Tag Archives: Anglo-Saxon

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.

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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!

 

Germanic Belief: Homosexuality

Homosexuality has always been an “interesting” topic within the context of Germanic belief, and is somewhat topical at the moment in the wake of the Orlando massacre. Now some people want to read homosexuality into Tacitus’ “disgraceful sexual acts”, which he mentions as a capital offense in Germania. However, we don’t see this reflected in any of the later preChristian-based Law Codes, nor did it hamper the interactions of our ancestors with the Greeks or the Romans. There is of course the Old Norse word ergi … which basically meant “girly man”, a male adopting a female role, and specifically refers to a male being penetrated. In this, the indigenous Germanic attitude seems to be more along the lines of the preChristian Greek or Roman, in which the masculine homosexual was regarded as every bit a man, eg. Hercules, while the feminine was regarded as, well, a “girly man” who would probably be better received at the “woman’s table”, but who seems to have suffered nothing more than mocking … you know, depending on how manly their man was and how angry any other man might want to make him.

It seems more likely to me that what Tacitus meant by “disgraceful sexual acts” was child molestation … which I believe triggered the same revulsion in the elder as it does in us today; complete with a differentiation between the worst types of felons and the child molester. And especially considering how much the Germanic peoples interacted with Greece and Rome; where homosexuality was more or less (respectively) permissible. And especially among a culture that didn’t stray too far into what goes on behind closed doors, ie. in the private sphere; such that it even a thrall was, by social custom or thew, afforded lordship under his own roof.

Indeed, a pathological, divinely ordained hatred of homosexuality is part and parcel with Abrahamic “religions of peace”, and well represented in Judaic, Christian and Islamic belief. It took Christianity two hundred years to move beyond the confines of it’s Judaic cradle, and then another two hundred years to secure power in the Roman Empire. And this was quickly followed by the drafting of laws that made male homosexuality a crime, and a crime that was punishable by death. In contrast, while the Anglo-Saxons were converted over the course of the 7th century, Alcuin of York was nevertheless writing some “interesting” letters to his fellow male monks some 100 years later, while it was only in the wake of the bloody Norman Conquest that the Council of London explicitly and publicly denounced homosexuality as a sin. It wouldn’t be until Henry VIII’s Buggery Act of the 16th century that homosexual intercourse was made a crime … punishable by DEATH.

Personally I don’t care about homosexuality or the homosexual community. As a heterosexual, why would I??? I do however care a great deal about my friends and those who have done right by me and mine … some of whom just happen to be gay. And I am highly offended by individuals who run amok in my community or the greater community of the West and feel completely justified in mass murdering those who don’t share their (non-Western) values. Sure, I’m a HUGE believer in local and regional identities, and believe in celebrating diversity in a realistic context — succeed or fail as you will — but as the saying goes, “good fences make for good neighbours”.

So, here is to indigenous NW European values! Christians can argue over fine points of doctrine all they want, and indeed they are not the offenders in regards to recent tragedies, but if they’re tolerant of homosexuality today, it’s less a credit to their religion or politics, and more a credit to their ancestors — white, male, patriarchal ancestors — and their indigenous cultural inclinations.

The Conversion of Kent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be whole!

 

 

Tiw : Our Father Whom Art in Heaven

The Old English god Tiw (also Tiu, Tig) is cognate to the Old Norse Tyr, the Old High German Ziu (also Zio), and the Gothic Teiws. These are all believed to stem from a proto-Germanic Tiwaz, which itself stems from a Proto-Indo-European root that references the heavens and their radiance.

This notion of “heavenly radiance” formed the basic Indo-European perception of godhood as seen in the various *deiwos group of words, eg. the Baltic Dievas (God), the Latin deus (god), the Indo-Iranian deva/daeva (god), Old Norse tyr (god, hero, sage), tivar (gods, heroes), and diar (gods, priests). Such Latin sprung words in Modern English as deity and divine also spring from this same root, while a brother stem provides us with such other Indo-European god-names as the Sanskrit Dyauspitar, the Greek Zeus, and the Latin Jupiter.

The very concept of the halo in the West likely has it’s roots in this perception of the divine. While we generally associate it with Catholicism and saints, the earliest depictions of halo’d figures comes from ancient Greece, where they were depicted as surrounding the heads of various heroes and philosophers from as early as the 6th century B.C., and were described as early as Homer (9th century B.C.),

Minerva flung her tasseled aegis round his strong shoulders; she crowned his head with a halo of golden cloud from which she kindled a glow of gleaming fire”. 

