Odin – Utgarda-Loki

In book 8 of the History of the Danes (Latin: GESTA DANORUM), dated ca. 1200, written by Saxo Grammaticus (ca. 1150 – ca. 1220), it is narrated about the Danish king Gorm who, on his way back home from an expedition to the north, prayed for good sailing weather:

The king bewailed his friend’s disaster and departed hastening on his voyage. This was at first prosperous, but afterwards he was tossed by bad weather; his men perished of hunger, and but few survived, so that he began to feel awe in his heart, and fell to making vows to heaven, thinking the gods alone could help him in his extreme need. At last the others besought sundry powers among the gods, and thought they ought to sacrifice to the majesty of divers deities; but the king, offering both vows and peace-offerings to Utgarda-Loki, obtained that fair season of weather for which he prayed.

So, the king choose to pray to his favorite god Utgarda-Loki, who had become a different role about a generation later in the Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson; there the Æsir and Vanir are the deities to pray to and Utgarda-Loki is the leader of the Jötunn (giant) enemies of those gods.

In the same book at chapter 15.2 it further reads about Utgarda-Loki:
While he was thus inclined, certain men who wished ill to Thorkill came and told Gorm that it was needful to consult the gods, and that assurance about so great a matter must be sought of the oracles of heaven, since it was too deep for human wit and hard for mortals to discover. Therefore, they said, Utgarda-Loki must be appeased, and no man would accomplish this more fitly than Thorkill.

And:
From here the visitors could see a murky, repulsive chamber, inside which they descried Utgarda-Loki, his hands and feet laden with a huge weight of fetters.

In the GESTA DANORUM a relation appears between humans and UItgarda-Loki, who is mentioned several times more in this book of the Gesta Danorum.

Was Utgarda-Loki, at least for the Danes, perhaps a divine predator of Odin?

Asatru – Sketchy notes on roots

The original German text I wrote in 2000, an unpublished English translation was done by Penda Ullrsson in 2010 and revised by me in Autumn 2013.

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Knowledge means to understand the world and to expound the signs, Odd and puzzling, of the Past and of the fleeting hour that shines. And since from the ruins of the old, the coming days are built, Sceptic eyes can see how much of future folly is our guilt

Friedrich Wilhelm Weber, Dreizehnlinden (1887), translated by
Maximilian A Mügge, 1923..

The date of origin of a Proto-Indo-European people is estimated to be the epoch between 4500 and 2500 before the common era. The area of origin cannot clearly be named but there appears to be a connection with the Kurgan culture, whose representatives are also known under the name of the Corded Ware People.  They are said to have settled circa 5000 B.C.E. North of the Caspian Sea. The Pre- and Indo-European people were very likely a pastoral and equestrian people, half nomadic with very little agriculture.

In Europe they ran into the diverse megalith cultures (1), whose area of prevelance stretched over the wide spaces of middle and northern Europe (south of the Baltic Sea to the Atlantic). These cultures, to whom the so-called Funnelbeaker people also belonged, were essentially settled farmers. 

1. Megaliths are very large stones which were used during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages for dolmen and stone circles.

The immigrated Corded Ware people, including the so-called peoples of the Battle Axe Culture (also called Single Grave Culture), inherited the settled way of life from the megalithic farmers. Their cultural influence certainly led to a extensive Indo-Europization (Indo-Germanization) of the population in Europe – the Basque being perhaps the only exception. With our current state of knowledge, the process of Indo-Europization is barely (re)constructable, while the literature delivers citations of diverse explanatory models, such as conquest and subjugation of the Megalithic farmers. Yet the example of rash expansion of the Slavic culture in Eastern and Middle Europe in the 6-7 century shows that this process can be explained differently.

Diverse language and cultural groups formed out of the Indo-European population in Europe, among them the Celts, Illyrians, Latins as well as the Germanic peoples. The development of the Germanic language group consummated itself in the first half of the last millennium B.C.E., and was concluded between 500 and 100 BCE – more recent research results put the time at 200 BCE – with the so-called first Germanic sound shift. There was such a manifest change in the Germanic language at this juncture that it became distinguishable from other Indo-European languages.

This process probably occurred in the southern coastal region of the Baltic Sea, along the lower Elb and the Jutland peninsula. The Germanization of this area went along with the transition to the Iron Age, which presumably exerted a large influence.

The oldest archaeologically documented culture, which is clearly identified as Germanic by historians and philologists, is the so-called Jastorf-Culture in nothern Germany. It developed out of the northern Bronze Age of the Proto-Germanic cultures. It is geographically documented in northern Germany, southern Scandinavia and up to Estonia. It was influenced during its development by the southern Hallstatt and La Tene-Cultures, which points to even (Pre-)Celtic influences.

The oldest roots of the modern religion Asatru may lay in this historical epoch. It must be immediately added, that almost all knowledge which we have about the culture and religion of the Germanic people originates from a much later time. We know sparsely little from the first 500 years of Germanic history but meticulous research is bringing more and more to light.

The people, who we today combine under the term Germanic, did not view themselves as one Germanic people, they did not use the word as a self designation and likewise did not view themselves as members of an exclusive Germanic people. The unity, which the term suggests, did not exist.

When the name was initially used by the Greeks and Romans, it most likely did not denote the whole collection of tribes in northern, western, and middle Europe – as we use the term today – but instead only a single tribe or only a few tribes. Namely, likely either the Suebi or the Tungri. For the ancient Romans, the term served foremost only to differentiate between two fairly similar looking groups of barbarians, who in the eyes of the Romans differed only in their language (Celtic and Germanic peoples). There is also the perception, that Gallic (Celtic) tribes adapted and used the term for ethnic groups, which stemmed from the east side of the Rhine and moved into the Gallic lands.

Up till now, the origin of the word “Germanic” could not be ascertained beyond doubt. At any case, it was supposedly known a long time before the Romans came into contact with the Germanic peoples known to us. A written record for it appears from the year 220 BCE as the Romans achieved a victory over the Gauls north of the Alps. It was spoken of GALLIS ET GERMANIS in the record of their victory. Yet even up until the first century CE, Greek and Roman authors were of the opinion that the Germanic peoples and the Gauls would be related. Therefore, we can surmise that the term originated from an early characterization of one of the two peoples Suebi or Tungri.

