Tag Archives: Anglo-Saxon

Indigenous belief, Christianity and Ancestor Worship

An interesting question was asked over the chat in yesterdays Mimir’s Brunnr; How do you reconcile indigenous ancestor worship with generations of Christian ancestors?

I’d like to say the question baffles me. As much as the Christian denunciation of Heathenry as our ancestral faith because, “your ancestors were all Christian!”.

I’d like to say it baffles me, the sheer narrow minded, intellectualized and artificial nature of both the question and denunciation, but if I did it would only be by virtue of hindsight. Indeed, it is something I continue to wrestle with even today, for all that Wyrd has already taken care of all this for us.

I mean, we might have a problem with it, ie. Christianity, but there we have have, not only in the last, what, 50 generations or so of our ancestry, but outward and surrounding us in the present-tense, among our family, friends, and community.

We either have Christianity surrounding us among our folk, or we have the product/s of our culturo-historical experience with Christianity; of which we people of Anglo-Nordic belief are ourselves one example of.

Whether you can reconcile it in your mind or not, well, like “horns and horses” or “goats and thunder”, THERE IT IS. All of a piece in the heritage set at the foot of your cradle.

Something that I spotted out fairly early on as a Heathen was a tendency, perhaps subconscious as was the case with me, but a tendency nevertheless to imagine that the adoption of different gods somehow made us an entirely different form of man from our generations of Christian ancestors. And it only takes a sideways glance at 50 mph to see, historically, where this emphasis on ideological differences comes from. Who was it, historically, that imagined their ancestors were a completely different form of man? Such that they called them soulless, godless, lawless savages, and (ahem) “refused” to even bury their dead in the same graveyards as their ancestors?

So, while there is an ideological division there, certainly worthy of our thought and consideration, it was not born of our “folk-soul”. And it should never be allowed to define our folk-soul, which would, by its very nature, attempt to define our folk-soul out of existence.

And certainly, while I am none too sure about your own ancestors, mine weren’t exactly the “Church Fathers” demanding, under threat of law, that my ancestors bury their dead, not in native graveyards, but in Christian graveyards. My ancestors, Christian though they many have thought themselves, if only by virtue of there having been no other viable option at the time, lived under the yoke of the Church Fathers; where they never felt quite so comfortable as the Church Fathers told them they should, and so ultimately landed us where we, as people of Anglo-Nordic belief, are today, ie. not under the yoke of the Church Fathers.

Certainly, I don’t doubt that I have my ancestors, some of them quite immediate, who might conceivably have been quite mortified at my rejection of Christianity. But then, my maternal grandfather was a church-goer, not a “holy-roller”, but a man who behaved as though he had an obligation to get out there with the community every Sunday and spend some time thinking about God. He also use to tell me that “the Old Man is cracking his whip again!” when a thunderstorm was rolling in, bought me the first book I ever found on the runes (Tony Willis’ Runic Workbook lol), and seemed interested in my initial writings on Anglo-Nordic belief — “you’ve got some pretty deep thoughts there!” — while he was out here on Vancouver Island visiting just prior to coming down with cancer, et al.

When I call upon my ancestors and make offerings to them, I call upon them all. And much like the living, there might be some who want nothing of it. That is their choice, for them to make. Enjoy sheol, I guess? But on my end, as a person of Anglo-Nordic belief, it is offered to all, in thanks and remembrance of all … be they Anglo-Nordic of any kind or otherwise (eg. Christian, Slavic, Mi’kmaq).

The wheel keeps on rolling. As ever.

The Twinfaced Figure from Thy

Ah yes, the “Thy figure”. Part of a Nordic Bronze Age find in the region of Thy, Denmark.

thyfigure

It was actually quite a thrilling find, from earlier this year (2019), and for a few different reasons. One was its timely arrival, coming as it did on the tail end of research I had been doing into the Divine Twins (Alcis, Hors and Hengist, etc.) and the Nordic Bronze Age. Incidentally, if you have not read “The Rise of Bronze Age Europe”, you know nothing, John Snow. But another reason for the thrill was the fact that the find was quite monumental. Stuff like this isn’t uncovered every day! And here I had a discovery unfolding in real time, right before my very eyes, where I was getting information on it as fast as anyone else not actually participating in the excavation itself! And of course, here on the local level there is the entire back story regarding my initial impression on it and the back-and-forth between myself and a certain prominent Youtuber in the Anglo-Nordic community; who seems like he could be a very interesting and informative chap if he could get over himself and his academic credentials long enough to have a conversation. I refrain from naming names, as he remains my favourite Youtuber among the handful of likely suspects — which I say with the caveat that I’m not at all too keen on the rest of them — but he knows who he is. And we do have mutuals. And of course, when you’ve been a part of the Anglo-Nordic (Heathen) community for as long as I have, ie. 30+ years, you just get tired of the consistent flow of desperate, insecure, and utterly effeminate drama that, collectively, has defined it since I first stepped in.

Yawn.

That said, it’s a funny story; which will no doubt bleed its way in to anything I write on this subject. And which I feel obliged to mention, at least in passing, because, well, as I suppose on immediate reflection, we apparently love our drama?

But on to the Thy figure itself…

Perhaps the first guess to be thrown out there on this find, and certainly the most interesting, was its striking resemblance to the Roman representation of their own native deity, Janus. His worship is believed to reach back to prior to the foundation of the Roman Republic (509 BC), and the earliest depictions (and all later ones) show him as doublefaced. He is believed to be uniquely Roman and — at least on the surface and to those unable to see the theme underlying various expressions/depictions — unknown to the Greeks; though both the Hindus and the Slavs did worship multifaced idols/gods.

In doing some cursory reading on Janus, I was immediately struck by his associations with the arch-way or door and all that implies in terms of liminality and duality, ie. beginnings, endings, cycle of the day and year, ie. passage of the sun, etc. He also apparently had an association with the dancing youths of the cult of Mars known as the Salii, themselves a descendant of the old Proto-Indo-European *koryos (adolescent males in training). As with Mars’ own offspring, the progenitors of Rome, Romulus and Remus, I would suggest that Janus represents an evolution of the “god-concept” embodied in the P.I.E. Divine Twins, who are also associated with youths, thresholds, liminality and duality.

That said, it is highly unlikely that the Roman Janus was at all an influence on the Thy figure, which itself predates not only the Roman Republic, but also Germanic-Roman contact (Negua helms, Cimbrian Wars, 2nd century BC) and the strong influx of Roman material goods that began soon after the time of Julius Caesar (1st century BC) by centuries. As such, it would be more plausible, if equally unlikely, to suggest that the Thy figure influenced the Roman Janus rather than vice verse.

Most likely the similarity is simply a matter of the spontaneous evolution of thought, belief and expression along similar lines, owing to a common Indo-European heritage, rather than the tired old matter of “who got what from whom?”.

Naturally, in considering both the Thy figure and Janus, the mind is drawn to the Old Germanic god, Tuisto, whose name is rooted in the concept of two, and who was mentioned as co-progenitor (alongside Mannus; see Yama and Manu in the Hindu tradition) of the Germanic peoples by Tacitus.

As for my own initial impressions…

Compare the horned helmets of this twinned figure (above) with the Vikso helmets (below). Also from the Nordic Bronze Age. And deposited as a pair.

Bronze_Age_Helmets,_Nationalmuseet_Copenhagen

Also compare with the Grevensvaenge figurine (below). It is also a product of the Nordic Bronze Age and was originally part of a large ensemble that included this figure’s twin; who would have knelt beside his brother in the ensemble.

grevensvaenge1

And also compare with the Fogdarp yoke (below); which, you guessed it, is also from the Nordic Bronze Age. Note also, in comparison to the Vikso helms, they “youthful” eyes, and particularly the “beak” set between the eyes (ie. nasal region) of both.

fogtdarpyoke

These Lads were a big deal over the course of the Nordic Bronze Age. And indeed over the European Bronze Age in general.

They are perhaps best remembered in the Indo-European context as the Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux, but find parallels throughout the Indo-European world; most notably, outside of Anglo-Nordic belief itself, in Hinduism (Ashvins) and Baltic belief (Ašvieniai, Dieva deli).

That they maintained some degree of pan-Germanic prestige following the collapse of the Nordic Bronze Age (c.500 BC) into the early centuries of the Migration Age (beginning c.300 AD), can be inferred from the dual brother-kings found at the head of a number of tribes in migration, ie. liminality, the most famous of whom are the mytho-historical Hors and Hengist, who are said to have led the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britannia.

One of the cool things about the Fogtdarp Lads — which, like all of these artifacts, I’ve never had the luxury to examine first person and only know through “display” type photographs, and so turned out to be quite the thrilling discovery, relating to some research I was doing at the time — is what you see from a birds eye look at them (below).

fogsdarpbirdseye

 

That is the Nordic Bronze Age “Axe of Heaven” symbol, which you can read more about here, and should keep in mind as very relevant as we progress.

Now it has been argued that, “The Grevensvaenge idols are twins, two separate entities, but the Thy figure is two-faced, so completely different.”, which, along with another criticism that I shall touch on later, represents analytical reductionism at its finest.

The fundamental idea expressed in the relationship of the Divine Twins can be perceived in the Baltic word *jumis*. This is the name that the Baltic peoples gave to their own version of the “horseheaded gables” — called “Hors and Hengist” by their Germanic neighbours in northern Germany — and its companion “runic” symbol. Not to mention one of their native divinities. The word jumis means “two grown together as one”. It is cognate to the Latin gemini — and the aforementioned Yama, twin of Manu — which was itself identified with Castor and Pollux by the Greeks.

And no, I don’t think that it is also cognate to the Old Icelandic Ymir, which, as far as the speakers of Old Icelandic were concerned meant “Noisemaker”, and within the Eddic context no doubt understood as “Bellower”.

The doublefaced Thy figure is an expression of the same notion, the same theme, that is the essence of the Divine Twins, and reflected not only by the twin idols of the Grevensvaenge ensemble, but also in the twin heads (common “body”) of the Fogtdarp yoke, and even centuries later on Gallehus horn B; where utilitarian half loops are found on both of the Lads depicted thereon, and via which a chain or leather string could be run to make a carrying strap, but which also expressed the fundamental unity of the two.

This of course also relates to the two-horsed chariot of the Indo-Europeans.

In Indo-European myth the essential unity of the Lads is perhaps best represented in Greek myth, in which Castor was mortally wounded, and so Zeus gave Pollux the option of sharing half his immortality with his brother; such that the two would spend half the year in Hades with each other, and half in Olympus with each other. This as opposed to Castor spending eternity in Hades, while Pollux would spend eternity in Olympus, ie. apart from each other.

Needless to say perhaps, Pollux chose to share his immortality with his twin brother.

Anyway, the Grevensvaenge figures, the Fogtdarp yoke, the Thy idol, the Gallehus horn twins, all different expressions of the same underlying theme, ie. of the Divine Twins.

