Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Santa Claus and his origins in Germanic Folklore

The notion of Santa Claus as the bringer of gifts at Yule can only be traced back to the the late 19th century in England, having reached County Durham in the northeast of England by the 1880s. However he can be traced back to mainland northern Europe much earlier than this and indeed the name Santa Claus is derived from the Dutch Sinter Klass from St. Nicholas who is a xtianised version of the Germanic God Woden. However despite the comparatively late arrival of Santa Claus to England the concept of an old man with supernatural powers granting gifts at Yule can be traced further back in England to Father Christmas in the 16th century and indeed even earlier than this. The English version that we have today is no doubt a fusion of these various mythical beings.

Father Christmas in England has always been portrayed as an aged and bearded man wearing either green or red robes, lined with furs. He appears to have supernatural and ineed elf-like qualities, being able to transport himself down chimneys. Clearly whether we call this being Santa Claus or Father Christmas these are most certainly xtianised names for a much older and pre-xtian entity. Yule is an ancient midwinter festival observed by the Germanic and other northern European peoples and its origins are lost in antiquity for it is so ancient.

We are provided with certain clues as to the origin of this being. His physical appearance certainly resembles that of Woden and in particular his shaman like qualities. Woden is also the leader of the Wild Hunt which is a feature of the Yuletide. The belly laugh of Santa Ho Ho Ho! is speculated to be an echo of the shouts of Woden whilst riding His Furious Host at Yuletide.

"With the devil is associated the figure of an enormous giant, who can stand for him as well as Wuotan; and this opinion prevails in Switzerland. There the wild hunt is named  diirsten-gejeg (see durs, thurs, p. 521): on summer nights you hear the durst hunting on the Jura, cheering on the hounds with his hoho; heedless persons, that do not get out of his way, are ridden over." (Jacob Grimm, Teutonic Mythology Volume 3, page 920)

However we know that Woden's favoured means of transportation apart from using His feet (he was known as The Wanderer) was His eight-legged steed Sleipnir. One of His Norse names was Jolnir, again closely associating Him with Yule. The fact that He is a rider of a horse however does not accord with the image of Santa Claus who typically uses a sleigh drawn by reindeer, clearly an indication of an arctic attribute. However the driver of reindeer does of course hint of a shamanic quality which accords more with Woden than say Thunor. However some scholars consider Thunor to have a white beard and amongst certain northern European peoples the Thunder God is viewed as an old man. This is particularly the case with the Lithuanian Perkunos or the Finnic Ukko.

We are reminded that the reindeer which pull Santa's sleigh are called Donner and Blitzen-'thunder and lightning' from the Old Dutch 'Dunder and Blixem'.  Again this is a strong indication that this figure is in reality Thunor. Santa's usually red robes also adds to the idea that this is Thunor as red is a colour that is most closely associated with Him. Interestingly the colours of red, white and black that feature on the modern day's Santa's garments hearken back to the colours of old Germany and also to the Aryan caste system which I have discussed quite comprehensively in previous articles. Possibly the black in the costume is derived from the soot in the chimneys!

Interestingly in Sweden the sleigh was viewed as not pulled by reindeer but by goats-the Julbocker and driven by the Jultomten. In the first edition (1895) of H.A. Guerbers Myths of Northern Lands (this particular edition is out of print-only later and slightly differently worded editions are currently available as far as I am aware) it is stated:
"The fireplace in every home was especially sacred to him, and he was said to come down through the chimney into his element, the fire."
In later editions of this work it is certainly stated of Yule:
"One month of every year, the Yule month, or Thor's month, was considered sacred to Frey as well as to Thor, and began on the longest night of the year, which bore the name of Mother Night."
I do not wish to be dogmatic about such things. Clearly the original mythological figure that Santa Claus is based upon is a fusion of both Woden and Thunor, possibly hinting at an older deity that encapsulates features of both Gods. I have hinted at such a concept in the past and the Gods willing I will expand upon my theory in a future article.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Krodo Represented in Saturday

In common with many other practitioners of our Germanic religion I carry out a solitary rite in honour of Woden and Thunor on their sacred days, Wednesday and Thursday. I have recently moved these rites to Tuesday and Wednesday evenings in recognition that our ancestors reckoned the day to begin on the prior evening just as they counted in nights rather than days. This is where we get the expression a fortnight from,  fēowertyne niht (Old English for 14 nights). By doing things correctly we show honour to our deities.

Whilst Thunor and Woden are generally regarded as our 2 most prominent deities our 7 day week honours others such as Tiw (Tuesday), Frigga (Friday), Saetern (Saturday), Sunna (Sunday) and Mani (Monday). The Kaiserchronik refers to our German Gods by Roman names, ascribing Saturday to the God Saturn:

"Then on the Saturday
  Is a thing named rotunda
  That was a lofty temple,
            The god was named Saturnus,

            Thereafter was it to all devils' honour."

The chronicle is referring to a temple which Boniface had converted into a church in dedication of Mary. It would appear from the writer's choice of words that although this temple was originally dedicated to Saturn it became a general place of worship of all our deities, which the xtian writer terms 'devils'. Jacob Grimm in his Teutonic Mythology Volume 1 states:

"The Anglo-Saxons, English, Frisians, Dutch and Low Saxons have left to the 'dies Saturni' the god's very name: Saeteresday or Saeternesdaeg, Saturday, Saterdei, Saterdach, Satersdag, and even the Irish have adopted dia Satuirn or Satarn; whereas the French samedi, Span. sabado, Ital. sabato, agrees with our High Germ. samstag." 
But who was this Saeter? Grimm points out that the 11th century place name Saeteresbyrig refers back to the " 'burg' on the Harz mts, built (according to our hitherto despised accounts of the 15th century in Bothe's Sachsenchronik) to the idol Saturn, which Saturn, it is added, the common people called Krodo; to this we may add the name touched upon in p. 206 (Hrethe, Hrethemonath), for which an older Hruodo, Chrodo was conjectured. We are told of an image of this Saturn or Krodo, which represented the idol as a man standing on a great fish, holding a pot of flowers in his right hand, and a wheel erect in his left; the Roman Saturn was furnished with the sickle, not a wheel."

Grimm draws parallels between Krodo and a deity worshipped by the Slavs:

"Widukind mentions a brazen simulacrum Saturni among the Slavs of the tenth century, without at all describing it; but Old Bohemian glosses in Hanka 14a and 17a carry us farther. In the first Mercurius is called 'Radihost vnuk Kirtov' (Radigast grandson of Kirt), in the second, Picus Saturni filius is glossed 'ztracec Sitivratov zin' (woodpecker, Sitivrat's son); and in a third 20a, Saturn is again called Sitivrat. Who does not see that Sitivrat is the Slavic name for Saturn, which leads us at first glance to sit=satur? Radigast=Mercury (p.130n.) is the son of Stracec=Picus; and in fact Greek myths treat Picus as Zeus, making him give up the kingdom to his son Hermes. Picus is Jupiter, son of Saturn; but beside Sitivrat we have learnt another name for Saturn, namely Kirt, which certainly seems to be our Krodo and Hruodo. Sitivrat and Kirt confirm Saturn and Krodo; I do not know whether the Slavic word is to be connected with the Boh. krt, Pol. kret, Russ. krot, i.e., the mole. I should prefer to put into the other name Sitivrat the subordinate meaning of sito-vrat, sieve-turner, so that it would be almost the same as kolo-vrat, sieve-turner, so that it would be almost the same as kolo-vrat, wheel-turner, and afford a solution of that wheel in Krodo's hand; both wheel (kolo) and sieve (soto) move round, and an ancient spell rested on sieve-turning. Slav mythologists have identified Sitivrat with the Hindu Satyavrata, who in a great deluge is saved by Vishnu in the form of a fish. Krodo stands on a fish; and Vishnu is represented wearing wreaths of flowers about his neck, and holding a wheel (chakra) in his fourth hand."

"The last to make up here number of seven, was the Idoll SEATER, fondly of some supposed to be Saturnus, for he was otherwise called CRODO, this goodly god stood to be adored in such manner as here this picture doth shew him.

First on a pillar was placed a pearch, on the sharpe prickled backe whereof stood this Idoll. He was leane of visage, having long haire, and a long beard: and was bare-headed, and bare footed. In his left hand he held up a wheele, and in his right he carried a paile of water, wherein were flowers, and fruites. His long coate was girded unto him with a towel of white linnen. His standing on the sharpe finnes of this fishe was to signifie that the Saxons for their serving him, should pass stedfastly, & without harme in dangerous, and difficult places.