It was not until a long time later that the name “Germanic people(s)” was conferred on all the tribes of the same language family. This led to the major misconception that there must have been one large Germanic people. Even today, many people do not want to accept the fact that this is not true; that it cannot be. We possibly owe Julius Caesar for that mistake. He labeled the Rhine as a river border, the population south and west of it as Gauls and those on the other side as Germanics. That was not even true in his time, but at least that way he was able to report to the Roman Senate that Gaul had been conquered.

In addition, modern research does not designate with the term “Germanic” a large populace or race. It uses it instead as a collective term for different peoples, in whose languages so many similarities are present that they can be seen as close related, yet still different, with correspondingly similar – but just as different – ethnic identities.

Linguistically, the Germanic people belong to the Indo-European family. Once again it should be noted, that this does not define a biologically special group of people but instead only people, who spoke an Indo-European language. That does not mean that all Germanic peoples spoke the same language. It only means that their language originated out of the same early language roots a long time ago and kept enough similarities to bring them in the language-category of Germanic languages. These may have rapidly developed in different directions so that the language of a foreign, not neighbored person first had to be learned before being able to communicate.

All the more because peoples, which had settled farther south, interacted with the people living there and incorporated parts of their language. But a collective language pedigree does not justify in any way the assumption of a being of unity.

Altogether, the term Germanic has no universally valid meaning anymore among the different sciences (archeology, linguistics, history). In every field it means something different: Linguists characterize the attributes of languages; archaeologists categorize their finds as Germanic according to the material composition, the motives and the location of the find; historians define ethnic, cultural, and social aspects.

  • Since modern research has adduced that related languages do not mean a consubstantiation between different peoples,

  • Since there were peoples who probably spoke Germanic, who obviously were by the Celts so highly influenced in their culture, religion and language that historians today suggest they might have been Celtic or mixed Gallo-Germanic,

  • Since there are grave finds in core areas, although associated with specific tribes, which cannot be clearly assigned to the Germanic people and they belong, if anything, to other tribes other reasons, previously seen as significant, can be dropped as arguments to view the Germanic people as one unified, coherent people,

altogether, the many research results signifies that we cannot speak of a single large folk of being ‘the’ Germanic people. Thus, when speaking further about ‘Germanic peoples’, one should be conscious of the fact that this is done so only due to its convenience.

 Nowadays, we designate with the term ‘Germanic’ a large number of ancient peoples, nations or tribes originating in western, middle and northern Europe whose ethnic identity is partially ascertained through their Germanic language.

The first Germanic tribes began to move in a south/southwesterly and southeasterly direction in the 3rd century B.C.E and fanned out in the next centuries over a large portion of the European continent. In that process, in which they encountered other peoples, a blending, which influenced their culture, was inevitable. They learned to acclimatize themselves to many different geographical (geological, botanical, etc.) and climatic conditions. This as well must have strongly modified their habits. If the Germanic peoples possibly may have had a similar culture earlier on, the southward migration on the European mainland and the migration to England later  at any rate resulted in large changes, so large, that one may easily speak about the creation of multiple independent cultures. In addition to this, independent autonomous religions belong in this category. Alongside the adaptation to local and regional factors, it is very possible, that religious substance was incorporated. This even to the point of incorporating other deities of those peoples, who had already been living in the area of settlement. Furthermore, the deities of the natural religions of the time likely were embedded in their respective environments and thus were quite different from region to region.

 New tribes arose and many of them disappeared again relatively soon; without us knowing exactly to where or why. One can only speculate, e.g. that they dissipated and were absorbed by other tribes or perhaps were destroyed in tribal wars. At the same time, the influence of the Romans must have played a role because they resettled tribes whenever they had a practical reason to do so. Homes and tribes must have been weakened to the point of not being self-sufficient by the exodus of young warriors lured away by Roman luxury goods. There is a lot of speculation about this, there does not have to have been a single reason.

 A reconstruction of the most well-known tribes of the first century B.C.E. and their geographical location is rendered in the following summary table.

 Assignment of the Germanic tribes in the 1st century:

Tribal group

Tribes

North Sea Germanics

Frisians, Chauci, Saxons, Batavians, Cananefates, Tubanti, Frisiavones,

Rhine-Weser-Germanics

Tencteri, Bructeri; Cherusci, Chatti

Elbe Germanics (Elbe Swabians)

Langobards, Semnones, Hermunduri, Marcomanni, Quadi, Angles

Vistula Germanics

Rugii, Burgundians

Oder-Warta Germanics

Lugii

Baltic-See Germanics

Heruli, Suiones (Svear), Jutes and many small Scandinavian tribes such as Gautes, (Geats) Hilleviones, Eutdoses, Sitones, Vagoth, Harudes, Chaedini, Firaesi, Favonae, Dauciones

 The Baltic-See Germanic peoples composed the most northerly tribes and their northernmost border was approximately the Oslo-Uppsala line at that time.

 This and similar overviews are discussable, scholars and well-informed laymen do not agree on all parts of it, so they should be taken with some distance.

From the 3rd century onwards powerful tribal federations were built, either by creating real new confederations or by the expansion of one tribe by adapting other tribes. In an overview:Frisian: They mostly remain as they were in their small territory; at their peak their realm ranged from the Wadden Sea Coast in the north of the Netherlands and northwestern Germany to present-day Dutch part of the Rhine – but only for a short time.

In an overview:
Thuringian: Thuringian is possibly another name for the Hermunduri because Hermunduri means “Large Duri”, where ‘Duri’ is another form for ‘Thuri-. Thuringian ist still called Duringian in dialect. Except for the older Hermunduri also (parts of the) Angles und Warni who had migrated southwards were likely part of this confederation.

 Franks: The name Franks was supposedly derived from a word which meant “Free Men”. According to various researchers, some of the tribes, which were merged into this large tribe are the Chammavi, Bructeri, Ambivares, Chatti and some other smaller ones.

