Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Mars Thingsus, Beda and Fimmilena, Frisian Deities Worshipped in Roman Britain

I have already discussed on this blog the evidence that suggests an ancient Indo-European and indeed an ancient Germanic presence in the British Isles hundreds and even thousands of years prior to the hitherto accepted dates. Please see my articles from 24/6/12, 11/4/13 and 12/4/13, titled The Ancient Presence of the Germanic Peoples in England, The Belgae and the Ancient Colonisation of England and Indo-European Presence in British Isles More Ancient than Originally Thought. If we accept that the Germanic peoples resided in Britain in significant numbers prior to 449CE then we must assume that they brought their Gods with them and this is a subject I intend to explore in depth over the coming weeks and months.

Many of the so-called Roman troops present in Britain upto the mid 5th century were not Roman at all. The vast majority of them were Germanicor Gallic auxillaries. Traces of their worship may be found in ancient Roman sites including Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland.

"Teutonic soldiers serving under the Romans in other provinces of the Empire may also have worshipped their ancestral gods beyond the borders of their own native land. That such was actually the case is shown by two inscriptions of the third century, found in 1883 at Housesteads in the north of England, near the wall of Hadrian. The altar on which they are found was erected by Frisian soldiers from Twenthe,- which is rather strange inasmuch as Twenthe belonged to the territory of the Salic Franks,- and is dedicated 'Deo Marti Thingso et duabus Alaesiagis Bede et Fimmilene.' The relief above the altar shows an armed warrior with helmet, spear, and shield, at whose right a swan or goose is seen. Both of the receding sides (the relief is semicircular in form) shows the same figure of a hovering female, with a sword (or staff) in the one hand and a wreath in the other.
"What we do know is that the Frisian cuneus, encamped in Britain under Alexander Severus, worshipped Mars, ie Tiu, doubtless as god of war, as the armed figure in itself indicates. A fragment of nature mythology, according to some scholars, lies concealed in the swan, to be interpreted as the symbol of either light or cloud, and to be brought into connection with the Swan-knights of legendary lore.
"It appears likely that the Frisian cavalrymen, who call themselves citizens, saw in Tiu the god not only of the squadron but also of their popular assembly, the thing, and that the two side figures are to be regarded in the same light, their names having been explained from certain forms of Frisian legal procedure. However that may be, the fact that theses Frisian soldiers worshipped Tiu does not seem to show conclusively that this god of the sky was originally the chief god of all Teutons." (The Religion of the Teutons, Saussaye)

Anne Ross in her Pagan Celtic Britain considers the 'swan' to be a goose:

"The goose is a bird associated with war in Celtic mythology, and the Germanic god Thincsus, equated with Mars at Housesteads on Hadrian's Wall, likewise has the goose for attrribute.

She also comments:

"Mars Thincsus would seem to be the only non-Roman god to figure as an orthodox Roman warrior.
"It has been noted already that the Germanic god, Mars Thincsus who is invoked along Hadrian's Wall, is frequently accompanied by a goose.
"The goose is the frequent companion of Mars Thincsus in the northern frontier region.
"The goose appears below a representation of Mars on a slab from Risingham, Northumberland, erected by the Fourth Mounted Cohort of Gauls. The bird also accompanies what is taken to be a representation of Mars Thincsus (a Germanic god) at Cilurnum (Chesters) on Hadrian's Wall."

It would seem that amongst the Teutons and Gauls the goose frequently accompanies their war God, who is often equated with the Roman Mars.

"In Gaul, the native Mars is frequently associated with the goose and the horse, and Epona, the horse-goddess rides a goose on the fourth century tile from Roussas." (Ross)

Ross also mentions that the "bird appears with Mars on a stone from Iggelheim" and states that "all the evidence suggests that the goose was especially associated with the god of war and probably healing in Celtic belief, and that this idea either entered the Germanic traditions through Celtic influence, or was likewise indigenous to them."