Another criticism that came out,as alluded to above, was embodied in the question, “what do horns have to do with horse-gods???” Now, as an honest question, it is a very good question. After all, the association, like goats and thunder — or even poetry and immortality? lol — is not immediately self-evident or at all easy to explain. And yet, as a question meant only to derail, we have this image from a Minoan sarcophagi found on the isle of Crete and dated c.1,400 BC,

hornshorses

And it certainly does beg the question, what DO horns have to do with horses?

That is to say that, whether we appreciate or understand the association ourselves, the association is an observable fact. As such, like goats and thunder, the onus is on us to, first accept, and then, more poignantly, to understand.

Our lack of understanding does not invalidate the evident association.

And so, in answer to the question, “what do horns have to do with horses?” the answer is an obvious, “the Divine Twins. That is what horns have to do with horses.”

Within a couple weeks of the above mentioned criticisms the CT scan of the full find was released. Prior to this we saw the Thy figure itself along with an axe head embedded in the soil.

thyaxehead

But with the CT scan, the question about horns and horse gods was brought to an abrupt end. And the exchange deleted.

CTscanThy

And the CT scan was eventually followed by more pictures. Here’s one,

thyhorses

Hmmm. So what DO horns have to do with horse-gods? Or perhaps more accurately here, what do horses have to do with horned-gods? And axes to boot?

The sacral and hallowing power of the Alcis, the twinned sons of God and divine champions of Man. That is what horses, horns and axes all have to do with each other.

How did I know, prior to the CT scans? Well, how does anyone “get the joke” so to speak? Certainly not by reducing it to its component parts and analyzing them in isolation from one another or the larger context it exists in. In regards to humour, we have a word for that approach.

Humourless.

Suffice it to say that it wasn’t a lucky guess. Nor any presumption of “knowing it all” on my behalf; no matter how much “Wyrd” might have conspired to paint me as omniscient on this matter.

Reckon wisely, my friends! And hey, lets be whole out there!

thyaxehorse

 

 

 

Heathen Hiking and the Wedding of Gerd

It has been a busy and eventful past two years around this southern Van. Island hearth!

To start, after some four years together my girlfriend and I got married in June of 2018. Lacking any Heathen community in the area, we had the J.P. take care of the official stuff at our home, first thing in the morning, before heading over to Caleb Pike Heritage Park and taking our vows, before the gods and our gathered friends and family. Some of these, namely family, could not make it as a result of the distances involved (2000+ kms!), but we nevertheless had an intimate turn of about a dozen or so people; the perfect size for both our venue and allotted budget!

The venue couldn’t have been better; a heritage park with heritage house situated on an old apple orchard, in a rural setting, and just down the road from the southern parking lot of some of our most memorable hikes, along the Gowlland Tod range. The weather was threatening in the distance, but a nice blue patch of sky remained overhead for the duration of the event. We took our vows outside, and the rustic setting was punctuated by a small family of deer that took it upon themselves to attend.

The ceremony itself, which blended the popular expectations of our intimates with the essentials of the elder beliefs, was officiated by our close friend, renowned academic and author, and fellow Anglo-Nordic Heathen, Richard Rudgley.

wedjameyaryn

Within two days we were off to Vancouver for an old school train ride up through the Rocky Mountains to Valemont, British Columbia. As we neared our destination, I decided to take one more look at all the particulars and found that the taxi service we were relying on to get us up to our first cabin, just a few kms outside of Mount Robson Park, but some 35 kms from our drop-off point, had just up and gone out of business! For all of that, the owner of the second cabin we would be staying at, Sandy of Twin Peaks Resort, agreed to come pick us up and give us a ride up to our first cabin; while Kurtis, proprietor of Mount Robson Mountain River Lodge (our first cabin), gave us a ride back down to Valemont when our stay with him had concluded.

And speaking of Mount Robson Mountain River Lodge, this was the view we enjoyed from our private cabin…

mountrobsoncabinview

As per the resort’s name, that is Mount Robson dominating the scene; the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, coming in at 3,954 meters in elevation (above sea-level). And absolutely breath-taking. We could have just sat there on our deck, or lounging in bed if we preferred, and looked at it for the next 3 days. And it would have been worth every penny! Absolutely recommended for anyone ever thinking of heading out that way!

As it was, we had plans. Plans which involved, not admiring Mount Robson from an easy distance, but getting right up into his face, to soak our feet in Berg Lake, which sits at the base of the peak and is fed from the glacier that sits atop it.

And so we set out around 5am to do exactly that the first morning after our arrival. The first leg of our journey carried us to the entrance of the park, some 3 to 4 kms from our cabin, which we reached just after bright Sunne had crested the mountainous horizon and furnishing us with another breath-taking view of all the surrounding peaks.

Again we could have just sat ourselves down at that point and soaked it up all day. And truth be told, there was not a single step along the way — not a SINGLE step — where we were not utterly enthralled by the beauty and majesty of our surroundings. Okay. The second leg that carried us another 3 to 4 kms to the trailhead was what it was, ie. a nice walk amidst the trees, but from there forward we had to keep reminding ourselves that, while we afforded ourselves time to enjoy the hike, we were, ultimately, on the clock and could not lose ourselves in it.

This is is what greeted us soon after getting on to the trail, as we reached Kinney Lake…

kinneylake

As so it continued as we made our way up around Kinney Lake and into the Valley of a Thousands Falls. Now, I didn’t see a thousand. Or even a hundred. Maybe it was the time of year? Or a dry year? Or marketing hyperbole! But if one kept one’s eyes peeled, quite a number like this dotted the valley,

athousandfallsorone

And then it was up, up, up(!) until we at last came to the roaring Emperor Falls, which one is able to get up close and personal with, as close as wisdom will allow, and cool off in the heavy spray of.

emperorfalls

The picture doesn’t do it justice. Nor even the video I have. In its presence, the sense of its power is immense and palpable. Only to be compared with a good, prairie thunderstorm. Naturally, I had to get even closer than this pic indicates, but one would be a fool to underestimate the might of this etin-force.

And so we carried on, in awe, until, at length we at last arrived at Berg Lake, sitting in the shadow of the peak of Mount Robson. It was a hot day, in the upper 20s Celsius, and the last leg of the journey to the lake was rocky, dry, treeless, and anything but shadowy. And the ice-cold spray from Emperor Falls had long since evaporated. I used our coats and sweaters from the morning, along with the hardy bushes that dot the terrain there, to set us up a little shelter from the heat, and despite the rocky, broken terrain, it was shoes and socks off and into the glacial lake (chunks of ice were floating in it). The sheer contrast in temperatures, and the difficulty walking shoe-less, didn’t make an actual swim all that inviting, but feet in, a good soaking of the head and neck, et al. was infinitely refreshing. And possibly even necessary to avoid heat stroke.

berglake

Mount Robson peak is just off camera to the right in the above picture. I’m looking out across the lake at the glacier as it creeps, imperceptibly  down the side of the mountain and into the lake.

Incidentally, in answer to the famous meme, yes, I do still see frost giants around.

Here we have a pic of Mount Robson from the shore of Berg Lake:

mountrobsonpeak

One of the rules that we made on our hike up was “no looking back”, with the logic being to make good time on the one hand, and to save some sights for the hike back down on the other. Needless to say, it was regularly broken. And likewise, it really didn’t matter with vistas like this spread out before us:

homeonberglaketrail

We finally made it back to our cabin … sometime between 7 and 8 pm that evening; having covered a distance of 47.2 kms, with an elevation gain of some 1,384 meters, the better bulk of which took place over 2 to 3 kms as you leave the Valley of a Thousand Falls and start moving toward Emperor Falls and, further on,  Berg Lake.

We were exhausted to say the least. “Smiling and fulfilled” exhausted!

Down points of the hike? Virtually none. Other than that the trail is very tame and sees a fair amount of tourist traffic in high season. It is not as “backwoods” as one might imagine; though I’d still much prefer to get lost in the backwoods of the island than in the middle of hundreds of miles of unbounded Canadian wilderness. Which, if you’re not a moron, won’t happen here. While we saw some interesting birds, and a (not at all unfamiliar) sign that warned of a cougar in the area, our BIG wildlife sighting of the hike was a lone marmot.

Anyway, my wife hit the hay almost immediately after walking through the door, while I decided I was going to get a look at the stars once the daylight had vanished. Having forgotten what time of year it was, and how far north we were, it was around 1am before I finally realized that the daylight was not going to disappear from the horizon and I crawled into bed. In fact, as I learned, we would get solid night, but not until about 3am.

The next couple of days were spent lounging, enjoying the view, small walks up the river, dinner with our hosts, Kurtis and Claudia, and their other guests, and even a few cracks of thunder and flashes of lighting… though don’t let the locals know what a thrill you get from them, ie. forest fires, underscoring a point that I have always emphasized about Thunor’s popular designation as “god of thunder” and that none of our ancestors ever prayed for thunder and lightning or violent weather. Not that I don’t get it. You have no idea! But the point remains.

And then it was down to Twin Peaks Resort, a very nice cabin, with a very nice view in its own right, and the fine hospitality of our hosts, Sandy and Donna. Sandy (Alex) was a bit of a character — of the pop-to-the-chops variety the Havamal speaks of and we guys all know very well from our common interactions with each other, ie. male “flirtation/teasing” — but all-in-all a friendly, good natured man, and an impeccable host. Beyond helping us out to our first cabin, he and Donna also gave us a lift from town or to town on a couple of occasions, and dropped us off dark and early at the bus station the morning of our departure.

The second challenge of the honeymoon was to hike to the summit of Mount Terry Fox; made even more of a challenge, not only by the accumulation of fatigue, but also by the fact that the region’s only taxi service, now defunct as mentioned above, added upwards of 15 to 20 kms, along the highway, to the hike. But we decided to tackle it anyway, as it wasn’t like we could just come back next weekend. As it worked out however, the fear of heights I so rudely discovered I had a few years back, ie. the Goldstream Trestle, kicked in. Now, don’t get me wrong… Sandy. I have been back to the Goldstream Trestle (internet search it!) on a couple of occasions already, to face it and face it down. And I have hiked some fairly precarious trails and “trails” around the island here, which might not have presented a longer drop, but which would mess a person up all the same, with help every bit as many hours away. I am not easily deterred. And particularly here, realizing the potentially unique opportunity that was before me. And I hold a grudge against my fears. And I saw some of the pictures of people who had made it to the top, eg. “old people”.  As it was, we were about 3/4s of the way up the switchbacks — very  steep stuff here — before I noticed that I had begun to hyperventilate and my nerve at last broke. My wife, who skips and dances across the aforementioned Goldstream Trestle, perhaps seeking to make me feel better, said that, while she has no phobia regarding heights, was herself very apprehensive of the path and the incline. Very narrow path, Very steep slope. Fairly moist earth, not entirely ungiven to give way beneath one’s step, with a fall resulting in a fast plunge of maybe 50′ tops before one’s descent would have been stopped dead by a tree. With a lot more ground to cover if it was not. And so, as they say, discretion was acknowledged as the better part of valour, all things considered, and we turned back.