It’s equivalent in specifically Germanic art can be gleaned in the sun-wheeled bodied figures of Nordic Bronze Age rock-art and much later in the so-called “sunheaded” man of Anglo-Saxon art.

sunheadedmananglosaxon

That the Germanic Tiw retained his ancient connection with the ideas of the heavens and their radiance that are at the very root of his name can be clearly seen in the 10th century Abecedarium Nordmannicum where we read the cosmological statement, “Tiu, Birch, and Man in the middle”, while the imagery of the stanza associated with his rune in the Old English Rune Poem is glaringly celestial; conjuring the ever constant star in the night skies and reflecting the ancient Vedic perception of Dyaus as a black horse (the night sky) draped in pearls (the stars). We might further glean Tiw’s enduring association with the heavens in the name of his Eddic father, the etin Hymir, and in the symbolism of the Hymskvidha.  The name Hymir is likely related to the Old Icelandic word huma, meaning “twilight, dusk”, while his hall is said to stand at “heaven’s edge” and the greatest of his kingly herd of cattle was the ox named Heavenbellower. 

The O.E.R.P. also connects Tiw with the notion of glory — having substituted his name with the Old English word tir (glory) — and this is laid bare by Snorri Sturlusson in his Prose Edda, where he states that a man of great boldness is called tyr-bold, while he who is exceedingly well-informed is called tyr-wise. We also see it reflected in Tiw’s Eddic appellation “the Leavings of the Wolf”, which is of course — understanding the pan-Indo-Germanic  symbolic value of the wolf as one of death and the grave — a glaring reference to the “name undying” or “glory”. To paraphrase the Havamal, “Cattle die, kinsmen die, and the ravenous wolf shall eat it’s fill, but I know one thing that never dies, a good name well earned”.

Of the various lines of speculation, investigation, and thought one can pursue from this point, one that immediately jumps out is Tiw’s association with the Thing (Assembly) — which is an interesting path of inquiry itself, as it is at the Thing that the “collective light” of the Tivar is assembled — and the Thing’s own association with the heavens, the celestial bodies, and the creation/maintenance of time, ie. observation of the celestial bodies (a tradition extending as far back as Tiw’s name, as seen in the Nebra Skydisc, Stonehenge, and the Goseck Circle). As we read in the Voluspa,

“The sun, the sister | of the moon, from the south
Her right hand cast | over heaven’s rim;
No knowledge she had | where her home should be,
The moon knew not | what might was his,
The stars knew not | where their stations were.

Then sought the gods | their assembly-seats,
The holy ones, | and council held;
Names then gave they | to noon and twilight,
Morning they named, | and the waning moon,
Night and evening, | the years to number.”

It is an interesting fact that the Old English word thing (meeting, assembly) springs from the same P.I.E. root as the Gothic theihs (time). This root meant “stretch, span, finite space” and is speculated to have originally referred to the set time that assemblies occurred in.

Here one’s mind is drawn to the “sub-pantheon” of the Eddas, perhaps the same as that (over?) emphasized by Caesar in the Gallic Wars when he wrote,

“They (the Germans) rank in the number of the gods those alone whom they behold, and by whose instrumentality they are obviously benefited, namely, the sun, fire, and the moon.”

Such figures a Mundilfari (the Turner, axis (of time)) and Delling (Shining One) — who begat Sun and Moon and Day, and who are otherwise associated with Night — would all seem to have had a special association with Tiw  … if indeed they are not, in the case of Mundilfari and Delling, aspects of him.

In light of all this (no pun intended), in doing a comparative analysis, we might place aside, at least for a moment, such figures as Zeus, and even Mars, and look instead toward the Greek Uranus or, more poignantly, that Titan’s own offspring, Hyperion, who is the father of Helios (Sun), Selene (Moon), and Eos (Dawn) and of whom Diodorus Siculus wrote,

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.

Be whole!

Some random thoughts on modern Germanic belief…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Germanic Belief: The Value of Women

“… it was customary among the Germans for the household matrons to determine by lots and auguries whether or not they would go to war.” — Caesar, the Gallic Wars

Such is how Germanic women step onto the stage of recorded history; with the power to pronounce divine will in regards to the declaration of war itself. This status is reflected over a century later in Tacitus’ work Germania in which he expands on it,

“… they believe that there resides in women an element of holiness and prophecy, and so they do not scorn to ask their advice or lightly disregard their replies. In the reign of the deified Vespasian we saw Veleda long honoured by many Germans as a divinity, whilst even earlier they showed a similar reverence for Aurinia and others, a reverence untouched by flattery or any pretense of turning women into goddesses.” — Tacitus, Germania

We get glimpses of such women as these in Procopious’ tale of a 6th century Anglian princess who forced the Varni-King, Radiger, to honour his marriage contract with her; in Bede’s tale of the 7th century Queen of East Anglia who forced King Raedwald of East Anglia to continue honouring the deities of his folk despite his conversion to Catholicism, and who would later stir him to a victorious war against Northumbria; and of course the famous Anglo-Catholic Lady AEthelflaed of Mercia who came to rule Mercia in her own right during the turbulent 10th century. Indeed, the Anglo-Saxons boasted the first female Catholic saints, and the majority of these came hot on the heels of the conversion when indigenous Germanic attitudes and sentiments were still strong.  

