Things that go Bump in the Night – “Nightmares”: Germanic Elves

Kansi-net
by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt

The original German word for “nightmare” is Nachtmahr, a Mahr, Mare or Mara being a kind of nightly Alb (Elf) believed to ride people, trees or horses while they are sleeping and bringing on dreams or visions.

Even today we still know the English word “mare” for horse and several Germanic tribes, especially the Saxons, regarded horses as sacred walkers between worlds, animals with Shamanic qualities.
Loki’s equestrian offspring, eight-legged Sleipnir was given to Wotan and in later mythology it is Wotan instead of Frau Holle who is leading the “Wild Hunt” at night; a nightly spectacle in the sky in which spirit-beings and Alben are wildly dancing and celebrating.

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The word mare is also related to the German word “Mär”. It has been mistranslated as “story” or “fairy tale”, but it really means “message from the spirit realm”.
We can see this from one of the traditional Christmas Carols where it says, “From Heaven above is from whence I come, I bring you many good messages” (Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her, ich bring Euch manche gute Mär).

Nowadays nightmare is called “Albtraum” – Elf Dream, formerly “Albdruck” – Elf Pressure, since the Alben were believed to sit on people’s chests when riding them.
Of course what we associate with the word nightmare nowadays is a bad dream, something that stems from Christian influence unsurprisingly.
The Alben were demonized, the messages from the other realm considered satanic. When the belief in these messages persisted, the Christians did what they do best, they made up a distinction between “good” messages coming from heaven and “bad” messages coming from demons.
The Christians went as far as turning the Shamanic riding into something sexual. Female Alben, the Succubi and their male counterparts, Incubi, were believed to either rape or seduce men and women in their sleep, stealing semen and children and causing barrenness.
The Germanic people did not make a distinction in quality between the dreams that dark elves and light elves brought them, all messages were equally important.

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Johann Heinrich Füssli’s painting already shows the Christian misconception of the “night-rider”/nightly Elf being demonic and “evil”

If you are unsure whether you were visited by an Alb the previous night, check your hair. Legend is that if your hair is extremely ruffled in the morning or you inexplicably have a few braided strands of hair that an Alb or Frau Holle herself brought you a message.
In Ireland it is not Frau Holle but the Mórrigan (her name obviously related to OE “maere”), the “phantom queen” who brings such Shamanic dreams.

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Other German night-beings are the Frankish Nachtgiger, possibly related to the Butzemann (bogeyman, boggart) which kidnaps children that keep playing outside after duskfall. It carries them so far away from home that they never find their way back.
In Swabia this being was called Nachtkrabb, which has nothing to do with the word “Krabbe” meaning crab, it comes from OHG hraban, raven. Ravens were mystical birds of the dead and the other realm. (Wotan, the later “god of the dead” is often accompanied by his two ravens Hugin and Munin and so is the Irish Mórrigan.)

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Winselmutter

The Winselmutter, Whining Mother (White Lady) is a Thuringian night-spirit who haunts the houses of severely ill and dying people, crying for their pain and calling them to the other side. She is described as either an elderly lady, a white light or even as an anthropomorphic cow, a fact that reminds of the relation between Holle (Frigg) as described above and Audumla, the cosmic cow, Mother of all.

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Arabian Paganism and Islam’s Pagan Origins

written by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt

(Mohammed and his followers went on a rampage to destroy every trace of Paganism in Arabia, but at least a few survived! A relief of AlLat, 100 AD)

Muslims call the time pre islam “jahiliyyah” – age of ignorance. In turn what muslims are ignorant of is that the Allah/Al-ilah they worship is but an ancient Pagan deity. 

Most of what we know of Arabian polytheism is from scanty reliefs and stone inscriptions and from Ibn al-Kalbi’s “Kitab al-asnam”, Book of Idols.

