Tag Archives: Germanic

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

 

 

 

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.

On adversity, loss, and the process of excellence

As first stated in the Eddic poem Lokasenna and later reflected in Snorri Sturlusson’s Prose Edda, “Tyr is no peace-maker”.

Some take this as a negative assertion within the context of Tiw’s (ON. Tyr’s) association with the Thing (legal assembly). And yet, as with war (Tiw’s other popular association), law is fundamentally dualistic and adversarial, with an offender and an offended, each arguing their own case against the other, and ultimately with a winner and a loser.

And true enough, nobody likes losing. Nor should they.

Nevertheless, up until the advent of Christianity in the North, the Thing proved that, whatever lingering resentment might have existed in the hearts of the losers of court-cases, it certainly served the collective peace of the community; even if accuser and/or accused still harboured resentments on an individual level. Moreover, Tiw’s specific role within the context of the Thing was as “divine judge” invoked exclusively in regards to punishments carried out by the state (ie. flogging, imprisonment, execution). And while I’m sure this left the accused quite unhappy, it again served the common weal of the community.

Finally, in the greater scheme of Germanic law, society and divinity, there certainly were deities who were able to weave peace between men, such as Fosite (Forseti) from who’s court all disputing parties came away reconciled, while in the Lokasenna Tiw Himself praises Ingui-Frea, the god of frith (peace), as the BEST among the gathered host of gods.

I suppose some people simply can not see the forest through the trees, the whole for the many parts that comprise it. But forsooth, who can deny the adversarial nature of law? The spirit of mediation in law? The spirit of judgement in law? These things are not exclusive to each other, and all exist side-by-side even within the context of modern law.

It might also be noted that not everyone came away from a dispute settled at Thing with a grudge; as the historical success of the Thing again testifies to. It could have no general success over time without specific successes that both parties involved came to terms with and so left the matter settled. As Tacitus remarked,

“It is a duty among them to adopt the feuds as well as the friendships of a father or a kinsman. These feuds are not implacable; even homicide is expiated by the payment of a certain number of cattle and of sheep, and the satisfaction is accepted by the entire family, greatly to the advantage of the state, since feuds are dangerous in proportion to the people’s freedom.”

But no, it is a truth … Tiw is no peace-maker. Tiw is an glory-maker. An excellence-maker. And adversity is a prime ingredient in the cultivation of excellence. And so is loss … showing us where our weakness lay and so where we need to make improvements if we are to better ourselves, ie. continue to strive for excellence.

This quest for excellence applies universally to all endeavors. As much, as Sturlusson asserts in his Edda, to the hero as to the sage, and far beyond, ie. to the craftsman, to the herdsman, etc. to encompass the great diversity of glory that is the essence of the Heavenly realm.

And so, while no one likes losing, a competitors culture reacts very differently to a loss. For starters, it acknowledges loss, owns the loss, and has come to terms with the loss. And after a certain point in one’s upbringing, if one has lived any sort of competitive lifestyle, indeed if one has lived any sort of life (eg. break-ups, death of family/friends, etc.), the last thing that loss should be is crushing.

If one is striving, if one is reaching, if one isn’t afraid to play the role of “small fish in big pond” and challenge one’s self, to realize in the true Olympian spirit that the only possibility for glory is to be found in the strength of your adversity, then sooner or later, you shall have your ticket punched. And that is not a crushing experience, but rather something to be taken in stride as par for the course and as testament to one’s sense of competition and desire for self-betterment. 

Do not cringe at the prospect of a loss. Rather, accept no competition that does not offer that prospect (unless they insist of  course). And do not dwell on a single loss as definitive, much less blame the winner, as all losers do. Rather, take control of the only thing you can control, the only thing that will actually better your situation — yourself. Embrace the suck, let the loss drive you forward, learn from it, and improve your game, as all champions have done.

“All the Einheriar fight in Odin’s courts every day; they choose the slain and ride from battle; then they sit more at peace together.” — Vafthrudhnismal, Poetic Edda

Heritage, the Swastika and Vilification

swastika

An Anglo-Saxon grave urn. The swastika was, next to the Tir rune, the most common symbol to be found on grave urns.

It would seem that the LARPers of British Columbia Heathenry are up to, well, their same old LARPing. I read a blog posting from their current headman, John Mainer, today that seemed to be in regards to the use of runic symbols on the sweaters of the Norwegian Olympic team and the vocal denunciation of their use as “hate symbols used by the Nazis”. In his blog entry Mainer took what at first appeared to be an admirable stance in defending Norway’s use of the runes. Unfortunately, it all quickly devolved into an entry on “racists” and how the swastika most certainly is a symbol of hate.

