Tag Archives: Religion

Germanic Belief and Religious Tolerance

The preChristian Germanic peoples have often been characterized by historians, particularly by early Catholic historians,  “hateful of a higher religion, and so, like spoilt and envious children lashed out to destroy it”. We hear the same thing, though mostly from modern historians, about their character and regard for Imperial Roman civilization, but, while fundamentally similar, that is a matter best dealt with separately and on its own.

As for this supposed intolerance of the Germanic people for Christianity; it is best exemplified in the martyring of Sabbas and other Gothic Christians in the latter half of the 4th century AD.  According to the 5th century AD historian, Sozomenus,

“Athanaric’s men placed an idol on a cart and conducted it to the tents of those who were thought to be Christians. Suspects were ordered to worship the idol and to offer sacrifice. Those who refused were burned in their dwellings.”

That however is just a snap shot of a moment in history.

In fact, the Goths first came into contact with (Arian) Christianity in the mid-3rd century AD via their raids into the eastern Mediterranean region, from which they carried home many Christian slaves. And within the space of 100 years, the Bible had been translated into Gothic and Christianity had grown enough among the ethnic Goths to invite the serious attention of their kings and nobles.

Strange is it not? That a people supposedly so “envious” and “hateful” of a foreign faith would not only allow its presence but also its proliferation within their community. Indeed, when Athanaric’s men began their persecution of Gothic Christians a number of their non-Christian kith and kin, for better or worse, attempted to shield or otherwise hide the Christianity of their loved ones from the King’s men. Good ol’ St.Sabbas however denounced got wind of this and utterly denounced such Christians. And so went and got himself (among others) martyred.

It is worth noting that Athanaric’s distaste for Christianity was not a general phenomenon, directed against all Christians, but was directly mostly against Gothic converts. It is also worth noting Sabbas’ own willful contempt for the customs and community of the Goths. It is nothing at all unfamiliar to us from the earlier interactions of Christianity with the Roman Empire, when zealous converted went out of their way to blaspheme the state divinities in hopes of being fed to the lions and becoming a martyr for the cause. And it is also all too familiar from later interactions between the Continental Germanic tribes and Christianity; as perhaps best characterized in Willibrord’s baptism of a number of converts in the sacred spring on Fosites Island, followed by his slaughter of a number of sacred cattle for a subsequent feast. For this, Willibrord was brought before the Frisi-King, Radbod, to face capital charges for sacrilege.

Yes. Our ancestors most certainly had blasphemy and sacrilege laws. More properly, they had pious thew, they were what the Anglo-Saxons called aefast, while the law was an offender’s best hope of not being executed on the spot by an outraged mob.

Just ask Willibrord.

As for Sabbas and his ilk, they refused to partake of the sacrificial meat served up at the holy tides, which is of course tantamount to publicly rejecting the community,  refusing to take part in its spirit. He refused even just a token sign that, “despite your different beliefs, you are one of us”. The kingly hostility that he and his invoked was less a matter of a rejection of the Gothic divinities, though it was that too, and much more a rejection of the (holistic) community itself, gods and all. Basically, they proclaimed themselves to be subversives; more than happy to profit from their position among the Goths, but utterly reluctant to embrace that community and take part in it’s sacral identity.

Centuries later in the Viking Age, King Hakon the Good of Norway would find himself in a similar predicament when presented with the sacral mead at one of the holy tides; which caused a lot of concern among the gathered. He found a way around this Christian inspired reluctance by making the sign of the cross over the draught before taking it, while his confidants explained that he made the sign of the hammer over it.

This saved the king from an ordeal not entirely unlike that of wretched Sabbas, and born of much the same reasons.

Nevertheless, from Clovis of Frankland to AEthelbeorht of Kent to Penda of Mercia to Angantyr (Ongendus) of Denmark to Radbod of Frisia, we see time and time and time again Heathen kings receiving Christian missionaries with a right good will; extending protection to them, provisioning them, giving them the freedom to preach and win converts, sending them off with noble youths to be educated in the foreign beliefs, and treating them about as well as anyone could honestly ever hope or expect to be treated.

Not all of these kings ended up converting. And forsooth, not all of them remained at all friendly to Christianity; as one might expect when you extend every hospitality to a guest who then goes on to repay you by “destroying your house”, but, while Germanic ethics are not at all above “putting one’s best foot forward”, they ultimately hinge on reciprocity.

In fact, it was never the Germanic peoples who had any baleful preconceived notions about Christians or had any kind of special, or even common, hatred for them, or any other religion or culture. History itself utterly refutes such an absurd suggestion. And one need not look very far to discover where the inherent contempt for foreign beliefs comes from. It is clear and evident in historical Christianity. Not so much in our regard for outsiders, their culture and belief, save in reactionary retaliation for assaults on the heart and soul of our people, and the integrity of our community.


“(King) Raedwald (of East Anglia) was long ago made acquainted, in Kent, with the sacraments of the Christian faith, but in vain; for on his return home, he was perverted by his wife, and certain perverse teachers, and having been turned aside from the sincerity of the faith, his last state became worse than his first, so that, after the manner of the Samaritans of old, he seemed both to serve Christ and the gods which he before served: and in the same temple had both an altar for the sacrifice of Christ, and a small altar for the victims offered to demons.”

— Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation

“King Penda himself did not forbid the preaching of the Faith to any even of his own Mercians who wished to listen; but he hated and despised any whom he knew to be insincere in their practice of Christianity once they had accepted it, and said that any who despised the commandments of the God in whom they professed to believe were themselves despicable wretches.”

— Bede, the Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation

“Early in spring King Olaf went eastwards to Konungahella to the meeting with Queen Sigrid (of Sweden); and when they met the business was considered about which the winter before they had held communication, namely, their marriage; and the business seemed likely to be concluded. But when Olaf insisted that Sigrid should let herself be baptized, she answered thus: — “I must not part from the faith which I have held, and my forefathers before me; and, on the other hand, I shall make no objection to your believing in the god that pleases you best.” Then King Olaf was enraged, and answered in a passion, “Why should I care to have thee, an old faded woman, and a heathen bitch?” and therewith struck her in the face with his glove which he held in his hands, rose up, and they parted. Sigrid said,”This may some day be thy death.””

— Snorri Sturlusson, Heimskringla


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).



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,


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.


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


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


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.


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!