Alemanni: This name indicates a federation of “all men” and it is conjectured that most of the tribes, which belonged to the early Suebi-Affiliation, joined together as the Alemanni.

Saxons: Indeed, there was a tribe of the Saxons before, however, it probably absorbed smaller neighboring tribes and subsequently their areas of influence until the Rhine. They also spread their area of influence in particular through sea-raiding.

Baiuvarii (Bavarians): The later Bavaria was also a fusion of many smaller tribes which all lived near one another.

From the German book “Germanische Magie” by GardenStone,– modified.

 In the history and mythology of the Germanic peoples and the later Vikings exist an abundant lore of gods, giants, elves, dwarfs, kobolds and other beings; usually they are today all grouped together and labeled as ‘the’ Germanic pantheon. From a historical point of view this it is not correct.

The people, which we now combine under the common denominator Germanic peoples, had settled in different areas in Europe from ca. the 3rd century BCE onwards. This must have brought so many cultural differences with it, that it is not a legitimate simplification when speaking about the religion or the pantheon of the Germanic peoples. There was no central religious body and the Germanic peoples left no religious texts behind. We have only the sparse Roman sources, which in this regard only have a limited value. The other few existing accounts of the Germanic religion were first written in the Christian time period after the 10th century. Whereupon neither copying errors of the oral delivery of the days of yore or substantial falsification can be ruled out. Furthermore come the, by all means sincere, good-willed attempts by mainly 19th and early 20th Century scholars to close the informational gaps with help from their knowledge of other peoples.

In addition, these sources primarily pertain to the Vikings and not the previously described smaller and larger tribes from many centuries before on the European mainland. A transfer of the viking culture and religion onto the early Germanic people is objectionable and not correct.

 The question is justifiable, whether Odin (Wodan), Frigg (Frija), Thor (Donar) and generally the Norse (Scandinavian and Icelandic) deities were worshiped by all pagan Germanics through the ages and in all regions south of Scandinavia. Nowadays this is increasing often being answered with “likely not”. See for a good example of this the book “The Mercury-Woden complex” by GardenStone in which he, consulting many primary sources, offers an extensive research on the worship of Woden before the Viking Era.

 With the current state of research, the term “Germanic religion” is to be regarded as a collective term for a multitude of appearances of religious history with strongly differentiating prevalence.

Similarly but not equal, the term “Judean” summarizes the Jewish faith, Islam and Christianity. The conception of a uniform Germanic religion is neither theologically nor historically maintainable. Yet many people still hold on to this romantic conception, although they could know in the meantime, that it is not consistent with the real historical records.

When a current follower of Asatru claims his religion is the continuation of the old religion of ‘the’ Germanic people, then one may and should attribute such statements to lack of enough knowledge. It would be more precise to say, that Asatru searches for its roots in the religios heathen conceptions

  • of the Icelandic or

  • Norwegian or Swedish Vikings or

  • the Germanic peoples, who lived in the first 7 Centuries CE on the European mainland, or

  • the Germanics who migrated to England we call Anglo Saxons.

The reference remains even then imprecise and is mainly based on non-scientific reconstructions but the statement approaches the factual circumstances somewhat better. Not only geographically but also the different eras of time caused large differences.

 The present world-wide Asatru community actually mirrors these differences. There are Asatru who place the Swedish myths and sagas, which (probably) stem from heathen Germanic time, in the center of their religious picture. Others place the stress mostly on historical but predominantly mythological information from time of the Vikings from Iceland, Norway, Denmark or the northern coastal areas of the European mainland. Still others search their roots among the Germanic peoples further to the south from the time of the Roman Empire until the Christian conversion waves. Often they narrow themselves to a certain area, for example, one only can aim for the Germanic peoples of England, others to the western part of the European mainland e.g. the area along the North Sea or central Germany. Certainly though, one better rely on historical sources which have a large variance in scientific reliability.

 Additionally the study and research of folk tales and folk customs play a role. Their possible derivation from the Germanic people is highly problematic but that study is a challenge.

 Moreover, there are adherents of Asatru, who do not pay much attention to the historical roots, they prefer to follow their own personal views and interpretations, no matter of lacking historical or mythological roots. And that is legal as well, because a religion does not ask categorically for historical evidence or mythological sources for its legitimacy, the legitimacy lies in the belief of its adherents.

 However, historical information, mythological sources, linguistic (etymological) clarifications and folk tales should be preferred as a starting point. One can build upon them so that a bridge between at least assumable old Germanic beliefs and a modern religion remains, no matter how shaky in many cases this may be. They do not absolutely have to be specific Norse sources, such as the Edda, Heimskringla or the Icelandic sagas, although precisely these sources are the most prolific. Likewise, the many local and regional folk tales from England, Sweden, the Netherlands and the German-speaking countries build a good starting basis, as well as the ancient and early Middle-Age historical writings and the abundance of archeological finds.

Not to forget related writings from Classical Antiquity and the many inscription on votive altar stones. But as previously indicated, the scientific value of that conglomerate of sources differentiates strongly on the scale of well verifiable to completely untraceable.

 The drafted differences of the historical Germanic peoples, including the Vikings, lead almost as a matter of course to the fundamental differences within the Asatru community. Nowadays, because all the Germanic gods and other beings, without regarding, peoples, time and geographical area, are pushed into one ‘Germanic’ pantheon, we can say – although not correct – amongst each other: “We believe in the same gods”. Whereby, of course, what is meant is: “We have the same pantheon.” :-)

Natural religions today, emphasized to Asatru

When speaking of religions, most people still think first of the so-called world religions Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, which for centuries have dominated the cultures of many countries. Yet they represent only one group, the so-called revealed religions.
Asatru and many other ‘neo-heathen’ religions belong to the group of natural religions, whose roots are much older than the revelation ones when viewed from the history of humanity.  A sketchy comparison should point the characteristics of both groups.