Rudolf Simek in his Dictionary of Northern Mythology compares Mars Thingsus with Mars Halamardus, who is referred to on a votive inscription from Horn near Roermond in the Netherlands, dating most likely from the first century CE. He also points out that Thingsus is derived from the Proto-Germanic *Thingsaz and accepts that the associated names of Beda and Fimmilena are associated with Old Frisian legal terms so one may conjecture that these are obscure Frisian Goddesses. This adds weight to the argument that Mars Thingsus is Tiw, the God who presides over the sacred Teutonic Thing. Beda may be linked to the Old Frisian Bodthing ('convened Thing'). In other words She is 'the mistress of the *Bedthing*' (Simek). Fimmilena is likewise the 'mistress of the Fimelthing' ('moveable Thing'). Gudmund Schuette however conjectures that She is the 'goddess of Fivelland' but Simek rejects this interpretation. The Goddess Beda also had a cult centre in Bitberg on the German-Belgian border. The Roman name for this city was Beda Victus ('village of Beda'). It is interesting that these two Goddesses who are collectively called the Alaisiagae have both a Celtic and a Germanic etymology which is not surprising since Beda Victus continually was overrun by both Celtic and Germanic tribes.

Gudmund Schuette in his Our Forefathers the Gothonic Nations Volume 1 however considers that the "etymology of the word 'Thingsus' is uncertain; it may come from Langbd. thinx 'law thing', or from Got. theiwo 'thunder' ". The Low German Dingsdag (modern German Dienstag-Tuesday) does (as Schuette concedes) derive "from Mars Thingsus as the god is called by the Tvihanti from the province of Twenthe."


Monday, 26 May 2014

The Germanic Goddess Tanfana and Heathen Temples

Tacitus in his Annals (1,51) refers to a Germanic Goddess called Tamfana (or Tanfana), whose shrine was destroyed by Roman troops led by Germanicus in 4 or 14 CE. The actual date was either 28th September or 28th October, making this an autumnal sacrificial festival. Rudolf Simek in his Dictionary of Northern Mythology considers Her to be part of the West Germanic cult of matrons, who were similiar deities to the North Germanic Disir. The shrine was situated in the territory of the Marsi who had settled in the area between the upper Lippe and the Ruhr. She was honoured by both the Marsi and the Istaevones. Jacob Grimm briefly refers to Tanfana in his Teutonic Mythology Volume 1, chapter XIII but has little to say about Her except that She:

"stands wrapt in thicker darkness."
"The sense of the word, and with it any sure insight into the significance of her being, are locked up from us."
Grimm does however have this to say about Tanfana's temple:

"In all probability the sanctuary of Tanfana which Germanicus demolished in AD. 14 was not a mere grove, but a real building, otherwise Tacitus would hardly have called the destruction of it a 'levelling to the ground'.

"If the Tanfana temple could be built by Germans, we can suppose the same of the Alamann, the Saxon and the Frisian temples; and what was done in the first century, is still more likely to have been done in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th."

Saussaye in his The Religion of the Teutons concludes that from the timing of the festival (autumn) that She must be a Goddess of fertility and of the soil.

The fact that Tanfana was worshipped in a temple is a direct contradition of a statement he made in Germania:

"In other matters, they judge it not in accord with the greatness of the gods to confine them with walls or to liken them in appearance to any human countenance. They consecrate woods and groves, and the mystery that they see only in their awe: they call by the names of gods." (9.1, Rives)

"The Germans do not think it in keeping with the divine majesty to confine gods within walls or to portray them in the likeness of any human countenance. Their holy places are woods and groves, and they apply the names of deities to that hidden presence which is seen only by the eye of reverence." (9, Mattingley, Handford)

In Germania 40.3 Tacitus refers to the temple of the Goddess Nerthus. I do not doubt that predominately the ancient Teutons did worship the Gods in groves and woods but there is always the exception to the rule and practices did change where there was cultural interchange with other peoples such as the Celts and Romans and obviously things do change over the course of time. Adam of Bremen refers to the temple at Uppsala but obviously this is strictly speaking in Scandinavia, not Germania. Bede in his A History of the English Church and People (Chapter 13) refers to an Anglo-Saxon priest called Coifi who after converting to xtianity desecrated the statues of the Gods, which were housed in a temple. We also know that Pope Gregory instructed Augustine not to destroy the heathen temples of the English:

"....we wish to inform him that we have been giving careful thought to the affairs of the English, and have come to the conclusion that the temples of the idols among that people should on no account be destroyed. The idols are to be destroyed, but the temples themselves are to be aspersed with holy water, altars set up in them, and relics deposited there." (Bede, Chapter 30, Sherley-Price, Latham)