Musings on Tiw and the Skyfather

In Sanskrit we have Dyauspitar, in Latin Jupiter (Iupiter), and in Greek Zeus Pater. These names literally translate as “Skyfather” (dyaus = sky, pitar = father).

The piter element does not appear in relation to the Gothic Tius, the Old English Tiw/Tiu/Tig, the Old High German Ziu/Zio, or the Old Norse Tyr. Nor does it appear in relation to the Baltic Deivas.

While the Greeks often used the name Zeus apart from the piter element, when the name Dyaus appears alone in Sanskrit it is often taken to reference the material heavens/sky rather than the divine being. Similarly, while Zeus stood alone as a deific name, he was not sharply identified with the material sky — which was more sharply identified with his grandfather Uranus, the Titan’s sibling Hyperion, and their own father, Aether — but rather as the “King of Heaven” and those things that reside in it (gods, heroes); and as such, figuratively speaking, as “the Father of the Olympians”, who were in fact his brothers and sisters. Indeed, contrary to his name, the mythic portrayal of Zeus, his deeds and his attributes correspond much more closely to those of Indra — as well as Parjanya, Perun, etc. — including in his ancient associations with the “thunderous bull” (and the labrys), than they do to Dyauspitar, this latter of whom enjoyed only a slight and perhaps even inferred association with the Vedic “red bull whose bellowing is the thunder”, and who himself corresponds more closely to the Greek Uranus, and perhaps the Baltic Deivas.

In the Germanic context, Zeus most closely resembles, not his (near) namesake, Tiw, but rather Thunor (Old Norse – Thor, Old High German – Donar; no known Gothic); who was indeed ultimately (but not initially, ie. Tacitus) identified with the Roman Jupiter and whose image stood between and above that of both Ingui and Woden in the great Viking Age temple at Uppsala in Ingvaeonic Sweden.

Given the weak association of the Baltic Deivas and the Sanskrit Dyauspitar with “thunder”, with storm and weather, and given the evidence of the existence of a P.I.E. “Weather-God” as evidenced in Parjanya, Perun, etc., we might assume that “meteorological phenomenon” were never part of the Skyfather’s original portfolio to (ahem) “begin with”. We might assume that he was more associated with the “dome of heaven” or “upper-heaven”, and its related features, such as the sun, the moon, the planets, the stars and constellations, as a thing distinct from “storm” or “wind”.

Alternately, it might be that all things above the earth and so in the heavens were once the province of the P.I.E. Skyfather, but as man began to name his world, and consequently to refine his understanding of it, that a distinction between “sky-god” and “weather-god” emerged (just prior to the event horizon of our proverbial measuring stick as found in myth and language). Of course, while perhaps reasonable sounding, it is incredibly reaching considering that the P.I.E. Skyfather was already “fading into the background” in our oldest direct attestations, ie. the RgVeda.

Either way we find ourselves with the parallel notions…

That Indra was born from dyaus (the sky).

That Zeus was the grandson of Uranus (“Father Heaven”)

As well as the vague Baltic notions of Dievas as the supreme Godhead and dome of the sky, and Perkons as the visible embodiment of his will.

And we are left with a “point of resistance” regarding the Greek beliefs, where the name that we would expect to be applied to the Skyfather (ie. Zeus) is instead applied to the “Weather-God”. And the Almighty God, which is to say Hercules within the Graeco-Roman context — initially deemed the equivalent of Thunor by Tacitus — is left once removed from an association with weather.

Looking at the eldest sources for Germanic belief, and taking the Roman equations at conventional value, ie. Mars = Tiw, etc. we run into another “point of friction” where the root element of the P.I.E. Skyfather’s name is being applied to a battle-god; who also presides over exceptional punishments (and so exceptional crimes, eg. sacrilege) as carried out by the “tribal state”, eg. flogging, imprisonment, execution (Tacitus), while a Frisii inscription left at Hadrian’s Wall hails a “Mars Thingsus” or “Battle-God of the Legal Assembly”.

Nevertheless, in the 8th or 9th century Old English Rune Poem, the stanza that is associated with the rune otherwise named for Tiw associates him with glory — that is tir the word substituted for his name in the O.E.R.P. — as well as guidance, and the stars in the night sky. While the 10th century runic mnemonic known as the Abecedarium Nordmannicum states “Tiu, Birch, and Man in the middle” which is an obvious cosmological reference (ie. heaven, earth, man in the middle).

Most curiously, in light of all the above, we have the Viking Age poem Hymskvidha, in which we find Tiw and Thunor (a curious duo) teaming up in a journey out to the hall of the etin (titan, nature spirit) Hymir in order to win his massive cauldron; a tale which seems forced together with that of the primal tale of the Thunderer’s struggle with the World Serpent. In any event, contrary to Snorri’s assertion regarding Tiw’s ancestry in the Prose Edda, the more reliable poetry names Hymir as Tiw’s father; which is of course no more “problematic” than the titan Cronos being considered the father of Zeus or Audhumbla the mother of Buri. The name Hymir would seem to go back to a root that means “twilight, dusk“, while his hall is said to stand at “heaven’s edge“, ie. the horizon, and he is noted for his kingly herd of cattle, foremost among which was a great ox (aka. bull) named “Heavenbellower“; this last of which is a metaphor applied to Dyaus (RgVeda Book 5, Hymn 58), Parjanya (RgVeda, Book 5, Hymn 83), and Indra (RgVeda, Book 6, Hymn 44) .

And so, contrary to the oft stated assertion that Tiw, despite his name, has no sky associations, there you have it; sky associations. And even a weak association with thunder for that matter.

However, this does nothing to explain the “point of friction” caused by Tiw’s association with warfare; or at least with Mars who, as we would be wise to remember, nevertheless did have associations beyond warfare. Associations that were equally if not more important to his high status among the Romans than his association with warfare alone. Still, outside of Zeus and Jupiter, the Skyfather has no particular association with warfare within the broader Indo-European context.

The notion of the sky-god being associated with the Thing is on the other hand easily perceived within a Germanic context. The Thing was not just a legal assembly after all, but also a general community assembly in which all manner of public debate and discussion might take place. One of the many roles of the Thing was to set the calendar for the year, and indeed, the word thing is believed to stem from a root that refers to “a stretch of time“; considered to relate to the intervals between meetings of the Thing, which was judged by the new and full moons according to Tacitus. In the Eddic poem Voluspa we read of how the sun, moon, and the stars wandered aimlessly through the heavens until “the gods gathered at council” and brought order to their passage. And so order to time.