By the wheele was betokened the knit unity, and conjoyned concord of the Saxons, and their concurring together in the running one course. By the girdle which with the wind streamed from him was signified the Saxons freedome. By the paile with flowers, and fruits was declared that with kindly raine he would nourish the Earth, to bring foorth such fruites, and flowers. And the day unto Name unto which he yet give the name of SATER-DAY, did first receive by being unto him celebrated, the same appellation." (The Saxon Gods, Resitution of Decayed Intelligence in Antiquities, Richard Verstegan)

Grimm thus establishes a Slavo-Teutonic identity for this God who has roots stetching back even further to Proto-Indo-European times if the link with Vishnu is accepted. Further information about this mysterious God may be found on http://celto-germanic.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/krodo-lost-saxon-god-traceable-to-aryan.html

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Rokeby by Sir Walter Scott

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) wrote some fascinating poetry and novels (Ivanhoe, and my personal favourite The Pirate). Here are two extracts from Canto 2 and 4  from a beautiful poem, Rokeby (1813) concerning  Teesdale and its Germanic heathen inheritance:

 " And Balder, named from Odin's son;
    And Greta, to whose banks ere long
    We lead the lovers of the song;
    And silver Lune, from Stanmore wild,
    And fairy Thorsgill's murmuring child,
    And last and least, but loveliest still,"

"When Denmark's raven soar'd on high,
Triumphant through Northumbrian sky,
Till, hovering near, her fatal croak
Bade Reged's Britons dread the yoke,
And the broad shadow of her wing
Blacken'd each cataract and spring,
Where Tees in tumult leaves his source,
Thundering o'er Caldron and High-Force;
Beneath the shade the Northmen came,
Fix'd on each vale a Runic name,
Rear'd high their altar's rugged stone,
And gave their Gods the land they won.
Then, Balder, one bleak garth was thine,
And one sweet brooklet's silver line,
And Woden's Croft did title gain
From the stern Father of the Slain;
But to the Monarch of the Mace,
That held in fight the foremost place,
To Odin's son, and Sifia's spouse,
Near Stratforth high they paid their vows,
Remember'd Thor's victorious fame,
And gave the dell the Thunderer's name."

Saturday, 19 September 2015

The Heathen Heritage of the Harz Mountains

The Harz mountains range of Niedersachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt and Thüringen was an important centre for German heathen religion and the moutains were the Heimat of many Gods which were specific to the continental Germanic peoples and the local Saxon and Thuringian tribes, eg Krodo, Biel, Stuffo, Frau Holla and Ostara. There are also local legends concerning the Thunder God Donar as well as a remembrance of the sacred union of Woden and Freya in the annual gathering of the Hexen upon the moutain peak of the Brocken. The Harz is part of the famous Hercynian Forest referred to in the annals of classical writers. Harz is said to derive from the Middle High German Hardt or Hart (mountain forest).

My Harz-born mother would often tell me nursey tales regarding the Harz and pass onto me tit bits of local lore that have survived down the centuries. My maternal line apparently were local wise women or witches as we call them today. However they had to be very careful in not attracting the attention of the repressive local authorities of the time. Now this aspect of the Harz is celebrated as a part of the local culture, no doubt in order to attact tourists and their Geld.

I have in recent years begun to explore and examine my maternal heathen heritage on this blog and I will continue to do so. Whether we call our religion Wodenism, Wotanism, Odinism, Asatru or Germanic Heathenism the Norse interpretation of our Gods and Goddesses unfortunately tends to dominate everything. I am grateful of course to the existence of the Eddas and Saga literature as without them we would have struggled to resurrect our ancient religion in the 20th century but as English, German and Netherlandic peoples we must explore other and more obscure source material in order that we may encounter a more authentic spiritual experience and not be too dependent on the Icelandic and Scandinavian material. 

The work of Grimm is an important starting point for our quest for Jacob Grimm attempted in his 4 (or 3 volume) work Deutsche Mythologie to present a continental Germanic mythology. The English version of this monumental work is Teutonic Mythology which tends to obscure the German emphasis of Grimm's research. A better translation of the title would have been German Mythology. However the work does incorporate Scandinavian material but the emphasis is on German, Dutch, English and Indo-European sources.

The following is an interesting quotation from Maria Elise Turner Lauder's Legends and Tales of the Harz Mountains, North Germany:

"The Harz is the birth-place of the " Wild Hunter," of the " Wild Army " of South Germany, of the Gold Crown, and of the noble Brunhilda. The view from the top of the granite mountain, the Hexentanzplatz, to the distant Brocken in clear weather, and across to that mass of granite, the Rosstrappe, the swift Bode leaping over huge blocks of fallen granite between, and a thousand feet below, is one of the finest in these mountains. This spot is the scene of the legend of Brunhilda.
"On the summit of the Rosstrappe is a giant horse-hoof, hewn in the solid granite, measuring nearly three feet. How this mark came there is a mystery; but it is supposed that it was hewn by the Druid priests. In the Scandinavian mythology Wodan's white steed was worshipped as well as the god himself.
"When Charlemagne, in the eighth century, compelled the people of this district to embrace Christianity (by fire and sword) the wild mountaineers are supposed to have fled before his victorious forces, and to have entrenched themselves on the Ross trappe, where traces of their rude fortifications may still be seen. They had no white steed to worship in this retreat, hence probably, the priests cut this rut of a horse-hoof, and invented the story of Briinhilda and the Giant's White Horse, in order to impress the people with the mighty power of the Thunder-god, and prevent them from entertaining any sympathy for the new religion."

Saturday, 12 September 2015

The Early Primacy of Thunor/Thonar/Thor

The Icelandic Eddas portray Thor as the son of Odin but this concept does not apply to all parts of the pre-xtian Germanic world. An example of Thor occupying the primary role amongst the Aesir is the account of the temple at Uppsala given by Adam of Bremen in about 1070CE:

"This people owns a very famous temple at Uppsala, not far from Sigtuna. In this temple, which is made exclusively of gold, the people worship the statues of three gods. Thor, the mightiest of them, has his seat in the middle of the room, and the places to the left and right of him are taken by Wodan and Fricco."

Wilhelm Waegner writing in his Asgard and the Gods states:

"In such manner people used, in the olden time, to call on the strong god of thunder, Thunar,- in the North, Thor. He was held in great reverence, and was pehaps even regarded as an equal of the God of Heaven. Traces of this are still recogniseable, for wherever he was spoken of in connection with the other gods, he was given the place of honour in the middle."

Chantepie De La Saussaye in his The Religion of the Teutons conjectures that the verbal contest in the Harbardhsljodh between Odin (Harbardh) and Thor is an expression of:

"the antithesis between the old and the new era. That in the time of the warlike vikings and the poetic scalds Odhin, the god who welcomes warriors to Walhalla and who won the poets' mead, gradually supplanted Thor, is a theory that was advanced long ago and which has found ready acceptance with many scholars. In Norway, Thor was doubtless of old the chief god, as he was in Sweden alongside of Freyr, but Eddic song as well still assigns him a high rank, and in Iceland he was zealously worshipped."

According to Dr Karl E. H. Siegfried:

"The surviving records of the continental form of the Thunderer are quite different from the later Scandinavian version.  He wears a golden crown that is alive with sparking electricity - a clear sign that he was once the primary tribal sky god with, perhaps, a crown of stars to signify his dominion over the heavens."

Karl Mortensen writing in A Handbook of Norse Mythology when discussing the wording on certain ancient rune stones states:

"Only on these two stones is the name of the god of thunder expressly given, but on others we find engraved trefoils, quatrefoils ('hooked crosses'), or hammers (Fig 14), which is an evidence of the fact that Thor at this time was the chief god of the Danes; and for the rest of the North also."

Jacob Grimm in his Teutonic Mythology Volume 1 affirms that:

He is the true national god of the Norwegians, landas (patrium numen), Egilss. p. 365-6, and when ass stans alone, it means especially him, e.g., Saem. 70a, as indeed the very meaning of ans (jugum montis) agrees with that of Fairguneis. His temples and statues were the most numerous in Norway and Sweden, and asmegin, divine strength, is understood chiefly of him. Hence the heathen religion in general is so frequently expressed by the simple Thor blota, Saem. 113b, het (called) a Thor, Land. 1, 12, truthi (believed) a Thor, Landn. 2, 12."

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Biel, a 'Lost' God of the Saxons and Thuringians

It has been my goal in recent years to attempt to bring to the fore 'lost' Gods, particularly those of the continental and Anglo-Saxon Germanic peoples. One such example of a 'lost' God is Biel who I dontsurprisingly is not referred to in Grimm's Teutonic Mythology. He does make an appearance though in Gardenstone's Gods of the Germanic Peoples. From Roman Times to the Viking Age Volume 1 (2014).

"All sources which have been found for the god Biel are late, they're all from after the Viking Age. In a work about the life of Saint Boniface (673-755) written in the late 11th Century by Otloh von Sankt Emmerman, it is reported that the holy man 'exterminated' several local and regional cults of pagan gods, like Biel, Jecha and Stuvo (Stuffo)." (Gardenstone)

Various lexical works from the 19th century refer to Biel as being a forest deity. He is said to be a Sun God who protects forests and promotes growth, indicating that he is a fertility God. I am reminded of the more well known God Frey who is also regarded as both a Sun God and God of fertility. The cult of Biel is said to be centred in the southern part of the Harz Mountains and His statue was located on a rocky height situated near Ilfeld in Thuringen (Thuringia) called Bielstein or Bielsteinkanzel until it was destroyed by Boniface. Gardenstone reports that the worship of Biel continued after Boniface had left, His statue and altar having been repaired and restored by His priests. Quite possibly His worship continued secretly in the nearby cave named after Him, the Bielshöhle.

