“Tiuz zur Ehre” – From Dyaus Pitar to Sahsnotas, our Skyfather

by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt

Sahsnotas Irminsul

The ancient Germanic and Norse tales of Gods and Alben, Giants and heroes, of mortal pathos mirrored by divine beings, in other words lore with all it includes and represents, is based on creative observations of nature and its elements.

Fire can be fickle and deadly but without the fire, the light of the sun, our worlds would be fast into darkness and annihilation.

The ocean grants us food and other treasures. It can also turn into a watery grave.

We are grateful for the air we breathe, pleasant fragrances, but are the unsuspecting victims of air-borne viruses or chemtrails.

Earth is our great nourisher, yet the price of living on it is to return into it – our Mother Jord – someday.

Sahsnotas was the embodiment of all the four elements. He was Skyfather, Sunfather, Earthfather and Oceanfather. He was not only the Lord and rider of the world yew tree he was our world, our world was made up of his different character traits and features so to speak and we were a part of him as he was of us.

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From Indo-Germanic Dieus to Germanic Tiuz

Originally, Indo-Germanic Dieus or Dyaus Pita(r) (“Father Sky”), the “blue God” was a sky and sun God mentioned in the Vedanta. He was father to Agni (the God of fire) and Ushas (the God of Dawn). He blessed the earth from his realm above, fertilizing it and securing the survival of his human children hence.

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Dyaus Pitar

Dieus (Latin: Deus, “the God”) was known as Zeus Pater in Greece and Macedonia

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Gebeleizis

and as Gebeleizis by the Geto-Dacians and Thracians who also settled in today’s Romania. In fact ziua means “day” in Romanian. The Romans called him Jupiter (“Ziu-Piter”)

As society changed, war, naval warfare and pillaging became central to the survival of the Northern European tribes. Thus spirituality changed as well.

The Skyfather was now a God of war, the Thing (moot/peoples’ gathering) and justice, known as Ziu, Ziw, Zius, Tiw, Tiuz, Teiwaz, Tiwaz by the different Germanic tribes and Týr by the Scandinavians.

Tiuz, Our Germanic Father-God and his many Names

Tiuz as Irmin

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The people settling around the upper and middle Elbe River called themselves Irminones after their chief God and Father-God Irmin – “The Sublime”, a byname of Tiuz.

A subtribe of theirs, the Semnones (who settled in today’s Niederlausitz), had dedicated a holy grove to Irmin which only persons with their hands tied to their backs were permitted to enter. By this the Semnones demonstrated their complete faith in this God; they voluntarily and gladly subjugated themselves to him, not only metaphorically but literally.

In case a person foundered and fell they were not to get back to their feet again but crawl back out of the grove.

This was to signify that they accepted the blessings as well as the hardships of life, imposed by Irmin, the Allvaldi (The Supreme; literally the Allruler, who was also called Allfather).

The Goths hung the weaponry of besieged opponents of war from branches in holy groves to thank Tiuz for the victory and for the prosperity this victory meant for their people.

The Rhinelander people were amongst the first tribes to replace Tiuz with Wotan in the 1st century. Up until that time they, too, sacrificed white horses, Tiuz’ attribute animals, to him on special occasions.

Until the 6th century even the Norwegians still sacrificed the first prisoner of war to Týr-Tiuz who they considered “the noblest of all Gods”.

Tiuz as Ingvi

Frey

The North Sea-Ingvaeones thought of themselves as the offspring of the sky and sun God Ing, Ingvi or Yngvi.

He is the Lord of the Ing rune, symbolizing isolation, separation, looking into oneself and drawing strength from oneself in order to grow and prosper, storing of energy and generally the seed from which all life and creative force comes. If you look at the Ing rune you will see that it consists essentially of two Kenaz runes brought together, Kenaz being the rune of fire, the fire of the sun, creation. To look into yourself means to “be” in Ingvi completely, to draw strength from the truest you, the spark inside given by Ingvi.

Ing is also just another of the many bynames of the God Tiuz.

Yet corresponding with the societal structure, lifestyle and character of the Ingvaeones, Tiuz as Ingvi had yet the one or other characterizing trait than Tiuz did. There were differences in worship and religious holidays as well.