As a god of the Thing, whose name and attributes identify him with the heavens (and the general notion of tiv or div-inity, and so “the gods gathered at council”), we see a likeness to the Greek Hyperion, who is remembered as the father of Helios (sun), Selene (moon), and Eos (dawn; cognate to Easter, Ausrine, etc.), of whom Diodorus Siculus wrote (1st century BC),

Of Hyperion we are told that he was the first to understand, by diligent attention and observation, the movement of both the sun and the moon and the other stars, and the seasons as well, in that they are caused by these bodies, and to make these facts known to others; and that for this reason he was called the father of these bodies, since he had begotten, so to speak, the speculation about them and their nature.

The relation between the Thing and warfare is also quite evident, and on a number of levels. Firstly, it was the proven men (Kershaw’s *teuta), the adult warriors, that made up the Thing. And it was at the Thing that adolescent males were recognized as *teuta via the declaration and the awarding of spear and shield; which Tacitus states was the equivalent to the awarding of the toga among the tribes of Germania, which no man came to the assembly without, ie. “they sit down armed”, and which they used to show their support for issues there discussed. Likewise, declarations of war and the mustering of armies were associated with the Thing. And of course, the Thing was the arena for disputes among community members, there to be sorted in lieu of “the primal law” of violent recourse. Indeed, under specific circumstances, even men insistent upon violent recourse were given a more evolved recourse at Thing via the custom of “trial by combat”.

That a god associated with, according to conventional understanding, judging the outcome of war, might also be looked to by the warriors to judge equally dire matters within the context of the Thing requires no great leap in logic. Likewise, that such a god might be centered out as being “no peace-maker” or “incapable of settling disputes” is clearly born out in the short-term, real time functioning of the Thing as most clearly detailed in the Icelandic sagas, ie. among the very people who composed the Eddic references to his nature as being “no peace-maker”. As in war, so in law, where the loser is rarely happy, no matter his will (or those of his friends or family) to abide, which of course was, quite simply, not always the case.

Indeed, formal law takes up where the social fabric of thew has broken down. If thew hadn’t broken down, the situation would get sorted, on a social level, ie. the level of thew, and the case would never be taken to court to begin with. And law, in any day and age, is always a poor substitute for thew. To paraphrase Tacitus, “where good habits exist, strong laws are unnecessary“. A law, the reliance on an outside source to resolve conflict, is the gift “that ever looks for a gain“, and if given the chance tends to feed on thew to grow itself. And “its maw would open even wider still, if there were but more room between heaven and earth“.

That said, we would be simplistic in our thinking about the Thing, as with warfare, to fail to note the various distinctions that exist within its general category, and so to assign exclusive association of it to any one god. As we still see in modern law, the Thing was also an institute that contained lawyers, juries, judges and mediators; with the subtle distinction between judge and mediator being that the (Tiwic) judge doesn’t really care about either party, but rather about their actions in direct relation to the letter of the law, whereas the (Fositic) mediator is more inclined to seek social reconciliation, to reweave thew between the parties rather than judging winner and loser between them.

And Tiw “is the onehanded among the AEsir“, afterall.

Indeed, if one prays to Tiw in relation to legal issues, they better be in the right, technically so, ie. formally correct according to the customs of the court and the letter of the law, with all of their t’s crossed, their i’s dotted, if they are at all hoping for success. Which means one should probably pray to him for such attention to detail rather than for the legal victory itself. And even then, depending on the situation, you should be prepared to pay the wergild no matter the “larger issue”; even as Tiw paid the stipulated fine to the Wulf… and yet appears to be in nowise reconciled with Loki, Father of the Wulf, over the matter thereafter; for all that Loki cannot rebuke him on the point of the binding of the Wulf itself. “I lost my hand, Hrothvitnir thou!”, so eat it bog-scum! How does it taste? Loki – “a lot like the fact that I f–ked your wife must taste to you?”

Legally reconciled. But not socially.

Tiw is most precisely associated with legal judgement within the context of the Thing. And even more precisely with the judgement of exceptional crimes, crimes that undermine the common weal, and equally with exceptional punishments carried out by the “tribal state” in the name of the common weal; with such punishments having a taboo dimension, see the above comments on law and thew, that could potentially rank them as equally exceptional, in their ability to undermine the common trust, as the very crimes they were aimed at punishing. And so such judgements were handed out, as Tacitus relates, not on the command of the warrior-king, but only by the priest-king, and even then only in accordance with the will of “the god of the warrior ethos“.

So, what does warfare have to do with the sky? Well, Tiw is what warfare has to do with the sky. Our own inability to understand the association is entirely irrelevant to the observed fact of the association. But here it would be prudent to look at both Zeus and Jupiter for whatever light they might be able to shed on the matter.

In Hesiod’s work, Zeus is said to have been raised in Crete by an all-nourishing she-goat — reflective of both the primal cow Audhumbla, and even the goats of Thunor — where he was then surrounded by the dancing, stomping, and shouting of the Kouretes, a band of wild youths whose name stems from the P.I.E. root *koryos (see Kershaw) and indicates the initiatory wolf-bands that guided adolescent males into adulthood. While reflections of this cult can be found throughout the Indo-European world, the Germanic no exception, among the Romans the dancing youths were called the Salii and closely associated with the worship of Mars.

Among Zeus’ many epithets we find “Zeus Areius” (Warlike Zeus), but more interestingly Zeus Lykaios (Wolf Zeus), which again links him to the *koryos and the initiatory cult of adolescent males. His role in the cult’s associated myth however is peculiar, and involves Zeus striking down the “House of Lycaon” as a result of human flesh being introduced into a sacral feast, and a curse of lycanthropy, ie “werewolfism”. This is akin to the more typical Greek belief of the relationship between Zeus and Ares as expressed in Zeus’ words towards him in the Illiad,

To me you are the most hateful of all gods who hold Olympus.
Forever quarrelling is dear to your heart, wars and battles.

Jupiter’s connections to warfare are better represented, and reveal little of the Greek contempt for warfare. Beyond his association with the creation of the shields born by Mars’ Salii, this can be found in the history of such dedications to him as Jupiter Victor, Jupiter Invictus, Jupiter Stator, and most interestingly Jupiter Feretrius, where he was associated with Mars in the ritual of spolia opima and the offering of “the spoils of war”; which itself is a more limited form of the custom of mass disposal of the spoils of war, mentioned by Tacitus as associated with both the Germanic Mars (Tiw) and the Germanic Mercury (Woden), and represented in the historical record as early as the Hjortspring find (c.350 BC).