There is an etymological connection between Biel and the Slavic God Bilovog, a God of the light and the sun as well as the Celtic Belenus, another God of light. The name could also be derived from the Old German word for axe and hill, Buhl. This would explain why "In his name priests consecrated the axes of woodcutters and the weaponry of hunters and bowmen." (Gardenstone) Although Biel as a proper name is not found in Grimm nevertheless he does make this intriguing reference when discussing the God Paltar:

"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." (Teutonic Mythology Volume 1)

Biel is a God of the Saxons and Thuringians who occupied the Harz (and still do) but there are other places where His cult prospered such as in Nordhessen. There are many place names which bear testimony to Him that have survived to this day, eg the River Pöhl, the mountain Der Pöhlberg or Bielberg, Die Bielshöhe and Bielen, east of Nordhausen and also in the Teutoburger Wald. The fact that there are etymological connections with similar Celtic and Slavic Gods could be an indication that He hearkens back to Proto-Indo-European or Aryan times.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Frau Perchta, the Goddess Sacred to Berchtesgaden

It is well known that Adolf Hitler had a home and a retreat at Obersalzburg, called the Berghof in Bayern, Deutschland. The Berghof overlooked the town of Berchtesgaden. What is not so well known is that Berchtesgaden is linked to the Germanic Goddess Frau Perchta or Berchta.The original German name would have been Perchterscadmen, Perhtersgadem, Berchirchsgadem or Berchtoldesgadem. Perchta is derived from the Old High German beraht, bereht from the Proto-Germanic *brehtaz, meaning 'the bright one'. An alternative etymology points to 'covered' or 'hidden'.

Jacob Grimm in his Teutonic Mythology Volume 1 links this Goddess with Holda and believes that whilst She once had a:

"benign and gladdening influence, yet she is now rarely represented as such; as a rule, the awe-inspiring side is brought into prominence, and she appears as a grim bugbear to frighten children with. In the stories of dame Berchta the bad meaning predominates, as the good one does in those of dame Holda; that is to say, the popular christian view had degraded Berchta lower than Holda. But she too is evidently one with Herke, Freke and some others (see Suppl.)

Nigel Pennick in his Pagan Magic of the Northern Tradition. Customs, Rites, and Ceremonies (2015) refers to the Perchtenlauf, one of the ancient heathen carnivals of alpine Germany where the participants wore masks. He refers to Berchtesgaden as being the "spiritual home" of Frau Percht and the carnival there was not banned until 1601. This ban was overturned during the German Revolution of 1848, in which Richard Wagner was a prime mover. The Perchtenlauf is from late December to early January and thus is connected with the ancient feast of Yule. There is a link here with Woden who is also known as Grim.

"There was an especial hatred or fear of people wearing masks and putting on ritual animal disguise. One of the bynames of Odin is Grimnir, interpreted literally as 'the one with the grimy (blackened face)', or 'the masked one'. Grime means frost or dirt, and a grim face, and a grim face is one frozen in a forbidding expression. The Old Germanic words isengrim, a mask covering the head, or egesgrima, a 'terrifying mask', refer to this."

Of course masked processions or carnivals are common to all areas of Germanic Europe and guising continues up to this very day in England and other countries. Undoubtedly there is also a further connection with the Wild Hunt of Woden at that time of the year in which Woden's hoardes also wore masks. Isengrim is the name of the wolf in the tale Reynard and the Fox. Isengrim was also a name used by Tolkien several times in his Lord of the Rings mythology.

Grim or Grimnir is a significant byname for Woden. Rudolf Simek interprets the name as 'the masked one' (Dictionary of Northern Mythology). In England we have place names incorporating this byname for Woden: Grimsdyke, Grim's Ditch (Berkshire Downs, Harrow, Hampshire, South Oxfordshire, Grime's Graves, Grimsbury, Oxfordshire, Grimsbury Castle, Berkshire, Grimley, Worcestershire, Grimspound, Dartmoor, Grim's Cote (Grimm's Cott), Northamptonshire, Grimsthorpe (Grim's Thorpe).

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Odin and the North Country Charm against the Night Mare

Robert Graves in his The White Goddess (1948) brings to our attention an ancient charm dating back to at least the 14th century from the North Country which is attributed to Odin:

"The mon o' micht, he rade o' nicht
  Wi' neider swerd ne ferd ne licht.
            He socht tha Mare, he fond tha Mare,

            He bond tha Mare wi' her ain hare,

            Ond gared her swar by midder-micht

            She wolde nae mair rid o' nicht

            Whar aince he rade, thot mon o' micht."

A xtianised version of this charm appears in Shakespeare's King Lear, which I may add is a reference to the Celtic Sea God Llyr (Cymric) or Lir (Irish):

"Swithold footed thrice the wold.
           He met the Night-Mare and her nine-fold,

           Bid her alight and her troth plight,

           And aroynt thee, witch, aroynt thee!"

The charm should be receited nine times or thrice times thrice, both 3 and 9 being sacred numbers in the Northern Tradition.


Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Woden in Mediaeval English Literature

This may surprise some of my readers but even in the 12th century Woden was still being referred to in English literature. One specific example is from Geoffrey of Monmouth's (1100-1155) Historia Regum Britanniae. This work is described by Professor Laurence Austine Waddell as being part of the British Chronicles which he regards as being historic:

"The further excuse for rejecting these Early British Chronicles, that there are no contemporary inscriptions to support their ancient tradition, is one which, if accepted, would sweep away not only the early traditional history of Greece and Rome, which is accepted although resting on mere literary tradition, but also nearly all the Old Testament History, and much of the history of the Early Christian Church. There is absolutely no inscriptional evidence whatsoever, nor any ancient classic Greek or Roman reference, for the existence of Abraham or any of the Jewish patriarchs or prophets of the Old Testament, nor for Moses, Saul, David, Solomon, nor any of the Jewish kings, with the mere exception of two, or at most three, of the later kings. All of these are accepted and implicitly believed to be historical by our theologians merely on the strength of their having been believed by our Christian ancestors, because they were believed by the Jews themselves. The only difference between the accepted Jewish tradition and the rejected British tradition is that the former is actively taught as true by incessant repetition in church and Sunday schools to everyone from childhood upwards; whereas the equally well authenticated Early British traditional history is actively disparaged and stigmatized by modern writers, the one mechanically repeating the other, as mere fabricated fables or forgeries, despite the above-cited facts to the contrary." (The Phoenician Origin of Britons, Scots and Anglo-Saxons Discovered by Phoenician and Sumerian Inscriptions in Britain by Pre-Roman Briton Coins, 1924)

Now the reference to Woden in Geoffrey's work is as follows:

"The king, at the name of Mercury, looking earnestly upon them, asked them what religion they professed. 'We worship', replied Hengest, 'our country gods, Saturn and Jupiter, and the other deities that govern the world, but especially Mercury, whom in our language we call Woden, and to whom our ancestors consecrated the fourth day of the week, still called after his name Wednesday. Next to him we worship the powerful goddess, Frea, to whom they also dedicated the sixth day, which after her name we call Friday."

It is surely significant that even though the English had been xtianised for over 500 years at the time of Geoffrey's writing still the names of Woden and Frea had not been forgotten! Furthermore Geoffrey used the Anglo-Saxon and not the Scandinavian names for these two deities.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The Iceni, a Germanic Tribe?

People are beginning to wake up to the fiction that Britain was 'Celtic' prior to the Roman invasion of 43 CE. At not time did the British tribes or classical writers describe the inhabitants of Britain as being 'Celtic'. That does not of course exclude the possibility of a Celtic presence in Britain but the facts of the matter are far more complex. Interesting recent genetic surveys uphold the presence of Germanic DNA in the English and British gene pools but fail to identify any evidence for a "single 'Celtic' genetic group". Indeed the Scottish, Norther Irish, Welsh and Cornish do not show up in the genetic evidence as an identifiable and different genetic group. http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/mar/18/genetic-study-30-percent-white-british-dna-german-ancestry

Of course one could interpret this as evidence of the genocide of local native populations by the waves of Germanic colonisers such as the Anglo-Saxons. This would of course fit the historical narrative presented by the 6th century CE British monk Gildas in his  De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae. A interesting exposition of his work can be found in Celt and Saxon: The Struggle for Britain AD 410-937 by Peter Berresford Ellis (1993). His work is very interesting but the latter referred to book comes across as very anti-English but I would still encourage my readers to read it and overlook the 'Celtic' bias.