Gregory was being practical as if the temples are "well built" they could be utilised by the church, and the people were accustomed to going there to worship the ancient Gods. This is why many old English churches may be found on the sacred sites of old places of heathen worship. Clearly temples in Anglo-Saxon England were common place.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Saxon Origins of the Cult of Woden

The Cult of Odin/Woden/Wotan is of continental Germanic origin, indeed of Saxon origin to be precise. The irony is that He is often considered to be primarily a Scandinavian deity whilst in fact the opposite is true. The Cult of Odin was transported into Scandinavia from Germania. 
"The apex of Odin's victorious career is reached in the Migration Age. The story in Snorri's Heimskringla and the preface to the Edda tell us about this; they make Odin emigrate from Saxony to Scandinavia and, after various vicissitudes of warfare, force the Vanes to acknowledge him as supreme god. We can see that he became the chief god of the Saxons from the oath of abjuration, but he did not yet supplant the favourite native gods. The conversion of the Angles was more complete: all their royal families derive themselves from Woden."  (Our Forefathers the Gothonic Nations Volume 1, Gudmund Schuette, page 229)
Snorri Sturluson and Saxo Grammaticus both euhemerised the Gods, explaining their cults as the result of the deification of historical heroes. This is a tactic used by the church to denegrate our Gods and I for one do not accept their premise. However I do believe that this story tells us that the Cult of Odin, not Odin Himself travelled from the Saxon lands to Scandinavia.

Snorri tells us that Tror or Thor originated from Turkey, a land of twelve kings and one High King. He says that:
"in the city there were twelve chief languages. The twelve rulers of the kingdoms were superior to other people who have lived in the world in all human qualities."
Tror was the son of Munon or Mennon, one of the kings and Troan, the daughter of the High King, Priam. Tror was fostered to a duke in Thrace called Loricus. He inherited his foster father's realm of Thrace, otherwise named Thrudheim. He travelled throughout the world, defeating dragons, giants and Berserkers. He married a prophetess from the "northern part of the world" called Sibyl or Sif. He begat Loridi, who begat Einridi, who begat Vingethor, who begat Vingenir, who begat Moda, who begat Magi, who begat Sescef, who begat Bedvig, who begat Athra, who begat Annar, who begat Itrmann, who begat Heremod, who begat Scialdun or Skiold, who begat Biaf or Biar, who begat Iat, who begat Gudolf, who begat Finn, who begat Friallaf or Fridleif, who begat Woden:

"He had a son whose name was Woden, it is him that we call Odin."
Snorri thus tells us that Woden is the great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great grandson of Thor! In other words there is a distance of 19 generations between the two of them. Of course we know that Thor is much older deity than Woden. The Proto-Germanic *Thunaraz can be traced back to the Proto-Indo-European *Perkunos. *Wodanaz is a much more altogether mysterious deity. Snorri states of Woden:

"He was an outstanding person for wisdom and all kinds of accomplishments. His wife Frigida, whom we call Frigg. Odin had the gift of prophecy and so did his wife, and from this science he discovered that his name would be remembered in the northern part of the world and honoured above all kings."

Snorri tells us that Odin migrated from Troy with a great following and the countries which they passed through glorified them as Gods.

"And they did not halt their journey until they came north to the country that is now called Saxony. Odin stayed there a long while and gained possession of large parts of that land."

Odin placed three of his sons in charge of Saxony. Veggdegg was put in charge of East Saxony. He was the great grandfather of Hengest. Hengest's nephew was Svebdegg or Svipdag. Odin placed another son Beldegg or Baldr in charge of Westphalia. Odin's son Siggi was the father of Rerir:

"This dynasty ruled over what is now called France, and from it is descended the family called the Volsungs."

Afterwards Odin moved north to Reidgotaland and set over the area His son Skiold, the ancestor of the dynasty of the Skioldungs. He then went north into Sweden and set up His base in Sigtunir. There He appointed twelve chiefs following the pattern of government in Troy.