Ouch.

The memory of it still hurts. Especially having looked at our hike tracker and seen how close we were to (potentially) more tolerable terrain. But also, providing (further) incentive to one day return!

We filled the remainder of our honeymoon with walks to town and back, a couple of smaller hikes (the pics of which are on my wife’s laptop at the moment), and really, just some well earned rest and relaxation, doing the things newlyweds do on their honeymoon.

All-in-all it was an unforgettable experience. The perfect honeymoon. No matter the taste of humble pie, which any man who has ever put himself out there has to taste on the odd occasion, if he is any kind of man at all.

From there it was on a greyhound bus and back home to the island and the radiant sea!

We’ve been on a few different hikes since that time of course, mostly covering familiar territory, but also out to Botany Beach and Avatar Grove during a vacation in Port Renfrew, on Van Island’s (south) west coast, but we began to ease off on these after we learned that my wife was pregnant. And, on Dec.9th of this year, we welcomed our daughter into the world!

alfwinn She weighed in at 8 lbs, 9 oz. At least a pound more than most of us expected. On the 18th of December she was placed in my hands, sprinkled with water and named Aelfwynn Victoria-Marie. The middle names are a combination of the names of my maternal grandmother (Victoria) — not to mention Alfie’s city of birth, and the queen it was named after! — and my wife’s paternal grandmother (Marie), while Aelfwynn is of course Old English, in-keeping with my son’s name (Eldred), meaning “elf-joy”, and also being the name of the daughter of Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, and niece of King Alfred the Great. And here, the picture to the right says it all! Aelfwynn is aelfscinu, radiating with the beauty and joy/friendliness of the elves!

So, it looks like, for the next few years anyway, hiking in general, and “adventurous hikes” in specific, are going to be anywhere from nonexistent to few and far between. That said, we will be building her up for a love of the outdoors. And I also have enough hikes as yet undealt with here to justify another “Heathen Hiking” entry or two, but for the time being, they are on the back-burner. I have however taken to doing some genealogy, which has furnished me with an interesting story or two regarding my early “British North America” (paternal) ancestors, and a lot of historical background concerning Upper Canada and Hasting County, including some of the superstitions held by the English, Scots, Germans and Irish that populated the new province in the late 18th and early 19th century. Ultimately, it’s the kind of thing that anyone outside of my family, or at least outside of North America, might not be all that keen on, but which I’ll probably throw up all the same. If however you are a Canadian, a real Canadian, ie. First and/or Founding Nations, or at least aspire to be — you can do it!!! — this is something you would be wise, and enriched, even obliged, to learn something about… be it from me, or the stories of our ancestors, and anyone but the CBC and its less than wholesome “political narrative” ilk.

Be whole!

 

Yuletide and Tradition

The Christmas Tree…

There is no evidence that the preChristian Anglo-Nordic peoples ever chopped down evergreen trees, brought them indoors, and decorated them as part of a Yuletide tradition.

Of course, worship in holy groves goes back to some of the earliest mentions of Germanic peoples in the historical record. As time rolled forward and the Germanic people began to figure more prominently in the Judeo-Hellenic literary tradition, finer details began to emerge of specific trees that, even in a sacred grove of trees, stood out as exceptionally sacred such as the Thuringian Donar’s Oak or the great ash at Uppsala in Sweden. Such trees as this are reflected in later English beliefs as those surrounding the “Apple Tree Man”, ie. one tree embodying the spirit of an orchard.

In the Old English poem “Dream of the Rood”, the crucifix assumes center stage and acts as the voice of the poem, tracing its own origins back to the tree felled in its Irminsul-like creation and constantly reminding the audience of its tree-nature.

We find the World Tree in a similar position in the Eddas, acting as the axis and measuring stick of all Creation; at the base/in the sight of which (ie. in consideration/observation of) the Divine Assembly is held and doom (judgement, law) is set.

The tree has long stood as a powerful symbol within the Anglo-Nordic psyche. At its most profound, it stood as a symbol of truth — a word that stems from the same Proto-Indo-European root as the word tree — and the holistic nature of truth. Hence, such Old Norse by-names as “Measuring Wood” and “Memory Rood”.

Another of the Tree’s Eddic by-names was “the Shelterer” and it is within the tree (or woods) called “Memory Hoard” that the last people are sheltered through the darkness and uncertainty of Ragnarok and its aftermath, to emerge into the dawning of a new age.

This last bit is exceptionally poignant in regards to the base level of experience of the winter solstice in northern climes where the long night must be endured — indeed where it must be *combated* with merriment and joy — and the return of the sun is cause for much hope and celebration.

So, while there really is no telling if our preChristian ancestors chopped down trees, brought them indoors, and decorated them in observance of the Yuletide, this is less a matter of an absence of evidence, and more one of an absence of need, in which sacred trees stood where they stood, ie. outdoors, worship was largely public and blended with highly social out of doors festivities, where Yule trees and Yule greenery naturally abounded.

There was simply no need to bring such things in-doors of the private household and relegate them to a mere household cult. At least not while such customs were still supported or at least tolerated by the king and/or the national assembly.

It should thus come as no surprise that the relatively modern tradition of the Christmas Tree — more-or-less begun by Martin Luther ironically enough in the 16th century — evolved naturally enough out of the fertile soil of the Germanic “folk-soul”, albeit it under the pressures of its environment.

Indeed, over the past 200 to 300 years the Yuletide has been experiencing a great renaissance in the wake of its diminution in status under Catholicism, where it stood secondary to the Epiphany, and its outlawing among the Puritans in England, and even more poignantly, in the U.S.A.; the latter of which did not even commonly observe Christmas well into the 18th century, but which, drawing intimately on the spirit of the Anglo-Nordic peoples and the ever-evolving tree of our indigenous culture, went on to produce some of the most influential modern lore surrounding the season.

The sacred tree was a gift of our forefathers to their Christianized descendants. And the Yuletree is the gift of those Christianized ancestors to us.

Hail the Glory-Twig!

Indigenous Attitudes: Magic and Germanic Belief

The “Lex Salica” or “Salic Law” represents one of the earliest recorded collections of Germanic customary law. In this case the Law Code reflected the laws of the Salian Franks and their Merovingian aethelings on the eve of Clovis’ conversion to Catholicism and some 50 years after their settlement in the northern region (Neustria) of the former Roman province of Gaul.

Among it’s various offenses we find those dealing with the practice of magic and harm done by magic, such as,

“If any one have given herbs to another so that he die, he shall be sentenced to 200 shillings (or shall surely be given over to fire).”

“If any person have bewitched another, and he who was thus treated shall escape, the author of the crime, who is proved to have committed it, shall be sentenced to 2500 denars, which make 63 shillings.”

“If somebody accuses another of witchcraft, and he brings to the thing the cauldron in which the accused is said to make brews, then let the accused be fined 2500 dinars which makes 63 shillings.”

“If somebody causes another person to waste away by means of witchcraft, and he is able to prove it at the thing, then let the accused be fined 1008 dinars which makes 200 shillings”

Some observations on the above…

To start, these are not my translations and the term “witchcraft” does not reflect the original language of the laws and/or that of the document they were record in. The specific term or terms that were used were certainly not *witchcraft*, which is fairly English specific in the Germanic world, and, for better and for worse, simply the term deemed equivalent in these modern translations.

The technical terminology really does matter, more-and-more, as one gets increasingly intimate with the subtleties and nuances of the subject, ie. not everything called “witchcraft” or “seidhR” (etc., etc.) actually reflect the practices of *witchcraft* or *seidhR* (etc., etc.).

Anyway, most of the Salic laws deal with *harm* caused by magic; lending a general no harm, no foul sense to the spirit of the laws There is however the one exception where presenting evidence of the mere practice of “witchcraft”, ie. the cauldron, no harm to anyone required, invited a legal penalty.

While this suggests a fundamental, and very understandable mistrust of “magic”, dealing as magic does in the hidden, the unseen, and indeed the anti-social, one will note that in each of the above citations, proof is explicitly demanded by the Salic law; even if the laws only outline the details of what constitutes proof in one instance; no doubt assuming what for them and theirs was culturally obvious. This suggests an equally fundamental mistrust of the very *accusation* of witchcraft, which again is very understandable given it’s “hidden” nature.

Finally, except for the one vague reference to being “given over to the fire”, ie. burned, the Salica Law prescribes “common penalties”, ie. fines, to these acts. Both of the acts that indicate the practice of harmful magic, but result in no harm, are otherwise prescribed at 63 shillings. This is an amount equal to those fines associated with the theft of an entire flock of 25 sheep, the *rape* (sexual) of a freeborn woman, the assault and plundering of a freeman, and attempted killing of a freeman. All of which were serious offenses.

Curiously, the two instances that result in death, result in a fine of 200 shillings, which, while clearly marking it as a far more serious offense than such others as mentioned, falls on the low-end of the wergild (life-price) system within the context of the Salic Law. This is equal to the fine for having been found guilty of grave-robbing, opposed the settlement of a migrant vouched for by king and thing, and the wergild of a woman beyond her child baring years and your average freeman.

By way of comparison, to have killed a freeman and then attempted to hide it (ie. murder as opposed to man-killing) carried a fine of 600 shillings; whereas death caused by magic was reckoned at 200 shillings.

One will also note the relative lack of reference to women in the Salic Laws as they pertain to the practice of “magic”. And that even where they are explicitly referenced in relation to witchcraft, they must also be viewed within the context of the greater body of Salic law and it’s valuation of women; which, as just referenced, reckoned the life-price of a vibrant and virile young freeman as equal to a woman beyond her child-baring years, and at THREE TIMES LESS than a freeborn woman in her child-baring years!

The AD 6th century Gallo-Roman Catholic, Gregory of Tours writes casually of those with prophetic powers within the context of royal Merovingian interactions. (eg. Guntram and the seeress).

The Merovingians were of course the same people who, some 35 years prior to the birth of Gregory, gave us the Salic Law, with it’s laws involving “magic” and “magical harm”.

Gregory also related a story in which a Merovingian queen, one of the wives of Chilperic, Fredegund I’d presume — who lived at the time of Gregory, and appears to have been loathed by him — ordered the torture of “a number of Parisian women” (and a man named Mumulus), believed to have killed her young son, Theodoric, via the use of herb potions and magic.

As Gregory wrote, “They admitted to the practice of witchcraft and the perpetration of many deaths… The queen afflicted them with even more horrendous forms of torture. Some she beheaded, others she cosigned to the flames, and still others were killed on the wheel with their bones broken.”

The Edictum Rothari (c.643 AD) is to Lombardic law what the Salic law is to Salian-Franks; a compilation and writing down of the formerly oral legal traditions of the Lombards. On “witchcraft” it states,

“If a man accuses a girl or free woman who is under the guardianship of another, of practicing witchcraft or prostitution,… if he shall persevere in his accusation and insist that he can prove it, then let the case be decided by a judical duel or “camfio” so that the matter may be left to the judgement of God”.