Characteristics of a revealed religion are:

  • They are almost always monotheistic.
  • It is assumed that God did not create and remain silent but instead “revealed” himself at certain times to certain people (prophets). The substance of this revelation comprises religious and sociopolitical instructions, which are to be followed.
  • The content and basis of the given information are not accessible over the path of empirical  perception but belong in the realm of the intangible and non-deducible.
  • New revelations often occur when the adherents of the respective religion find themselves in a phase of upheaval or crisis. At that moment, they serve to stabilize the community.
  • Socio- and health-political rules are likewise issued as revelations because they can obtain a legal status without any further justification.
  • Institutions such as churches or mosques are viewed as the outcome of the revelation(s).
  • From the revelation itself one infers an absolute claim to truth.

Characteristics of a indigenous (natural) religion are:

  •  Their polytheism, which can have two forms:
    Every god and goddess is a self-contained, independent entity with its own dominion and accordingly a sphere of responsibility. This includes the intrinsic power within that sphere to act as they see fit. This is called ‘real polytheism’.
    A feminine and a masculine principle is accepted and they are typified through dedicated deities. The autonomy and individuality of each of these two deities here is often unclear and sometimes only deals with the personification of the respective principle and then the polytheism is really questionable,s all the more when it stems from one universal principle of creation. This is called ‘pseudo-polytheism’.
  • The acceptance of natural forces as primal, elementary and permeating all that is living and non-living.
  • The absence of interpreters, who dictate sociopolitical behavior based on their point of view. There is no mediator between the gods and the people. There is no authentic charter, no founders and no fixed doctrine.
  • Direct communication for every person with their venerated gods on an individual manner. This does not change when celebrating religiously in a group. Anyone who puts on airs as a “Religious Leader”, “Heathen Pope” or similar simply does not understand this basic principle.
  • A point of view in which the gods do not stand outside of Creation. They are a part of it and operate in interdependency with humanity.
  • Networked thinking in contrast to linear and goal oriented thinking. Not simply causality is observed but the interconnection of all things.
  • The definition of the soul as a part of a person, which can also sometimes leave the body.  For example, dream or trance voyages (soul traveling). It is not a type of higher ethereal being that is understood as a contrast to the physical body.
  • The transition of the spirit (ghost) at death in the form of a disembodied being and its continued existence in another realm. Some indigenous religions also know the belief in a form of rebirth, in other indigenous beliefs this spirit travels to another final hereafter and does not return in some way the ‘here’. Both views exist inside Asatru. Beware, this differs from the Christian view where in early times a trinity from body, Ghost (spirit) and soul was accepted and was later changed into body and soul only, the ghost was reserved for the Holy Ghost only.

Those who want to determine on the basis of these criteria, in which the two groups a religion should be classified, will discover that not always all criteria are met. There are, for example, natural religions whose polytheistic claim is highly debatable. In that case another kind of classification might apply better.

Natural religions will sometimes also be labeled as ‘religions of experience’. In this case, “experience” is meant as a particular manner of belief, which differentiates fundamentally from the modern prevalent understanding of belief in the western industrialized nations. A few examples may make this clear:
The question “Do you believe in storm gods?” should be posed as “Are you willing to acknowledge a storm as an expression of one or more divinities?”
The question “Have you ever seen a god of the forest?” is also incorrect and should be posed as “Have you ever had an experience in the forest, which convinced you that a forest god has made itself known to you in a particular manner?”
And instead of asking whether there really is a god of the sea, you should ask yourself and consider whether you have had experiences which can be reasonably understood as a manifestation of a sea god.
It may now be apparent that the elements themselves and natural events are not divinities but can be mediums in which divinities manifest themselves and communicate with us. As the case may be in dreams or when things happen they way we wish.

Another characteristic of natural religions is the self-evident effort stemming from within the religion itself to live close to and in harmony with nature.
Nowadays it may appear ostensibly unnatural to adhere to a natural religion because in western oriented industrialized nations, especially in industrialized conurbations and bigger cities the gap between humanity and nature is rather large. Many people seem to live so cut off from nature that unnatural behavior is often not perceived as such, especially in big cities or other centers of high population density. He or she who would like to eat strawberries at Yule in the northern hemisphere, is extracting himself from the cycle of nature in his area. That cycle, which causes strawberries to only be available during a specific season – just as an example for food imported from far away regions with different climates in stead of seasonal food from the own region.

However, even if you live in a large city, there are many practical possibilities for a way of life in harmony with nature. Not only the choice of foods which fit the seasons of the own area, but also the manner in which the foods are grown and bred can be an important criteria when shopping. Furthermore, there are definitely more possibilities to behave in harmony with nature in many areas. For example, not buying products which have been produced through the exploitation of nature, getting involved in the conservation of endangered species and through appropriate behavior which contributes to a healthy environment. For that purpose, you should inform yourself about nature and the environment because such knowledge is in most cases necessary in order to develop adequate behavior.

The mindset of taming nature does not fit with natural religions because it implies trying to turn the gods into servants! And the gods do not let themselves be taunted.  Humanity is not above nature and thus they are also not its keeper. They are a part of nature, a nature which is to be respected and appreciated, just as you would like to protect yourself and your own home. In many cases, it’s a delicate balancing act to reduce natural religious and socio-political actions to a common denominator. Very often it does not work out and then you can only aim for the best compromise: Should the airport be expanded? Should a bypass be built around the small town? What should happen with nuclear waste?

And again, it’s applicable that you must inform yourself and be aware of the consequences of your actions and at least knowingly be able to cast your vote.

Translated from the German book “Germanischer Götterglaube” by GardenStone.
Yapp, that’s me. :-)

 

Germanic and Norse deities

Quite some time already I am working on a new book… and not only me but two other people too.
A book, which is titled:
“Gods of the Germanic Peoples
From Roman Times to the Viking Age”

As far as a planning is possible, the publication of the book is planned somewhere in autumn 2014.

Foreword

From all of the combined periods of the Germanic tribes from the Roman era and subsequent centuries and down to the Vikings, many Germanic deities have been passed down to us, many more than are commonly known.