Odin set up His son, Saeming as ruler in Norway. He appointed His son Yngvi as the ruler of Sweden and from Yngvi are traced the Yngling dynasty. Odin was thus the father of Germanic kings and heroes and most dynasties trace their ancestry back to Him.

There is a theory that Indo-European languages may have spread from Asia Minor into Europe and this myth may be an echo of an historical event that has been mythologised. Clearly Snorri is using the myth of Virgil's Aenid as a template for his story. Snorri also refers to the language of the Aesir spreading throughout the northern lands:

"These Aesir found themselves marriages within the country there, and some of them for their sons too, and these families became extensive, so that throughout Saxony and from there all over the northern regions it spread so that their language, that of the men of Asia, became the mother tongue over all these lands. And people think they can deduce from the records of the names of their ancestors that those names belonged to this language, and that the Aesir brought the language north to this part of the world, to Norway and to Sweden, to Denmark and to Saxony; and in England there are ancient names for regions and places which one can tell come from a different language from this one."

This is a remarkable preface to the Younger Edda and deserves to receive far more attention than hitherto has been the case. It tells us clearly that Odin's cult spread north from Saxony and with the cult came the Proto-Indo-European tongue which eventually became the Proto-Germanic language, the basis of the Scandinavian, German, Dutch and English languages. It also reveals that *Thunaraz is a much older deity than *Wodanaz. Eventually Woden eclipsed Thunar to become the primary Teutonic deity. It is interesting to know that Snorri was aware of the name Woden and he rightly equated this deity with Odin. The preface also indicates to us that Snorri was aware of the ethnic and cultural bonds that unite the German and scandinavian peoples.

"This leaves only the Corded Ware culture of Upper Saxony and Thuringia to be associated with the original Indo-Europeans." (The Germanic People. Their Origin Expansion & Culture, Francis Owen, 1960)
 "On the basis of the archaeological and anthropological evidence the conclusion must be that the people of the Single Grave-Corded Ware-Battle Ax culture were the original Indo-Europeans." (Owen)
 "That the people of the Single Grave-Corded Ware culture in their original home in Upper Saxony and Thuringia were physically of the Nordic type can scarcely be disputed, and this is equally true of all the areas into which these colonizers carried this culture, either by peaceful expansion or military conquest." (Owen)
"The amalgamation of the peoples and cultures of the Northern Megalithic and the Single Grave-Corded Ware-Battle Ax cultures which resulted in the formation of the Germanic people, was followed by a relatively long period of internal development before the first phase of Germanic expansion began." (Owen)
"The religion of the Sky God was introduced into Northern Europe by the Indo-European bearers of the Corded Ware culture." (Owen)


Saturday, 10 May 2014

Scathach, the Irish Brynhild

A few years ago I became more acquainted with the Celtic saga material and in particular that of the Ulster Cycle and was greatly impressed by the Nordic physical and spiritual characteristics of the various Gods and divinely born heroes, so much so that I could tell little difference between them and the Germanic sagas and myths. One mythical figure in particular who I found to be impressive was Scathach nUanaind.

According to Peter Bereford Ellis:

"Also known as Scathach Buanand (victorious). Daughter of Ard-Greimne of Lethra. She is the most famous of female warriors. Living on Scathach's Island (scathach, 'shadow'), which is thought to be Skye, she ran a military academy at which the heroes of Ireland received their training in the martial arts from her. Her most famous pupil was Cuchulainn, to whom she taught his famous battle leap and also gave the Gae-Bolg, the terrible spear. Cuchulainn trained with her for a year and a day, during which time her daughter, Uathach, was his mistress. Later she joined Scathach in her battle against her sister Aoife, reputed to be the strongest of female warriors. Cuchulainn defeated Aoife in combat and she became his lover and bore him a son, Connlai." (Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, 1992) 

Scathach is clearly a Valkyrie figure, similar to the Germanic shield maidens. Indeed one could go further than this and consider Her to be a Goddess as does Gudmund Schuette in his Our Forefathers. The Gothonic Nations Volume II. Whilst discussing the etymology of Scandin-auia (Scandinavia) he states:

"This interpretation probably conceives Scandin-auia as the 'island of shadow', referring it to Goth. skadus 'shadow', Gr 'darkness'. Cp. the Irish goddess Scath in a northeastern kingdom of shadows; she may have some connection with the eponymous Skadi, the goddess of the Scandinavian winter sports."

