Saturday, 14 March 2015

Thundermark Found on Ancient Germanic Spears

Runebinder recently discussed onhttp://volkisch-runes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/this-is-one-of-many-cheap-rings.html the appearance of an ancient symbol on modern runic jewellery. This symbol is considered by some scholars to be a Tamga, a clannic symbol of authority which can be traced back to the Aryan Sarmatian and Iranian tribes. It features on a number of ancient Germanic spears discovered in Germany, Denmark and eastern Europe, namely the Dahmsdorf and Vimose (Denmark) spearheads. The above image is of the Dahmsdorf spear.

J.T. Sibley in her The Divine Thunderbolt. Missile of the Gods (2009) considers this symbol to be a form of Keraunoi which are thunderbolt symbols found amongst various Indo-European cultures. The presence of this symbol in connection with swastikas and runes on Germanic spears strengthens this interpretation further. My own view is that this symbol is both a Keraunos and a Tamga.

What is remarkable is that this rarely seen symbol has thus re-emerged on a piece of runic jewellery possibly made in the far east. It would be interested to learn who designed the said piece of jewellery and what was the inspiration behind it.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Balder, Woden and Thor reflected in Teesdale Place-Names

Baldersdale lies within the traditional English county of the North Riding of Yorkshire, close to County Durham. The river Balder flows through Baldersdale until it joins the river Tees (the boundary between Durham and the North Riding) at Cotherstone on the Yorkshire side of the river. It is speculated in Steel River by David Simpson (1996) that the river Balder was named after the Germanic God of light. Sir Walter Scott makes reference to this in his poem Rokeby:

"Balder named from Odin's son;
And Greta, to whose banks ere long
We lead the lovers of the song;
And silver Lune from Stainmore wild
And fairy Thorsgill's murmuring child

"Beneath the shade the Northmen came,
Fixed on each vale a Runic name.
Reared high their altar's rugged stone,
And gave their gods the lands they won.
Then, Balder one bleak garth was thine,
And one sweet brooklet's silver line;
And Woden's croft did little gain
From the stern father of the slain."

"Woden's croft" is a reference to Woden Croft situated near Cotherstone, south of the river Tees. Cotherstone is an Old English place name, meaning 'Farmstead of a man called Cuthere'. (A Dictionary of Old English Place-Names, A.D. Mills, 1991). The river Greta (meaning 'stony stream' in Old Norse) is a tributary of the Tees and flows through the North Riding. Stainmore (originally Stanmoir) means 'rocky moor', derived from the Old English stan, later replaced by the Old Norse Steinn + mor.

Another verse from Rokeby refers to Thorsgill Beck, a stream which joins the River Tees at Startforth, south-west of Barnard Castle but on theYorshire side of the river:

"To Odin's son and
Spifia's spouse,
Near Startforth
high they paid
their vows,
Thor's victorious fame,
And gave
the dell the
Thunderer's name.

Startforth is derived from Stradford (Domesday Book, 1086) and earlier Stretford (1050), meaning 'Ford on a Roman road', from the Old English straet + ford.  


Sunday, 1 March 2015

Jarnsaxa, Mother of Heimdall and Magni

Rudolf Simek in his Dictionary of Northern Mythology classifies Jarnsaxa as a giantess as does John Lindow in his Handbook of Norse Mythology whilst GardenStone lists Her in his Gods of the Germanic Peoples From Roman times to the Viking Age Volume 1, thus inferring Her divine status. However we nead to consider that the two terms are not necessarily mutually exclusive as the Aesir themselves are at least of giant heritage and the giants themselves were in fact an earlier pantheon of Gods. This is demonstrated also in classical mythology. 

Jarnsaxa means the 'one with the iron knife'. She is mentioned once in the Elder Edda and four times in the Younger Edda:

"Gialp bore him, Greip bore him, Eistla bore him and Eyrgiafa; Ulfrun and Angeyia, Imd and Atla and Iarnsaxa." (Song of Hyndla 37:4, Larrington translation)

Thus Jarnsaxa or Iarnsaxa was one of the nine mothers of Heimdall. We are told that these women are giants but elsewhere in the Younger Edda that they are also sisters. Significantly not only was Jarnsaxa one of the nine mothers of Heimdall but She was also the mother of Thunor's son Magni:

"Then Magni, son of Thor and Iarnsaxa, arrived." (Skaldskaparmal 17, Faulkes translation)

In Skaldskaparmal 75 there is a Iarnsaxa referred to as a 'troll's wife' but we don't know if this is the same person. Iarnsaxa also appears to be a kenning for 'courage':

"Every difficulty increases Iarnsaxa's wind [courage] in Olaf's father, so that praise is due. (Skaldskaparmal 53, Faulkes)

Her name is also a kenning for 'wolf':

"He reddened with gore the chops of the dark-looking steed of Iarnsaxa [wolf]." (Skaldskaparmal 60, Faulkes)

She is directly referred to in Skaldskaparmal 21 as being the 'rival of Sif':

"How shall Sif be referred to? By calling her wife of Thor, mother of Ull, the fair-haired deity, rival of Iarnsaxa, mother of Thrud."  (Faulkes)

So as a rival or co-wife of Thunor, the mother of the deities Heimdall and Magni She was certainly a powerful deity although not one of the better known ones. Simek states that Jarnsaxa was "used as a name for the goddess Sif" in Skaldskaparmal 21 but as I have demonstrated this is clearly wrong. It is the term 'rival of Sif' that can be used as a kenning for Sif but not the name itself!