Tag Archives: Spirituality

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.

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“(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

 

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”.

Maybe.

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.”

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”.

Creation and the Power of Words

We must be very careful about the narratives, the stories, we weave about ourselves, or allow others to weave for us.

It is not without reason that the god who breathed the breath of life in Mankind at our creation, ie. Woden, is also the god who gave us the gift of language. Nor is it without reason that this same god gave us the gift of poetry, of magical songs, and indeed, the gift of Creation itself.

I recall watching some documentary a couple of decades ago, perhaps it was “Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World”, but whatever the case, it spoke of this shaman from one of those obscure hunter-gatherer cultures that still dot the world today, and how every morning he had to chant creation back into being by reciting his tribes creation hymns. If he were to fail in his task, creation would begin to unravel.

Creation is of course less a matter of conjuring, or even arranging the objective universe as it is of coming into an understanding of existence and our place within it. More poignantly, it is the ability to express and share (and gain further insight) into that relationship. As such the evolution of Creation, as a thing distinct from aconscious existence, is tantamount to the evolution of a peoples cultural matrix (world tree, mjotvidhr), in which language plays a significant role.

If you think back to just before your earliest memories, and then move forward, through your bewilderment at the greater world around you, the senselessness everything seemed to move with, how lost you were in it, only for the world to gradually order itself, to begin to make sense, you can get an inkling of the unfoldment of Creation, and the power of words in giving it shape and sense.

We can see the effect that negative language has on people who have been verbally abused as children. Some are stronger, less impressionable than others of course, but we have an inclination to conform to the stories we are told about ourselves, such that the person who is always told they are an idiot for instance might very well come to play the idiot. And all the more so the smarter they actually are; those smarts removing them as it does, not unlike the idiot, from the sensibilities of the common person. We see it in a more culturally pervasive form in the stereotypes of the smart but uncoordinated nerd and the dumb jock, when in fact the hallmark of the truly gifted individual is a fair to above average measure of competence in all fields even if they only excel in a few. The stereotype of the intellectual vs. the spiritual is yet another, that of the dumb blonde is yet another, despite the fact that such a gulf does not exist between spiritual and intellectual, and that blondes actually have a fairly high average IQ, ie. are smart, not dumb. One of my biggest and oldest pet peeves in this regard is the insistence that any person interested in their Germanic identity must be some “eyes of hate” reject from the Geraldo or Jerry Springer show, and how if you don’t look like that caricature, you must not be interested in your Germanic heritage. And yet for all of that, our need for identity reaches out… to whatever presents itself, and we conform, through no real fault of our own.

And so, as we see, having failed to “chant our creation hymns with each dawn”, for who we are as a people, forgetting our relationship to each other and our environment, our culture has unraveled and Ragnarok set in… just like that primitive shaman, chanting each dawn, knew it would.

This power of language is at the very heart and soul of the English word spell, as in a magical spell, as seen in the word gospel, which is Old English in origin (like so many other familiar terms frequently but erroneously deemed “Christian”) and literally translates to the “Spell of God”. The word spell itself refers, primarily, to the enthralling power of moving speech, of a powerful narrative.

Words have the power to build, mold, and/or breakdown Creation itself.

As such, we must be careful of whose stories we take to heart; stories about us, about our ancestors, about the world and our place in it.

Words have power. Respect that power. And where you play the role of the Shaper, eg. parent, wield them wisely.

Spinning your wheels: Prayer Posture

Our great and noble ancestors knelt in prayer.

I’ve gotten a lot of “feels” over the decades, worthy of your most delicate snowflake, in reaction to pointing out the facts on this matter. But as for any actual evidence that our ancestors didn’t kneel, but rather stood in worship, I had to go out and do the footwork on that for these people; who themselves could only produce anger and insults and self-indulgence to defend their position. Maybe I will share my findings one day. But regardless, I did this because I’m not interested in “defending a position”, but rather I’m interested in understanding my actual  ancestors; as opposed to fabricated fictitious ones whose sole purpose is to bolster a fragile ego. In others words, ironically enough, because I refuse to bow to nonsense, no matter how many sheep bleat out the same slogans. And I have been surrounded by veritable herds of them, demanding that I bow to their imaginary ancestors. And these are, for the most part, the same “unbowing sheep” that spout their nonsense but, grudgingly or otherwise, then proceed to allow their boss, their government, their wife, their herd to periodically dry hump them.

But hey, you’re quite the stand up man for not bowing to your gods and ancestors! At least you “unfurl your sail of greatness” where you’ll get the most resistance and so prove what a champ you are.

At the end of the day, I personally don’t care how people choose to go before the gods. We go before them here, and so needn’t concern ourselves with such matters as go on there. There is however, a question of honesty and integrity in representing our ancestors involved here. And of course there is the matter of personal repute and obligation to challenge insults hurled, not only at ourselves, but also at the ancestors who’s beliefs and practice we have returned to; as Heathens who know what to give due respect to and what to never bend knee to; who know what is easy (ie. disrespecting the gods and ancestors) and what is difficult (ie. standing up to the peer group, to those in a superior position).

One need but look over to modern day Europe to see that some subordination to our indigenous gods and ancestors is in order; as opposed to blithely letting our governments and hordes of foreigners dry hump us. But then, we all have our priorities, don’t we? For some of us, it’s our gods, our ancestors, and our people. For others, it’s their ego.

Suffice it to say that the Germanic peoples were not alone in their practice of bowing in worship. I encourage all of the “stand-up men” out there — unbowed and unbowing as they helplessly watch their world crumble around them — to go out and try to make a slave of any of the people who bow in worship. Let me know how that works out for ya.

If your master allows it.

As for the rest of us, who have noted the evidence and extracted ourselves from the time-hole that is the “they did/they didn’t” debate; we are of course free to move on passed the threshold folks have been stuck at for some 3+ decades now, and sink our teeth into meaningful questions regarding prayer posture like why and who and where and when?

Incidentally, sheep don’t bow. Wolves on the other hand do. Guess who eats who? If you’re having trouble answering that, just look around the West.

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

 

After Death: Certitude or Mystery?

skeleton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And in Book I of the Gesta Danorum,

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

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

In Their Ancient Hymns: the Ethnogenesis of the Germanic Peoples

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuisto and Mannus

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

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

anglosaxonalcis

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

The Ancient Hymns and the Elder Futhark

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

runesymbol

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

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

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

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

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

Be whole!