Modern writers and 'scholars' writing about first century CE Britain tend to fall into two camps, those who claim that 'we are all Celts' and deny the English their very real Germanic identity or try to polarise the differences between the English and other native populations. Perhaps it is time for a third position on this issue, that 'we are all Germanic' now?

In the light of the absence of clearly identifiable Celtic DNA we should look again at certain accepted truths and one of these concerns the ethnic identity of Boudicca, the first century CE queen of the Iceni who occupied what became Norfolk in East Anglia. She is descibed by Cassius Dio as having 'tawny' hair which is reddish-brown. She was tall, had piercing eyes and a harsh tone to her voice. Indeed she was a veritable Valkyrie of a woman. This description would be as equally as fitting for a Germanic queen from say the Nibelungenlied or the Volsunga Saga!

Interestingly the name of her tribe, the Iceni could mean 'blade' from the Brythonic ceni. My readers will be aware that the Germanic Saxons were named after the sax, also a blade! The fact that Boudicca and the Iceni could have Germanic origins should not surprise us as Stephen Oppenheimer in his remarkable The Origins of the British: A Genetic Detective Story (2007) reveals that Germanic people have been crossing over from mainland Germanic Europe to eastern England for centuries prior to the Anglo-Saxon invasions of the 5th century CE. He also ably demonstrated that English is much older than commonly accepted and rightly should exist in its own category as a Germanic language outside of the West and North Germanic language groups. We also now know that Stonehenge Phases II and III was the product of colonising Indo-Germanic Beaker Folk and Battle Axe Folk thousands of years ago! Furthermore the Germanic or partly Germanic Belgae were also already present in England by the time of the Roman Conquest and it is widely accepted that they introduced the Cult of Gwydion or Woden into England.

The Iceni minted their own coins without the need for importing Roman ones and this was a mark of how advanced their civilisation was. Remarkably they featured what appears to be Woden on some of their coins and His horse on the obverse side.

Thus we may summarise that for thousands of years England has experienced wave after wave of Germanic immigration before the Anglo-Saxons with the coming of the Beaker Folk, Battle Axe Folk and the Belgae. Rightly can England claim to be a part of greater Germania and long may it be so! The Anglo-Saxons were in a very real sense COMING HOME!

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Anglo-Saxon Thunder Lore

It is ironic but in the xtian churches' desire to eradicate genuine Germanic and Aryan heathen lore they inadvertantly saved some of it. The shavelings brought literacy to the converted peoples although this self-same literacy was denied to the bulk of the people, being the preserve of cloistered monks. Nevertheless some real gems of heathen lore were preserved by the clerics although to the casual reader it may not always be so obvious.

One example of such heathen lore is that concerning thunder. One work which is traditionally attributed to Bede is De Tonitrius Libellus:

"If thunder arises in the east on the coast, then according to the wise traditions of philosophers, it indicates that during the course of that year there would be a great outpouring of human blood [i.e. a battle].
If the thunder comes from western regions, then...it is said to presage death for the offspring of Adam, and a terrible plague approaching in the course of that year.
If the thunder is in the south, then, as wise and astute philosophers assert...it foretells that the inhabitants of the ocean [i.e. fish] will die off in some great misfortune.
When thunder is heard from the north...it signifies the death of the worst transgressors, that is of pagans and of heretic Christians." (Aspects of Anglo-Saxon Magic, 1996, Bill Griffiths)

Although attributed to Bede this is disputed by modern scholars but nevertheless appears to date back to the late 9th century at the latest. The reference to "pagans and of heretic Christians" could well be an addition to and an interpolation into the original lore which would of necessity have been oral in nature. What the clerics did preserve they contaminated as in the example of the Rune Poems and Saxo Grammaticus. The great work of Wodenism today is to cleanse our lore of xtian contamination as much as we are able. The Asatru Edda (2009) and the more recent The Odinist Edda (2014), both published by The Norroena Society are worthy attempts at doing so and in the spirit of Viktor Rydberg they present our lore as a consistent epic with material not found in the Eddas being included.

If of course De Tonitrius Libellus is the work of Bede then we must consider that this lore was written down at a time when England had only just lost its last heathen king.

"The last part of England to remain worshipping the old gods officially was Sussex, whose king Arwald (died 686) was the last Pagan king in Britain." ( Pagan Magic of the Northern Tradition. Customs, Rites, and Ceremonies, 2015, Nigel Pennick)  

Little is known of this Saxon king but is it not time that we acknowledged him as the last defender of Anglo-Saxon heathendom? Even his name is significant-Ar-wald. Now before anyone tells me that he was regarded as a xtian saint, this is simply not true! Arwald was killed by the xtian Caedwalla, king of Wessex in the Isle of Wight. Arwald's two younger brothers betrayed our ancient Gods by accepting xtianity before they were executed. No doubt they were tricked into doing so with the false promise that they would be saved if they did so, this being interpreted possibly as they being spared execution! This was a common xtian trick! Consequently because the names of these two brothers was unknown they were collectively cannonised and the two became known as St. Arwald! St. Arwald's day is 22nd April, very close to England Day (23rd).

The Ar prefix in Arwald's name is indicative of nobility and the very concept of Aryanness as embodied in the Germanic God Irmin, the Irish Eremon, the Gallic Ariomanus, the Vedic Aryaman, the Avestan Airyaman.
"The king of the Sons of Mil, Eremon, is etymologically the equivalent of the Gaulish Ariomanus, reflecting the same personified *aryomn 'Aryanness' as is seen in the Vedic Aryaman and the Iranian Airyaman. In addition, very specific traits connect Eremon with both of the latter. The dossier of Eremon in the Lebor Gabala involves his role as builder of causeways and royal roads. In the Historia Britonum of Nennius, the Book of Leinster, the Book of Lecan, and some other scources, Eremon arranged a protection against poisoned enemy arrows that consisted of pouring cow's milk into furrows on the battlefield. He also provided wives to his allies and arranged for hereditary succession in favour of the Irish, his own people."(Comparative Mythology, 1987, Jaan Puhvel)
Aryan god ( *h4eros). A deity in charge of welfare is indicated by a number of lexical correspondences (Skt Aryaman, Av airyaman, Gaul Ariomannus, OIr Eremon, and non-cognate functional correspondences, e.g. Vidura in the Mahabharata. The Aryaman-type deity is associated with building and maintenance of roads or pathways, with healing, especially involving a ritual where cattle urine or milk is poured in a furrow, and the institution of marriage. In this sense he is seen as a 'helper' in to the First Function deity of the Mitra type." (The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World, 2006, J.P. Mallory and D.Q. Adams)
Thus King Arwald's name could be interpreted as the Arman, the Aryan man of the forest; wald meaning forest or the military leader of the forest as Ar and Heri are cognate. Germanic kings were not only regarded as descendants of the Gods but also had by necessity to be effective military leaders.

In addition to thunder having a particular significance according to the four directions it may also be interpreted according to the month:

"In the month of January, if it thunders, it presages great winds, and the crops of the earth will turn out well, and there will be a battle (or, war).
"In the month of February, if it thunders, it foretells the death of many people and most of the kingdom.
"In the month of March, thunder signifies great winds, and crops turning out well, and discord among people.
"In April, thunder betokens a happy year, and the death of evil people.
"In May, thunder presages a hungry year.
"In the month of June, thunder signifies great winds, and madness among wolves and lions.
"In the month of July, thunder signifies crops turning out well, and livestock perishing.
"In the harvest month, thunder signifies a good yield, and people will sicken.
"In September, thunder means a good harvest, and the killing of powerful (or rich) people.
"In October thunder fortells a great gale, and crops yet to come, and a lack of fruits from trees.
"In November thunder bodes a happy year, and crops yet to come.
"In December, thunder predicts a good harvest from the soil, and harmony, and peace." (Griffiths)

Thunder also has a significance according to the days of the week.

"If the first thunder comes on Sunday, it signifies the death of children of your kin.
"If it thunders on Monday, that presages great bloodshed in some nation.
"If it thunders on Tuesday, that signifies a failing of crops.
"If it thunders on Wednesday, that means the death of land-workers and mechanics [craeftiga].
"If it thunders on Thursday, that means the death of womenfolk.
"If it thunders on Friday, that means the death of sea-creatures.
"If it thunders on Saturday, that means the death of judges and officials." (Griffiths)

The astute reader will notice that the thunder lore according to the days of the week signifies death on six days and crop failure on one! Also the thunder lore according to the direction is also in each case a warning of death! However the thunder lore attached to the months of the year has a more rational basis and is no doubt based on sound observation by our ancestors whilst the thunder lore concerning days of the weeks and direction is based on pure superstition. It is no wonder that our great God Thunor, the very personification of thunder was prayed to for protection and at the same time was held in awe by our ancestors.