It also states,

“Let no man presume to kill another’s female servant for being a witch (striga or mascam) for such things are not credible to the Christian mind and it is not possible to eat a living man from the inside out.”

Here we get some insight into the seeming impatience behind the relation of the duel to the charges of witchcraft, and the notion that it represented little more than a vile slur against someone’s honour than anything more substantial.

This very Christian, very unheathen view of “harmful magic” would find further expression, as we read in Charlemagne’s Capitulary on Saxony (AD 782),

“If any one deceived by the devil shall have believed, after the manner of the pagans, that any man or woman is a witch and eats men, and on this account shall have burned the person, or shall have given the person’s flesh to others to eat, or shall have eaten it himself, let him be punished by a capital sentence.”

— Charlemagne, Capitulary on Saxony

This trivialization of witchcraft, the refusal to acknowledge it’s power, and ultimately the impatient will to punish the accuser, was the initial Christian reaction to Germanic “witchcraft”. And it stood in direct opposition to indigenous Germanic belief and general mistrust in magic along with accusations dealing in the unseen.

The earliest Anglo-Saxon Law Codes make no reference to the practice of witchcraft. Of course, it took Kent almost 100 years to draft laws against “devil worship”, so that is perhaps not at all surprising.

Nevertheless, the fundamental mistrust, indeed hostility, of at least the Anglii toward “harmful magic” is very apparent in a story Bede related regarding King Aethelfrith of Northumbria (late 6th to early 7th century AD) and a band of monks he encountered who were praying “against the swords of the barbarians” (ie. against Aethelfrith). Bede further writes,

“King Ethelfrid being informed of the occasion of their coming, said, “If then they cry to their God against us, in truth, though they do not bear arms, yet they fight against us, because they oppose us by their prayers.” He, therefore, commanded them to be attacked first, and then destroyed the rest”.

It is not until the Laws of Alfred that we begin see witchcraft enter the laws as a punishable offense; though we should remember that the orthodox Christian stance of the matter of witchcraft among the Germanic peoples was, up til now, that witchcraft was just so much superstitious hogwash. With Alfred’s Laws however we not only see witchcraft introduced as a punishable crime, but we see it introduced firmly within the context of the Old Testament,

“the women who are in the habit of receiving wizards and sorcerers and magicians, thou shalt not suffer to live”.

By the time of Cnut’s Laws we see the beginning of the conflation of witchcraft, not only with “harmful magic” and it’s own more traditional associations with secret killing, perjury, adultery, and incest, but also with such “heathen practices” as the “worship of heathen gods and the sun and the moon, fire or flood, wells or stones or any kind of forest tree”.

Conflation of various distinct disciplines, such as that of the spakona and seidhkona, are themselves clear in the North Germanic lore, and likely went the way of England in growing to include all sorts of heathen observances.

By the time of the witchhunts of the 15th and 16th centuries, it had expanded to include non-orthodox Christian belief; where heathen, heretic, and witch could be used more-or-less interchangeably. We see a similar evolution to the word racist in modern timers. And it is here that we modern folk first picked up the now muddled mess that the old magical and religious lore of our ancestors had become.

As a result, such things beg to be questioned. What is worship as opposed to the practice of magic? What is good magic and what is bad magic? And to what degree should those who dabble in such anti-social pursuits as influencing society via hidden (and often solitary) means be tolerated in our midst? And to what degree should accusations regarding “things unseen” themselves be tolerated?

Thoughts and Musings on Halloween

halloween

 

Prior to the late 4th century, Christians celebrated their dead martyrs as local traditions at a variety of different times of year. By the 5th century AD the Church was at work trying to unifying the celebration of martyrs and saints into a single holiday. The date for this celebration tended to fall in the month of May until, in the early 7th century AD, Pope Boniface the IV nailed it down and established the “dedication Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres” on May 13th.

This is the Latin origin of what is known among today’s NW Europeans as Hallowtide, and includes “All Saints Eve” (Halloween), “All Saints Day” (All Hallows), and “All Souls Day”.

How then is it possible that this Catholic “feast of Martyrs, Saints and the dead” came to be celebrated beginning on the eve of October 31st and on to November 2nd?

Is it really just a syncretism with the Celtic Samhein; the Celts themselves having been conquered and Romanized by the Roman’s in the 1st century BC and then Christianized as an act of political correctness in the 4th century?

Well, maybe.

But our first clue on how that came to pass is to be found in the language itself. Halloween is of course a word firmly rooted in Old English, which itself is firmly rooted in West Germanic, and from there Proto-Germanic.

It is neither Latin nor Celtic in origin.

Similarly we have the flow of time, in which Hallow Eve pre-cedes All Hallows Day; a peculiarity (ie. reckoning the day from sundown to sundown rather than sunrise to sunrise) which is witnessed in Germanic time reckoning from as early as Tacitus. This Germanic sense of the flow of the day is likewise the reason that Christmas Eve pre-cedes Christmas Day.

The historical time frame of the move of the Catholic feast from mid-May (7th century) to early November (8th to 9th century) is also telling, as it was precisely within this time frame that the Anglo-Saxons and their continental Germanic brethren were converted to Catholicism.

Now, in a letter dated AD 601 and addressed to Mellitus, his missionary at work among the Anglo-Saxons, Pope Gregory I mentions a custom among our ancestors in which “a large number of cattle are slaughtered”, and that this heathen rite should be made over into “a feast in honour of the saints”.

Meanwhile, according to the Anglo-Catholic historian Bede, Blotmonath or Blood month, was a time in which “the cattle which were to be slaughtered were consecrated to the gods.” The Anglo-Saxon Blotmonath more-or-less corresponds to the modern month of (the Latin-rooted) November, and the slaughter that took place in this month was substantial and represented the annual thinning of the herd; required so that resources would be sufficient to see the herd through winter.

In reflecting on the matter of what the Hallowtide meant within the native beliefs of our English ancestors, I don’t think that we should become too preoccupied with the consecration of “the cattle that were to be slaughtered”. Such things would have occurred in regards to any sacrifice/feast, save here, the number of cattle to be slaughtered was quite substantial in comparison, and probably set the stage for the sacred rites of the tide, as we see in the reference to the fall-tide disablot in Egil’s saga, “there was the best banquet and much drink within the hall”.

Basically, the over-abundance of meat, not to mention the abundance of food in general, ie. from the recent harvest, set the conditions for a particularly abundant feast.

But what was this feast devoted to? Afterall, it was not just “a feast”, but a sacral feast in which the animals were consecrated.

To the extent that the Viking Age North Germanic tradition of Snorri Sturlusson is indicative of anything pan-Germanic, the winter nights sacrifice was for good luck in the coming year. Other bits and piece from the lore — which might coincide and devolve more precisely with harvest than with the herd-thinning — include the disablot, the alfablot, Freyblot, and of course the widespread custom of the “Last Sheaf”. Each of these have their association, be it strong or weak, with the dead and/or the exceptional dead, while the Last Sheaf customs were generally associated, strongly or weakly, with Woden, particularly in his guise as the Wild Hunter.

As the Catholic associations of the tide are strongly focused on the veneration of saints and martyrs, and as the later, but inherently related (to West Germanic) North Germanic traditions are themselves strongly focused on the veneration of the dead — a general phenom. well represented in earlier law codes and similar legal treatments of “heathen practices” on the Continent — it is fair to suggest that the native Anglo-Saxon “Hallowtide” may likewise have involved veneration of the dead. And of course, that keeping up relations with the dead was of vital importance to the good fortunes of the community.

“42. In order that no new saints may be venerated or invoked, do not allow their monuments to be erected along the roads, etc.”

— Charlemagne, Synod of Frankfurt (AD 8th century)

“1. sacrilege at the tombs of the dead… 2. sacrilegious funeral songs made to the dead… 9. sacrifices made to some saint… 25. Those who carve images for dead persons whom they say are saints.”

— Index of Superstitious and Heathen Practices (AD 8th century)

Reflecting on the raw nature of the tide itself, we see a gradual retreat of of the spirit of life from nature. The fields lay bare, the trees have begun to lose their leaves, and nature itself has begun to cool and discolour. To top it all off, the blood of life, quite literally, flows freely and saturates to land.

The spirit of death has come into power; itself betokening a “thinning of the veil” between the world of man and those less seen “otherworlds” that “surround” it.

This “thinning of the veil” allows the spirits that occupy those “otherworlds” to wander into our own; attracted to the substance of life, the blood, that has come to saturate the earth. And while some of these spirits might not represent anything more mysterious or malevolent than “late grandfather Harold”, many are the otherworlds and varied are their denizens. Others would be the starving souls of the evil or otherwise neglected dead, or things more primal that had never existed in association with man, eg. thursar, all particularly attracted, like hungry predators, to the life-force inherent in the blood of the slaughter.

Such beliefs would thus have made the fall slaughter something of a dangerous thing, from whence, we might speculate, the season took on it’s more “horrific” associations, ie. above and beyond the Christian association of anything non-Christian or heretical with “horror”.

This horror element would subside and morph with the first snowfall, ie. the washing away of the blood of the slaughter, and the promise of the Yuletide.

Rebuttal: The Role of Tyr (by Mark Puryear)

I came across this article on Tiw (Tyr) recently,

The Role of Tyr

I’ve heard of the man who wrote it. Good people have good things to say about him. And I have due respect for his handling of the subject. Simply, some things are open to debate, and should be debated. And on such matters as these I’d prefer that a person disagree with me for the right reasons rather than agree with me for the wrong reasons.

That said, I disagree with much of what is written, and so was prompted to write this rebuttal.

So, my quotes of the author below are partial text. I encourage you to read the article in order to receive the full context and weight of the author’s argument. And so on to it,

The idea that Tyr was the original sky-father seems to have originated with Jacob Grimm. The flaw in his reasoning is that it is solely based upon etymological conclusions, which do not coincide with any other evidence known to us.

In fact, the Old English Rune Poem clearly establishes a link between Tiw, glory, stars, and the heavens. The sentiments find parallel in the ancient Vedic perception of Dyauspitar as a black horse (the night sky) draped in a necklace of pearls (the stars). It is also echoed in the Greek custom of naming the heavenly bodies, particularly the stars, planets and constellations, after the gods and heroes of their pantheon.

We also have the Abecedarium Nordmannicum and it’s cosmological reference “Tiu (Heaven), Birch (Earth), and Man in the middle”.

And of course we also have the Hymskvidha and it’s abundance of “sky references”; from the name of Tiw’s father, Hymir (dusk, twilight); to the name of Hymir’s best ox (Heavensbellower); to placement of Hymir’s hall at “the edge of heaven” (ie. the horizon).

