Tag Archives: Frankish

The Conversion of Kent

As a person of Germanic belief, one can easily be left with the impression that the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons was, in comparison to that of our Continental or more Northernly brethren, an overnight success; as though Augustine arrived on Thanet one fine day, and by the next day everyone in the entire heptarchy fell down on their knees and proclaimed Jesus as their lord and savior.

In truth, from Willibrord’s first arrival in Frisia to the conversion of the Saxon resistance leader Widukind — which marked the official conversion of the Old Saxons and the end of the Saxon Wars — a total of 87 years had passed. Meanwhile from Augustine’s arrival on Thanet to the official conversion of Sussex by Wulfhere of Mercia a total of 83 years had passed. Even if one pushed that back to the death of King Penda of Mercia and the ascension (and quick murder) of his son and successor Peada that would still total 58 years, which is not a substantial difference. On a larger scale, the official conversion of the West Germanic peoples as a whole took 289 years (from Clovis to Widukind), while that of the North Germanic peoples or Scandinavians took somewhere in the ballpark of 200 years. Yes, things may have proceeded somewhat faster or somewhat slower here or there, but this is the gist of it all. Indeed, the conversion of the Germanic peoples, from Ulfias to Iceland took some 650 years give or take a decade.

The official conversion (which means “political” or “state” conversion) of the Germanic peoples was not a swift process among any denomination of the folk and always hinged on and/or was hedged in by  other (political and economic) factors that led to the decision. It was never purely a matter of theology, and the theology they received could hardly have been called pure. Indeed, early Protestant surveys reported entire regions of rural Germany that were given over to superstitions, as a testament to the political nature of the conversion, ie. the further from the halls of power, out on the heath for example, the less the influence. Not to give the impression of full blown, Crown-sponsored, ahem, “heathenism” surviving until such a later period (and among a folk who’s native beliefs were so violently opposed by the Church), but think rather of some kind of “Germanic Santeria” … which is Catholic, but which no self-respecting orthodox Catholic would admit as being so. Indeed, one could say this also of the more, ahem, orthodox Catholicism that has existed since the conversion of the Germanic peoples forward into the 20th century.

Here the words of Adam of Bremen in regards to the conversion of Iceland come to mind, “Although even before receiving the faith, living after a certain law of nature, they had not differed much from our own religion.

But back to the Anglo-Saxons. Let us take Kent as a case study in their conversion; as it was the first Anglo-Saxon kingdom to be Christianized, it’s conversion is the best documented, and it is often touted as having been a miraculous success.

Now, as the archaeological evidence testifies, West Kent had entered into an exclusive trade alliance with Catholic France in the early 6th century (ie. within decades of the conversion of Clovis) and this undoubtedly aided the local aetheling (royal) house, which AEthelbeorht would spring from, in fulfilling their kingly prerogative of providing prosperity to their people; which in turn enabled them to better fulfill their other kingly prerogative of defending their folk, and thus bolstered their prestige in the eyes of the men of Kent. It was against this backdrop that AEthelbeorht rose to power, wed the Franco-Catholic princess Berthe, united East and West Kent into a single kingdom, and went on to establish himself as the first in the line of “Bretwaldas”; a courtesy really that acknowledged whoever might be the most prestigious king in the heptarchy.

One cannot underrate the importance that Berthe herself played in the conversion of AEthelbeorht. Just witness the zeal which Clovis’ own wife, Clothilde, advanced Christianity to her husband. And indeed, the great value that the Germanic peoples placed on the counsels of women has been noted since as early as Caesar and Tacitus. This was quite the voice for the Church to have. And not simply within Germanic society, but within the very bed chamber of a king!

By 597 AD, Augustine had arrived in Kent, where AEthelbeorht received him with typical heathen hospitality. He was even granted freedom to preach and win converts. By 600, AEthelbeorht himself had converted. Now, the general Catholic approach to the conversion of the Germanic peoples was the policy of temporary accommodation, as expressed in a letter written by Pope Gregory to one of Augustine’s missionaries, Mellitus, where he writes,