To the shore population Ingvi was a mixture between Tiuz the God of justice and Fro/Frey/Frikko (“The Lord”), also known as the Foal God to whom the boar, white horse, elk and stag were attributed. He was a gentle agricultural God with several features similar to the “Horned God” or “Green Man” of the Celts.

To the Ingvaeonic Vikings he was also the God of seafaring and war.

On a side note, if you ever looked at a bottle of German “Jägermeister”-schnapps you might have noticed that its logo is of a stag with rays of the sun radiating around its mighty antlers. This is very much how Ingvi used to be depicted – save for the crucifix above his head of course. Later the Christian church stole this image and gave it a different meaning of course, the stag is – in their synretic belief system – representative of their God, the antlers symbolizing his crown and omnipotence.

Tiuz as Sahsnotas (Saxnot, Saxneat)

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The fierce and unruly warrior tribe of the Saxons, venerated Tiuz as Sahsnotas (sword-companion) in todays’ Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein (Friesland), parts of Niedersachsen, Jütland (Denmark) and parts of the Netherlands.

He was depicted as riding on a white horse, (see “Holy Horse!” – Horses in the Germanic and Norse Traditions) wielding a sword and wearing a helmet in the shape of a boar’s head. The boar’s tusks were pointed skyward, giving the impression that he wore a “horned helmet”.

Saxnot

Saxnot, the Irmin, was the world creator, the Lord of the Yggdrasil world yew tree (see Yggdrasil – Yew not Ashtree) and all its seven (!) worlds.

The world was “Irminsul” – Irmin’s pillar – and its effgy stood in the middle of a cultic cult site somewhere around Paderborn, Düwelsnacken (devil’s neck) between Altenbecken and the Iburg, the Extern Stones, Eresburg or Iburg until the savage Karl the “Great” (Charlemagne) in his mad rage against everything Pagan, destroyed it completely.

Saxnot’s name is preserved in the Frankish abjuration formula of the Saxons: “I abdicate Thunaer, Uuoden and Saxnote and all devils who art with them”.

Widukind’s Rebellion for Sahsnotas against Charlemagne

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772 to 804. Charlemagne entered Saxony with the intent to conquer the Saxons and drive them out of their homelands. Charlemagne’s army was mighty, but as soon as he turned his attention elsewhere the Saxons would return to their homes and slay the invaders mercilessly under the lead of Widukind (Waldkind, i.e. “forest child”). As our Saxon armies dwindled and more and more of our people converted to Christianity Widukind rode into the forest one day, asking himself whether he should yield and also convert to the Christian faith. He then – allegedly – had a vision that convinced him to abandon Sahsnotas and the faith in the Germanic Gods. Whether this is true or like any sane leader he decided to give in in order to save his people from certain death and outbreeding – we cannot know for certain.
Unfortunately several monuments in Germany are dedicated to him, the most famous one in Nienburg, and on each he is depicted with a Bible in hand.
Even after the official conversion of the Saxon tribes to Christianity though, many rebelled in secret, bloting to the Gods, celebrating the old holidays and keeping their traditions. This was continued until the “dark ages”.
So the Saxons were amongst the few ones that combated Christianity for as long as they possibly could, even after their “conversion”. Many of our Northern German traditions and holidays (see also https://paganmeltingpot.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/pagan-remnants-of-north-frisian-holiday-celebrations-and-customs-19th-21st-century/) are – to this day – essentially Pagan, even though they were given Christian names and meanings.

Widukind

Tiuz the North Star, Axis of the World

Some sentiments about the North Star are as follows: It is the the pillar of the world,” “the star that keeps the world going round,” it is the “Skyfather” himself, as well as “the left hand of justice.” (>Týr). If you look at a depiction of the original Irminsul you will see that atop it, in the center, is an Ing rune-looking shape – the North Star.

Tiuz-Runes

Tiwaz

When asked which rune is most representative of Tiuz, many people will immediately name theTiwaz rune. And of course it has some resemblence to the Irminsul itself, an Isa (stability) on which a Kenaz pointed upwards is “mounted” like a little iron battle helmet.

