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