tell him what I have long been considering in my own mind concerning the matter of the English people; to wit, that the temples of the idols in that nation ought not to be destroyed; but let the idols that are in them be destroyed; let water be consecrated and sprinkled in the said temples, let altars be erected, and relics placed there. For if those temples are well built, it is requisite that they be converted from the worship of devils to the service of the true God; that the nation, seeing that their temples are not destroyed, may remove error from their hearts, and knowing and adoring the true God, may the more freely resort to the places to which they have been accustomed. And because they are used to slaughter many oxen in sacrifice to devils, some solemnity must be given them in exchange for this, as that on the day of the dedication, or the nativities of the holy martyrs, whose relics are there deposited, they should build themselves huts of the boughs of trees about those churches which have been turned to that use from being temples, and celebrate the solemnity with religious feasting, and no more offer animals to the Devil, but kill cattle and glorify God in their feast, and return thanks to the Giver of all things for their abundance; to the end that, whilst some outward gratifications are retained, they may the more easily consent to the inward joys. For there is no doubt that it is impossible to cut off every thing at once from their rude natures; because he who endeavours to ascend to the highest place rises by degrees or steps, and not by leaps.

It is a curious fact that here in this letter the Pope explicitly tells Mellitus to not destroy the temples of the people, but in a letter from the same year, but addressed to AEthelbeorht himself, he instructs the king to,

press on with the task of extending the Christian faith among the people committed to your charge. Make their conversion your first concern; suppress the worship of idols and destroy their shrines

Now, yes, technically a temple and a shrine are not necessarily the same thing, but they’re really close. And perhaps even closer still across languages, ie. Latin to Old English. I’ll leave this one at that, save to say that a century later, during the Saxon Wars, churches were made the only place of refuge from violations of the “Capitulary for Saxony”, under which such things as heathen worship, resistance to the missionaries, free assembly, etc. were deemed a capital offense.

Now, all of the men of Kent were not quite so eager to accept Christianity as their lord had been. And so Bede relates that AEthelbeorht,

showed greater favour to believers, because they were fellow citizens of the kingdom of heaven.

You can imagine the kind of rat-race this set in motion, with every yes-man in the tribe looking to better his position, at so cheap a currency, and every wiseman, who might well have refused conversion, being forced to act anyway before the ass-kissers came into control of the tribe. It’s essentially the same dynamic within the tribe as we see play itself out on the inter-tribal level between vying kings, and as we see repeat itself in the conversion of peoples the world over.

And yet for all of the “droves upon droves” that allegedly followed Aethelbeorht into conversion, his own son, Eadbald, who succeeded his father in 616 AD, refused baptism. And so the mantle of Bretwalda fell to the convert King Raedwald of East Anglia. One might imagine this refusal also threatened Kent’s trade alliance with the Franco-Catholics, and so perhaps it is not surprising to learn that he eventually conceded to baptism … under the influence of yet another Franco-Catholic princess who became his (second) wife.

It is not until 640 AD that we find King Eorcenbeorht calling for the “destruction of idols” in Kent. And indeed, two members of the aetheling house of Kent were slain in retaliation for this act, showing that the native beliefs still had a pretty strong pulse. In fact, for all of the rights the Church was granted under AEthelbeorht’s Law Code, it is not until the Laws of Wihtraed in 695 that “the worship of devils” was put on the books as a legally punishable offense.

And so here we are, some 98 years after the landing of Augustine on Thanet, and while we can clearly see that Christianity had by this time gained a position of socio-political dominance, it is equally evident that heathenism was still at work and a force to be dealt with. Afterall, you don’t draft laws prohibiting people from doing things they’re not doing. So we can plainly see that this was hardly a swift and sure conversion. And we can only wonder how the conversion might have progressed in Mercia with the death of Penda and the murder of Peada.

One of the biggest differences between the history of the conversion of Anglo-Saxon England, as opposed to the conversion of our Continental and Scandinavian brethren is detail; particularly in contrast to the Heimskringla, which furnishes with some pretty grim  and graphic scenes in which the heathen folk, at times named folk, of those lands met their death for refusing to convert. In contrast, Bede glosses over the entire affair.

And hey, we might actually have a little bit more detail today if it wasn’t for all them damned vikings raiding monasteries and destroying books. But believe you me, the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons was neither swift nor easy … not that there is any glory in determining who was the bigger “victim” of course. Just that our folk, any denomination of them, have never been known (outside of modern times, maybe) to simply curl up and die. The Anglo-Saxons were no one’s push-over.

Be whole!