The spolia opima hearkened to the basic Indo-European battle aesthetic of a single combat fought between peers, and the claiming of the defeated’s wargear as tokens of the victor’s personal honour and glory.

As the Old English Rune Poem states, “Tir bith tacna sum“.

Among the Germanic peoples, the single combat was not simply the preferred mode of combat among the *teuta (proven men of the tribe), — which, at least prior to Caesar’s Gallic War, extended its influence into mass combat situations — but was also used by Tacitus’ Germans to divine the outcome of a potential war. And also as an alternative to war as we see in Saxo’s tale of King Offa of the Anglii and his duel against the Myging champions, or in that told by Gregory of Tours of an impending battle between the migrating Alemanni and Vandals, where the Alemanni-King said,

How long shall we allow war to make shambles of entire peoples? I beg of you; do not let the armies of both peoples perish. Instead, let two men meet on the battlefield with their war-gear and let each fight on behalf of his folk. Let that side whose champion wins take possession of the territory without contest.

The spolia opima. Very intriguing. Potentially significant to the topic at hand. But presently just distracting; to be dealt with further “at some future point”.


Now, as the Graeco-Roman sources show, Zeus and Jupiter did have an association with warfare. Relatively strong in regards to Jupiter, and relatively weak in regards to Zeus, but nevertheless visible.

Warfare and glory it would seem can be included in a cluster of ideas, along with heaven and weather, law and order, strength and power, that were closely associated in the Indo-European mind; manifest in different deities, in varying portions, in different times and places, and among the many different cultures and tribes that make up the Indo-European peoples.

Within Tiw, taking the broad Germanic body of lore in, irrespective of time or place, we see clear associations with heaven, warfare and glory, and law and order.

Of particular interest in regards to Tiw is Zeus Lykaios, as the one Eddic myth that we have of Tiw outside of the Hymskidha — and outside of Thunor and Woden, none of the gods have much more space devoted to them in the Eddas, and many don’t even have that much — involves him tending to Loki’s offspring, the Fenriswulf, and ultimately being the pivotal figure in the binding of the Wulf. Which, as with Zeus Lykaios, reveals an association with the adolescent males (*koryos) in training to become men (*teuta), for whom the wolf/dog is universally found as the “totem spirit” throughout the Indo-European world. The ambiguity found in Zeus’ relationship to the *koryos is also apparent within the context of Germanic culture, and specifically in the contrasting perceptions of the wolf within a specifically martial, indeed raiding context, in which wolfish traits are praise worthy and encouraged, and a specifically socio-legal context, in which the wolf was associated with the (second) worst kinds of offenders and offenses, and their most taboo form of punishment, execution, and most specifically death by hanging, which was generally performed on what the Anglo-Saxons referred to as “the wolfheadstree”.

A similar dichotomy can be found in the training of adolescent males among the Spartans.

The myth of Tiw and Fenriswulf can be dated as early as c.500 AD Sweden to a bracteate that depicts a long haired man, holding what appears to be a scale in one hand, while his other sits in the mouth of a wolf. In my opinion, the impetus for the evolution of this peculiar myth, which leaves us with a peculiarly one-handed (ahem) “Skyfather”, dates all the way back to the collapse of the affluent, clockwork Nordic Bronze Age (c.500 BC) and the first appearance of the equally peculiar custom of the mass disposal of the spoils of war (into lakes, bogs; c.350 BC); which, reminiscent of the spolia opima, was a rare custom that, as such, was only observed under very specific conditions; that, like the Fenriswulf myth, likely involved action that might otherwise be immediately self-denounced as dishonourable, if not for the fact that the very survival, not merely of the warrior, or warband, or fyrd — for whom killing and getting killed is both an honour and duty — but rather the survival of the tribe itself became a very real and imminent concern. After all, one’s honour and glory are of little value if the community (bestower, container, and carrier of personal honour and “the name undying”) it existed within ceases to exist.

In such situations, the spoils of war, the very tokens of personal honour and glory, the pursuit of which was the warriors main preoccupation, where thus cast into the bog of shame (where the tribes of Germania sunk the worst kinds of capital offenders), even as Tiw paid the Wulf the stipulated fine for breach of contract, and the warriors were “forced” to be satisfied with the continued existence of their people. And all that implies in terms of personal honour.

Whatever the case, this custom was associated not only with the Germanic Mars (Tiw), but also with the Germanic Mercury (Woden), the latter of whom has very strong associations with hanging and wolves and the *koryos.

From here, as we begin to move from a pan-Germanic context, irrespective of time, and into the lore born and reflective of the (Norse-Icelandic) Scandinavian Viking Age, where we run into more “points of friction” regarding Tiw, Woden and Thunor.

These points of friction are, that in the comparatively well represented North Germanic lore,

Woden appears as the predominant god of warfare, in myth, in history, in legend, while Tiw is barely given a nod in that capacity, and even then, it is a nod that is largely confined to myth. This can in fact be gleaned in the references to a Germanic Mars from the Migration Age forward, where such mention is surrounded by contextual details (eg. human sacrifice, kingship) that seem to betoken, not Tiw, but Woden.

Similarly, it was the image of Thunor that stood in the place of assembly in Viking Age Sweden (Adam of Bremen, History of the Bishops of Hamburg), while over in Iceland it was in the name of Thunor that grievous offenders were ritually executed in a legal context (Eyrbyggja saga).

While it is clear that the Viking Age Scandinavians and their descendants did not simply forget Tiw’s association with warfare, it is equally apparent that neither did they forget his association with the Thing; which is implicit in the very accusation Loki levels at him in terms of bringing peace between men. It is after all, entirely pointless to mock someone, say a biologist, for not excelling in some field that they are not associated with or otherwise KNOWN for, such as astrophysics for instance. And if this only referenced Tiw’s association with warfare the insult falls equally flat.

The insult (along with the entire aspect of legal compensation in the exchange) can only be taken as such, can only have bite, or even be understood, if Tiw did have legal associations and the audience of the poem was aware of those associations; which also speaks towards the fundamental purpose of the Thing over the long term, ie. to maintain the wholeness of the community.

