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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,
Smitten
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."



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