 

 

Some random thoughts on modern Germanic belief…

I have heard on many occasions over the decades about how this or that person “knows the lore”. This statement is of course a lot like saying I “have money”. Well, okay, but as compared to what? It’s a relative quantity. I personally can say that I “have money”, but in comparison to many others — and money management aside — the amount that I have isn’t all that impressive. I would never say that “I have money” in any kind of boastful manner, or imagine that I could speak to it’s accumulation better than someone who makes, for example, twice as much as I do. I am certainly not the man you should be talking to if you want to make money.

Be that as it may, the same holds true for the lore. Everyone knows some lore, but if one has never gotten beyond things like the myths and sagas, maybe Germania, and maybe even have a very limited conception of what “the lore” is, well, then much like me and money, no one should ever go to them in search of knowledge of the customs and beliefs of their ancestors.

Now, it seems a no-brainer to me that knowledge of who our preChristian ancestors were and what they believed and practiced is more pertinent in reclaiming one’s indigenous heritage then how much money one makes. There are a lot of people in the world who are very strong, peerless even, in various areas, but they are not Germanic Heathen by that virtue alone. No. Like anything else, the successful achievement of a profound level of lore knowledge requires similar qualities and sacrifices as any other pursuit where the pursuit is excellence in the endeavor. Like anything, one gets out what one puts in. And those who put a lot in to the pursuit of the lore, get a lot more out of it than those who don’t.

We all know this is true in regards to virtually anything else. It’s foolish to imagine that it is any different with lore. All else being equal, those who put the most effort into learning and understanding the old ways are simply going to have a better understanding of the ancestral ways. And for the same reason that someone who puts the most effort into making money is going to make more money or a person who puts the most effort into conditioning themselves are going to be better conditioned, as opposed to those who half ass it and make excuses and are unable to see beyond the tip of their nose.

Certainly, there is a lot more to being a Heathen than lore knowledge, as the lore itself indicates in very clear terms. Indeed, in terms of the spread of lore knowledge for example, lacking other qualities such as diplomacy/presentation can be HUGE detriment to anyone wanting to even look in the direction of the lore. But lacking the identity found within the lore, one might be a lot of things — things that might even be a clear boon to Heathenry “if only” — but what one is not should be fairly evident.

Bill Gates for example is not a Germanic Heathen. And if he declared himself one tomorrow, his thoughts and opinions on indigenous Germanic identity are inevitably going to be less than stellar … though who knows, if you could get him “on track” he could indeed prove to be the most stellar heathen ever in terms of both knowledge and accomplishment, and as a result of what he was and the things he learned before he ever heard of Heathenry or considered adopting it’s identity.

But here we would certainly be prudent in asking ourselves if EVERYONE who would be Heathen needs the same degree of lore mastery as those who stand at the pinnacle of the pursuit? And for the record, speaking as someone who has been a Germanic Heathen for over 3 decades, and devoted no small amount of time to lore studies, the “pinnacle” is not a place I’d put myself at. In fact, there is a stage of lore knowledge, laying just beyond a gulf of general ignorance, that one begins to see various “areas of specialization”; in the face of which no man can hope to be an island unto himself. A community is necessary. No. While it would certainly be great if everyone was a loremaster, such is simply unrealistic, past or present, and really the prerequisite for being Heathen is simply participation. Yes. Basically, at a bare minimum, one simply just has to “show up” … with the caveat that those who just “show up” have the self-awareness and respect to button the mouth on lore topics and open the ears; or perhaps better said, to speak from whatever position of strength and accomplishment they might actually have as opposed to from positions of ignorance or half-knowledge.

Believe you me, I know very well what a bunch of ass-hats some very lore-wise people can be. They are a detriment to their own cause, in a manner that the blithely ignorant could never be. And I tell ya, there is nothing more disheartening than to come across a person or group of people who have SO much to offer in terms of knowledge and insight into the old ways, but who seem equally determined to alienate the very audience they damn well know would benefit the most from that knowledge.

The only thing more disheartening than to encounter this, is the realization that you yourself might be lumped in with them by said audience.

What it really comes down to is that you can’t fix stupid. You can swear at it, you can hit it, you can shake your fists and stomp your feet, but all you’re doing is lowering yourself and demonstrating a certain lack of intelligence yourself … to the masses of potentially ignorant, but not at all stupid.    

You can of course fix ignorance. And indeed, it’s not always pretty … the story of the tiger raised among sheep, afterall. Sometimes you have to break a few eggs. Sometimes you have to rub someone’s nose in it. You can’t always be nice, no doubt about it. But where that becomes your default M.O. and the basis of what amounts to your P.R. campaign … well, pathetic. Shamefully so.