Ing

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Ing has been mentioned, two Kenaz’ coming together to shape a complete geometrical rhombus.

Sowilo

Sowilo, the rune of the sun and victory, dedicated to Tiuz as Ingvi-Fro.

Dagaz

As mentioned above Dyaus Pita(r) was the father of (the God of) dawn and day(light), in Romanian the word “ziua” means day and so does “Dagaz”.

Kenaz

Now, of course, Kenaz is commonly associated with fire God Loki, with Surtr as the King of Muspelheim or with any other fire giant. In some of these cases the fire becomes destructive, the fire of rebirth. In Tiuz’ case though it is simply the fire or force of light of creation.

Mannaz

Man. Though it is not specifically dedicated to Tiuz I include this rune as Ehwaz (the horse) and Mannaz are very similarly shaped for a reason. Tiuz rides the tree (all seven worlds) on his white horse and he “rides” us in our Shamanic travels as well. He “possesses” us and we live only according to Skyfather or rather according to all nature and the laws of the world tree.

Ehwaz

The (sacred white) horse. Tiuz-Saxnot as the rider of the world tree.

Eiwaz

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Rune of the world yew tree Yggdrasil, which I have written about in length in my blog post about Yggdrasil the world yew tree.

Raido

Tiuz as the traveller, the rider.

The Swastika and Black Sun

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The sunwheel, consisting of four Kenaz runes. To the right: The Black Sun.

Tuesday

Tiuz gave Tuesday its name. And Tuesday (as well as Woden’s day – Wednesday) were popular dates to hold the Thing, sign contracts and get married. According to Edwin Miller Fogel in his “Beliefs and Superstitions of the Pennsylvania Dutch” (1915) that the Pennsylvania Dutch still commonly chose Tuesdays and Wednesdays for above mentioned occasions.
He also writes that red is a color commonly associated with Tiuz, and what would make more sense if we consider that Kenaz, the fire of creation, the sun, are symbols of him.

Herbalism

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Aconitum Napellus is the Latin term for an herb known as Wolfsbane in English or Himmelvatershelm (“Skyfather’s Helm”), Týr’s Helm or Eisenhut (“iron hat” reminiscent of the Tiwaz-rune) in German. If you paid attention then you will remember that Dyaus Pita(r) was associated with the color blue.
Now, before you excitedly go look for Eisenhut for any ritual to Tiuz-Saxnot or for any kind of Shamanic travel – it is extremely toxic. Ingesting it carelessly may very well lead to death. I suggest thoroughly studying herbology with a knowledgeable person before handling Eisenkraut.
In homeopathy Aconitum Napellus is used to treat the common cold, flus, coughs, chills and fever. Please also note that one should avoid self-medicating, even with homeopathic remedies that are often falsely described as inefficient, “weak” or pure humbug. If you are suffering from any disease or illness do consult a healer, homeopath or similar.

Sahsnotas wife?: Baduhenna-Frigg

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Scholars have been arguing about who Baduhenna is for decades. We know of her only due to Tacitus who painted her as a Frisian or possibly Saxon Goddess. She possesses many traits of Frigg and is described as married to “the ruler God”. Due to the nature of her name she was most commonly believed to be a warrior Goddess, although there are voices trying to sell her as a guise of Wotan. Like so many other (possible) Goddesses – Tanfane, Zizu, Harke and many others, we hardly know anything about her. Any actual lore was lost, only clues remain.

Týr the Moral One – How the God lost his Oathing Hand

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If you are a Germanic or Norse Pagan or a Heathen of some sort there is no chance you have not heard about the tale of Fenrir’s binding. It does not only illustrate nicely the struggle between the foces of stability (the Asen) against the foces of evolution (the giants) but could essentially be viewed as the tale of Týr’s morality.
In short – the Asen Gods decided that Loki’s child, the Fenriswolf, posed a threat to their rules or perhaps the balance between evolution and stability, as Fenrir was a mighty giant who was boundless in his hunger. So they decided to bind him. The dwarves helped construct the bonds that might hold such a mighty creature and called it Gleipnir. It consisted of “everything impossible” – the sound of a cat’s footfall, the beard of a woman, the roots of a mountain, the sinews of a bear, the breath of a fish and the spittle of a bird.
The Gods approached Fenrir asking him if he would like to play a game to test his strength. Fenrir, already weary of the Gods since they had tried to bind him with ordinary chains twice before, agreed only if as a collateral Týr would place his hand in the giant wolf’s snout. Týr agreed. The chains held and thus Týr lost his hand.