Especially because of that huge amount, making a book about them may look like a lexicon or an encyclopedia. And many will see and use this book that way; that might be unavoidable. And undoubtedly, those who do so will have good reasons for that. Indeed it is a right and practical use handling the book that way. However, that was not really intended at first. The main intention was to provide a book that would picture those many deities ‘clearer’ to an interested audience in a sense that gods and goddesses and their worshipers, embedded in their own cultures, gain a bit more of understanding and transparency.

In addition, before sending questions, please first read the Introduction and the Afterword chapters – they possibly already may give you the answer.

Surely some of those gods already are well known by most readers, perhaps under different names. But there will be hardly any people who know them all. Nevertheless, although very many Germanic deities are presented here, it is not claimed to have covered them all. Perhaps some were left out unwillingly, from few other names the divine status was too unclear. Concerning the provided information given for each god or goddess, in many cases that was not exhaustive, on some there could have been narrated much more, of few deities complete books could be filled for each of them, in some cases such works already exist. And surely the contents of the here presented information will not get the approval from everyone. Actually, quite some things can be questioned; if that is done indeed, it is in the full sense of the author – the hope for critically reading people, who discuss what they have read and develop (further) an own personal view is a secret underlying aim of this research-, writing- and painting project.

However, it should be clear, that this is not a religious book for a pagan community; archaeological, historical, mythological lore-based and linguistic information is presented – enriched with new myths to make many gods and goddesses more vivid than just non-fiction information can cause.

This book is built on three pillars: The first and main pillar contains scientifically based information about names of Germanic deities, including many citations from ancient sources like documents from Classical Antiquity, inscriptions on votive altar stones, the two Eddas and more written sources from the Norse peoples and other sources from the Middle Ages and subsequent centuries. Very many photographs and some drawings from votive stones are included.

The second pillar of the book offers for a hundred deities a short and ‘sketchy’ fictive story or a ballad, all with a touch of history. They tell about day-to-day situations of what perhaps could have happened in real life in those heathen times. Except for a few, those stories and poems are written by Lucia Jochimsdatter.

For many deities beautiful paintings are contributed, made by Pollyanna Jones. Those paintings express a bit of the sphere of competence of those divine beings or how people could have seen or experienced them. That is the third pillar.

All together, text and illustrations, should give for each god and each goddess a kind of ‘vivid profile’. And exactly that is the aim of this book.

However, it is up to you, dear reader, to assess whether this two-volume book indeed reached its aim for you personally.

It has to be admitted that in most cases just reading and looking at it all is not enough to reach that aim thoroughly. Likely it will need some more initiative from you dear reader; to get a more complete picture, you may need some additional information this book does not give. Additional historical information, mythological stories, folk tales and lore, and perhaps also a few related historical fiction books would help to get such a more complete overview to get an impression who those gods and goddesses were, who the people were who venerated them, why they did, and in which ways. The list of sources used at the end also provides such information, but if you are looking for more, don’t hesitate asking us. And librarians in a nearby library can also certainly offer good advice on this.

 Except for the contents, writing a book directly in English is for a Dutch, whose second language is German and who only once was for a short vacation in England no trifle. That may illustrate my sincere thanks to Eric Kinzel from Seattle in the USA; he did an excellent proofreading, corrected a lot of words and sentences of offered many alternative terms and expressions. Doing that, he left my way of ‘saying’ things’ intact. That achievement is highly appreciated. But it implies, that the not native-English speaking author can be identified as such. However, that should not be an obstacle for understanding the text well.

Any left spelling or grammar mistakes are my faults only; they may have been caused by last-minute content changes or mistakes which occurred during the typesetting process and were overseen in the final check.

 The making of this book was a heartfelt desire and was realized with ‘lifeblood’. Hopefully it will get positive responses. It is a matter of course that constructive critical remarks on specific entries are very welcome and accepted as positive; they may very well contribute to a revised edition in the future. But reviews that simply run the book into the ground would be so very displeasing, that this foreword ends up with an old curse for such brutal criticasters:

 Now may every oath
and every intention
thee bite
That thou hast sworn
or planned
To savage this book,
By the water
bright of Leipt,
And the ice-cold
stone of Uðr.

Altered from the ‘Second Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane’, part of the Poetic Edda

 GardenStone, May 2014.

Asatrubookcoverweb

Ricagambeda – Goddess of Guidance

The name of this goddess was found only on one votive altar stone at the Birrens Roman Fort (CASTELLUM BLATOBULGIUM) which was build in the 2nd Century north of Hadrian’s Wall in the Central Lowlands of Scotland.

ricamgabeda-duoThe inscription on the altar reads:

DEAE RICAGaMBEDAE
PAGVS VELLAVS
MILIT
COH II TVNG
V S L M

And completed:

DEAE RICAGAMBEDAE
PAGVS VELLAVS
MILITARIS
COHHORTIS II TVNGRORUM
VOTUM SOVERUNT
LIBENTES MERITO

Translated:
To the goddess Ricagambeda, (the tribesmen) of the district of Vella serving in the Second Cohort of Tungrians willingly and deservedly fulfilled their vow.

The “PAGUS VELLAS”, also written as PAGUS VELLAUS was likely a sub-division of the Roman administrative district of CIVITAS TUNGRORUM, which was situated in the region of actual eastern Belgium, and the south of the Netherlands.

The name of the goddess is among linguists clearly identified as Germanic and it’s meaning knows several interpretations:
Strong Lady” is suggested, but also is connection is proposed with concepts like ‘to order or command‘, ‘being in control‘, ‘guidance‘ and, because the area in Northern-England at that time was a war zone, ‘warfare‘.
There’s also the suggestion that it could deal with the concept of guiding the souls of the dead into the hereafter.

In Germanic paganism today this goddess sometimes is honored and worshiped by those who seek divine and powerful help and guidance in difficult situations or conflicts.

 

New project: Christianization of Germanic peoples

Yes, A new project is started …

While several of my research-and-writing projects are in different stages of progress, a new project is added.

Too often I have heard statements about the Christianization of ‘the’ Germanic people which showed up to be assumptions and guesses, some were even easy-provable wrong; nevertheless  they’re presented as facts. As that recently happened again, it was for me the straw that breaks the camel’s back. So I decided to this new project with the  temporary title:

“Christianization of Germanic peoples – who, when, where, why, how and its tempo”.