But you know, like I said, you can’t fix stupid.

And not to be unfair, I know very well what a bunch of ass-hats many people who are not at all as lore-wise as they imagine can be. As ever, extreme begets extreme; which is to say that lore-wise ass-hats were predictable to anyone with any historical perspective of modern heathenry at all. It is a reaction. But all finger pointing and politicking aside, what it really comes down to is this … I personally am not going to chop my “horse’s” legs off, or otherwise neglect or devalue them, because some ass-hat, who imagines that only a horse’s legs have any value, pissed me off.

I have no use for a “legless horse”. Only the whole “horse” will do. I would trust that others would be equally sensible as they navigate the politics of modern Germanic Heathenry.

 

 

Frankish origins and the Merovingians

While it would be as foolish to attribute a Germanic origin to the modern French language and culture as it would to attribute the same to modern Spain or Italy, ie. the Goths, it is nevertheless a glaringly evident fact that it is after the Germanic tribes collectively known as the Franks that the modern Frenchman references both himself and his language.

Like all of the Germanic peoples, the roots of those tribes that would grow into the Franks extends back to the seashores of southern Scandinavia, the culture of the Nordic Bronze Age, and the Proto-Germanic language. As we first find them on the stage of (Graeco-Roman) history though — following the period of Germanic migration that marked the beginnings of the European Iron Age, and carried Germanic culture to the area of what is now Germany — the Frankish tribes were settled in the region of the Lower and Middle Rhine River.

Frankish_homeland

In the 1st century, the Roman historian Tacitus mentioned the “Ancient Hymns” of the Germanic peoples, which celebrated their divine origins as a people from the god Mannus (Man, Human; cognate to the Indic Manu), and grouped the greater Germanic peoples into three branches; only two of which we need concern ourselves with. Each of these branches was named for one of the exceptional sons of Mannus. Thus, those tribes that lived along the seashore were called Ingvaeones after the man-god Ingui (Old Norse – Yngvi, aka. FreyR), while those that occupied the interior were called Irminones after the man-god Irmin (Old Norse – Jormun, aka. Odhinn).

The Franks themselves included two such tribes; the Ingvaeonic Salians at the Rhine delta and the Irminonic Ruparians who lived to the east of the Salii along the Rhine. They spoke Old Franconian, or some local variation of, itself a West Germanic tongue, and the ancestor of, not Modern French by any means, but the modern Franconian languages.

It was the aetheling (royal) house of the Salians, the Merovingians, that the Franks were at last united under. And the myth of the birth of Merovech, who gave his name to the line, shows off their Ingvaeonic origins quite tellingly. It relates of how a Salian Queen, the wife of King Chlodio, was sitting on the seashore one day, when a great bull emerged from the surf and engendered Merovech on her. This legend differs only in the aesthetic details to the founding of the Scylding house of Denmark by Scyld Sceafing; who was found as a baby in a shield-boat that had been set adrift in the sea, but in either case the new king is for all intents and purposes “born of the sea”; not unlike Ing himself in the Old English Rune Poem! In the Old English poem Beowulf, the Danes were called the “friends of Ingui”, while Ingui’s enduring link to kingship can be gleaned in the genealogy of the Anglo-Saxon kings of Bernicia and most poignantly in the old aetheling house of Sweden, who were called the Ynglings (Offspring of Ingui) in explicit reference to Yngvi-FreyR (see the Ynglinga saga of the Heimskringla).

 Ithyphallic artifact found at Arras in Northern France, dating from the 4th century CE. Consiste with other NW European images associated with Ingui worship from as early Adam of Breman.

Ithyphallic artifact found at Arras in Northern France, dating from the 4th century CE. Consistent with other NW European images associated with Ingui worship from as early Adam of Breman.

I believe it was Gregory of Tours (or Einhard???) who mocked the Merovingian custom of travelling to the annual assembly in a wagon drawn by two cows. But what Gregory took to be a peasant mode of travel does in fact have it’s roots in the wagon processions of Ingui and “Nerthus” — if indeed they are different deities; which is doubtful — in which an image of the god was carried “throughout the land” in a cow drawn wagon for the sake bringing peace and prosperity to the folk. Far from travelling like peasants, the Merovingians traveled like gods!

