Sunday, 3 April 2016

The Association of Copper with Thor

Now we all recognise that our High Lord Woden is the primary deity associated with magic. However there is evidence here and there to support the idea that some Germanic magicians also incorporated elements of the worship of Thor in their magical practices. There is an account related in Icelandic Folk Tales and Legends (Jacqueline Simpson, 1972) that supports this association:

"If a man own a 'Thor's Hammer', he will know who it is who has robbed him if he loses anything. To make this hammer, one must have copper from a church bell, three times stolen. The hammer must be hardened  in human blood on a Whitsunday, between the reading of the Epistle and the Gospel. A spike must also be forged out of the same material as the hammer, and this spike one must jab against the head of the hammer, saying: 'I drive this in the eye of the Father of War, I drive this in the eye of theFather of the Slain, I drivethis in the eye of Thor of the Aesir'. The thief will then feel pain in his eyes; if he does not return the stolen goods, the procedure is repeated and then the thief will lose one eye; but should it prove necessary to repeat it a third time, he will lose the other eye too.
"Another method is for a man to steal a copper bell from a church between the Epistle and the Gospel, and make a hammer from it. When he wants to know who the thief is, he must take a sheet of paper and draw a man's eyes on it, or, better still, a whole face with two eyes, using his own blood, and on the reverse of the sheet draw a suitable magic sign. Next, he must take a steel spike and set one end of it on the eye and strike the other end with the Thor's Hammer, saying 'I am giving eye-ache to the man who robbed me me', or, 'I am knocking out the eye of the man who robbed me'. Then the thief will lose one eye, or both, if he does not give himself up first."

As Christopher Alan Smith remarks in his excellent Icelandic Magic. Aims, Tools and Techniques of the Icelandic Sorcerers (2015)  this motif of eye-piercing is evident in the Huld manuscript, the image of which features at the head of this article.

One recurring theme in some of the Icelandic spells is the use of a copper hammer. In the Isländska Svartkonstboken there is the following thief finding spell:

"To find out a thief. If, with magical knowledge, you want to find out who is stealing from you, then take a little thorn bush and carry it on your person so that it may not be separated from you. Then take a little copper pin with a copper hammer. Make the following stave on the crossbeam of the house from which it was stolen, then stick the pin into the right eye [of the figure], and while doing this say: 'In Buskan Lucanus'.

Clearly copper was regarded as a sacred metal by the Germanic peoples and before the invention of bronze which is an alloy of copper and tin this metal in its pure state was prevalent in a period between the Neolithic and the Bronze Ages and the term for this intermediate age was the Chalcolithic, meaning Copper Stone Age. Although associated with the Neolithic it is generally regarded as part of the Bronze Age. Copper is a pure metal and has the lustre of gold. It is also known to have healing qualities. It is resistant to bacteria and is non-corrosive. Furthermore it is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. In addition to it being a primary metal in the alloy bronze it can also be alloyed with zinc to form brass and in a lesser ratio of copper to tin it forms pewter. Along with gold, silver, mercury, tin, lead and iron copper is one of the seven metals of the ancients. These metals are also referred to as the seven planetary metals and relate to seven day week. Copper is particularly sacred to the Goddesses Venus and Freyja. H.A. Guerber writing in Myths of the Norsemen stated:

"When the god thus drove from place to place, he was called Aku-thor, or Thor the charioteer, and in Southern Germany the people, fancying a brazen chariot alone inadequate to furnish all the noise they heard, declared it was loaded with copper kettles, which rattled and clashed, and therefore often called him, with disrespectful familiarity, the kettle-vendor."   
J.T. Sibley in her remarkable The Divine Thunderbolt. Missile of the Gods (2009) explains this myth as having a Greek source. The legendary King Salmoneus of Elis apparently dragged brass kettles behind his chariot in order to bring on thunderstorms in order to bring rain to his parched lands. The sound of the kettles clashing imitated the sound of thunder. (see page 227) This reminds me of the fact that in Swedish heathen temples large bronze hammers were used to imitate the sound of thunder, a practise also of the heathen Slavs and Balts.

In all three of the above spells it is noted that the hammer of Thor is made of copper but also in the first two spells it was made from copper which had to be stolen from a church bell. This in the eyes of the post conversion Icelandic magician gave the hammer a magical potency. In a remarkable tale by the Danish folklorist Hans Christian Anderson there is a further association between Thor and the metal copper:

Thursday came dressed as a coppersmith with a hammer and a copper kettle ; these were the marks of his nobility. ' I am of the highest birth,' he said, ' heathen and divine. In the northern lands I am named after Thor, and in the southern after Jupiter, who both knew how to thunder and lighten. That has remained in the family.' And then he beat on the copper kettle and demonstrated his high birth.

As I have commented before it is remarkable how much of our ancient pre-xtian Germanic lore survives in folktales. It is imperative that we continue to mine these for further examples of ancient spiritual heathen heritage. 

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