All of this fits in quite well with the etymology of Tiw’s name, which itself goes back to a Proto-Indo-European that references the heavens and their brilliance.

A better argument against Tiw as Skyfather would focus on the slight distinction that exists between the P.I.E. root that gave us the god-name Tiw and that which gave us such other Indo-European god-names as Dyauspitar (Sanskrit), Sius (Old Persian), Zeus (Greek), and Jupiter (Latin). As I understand it, these P.I.E. roots are “siblings”, themselves both deriving from a deeper, common root, but they are not identical. The root that gave us the god-name Tiw yielded, instead, deva (Sanskrit), daeva (Avestan), deus (Latin), dia (Old Irish, reflective of pan-Celtic), and Dievas (Lithuanian, reflective of pan-Baltic). All of these words mean, to the modern Western understanding, “god”. More precisely, they mean “excellent, shining, glorious, renowned one; paragon”.

Only in the Germanic tongues, and possibly the Baltic tongues, did this precise root develop into the proper name of an individual god.

And interestingly, only in the Germanic tongues did the word for day stem from an entirely unrelated root.

One might thus reason that Tiw is not so much the “Skyfather” of the Germanic peoples, as he is the “Gloryfather”, a refinement of a basic concept, similar in some regards to what we see in the relation between the Greek Aether, Uranus, Hyperion and Zeus.

But where then is the “Germanic Skyfather”?

Some might be inclined to answer that with Woden; though Woden stands up as quite distinct and peculiar when measured against his fellow Indo-European Skyfathers. Others might, with far more justification, say Thunor, but this conclusion comes with it’s own problems which are beyond the scope of this writing. But here, it is interesting to consider the ancient Vedic belief that Indra killed Dyauspitar by pulling him out of the sky.

At the end of the day, while pan-Indo-European research is very enlightening and valuable, there is no shoehorning specific beliefs into a theoretical Proto-Indo-European model. And if Woden’s nature and place in the later pantheon is any indication, this goes double with Germanic belief.

It might very well be that there is no memory of the P.I.E. Skyfather in the Germanic beliefs of some 4,000 years later; that their perceptions had evolved away from that concept. It might be, as we see with his offspring the Divine Twins in relation to the Eddic lore, that he was dissembled, Ymir-like, and his attributes shared throughout the pantheon, living on only implicitly (or in minor form) in the surviving lore, eg. Daeg (Day).

This author continues,

There simply isn’t any proof that points to a major change of religion in Northern Europe between the time of Indo-European unity (before they branches off to become the Teutons, Greeks, Slavs, Mediterraneans and East Indians) and the coming of Christianity.

In fact, the variety and variance found within and between concrete Indo-European cultures (Persian, Greek, Roman, Celtic, etc.) provides us with ample evidence of change/evolution between the time of Indo-European unity and the coming of Christianity. This is why Germanic belief is not Celtic belief is not Slavic belief is not Greek belief is not Hindu belief, etc. It is also why the relationship between these cultures had to be deduced to begin with.

The study of the Indo-Europeans is as much a study of change as it is of continuity.

Within the context of Germanicism we have the end of the Nordic Bronze Age (c.500 BC); which witnessed a fouling of the climate, the breakdown of the trade networks that linked southern Scandinavia to the Mediterranean and the Near East, and of course the highly peculiar “bogging” of highly prized ritual paraphernalia associated with the cult of Sunne and her brothers, the Divine Twins. See Kristian Kristiansen’s and Thomas Larsson’s work “The Rise of Bronze Age Society: Travels, Transmissions, and Transformations“. These acts find parallel in only one instance in all of the lore; the conversion of Iceland and the casting of the idols of the gods into the waterfall that has since become known as “the Waterfall of the Gods”.

And in the wake of these profound changes, in what might by this point be called “Proto-Germanic” culture — where populations continued to burgeon, but both land and trade resources shrank — we have the migrations that would eventually give rise to Germania; spread out over what was once Celtic territory. And also the custom, no less peculiar than the offering of high quality ritual gear, of the mass disposal of the spoils of war.

Why is the “sun cult” so diminished in the Eddas (or the archaeology of the Viking Age) as compared to what we see in the archaeological evidence of the Nordic Bronze Age?

The reason why, once again, is change. Things changed. As per the nature of Wyrd.

The author continues,

It is most likely that Tiwaz, or Tiva was once a name of Odin that was also given to his son.

In line with the basic etymology of the name Tiw, Snorri Sturlusson’s own assertions regarding the usage of the word relate that any god could be called a tyr. The word could be used poetically to refer to some god other than the god named Tyr by affixing some attribute of the intended tyr with the word itself, eg. Hangatyr or God of the Hanged (Odin).

As such, tyr was once a word that could be used of any “god”. Woden included. But when we look out across the vast landscape of the Indo-Europeans, the gods whose names bear some semblance of the name Tiw do not at all resemble Woden.

The belief that Tiw was “most likely” a name of Woden seems almost as reaching as the casual presumption of Tiw’s Eddic ancestry. Certainly, Woden is the father of all the gods in Snorri’s Edda, but in the older poetic material one finds the etin Hymir named as his father.

That being the case, there really is nothing substantive that makes this theory “most likely”. From a more speculative point of view — looking at the issue less as one of Tiw and Woden, and more as one of hero (Tiw) and poet (Woden), or even of tiv/sacral glory (Tiw) and ve/sacral mystery (Woden) — one can see how sound arguments can be made in either direction, representing something of a Germanic yin-yang equation. A riddle that is intended to be entertained, but never solved. An honouring of the mysterium tremendum even as we happily engage in the inevitable product of the et fascinans.

Similar theories have been proposed in the past, that Woden and Tiw are in fact not separate deities at all, but one and the same; which of course runs counter to everything we know from the Norse-Icelandic Eddas to the interpretatio romana and interpretatio germanicum, to Tacitus’ clear delineation of the Germanic Mercury (Woden) from the Germanic Mars (Tiw) in terms of sacrifice, and his placing them side-by-side in his Annals as the two gods at the heart of the aforementioned custom of the mass disposal of the spoils of war.

I can appreciate an argument that Tiw is the son of Woden. Afterall, do we not know what we know of him because he is extolled in language and song? The very gifts of the appropriately named Allfather Himself? But as for one and the same — neither here nor there in the subject of this critique I suppose — that’s just not palatable. Not without more evidence and stronger reasoning anyway.

The author continues,

One of the favored ideas related to Tyr as sky-father is the connection between him and the Irminsul, because it looks like his run, Tiwaz.

The author goes on to refute this connection via his own line of reasoning; which I won’t get into as a result of the fact that I entirely agree with the sentiment that Tiw is not identified with the Irminsul. By my own line of reasoning , the god Irmin is associated with the Irminsul as per Widukind of Corvey. And of course, the Old Norse form of the name Irmin is Jormun, which is itself listed as one of the by-names of Woden in the Prose Edda. Furthermore, Widukind of Corvey also described Irmin, in so many words, as a “Marslike Mercury”. That is, he described him in terms very much befitting what we know of Woden. And finally, even as the Irminones were the predominant people of Tacitus’ Germania, so to does Snorri relate (Prose Edda) that Woden was first known in Germany and only from there made his way up into (Ingvaeonic) Scandinavia.

Now, if people like the bent palm tree image found on the Extersteine relief in Germany and want to use that image as an expression of their beliefs in modern times, no problem. But this image does not match the terms Rudolph of Fulda used to describe the Irminsul, and it is not likely that the actual Saxon Irminsul resembled this. This is not to say that the monk who carved the image did not intend it to represent the Irminsul, which is another argument altogether, only that the Saxon Irminsul did not look like this “palm tree”.

The author continues,

If you really… still think Tyr is the original sky-father and was once the highest god of our pantheon, just consult the lore. Odin is the creator of Midgard and of humans, teacher of runes, the one who grants wishes and gives success in all endeavors. Could there really be a higher duty than these? You can’t usurp the role of creator-god, you either created the earth and our folk or you didn’t. If we had to accept that Tyr once held all of these positions then Odin, who many have named our faith thereafter, would be a fraud and a liar and Tyr a defeated weakling subservient to the god that stole his position.

There is a lot to unpack in this statement. Such as the conflation of the Skyfather with the creation of “Midgard and of humans”. Our lore is certainly clear that Woden (and his two “brothers”) engaged in the killing and dismemberment of Ymir, from whose body parts the world was formed. And yet, from a broader Indo-European perspective, while we certainly find likenesses of Ymir, eg. Atlas, Purusha, we do not see those gods whose name literally translates to and gave us the title Skyfather (Dyaus, Zeus) engaging in it’s death and dismemberment. Such Skyfather gods tend to unite with an “Earthmother” so as to produce the flora and fauna and to populate the heavens with stars. And ultimately, this seems to occur/continue as a collective effort. This is reflected in the Voluspa,

“Then gathered together the gods for counsel, the holy hosts, and held converse; to night and new moon their names they gave, the morning named and mid-day also, forenoon and evening, to order the year.”

The same can be said for the creation of man, ie. is not definitive of the role of Skyfather. In the Greek belief this was the role of Prometheus and only indirectly of Zeus, while more poignantly, in Indic belief the first men came from their namesake Manu rather than Dyaus. And of course, according to the AD 1st century Irminonic beliefs of the tribes of Germania, mankind issued, not from Woden, but from their own divine namesake, Mannus, whose name is of course cognate to that of Manu.

Once again, we find that the achievement of the creation of man is not requisite to the role of Skyfather.

And this is to say nothing of the runes.

The notion of a single creator god simply is not at all apparent in the greater cultural weave of Indo-European beliefs; though once again Germanic belief cannot be shoehorned into a theoretical proto-Indo-European model and as the god of language, I see every reason to be sympathetic to the notion of Woden as “creator-god”, for all that all gods would seem to also engage in the ongoing process of Creation. Nevertheless, that is speculative and not evidence of an ancestral belief.

As for the notion of some god usurping the position of another, and how that would make one a fraud and the other a weakling; this is just coming at the matter from entirely the wrong perspective. This as a result of a very poor use of semantics on behalf of the scholars that first advocated the theory of Woden’s ascension. And also a lack of awareness of the evolution of human knowledge; in which one thing can seem primary for an extended amount of time only for it ultimately to be discovered that it is in fact secondary and itself a mere product of a formerly unknown primary. And so, the theory, the myth, grows to encompass the new awareness, as though it had ever been. Because human ignorance aside, it had ever been. Now, one could call that a “usurpation”, but on that note, this is like calling a king’s successor a usurper, or more appropriately, like calling Konungr a usurper of Jarl’s position, ie. Rigsthula, when in fact he just reached more encompassing heights than his predecessor; such as an Allfather in contrast to a Skyfather. More encompassing, more “irminic” one might even say. There is no weakening required on anyone’s behalf, only an acknowledgement of the stronger or more able, and so a strengthening of the overall whole.