The name Allah is the personal name of the God of the moon. He was married to the Goddess of the sun and had three children with her, the “daughters of Allah”.
His daughters’ names were AlLat (“The Goddess”), Goddess of harvest, fertility, and love. Like her mother she was associated with the sun. She might be related to Greek Leto, mother of the sun God Apollo.
AlUzza (“the Mighty One”) was the Goddess of honor, justice, war, and passion. She was associated with the stars.
Manat was the Goddess of fate, death, and the afterlife. Like Allah she was associated with the moon. Medina is named after her.
The Gods in this divine family were considered “high Gods”, meaning they were at the top of the pantheon of Arabic deities.

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Some view them as separate although connected deities, but most non-islamic scholars agree that Allah and Hubal are one and the same God. One of Hubal’s names is also “Lord of the seven oracle arrows”, the number seven representing the moon.
The “horns” of fertility of the moon deity Hubal towered atop the Kaaba as the most powerful deity of all. The horns were made up of the crescent moon with its tips (horns) pointing upwards. The same crescent moon that is now adorning so many flags of islamic countries and is essentially the symbol for mohammedanism today. On the same Kaaba quadrat annually circled by Muslims instead of Pagans now. The religion changed, the God they worship is still the same old lunar deity though.

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It is important to note that muslims, christians and jews do not worship “the same God” hence! Christianity is a religion that pieced together its beliefs from Osiric, Dionysic, other proto-Indo-European and samaritan-jewish tribal ideas of a savior figure.
Judaism’s YHWH was actually the unity of the heavenly couple. Yeh was another name for El, the fatherly God. His wife was Ashera or also sometimes called Hava or Shua. Their union was Yeh(ha)va YHWH or Yehshua. Think about it… – Yeshua is the Aramaic name of Jesus…

But back to Arabian Paganism.

Djinn

Central to polytheist Arabian belief was the idea of ‘barakha’. A holy and animating power or blessing instilled into humans through Gods or djinn (spirits). This power cannot be seen with the eyes, it is a universal soul (power).
The only proof for the existence of the Gods was the effects of their deeds in this world, by natural occurrences, miracles and so forth. They are for the most part messengers and mediums of Allah who is “not of this world”, so consequentially the original source of the barakha is Allah himself. Like Catholics pray to God through the Virgin Mary, angels and saints the Arabic people prayed to Allah through these other, “lesser” Gods and spirits.

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Originally the tawaf was a pilgrimage to and the circling of the Kaaba to worship the 365 God statues inside. (One for each day of the year.) The Kaaba pilgrimage for once united the different tribes and their different practices and Gods.
The Kaaba was circled seven times in honor of the seven planets (of the week) and the four lunar phases which each took seven days. The heavenly bodies, as was established earlier, were central to Arabian Pagan worship.
Lesser tawafs were made to other holy places, shrines (hajj) all over Arabia also.

Typically, worship and rituals were not planned in advance and occurred spontaneously. and can occur at any time. However, there were fixed holy days all revolving around astrology and especially the moon. Common practices included meditation, divination, the erecting or visiting of a temple, swearing an oath or oaths to one or more deities and curiously lion hunts. (If anyone knows more about the connection to lion hunts to Arabian worship please enlighten me!)
Also upon entering another village an offering to the local Gods and landspirits had to be made.

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In the islamic religion the talbiyah (invocation to their god) is the same as during Pagan times. Allah is praised as the highest God. In conclusion if there is a “highest” then there must be lesser Gods. Talbiyah is a prayer formula that Mohammed appears to have neglected to alter accordingly when creating his new monotheistic religion.

During the Pagan janazah (funeral) ist was customary for women to shriek, wail and beat at themselves. Some say this was to ward off evil spirits, others say it was so the spirit of the deceased would not enter and possess a living body. Women were considered to be especially susceptible to spirit possession.

The ritual animal mass slaughter-bloodbath by the hands of woman, man and child (after the holiday of Eid) is widely known in islamic culture. This, too, stems from Pagan times when the first goat of the flock was sacrificed to AlLat, Goddess of harvest, after summer’s end. It might be best to comment that only men and sometimes women sacrificed to AlLat, never children.

Ancient Arabian lunar chart

Aqiqah is the islamic practice of sacrificing a sheep or lamb to Allah when a child is born. The Pagan meaning of this sacrifice was to appease Allah so he would take the lamb instead of the child. (Infant mortality was high in ancient Arabia.)

