Saturday, 2 December 2017

The Old Saxon Baptismal Vow-Saxon or Franconian?

This article should be read in conjunction with Saxnot, Tribal God and Divine Ancestor of the Saxons
The vow is repeated below with its modern English translation:Ol
Old Saxon

End ec forsacho allum dioboles uuercum and uuordum, Thunaer ende Uuôden ende Saxnôte ende allum thêm unholdum thê hira genôtas sint.

Modern English

I renounce all the deeds and words of the devil, Thunaer, Wōden and Saxnōt, and all those fiends that are their companions.

The language of The Old Saxon Baptismal Vow is disputed by scholars. Dutch scholars, some of whom may be more influenced by Dutch nationalism rather than scholarly objectivity argue that the language is not Old Saxon (Old Low German) but  Old Franconian (Old Dutch) and for this reason it is also (by Dutch scholars) called the Utrecht Baptismal Vow. The more honest (and objective) position to take (in my view) is to state that we simply do not know if it is Saxon or Franconian due to the great similarities between these two West Germanic languages. One only has to consider the similarities between modern Dutch and Platt Deutsch (which my Saxon mother was able to understand) and realise that the boundaries between languages or dialects is often very narrow. I would add that the manuscript was found not in the Netherlands but in the monastery library at Mainz in Germany although this is not definitive evidence that it is German in origin of course.

The identity of Saxnot is also a matter of dispute as Jacob Grimm considered that it was an alternative and Saxon name for the God Zio (Tiu/Tyr) whilst Rudolf Simek argues an identification with the God Yngvi Fro. My own view is that He is a separate God and moreover that He was a tribal God of the Saxons. His name appears in the divine ancestry of the Kings of Essex as a son of Woden. Apparently earlier version of this genealogy do not include Woden and have instead Saxnot at its head. The issue of the Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies is worthy of a study in their own right. One could argue that if this vow were Franconian in origin then why does it feature an obviously SAXON God?

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