The point being, that there does not appear to be any reason to believe that the Romans, or the Romanized Frisii mercenaries at Hadrian’s Wall — not to be mistaken for King Radbod’s Fosite-worshipping Frisians — were at all wrong in their estimations; even if they were were only rough generalizations, such as are common to comparative studies in which the associations tend to weaken on a point-for-point examination.

And so, we must assume that Woden and Thunor came to supersede Tiw in the respective fields of warfare and law; whether such occurred because one was better at the job than he was, or simply because beliefs about Tiw and his nature had grown beyond such functions, leaving the position vacant, and someone needed to fill them.

With out strong martial or legal associations (that we are aware of), Tiw is thus left with only his “sky” associations.

But even here we run into some difficulties, perhaps best gleaned from language, where the words for the “daylit sky” and the “Skyfather” are either synonymous or closely related, as we see in the Sanskrit and Latin. In the Germanic tongues however, the word *Day* springs from an entirely unrelated root, and is even personified in the Eddas (and possibly the O.E.R.P.).

Indeed, when we take a closer look at Tiw’s name, we see that it stems less from the Dyaus root, to use the Sanskrit, and more from the closely related deva root, and does not yield “sky” precisely, but rather the closely related notion of “god”, or more accurately, on its own terms, “paragon, shining example, glory”.

This certainly matches the word used to substitute his name in the O.E.R.P. (tir = glory). It also matches the most famous of his by-names, the Leavings of the Wolf; the wolf being a metaphor for the ravenous grave, which consumes all, except a man’s good name, a man’s “glory”. It also matches what Snorri stated regarding men of particular courage and wisdom, that such are called tyr-bold and tyr-wise respectively, in honour of the god, which also fits the general application of his name to gods, priests, and heroes (tivar, diar).

This is likely the root of of the reference to him in the Old Icelandic Rune Poem as, “Ruler of the Temple”.

It is also significant that the O.E.R.P. associated Tiw with the sky at night, albeit with the radiance of the night sky, ie. the stars, in specific — reminding one of the Greek association of gods and heroes with the planets and constellations — which fits comfortably with the notion that the name of his father, Hymir, means “twilight, dusk”.

In regards to the above, one might also note the presence of his rune on Anglo-Saxon cremation urns, where it appears more often than any symbol other than the swastika.

And so in Tiw, we do not see so much of a “Skyfather” (to whatever extent that can be found in any of the attested Indo-European pantheons), but rather a Gloryfather.

It is tempting to associate Tiw with the Eddic figure Delling (Shining), said in passing to be “of the race of the AEsir“, who coupled with the swarthy etinwife Night (Nott) to produce Day (Daeg).

In the Old English Rune Poem, Day falls within the aett (family of eight runes) of Tir, and in the stanza associated with his rune Day is said to be “sent by the Drighten” (Leader of the Warband, King, God) and to be the “Metod’s light” (Measurer, Judge, God).

The possible association of Tiw with the kingly and deific title, Drighten, at least prior to the Viking Age, perhaps even prior to the Migration Age, really needs no explanation. Though with the caveat that, much like Mars, the title most likely came to be associated with Woden, both as war-god and predominant god of kingship from the Migration Age forward, but which ultimately hearkens back to the dual rulership of a warrior-king (whose position was based on merit, and ensured by continuing proofs of merit) and a priest-king (or frea/frey), who required a sacral bloodline to even be considered for the position and held the position for life. The Wodenic kingship combined aspects of both of these offices, as something more encompassing than either the office of the drighten or that of the frea, without entirely doing away with the offices of high-priest or warlord.

It is also tempting to associate him with the deific title Metod, foremost in his capacity as judge of war and capital offense, but also in the general nature of the Thing, which was a veritable trove of various measurements … of various sorts of crimes and their legal value, of various sorts of injuries up to and including death, of the worth of various men, of the passage of the months and year.

In Saxo’s Gesta Danorum, he tells of a god named Mitodhinn who once governed the heavens, and assigned to each of the Tivar their own individual drink offering. As we might expect of a Gloryfather.

Such a title also sheds light on the relationship between the Thing of the Tivar in Upper-Heaven, the laws layin by the Great Mothers, and their relation to Wyrd, the Spring of Wyrd, and the World Tree.

There is a fine line between the collective judgement of the Tivar at Thing and the workings of Wyrd, owed mostly to the fact that, contrary to popular heathen thought, the Tivar mastered Wyrd… which is best likened, in sense, to a sailor mastering the ocean rather than anything too rigid and absolute. The un-mastered Wyrd, and the fundamental nature of Wyrd, can be gleaned in the activity in and around Hvergelmir.

Virtue and the Guiding Principle

“Tir (Glory, Tiw) is a profound token, it holds true with the noble,
it is ever on course, over the mists of Night,
it never switches.” — the Old English Rune Poem

The GUIDING PRINCIPLE of a system of morals…

We often get lost in the details of morality, of specific virtues, the 10 Commandments for example, or the Nine Noble Virtues, eg. honesty, courage, hospitality, love for all, etc., and fixate on them to the exclusion of the *guiding principle* of ethical systems.

This is in part due to the guiding principle of most post-Conversion ethical systems; which is *obedience* to the author/authority, be it a pretense to God, a prophet, the Church, or the secular State.

Contravene the stated virtue, and you are “a criminal”. You are “evil”. Because, in keeping with their guiding principle, disobedience to authority = bad in those ethical systems.

And of course, under such systems, everyone is inevitably guilty. Mankind is fallen. Some just hide or otherwise rationalize or justify it better than others.

The guiding principle for Anglo-Nordic belief, and most other ethno-cultural or heathen/pagan belief systems however, is the maintenance of the health and wholeness, ie. the holiness, of “the tribe”; in the pursuit of which the “toolbox of values” contains the full range of potential, ingenuity and resourcefulness as found in human nature. And some of these might usually be considered deplorable, and justifiably so, when divorced from the guiding principle and outside of the appropriate circumstances.

Take lying for example. Germanic society was a very forthright culture, in which honesty meant the difference, legally speaking, between a run-of-the-mill offense an individual could wash their hands of with payment of fine, and a serious offense to the entire community, for which the offender would be manhandled by the powers-that-be in a manner that might otherwise breed division between folk and state. eg. imprisonment, flogging, execution.

Hence why the pronouncements of such penalties was taboo and allowed to the priest-king alone; who himself had to consult the will of the Tivar via the casting of lots.

