most popular of all the Irish saints she can still be easily recognised as the daughter of the Dagda. Her Christian attributes almost all connected with fire attest her pagan origin. She was born at sunrise; a pillar of fire rose from her head when she took the veil; and her breath gave new life to the dead. As with the British goddess Sul worshipped at Bath, who-the first century Latin writer Solinus tells us-`ruled over the boiling springs, and at her altar there flamed a perpetual fire which never whitened into ashes but hardened into a stony mass`, the sacred flame on her shrine at Kildare was never allowed to go out. It was extinguished once in the thirteenth century, but was relighted and burnt with undying glow until the suppression of the monasteries by Henry the Eighth. This  sacred fire might not be breathed on by the impure human breath. For nineteen nights it was tended by her nuns, but on the twentieth night it was left untouched, and kept itself alight miraculously. With so little of her essential character and ritual changed, it is small wonder that the half-pagan, half-Christian Irish gladly accepted the new saint in the stead of the old goddess." (Squire)

The tending of the sacred hearth by the nuns is no doubt the xtian continuation of a practice that would have been carried out by virgin priestesses and thus there is a remarkable similarity between Brigit and the Roman virgin Goddess of the hearth, Vesta and Her Greek equivalent Hestia. Vesta also had a priesthood of virgin priestesses to attend to Her fire so that it should never go out. Fire was sacred to the Aryan peoples and no doubt this Goddess archetype goes back to ancient Aryan times. George Dumezil theorised that the name of the Goddess Vesta may be traced back to an Indo-European root *h₁eu which has the meaning of `burning`. Bridget/Brigit/Brighid/Brigid has the meaning of `exalted one`. Her festival is Imbolc which took place on the 1st February which is celebrated as St. Brigid`s Day by the Roman Catholic Church. Brigit may also be the same Goddess as Brigantia, the tutelary Goddess of the Brigantes, a Northern tribe. In France She may have been known as Brigindo.

"Giraldus (12th century A.D.) informs us that at the shrine of St. Brgit at Kildare, the fire is never allowed to go out, and though such heaps of wood have been consumed since the time of the Virgin, yet there has been no accumulation of ashes. `Each of her nineteen nuns has the care of the fire for a single night in turn, and on the evening before the twentieth night, the last nun, having heaped wood upon the fire, says, `Brigit, take charge of your own fire, for this night belongs to you.` She then leaves the fire, and in the morning it is found that the fire has not gone out, and that the usual quantity of fuel has been used." (Celtic Mythology and Religion, 1885, A. MacBain)

Brigantia is the modern version of  the Proto-Indo-European  *bhr̥g'hntÄ« which has the root
berg'h, meaning `high, lofty, elevated`. A cognate is to be found in the Germanic Burgundi, derived from the Proto-Germanic *urgundī. From this term we get the name of the East Germanic tribe of the Burgundians. Their name meaning, `high, lofty, noble ones.` This is basically the same meaning as Arya. Clearly the ancient Germanic and Celtic peoples, being descendants of the undivided original Aryans thought of themselves in an aristocratic way.

MacBain then goes on to say:

"Brigit, therefore, is the Gaelic Minerva. She is goddess of the household fire; her position is that of the hearth goddess Vesta, as much as that of Minerva, for evidently she is primarily a fire-goddess. Her name is probably from the same root as the English bright, Gaelic breo. The British goddess, Brigantia, is doubtless the same as the Irish Brigit." 

In addition to the comparison we may make with Her British, Roman and Greek counterparts I am also reminded of the Frisian Oera Linda Book, a manuscript brought to light  in the 1860s. The book is written in Old Frisian but many suspect it of being a forgery. Fasta is the first Folk Mother of the Frisians, appointed by the Goddess Frya. Each temple had an order of priestesses who took it in turns to tend the sacred fire.
Interestingly Brigit is associated with a swastika-like cross which emphasises Her Solar qualities. Apparently such crosses may protect a house from fire.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Heru, the God of the Cherusci

Following on from my recent article about the Erminones and the tribe of the Cherusci I would like to draw my readers` attention to the existence of a God who many scholars today doubt the existence of, but this was not the case in the golden age of Germanic research and that God is the eponymous divine ancestor of the Cherusci, Heru or Cheru.