"Se thunor hit thryscedh mid thaere fyrenan aecxe."(Dialogue of Solomon and Saturn) [translated as "Thunor threshes with his fiery axe".]
Not surprisingly our ancestors wore and were buried with axe amulets as a means of propitiating Thunor and seeking His protection in this life and the next.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Woden in Old English Literature

Due to the early and enforced xtianisation of the Germanic peoples in England much of our Anglo-Saxon lore has been lost and inevitably we must look to other sources such as the Icelandic Eddas and Sagas along with references to the Gods made by xtian scribes, law makers, chronicles, classical writers and historians and the remnants found in folkore and toponymy.

In Old English literature there are very few references to our ancient deities but the references that are there are certainly important to us. Altogether there are just two references to Woden in the surviving Old English literature. One example is the reference to Woden in the Nine Herbs Charm:

"Remember, Mugwort, what you made known,
What you arranged at the Great proclamation.
You were called Una, the oldest of herbs,
you have power against three and against thirty,
you have power against poison and against infection,
you have power against the loathsome foe roving through the land.

And you, Plantain, mother of herbs,
Open from the east, mighty inside.
over you chariots creaked, over you queens rode,
over you brides cried out, over you bulls snorted.
You withstood all of them, you dashed against them.
May you likewise withstand poison and infection
and the loathsome foe roving through the land.

'Stune' is the name of this herb, it grew on a stone,
it stands up against poison, it dashes against poison
Nettle (?) it is called, it attacks against poison,
it drives out the hostile one, it casts out poison.
This is the herb that fought against the serpent,
it has power against poison,  it has power against infection,
it has power against the loathsome foe roving through the land.
Put to flight now, Venom-loather, the greater poisons,
though you are the lesser, until he is cured of both.

Remember, Chamomile, what you made known,
what you accomplished at Alorford,
that never a man should lose his life from infection
after Chamomile was prepared for his food.

This is the herb that is called 'Wergulu'.
A seal sent it across the sea-right,
a vexation to poison, a help to others.
it stands against pain, it dashes against poison,

A worm came crawling, it killed nothing.
For Woden took nine glory-twigs,
he smote the the adder that it flew apart into nine parts.
There the Apple accomplished it against poison
that she [the loathsome serpent] would never dwell in the house.

Chervil and Fennell, two of much might,
They were created by the wise Lord,
holy in heaven as He hung;
He set and sent them to the seven worlds,
to the wretched and the fortunate, as a help to all.
It stands against pain, it fights against poison,
it avails against 3 and against 30,
against foe´s hand and against noble scheming,
against enchantment of vile creatures.

Now there nine herbs have power against nine evil spirits,
against nine poisons and against nine infections:
Against the red poison, against the foul poison,
against the white poison, against the pale blue poison,
against the yellow poison, against the green poison,
against the black poison, against the blue poison,
against the brown poison, against the crimson poison,
against worm-blister, against water-blister,
against thorn-blister, against thistle-blister,
against ice-blister, against poison-blister,

If any poison comes flying from the east,
or any from the north, [or any from the south,]
or any from the west among the people.
Christ stood over diseases of every kind.

I alone know a running stream,
and the nine adders beware of it.
May all the weeds spring up from their roots,
the seas slip apart, all salt water,
when I blow this poison from you.

Mugwort, plantain open form the east, lamb's cress, venom-loather, camomile, nettle, crab-apple, chevil and fennel, old soap; pound the herbs to a powder, mix them with the soap and the juice oaf the apple.
Then prepare a paste of water and of ashes, take fennel, boil it with the paste and wash it with a beaten egg when you apply the salve, both before and after.
Sing this charm three times on each of the herbs before you (he) prepare them, and likewise on the apple. And sing the same charm into the mouth of the man and into both his ears, and on the wound, before you (he) apply the salve."

Bill Griffiths in his Aspects of Anglo-Saxon Magic (1996) makes the interesting observation (via Grimm) that "In Swedish tradition, nine types of wood were sometimes used to kindle special fire: could the present charm be a construct, almost a fantasia, around the figure 9?"

Tony Linsell in his remarkable and now sadly out of print Anglo-Saxon Mythology, Migration & Magic (1994) states "The line mentioning Christ is an addition which can be removed or Woden can be substituted for Christ." I agree with Mr Linsell as it is clear to me that the Nine Herbs Charm although datable in manuscript form to about the year 1000 CE contains authentic archaic mythological material. The astute reader will also note that the reference to the "wise Lord, holy in heaven as He hung" could just as easilly be a reference to Woden as to Christ. Indeed is not Woden noted for His wisdom? The reference to the "seven worlds" is a Germanic heathen concept, not a xtian one. Unlike the ancient Norse the Anglo-Saxons believed in seven not nine worlds.

The charm is contained in the Old English Lacnunga, a collection of Anglo-Saxon remedies. Despite the fact that xtianity had been the dominant religion in England over 250 years prior to that time, the name of Woden survives in this text and clearly 'Christ' was added later as an interpolation in a poorly disguised attempt at censorship. With the suppression of the old religion herb lore survived and is inextricably linked to our mythology. The Nine Herbs Charm demonstrates that Woden is a God of healing and this concept is reinforced by the German Second Merseburg Charm, written down in either the 9th or 10th centuries CE and which also refers to Woden/Wodan:

"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 mended."

These kinds of charms or spells are not limited to the Germanic world but are known throughout the Indo-European world with similar charms in Gaelic, Lettish and even Finnish (a non-Indo-European language influenced by Germanic). Similar charms have been found in Scandinavia but the name of Woden/Odin has been replaced with that of Jesus. This substitution of ancient pre-xtian deity names with biblical ones is a familar story throughout northern and eastern Europe. One that has survived intact from Denmark does refer to Oden: 
"Oden rides over rock and hill;
he rides his horse out of a sprain and into joint
out of disorder and into order, bone to bone, joint to joint,
as it was best, when it was whole."

Another reference to Woden can be found in Maxims I, part B, verse 60 of the Exeter Book, datable to the 10th century:

"Woden wrought idols, the Almighty glory, the spacious skies. That is a mighty God, the very King of truth, the Saviour of souls."

Thus the memory of Woden continued to linger centuries after the cruel suppression of our ancestral religion by the xtian church. Although not a literary reference to Woden but interesting nonetheless is H.R. Ellis Davidson's reference in Gods and Myths of Northern Europe:

" "Thrice I smites with Holy Crock, With this mell[hammer] I thrice do knock, One for God, and one for Wod, And one for Lok."

This incantation was recorded in nineteenth century Lincolnshire by a clergyman who heard it from an old countrywoman whilst he was a boy.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Woden and Thunor, Mountain Deities

Our primary deities Woden and Thunor are both Gods of the storm and the sky. Their natural habitat is to be found on hills and mountain tops. Here in the Tees Valley in England we have a marvellous reminder of this fact in Roseberry Topping, previously named Othenesberg and first attested in 1119. One could compare this name with Wodnesberg (Woodnesborough) in Kent. This naming of hills after Odin/Woden follows the continental pattern of naming hills and mountains after the German/Dutch Wodan, eg Wodansberg. I am reminded that in Germany there are many legends that have survived the xtianising distortions of the Middle Ages which depcit Wodan as the sleeping king of the mountain. See my article http://celto-germanic.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/woden-as-sleeping-king-in-mountain.html

Jacob Grimm in his Teutonic Mythology Volume 1 gives many examples of such sacred hills and mountains including Othensberg (Denmark), Odensberg (Sweden), Godesberg (Wodenesberg/Gudenesberg) near Bonn, Wuodenesberg near Donar's Oak in Hesse and many others. Thunor/Donar follows a similar pattern with examples such as Donnersberg (Thoneresberg) in the Rhineland, Tuniesberg (Donersperg/Duonesberc/Tunniesberg) near Regensburg, Donershauk in the Thüringer Wald, Thors klint in East Gothland and Thorsborg in Gothland.

Grimm goes on to say: "And the Thunder-mountains of the Slavs are not to be overlooked." He then gives both Slavic and Baltic examples. The Russian Perun also means 'mountain, rock'. This bears a strong affinity with the Hittite peruna ('rock'), Sanskrit Parvata ('mountain') and Thracian peru ('rock').

In the Harz Mountains, south of Halberstadt there stands a massive rock formation called the Glaeserner Moench-the Glass Monk or Crystal Monk. However the ancient Teutons called this sandstone rock the Thorstein-Thor`s Stone. Only with the enforced xtianisation of my Saxon ancestors did the name change to the Glass Monk. The shape of the rock is suggestive of both a monk`s hood but also of Donar`s hammer. Donar and Wodan have more elemental and primitive characteristics than the Thor and Odin of the later polished tales of the Eddas.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Woden, Raging God of the Storm

Woden/Wodan/Wotan of the continental Germanic peoples and the Anglo-Saxons is much more of a storm and weather God,  more closely related to Thunar/Thonar/Donar than the Odin of the Norse Eddas and Sagas. He dwells in the forests and on the mountain tops. This extract from Walter Keating Kelly's Curiosities of Indo-European Folklore puts across this aspect of our High Lord very well:

"The name of Woden or Wuotan denotes the stormy or furious goer, being derived from a verb which is closely related to the Lowland Scotch word Wud, mad or furious. The verb itself survives in English, but greatly tamed down and restricted in meaning, for it now signifies nothing more violent than to walk through shallow water, to wade. Originally it meant to go like one that is 'wud', to go as the winds go when they rend the forests in their furious course. So went Woden or Odin, whose original nature was that of the storm-god; and it is that character he sustains at this day in the popular legends of Germany. They picture him as sweeping through the air in the roaring winds, either alone or with a great retinue consisting of the souls of the dead, which have become winds, and have, like the Maruts, taken the shape of men, dogs, boars &c."
I cannot but help think of the marvellously sounding German adjective wütend, meaning raging and furious. Woden, although a typically German God may be compared with the Indo-Aryan Vata-Vayu.