Germanic Belief: The Racial Question

The issue of “race” has been a hot topic within the modern Germanic Heathen “community” since as long as I’ve been aware of it, ie. from 1989 to present. In fact, when the original AFA went belly up, it’s former membership factionalized into two camps; those who believed that Germanic Belief, or Asatru as they are more prone to call it, is the religion of the Germanic peoples as an exclusive matter, ie. no non-Germanics, and those who considered it to be open to anyone regardless of ancestry. These are what have customarily become known as the Folkish and the Universalist camps, respectively.

So where do I stand on all of this? Well, I don’t choose either side. And I refuse to be labelled a fence-sitter. I stand in an altogether different paradigm it would seem; a Germanic cultural paradigm as opposed to a Western cultural paradigm.

The way I see it is really simple; if you have ancestry that runs back to the Germanic peoples then you have a blood right to your cultural heritage. A person shouldn’t feel the need to ask anyone’s permission or seek anyone’s approval. It’s a fact of birth and ancestry. Even if one’s skin is otherwise brown. On the other hand, that doesn’t get one into anyone’s “club”. No one is obliged to invite another into their family or worship group simply because that other has taken up the religious aspects of their blood right. The Germanic world has never worked that way, it still doesn’t, and it has always been characteristically local in orientation; with communities reserving the right to include or exclude anyone it, as a whole, so damn chooses … and the next tribe over be damned.

Good fences make for good neighbours.

And this is one of the big problems with the Asatru community … the belief that it is a single community or religion, ie. with prevailing standards that all members must hearken too. If WW II is any indication — if not there are plenty of others!!! — we collectively “don’t like it” (to put it mildly) when someone tries to establish “prevailing standards” that all NW Europeans and their descendants must hearken too.

What I’ve said above can also be applied to those without a blood right. People can and will do what they want. I personally have neither the time nor the inclination nor the resources to go out on witch-hunts against “racists” or “Zionists” or “non-Europeans” or whatever … I’m too busy practicing my religion and always learning of my ancestors to be bothered; I’m too busy caring and setting an example of actually “loving my people” to waste my time tearing the Folk apart with politicking and the inability to mind my own. The only reason I write this piece at all is simply the need to combat bad PR.

But back on track; what is wrong with others, with non-Germanics, non-Euro-descended people thinking that our ways are so cool that they want to be part of it? There are afterall many different levels one can “interface” with Germanic belief on. The ancestral is just one of those ways. And I do concur that the ancestral dimension is what it IS, and it is something meaningful; if not in the modern ideological terms one might assume.

So, like it or not, people will do what people will do. I think that when we have a “community” that well-nigh roundly exclaims that only weaklings kneel, even before a god, while from the Bronze Age forward we have CLEAR evidence that the Germanic peoples knelt in both worship and fealty, that we have more pressing concerns than who is having who over to a house one never visits anyway. Worship group A is exclusively white? Well, if you’re not don’t expect much from them! Worship group B is “all inclusive”? Again, if you were looking to be “among your own”, that would be the wrong place to look.

This is not rocket science. A monkey could figure it out.

If I hope to accomplish anything in writing this babbling non-sense on a subject so incredibly worthy of just that, babbling non-sense, it is less to deflate the entire “racial issue” and more to bring the idea of heritage home to the reader. It is yours. And what you make of it, or allow others to make out of it for you, will be the legacy you leave for your descendants.

And if it’s not yours, but you think it’s cool or whatever? Well, while I’ve never been confronted by a non-Euro-descended person being interested in worshiping Germanic style with me and mine, I think it’s cool that others think our heritage is cool. Thus, whether or not I personally would be comfortable with worshiping alongside a non-Euro-descended person — or ANY random person no matter their ethnic background — tolerating and understanding it among others is effortless.

Myth vs. Culture: Ragnarok

The existence of what is popularly regarded as the, ahem, “Germanic Heaven”, namely Valhalla (Hall of the Slain), is intimately linked in the late Norse-Icelandic Eddas to the great cosmological event of “Ragnarok” (the Dimming of the Gods); in which, as the story goes, the enemies of the Tivar — the shining ones, gods, heroes, sages; cognate to Sanskrit Deva, related to the Latin divus and hence Modern English divine, deity, etc. —  whelm against the divine order, overthrow it and destroy the gods themselves in one last epic battle.