Idols called wathan (hence the new name Wathanism for Arabian Neo-Paganism) were interpreted as the temporary house of the baetyl, deities, not as the specific deity itself. They were power points at which the worshipper could invoke the presence of the deity.

Wathan for a baetyl

The deities and beings of Arabian polytheism are too many to list on here, a list and more thorough description of who they are and their interrelations can be found at sacred-texts archive online or on Wikipedia for example.
Many of the later ones already bear the hallmarks of Christian influence. For example Uj ibn Anak is a jabbar, giant, said to have bred with humanity. The whole story reminds a bit of the tale of the nephilim, whereas in the Bible it was angels that had bred with mankind and brought forth the giants (nephilim) hence.
Maryam (Mary) was acknowledged as a deity in Arabian Paganism and many Gods from other cultures in the general area were adopted into the pantheon of Arabian Gods as well.

Other ways of devotion were tree, animal, phallic worship and the devotion to the Mother Goddess. Unfortunately, despite such rich tribal pantheons of female deities women were still treated rather horribly in the Arab society. Something that the mohammedian religion only made worse evidently.

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It’s questionable whether there is an actual existent Arabian Neo-Paganism to speak of. There are no written records of it, only accounts of what once was. It is rumored that in the Levant Neo-Paganism is growing, albeit in secret as apostasy from islam is punishable by death.
I have found only one person online that described himself as a Wathanist and he was a third generation Jordanian American from a non-muslim family already.

Does anyone know of an online forum or Wathanist blog other than the blogspot one, which appears to be dead? If you do, please drop me a line.

Quick Facts – The Hindu Goddess Chinnamasta

Copyrighted and written by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014

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Chinnamasta, a Hindu Goddess with origins in Nepal and Northern India also acknowledged by Buddhists, is a Goddess of (sexual) abstinence and self-sacrifice. Emphasizing the latter of her main traits, she cut off her own head and thus her name literally means “She whose head is severed”. Depictions of her usually involve her standing on a copulating couple with blood spouting from her decapitated neck. In offering her own head/third eye and crown chakra to the world she represents the triumph of willpower and spirit over flesh. Unsurprisingly, she has few followers and is known as a ferocious and merciless Goddess to those that stray from her path of enlightenment. Her worshippers mainly include yogis, certain kinds of Tantric practitioners and askets or other world renouncers.
Although Chinnamasta is a Goddess, she both possesses as well as grants “demonic” powers to her worshippers. These include control of one’s foes by “poetic speech”, removal of obstacles, ability to sway kings or authority figures in genereal, conquest over the “weak-willed” and finally, salvation.

Quick Facts – The Japanese Goddess Ame-no-Uzume-no-mikoto

Copyrighted and written by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014

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Ame-no-Uzume-no-mikoto or simply Uzume is the Shinto Goddess of myrth, revelry, dawn and dance. She is also praised as “the Heavens’ forthright female”. As a reference to her capacity as a Goddess of dance Uzume translates to “whirling”. A name suiting her well, since she is also associated with life-giving streams and waters. Lore has it that when Susano, God of storm, vandalized the Sun-deity Amaterasu’s rice fields, she withdrew into a cave and refused to come out until he had apologized. The world was thrown into darkness and despair. The Gods could not convince her to return to earth, but clever Uzume turned over a large tub near the cave entrance and began a whirling, joyful dance atop it. When the sound of feet on the tub was not enough to lure Amaterasu out of her hiding place, Uzume began tearing off her clothes, prompting the crowd to cheer and laugh. Curious now, Amaterasu carefully peered out of the cavern entrance and found herself face to face with her own reflection in a mirror placed at the cavern entrance by Uzume. Thus Uzume convinced Amaterasu to return into the sky instead of hiding her beauty and light away.
As a reward for restoring the world to balance, her brother Ninigi married Uzume to the God who guards the Floating Bridge to Heaven.
The dances of Uzume are still found in today’s folk rite of waking the dead, the one of planting seeds and the Kagura, traditional dance-mime.