Nevertheless, we have plenty of examples in the Norse-Icelandic mythology of even the most solid and forthright of the gods engaging in or otherwise acting as facilitators of acts of deceit.

“How can this be? Hypocrites!”, one might cry.

Indeed, many have cried exactly that regarding, most poignantly, Tiw (Tyr) and his role in the binding of the Fenwulf. Of course, they are estimating the act within the context of a foreign paradigm, in which the guiding principle is one of obedience. Hence why, within the native paradigm, Tiw so easily silences Loki on the matter in the Lokasenna, and Loki is left fumbling for some other matter with which to shame the God.

Even Loki understood what many of his would-be Heathen fans in the modern world don’t; Namely, the guiding principle of Anglo-Nordic belief, ie. the maintenance of the health and wholiness of the tribe.

To illustrate this in more homely terms; let us say that you, a parent with young children, heard of lunatics moving through your neighbourhood kicking in doors and kidnapping or murdering children. So, you’ve hidden your children safely away somewhere in your home. Hopefully you’ve also armed yourself and set up “inconveniences” for unwanted interlopers. But now the lunatics kick in your door, and demand to know where your children are. Do you tell them? Because lying is a sin? And that would be wrong? Do you refrain from killing them? Because man-killing is a sin? And that would be wrong? And if you imagine that such things would be wrong in those circumstances, do you honestly imagine that you are a good human being? A good parent? As you stand, glowing with self-righteousness, with your children dead at your feet, or spirited away into a life of suffering, abuse and misery? And you thinking, “well, at least I am still good with God/Church/State!”

Here we see how important the *guiding principle* is in determining good from evil, moral from immoral, wisdom from obedience, integrity from hypocrisy. How important in the application of the capabilities of our humanity.

And the guiding principle applies to one’s actions be they within the tribe or in relation to those outside of the tribe, ie. how shall my actions effect the well-being of my tribe?

Finally, lest we forget how the tale of the Fenwulf’s binding ends,

Then all the gods rejoiced, except Týr: he paid with his hand.”

Indigenous Attitudes: Magic and Germanic Belief

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some observations on the above…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It also states,

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

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

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

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

— Charlemagne, Capitulary on Saxony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Word on Apples and Mead, Youth and Poetry

The Apples of Idunn and the Mead of Poetry…

Assuming the reader’s familiarity, one will note a certain commonality to the two myths, in that both involve a flight and pursuit in bird form that ultimately carries the Apples and the Mead back to the yard of the gods.

It is the tendency of analytical reductionist thought, so foreign to the more poetic thinking of our preChristian ancestors, to chase after these things, the Apples and the Mead, in two different directions.

“Soma is the mythological cognate of the Mead of Poetry!”

And so it is.

And yet soma was also glossed as amrita by the composers of the Vedas. The word amrita is cognate, both mythologically and linguistically, to the Greek ambrosia, and like ambrosia it confers immortality upon the gods.

The two are thus mythological cognates to the Golden Apples of Idunn. And suggest a deep significance and relationship between between the “youth” provided by the Apples and the “inspired poetry” provided by the Mead.

It is our religious hymns that shape and maintain the youth of our gods, and more poignantly our relationship with them.

Still not convinced of the relationship?

Feel free to ask Bragi and Idunn about it.


“Of old was the age when Ymir lived; neither sea nor cool waves nor sand there were; earth had not been, nor heaven above, only a mysterious abyss, and grass nowhere.”

— Voluspa, Poetic Edda

Ginnungagap, the oxymoronic “pregnant void” of Eddic Creation…

It is only called, as a proper name, Ginnungagap in the Prose Edda, while in the Voluspa the void is simply described as a gap that is ginnunga.

Most linguists trace it to a root (ginn-) meaning “vast, wide” and so can be seen to share a common root (P.I.E. *ghieh) with the Greek word chaos; as can the term gap itself. Thus rendering the seemingly redundant “gaping gap”, or “yawning gap” as it is more usually rendered.

In this we see a likeness to the seemingly and similarly redundant Sanskrit phrase “gahanaṃ gabhīram”, where gahan carries a range of meaning that includes “abyss, depths, impenetrable, inscrutable” and gabriha carries a range of meaning that includes “deep, depth, impervious, profound, mysterious”, and like Ginnungagap can yield something as equally literal and uninspired as “the deep depths”.

Of course, with the Sanskrit the connotations of “profound, mysterious” are immediately at our disposal, and made evident via the greater body of the Vedic hymn in which it appears, ie. the context in which the phrase appears. In the Old Icelandic ginn- such connotations seem to come only indirectly, in a much broader mytho-linguistic context, via compounds with the words holy (ginn-heilog; very holy) or regin (ginn-regin; great divine judges) or wih (Ginnunga-ve; sacred space of the ginnungar = ginnregin).

We do however find something of this sense of “inscrutable mystery” in the Old Icelandic word ginna meaning “to fool, to dupe, to intoxicate”, as we see in Gylfaginning. In this context we see it take on connotations of “surreal, dreamlike, mystical play on the senses”; which certainly speaks toward the primal nature of preExistence, which, in it’s vast and all-encompassing formlessness, is like an ink-blot in which any man who bothers to look can perceive whatever he might. Meaning, anything and everything. And different things at different times … reminding us of something that we might hear about regarding quantum physics and the effects of the observer on quantum reality, or the nature of light (ie. particles or waves).

Hence, to fool.

In Ovid’s work, Chaos is imbued with similar connotations,

“Before the ocean and the earth appeared — before the skies had overspread them all — the face of nature in a vast expanse was naught but Chaos uniformly waste. It was a rude and undeveloped mass, that nothing made except a ponderous weight; and all discordant elements confused, were there congested in a shapeless heap.

And so, whatever the literal meaning of Ginnungagap, more inspired renderings such as “Gap of All-potential” or “Gap of Mystical Bewilderment” or “Gap of Mystery” are seemingly obvious inferences that can be made not only comparatively or within the broad mytho-linguistic context of the North Germanics, but also within the context of the Voluspa itself; where everything arises out of the nothingness of the gap.

Ginnungagap … the point in retrospection at which the senses fail and become confused.

“Then was neither non-existent nor existent: there was no realm of air, no heaven beyond it. What was sheltered within? And where? Under whose protection? Was it the primal waters, an ineffable abyss of mystery?”