“Yes, some racists will continue to try to steal the glory and worth of the symbol for their own perverted uses, but it is clear they are trying to pervert something they don’t own. The runes are a part of our heritage. The Swastika is different. We lost that one.” — John Mainer, Swastika and Runes; Heritage or Hate

Let’s forget for a moment that this was written by a man who has explicitly stated, regarding an ancestral belief system, that he doesn’t care what the ancestors believed and is happy to selectively use the lore of Germanic belief as a rhetorical veneer to advance his own personal and political beliefs. The same man who falsely accused the Asatru Folk Assembly of trying to speak for all of Heathenry; when in fact AFA headman, Matt Flavel, had explicitly mentioned that his statements were organizationally specific and in reference to the AFA alone. And the same man that waged a veritable flame-war on the co-founder of the organization that he now stands as head of, the B.C. Heathen Freehold, for allegedly stealing from the organization, but when challenged on why he didn’t bring the matter up to the police, said that he didn’t want to make (B.C.) Heathenry look bad. Because apparently a year+ long flame-war all over the internet doesn’t make (B.C.) Heathenry look bad.

But yes, the swastika is lost. Because Mr. Mainer said so. And for all of Heathenry. Or you’re “racist”.

In his blog entry, Mainer states that the swastika, “… was not a major cultic symbol during the timespan our surviving lore was collected”.

In fact, the peculiar truth of the matter is that, despite the swastika being clear and present in enough early Indo-European cultures and cults (Hinduism, Buddhism, Persian, Greek, etc.) as to give the impression of Proto-Indo-European origins — and does in fact pre-date the Proto-Indo-Europeans — the only time span in which the swastika was a cultic symbol among the Germanic peoples was precisely “during the time span our surviving lore was collected”.

It’s use spanned the 3rd century AD to the Viking Age.

He goes on to state,

“It (the swastika) had been forgotten by Europe, by the turn of the last century, and it was exhumed in a most terrible way, and for a most terrible purpose.”

And to the extent that this is true, the same could be said for Germanic belief in general, and the runes in specific. And it often is said of the runes and Germanic belief. As such it might strike one as odd that Mr. Mainer wants anything to do with so “historically tainted” a belief system as Germanic belief, but of course, as already noted above, he doesn’t and, not at all unlike our glowing P.M. of Canada, is just playing at fashion and dress-up … and calling people “racists”.
As ever, these types are gifted at the art of projection, such as when Mainer writes,

“Those who are taking up the Swastika now are very much carrying on the vision of the Nazi party, and those working to “reclaim it” are either innocent dupes, or far more commonly, very cold calculating propaganda masters, with an overarching vision of transforming the identity of European descendant peoples through the conscious reshaping of national/cultural symbols and faith.”

Apparently, it is not enough for people to use the symbol in a form that is not contextually associated with the Nazi party. And so, according to Mainer, such people, rather than being, perhaps, “insistent yet sensitive” are “dupes”. Or worse yet, “calculating propaganda masters”; even though it is very clear the Mainer and his ilk are the only one’s possessed of “… an overarching vision of transforming the identity of European descendant peoples through the conscious reshaping of national/cultural symbols and faith.”

Nothing could be more apparent.

The swastika is still openly and proudly displayed on Buddhist temples throughout the Orient today. Even here in downtown Victoria, they can be found “tiled” into the floors of shops. It is a symbol that is thousands of years old, within the context of which, the Nazis are barely even a blip on the historical radar. There are those among us however who, for some perverse reason, would like to see that blip turned into a line that extends down through time and into future generations. Oddly, these perverse people are not neo-Nazis, but rather people who claim Asatru as their own; understanding of course that anyone can make a claim.

Personally, when I took up the proverbial relics of the gods, lost on Idavoll over the course of our historic Ragnarok, I took up all of my heritage — no, I haven’t performed a human sacrifice … yet 😉 — and not merely those aspects of it that meet with the approval of the politically correct thought police.

“(Memorial) Stones seldom stand by the road, unless raised by kin for kin.”
— the Havamal

Musings on the Vanadis

freyja

It is often said of the Nordic goddess Freyja that she is a goddess of sexuality. While that might very well be the case, the notion is often carried out into the murky realm of whoredom which folk seek to rebut simply by trying to recast “bad” as “good”.  Lending to this notion of “Freyja as whore” folk will cite the Eddic lore that states that she has lain with all of the gods, her own brother included; that she is comparable to the mythic goat Heidhrun prancing about in heat, and of course the tale in which she lays with four dwarves so as to win the fabled necklace Brisingamen. Of course, the first two bits of lore come, within the stories, from the mouths of her detractors (Hyndla, Loki) and can hardly be taken at face value, while one of the Icelandic sagas, Njal’s saga I believe it was, relates how a Christian Icelander was outlawed for calling the Vanadis a whore/bitch. So, all we truly have in this regard, beyond some very questionable hearsay, is the tale of the Brisingamen, the precise nature of which we today are left largely to guess at.