Whether the issue is one of Tiw having been the original Skyfather that gave way to Woden and/or Thunor, or one of Tiw, Woden and Thunor all being the mutual heirs of the functions of the original P.I.E. Skyfather, I see less a Veda-like usurpation involved, ie. Indra and Dyaus, and more of a passing of the torch and an acknowledgement of the better suited. Even as we see in the myth of the war between the AEsir and Vanir, in which the Vanir reduced the walls of Asgard to rubble and ruled the field, and even beheaded one of the hostages sent by the AEsir as part of the truce, but, without any subsequent hostilities, the AEsir still ended up as the ruling powers, the one’s calling the shots.

There is no usurpation. Ultimately, there is only the natural evolution of mortal understanding of the “divine mystery”; a thing our mortal minds are entirely unfit to deduce the ultimate reality of.

As the Havamal states, “the minds of men are small, and not all men are equally wise”.

The author continues,

Tyr is the god of war, period. We know this from the Prose Edda, mainly. As Snorri attests (Gylf.25), the story of his hand lost as a pledge so Fenris could be bound is a testament to his bravery, and that is it. All sorts of guesswork has been used to give him several other duties among the gods based on this story alone, but the passages in Gylfaginning simply relate to us the divine image of what military generals should aspire to: cleverness and bravery.

Certainly, the Romans equated their Mars to our Tiw, and our ancestors accepted and maintained that association. But we know from Tacitus that Woden was also associated with warfare as the recipient of sacrificed battle captives; and directly in conjunction with Tiw in regards to the custom of the mass disposal of the spoils of war, which of course battle captives were a part of. We must assume, given the attribution of Mars to Tiw (and Mercury to Woden) that Tiw was the primary “god of war” among the peoples of Germania at that time. Woden it would seem existed as a secondary figure within the Irminonic cult of warfare. We might imagine the relationship between the two, in the context of war, being one of the *teuta (Tiw) to the *koryos, of glory and martial aesthetics (Tiw) to death and martial necessity (Wod).

According to Kris Kershaw (The One-Eyed God),

Razzias (raiding) was the business of the adolescent boys, who functioned as highly mobile guerrilla bands and at the same time learned hardiness, self-control, stealth and strategy, and other warrior qualities … The *koryos was the band of these warrior-novices. It was a cultic warrior-brotherhood, that is, the youths’ formation was as much religious as it was martial, and the ties that bound them were as strong as blood.

And,

In opposition to the *koryos is the *teuta, “stamm”, the tribe, the totality of the people. And who are “all the people?” Why, the adult males of course! In other words, the *teuta are also warriors, adult warriors

Of course, as we move into the Migration Age, our descriptions of the “Germanic Mars” become increasingly Wodenic (ie. associations with human sacrifice, kingship, etc.), while by the Viking Age, and despite the veritable horde of data we have at our disposal in comparison to earlier centuries, Tiw is virtually absent in the overwhelmingly Wodenic martial lore. There is the Sigdrifumal reference, that counsels one to carve the Tiw rune upon their weapon and call twice upon Tiw for victory, but even here, the physical evidence for such a custom is virtually non-existent or, at best, subject to considerable doubt.

If indeed Tiw was “the god of war, period”, the evidence, such as it is, would seem to leave him all dressed up with no place to go. Little more than a mythic figure. As much an obsolete product of a by-gone era as the P.I.E. Skyfather himself. But the evidence, such as it is, shows us that this is certainly not the case.

While Snorri credited Tiw with both great boldness and great wisdom; and while the story he related, regarding the binding of the Fenriswulf, while it certainly demonstrates boldness, I don’t think you could use it as testimony to any sort of cleverness on Tiw’s behalf. It was afterall the collective gods that came up with the idea to meet deception with deception (ie. Loki, the Father of Lies) and bind Fenris with a magical fetter. And it was the svartalfar that forged that fetter. Both very clever. Nor was it Tiw that spelt out the terms of the contest, ie. that if the Wulf could not break the fetter either the gods would remove it or one of then would pay with a hand. And once the fetter was laid upon the Wulf, and it proved unbreakable, ie. mission accomplished, Tiw, who alone of all the gods stepped up to do what was necessary for the sake of honour, did not display even the simple “cleverness” of pulling his hand out of the maw of the Wulf.

No.

The Gloryfather was not at all concerned with demonstrating any sort of cleverness. Rather, he lost his hand. As per the stipulations of the contract that was drawn up between the gods and the Wulf. He anted up the “wergild”, paid the fine, as per the basic functioning of crime and punishment within the context of the Thing system.

If the myth could be said to reveal any one association of Tiw — and there is a lot to unpack in the Fenriswulf myth — it would be found in the by-name for him that grew out of this myth (or vice versa, ie. that this myth grew out of), the “Leavings of the Wolf”. The meaning of this by-name becomes evident when one understands the association of the wolf with death and the grave in Germanic thought.

And so, to paraphrase the Havamal,

Cattle die, kinsmen die, and the wolf of the grave shall eat it’s fill, but I know one thing that shall endure, the righteous renown of each man dead.

The by-name, as we see reflected in the etymology of the very name Tiw, means nothing other than Glory itself. The Leavings of the Wolf. And as already been noted, Tiw shares his  name with both gods and exceptional men alike. This might gives us some insight as to why he is praised, not only as the Leavings of the Wolf in the Old Icelandic Rune Poem, but also as as the “ruler of the temple”.

To my thinking, whatever the origins of Tiw in ancient times, we see less of a diminution of him in the Eddas and more of an ascension of his own; taking on a likeness similar to what is known of the Baltic Dievas, and best known himself, in the fullness of his glory, when “the gods gather together for counsel” to shine their collective light on existence. He personifies the quality of tiv that is part and parcel with godhood and heroism, even as Woden personifies the quality of ve that is suggestive of mystery and used similarly to tiv in reference to god and the collective gods, ie. Ve (god), Vear (the gods).

The author continues,

There is only one piece of hard evidence I have seen that could possibly link Tyr to the Thing. This is an inscription from the 3rd century C.E. on a votive altar set up by Frisian legionares stationed at Housesteads on Hadrian’s wall (North England). The inscription mentions a god by the name of Mars Thingsus (Deo Marti Thingso). Of course, Mars is typically identified with Tyr, but I believe there is reason to suspect that, in this instance, another deity is intended.

The connection between Tiw and the Thing stands, primarily, on three legs. The first is Tacitus’ reference in Germania in which the doling out of capital punishment (as well as imprisonment or flogging) was pronounced “in accordance to the will of the god they believe accompanies them to the field of battle.” In other words, the “Germanic Mars”; of who the same author if we recall makes a clear and present delineation of in relation to the “Germanic Mercury”.

The second is of course the Frisian votive stones mentioned in the quote above, which links the “Germanic Mars” to the Thing. Also of peripheral interest here is the inscription’s grouping of Mars Thingsus with two female spirits, as there is a recurrence of “twos” in the lore regarding Tiw. We see this is the Hymskvidha, where Thunor and Tiw are paired up in a duo — while the gods generally travel alone or in groups of three — and also in the two attempts Tiw made to lift the cauldron of Hymir. We also see it in the Sigdrifumal and the counsel to call twice on Tiw. More philosophically, we see it in the dualistic, adversarial nature of martial and legal conflicts, as well as in competitions of all forms. 

It is indeed very fair to say that Tiw is both “no peacemaker” and ultimately “the onehanded of the gods”, as there are always two parties to any competition, but only ever one winner.

He is not a peace-maker, but rather an “edge-whetter”.

The third leg that Tiw’s association with the Thing stands on is the name given to dies Martis in German, which alone of the Germanic tongues did not name this day after Tiw, as per the standard interpretation. Rather, it is, for whatever reason, named Dienstag, which is generally interpreted as “Day of the Thing”.

A fourth leg could be added via Tiw’s ancient association with warfare among the Germanic peoples. Particularly his association with the *teuta, the men of which, beyond comprising the body of the army, also comprised the body of the Thing; which is also were they were recognized as men.

All of that said, it is worth pointing out here that, in variance to what Tacitus had to say about capital punishment among the 1st century tribes of Germania, it was upon the “Rock of Thor” that capital offenders had their backs broken in Viking Age Iceland; which, if indicative of a general phenomenon among the Viking Age Norse (which it need not be), could point to Thunor taking over aspects of Tiw’s old portfolio in terms of legal judgement, much as Woden did in terms of war.

The author continues,

There is a deity known among the Frisians who is particularly devoted to law and justice, by the name of Fosite

There is no doubting the role of Fosite in relation to the Thing. All we know of him speaks towards this. He is however no Mars of the Thing. And he has no martial associations other than those we might find among any of the gods, and even among more than a couple of the goddesses.

The author continues,

The idea was that conflicts were ended and peace was restored by the Thing, even if a dispute had to end in battle. The holmgang, or “island-going”, was a form of single-combat that may or may not have ended with the death of the defeated. No matter who won, the case was then settled, with the victor having his way in the proceedings. This use of battle to settle some disputes has been used as a justification for Tyr being considered the god of the Thing. But Tyr is the god of war, not of duels.

This estimation fails to note the Germanic martial aesthetic, the ideal mode of combat, as being precisely that of the duel, engaged in by equals; even where two opposing forces road out to the battle en masse. This ideal continued to be preserved long after it’s practical limitations were shown up — by the martially collectivist Imperial Romans in their conflicts with the martially individualist Celts — in the Viking Age name for the denizens of Woden’s Valhalla; the einherijar or single combatants.

That a martial god was associated with the Thing is demonstrated in the title Mars Thingsus, while Tacitus relates that a martial god was associated with divine judgement in cases involving life and liberty. The implication would seem to be that even as Tiw acted as divine judge of warfare, he also acted, via direct appeal, as divine judge within the Thing (in regards to exceptional cases and their punishments), and perhaps also associated in a more general sense with the institutions fundamentally adversarial nature, and even the general judgements of the Thing in regards to it’s more usual functioning, ie. cases involving fine.

That the judge of warfare, who is also the judge of capital offenders, might also have been considered the judge of judicial combats is of course completely reasonable.

And one need but read through a couple of the Icelandic sagas to know that, not only was there was a poignantly adversarial aspect to Thing disputes, but moreso that the settlement of a case did not always ensure any sort of peace; though peace was of course the overall, long term purpose, not to mention the clear historical achievement, of the Thing-based system of law, crime, and punishment. Call it a “nurturing adversarialism”, the fruits of which might be less evident in the details of any particular case — and of course the sagas only relate to us the most prolific and dramatic of cases and feuds — and more evident in the organic evolution of the community over the long term; as the community works through it’s internal problems, organically, to inevitably come to organic solutions that make for a sincere and lasting peace, and a strengthening of a common identity.

That the spirit of judgement and adversarialism and mediation all exist within the context of law seems to me a moot point. No big surprise. Each play a role in it’s overall function and mission. Likewise the common purpose of both law and war in preserving the peace of the community is fairly evident. These things are not mutually exclusive.