"Another naked sword flashes on the wooded heights  in the land of the Cherusci; it is the weapon of the sword-god Heru, Cheru or Saxnot, who some think is no other than Tyr. Of this weapon Saga tells us that it causes the destruction of its possessor, should he be unworthy of owning it; but that in the hand of a hero  it brings victory and sovereignty."[Asgard and the Gods, Wilhelm Waegner, 1886]

Heru seems to be a God that was known only to the Germanic tribes of Germany as Waegner goes on to say:

"Nearly related to the warlike Tyr, perhaps identical with him, were Heru or Cheru and Saxnot. They were essentially German sword-gods, and were not known to the northern skalds. Their worship was wide-spread; for the Alanes, Quades, Getes and Markomanns paid divine honours to the sword, and even the Scythians, as Herodotus tells us, planted it in a high pyramidal heap of brush-wood, and called upon it as the symbol of divinity."[Waegner]

According to legend the sword was made by dwarves. We remember of course that the treasures of the Aesir and Vanir were also made by dwarves. The clan of Ivaldi were responsible for the fashioning of Freyr`s ship Skidbladnir, Sif`s golden hair and Wodan`s spear Gungnir. By contrast the dwarves Sindri and his brother Brokkr created the golden boar Gullinborsti for Freyr, Wodan`s ring Draupnir and Thunar`s iron hammer, Mjolnir. Thus any sword made by a divine smith must be credited with having special properties.

The sword became an object for the worship of the God it represented in the same way that the hammer or axe is a symbol that does honour to Thunar and the spear to Wodan.

"This sword shone every morning on the high-place of the sanctuary, sending forth its light afar when dawn arose, like a flame of fire; but one day its place was empty and the rosy light of morning only shone upon the altar from which the god had disappeared."[Waegner]

The Gods or someone who acted on their behalf granted the sword for a season to Vitellius the Roman prefect of the Lower Rhine.

"He drew the sword out of its sheath, and it was as though a flash of lightning passed through the room.
"Immediately a voice exclaimed, but whether in the room or not, no one could say: `That is the sword of the divine Caesar! All hail, Vitellius! All hail, Emperor!`

After having secured his empire Vitellius neglected the sword and it was subsequently taken by a Teutonic soldier of the Roman body-guard who exchanged it for his own. The loss of the sword caused misfortune to come to the emperor and eventually this led to his downfall. The Teutonic soldier stabbed the emperor to death with the sword of Heru in fulfillment of a wise woman`s prophecy. The soldier fought and won many battles with the sword, eventually winning promotion to the rank of Tribune.

"When he grew old and was incapable of further service, he made a hole on the bank of the Danube, hid the good sword in it, and covered it up again with earth. Then he built himself a hut and lived there until his end. On his death-bed he told the neighbours who had assembled round him, of his battles, and how he had got possession of the sword of Cheru; but he did not betray the place where he had hidden it, yet the saying that whoever should find the sword would become ruler of the world, remained current among the people from generation to generation."[Waegner]

Eventually during the Voelkerwanderungenzeit Attila gained possession of the sword after it had been dug up by a farmer and exclaimed:

"It is the sword of the war-god with which I shall conquer the world."

Eventually after a career of conquest for conquest`s sake Attila was murdered by his Teutonic bride Ildiko, the daughter of the King of Burgundy and she used the sword of Heru which had been handed to her by an old woman. With this sword she avenged upon the Hun the death of her father. With Attila`s death the Teutonic tribes chased the Huns from off Germania`s sacred soil. The last suspected possessor of the sword was Duke Alba who buried it in the earth after the battle of Muhlberg.

At this point I would like my readers to ponder whether Arminius/Hermann the Cherusker gained possession of this very same sword and indeed did the God manifest Himself through him as an avatar?

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Who were the Erminones?

"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 Erminones constitute one of the three major tribal divisions descending from Mannus, the Germanic equivalent of the Indo-Aryan Manu. Erminones is the correct spelling of the name, not Herminones.  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. The question which concerns me most in this article is which tribes constituted the Erminones?

"Our knowledge of the Erminones is inconclusive, as their community had already ceased to play any part in political history before the beginning of our era." [Our Forefathers the Gothonic Nations Volume II, Gudmund Schuette, 1933]

I have come to the personal conclusion that the Erminones consisted of the tribes of the Cherusci and Chatti but Schuette rejects this saying:

"Bremer, ss82 and 216, identifies the Erminones with those Tacitean Swabians who must be regarded as real Germans. He may be right, but then Pliny`s classification of the Chatti and Cherusci among the Erminones must be rejected as erroneous."

He goes on to say:

"For exactly similar reasons, we must reject Pliny`s assertion that the Erminones include the Cherusci. For the Cherusci were hereditary enemies of the Swabians who were Erminones."

I find this startling that the reasoning of a `modern` scholar may be taken above that of a classical writer, Pliny  who states that the Erminones include the Suebi, Hermunduri, Chatti and Cherusci [Natural History]. The fact that the first two tribes were frequently at war with the latter two in itself means absolutely nothing. Bonds of common blood do not prevent brothers and cousins from fighting and killing each other as two disastrous world wars between the Germans and English demonstrate.Also as Tacitus points out the Suebi may have formed a division separate from the Erminones.