My purpose however is not to disprove Freyja’s association with sexuality or, really, to wax at all academic on the matter. Rather I would simply shake up such conventionally accepted notions as surrounds the goddess and offer a perception of her that is not the product of those out to discredit and undermine her (and indeed out indigenous beliefs themselves as a whole) by an utter reluctance to see beyond the base carnal realities that all higher truth is rooted in.

It is that “higher truth” that we should be interested in.

As with all good lies, there may indeed be some kernel of truth to the words of Freyja’s detractors. Freyja may indeed have been regarded as having a strong sexual component. Rather than casting her as some two-bit mortal whore however, one might be inclined to say that she is the spirit of the passion that exists between lovers. And so that where there are lovers engaged in a “passionate embrace” there is Freyja. Following these carnal lines alone, one might say, in this regard, that highest expression of Freyja would have been more similar to Hinduisms Kama Sutra and certain Tantraic teachings rather than the “Girls Gone Wild” nonsense of the low-minded and uncultured.

Indeed, I have reason to believe that the magical art of seidhR, that is so strongly associated with Freyja, and was so “strongly opposed” by the early Church in Norway, was a cult that taught mysto-magical arts of seduction, ie. the generation of sexual energy and it’s use to manipulate the mind of other beings.

But as the spirit of sexual passion, to refer to Freyja as a whore is to misunderstand and cheapen the fundamental value of sexuality, the intense passion of lovers for one another, and to drive the very spirit of passion itself from one’s bedroom; a passion that extends well beyond the bedroom and into the higher realms of passionate devotion for one another as reflected in the supreme value the indigenous Germanic people placed on monogamy, and mythically reflected  in Freyja’s own longing for her absent lover OdhR (Mental Excitement).

But Freyja is more even than the spirit of sexuality, or even of passion in general, but also of sensuality and what my high school Western Civ. teacher would have called “the aesthetic experience”; which itself was basically a recasting of Plato’s hierarchy of thought. Freyja promotes a fine appreciation of all the better things in life, noting, indeed, relishing in their fine and subtle details, like the brush strokes of a painting, the subtle differences in taste of a fine wine, etc.

A stately connoisseur of beauty. A Lady. A Freyja.

Indeed, I would tend to think that much of Freyja-lore survived, after a fashion, and can be gleaned in Eleanor of Aquitaine and her so-called “court of love”, where the ideas of ideas of courtly love, chivalry and the troubadours were brought together; not so much as a pure expression of Eleanor’s native Germanic spirit, but as a reaction of that spirit to the increasingly rigid structure of NW European society that began with the absorption of southern European culture and the introduction of Abrahamic Christianity.

The knightly notion of the lady as muse, be it in battle, or as found re-expressed in the Renaissance, in the production of art.

The Law of Ymir

leowolf

 

“Not at all do we consider him to be a god. He was evil and all his descendants. We call them rime-thursar.” — Snorri Sturlusson, Prose Edda

By the indigenous worldview of our ancestors the present is an accumulation of interwoven *layers* that set the context of our lives, both individually and collectively (in ever expanding circles of relation out to all of humanity).

We see this in the evolution of the primal realm of Niflheim, formed by the layers upon layers of rime and frost that built up around the primal spring called Hvergelmir (Seething Cauldron), and we see this in the actions of the Great Mothers at the Divine Counsel of the Tivar in Upper-Heaven, as they “lay the layers/laws” (of Divine Judgement) into the holy spring of Wyrd. And of course we see it in the folklore and the appearance of the Little Mothers at a child’s birth who would set the baby’s “orlogR”, the “primal layer/law” or “basic context” of their life … which would of course be deeply influenced — wherever that stops short of “micro-managed” — by the “primal law” of the family, tribe, culture, etc. that they sprung from.

Layers upon (interwoven) layers. Laws upon laws. A veritable three dimensional tapestry.

This is a useful perceptual tool in approaching the “Creation myth” of the Germanic peoples as embodied in the Norse-Icelandic Eddas; that each event along the path to Creation (and forward) represents successive “laws” or “precedents” that set the context of human existence on a fundamental level.

And THE primal law of all existence is, arguably (ie. Ginnungagap), the “Law of Ymir” whose “offspring” it is said are all brutish and hostile, the very forces of hardship and adversity as inherent in nature and natural existence; to which all things, great and small, are and ever shall be subject too (to one degree of another).