Quick Facts – The Yoruba Goddess Yemaya

Copyrighted and written by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014

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Yemaya is The Great Mother in the Ífa’s and Yoruba’s beliefs and rules over the seas. Just like in many other traditions water is the symbol of life itself. Yemaya is maternal and nurturing, though not in the traditional sense. She nurtures her children much like Angrboda, Wenet or Lilitu by testing their willpower, strength and determination. She is not a meek Mother Goddess figure but represents the hardships of life (birth, rebirth, childbirth as well as death and demise). Her punishments can be terrible, but she’s fair minded and forgiving when remorese is shown and amends are being made. Yemaya is a wise yet cunning Goddess and she is praised for her bravery and unselfishness by her followers. When she goes to war on behalf of her children (followers), she wields a machete and no one can defeat her. She’s often depicted as wearing long flowing blue-white dresses, representing the waves of the ocean – the “waves” (ups and downs) of life.

Angerboda and The Dark Mother Figure across Cultures.

Copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014

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Almost every ancient culture and/or religion acknowledges a “Dark Mother” kind of figure who is often confused with a Goddess of Evil and/or Death.
Quite the opposite is true. But life comes with the price of death and the Dark Mother is all three: maiden, mother and crone, abundantly giving, nourishing but also merciless in her destruction in order to bring renewal. She is the Mother of necessary but painful change and knows but duty and the higher good instead of motherly love for love’s sake.

We have Lilith or Malkah-ha-Shadim in the (pre-)Jewish (and Christian) religions, Maha-Kali in Indo-Germanic spirituality, the Mórrigan in the Celtic and Angrbodha in the Germanic tradition. Just to name a few.

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Let us look a little closer at Norse Angerboda or Angrbodha, a Frost-giantess whose rune is Isa, and who is the mother of almost the whole Rökkr-pantheon that will bring about Ragnarök, destruction of this world to create a new one.

She is also referred to as the “Mother of Monsters”, “Hag of Ironwood” and “Packmother”. The latter for once because she is a devoted mother who pursues her childrens’ interests incessantly and ruthlessly for the higher goal of Ragnarök.

The_children_of_Loki_by_Willy_Pogany

She also earned that name because several of her children are wolves. The most popular of them probably gargantuan Fenrir and in turn his children Hati and Skoll who chase the sun and moon and hence give us the gift of daylight and moonlight.

In the Aesir’s view she is the “Mother of Monsters” who brought forth not only Fenrir but the Midgard serpent – Jörmungand – and the Goddess of Death – Hel. All these children were fathered by Loki and play a pivotal role in the evolutionary great leap which the Norse apocalypse is.

Some Heathens and Germanic or Norse Pagans, especially Rökktatrúr, believe that Angerboda is the same as the cosmic cow Audhumla who was a key figure in the creation of the nine worlds which the Norse multiverse consists of. Audhumla means both “void darkness” as much as “nourisher”.

(The prefix “An” in Angerboda already indicates her maternal nature and significance. In Sanskrit “Ana” means mother and so Anath is the Mesopotamian (Dark) Mother Goddess. Egyptian Goddess Anuket/Anukhet was the giver of life and later merged with Dark Mother Goddess Nephtys, the devourer. In the name Anukhet we can still trace the Ankh – the symbol of life.

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In England we have Black Annis who much like Indo-Germanic Kali devoured her prey and sewed clothes from her victims’ hides and intestines. This reminds a tad of what Loki did with his companion Angerboda, mother of three of his children: he ripped out her heart and devoured it in order to partake of her greatest gift: the gift of life by death; and hence Loki was able to give birth from that moment on as well. (He gave birth to Sleipnir shortly afterwards, Odin’s eight-legged horse).

Angrboda (as much as most of the Rökkr-Gods) is widely misunderstood and misrepresented, even by Pagans and Heathens unwilling or unable to give up the monotheistic mindset they were often raised with. The actions of these Gods are often depicted as vile, chaotic and nonsensical. Yet Angerboda for whom fostering children with Loki was but part of her wyrd (personal fate and life obligation) did not just bring forth three of the most powerful creatures who would help create a new world, she was also married to the giant Eggdhir with whom she had Gerda. Gerda was so beautiful that Freyr, a Vanic God who had joined the Aesir Gods, took her as his wife. Thus Gerda, remembering where she came from and her obligation, was able to secure the Sword of Victory for the Rökkr Gods.