This is just a work title which mainly has to remember me the several topics included. :-)

Geographically, the focus will lie on the areas Central- Western- and Northern Europe, including the United Kingdom and Iceland.

I am aware that quite some information exist about the Christianization in Europe, most of it is scientific literature. My aim is to present such a work in my usual rather easy reading and conversational language to all interested people – so the target audience are not just scholars – the main target audience however is the pagan community.

The first stage, the gathering of literature has already started. Because the project will take several years, I prefer getting (buying) the related literature (books, articles, etc.) in stead of loaning it for very limited time from a library. That means, I periodically need time to save money before buying a book.

Any tips, suggestions, or other help is welcome.

While this praject has started, several other ones are still going on, some are nearing their finish;

  •   the revised 2nd edition of the German “Der Nerthus-Anspruch” is ready and will be published within a few weeks.
  •   The English translation of my “Wild Hunt and Furious host” is done, the proofread phase is over, the layout is ready. In the first week of June, one print-copy will be ordered at the Print-on-Demand company to do a final proofread, checking for missed typos etc. Most likely the book will become available in July.
  •   The English translation of my German “Germanischer Götterglaube”, English work title: “Asatru: Walk in the Light of the Gods” is going on. However, it will not become a one-on-one translation. Many things will be left out. The book will mainly describe ca. 140 Germanic deities, from a historical/mythological/linguistic point of view, the actual possibilities of honoring/venerating them including a ritual frame and, where possible, with illustrations.  The finishing of the first translated draft is targeted around the end of this year. Proofread-volunteers are welcome.
  •   The project “Charlemagne, Saxons, Widukind – the myth of popular knowledge” is progressing. Much literature is gathered, partially also read, more is coming this summer and autumn.
  •   The Loreley project is still in the first research phase – collecting literature and illustrations.
  •   The Chatti-Batavi project is in the same stage as the Loreley project, will need at least another two years before the next stage, sifting the literature, can start..

So far this information……
Any questions, suggestions, proposals?

Hellivesa – a Germanic divine seeress

Hellivesa-1-webDedicatory inscription, found at the town Gleuel, near Cologne in Germany.

The inscription in the stone reads:
Ahueccanis / Avehae et Hellivesae / Sexti Val(erius) Peregrin(us) / et Val(erius) Felicio fratres / ex reditu ipsarum / l(ibentes) p(osuerunt) / Muciano et Fabiano co(n)s(ulibus)

Which means:
The brothers Sextus Valerius Peregrinus And Felix dedicate this altar to the ‘ahueccanic’ goddesses Aveha and Hellivesa, payed with the earnings from the temple.

Hellivesa is likely a Germanic goddess who was venerated in the region directly west of Cologne.The related literature offers two possible explanations for her name and meaning:

  1. Her name points to the small river Elle, nowadays called Ellebach  which streams in the aforementioned region and flows into another small river, the Rur. In this explanation, this goddess is seen as a local river goddess of that Ellebach river.
  2. In the second explanation the first word of the inscription ‘Ahuecanis‘ is drawn into the case:
    The first part of that term is assumed of being related with Germanic ‘*ahwō-‘  and Old High German ‘aha‘ which both mean ‘water’.
    The second part ‘-canis’ is brought in relation with later Germanic ‘*galan‘ singing spells (incantations), *seiþan and *sīþan meaning performing magic and Indo-european *wigulōn, *wihulōn, meaning to prophesy and to cast spells, to perform magic.

Hence, the term ‘ahuecanis’ would point to the two goddesses Aveha and Hellivesa who are either divine seeresses using water for their magical practice or water goddesses who are seeresses, sooth-sayers or prophetesses.

Upcoming book: Wild Hunt and furious Host – a prowl

Cover-testThe English edition of my upcoming book “Wild Hunt and Furious Host – a prowl” is in the layout phase now after the proofreading is done.
It will likely be published in early summer 2013.

The contents:

Getting in the mood: Marije’s displeasure
A few preceding words
Introductory thoughts and reflections

Part 1: Classical antiquity
– 5th Century BCE: Greece – Marathon
– 1st Century BCE: Greece – Actaeon’s death
– 1st Century: The Harii

Part 2: Migration Period and Early Middle Ages
– 5th Century: The Frankish Empire – Battle of the Huns
– 8th Century: Italy – A Flying Host
– 10th Century: Scandinavia – Hjaðningavíg, the eternal Battle
– 11th Century: England – Edric the Wild
– 11th Century: North-Germany – Woden—that is, the Furious
– 11th Century: France – Mesnie Hellequin
– 11th – 12th Century: Wales – Gwyn ap Nudd

Part 3: High Middle Ages
– 12th Century: Wales – Mallt-y-Nos
– 12th Century: England – Peterborough
– 12th Century: South-Germany – Ruolandes Liet (Song of Roland)
– 12th Century: England – King Herla
– 13th Century: Iceland – Odin in Viking mythology
– 13th Century: Central Germany – Moritz von Craûn
– 13th Century: Bavaria, Germany – Diu urstende
– 13th Century: Iceland – Brennu Njáls Saga
– 13th Century: Germany – “Das Väterbuch” (Fathers book)
– 13th Century: Wales – Battle in the sky
– 13th Century: Sweden – The Bagler Sagas
– 13th – 14th Century: Switzerland – Reinfrid of Brunswick
– 13th – 14th Century: Germany – Of two companions
– 14th Century: Germany – The Munich Night Blessing
– 14th Century: Austria – Prognostikon

Part 3: Late Middle Ages and early modern age
– 15th Century: Germany – von Brunswick: Henry the Lion
– 15th Century: Southwest-Germany – The ‘wittisch’ Host
– 15th – 19th Century: Sweden – The swamp of Gladvattnet and more
– 15th Century: Spain – The Santa Compaña
– 16th Century: France – The Great Hunter
– 16th Century: Franconia (Germany) – The Furious Host of the petty thieves
– 16th Century: Franconia (Germany) – Seckendorf
– 16th Century: Denmark – The Slattenpatte
– 16th Century: Norway – Lussinatta
– 16th Century: Switzerland – Renward Cysat
– 16th Century: Germany – Johannes Agricola
– 16th Century: North-Germany – Affgade Woden
– 16th – 17th  Century: England – Herne the Hunter
– 17th Century: Sweden – Loccenius and Scheffes
– 17th Century: Sweden-Finland – Odinsrider