Some Internet commentators wrongly remark that there is no similarity between the Irish Scathach and the Germanic Brunhild, arguing that the first taught martial arts whilst the latter taught magic. By making this specious and superficial argument they demonstrate their lack of knowledge of the available mythical material and scource texts. The Old High German Nibelungenlied portrays Brunhild as the Queen of  Iceland and as a shieldmaiden, trained in the deadly arts of war:

"Over the sea there dwellt a queen whose like was never known, for she was of vast strength and surpassing beauty. With her love as the prize, she vied with brave warriors at throwing the javelin, and the noble lady also hurled the weight to a great distance and followed with a long leap; and whoever aspired to her love had, without fail, to win these three tests against her, or else, if he lost but one, he forfeited his head." (Chapter Six, translation by A.T. Hatto)

The Icelandic Volsunga Saga likewise portrays Brynhild as a shield maiden:

"Sigurd now rode a long way, until he came up on Hindarfell; then he turned south toward Frakkland. Ahead of him on the mountain he saw a great light, as if a fire were burning and the brightness reached up to the heavens. And when he came to it, there stood before him a rampart of shields with a banner above it. Sigurd went into the rampart and saw a man lying there asleep, dressed in full armor. First he removed the helmet from the man's head and saw that it was a woman. She was in a coat of mail so tight that it seemed to have grown into her flesh," (Chapter 21)

In the Sigrdrifumal of the Poetic or Elder Edda Brynhild is presented as the shield maiden Sigrdrifa ("bringer of victory") and here as well as in the Volsunga Saga she initiates Sigurd into the secrets of Rune Magik. This aspect is absent in the Nibelungenlied. This may in part be due to the xtian influence present in the latter work. However the German Brunhild is most certainly presented as a more martial figure than her Scandinavian counterpart. Richard Wagner in his epic Der Ring des Nibelungen fused elements of both the German and Scandinavian material together to form his Brünnhilde.

In the Thidrek Saga Brynhild lives in a castle called Segard and according to Jessie L. Weston the name idicates that it was situated on a coast if not an actual island itself.

"This dwelling of Brynhild's is either in or near Bertangaland, which is generally identified as Britain." (Legends of the Wagner Drama)

This is interesting as we know that Scathach resided in the Isle of Skye. Could this be another name for Segard? Could Brynhild in fact be Scathach? Furthermore Weston also related Brynhild to the German Goddess Isa:

"With this closely agrees the Nibelungen-lied, which represents the princess as ruling over Island and dwelling in the castle of Isenstein on the seashore. (Rassmann identifies Island as derived from Isa, a goddess of the under-world, probably the same as Holda, and not Iceland.) (Weston)

The above observation is significant as the island of Scathach means 'shadow'; in otherwords a land of darkness, an underworld. Furthermore Weston equates the Isolde of Celtic legend and Wagner's Tristan und Isolde as being not an Irish but a Germanic Viking princess from Dublin, a city founded by the Vikings.

"German scholars give as the derivation Isolde, Iswalt or Iswalda (Eis-walterin=ruler of the ice), which explains the fact that the early German form seems to be Isalde, as in Wolfram, and not Isolde. The heroine then is no Celtic maiden, but a child of the north, a Viking's daughter; hence the legends always represent her as fair and golden-haired-she is 'die lichte' in the Northern versions, as distinguished from 'die schwarze', the rival Isolde." (Weston)

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Odin and the Volsung Clan

The Icelandic Volsunga Saga is an interesting blend of both myth and legend, the first part relating to mythical events, whilst the latter part is concerned with legend and semi-historical events. The theme that runs through the whole saga is the relationship between Odin and the Volsung clan which He sired.

"Here we begin by telling of a man who was named Sigi, and it was said that he was the son of Odin." (The Saga of the Volsungs, translated by Jesse L. Byock)

"HERE begins the tale, and tells of a man who was named Sigi, and called of men the son of Odin;" (The Volsunga Saga, translated by Eirikr Magnusson and William Morris)

The opening of the saga makes it abundantly clear the nature of the relationship between Odin and Sigi, and the clan which he in turn sired. As Professor Byock states in his notes, "The element Sig (victory), which appears in proper names in the Volsung family, may emphasize the special relationship that existed between the Volsungs and Odin, who was also called Sigtyr, victory god."