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The message of the Dark Mother/s is constant change, challenge, relentlessness, unfettered love for “the cause” and also unselfishness. It might be hard to understand for some that Angrbodha’s rune is Isa – ice, halt, consistency. Paradoxically, it is this “frozen”, i.e. consistent mindset, that is responsible for upheaval, new beginnings and change.

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Wenet the Swift One – and other Hare Deities

Copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014

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To the ancient Egyptians God/dess permeated everything. There was no living being that was not in correspondence with at least one deity and everything and everyone was interrelated through deities. There was one divine source but a plethora of Gods and Goddesses, these deities were the building blocks of life.

In early times the cult of (the God) Toth knew four main creator deities, two with frog-heads and two with serpent-heads. Today we do not know how this came about exactly, but one of the serpent-deities was later turned into a hare Goddess, Wenet, meaning “The Swift One”.

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Wenet’s male counterpart, sometimes interpreted as companion, was Osiris in the guise of  hare-headed “Un-Nefer”,  meaning “Beautiful Renewal”. As Un-Nefer he was sacrificed to the river Nile every year, in order to facilitate the renewal of land and crops. (The latter bearing similarity to the Norse Goddess Eostre from which our modern/Christianized “Easter” as well as the “Easter Bunny” derived.) The hieroglyph “Wn” (=Wen) itself stands for the essence of life – it depicts a hare over flowing water.

WenetGuardianUnderworldAni

Unsurprisingly, Wenet was believed to bear restorative and regenerative magical qualities, she was a symbol of renewal, fertility, protection (against “overwhelming” powers), as well as a symbol of swiftness of movement and mind.
But that is not all. She is also the Goddess of the Otherworld as “The Book of Toth” (Toth, amongst other things, is also the God of the judgment of the dead.) asserts, and there are scrolls on which she is depicted guarding the Underworld’s entrance. In that particular role, her title is “Lady of the Hour”. Coffin texts often speak of Wenet as the one granting the souls a “scepter” on the journey to their new (after)life, most likely standing for authority, as well as “firmness of the head”, possibly meaning strength.

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Hares or Hare-Deities in general were the archetypal symbols of femininity, associated with the lunar cycle, fertility, longevity, and rebirth. But in every culture they are also ambiguous, paradox if not downright contradictory. They are feminine but also androgynous, cowardly and courageous, of rampant sexuality and virginal purity. (See Virgin Mary example below) The Hare is also the messenger of the Great Mother Goddess, carrying Mother Moon’s messages to her children at night (Yoruba, Egypt, etc.) Hares are also often known as ambivalent trickster deities in Asia and Native American Tribes (like Algonquin/Ojibwe/Winnebago/Menoimini/Ottawa God Nanabozho). There are many folk tales in which they are pitted against creatures much larger, stronger and mightier than them, but the hare perseveres every time, even if sometimes by questionable or borderline immoral means.

The hare and Hare-Deities in other cultures:

Mother Hare

Menabosho is an Algonquin spirit or God of the dead.

Eostre/Ostara is the Celtic/Norse Goddess of renewal, spring, fertility and rebirth.

487428_495872893783530_770232264_nFreya, despite her Fylgjas being cats is also often linked to hares. Probably due to her being a Vanic Goddess.

Both Artemis’ as well as Aphrodite’s sacred animal is the hare (amongst others).

Depictions of the Virgin Mary with a hare at her feet symbolize the triumph of the spirit over flesh, or basically: life over death.

Virgin Mary rabbit
(Well…on this one she’s petting a hare, whatever that means…why Mary, you bad girl, you…)

Before Odin replaced our individual Germanic tribal High Gods and Goddesses, (Frau) Holle/Hulda was the leader of the Wild Hunt, a large group of hares bearing torches illuminating her way.

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Hares and Rabbits in (children’s) literature:

Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit (in Alice in Wonderland)
Richard Adams’ Watership Down

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