Such powerful female figures as these can further be found even among the North Germanic folk of the Viking Age in the likes of Queen Sigrid of Sweden, and in the various and variety of powerful women found in the Icelandic sagas. Take Hallgerd Hoskuldsdotter of Njal’s saga for example, who arranged the deaths of two husbands she was forced into marriage with, and then contributed to the death of her third husband — of choice this time out! — because he had once slapped her face. While Hallgerd is hardly an example of womanly virtue, she personifies the power and willfullness of the female in elder Germanic society … the degrees they could go and get away with it.

Even in the direct wake of Christianization of all NW Europe, the Germanic people went on producing such powerful female figures as Eleanor of Aquitaine; whose legendary “court of love” allegedly brought about the fusion of the divine feminine and chivalry — and that “courtly love” nonsense — in the poetry of the troubadours. I would of course argue that the “divine feminine” always sat at the heart of native Germanic warrior ethics (see above).

While some might argue that this deals only with exceptional examples of the elder aetheling houses, and does not speak toward the common woman, Tacitus presents us with a more “boots on the ground” view of the value Germanic culture bestowed on women (albeit from the battlefield point of view of an outsider),  

“Close by them, too, are those dearest to them, so that they hear the shrieks of women, the cries of infants. They are to every man the most sacred witnesses of his bravery-they are his most generous applauders. The soldier brings his wounds to mother and wife, who shrink not from counting or even demanding them and who administer food and encouragement to the combatants.

Tradition says that armies already wavering and giving way have been rallied by women who, with earnest entreaties and bosoms laid bare, have vividly represented the horrors of captivity, which the Germans fear with such extreme dread on behalf of their women, that the strongest tie by which a state can be bound is the being required to give, among the number of hostages, maidens of noble birth.”

Such sentiments regarding the value of women are further reflected, most reliably, in the laws and customs of old. By Anglo-Saxon law for example, a woman was recognized as oath-worthy and capable of filing suit. Legal fines owed her for wrong-doing were paid directly to her, she could own land and both receive and assign inheritance, she could divorce (though rarely did so), marriage dowries were paid to her and remained in her possession and control, and yes, divorce entitled her to half of everything; though she was recognized as much as a producer and contributor to the general weal of the household as the husband. Indeed, the Anglo-Saxon words lord and lady (as an informal recognition of the heads of a household) meant “loaf protector” and “loaf-maker” respectively. while prior to the 13th century, the word man was indicative of species and not gender; the latter of which was indicated by such prefixes as wera (male) and wifa (female).

While the status of women was indeed diminished under the Middle Eastern born Abrahamic values imposed by the Church — to the point that ultimately they were no longer legally recognized as “persons” — the native temperament of Celto-Germanic women could not over-time be erased, thus leading in more recent historical times to a reassertion of their legal rights and cultural value. Indeed, NW Euro-descended women have acted as the authors and heralds of women’s rights for the modern world.

Not to unduly extol the virtues of modern feminism. While “butches”, ie. girls who wanted to do guy things, were not unknown among the ancestors, and relatively accepted, they were certainly not the norm, and modern “fundie feminism” has likely done more to devalue traditional female roles in society than the “oppressive white patriarchy” ever did. One would think that an insistence on the recognition of the value of these roles would have been more in order, as opposed to an adoption of male roles as the only roles worthy of anyone’s time. And speaking of the “male role”; too often the contribution that powerful males made to the cause of women’s rights goes completely over-looked, as though women rose up and forced the oppressive men of yore to relinquish their “monopoly on power” in some bloody “slave revolt” … which betrays itself of course in the very fact that those who have a monopoly on power, and don’t want to give it up, are pretty much in the exact position they need to be in to NOT give it up. In some places in the world if the oppressed speak out, the powerful simply shoot them in the head or stone them to death or whatever. It’s that simple where there is a great disparity of power and the powerful lack of sympathy for the powerless.

It should also be explicitly noted here that the modern fundie feminist has not been the eternal victim she makes her and her fellow flat-earth “sisters” out to be, but is in fact merely re-claiming something that was once, more-or-less, firmly in her possession. And which she only lost because of that famous value indigenous Germanic culture places on the counsels of women; which the Church used to facilitate the conversion of more than one king via arranged marriages between Heathen kings and Catholic princesses.

But all broadstroke finger pointing aside, we men and women of Germanic descent are all in this together. We know this in our hearts … that the “battle of the sexes” is, inevitably, a fraud that can have no winner. And you don’t let the “enemy” define you, your relationships, or your values. By indigenous Germanic values, our women … our mothers and grandmothers, our sisters and cousins, our daughters and nieces, our spouses and girlfriends, and those of our friends and neighbours … these things are sacred.

One profanes the sacred at their own risk.

“… to have had knowledge of a woman before the twentieth year they (the Germans) reckon among the most disgraceful acts; of which matter there is no concealment, because they bathe promiscuously in the rivers and [only] use skins or small cloaks of deer’s hides, a large portion of the body being in consequence naked.” — Caesar, the Gallic Wars