The author continues,

If we were going to label a god as a representative of duels, it would have to be Thor. After all, in the myths Tyr is never known to actively participate in or represent duels, whereas Thor engages in them time and time again, making up the bulk of his adventures.

A fair argument, made much more poignant by the fact of Thunor’s Viking Age Norse-Icelandic association with divine judgement in the context of the Thing. And of course his possible association with legal oaths under the ambiguous by-name “Almighty Asa”.

Nevertheless, as far as our evidence goes, Thunor was never a god that mortal men looked to for victory in martial conflicts of any kind. He was always looked to as a defense against the hostile forces of nature, ie. the thursar and etins. As a result, none of Thunor’s mythic duels took place within the context of the Thing and/or the presence of the collective gods at council, ie. none represent a trial by combat.

Indeed, as far as the evidence goes, the Prose Edda states of the obscure North Germanic god UllR that, “It is also good to call on him in duels”.

This UllR is said to be the step-son of Thunor via his wife Sif and an otherwise unnamed god from a prior union. It is a curious fact that his name, not unlike that of Tiw, means glory.

In the Danish sources, Ollerus (Latinized UllR) was said to have taken Woden’s place while he was in exile.

While there is no mention or indication of Ullr, places name included, outside of Viking Age Scandinvia, the word that forms his name can be founded in such deific titles used by the Anglo-Saxons as wuldorfæder (gloryfather).

Some have speculated that UllR is another name for Tiw. And certainly the association between the two, ie. glory, is clear and evident. Alternately, he might have taken up part of the mantle left by Tiw as he shed his martial (and perhaps his legal) associations of other times and/or places. Perhaps as much Tiw’s son as Thunor’s step-son?

From here the author’s arguments either become fanciful or circle back around to the case of Fosite. An example of the former can be found in the argument,

No other deity better exemplifies this ideal than Balder. It may seem romantic to have the valiant god of war representing the Thing, but consider the possibility of being a defendant in a criminal case brought against you. Would this be a time when you would want to pray to a god of war, or a god of compassion?

One might well reason the same in terms of an invading army (rather than a law suit) being brought against one; in which case a god of compassion could conceivably be, by the same merit, equally preferable. That merit, in either context, presumably being a conviction in one’s own inferiority and inability to adequately defend one’s self. But our ancestors show no signs at all of any such inclination, be it in law or war or any endeavor, to concede victory to another without proofs of superiority, as provided by the best judge of all… competition, adversity, ordeal.

As the Bard said, “Bid them achieve me and then sell my bones.”, itself echoed in the Old English poem the Battle of Maldon centuries prior, “It seems a great shame to let you go to your ships with our treasures unfought — now you have come thus far into our country. You must not get our gold so softly. Points and edges must reconcile us first, a grim war-playing, before we give you any tribute.”

And truly, would you want compassion, beyond that implicit in the very nature and functioning of the Thing (ie. alternative to feud, predominantly fine oriented) shown to a man proven to have stolen or otherwise damaged your property or person or people? Should they pay less than the law stipulates you are owed? As a matter of mercy or compassion? Should you leave yourself impotent and reliant upon nothing more than “mercy” in the case of false accusations brought against you? Should we have compassion for the slanderous? Is that really the god you want to pray to? Or do you want to pray to a god that inspires you to rise to the righteous defense of you and yours, no matter the personal costs, able and confident that when the harsh fires of ordeal subside, only the truth shall remain? A god who yields, perhaps not the “compassionate” judgement, but rather the RIGHT judgement, in which you get your due, even in the most unclear and precarious of situations, as we see in Tiw’s righteous dealings in the dispute that existed between the AEsir and the Fenriswulf?

By the Tiwic ideal, rooted as it is in warfare, the very act of bringing a matter before the community, before the Thing, even if only to invoke the trial by combat, was an act of mercy and compassion in one regard or another.

The mediation of Fosite was always a remedy available to those involved in disputes, be it socially prior to filing suit or legally after filing suit, but such mediators played a largely reactive role and had no right to impose itself on men. One need but look to the official conversion of Iceland, where a mediator was chosen to decide the matter out of fear that the dispute would tear the country apart.

After Death: Certitude or Mystery?

skeleton

The importance of the remains of the dead, their treatment, their burial, the tending of graves and honouring of one’s dead kinsfolk and heroes. It was an important aspect of the elder Germanic beliefs; with enough parallels in both the beliefs of their fellow Indo-European cultures and the associated archaeological record, to nail it down as a very ancient, very significant, and very enduring thing.

But was Hell simply the grave and grave mound? Was the soul truly and irrevocably bound to it’s remains? Was there in fact no Germanic “afterworld”, beyond life in the grave-mound, as more than one well informed person has proposed? And indeed if the remains of one’s ancestors were lost and/or forgotten so to were their souls to the kindred?

Well, I like this perspective. It’s something that began to dawn on me a couple of decades ago after reading Gronbech’s “Culture of the Teutons”; in which he drew a parallel between the cosmology of the Eddas and the physical realities of a tribe’s surroundings. And there is a lot in elder Germanic lore that certainly points in this direction.

However, while this understanding is a very good foundation — rightly shifting our attention, energy and emphasis away from the otherworld and on to this world, away from the goldstar we will get in some otherworld and on to the legacy we leave for the benefit of our community and descendants that remain in this world after we have departed, ie. world accepting — it nevertheless presents certain inconsistencies with other aspects of both Germanic and Indo-European lore; which, from subtle indications of language and elder figures of speech to ship-burials are suggestive of both a journey, and hence a destination, following death … undertaken from within the gravemound it would “certainly seem”.

For all of that, I still find that the Eddas, paint too detailed and too certain of a picture about such things. Who knows what lies ahead in that great journey taken after death? The dead … of which none of us are at this moment. As with the nature of the Tivar, I tend to dislike sharp and certain definitions of things a person doesn’t really know anything more-or-less about than anyone else. Certainly we have a sense of “life after death” … a sense that is of course the strongest in the presence of the bones of our ancestors, but if the ancient Greeks are any testament, a mound is a mound is a mound, each as the other a gate to Hades apparently, whether or not their ancestors or heroes were actually buried in “that” particular mound or worshiped at many different mounds in different localities. But no, certitude was never a promise or pretense of elder Germanicism, which was always happy to own it’s sense of things while happily letting those things be whatever they actually are apart from their sense of them. As can be gleaned in the following passage from Bede’s History of the English Nation, the elder culture knew how to honour to *mystery*,

“The present life man, O king, seems to me, in comparison with that time which is unknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the hall wherein you sit at supper in winter amid your officers and ministers, with a good fire in the midst whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail abroad; the sparrow, I say, flying in at one door and immediately out another, whilst he is within is safe from the wintry weather. But after a short space of fair weather he immediately vanishes out of your sight into the dark winter from which he has emerged. So this life of man appears for a short while. But of what went before or what is to follow we are ignorant. If, therefore, this new doctrine contains something more certain, it seems justly to deserve to be followed.”

And in the poem Beowulf as it pertains to the death, funeral and otherworldly fate of Scyld Sceafing,

“Men do not know
truth be told, neither counselors
nor heroes under heaven, who unshipped that cargo.”

And in Book I of the Gesta Danorum,

“she drew him with her underground, and vanished… <snip> … purposed that he should pay a visit in the flesh to the regions whither he must go when he died. So they first pierced through a certain dark misty cloud, and then advancing along a path that was worn away with long thoroughfaring… <snip> … Going further, they came on a swift and tumbling river of leaden waters, whirling down on its rapid current divers sorts of missiles, and likewise made passable by a bridge… <snip> … Then a wall hard to approach and to climb blocked their further advance. The woman tried to leap it, but in vain, being unable to do so even with her slender wrinkled body; then she wrung off the head of a cock which she chanced to be taking down with her, and flung it beyond the barrier of the walls; and forthwith the bird came to life again, and testified by a loud crow to recovery of its breathing.

Did our ancestors believe in life after death? Certainly. But certitude about such things as no man can be certain about is not a selling point of the elder beliefs. As ever, truth is more about questions and less about answers. Beware the man who is certain about things no man could possibly be … for within him grow the seeds of evil.

In Their Ancient Hymns: the Ethnogenesis of the Germanic Peoples

In their ancient hymns (which amongst them are the only sort of records and history) they celebrate Tuisto, a god sprung from the earth, and Mannus his son, as the fathers and founders of their people. To Mannus they asign three sons, after whose names so many people are called; the Ingaevones, dwelling by the seashore; the Herminones, in the interior; and all the rest, Istaevones. Some, borrowing the liscence that pertains to antiquity, maintain that the god had more sons; that thence came more denominations of people, the Marsians, Gambrians, Suevians, and Vandalians, and that these are the names truly genuine and original.” (Tacitus, Germania)

Such is what we have of the first recorded ethnogenesis myth of the Germanic peoples. It is preserved in the works of both Tacitus and Pliny, both hailing from the 1st century A.D., and was, presumably, considered “ancient” by the tribes of Germania at the time of it’s recording. Indeed, certain aspects of the “myth” as we have it predate the emergence of Germanic culture in southern Scandinavia by over a  thousand years, as we see in the case of the figure Mannus and his Aryan (aka. Indo-Iranian) cognate, Manu. Of this Manu, who’s name, like Mannus’, means “man, human”, the Mahabharate states,

And Manu was endowed with great wisdom and devoted to virtue. And he became the progenitor of a line. And in Manu’s race have been born all human beings, who have, therefore, been called Manavas. And it is of Manu that all men including Brahmanas, Kshattriyas, and others have been descended, and are therefore all called Manavas. Subsequently, O monarch, the Brahmanas became united with the Kshattriyas. And those sons Manu that of were Brahmanas devoted themselves to the study of the Vedas. And Manu begat ten other children named Vena, Dhrishnu, Narishyan, Nabhaga, Ikshakus, Karusha, Saryati, the eighth, a daughter named Ila, Prishadhru the ninth, and Nabhagarishta, the tenth. They all betook themselves to the practices of Kshattriyas. Besides these, Manu had fifty other sons on Earth. But we heard that they all perished, quarrelling with one another.

Both Mannus and Manu gave their name to us men, both had kingly children that rose to glory among their respective tribes, and both had many other son’s of, ahem, “lesser fame” and/or more local significance. If one goes on to relate Mannus to the Viking Age Heimdal — not an uncommon comparison based on his Eddic appellation “Father of Mankind” — and factors the Rigsthula into the comparison — which tells of how Heimdal fathered and united the various castes of men into a cohesive tribe — the match with Manu is complete. But really, the existing Mannus-Manu correspondence is already quite remarkable and adequately demonstrates the ancientness of (certain aspects of) the lost hymn.