It is a thing peculiar to Germanic myth … the notion that the gods die. Mind you, we are not really talking about *Germanic* myth. Very little of our native mythology/s survives … though Germanic myth most certainly does exist outside of the Eddas. And this is what we ARE talking about regarding the Ragnarok myth, and most specifically of the notion that our gods are mortal; the Norse-Icelandic Eddas, which are themselves representative of one branch of late Viking Age North Germanic culture … born out of the very age in which our native beliefs were under assault by the Church and coming to the end of (that phase of) their historical existence. It betrays a deep pessimism, specifically regarding the nature of the divine, that is uncharacteristic of Indo-European culture in general, and general attitudes found within the elder Germanic culture in specific.

As early as Cornelius Tacitus (1st century C.E.) we read, “The Germans, however, do not consider it consistent with the grandeur of celestial beings to confine the gods within walls, or to liken them to the form of any human countenance. They consecrate woods and groves, and they apply the names of deities to the abstraction which they see only in spiritual worship.” (Germania)

While we have due cause to take the observations Tacitus recorded in his Germania with a dose of salt, we would be foolish to dismiss them all together. In the above Tacitus relates in clear terms the fundamental Germanic view of the divine, as express in the Old English word wih (Old Norse – ve, Gothic – weihs), which stems from a root meaning “separate, set apart”. In it’s various forms, the ancestors used it to denote the altar, sacred idols, the hallowing power of the gods, and even the nature of the gods themselves.

As a reference to the (fundamental) nature of the divine, the word wih denotes that they are something beyond human categories and thought and conception … as ineffable to us as our own human nature is to our canine companions. Rudolph Otto’s terms “numinous” and most especially “mysterium tremendum et fascinans” (the great/humbling yet fascinating mystery (of the divine)) strike right to the heart of the sense of wih.

And so, in a culture where it was believed that once you stripped the layers of culture away from a god, you encountered a being that was “wholly other”, by what pretension could a mortal human determine such a being’s fate, ie. it dies at Ragnarok?

Indeed, the most damning evidence of Germanic “ignorance” (honesty?) regarding the fate of the gods, is found within the Ragnarok myth itself, in the opening act of which the Bifrost Bridge, that links Heaven and Earth, God and Man, is destroyed. And of course, with the destruction of that link, all of the cultural forms of the gods, deprived of their “wih-essence” begin to wither and droop, to dim in the minds of men, until they have been emptied of the very force of divine awe that originally inspired them. And while this is indeed a fairly accurate description of what has happened in the history of Germanicism, it is indeed the heights of hubris to make any assumptions about the fate of the Vear themselves; which, really, is tantamount to losing one’s connection on a phone call and then declaring that whoever was on the other end must, as a result, be dead!

This is where we get into that other pan-Germanic quality of divinity; namely holiness … which is a word that is firmly rooted in the Germanic languages, and is even found in tandem with the word wih … for all that they are dichotomous in meaning. In fact, holiness (whole, healthy, integrated) is the temporal product of wih. In the context that I am using it here, it is that part of the gods that has “come down” to exist in a relationship with us and find expression in human culture and our beliefs regarding the nature of the divine. Remember, the Tremendous Mystery is not only terrifying, but also irresistibly fascinating, and thus inevitably prone to expression within culture. Hence, the divine origins of culture itself.

Here one might note the early Germanic idols that Tacitus reported didn’t exist, but which archaeology has indeed found evidence of; they are indeed not rendered in any kind of sharply human likeness after the manner of the Graeco-Romans, and not for a lack of technical skill in wood-carving. Such figures, where bogs have wondrously preserved them, are always at best only vaguely human, and deal more in accentuating natural detail in the medium rather than imposing detail upon it. Wih-holy.

braakidols

If any part of the divine is subject to destruction it is this “holy aspect”, the human aspect. But that much and no more. The Vear shall always remain, to re-assert and express themselves within the manifold forms of human culture, time and again, eternally … which I suppose is the ultimate message of the Ragnarok myth itself with it’s “generation of new gods”; though I would imagine that Hinduism has a more accurate notion of how that all works, with it’s eternal cosmological cycle of coming into being/going out of being with an Indra, et al. present and accounted for in each cycle.

And so, it seems pretty plain to me that whatever the true value of the Ragnarok myth, this notion of the “death of the gods” simply doesn’t stand up and is next to entirely unsupportable within the context of Germanic culture; though admittedly there is room for discussion on fine points (eg. wih vs. halig).

