Saturday, 25 March 2017

Woden Remembered in German Harvest Incantations

Long after our ancestors ceased to worship the deities of our folk their remembrance lingered on in many rural folk customs. I stress here, rural folk customs for it is in the rural villages and smaller towns that our ancient customs survived the longest. The cities and larger towns were mainly the product of people being drawn into larger urban centres from the time of the Industrial Revolution, seeking employment. After 2 or 3 generations many people forgot who their ancestors were. Thus they generally lack any real continuity. As an aside I remark here that those of us who have ancestry rooted in rural areas are more likely to trace our ancestry back to the 1400s and 1500s than those whose ancestors came from larger urban centres. This causes the descendants  unfortunately to 'forget' their ancestors, having no real idea where they came from although this happily can be remedied in part by the latest autosomal DNA testing which can identify ethnic origins and even which regions of the British Isles your ancestors came from to 10 generations back (great great great great great great great great grandparents-1024 lines of descent!). Thus the larger towns and cities have always been the enemy of our folk.

Up until fairly recent times (19th century) the Gods were still being remembered in songs and folk customs, usually related to the changing seasons of the year. There are some very interesting examples referred to by Jacob Grimm in his Teutonic Mythology volume 1. In Mecklenburg Grimm tells us of a certain formula or incantation which was spoken over the last sheaf of harvest:
"Wode, hale (fetch) dinem rosse nu voder,
            nu distil unde dorn,

            tom andern jar beter korn!"

This translates as "Wode, fetch now food for your horse!" An alternative version of this incantation from the same region is:

"Wode, Wode,
            hal dinen rosse nu voder,

            nu distel un dorn,

            aechter jar beter korn!"

This is written in a German dialect and thus not easy to translate but I believe that it equates to "Wode, Wode, fetch now food for your horse, now thistle and thorn, avoid the better corn!"

"He adds, that at the squires' mansions, when the rye is all cut, there is Wodel-beer served out to the mowers; no one weeds flax on a Wodenstag, lest Woden's horse should trample the seeds; from Christmas to Twelth-day they will not spin, nor leave any flax on the distaff, and to the question why? they answer, Wode is galloping across. We are expressly told, this wild hunter Wode rides a white horse."

Grimm also tells us that in Schaumburg the mowers go out in teams of either 12, 16 or 20 scythes. They so arrange it that on the very last day of harvest they all finish at the same time:
"or some leave a strip standing which they can cut down at a stroke the last thing, or they merely pass their scythes over the stubble, pretending there is still some left to sow. At the last stroke of the scythe they raise their implements aloft, plant them upright, and beat the blades three times with the strop. Each spills on the field a little of the drink he has, whether beer, brandy, or milk, then drinks himself, while they wave their hats, beat their scythes three times, and cry aloud Wold, Wold, Wold! and the women knock all the crumbs out of their baskets on the stubble. They march home shouting and singing. Fifty years ago a song was in use, which has now died out, but whose first strophe ran thus:

         'Wold, Wold, Wold!
          haevenhuene weit wat schuet,
          juemm hei dal van heaven suet.'

          Vulle kruken un sangen haet hei,
           upen holte waesst (grows) manigerlei:
           hei is nig barn un wert nig old.
           Wold, Wold, Wold!

This translates as:

“Wôld, Wôld, Wôld”!
H“Wôld, Wôld, Wôld”!
Heaven’s giant knows what happens,
He, looking down from heaven,
Providing full jugs and sheaves.
Many a plant grows in the woods.
He is not born and grows not old.’s g
            “Wôld, Wôld, Wôld”!

Grimm goes on to state that if the ceremony is omitted then the next year will bring bad crops of hay and corn. It is interesting that here Woden is referred to as "Heaven's giant" which accords with a very ancient conception of Woden as Wod, a storm giant.
"The primitive conception of Odin is the German storm giant Wode, leader of the 'wild army', O.H.G. Wuotis-her, i.e. the procession of the homeless dead through the air. The development Woden raises the name on to the same level as royal titles like Gothic thiudans and Scandinavia drottinn. (page 227, Our Forefathers the Gothonic Nations Volume 1, Gudmund Schuette)

 "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." (Page 216)
Also from Schaumburg he states that:

"On the lake of Steinhude, the lads from the village of Steinhude go every autumn after harvest, to a hill named Heidenhuegel, light a fire on it, and when it blazes high, wave their hats and cry Wauden, Wauden!"