 "O The Wind`s chariot, O its power and glory! Crashing it goes and hath a voice of thunder. It makes the regions red and touches heaven, and as it moves the dust of earth is scattered. Along the traces of the wind they hurry, they come to him as dames to an assembly. Borne on his car with these for his attendants, the God speeds forth, the universe`s Monarch. Travelling on the paths of air`s mid-region, no single day doth he take rest or slumber. Holy and earliest-born, Friend of the waters, where did he spring and from what region came he? Germ of the world, the Deities` vital spirit, this God moves ever as his will inclines him. His voice is heard, his shape is ever viewless. Let us adore this Wind with our oblation."(Rig Veda Hymn 168)

This version of the German Woden is best articulated by Friedrich Nietzsche:

 "To the Unknown God"

I shall and will know thee, Unknown One,
Who searchest out the depths of my soul,
And blowest through my life like a storm,
Ungraspable, and yet my kinsman!
I shall and will know thee, and serve thee.

Twenty years later he wrote:

"The Mistral Song"

Mistral wind, chaser of clouds,
Killer of gloom, sweeper of the skies,
Raging storm-wind, how I love thee!
Are we both not the first-fruits
Of the same womb, forever predestined
To the same fate?

And from "Thus Spake Zarathustra" we have:-

"Ariadne`s Lament"

Stretched out, shuddering,
Like a half-dead thing whose feet are warmed,
Shaken by unknown fevers,
Shivering with piercing icy frost arrows,
Hunted by thee, O thought,
Unutterable! Veiled! horrible one!
Thou huntsman behind the clouds.
Struck down by thy lightning bolt,
Thou mocking eye that stares at me from the dark!
Thus I lie,
Writhing, twisting, tormented
With all eternal tortures,
By thee, cruel huntsman,
Thou unknown-God!
These mystical experiences of Nietzsche were discussed by Carl Gustav Jung. According to the Swiss-German father of analytical psychology, Carl Gustav Jung in his 1936 essay Wotan Nietzsche had an experience of meeting the hunter god Wotan at the age of 15 in Pforta. This is described in a book by Nietzsche`s sister, Elizabeth Foerster-Nietzsche, "Der werdende Nietzsche". Jung goes on to say: "As he was wandering about in a gloomy wood at night, he was terrified by a "blood-curdling shriek from a neighbouring lunatic asylum", and soon afterwards he came face to face with a huntsman whose "features were wild and uncanny". Setting his whistle to his lips "in a valley surrounded by wild scrub", the huntsman "blew such a shrill blast" that Nietzsche lost consciousness-but woke up again in Pforta. It was a nightmare. It is significant that in his dream Nietzsche, who in reality intended to go to Eisleben, Luther`s town, discussed with the huntsman the question of going instead to "Teutschenthal"[Valley of the Germans]. No one with ears can misunderstand the shrill whistling of the storm-god in the nocturnal wood."

What is also less well known is the personal encounter which Jung had with Wotan in dream form which he relates in his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections[1963]. On pages 344-347 Jung relates this dream to us. The night before his mother`s death he had a dream in which he encountered Wotan:
"The night before her death I had a frightening dream. I was in a dense, gloomy forest: fantastic, gigantic boulders lay about among huge jungle-like trees. It was a heroic, primeval landscape. Suddenly I heard a piercing whistle that seemed to resound through the whole universe. My knees shook. Then there were crashings in the underbrush, and a gigantic wolfhound with a fearful, gaping maw burst forth. At the sight of it, the blood froze in my veins. It tore past me, and I suddenly knew: the Wild Huntsman had commanded it to carry away a human soul. I awoke in deadly terror, and the next morning I received news of my mother`s passing.
"Seldom has a dream so shaken me, for upon superficial consideration it seemed to say that the devil had fetched her. But to be accurate the dream said that it was the Wild Huntsman, the `Gruenhuetl`, or Wearer of the Green Hat, who hunted with his wolves that night-it was the season of  Foehn storms in January. It was Wotan, the god of my Alemannic forefathers, who had gathered my mother to her ancestors-negatively to the `wild horde`, but positively to the `saelig Luet`, the blessed folk. It was the Christian missionaries who made Wotan into a devil. In himself he is an important god-a Mercury or Hermes, as the Romans correctly realised, a nature spirit who returned to life again in the Merlin of the Grail legend and became, as the spiritus Mercurialis, the sought after aracanum of the alchemists. Thus the dream says that the soul of my mother was taken into that greater territory of the self which lies beyond the segment of Christian morality, taken into that wholeness of nature and spirit in which conflicts and contradictions are resolved."

I am not the first to comment on this more archaic interpretation of the God:

 "We may examine the two sides of Woden's character in turn, and first that suggested by those who derive the name Wodenaz from an Indo-European word which is also the parent of Sanskrit vata and Latin ventus meaning 'wind'. Wodenaz would then be a god of wind and storm like the Hindu Vata, Lord of the Wind. In his turn, Woden is taken to be a deified development of the German storm giant Wode leading his 'wild army' (das wuetende Heer), his procession of the homeless dead across the sky. This view is supported by Adam of Bremen's definition 'Wodan, that is to say Fury' (Wodan, id est furor), and by the Anglo-Saxon wodendream which is glossed into Latin as furor animi, and also by the fact that in Sweden das wuetende Heer is known as 'Oden's jagt' or 'Woden's Hunt'.(The Lost Gods of England, Brian Branston, 1957)

 "The primitive west Europeans had called the god Wodenaz. This later developed into Wuotan (Old High German) and Wodan (Old Saxon). It is generally believed that he was first thought of as a sky deity-perhaps a wind or storm god-with great wisdom, and with some sort of powers over life and death. This may be evidenced by the derivation of Wodenaz from an Indo-European word, parent also of the Sanskrit vata and the Latin ventus, both meaning 'wind'. He could be compared to the Hindu Lord of the Wind, Vata, and the German storm giant Wode." (Buckland's Book of Saxon Witchcraft, Raymond Buckland, originally published in 1974)
 Gudmund Schuette states in his Our Forefathers the Gothonic Nations Volume 1 that the storm giant Wode developed into Woden or Odin:

  "The German Wode=O.N. Odr is a storm giant, the Wild Huntsman and Leader of the Host of the Dead who is finally exalted to the chief god under the name of Woden, Odin."

Sunday, 12 July 2015

The Survival of the Cult of Thunor in Place-Name, Folklore, Stone and Saga

It is interesting how our native racial Gods survived following the coming of xtianity and the heathen holocaust in both Britain and Europe. Sometimes our ancient law and Gods are hidden away in the sub-text of xtian monkish writings; at other times they are more openly displayed. This is particularly the case with Thunor, a God much beloved and relied upon by the people. He not only was the defender of Middangeard but the bringer of the fruitful  rains, thus a God of both the second and third functions or castes and attracted a large following. He was particularly beloved in Iceland which had many temples dedicated to Him. His name survives in the English landscape, examples being:

Thunderfield (Thunor's Plain) from  Þunresfeld.

Thunderley Hall (Hall at Thunor's Clearing) from Tunresleam.

Thundersley (Thunor's Clearing) from Thunreslea.

Thursley (Thunor's Clearing) from Thoresle.

Thundridge (Thunor's Ridge) from Tonrinch.

Thurstable (Thunor's Pillar) from Thurstapell.

Tusmore (Thur's Pool) from Toresmere.

Thunderlow Hundred (Thunor's Mound) from Þûnor + hlæw.

In addition to place name survival we also have the remarkable synthesis of Germanic heathen imagery with xtian imagery on Anglo-Saxon stone crosses and slabs. The Gosforth Cross is such an example. Gosforth is in the ancient English county of Cumberland which was part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria. The cross in the churchyard of St Mary's Church dates back to between 920-950 CE and is constructed of sandstone. This area was subject to Scandinavian settlement between the 9th and 10th centuries CE and doubtless these Germanic images were the product of these settlers rather than the Angles that arrived centuries earlier and who would have been xtianised by then. Nevertheless it demonstrates a certain tolerance by the xtian church at that time and a lasting regard for Thunor/Thor and our other deities. The cross depicts the attempt by Thor to catch the world serpent but also it has images of the binding of Loki, Heimdall blowing His horn and Vidar tearing at the jaws of the Fenris Wolf.