Part 4: Age of Enlightenment and Romanticism
– 18th Century: Germany – Gottfried August Bürger
– 19th Century: Germany – The Furious Host at Mösskirch town
– 19th Century: Ireland – The Wild Hunt of the Sidhe
– 19th Century: Germany – Joseph Victor von Scheffel (1826-1886)
– 19th Century: Austria -Hungary – Johann Ladislav Pyrker
– 19th Century: Belgium and The Netherlands – Halewijn or the end of a Wild Hunter
– 19th Century: Norway – Draumkvedet (The Dream Lay)
– 19th Century: Norway – Guro Rysserova
– 19th Century: England – Lady Howard

Part 5: Contemporary aspects
– 20th Century: Otto Höfler – A critical note
– 20th Century: USA – Recent reports
– – Ghostriders in the Sky
– – The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Part 6: Backgrounds and social-cultural environment
– Hunt and Host in the folk tales
– The age of the folk tales and real incidents
– Terms in folk tales: A spot check
– Religiousness in the Middle Ages

Part 7: Folk tales
– Upper Swabia (Germany) – The Wild army near Albers
– Lower Saxony (Germany) – Heuke the Wild Hunter
– Austria – The Huntsman
– Denmark – Wolmar at the white horse
– Westphalia (Germany) – The tailor from Munster
– The Netherlands – Little Hans with the hound
– Belgium – The Badlord (Slechteheer)
– Upper Hesse (Germany) – The Wild Hunter Nimrod
– Lower Franconia (Germany) – The Wild Host and the Ferryman
– Netherlands – A squint-eyed woman called Guurte
– Austria – The fallen horseshoes
– Hesse (Germany) and Alsace (France) – The Lime Smith
– Hesse (Germany) – The Knight of Rodenstein rides out
– Cornwall  (England) – The Black Hunter
– Swabia (Germany) – The Mutes Host at Wurmlingen
– Denmark – The Grönjette
– North Sea coast (Germany) – The Rider on the White Horse
– Pomerania (Germany) – The Rider on the White Horse at Pasewalk
– Czech Republic – The Wild Hunt at Christmas
– Mecklenburg (Germany) – How the Wod was fooled
– Scotland – The Unseelie Court
– Uckermark (Germany) – The minstrel and his hump
– Austria – The hatchet in the stalk
– Twente (Netherlands) – Dirk and his wild boar
– Germany – No spinning wheel may rotate
– Russia – The ghastly beast
– Germany – Wode and the creatures from the underground
– Norway – Turned into a log
– Switzerland – People of the Night
– Germany – The hunted woman
– England – The farmer at Dartmoor
– Germany – The  ‘wuotes’ Host at Saulgau
– Giant Mountains (Czech Republic and Poland) – The night Hunter hunts the rattle wives
– Orkney Islands – The Wild Hunt of the Trows

Part 8: Conclusive reflections
– An important clarification
– Open questions and explanatory comments
– Still material for artists

Last but not least …
– Marijes displeasure – continued
– Special Thanks!

Appendices
– Appendix 1: Epithets of Odin
– Appendix 2: Seckendorf
– Appendix 4: Zimmern Chronicle – Möskirch
– Appendix 5: Ovids Wild Hunt
– Appendix 6: The doom of Colyn Dolphyn
– Appendix 7: King Herla and the dwarven king
– Appendix 8: Peterborough
– Appendix 9: Hans Sachs – The Furious Host of the petty thieves (Das Wütend Heer der kleinen Dieb)
– Appendix 10: The tale of Herne the Hunter
– Appendix 11: Hymn to the Maruts

Used Sources
– Illustrations
– Bibliography
– Websites

 

The kind of Pagan I am

Recently a good web friend asked me, how I became a Pagan. That question woke up a lot of rather scattered pieces of memory, all more or less dealing with that question.
Maybe while telling a few of them, they might give a picture that would answer the question.

First, my parents hardly told anything about religion at home, they didn’t go to church, so almost all religious ‘information’ I got was at school and at the boarding school I was for about twelve years.

At the primary school, I was a young boy below 10 years of age, there was told about the Bible and the God who is the central ‘character’ in that book. Because there was spoken about him as a ‘he’, I thought he must be male and asked the teacher after his wife and friends. Keeping some doubts I could accept the answer he didn’t need a wife but refused the idea he was all alone, without any other divine friends and family. I couldn’t image someone could live so very long without having a family or at least a few friends. I did have friends, even a girlfriend for a short time, sometimes we walked hand in hand. But walking with a girlfriend soon became boring, especially while at the same time seeing my boyfriends kicking against a ball, which was much more exiting at that time. In the course of time, that view changed. :-)
Not having family, relatives and friends….. I couldn’t even pity that, because I simply couldn’t conceive such a concept.

Another fragment I remember must have happened a few years later. As my younger brother was attacked by a much bigger boy, bigger too than I was, my instinct awoke, I ran towards them and hit the attacker with a fist on his lips which started bleeding, I kicked against his knee and as he bow forward for pain I hit my head against his nose which also caused bleeding. After that I cooled down slowly. The director of the boarding school punished me… for three days I had to write 2500 times a long Latin proverb.
We boys did not fight very much, but enough to clarify our hierarchy. Repeatedly we were told, that we violated the message of peace of Jesus by that, however that didn’t really change our behavior. On my question in a lesson about the Crusaders fighting the Saracens, whether those battles would violate that same message of peace, the teacher answered….. I don’t know anymore his answer, but as I pointed to my fight a few days before and said, defending my brother was as good as fighting Saracens I got another Latin saying to copy a 1500 times for being recalcitrant and impertinent.
It consolidated my rebelling convincement something was wrong with the belief I was so often told about in school.