It should always be remembered that the myths of old arose within a certain cultural paradigm that informed the meaning of those myths. They cannot be studied in exclusion to the culture they existed in without losing their native value as an expression of that culture. And ultimately, culture has far more to teach us about the worldview and ways of worship of our Germanic ancestors than does myth … which, taken at face value, is just “old stories”.

The “Germanic Heaven”

It is often said by those not “in the know” — and indeed even among some who should know better — that Valhalla is the “Germanic Heaven”.  And this is usually accompanied by a belief that all one has to do is die in a fight, in “battle”, to get there.

In fact, the term Heaven is a word firmly rooted in the Germanic languages, stemming from the Anglo-Saxon heofen and cognate to the Old Norse himin, with various other cognates in the various Germanic languages all stemming from a proto-Germanic root, ie. it’s NOT a borrowing from Latin or Greek or Aramaic or Hebrew, or any other language. Some scholars have said that the word “merely” indicated the sky, but indeed in the Anglo-Saxon poetry we find such deific titles as “Heaven’s Warder”, while in the later Norse-Icelandic Eddas we find, not only Himinbjorg (Heavens Mountain) as the name of the hall of the deity Heimdall, but the term is also used by Snorri Sturluson (writer of the Prose Edda) to describe levels of what is more commonly known as Esegeard (Asgard, yard of the Ese= Gods) or Godheim (Home of the Gods), ie. the deific realms.

So, there really is no need to qualify the term Heaven with the term Germanic, as though they are things foreign to one another. The Germanic folk coined the term. It would thus be more appropriate, technically speaking, to speak of “Christian Heaven”, as the Germanic is implicit in the word.

In the Eddas, Esegeard (ON. AsgardhR) is the “kingdom” in which Valhalla stands. But there is also a Valaskjalf, which carries essentially the same meaning as Valhalla, and also the hall of the goddess Freo (ON. Freyja), who is said to share half of the battle-slain with Woden (ON. Odhinn). Moreover, there are also the many other halls of the many other Tivar (deities), to be found in Esegeard. And in fact, in one of the Eddaic poems, Woden (in disguise as Harbard) mocks Thunor (ON. ThorR) from across a great river, stating that he receives thralls in his hall, whereas Woden receives warrior-princes. A dubious comment to be sure, but here we are told outright by the Lord of Valhalla Himself that other deities receive the so-called “straw-dead”, ie. not slain in battle/ritual sacrifice, into their halls. And indeed, we also know from the Eddas that one of Frige’s (ON. Frigg) handmaidens receives the souls of young children that have died.

So, it is a moot point that Heaven, by preChristian Germanic belief, wasn’t merely reserved for warriors that had died in battle. It wasn’t SO exclusive on the one hand, or so indiscriminate on the other.

In fact, as we read elsewhere in the Eddas, troops of dead warriors can also be found engaged in “eternal struggle” on the fields of Hell, among the “straw-dead”.

So, not all warriors that died in battle go to Heaven. And chances are that not all thralls go to Heaven either. Children are of course children and are not governed by the same rules as adults.

So what was the diff between this or that warrior, or this or that thrall?

Here we go back to the term Heaven and it’s direct association with the sky, and particularly with the radiance of the heavens; namely, the stars. Much like our distant Indo-European brethren, the Greeks, our ancestors had an “astrological mythology” — or so the surviving lore and general I-E cultural reflex hints — in which the various stars and heavenly bodies had deep associations with figures from our myths and history, eg. Fjolnir’s Pledge, Andvarii’s Toe, Iring’s Way. Going to Heaven quite literally means to ascend into “the sky” to become a “star” alongside the deities and heroes of one’s people; one becomes a legend. Hence the term Tivar, which stems from the same root that gave us the god-name Tiw/Tyr and the generic name for deity in Old Norse, and which means “gods, heroes”. The same root also gave us the word for glory/splendour in Old High German (ziori), and extends back to an Indo-European root that references the heavens and their radiance adn which is bound up with the “halo” motif as found in Indo-European cultures (and adopted belief systems such as Christianity, ie. saints). The basic thought pattern and language is still with us today, frivolously though it may be, in our reference to various well known personalities as “stars”.

So, moving along, it is the BEST warriors that Woden receives in Valhalla. Those that have become stars within the context of war. Given Thunor’s love of hard-work and feats of strength and constitution, it is the BEST thralls that Thunor receives in his hall on the “Field of Strength”. And so on with the other Tivar, each according to their own interests and inclinations. This is what the Heavens are ALL about, the home of the best, and those who best embodied our ideals about various things, be they warriors-kings or thralls … even livestock or tools, eg. swords.