In the ruins of an old church in Ottrava, Vastergotland, Sweden an old font was discovered in the 19th century which became the focal point of a book by Professor George Stephens-Thunor the Thunderer, carved on a Scandinavian font of about the year 1000. Again it is remarkable how despite the general intolerance of the xtian fanatics Thunor/Thor enjoyed a greater degree of tolerance than many of our other deities. He was far too beloved by the mass of people for the Church to successfully eradicate or demonise.

Even after the peaceful conversion to xtianity in Iceland many of the people still worshipped the old Gods but had to do so privately. This example of tolerance is unique and I am not aware of any similar accommodation in the Germanic world but one must bear in mind that if the Icelanders had not voted to accept xtianity at their Allthing in 1000 CE the might and terror of the king of Norway would have raged against them and they would have lost their precious independence, something which this small but remarkable people still treasure today.

An interesting account of the continuation of the Cult of Thor is contained in Eirik the Red's Saga in which Thorhall (a devotee of Thor) and his xtian shipmates were washed ashore and starving and Thorhall after discovering a beached whale said: "Didn't Old Redbeard prove to be more help than your Christ? This was the payment for the poem I composed about Thor, my guardian, who's seldom disappointed me." Unfortunately his ungrateful shipmates were subsequently poisoned by the whale-meat!

We have many direct and indirect references to Thunor in English folklore:

"It is well known in England, and also in Germany, that no witch can step over a besom laid along the threshold of the house door on the inside. She will kick it or push it aside before she can enter your house, and by this token you may know her for what she is. An axe[Thor`s weapon] and a broom are laid crosswise on the innerside of the threshold over which the nurse has to step when she goes out with an infant to have it christened. This is done that the babe may be safe from all the devices of the powers of evil." (Curiosities of Indo-European Folklore, Walter Keating Kelly, 1863)

In folktales we have the example of Jack and the Beanstalk in which Jack is the giant-killer, Thunor. 
There is a surviving tale of an encounter between the `Devil` and Thor recorded in In Search of the Lost Gods. A Guide to British Folklore by Ralph Whitlock (1979). A legend from Treyford Hill near Midhurst in west Sussex refers to an argument between the `Devil` and Thor whose sleep was disturbed by the `Devil` leaping from barrow to barrow on the hill. The `Devil` taunted him by saying that Thor "was too old to go jumping about in this way." Thor thus flung a rock which caught the `Devil` in his midriff. It is certainly unusual to see the two beings on separate sides which could be an indication of a remembrance of a local cult to Thor or Thunor and that even with the xtian conversion His followers still stayed loyal to him.

In folklore there is an abiding superstition that a girl can dream of her future husband by placing her shoes in the form of a T by her bed at Hallowe'en. The 'T' of course represents the Hammer of Thunor/Thor. (See Whitlock).

In the Germanic lands there is a tradition that Belemnites are missiles shot down from the thunder-cloud and have all sorts of beneficial uses such as stroking the udders of cows when they go dry in order to produce more milk which reminds me of how in tales of Indra the clouds are personified as cows trapped in caves.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Woden as Gwydion, the Belgic God of the Ash

As I have discussed before on these blogs there is not only evidence for an Indo-European presence detectable thousands of years before the Common Era in the British Isles but a Germanic settlement too. Linked to this early Germanic colonisation are questions concerning the antiquity of the Cult of Woden in these islands. The accepted view is that the Cult of Woden was introduced alongside the Anglo-Saxon colonisation of the mid 5th century CE. However some of us have come to the conclusion that this is a faulty and over-cautious assumption. Some interesting information can be gleaned from what may be a surprising source to some of my readers: The White Goddess by Robert Greaves (1948).

Greaves refers to the connection that some scholars have made between the British God Gwydion and Woden. As Wulf Ingessunu points out in his work the 'G' in Gwydion is silent and its pronunciation would not be dissimilar to 'Woden'. The question then arises, why would a Celtic people follow a God who is ostensibly Germanic? The answer to this question is to be found right there in Grave's book:
"Professor Sir John Rhys takes Gwydion for a mixed Teuton-Celt deity and equates him with Woden...." (page 51)
 "That the Belgae invaded Britain in 400 BC, and that their god was the [Celto-Teutonic] Gwydion [alias Woden, or Odin] and that the ash [Ygdrasill] was sacred to him." (Appendix A Two Letters to the Press)
Charles Squire before him also makes a similar observation:
"It was a belief common to the Aryan races that wisdom as well as wealth came originally from the underworld; and we find Math represented in the Mabinogi bearing his name as handing on his magical lore to his nephew and pupil Gwydion, who there is good reason to believe was the same divine personage whom the Teutonic tribes worshipped as 'Woden' and 'Odin'. Thus equipped Gwydion son of Don became the druid of the gods, the 'master of illusion and phantasy', and not only that but the teacher of all that is useful and good, the friend and helper of mankind, and the perpetual fighter against niggardly underworld powers for the good gifts which they refused to allow out of their keeping." (The Mythology of the British Islands)
Indeed before Squire Jacob Grimm states in his Teutonic Mythology Volume 1:
"In the Old British mythology there appears a Gwydion ab Don, G. son of Don, whom Davies (Celtic Researches pp. 168, 174. Brit.myth.p 118,204,263-4,353,429.504,541) identifies with Hermes; he invented writing, practised magic, and built the rainbow; the milky way was named caer Gwydion, G.'s castle (Owen, sub v.). The British antiquaries say nothing of Woden, yet Gwydion seems near of kin to the above Gwodan=Wodan. So the Irish name for dies Mercurii, dia Geden, whether modelled on the Engl. Wednesday or not, leads us to the form Goden, Gwoden (see Suppl.)"

It is also a fact that often 'w' was substituted for 'g' in the ancient Germanic world. Paul the Deacon refers to Wodan under the alternative name of Godan or Guodan amongst the East Germanic tribes. Graves puts forward the tantalising theory that the Welsh poetic cycle the Cad Goddeu (The Battle of the Trees) concerned the struggle for dominance between the Cult of Woden, the God of the Ash and Bran, the God of the Alder. This struggle will form the basis of a future article on this blog.

"Sure-hoofed is my steed in the day of battle. The high sprigs of ash are in thy hand-Woden thou art, by the branch thou bearest."
 "The Battle of the Trees thus ended in a victory of the Ash-god and his ally  over the Alder-god and his ally." (Graves)       

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Sources of Study for Germanic Religion

To gain a deeper understanding of our ancestors' perception of the Germanic Gods we need to go beyond the narrow confines of the Eddas (Poetic Edda and Prose Edda) and sagas although these are of course invaluable sources without which we would to a certain extent be groping in the dark. However we have to remember that the Eddas which were originally oral poems receited by the Bards were not put down onto paper until the 13th century CE. A useful supplement to the Eddas and sagas is Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum (Deeds of the Danes). Although a 12th century and thus slightly earlier composition it is a less reliable source and tends to distort or confuse the picture. Only those who have an already comprehensive grasp of Teutonic mythology should attempt to study it.

Classical writers such as Tacitus (Germania) and Caesar (De Bello Gallico) are the earliest sources but they were outsiders so what they can tell us has thus a limited value. Caesar in particular presents a very primitive view of ancient Teutonic religion, stating:
"The customs of the Germans are very different from those of the Gauls. They have no druids to preside over religious matters, nor do they concern themselves with sacrifices. The only things which they count as gods are things they can see and which clearly benefit them, for example, the Sun, Vulcan, and the Moon. They have not even heard rumours of any others." (6.21) 
How different this perception is compared to that of Tacitus writing over a century later in the first century CE! We know that the Germans DID have a priesthood who exerted a great deal of influence and we also know that sacrifices were made to the Gods. Clearly the Germanic tribes honoured the deities behind the sun, moon and fire (Vulcan) but were not limited to these. Tacitus mentions deities not referred to in the Eddas such as Tuisto, Mannus, Nerthus and the Alcis.

Viktor Rydberg however did an excellent job in creating an exposition in epic form of all the available material in his two volume Teutonic Mythology which has been published in the form of 3 books, the second volume being printed in 2 parts. Rydberg's Our Fathers' Godsaga: Retold for the Young ironically is actually better suited to adults! It is a handy single volume retelling of the material in Teutonic Mythology. I recommend reading this volume as an introduction to the other 3 books.

Jacob Grimm's Teutonic Mythology, available in 4 volumes contains material that is additional to that found in the Scandinavian material and focuses more in what can be gleaned from continental Germania, utilising folklore, folksongs, ancient spells, herblore, mediaeval manuscripts and place name etymology. Those seeking to gain a more primitive, a more Germanic or a more German understanding of our ancient beliefs and practices would do well to study these volumes.

