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.

Thoughts and Musings on Halloween



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

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

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

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

Well, maybe.

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

It is neither Latin nor Celtic in origin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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