On the other hand, the geography of the tribes would suggest that other elements of it were more recent and pertained specifically to the Germanic peoples; being no earlier than the first waves of migrations that spread and established Germanicism throughout Central Europe and gave rise to the Herminonic (interior) and the Istaevonic (everywhere else) branches of the Folk as found in the hymn. Needless to say perhaps, the Ingvaeonic tribes were made up of those people who remained in the ancestral homeland along the seashores of southern Scandinavia. This would date these elements of the hymn to somewhere in the ballpark of the 1st century B.C. at the latest, and certainly no earlier than the advent of the Celtic Iron Age and the corresponding collapse of Nordic Bronze Age culture (c.500 B.C.).

As such there does seem to be considerable truth indeed to Tacitus’ assertion that this hymn was ancient. It demonstrates a deep awareness of common heritage and shared identity that walked hand-in-hand with the evolution of a “Common” or “Proto-” Germanic tongue (c.500 B.C.) and which, to various degrees, endured the evolutionary divergence of the Germanic language into its various branches , the Migration Age, and even “the Conversion” (ie. of the Anglo-Saxons). It was in fact this enduring memory of common heritage that inspired the first Anglo-Saxon missionaries to evangelize their Danish and Continental brethren in the late 7th century A.D.

For those more familiar with Eddas, the Ancient Hymns seem at first glance an odd thing with little to no relationship to grand and “otherworldly” nature of the Viking Age Creation myths or even to the Anglo-Saxon Caedmon’s Hymn. And sometimes this is cited as evidence of the great changes that took place within Germanic culture between the Iron Age to the Viking Age … and usually for some less than honest reason that has to do with validating the misappropriation of Germanic culture for modern culturo-political ends as exemplified in Universalist Asatru, and which dismisses the numerous commonalities that thread the weave of Germanic identity together and which endured it’s spread over time or space … thus allowing for the quantification of a thing as Germanic. But really, trying to force the Ancient Hymns into the Voluspa or Gylfaginning or Caedmon’s Hymn is to mistake an ethnogenesis for a genesis. The former tells of the origins of a people, the latter the origins of the cosmos. As such, they are not different versions of the same thing. Rather they are different components of the same thing, as can be seen by those with a due familiarity with such legends that tell of the origins of tribes and aetheling (royal) houses as found in the Heimskringla or Gesta Danorum, and related in the tales of such figures as Ingui, Scyld Sceafing and Merovech. The ancient hymns are the “rainbow bridge” that link the abstract, otherworldy mythology to the more concrete and historical evolution of the people. This in the same way that the Old Testament “Genesis” gives way to the legends of the Jews, their rulers, their earthly ordeals, and their own (ethno-culturally specific) evolving relationship with the “divine mystery”.

Tuisto and Mannus

As for the figures to be found in the ancient hymns — Tuisto, Mannus, Ingui, Irmin, Istaev (and the others) — while I have already touched on Mannus above, he is named alongside Tuisto as the co-progenitor of the Germanic people. Linguistically speaking, the name Tuisto is obscure. It could be a corruption of the Proto-Germanic Tiwisko (son of Tiw/God) as Grimm suggested, or it could be some concept built upon the fairly evident Proto-Germanic twa- root, from whence we get the Modern English word two (as in the quantity) … such as twin or twist (the latter of which means dispute/conflict in all of the Germanic languages save the English). While I have been very much inclined to see Tiw himself in Tuisto over the years, and so preferred (and in fact formulated) the possible relation of Tuisto to twist (dispute; ie. Mars Thingsus, TyR is not a Peacemaker), it seems today far more likely that the name was either Tiwisko or Twin. Either would suffice, as either one will ultimately point us back in the direction of the other.

And here is why; the notion of co-progenitors is very well established in the creation of new tribal identities among the Germanic peoples and their various Indo-European relatives. It can be seen in Aggo and Ebbo for the migrating Lombards, Roas and Raptos for the migrating Asdingi, most famously in Horsa and Hengist for the migrating Anglo-Saxons, and even perceived in such Vandal co-rulers as Ambri and Assi, and Vinill and Vandill. In the greater Indo-European world we see it in Romulus and Remus for the tribes of Rome and in Castor and Pollux among the Greeks, and most specifically among the Spartans who modeled their dual kingship after the Dioscuri (Sons of God) wherein one king ruled the peace and the other ruled at war. Such a dual kingship among the Germanic peoples, made up of a priest-king and a warrior-king, is observed in the literature as early as Tacitus, and so contemporary with the “Ancient Hymns”, and as late Jordanes, rears it’s head here and there throughout the better known legends and histories of our folk, eg. Hrothgar and Halga, and can even be gleaned in the relationship between the strongly martial Carolingians and the more sacral Merovingians of France. Moreover, the iconography of the “Divine Twins” and the supremacy of the intimately related “cult of the sun” saturates the rock-art and twinned deposits of the Nordic Bronze Age and continued in high style on the Gallehus Horns and the “twin dancers” of Anglo-Saxon art.  

anglosaxonalcis

While Tacitus names Mannus as the son of Tuisto rather than his brother, this seems more likely some form of mistake in interpretation. Take for a handy example that the Aryan Manu is remembered as the father of mankind, while his fellow Aryan, Yama (Twin), is remembered as the first mortal to have died. One could be left with the impression that Manu is Yama’s father. And yet, in fact, Manu and Yama are remembered as brothers. As such, I tend to favor the theory that Tuisto and Mannus are in fact brothers, a Germaniversal expression of the “Divine Twins” as the co-progenitors of tribes and peoples.      

The Ancient Hymns and the Elder Futhark

Here it is interesting to note that the Germanic mystery alphabet, called the futhorc by the Anglo-Frisians — but more widely remembered simply as “the runes” — was formulated over a time in which the Ancient Hymns were pervasive; marking the “alphabets” beginnings with the experimentation found etched on one of the Negau helms in the 2nd century B.C. and ending with the fully crystallized elder futhark of the 2nd century A.D. This is curious because at least two of the eight staves that make up the 3rd aett or family of the futhorc share the names of the deities of the Ancient Hyms. Namely, Mannus and Ingui.

runesymbol

Now, I am certainly not the first person to have made this observation. And this certainly fed into my desire to equate Tuisto with Tiw, as Tiw’s rune stands at the head of the 3rd aett. The notion began to fall apart however when the notion that Tuisto and Mannus were actually brothers fell into the mix and proved itself the stronger. Nevertheless, as mentioned above, Castor and Pollux were themselves known as the “Dioscuri” or “Sons of Zeus/God”, likewise were their Baltic (Latvian)  counter-parts called the “Dieva deli” or “Sons of Dieva/God” … of which Grimm’s Tiwisko (Son of Tiw/God) would represent a Proto-Germanic cognate of in the singular.

And so we find the rune of Tiw standing right where we might expect it if the theory holds water. But where then is Tuisto? I would suggest that he is to be found in the “ehwaz” stave, which means horse and stems from the same Proto-Indo-European root that gave us such other appellations for the Divine Twins as the Lithuanian “Asvieni” and the Sanskrit “Ashvins”. And so we have in the first four staves of the elder futhark the notion that Tiw (Glory father) and Birch (the fertility principle, ie. the earth, a cow, a mortal woman) gave rise to the Divine Twins as embodied in the staves for Horse and Man; even as Zeus fathered Pollux on the mortal woman Leda (and on her Pollux was made the brother of mortal Castor by the King of Sparta).

These four staves are then followed by the staves named for Water, Ingui, Day, and Homeland; which all but tell the same tale made evident in the legends of Scyld Sceafing and Merovech … of the sea bringing (Water) a divinely favoured one (Ing) who, with the wisdom of the gods (Day), went on to establish a homeland/identity for the folk (Homeland) … or, alternately, who went on to establish a homeland/identity for the folk (Homeland) and the dawning of the first day (Day).

I dunno … it all falls into place a little too conveniently to be casually dismissed.

Well, my time is burning, so I’ll have to leave the sons of  Mannus for another time; which mostly means Irmin as I’ve already dealt with Ingui here while the others brothers, Istvae included, are far too obscure for anything more than sheer speculation and passing commentary.

Be whole!

 

Germanic Belief: Homosexuality

Homosexuality has always been an “interesting” topic within the context of Germanic belief, and is somewhat topical at the moment in the wake of the Orlando massacre. Now some people want to read homosexuality into Tacitus’ “disgraceful sexual acts”, which he mentions as a capital offense in Germania. However, we don’t see this reflected in any of the later preChristian-based Law Codes, nor did it hamper the interactions of our ancestors with the Greeks or the Romans. There is of course the Old Norse word ergi … which basically meant “girly man”, a male adopting a female role, and specifically refers to a male being penetrated. In this, the indigenous Germanic attitude seems to be more along the lines of the preChristian Greek or Roman, in which the masculine homosexual was regarded as every bit a man, eg. Hercules, while the feminine was regarded as, well, a “girly man” who would probably be better received at the “woman’s table”, but who seems to have suffered nothing more than mocking … you know, depending on how manly their man was and how angry any other man might want to make him.

It seems more likely to me that what Tacitus meant by “disgraceful sexual acts” was child molestation … which I believe triggered the same revulsion in the elder as it does in us today; complete with a differentiation between the worst types of felons and the child molester. And especially considering how much the Germanic peoples interacted with Greece and Rome; where homosexuality was more or less (respectively) permissible. And especially among a culture that didn’t stray too far into what goes on behind closed doors, ie. in the private sphere; such that it even a thrall was, by social custom or thew, afforded lordship under his own roof.

Indeed, a pathological, divinely ordained hatred of homosexuality is part and parcel with Abrahamic “religions of peace”, and well represented in Judaic, Christian and Islamic belief. It took Christianity two hundred years to move beyond the confines of it’s Judaic cradle, and then another two hundred years to secure power in the Roman Empire. And this was quickly followed by the drafting of laws that made male homosexuality a crime, and a crime that was punishable by death. In contrast, while the Anglo-Saxons were converted over the course of the 7th century, Alcuin of York was nevertheless writing some “interesting” letters to his fellow male monks some 100 years later, while it was only in the wake of the bloody Norman Conquest that the Council of London explicitly and publicly denounced homosexuality as a sin. It wouldn’t be until Henry VIII’s Buggery Act of the 16th century that homosexual intercourse was made a crime … punishable by DEATH.

Personally I don’t care about homosexuality or the homosexual community. As a heterosexual, why would I??? I do however care a great deal about my friends and those who have done right by me and mine … some of whom just happen to be gay. And I am highly offended by individuals who run amok in my community or the greater community of the West and feel completely justified in mass murdering those who don’t share their (non-Western) values. Sure, I’m a HUGE believer in local and regional identities, and believe in celebrating diversity in a realistic context — succeed or fail as you will — but as the saying goes, “good fences make for good neighbours”.

So, here is to indigenous NW European values! Christians can argue over fine points of doctrine all they want, and indeed they are not the offenders in regards to recent tragedies, but if they’re tolerant of homosexuality today, it’s less a credit to their religion or politics, and more a credit to their ancestors — white, male, patriarchal ancestors — and their indigenous cultural inclinations.