It is important to study as much as we can in order that we have a sound basis on which to rebuild our ancient heritage and religion and this takes many years. Finding a reliable mentor, teacher or organisation will help to guide the novice but it is imperative that book learning does not replace having a deep relationship with the Gods and this comes with the practice of regular rites and meditation.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Zio/Zisa, Aspects of Das Gott

Jacob Grimm in his Teutonic Mythology volume 1 refers to a German Goddess called Zisa. He found references to this Goddess going back to the 11th century CE.  He also refers to a rhyme composed in about 1373 AD by a cleric, Kuechlin about the history of Augsburg which was dedicated to the Burgomeister, Peter Egen the Young. I reproduce the relevant excerpt as follows:-  

"Sie bawten einen tempel gross darein zu eren[in honour of] Zise der abgoettin, die sie nach heidnischen sitten[after heathen ways] anbetten zu denselben zeiten[adored in those days]. Die stat ward genennt[city got named] auch Zisaris nach der abgoettin[after the goddess], das was der pris. Der tempel als lang stund unversert[stood uninjured], bis im von alter abgieng[as from age it passed away], der berg namen von im empfieng[the hill took name], daruf gestanden was[whereon had stood] das werck, und haist noch huet[hight still to-day] der Zisenberck."
 Grimm says that the older spelling of Her name is Cisa and "that she was most devoutly worshipped by the Suevi" and Her great feast day which consisted of games and merrymaking was held on 28th September. Grimm speculates that Zisa/Cisa is the same divinity as Isis who is referred to in Tacitus` Germania 9.1:  

"Part of the Suebi sacrifice also to Isis; I have not ascertained the source from which the foreign rite originates, but the fact remains that the image itself, fashioned in the form of a light ship, proves that the cult is imported."

According to Nigel Pennick Cisa/Zisa had a shrine at Augsburg in Germany and her annual festival took place on the 28th of September. (The Complete Illustrated Guide to the Runes), the original name of this city being Zisenburg (A History of Pagan Europe, Pennick/Jones) or Zizarim (The Book of Primal Signs, Pennick). The Roman name of the city was Augusta Vindelicorum. The symbol of Zisa is the pinecone and many large stone pinecones survive from Roman times. Mr Pennick states that the Stadtpyr is the emblem of Augsburg and Her cone appears as a weather vane on the church of St. Peter-am-Perlach, which was built on the site of a holy hill dedicated to the Goddess.

Tyr was a generic name for 'God' and appears as a suffix in many Germanic names of deities or as bynames of Woden such as Hangatyr (God of the hanged), Hrafntyr (God of ravens), Valtyr (God of the slain). The reason that this became a generic term is because He was the original Sky Father before being supplanted by the later Woden as the Germanic peoples by necessity became more warlike due to pressures from the Slavs, Romans and the need for ever more Lebensraum. Tyr became just another war God along with Thunor and Woden, His original pre-eminence all but forgotten.

Tyr was the original Das Gott of the continental Germans,  Teut, the eponymous ancestor of the Teutons, the God of Teut Land >Teutschland > Deutschland. My readers will notice that I have used the German neutar as a definite article because originally God was neither male nor female. My article  http://armanen.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/das-gott-of-ancient-teutons.html discusses this in more detail. Tyr/Tiw/Zio and Cisa/Zisa were male and female emanations of the original sexless Das Gott, the shining God of the Aryans. He/She may be traced back to the Proto-Germanic *Tiwaz and in turn to the Proto-Indo-European *Deiwos. This deity was the shining celestial God of the heavens, represented by the Tyr/Tiw rune

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Fire and the Oak and their Associations with Thor

Dr H.R. Ellis Davidson in her Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, 1964 (in my opinion the best book of its kind in the last 51 years) points out that there is an association between Thor and fire. She states that in the Kjalnesinga Saga that there is a description of a temple dedicated to Thor in which there is an "altar made of iron on top":

"This was the place for the fire which was never allowed to go out. This they called the sacred fire."

Some scholars dismiss this description as an invention purely on the grounds that the saga is a 'late' on. Dr Ellis Davidson though considers the association of fire with Thor to be genuine and I am inclined to agree with her. She offers as supporting evidence the fact that a perpetual fire burned in the temple of Perkunos, the Thunder God of the Old Prussians, in an oak tree sanctuary. The oak as my readers will know is sacred to all of the Indo-European Thunder Gods, especially here in Northern Europe (with exception of Iceland) and the tree itself plays such an important part in the mythology and spiritual life of heathen England and Germania.

Thor as lord of the lightning is thus the lord of the fire from heaven. In her book she gives us a good description of the practices of the Old Prussians in respect of Perkunos:

"The chief of these sanctuaries was at Romove, where there was a holy oak, in whose trunk were placed images of the gods. Before that of the thunder god, Perkuno, was a fire which was never allowed to go out. The fire was surrounded by curtains, forming a shrine which only the high priest might enter to commune with Perkuno. The name of this god is linked with the Latin for oak, quercus, and it is probable that Donar too was worshipped in sanctuaries of this type. In England there are a number of Anglo-Saxon place-names in the form of Þunre leah, the meaning of which is 'grove, or forest clearing of Thunder.'"

Interestingly Dr Ellis Davidson draws our attention to the existence of a grove dedicated to Thor that still existed until the year 1000 CE on the north bank of the river Liffey outside Dublin when it was destroyed by King Brian Boru. However it took him a month to complete its destruction so this must have been a sanctuary on a grand scale.

The oak tree of all trees of the forest is the most susceptible to be struck by lightning and thus we have an association between fire and the oak, both of which are sacred to Thor.

"As a channel through which the power of the sky god might reach down to the world of men, it is understandable that the mighty oak tree, itself a splendid symbol of age, strength, and endurance, came to be considered specially sacred to the Thunderer."

In a sense the oak tree acts as a conductor of Thor's lightning power and thus a medium of not only His power which fills us with awe of Him but it is a way that He can most powerfully communicate with us. The study of Baltic mythology and heathen religious practice should be of importance to us as Germanic heathens for they give us insight into the beliefs and practices of our ancestors. Germany had a number of Donars Eichen (Donar's Oaks) but the most famous of these was located in Gaesmere in the state of Hesse. This sacred oak was cut down by the servants of the Anglo-Saxon missionary Boniface in the year 723 or 724, an act of sacrilege and religious and cultural vandalism.

"Now at that time many of the Hessians, brought under the Catholic faith and confirmed by the grace of the sevenfold spirit, received the laying on of hands; others indeed, not yet strengthened in soul, refused to accept in their entirety the lessons of the inviolate faith. Moreover some were wont secretly, some openly to sacrifice to trees and springs; some in secret, others openly practiced inspections of victims and divinations, legerdemain and incantations; some turned their attention to auguries and auspices and various sacrificial rites; while others, with sounder minds, abandoned all the profanations of heathenism, and committed none of these things. With the advice and counsel of these last, the saint attempted, in the place called Gaesmere, while the servants of God stood by his side, to fell a certain oak of extraordinary size, which is called, by an old name of the pagans, the Oak of Jupiter. And when in the strength of his steadfast heart he had cut the lower notch, there was present a great multitude of pagans, who in their souls were earnestly cursing the enemy of their gods. But when the fore side of the tree was notched only a little, suddenly the oak's vast bulk, driven by a blast from above, crashed to the ground, shivering its crown of branches as it fell; and, as if by the gracious compensation of the Most High, it was also burst into four parts, and four trunks of huge size, equal in length, were seen, unwrought by the brethren who stood by. At this sight the pagans who before had cursed now, on the contrary, believed, and blessed the Lord, and put away their former reviling. Then moreover the most holy bishop, after taking counsel with the brethren, built from the timber of the tree wooden oratory, and dedicated it in honor of Saint Peter the apostle."

This act of heinous sacrilege was repeated time after time in Germania and we are reminded of Karl the Butcher's destruction of the Irminsul at Heresburg in Nordrhein-Westfalen in 772 CE during the Saxon Wars. Both Donar's Oak and the Irminsul were types of representations of the world tree Yggdrasil.

In Songs of the Russian People (1872) by William Shedden Ralston we have this interesting observation:

"In Lithuania Perkunas, as the God of Thunder, was worshipped with great reverence. His statue is said to have held in its hand a 'precious stone like fire', shaped 'in the image of the lightning', and before it constantly burnt an oak-wood fire. If the fire by any chance went out, it was rekindled by means of sparks struck from the stone."

The Lapps worshipped Thor who was known to them as Horagelles (Old Man Thor) or Toora/Taara in Estonia and Torym to the Ostyaks. In a 17th century engraving of a Saami sacrificial site Horagelles has a long handled hammer, and nails in the head. Suspended from the nail is a flint which the God can use to make fire. This reminds me of the story of the whetstone stuck in the forehead of Thor after his duel with the giant Hrungnir in Skldsakaparmal in the Younger Edda. As an interesting aside Wulf Ingessunu in his latest book Ar-Kan-Rune-Lag. The Secret Aryan Way (2015) associates this stone with the rune Stan and alludes to the Graal Stone which fell from the Light-Bearer, Lucifer's crown.