Sigi was declared an outlaw due to his unlawful killing of a thrall. Consequently Odin "guided Sigi out of the land on a journey so long that it was remarkable." Sigi became a pirate, a viking and eventually the king over Hunland. One needs to bear in mind that the Huns were considered in Germanic legend to be a Germanic people. According to the Younger or Prose Edda Sigi was the king of Frakkland (France), a land formed by the Germanic Franks.

Rerir, the son of Odin also was assisted by Odin. Rerir and his wife were unable to conceive a child. According to Byock's translation they prayed to Frigg who conveyed their wish to Odin who instructed one of his wish maidens to present a magical apple to Rerir which fell into his lap. The wish maiden took the form of a crow. In the Morris translation they prayed to BOTH Frigg and Odin. The apple helped Rerir's wife to conceive.

Rerir died of some kind of sickness. The saga does not elaborate on this. However it does say that "He intended to go to Odin." If a man could not die in battle he was marked with the point of a spear. The spear was a sacred weapon to Odin and this marked the dying as belonging to Him, so that he may enter Walhalla.

Subsequently Rerir's wife conceived Volsung, from which the clan takes its name. Interestingly this name appears in Beowulf as Waels:

"O Wael's great son, Sigemund," (Beowulf, translation by Michael Alexander)

Volsung spent 6 long years in his mother's womb. This in itself is an indication of the supernatural semi-divine nature of the Odin-born hero.

Volsung had 10 sons and 1 daughter with his wife Hljod. Their eldest son was called Sigmund and his twin sister, Signy. Volsung's palace featured a very large tree called the Barnstock, Branstock or Bairnstock, the child tree. This may of course be symbolic of Yggdrasil, the world tree. Odin appeared one evening in the hall and placed the sword into the tree, uttering these words:

"He who draws this sword out of the trunk shall receive it from me as a gift, and he himself shall prove that he has never carried a better sword than this one." (Byock)

Odin is described wearing a mottled cape that was hooded, the hood lying low over His head. He was very tall, gray and one-eyed. The people in the hall did not know at the time that this was Odin or where He came from or where He was going to. This is how Odin the Wanderer tends to appear in Midgard when He walks amongst us. The Gods are real personalities that can appear as flesh and blood beings.

Naturally only Volsung could draw the sword out of the tree and this reminds us of the later Arthurian tales which clearly were in part based upon Germanic myth.

Sigmund inherits the crown of Hunland. None of his 9 brothers survive, having been eaten by a she-wolf. This was the work of their enemy King Siggeir who was married to Signy. Sigmund fathers a child with Signy, his twin and called him Sinfjotli. He fathers Helgi through his wife Borghild and Sigurd through his wife Hjordis.

When Sinfjotli is wounded Odin assists Sigurd in healing the boy by sending His raven with a leaf with special healing propreties to place upon the wound and thus brought healing. However Sinfjotli eventually died from poisoning. Odin as the ferryman transported the body away.

During a battle between King Lyngvi and Sigmund Odin appeared in His usual guise:

"But now whenas the battle had dured a while, there came a man into the fight clad in a blue cloak, and with a slouched hat on his head, one-eyed he was, and bare a bill in his hand;" (Morris)

Odin broke Sigmund's sword on His spear. With the sword broken in two Sigmund's luck departed from him. He lost the battle and was killed. His son Sigurd eventually inherited the sword fragments and Regin the smith forged them anew and according to Sigmund's wishes the sword was called Gram.

Odin appears to Sigurd no less than 3 times. The first time He helps Sigurd choose a horse, Grani who is descended from Odin's steed, Sleipnir.

Odin appears to Sigurd in a storm as Fjolnir and sought passage on Sigurd's ship. Immediately the storm abated and Sigurd and his men landed and defeated King Lyngvi and the sons of King Hunding in battle.

After that Sigurd returned to his kingdom and set about the defeat of a dragon. At this point Odin again appears to him to give him sage-like advice in how to defeat the dragon and survive. After the death of Sigurd the saga takes on a more legendary and less of a mythical character.