— RigVeda, Hymn of Creation


Woden, Buddha and the Neoplatonist concept of “the One”

The neoplatonic notion of “the One”…

The “Supreme Truth” of which all categories of thought are mere emanations, but which is itself beyond all categories. And which the achievement of union with is regarded as the highest good.

Fundamentally speaking, a “greater than all” was not all that new of an idea by the time neoplatonism emerged in the 3rd century AD. Shades of it existed in recorded Indo-European thought as far back as the RigVeda, from which it was eventually fully developed in Vaishavism (c.6th century BC) and Buddhism (6th to 4th century BC). We see a similar evolution in Persian belief with the rise of the Achaemenid Empire (550 BC) and the emergence of Zoroastrianism (5th century BC), while such rare and oddball early Greek philosophers as Xenophanes  were offending the sensibilities of their fellow Greeks as early as the late 6th century BC with such notions; so fundamentally monotheistic in their thinking that the early (Greek) Christians were utilizing Xenophanes’ arguments against polytheism to promote their own Judaeo-Hellenic form of monotheism as early as the late 2nd century AD, ie. Clement of Alexandria.

The same can be said of neoplatoism and the various Abrahamic religions; Islam included.

To what degree Jewish monotheism — which evolved out of it’s own polytheism to monolatry (ie. acknowledgement of many gods, exclusive worship of one) in c.7th century BC — influenced or was influenced these thoughts is… a consideration worth following to wherever it might lead. For anyone who is so inclined.

Not that the acknowledgement of a “One” per say is at all alien to native Indo-European belief or the human experience in general. If nothing else, the “seed” of the idea is there, existing in an implicit, potential state. Most of our Creation myths are founded on the fundamental notion of (ahem) “oneness” or “singularity” from which all of existence and Creation emanate. Some of the early Greek philosophers referred to this “formless unity” as Chaos — though it’s place in the cosmology is not constant — while the Buddhists called it Nirvana; though for the Buddhist it is less “a place” or “a point in time”, or even “a frame of mind”, than it is the absence of such things, ie. “to blow out”, but the achievement of which nevertheless (ahem) “liberates” one from the endless cycles of reincarnation in existence and Creation.

In Germanic belief we have Ginnungagap as the primal foundation for all existence and Creation. But it is not perceived as a “One”, or even a “Zero”, but rather an “Infinite“. The meaning of ginnunga-, while debatable, and perhaps ultimately multifaceted, is reflected in the Eddic word Gylfaginning meaning the (ahem) “deluding” of Gylfi; though perhaps better, if more clumsily rendered as “a tricking of the senses” and associated with a surreal or dreamlike state of mind, as also found in the High One’s meetings with Olaf Trygvason of Norway, Edwin of Northumbria, etc.

Ginnungagap is thus where the senses, and so sensibility, fail; beyond or separate from all categories of thought, existing just beyond the “event horizon” of human conception. As such it parallels the meaning of the word rune (mystery) and reflects the fundamental meaning — and ultimately the hallowing nature! — of the word wih (separate).

And so we read of Woden’s ordeal in the Havamal where “none dealt me bread nor drink from the horn”, which indicates a rejection by (and/or of) society to Germanic thinking; Of how he hung on that “wind-swept tree of which no one knows from what root it rises”, which is the “World Tree” or “Truth of Germanic culture”, the origins of which are lost in mystery; And of how Woden peered “down to the depths” to ultimately “take up the runes with a roaring scream”, and then “fell back from there”, ie. from the Tree and into Creation.

By my interpretation, the Wodenic revelation here, born out of a collapse of the 1,000+ year long clock-work order of the Nordic Bronze Age, was a realization of the (ahem) “oneness” that rests at the foundation of the manifest All. He looked into what had hitherto been casually regarded and swept aside as “nothing”. Effectively, he achieved had “Nirvana” and union with “the One”.

The Allfather did not however then proceed to author and advocate any sort of (lasting) union with “the One”. After all, like all of the others — Buddha clearly included since we are able to talk about Buddhism at all — the Tree, ultimately rooted as it is in Ginnungagap, simply sucked Woden up and spat him back out into existence and Creation.

And so, more honestly in my opinion, we see Woden go on to embrace Creation, sacrificing an eye to Mimir (Memory) for a draught from his well-spring of experience; which is itself identical to the knowledge symbolized in the World Tree. And only then does he state, “Then I began to grow and wax well in wisdom. From a word to a word I was led to a word. From a deed to another deed.”

This is a typical Western response, ie. activist, world accepting, to the same fundamental realization that Eastern Quietism and it’s world rejection were born from.

The so-called “One”, the ineffable mystery, is not an end unto itself; as the aforementioned Indo-Iranians, Jews, Greeks, and Christians might have had it. It is the original means to an end, the hallowing force (wih) as opposed to the hallowed object (halig), the mystery that truth and law, as an organic and evolving thing, is rooted in and ultimately sustained by … keeping Truth fresh, relevant and up-to-date (integral, ie. trothful) with the challenges of existence and the influx of experience. It is respect of the Mystery that prevents the pretentious snobbery of locked in, cut-in-stone systems; as most evident in those philosophies that imagine they possess the Mystery, and particularly when accompanied by the belief that they must carry it to others.

Hence why the Old Norse called it simply Ginnungagap; the gap of magical play upon the senses, of bewilderment, of delusion. A nice place to visit, but one which, of those who have, none ever seem to settle.

And so, pray tell, if Buddha was unmoved by Maya (Delusion, desire), why did he touch the earth? Only to then, conveniently enough, imagine that he not only defeated Maya, and thereby achieved Nirvana, which in fact was his desire, but then went on to imagine he could teach the path to it?

As Garman Lord once remarked of Eastern Quietisms, they might well be “the ultimate ego trip in disguise”.

Tuisto Revisited. Again.