I see no reason at all to doubt the word of classical writers who wrote at a time that was contemporary with the existence of these tribal groupings.

Scholars believe that the Cherusci occupied what is now Niedersachsen[Lower Saxony] and was previously part of the Duchy of Saxony which extends down to the Harz Mountains, the Harz being shared by both Saxons and Thuringians. Indeed one scholar Jason R. Abdale [Four Days in September. The Battle of Teutoburg, 2013] puts forward the belief that the Harz were named after the Cherusci. It is interesting that Jacob Grimm thought that Cherusci is related to *heru, sword. This would make the Cherusci the people of the sword. This may relate to a specific sword and a specific deity which I hope to discuss in a future article. Clearly the Cherusci were one of the tribes which came together to form the later and much larger tribal confederation of the Saxons in the 4th century CE. Abdale also points out that the coat of arms of Lower Saxony consists of a white horse, an animal much prized by the Chrusci.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Phol/Balder, a Germanic and Indo-European Comparison

The Second Merseburg Charm of the 9th/10th century CE refers to a Germanic God called Phol:

Phol and Wodan were riding to the woods,
and the foot of Balder's foal was sprained
So Sinthgunt, Sunna's sister, conjured it.
and Frija, Volla's sister, conjured it.
and Wodan conjured it, as well he could:
Like bone-sprain, so blood-sprain,
so joint-sprain:
Bone to bone, blood to blood,
joints to joints, so may they be glued.

Many scholars assume that Phol is just another name for Balder and the evidence from the charm would seem to confirm this. However it is strange that the same God should be referred to by two different names within the same charm. Rudolf Simek [Dictionary of Northern Mythology] contests the assumption that it is the same God and puts forward a different theory. He associates Phol with the Goddess Volla referred to in the charm. He asserts that the Nordic equivalent of the German Volla is Fulla, the Goddess of fullness and thus links Her to Freyja and thus Phol with Freyr. The great Jacob Grimm appears to be convinced in his Teutonic Mythology Volume 1 that Balder and Phol are one and the same divinity. He refers to a Pholesauwa or Pholesouwa 10-12 miles from Passau mentioned in a document drawn up between 774-788 CE. This would appear to be a place of His worship. There is also a Pholespiunt on the Altmuehl between Eichstaedt and Kipfenberg in a forest. The Fulla traditions also refer to Pholesbrunnen in Thuringia. He cites other examples in his work such as Poelde in the Harz mountains so it is clear that Phol was a recognised German deity whether or not He was the same as Balder.

Grimm finds parallels between Phol and other Indo-European deities:

"I incline to this last hypothesis, and connect Phol and Pol (whose o may very well have sprung from a) with the Celtic Beal, Beul, Bel, Belenus, a divinity of light or fire, the Slav. Bielbogh, Belbogh (white-god), the adj. biel, bel (albus), Lith. baltas, which last with its extension T makes it probable that Baeldag and Baldr are of the same root, but have not undergone consonant-change. Phol and Paltar therefore are in their beginning one, but reveal to us two divergent historical developments of the same word, and a not unimportant difference in the mythology of the several Teutonic races." [Grimm]

Grimm concludes that this God was known to Thuringians and the Bavarians as Phol although they knew of His alternative names of Paltar and Balder. The Saxons and Westphalians knew Him as Baldag and Baeldag. Clearly Phol was known to not only the Teutons but other northern Aryan peoples such as the Balts, Slavs and Celts. Thus we may infer from this that His origins go back to a shared northern Aryan common past.
However we may also be able to draw a link to the Hellenic Apollo. There is not only a remarkable similarity between the names of Phol and Apollo but both were divinities of light and associated with the North. Six months every year Apollo would wander north to the land of the Hyperboreans. By contrast Balder would be consigned to the underworld of Hel, although not merely for six months of the year although this part of the solar myth may be a distortion to fit in with the myth of Ragnarok. Phol or Pol/A-pol-lo may also be considered to be the God of the Pole, the pole that is which connects the Hyperborean and Thulean far North with the Pole Star. He is thus both a solar and a polar deity. There is a common connecting thread that runs through the whole of Germanic and Aryan mythology-the emphasis on BOTH the polar and the solar.
Phol, the masculine pole and polar God: Sol the feminine solar Goddess, a contrast of opposites.

I am reminded of the practice of the ancient Teutons of erecting poles as representing their Gods. A wooden pole or carved image of a God would be erected in a heap of stones and worshipped. This was common during the Germanic Bronze Age and Iron Age and also far back into the European Stone Age. The phallic association is obvious as well as the link with the Irminsul.