Several years later as I read about Donar (Thor) who fought a lot and Wodan (Odin) who carried a long and dangerous spear, I felt a lot of affinity. Warlike Gods seemed to me much more plausible fitting to mankind than one God without family and friends who preaches peace but sends out armies in battle.

Later again, in a history lesson it was told that the primitive Batavian barbarians, dressed in hides, came rafting down the river Rhine to my home-country the Netherlands. Together with some friends we started in the next days building a float which was soon discovered and declared forbidden, we weren’t primitive Batavians, the teacher said.
Seeking for more information, I searched and found out that what was described in that history book about the Batavians was wrong and also that the Batavians venerated Gods and Goddesses, among them Magusanus.
I must have been 17 or 18 at that time.

In the following years I cemented my reputation as a bookworm, reading very many books about history and mythology, both fiction and non-fiction. Although I liked those stories and narrations from all over the world, my favorites were those about Germanics and Celts.

Many years later I found in the city library of my hometown Groningen an old dissertation about a Germanic Goddess called Holle. That was it. I must have read that at least four or five times consecutively. I wasn’t only fascinated, but had a very strong feeling that I had found what I was looking for. That Goddess appeared in my dreams and daydreams, I thought a lot about here, wrote Holle poems, made drawings and felt sure having ‘contact’ with her.
That strong feeling never left me.
I ‘discovered’ many more Gods, both Celtic and Germanic, got an affinity with more of them, but not as strong as with Holle. I felt and still feel myself at home with so many Germanic Gods and Goddesses…. well, OK…. a few continental Celtic Gods are ‘familiar’ too.

Today I can smile about this all, and I know what teachers and ministers told and preached about aspects of Christianity and Christian morals is not always by definition covering Christian belief, but then, I feel fine being a Pagan, specifically an Asatru.

Feeling myself ‘at home’ with so many Germanic Gods and Goddesses, I completely accepts the existence of other deities, be it the Christian and Islamic God, or Hindu and Buddhist deities, and Gods and Goddesses from other natural religions. There are enough beings on Earth to honor and worship them all….
I wouldn’t be surprised if those divine beings know each other and have their own struggles and parties.
That is also why I respect other religions, denying however, there is only one true religion and all others would be wrong. It implies too that I do not have a problem honoring Gods not belonging to my pantheon if I’m in one of there sacred places. I simply do not see any reason of not being polite, if such a divine being didn’t want me there, he or she surely would have shown that.

Today it is very often told and written, gods are human personifications of ‘power’ or ‘powers’ and many see those forces as parts of one main ultimate, ‘almighty’ force. For those people this implies, that it principally doesn’t matter if such a power is called Woden, Lugh, Jupiter or whatever other god name is used.
I really don’t feel well hearing that viewpoint. To my conviction, each deity is an individual and personality of its own, and with own spheres of competence and responsibilities. True, I’m not upset and neither do I feel offended hearing that. In fact, I think, the gods may smile about such human shortcomings which are basically for an imperfect mankind. But if I contact or honor goddess Holle, I an convinced not to connect to some ‘universal power’ but are interacting with a unique divine personality.

And then a rather hot item…. Quite often I’m asked about a possible connection between our personal genetics and ‘predestined’ gods to venerate. This article as a blog contribution must stay incomplete, but leaving out this topic would be really a deficiency. So, this is what I recently rather quick and dirty wrote about it in a Facebook group, quoting myself:

“Until today, any research for genetic descent is done through the Y-Chromosome. That is 1/46 part of the total descent. The rest, 45/46 part is much more difficult to determine and is hardly done yet and can come from any person in ones genetic history from very ancient times until to your parents. There are companies which offer genetic ancestral research and they’re often advertizing with the so called Frisian Rb1 genetic structure which should point to your ancestry. First, this is a pattern in the Y-Chromosome, and second, that pattern is found in many European countries, also in southern ones among the Mediterranean people. Generally, genetic markers to determine specific linguistic or cultural defined peoples don’t exist – it cannot be determined whether someone has Germanic, Celtic or Slavic ancestors because those people were from a genetic point of view already mixed peoples, developed from several other peoples.
If, with the accent on that word, someone has ‘Germanic’ ancestry, it simply cannot determined whether that is dominant in a genetic sense, one can have quite some other genetic dominance.
That could lead to the point, that if you want to honor your genetic ancestry and you’re restricting that to Germanic ancestry, you deliberately leave out all your other possible genetic ancestors which could be even a majority.

… as you know of course, linguists define Germanics as a group of peoples through language from that second Germanic sound shift until its spreading in several follow-up languages.
Archaeologist define it through specific characteristics of found remnants they ascribe to Germanic peoples. Historians and philologists again use other marks. The periods in these different points of view differ but have a big overlap.But none of them uses genetic markers to define Germanics.
If one should restricts honoring ancestors to those ‘Germanics’, he or she ignores older
ancestors…. those who we today call Indo-Europeans (in Germany called: Indo-Germanics). See e.g. here, which big range our ancestors may have. And of course we all have also much ‘younger’ and even much older ancestors.

But what I mean to say is, that honoring the Gods and Goddesses we see as ‘Germanic’ does not subsequently mean our ancestors just were those who also honored those deities.”
End quote.

Another question from a Christian acquaintance, it happened quite some years ago, was the friendly invitation to try to convince him that his religion would be wrong and mine the right one. He was quite astonished at my reply that both our religions were right. That is true IMO, because I accept that both his God and my Gods exist, worshiping them only can be right for those who wholeheartedly choose to do that. It is the concomitant human behavior that is sometimes highly problematic, specifically the behavior towards those people who have a different religion. I myself wouldn’t think one moment to proselytize or evangelize – it would IMO offend the God(s) others worship and would show principally disrespect for the freedom and self-responsibility of those other humans. Such an attitude reminds me to medieval situations:
“you better do this and that and leave the thinking to me”, which was and still is denying a basic social piece of humanity.

Reading this all over again, you won’t find back the corresponding emotions and deep feelings I had and have about my religion and the closely related topics, I’m not able to express such things’ in clearer words.