Only the best.

Of course, contrary to popular pretensions, not everyone gets to be a star, who, like the Rune Poem states, will continue to shine on through even the darkest and most obscure of “nights” to inspire us to be the best we can be.

It should be borne in mind of course that even as “life on the farm” might seem like a fate worse than death to some high-energy warrior-aristocrat — which is muchly the perspective we’re getting in the surviving lore — the wise know that rulers and their servants are among the least free of all the folk. Work, work, work, and always for the interests of others, never one’s own interests. Heaven is a busy place (or so I would assume), and chances are that while most of us would love to visit there, few would like to spend eternity there. And indeed, while painted as dreary here and there in the lore, the abode/s of the “straw-dead” is much like “life on the farm”. It’s described as being quite “ordinary” or “homely”, and certainly Hell — which is as firmly rooted in the Germanic tongues as Heaven, no matter how many L’s you use — is not what Christianity has since made it over into.  It’s simply where the ancestors go, the halls of the ancestors, the grave mound. No more, no less. And undoubtedly more than just slightly appealing to most of us, as that is where our friends and kin shall be.

There is of course a place of “punishment” in Germanic belief … called Wyrmsele among the Anglo-Saxons and Wyrmgarten among the Germans. In the Eddas it is called Nastrond, but described in terms consistent with the English and German terms … as a hall standing far from the sun, and made up of poisonous wyrms all writhing and twisted together, who spray their burning venom over all of the oath-breakers and cowards within.

The topic of Germanic afterlife beliefs is actually quite complex, and encompasses shades of “reincarnation”, but the jist of the notions we retain today of an immortal soul and an otherworldly afterlife were always present in Germanic belief and other forms of Indo-European belief. Biblically, there is no Heaven or Hell, save as these words were used to gloss other more Semitic terms … which is where the Bible, et al. comes from. Biblically, there is the Day of Resurrection and Judgement, and then either destruction in a lake of fire, dubbed Gehenna, or eternal life in a recreated Eden, ie. earthly paradise.

In the end, afterlife beliefs, particularly the belief in Heaven, are more for the living than the dead. Unlike Christianity our indigenous beliefs were less concerned about where one ends up and more concerned about what one leaves behind. As the Havamal puts it, “Cattle die, kinsmen die, and so shall you yourself. But I know one thing that never dies … the good repute of each man dead.”

Introduction

Hi,

Welcome to my blog, and thanks for dropping by! My name is Jamey, I’m 42 years old, of mixed Slavo-Germanic descent (with an accent on English), and I have been a, ahem, “practicing Germanic Heathen” for some 30 years now. I like to think that I started this blog as a general sounding board for whatever might happen to cross my mind at any given point on any given day, but the reality is that when it comes to writing, I am usually inspired by things Germanic. As a result, one is assured to find that most of my musings shall concern things Germanic.

What is this “Germanic” I speak of? Indeed, what is this “Germanic Heathen” stuff all about? Well, to start, the word Germanic does not refer exclusively to the people of Germany, but rather to a broad cultural-linguistic group that includes, yes, the Germans, but also the English, the Dutch, Austrians, and the various peoples of the Scandinavias. In their early migrations they have also left their mark, to various degrees both culturally and ethnically, on the people France (who take their name from the Germanic tribes once known collectively as the Franks), Spain and Italy (the Goths), and of course on folk of Ireland and Scotland (Scandinavians). All of those tribes once spoke a common language, that has since diversified into the “Germanic” language group, and share a common history extending back to the shores of southern Scandinavia and into the homogeneous depths of “Nordic Bronze Age”. From their own even more ancient “Proto-Indo-European” origins the Germanic peoples evolved, not simply their own worldview, but their own religious beliefs and practices; as reflected most evidently in our rich “spiritual vocabulary”.

And this of course is where the “Heathen” comes in; denoting the worship of the indigenous deities of the Germanic peoples … something that today is best known as Asatru. I personally do not call myself Asatru, and tend to dislike even the term Heathen; seeming to focus too much on the deities and too little on the actual culture and worldview that these beliefs evolved within. Hence, for me, simply Germanic will (often) do, and I’ll explain from there … explanation being unavoidable in any case.

Well, as I can … and shall most certainly … ramble on about all of this and more in posts to come, I’ll tie this intro off and leave things at that for the time being.