There is no escape from this primal law. It is set. Indeed, if one can rely on nothing else in life, it is an undeniable fact that one can always count on hardship and adversity. It shall always be there to hurt you, to make you suffer, to kill you, and then to casually step over your broken form utterly heedless that you were ever even there to begin with.

And this is how it should be; a fact that one can most certainly argue against, in all futility, but which remains a fact nevertheless. And it remains a fact that has and shall prove itself, over and over and over again, and never show itself off as anything other than the cold, hard truth.

No malicious intentions necessary.

There are of course mitigating factors, mythologically speaking, in the form of the All-Nourisher, Audhumbla, the Tivar and of course in the the foundation of the “innangeard” or “in-group/community”. But that combination of adversity (Ymir) and nurture (Audhumbla) is what gave birth to the first of the gods, to glory, and the process of the cultivation of resilience, strength and excellence, of divinity, in which adversity is a key component. And in which adversity remains ever-present, regardless of one’s degree of strength, fortitude, and excellence.

The “Law of Ymir” remains ever in place.

Adversity is a given.

And the best life is had by the those who accept that, who look upon it as a challenge; by those who have an inkling of exactly how adverse life could potentially be without the buffer of the innangeard established by the gods and maintained by our ancestors since time immemorial. And this keen awareness also makes such people some of the most thankful.

“the hardships of the freedman mark the freedom of his condition.” — Tacitus, Germania

 

Courage and Wisdom

“There is yet another AEsir, whose name is Tyr. He is very daring and firm-minded. His counsels rule over victory in war, and so it is good for men of valour to call upon him. There is an old-saying, that he who surpasses other men and does not waver is Tyr-bold. He is also so wise, that it is said of anyone who is very smart, that he is Tyr-wise.” — Snorri Sturlusson, Prose Edda

The connection between courage and wisdom was, clearly, not lost on our ancestors … though many today are happy to attribute Tiw (ON. TyR) with great courage while over-looking the great wisdom part; for all that one only has to read the very next sentence

But it is not at all difficult to see the connection between the two … a connection made long before Aristotle was rediscovered by the West. After all, what is the essence of courage? Is it simply to face a danger? Well, that certainly is a manifestation of courage, but on a more quintessential level it is selflessness, the ability to place one’s own self aside, a trait well demonstrated by Tiw in the tale of the Fen-Wulf’s binding. One might be tempted, in terms of the cultivation of wisdom, to call it objectivity … the ability to see and judge a thing for what it inherently is rather than as one would have it be as a result of one’s own subjective hopes, fears, guilt, pride, preferences, etc., and then to act accordingly, no matter the consequences to one’s self.

There is a word for a man heading towards a war-zone that is all wrapped up in his own well-being. Coward. And how could it be otherwise? But one need not be heading towards a war-zone to demonstrate that most despised of qualities. Take the general reaction to U.S. President Trump for example, or the Left in general. All fear-based hyperbole and projection, done from within the safety of a mob.

“Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.” – Aristotle

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.

Our Story

Indigenous Germanic belief was never so sharply compartmentalized a thing as we think of today when we think of religion. Certainly, our ancestors had their notions of what might properly be thought of as religious … those things “set apart” in dedication to the gods and their worship, and which were mostly the preoccupation of the tribal priests and/or head of household … but those beliefs impacted all other aspects of their culture. Language, poetry, mead, farming practices, battle formations, social institutions, tribal land masses, etc. were all ascribed sacral origins by our ancestors. There was no sacred-profane dichotomy, but rather a “trichotomy” of the sacred (wih), the blessed community (holy), and everything else outside of that (unholy, ie. not whole, not integral to the community).

While, in the past, Christianity came to replace the theological aspects of our indigenous beliefs, it did not mark the end of our beliefs from a properly heathen point of view. Ideology does not define our folk in the same way as it does universalists. The conversion was not the end of our story. Our languages continued, our folk cultures continued, our cultural perceptions and biases continued … not only to BE impressed, but to IMPRESS itself upon Christianity … and our blood continued.

Our story has continued, as ever, to grow and evolve in accordance with our historical experience … in accordance with our native notion of law, of precedent. Our Christianized ancestors of yore, for better and for worse (but mostly for worse), laid down a new precedent … and we have laid down other precedents since … the Eddic “laying of layers” … that have enabled us “heathens” to arise again and lay down a new precedent of our own, which is itself an old one … that recognizes our sacral origins as a people and the value of who we are. But it is all our story as the offspring of NW Europe. There is no Christian history or Heathen history. There is only European history, Germanic history. Our story.