While I have been enamoured over the past few years with the notion that Tacitus got the relationship between Tuisto and Mannus wrong (not at all inconceivable), that they are in fact brothers rather than father-son, and that Tuisto might thus indeed mean “twin” or even Grimm’s hypothetical “*Tiwisko” (son of Tiw), I was looking over some random etymologies last night, and my own pet theory, that the name Tuisto is related less to twin and more to twist, came back with unexpected force.
As we have it, the name Tuisto is obscure; passing as it did through one or more Latin minds until final reaching the pen of Tacitus. And in fact, when it comes to “Tacitus'” pen, we have a number of surviving manuscripts of Germania, one of which renders the name as Tuisco rather than Tuisto.
Hence we find even Grimm reaching with his self-admittedly conjectural (alternate) proposition that Tuisto/Tuisco was a Roman corruption, as noted above, of a Proto-Germanic *Tiwisko; which itself is not an attested word, but rather Grimm’s hypothetical reconstruction, ie. if this word (tiwisko) ever actually existed, Tuisto might stem from it. The theory becomes interesting later, but only after following other theories more firmly grounded. So, interesting though it may be, it simply has too many “moving parts” as we swim in already uncertain waters, and requires too many presumptions to stand on it’s own.
The best theories look to what can be said about the name; namely that it is rooted in the Proto-Indo-European *dwoh1 which yielded Proto-Germanic *twai, which itself ultimately yielded Modern English two. And while both the Proto-Germanic and P.I.E. are themselves reconstructions, they are reconstructed based upon a wealth of linguistic certainties, ie. the word for two.
From here various academics and scholars have immediately lept on the related word/concept of twice (Proto-Germanic *twiyes, P.I.E. *dwis-) and twin (P.Ger. *twinaz, P.I.E. *dwino-), compared Iron Age Tuisto to Viking Age Ymir, and noted a possible etymological link between Ymir and the Sanskrit Yama, and then Yama’s own sibling relation to Manu, whose name and nature is cognate to that of Tuisto’s offspring, Mannus.
And from here we come into the notion that Tuisto and Mannus, like Yama and Manu, are brothers. And not just any ole brothers, but in fact the Divine Twins; who clearly stem from a P.I.E. prototype, are clearly present in at least a majority of Indo-European belief systems, whose cult was clearly dominant in both southern Scandinavia and across Europe over the Bronze Age, and which could still be perceived in Iron Age and Migration Age lore in the dual rulership of migrating tribes and the establishment of new identities (eg. Hors and Hengist, etc.).
This theory is in fact a very nice piece of work with lots to sink one’s teeth into. It is not without it’s problems however. Such as, how did the name Ymir, meaning “noise-maker” in Old Icelandic, evolved from a word that originally meant twin? How is it that Ymir, who was deemed “no god” and whose offspring were all brutal and surly and largely the enemies of god and man, evolve from Tuisto, who was celebrated and whose offspring *were* god and man? Why does the pattern reflected in the “Ancient Hymns” (god begets god begets trio of gods) match Tuisto with Buri (who begat Bor, who begat Woden-Will-Wih) rather than Ymir? And of course, even just eyeballing the Proto-Germanic words *twiyes and *twinaz, one can see that they make a clumsy, reaching fit for Tuisto, and even, if to a lesser extent, for the variant Tuisco.
Indeed, the only absolutely clear etymological clue to the name Tuisto links it to the P.I.E. *dwoh1, from which arise a veritable host of derivative words that devolve upon the quantity.
One such word, a better match in my humble opinion than the aforementioned, preserving most of the elements of Tuisto intact, is Proto-Germanic *twiz (in two, asunder, apart); which, in one form or another, academics have indeed hit on in the past, but only to immediately abandon in the “pursuit of Ymir”. And yet stemming from *twiz we have such words as the Dutch twist, the Low German twist, the German zwist, the Danish tviste, and the Swedish tvist, all of which (with the exception of Modern English twist) express the notion of “two *divided in conflict*”.
This becomes particularly interesting in consideration of the Roman association of the Germanic Tiw with their Mars; the former of whom is said in the later Eddas to be “no peacemaker”, while the latter was not merely celebrated by the Roman’s as the (ahem) “god of war”, but even more so as the father of Romulus and Remus, and the divine progenitor of the tribes of Rome. While the conflict inherent in the word twist is general, ie. not inherently martial, such a general application can be seen in the Frisian gloss of Tiw as “Mars Thingsus” (Battle god of the Legal Assembly). Indeed, both Swedish tvista and Danish tvist carry definite legal connotations, ie. legal dispute, negotiation. Or perhaps, in light of the title Mars Thingsus, we might more properly say that they *continue* to carry such connotations.
We might also consider the recurrence of the quantity two in Tiw related lore. This is immediately evident even when limiting Tiw to the role of “god of war”, and observation of any field of war, on which there are, alliances not withstanding, two sides. The same can be said of any conflict, martial or otherwise, or even, albeit more loosely in some cases, of any competition.
It really does take two to tango, after all.
More explicitly, we see Tiw’s association with two in the Mars Thingsus inscription where he is associated with two female “battle spirits”, in the counsel to “call twice” upon Tiw found in the Sigdrifumal, in his forming of a duo with Thunor in the Hymskvidha, as well as his two attempts to lift the cauldron of Hymir in that same myth. Indeed, from a broader Indo-European perspective, the Divine Twins always appear as the offspring of the Skyfather, who names are etymological relatives of Tiw.
it is a curious fact that each of the proposed theories on the meaning of the name Tuisto, even Grimm’s *tiwisko, all point in the direction of one another at some point or another. As such, while it might certainly be “un-Tiwic” of me to suggest, it would seem foolish, not so much to judge one theory as superior to the others, but to do so and hold it as exclusive, such that the others are foolishly dismissed as holding no merit as a result of a mere comparative weakness in merit, ie. they still have some degree of merit and in relation to something whose own merit is not exactly “beyond reasonable doubt”.
As unenviable a proposition as that might be to analytical reductionist type thinking, it is nevertheless in form with the poetic thinking of our ancestors, in which meaning (of words for example) was heavily reliant on context and position and relation, and myths and symbols could have multiple interpretations, layered and interwoven meanings,all equally valid, despite superficial differences, from within same cultural paradigm.
Sometimes these differences are a clear matter of variations on an underlying cultural theme, such as we seen in the motifs of Tiw and the Wolf, Woden and the Wolf, the Sun and thew Wolf, the Anglo-Saxon Sunheaded man and the Wolf, ie. Glory/Eternity and Death/Transience. Or they might be more profound and bewildering, but nevertheless clearly related, as in the case of the Bronze Age axe and lily representations.
And so, in the final analysis, each of these theories, together, might well tell us more about Tuisto, than any one might in and of itself. Which of course is the point of “tvista” (debate), ie. not to change the mind of the opposition, but to better inform the broader audience.
Tiw is no peace-maker. He is an edge-whetter.