Interestingly it is not specifically mentioned in the Eddas whether Tiuz knew what would befall him. This is a matter of drawing your own conclusions from your interpretation of lore and and of belief or “UPG” (unverified personal gnosis through prayer, meditation, ritual or other). If he did however as is commonly assumed, then – as Wotan sacrificed an eye for knowledge – Týr sacrificed his spear hand for the well-being of all the cosmos.

A Comparison between Tiuz and Wotan

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As times changed, so did the Gods and some were replaced completely. Wotan must have seemed especially appealing to the Germanic tribes, they were rather quick to not just adopt him as they had so many other Gods or attributes of other tribes’ and culture’s Gods, they made them their chief God, the Walvater (ValFather), father of the line of Val, often translated as “Father of the Chosen Ones” but literally meaning “Father of Corpses”.

Wotan was a God that broke up social and spiritual conventions completely, which was desperately needed back then:

He was not only a God of war and death, he was so eager to gain knowledge that he sacrificed his own eye. He lied and deceived if necessary and according to Saxo Grammaticus he also had Rindr’s father tie her to her bed so he could rape her and produce the mighty Vali who would avenge Wotan’s death in Ragnarök. Whether this is true or simply the bloodthirsty accounts of a Christian monk we don’t know. Since this tale appears nowhere else it might just be another typical Christian trap to convince those few Pagans left to abandon Paganism.
Wotan was a rather “liberal” God by means of using “female magic” (Seid), something Loki accused him of in The Edda’s Lokasenna. He overcame the (artificial) boundaries and although he did things that – according to the standards back then – were rather shocking, were also impressive and brave.
Naturally, Wotan took over many of the attributes of the former chief and most beloved Gods, of Sahsnotas-Týr who’d hung himself from the world tree to receive the runes, of Frigga-Holle – head of the Wild Hunt, etc…

He was not only sly, though not as sly as his blood-brother Loki, but he was also fickle. This is why as much as he was loved and revered he was also feared by his worshippers.
And so Tiuz was made a son of Wotan, playing a minor role in the pantheon and the lives of people hence.

Last thoughts:

As much as we have to be grateful to Snorri Sturlason for providing the stories of the Eddas, they are neither reliable sources due to Snorri having been a devout Christian already, nor are they respresentative of non-Scandinavian polytheism. In Germany, we have our own lore, deeply embedded in folk- and fairy tales, often obscure(d) and with a lot left to guess thanks to violent Christianization. But enough historical sources are available to acknowledge that the beliefs of the ancient Scandinavian tribes are not ours. We have our own customs, Gods and beliefs. I hope that more Germans, Southern Danes and Dutch people will realize what treasures lie within their own tales and culture and draw strength and inspiration from them.

Sahsnotas 'Foal God' on horse

Sources:

Wolfgang Gother – Handbuch germanischer Mythologie
Heinz Löwe – Die Irminsul und die Religion der Sachsen (in: Aufsätze | Deutsches Archiv für Geschichte des Mittelalters – 5 | Periodika
Jakob Arnstadt – Die Frau bei den Germanen
Felix Dahn – Germanische Mythologie
E. Doepler D. J. und Dr. W. Ranisch – Walhall – Die Götterwelt der Germanen
Franz Kurowski – Die Sachsen, Schwertgenossen Sahsnotas
http://www.tyrsax.homepage.eu/
http://gimenitha-sahsnotas-threcwithi.de.tl/

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Builders, Heroes, Primal Gods – The Giants in the Germanic and Norse Traditions

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written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt

In Germanic and Norse cosmology not Gods came first but Giants. Out of them the multiverse was made, they are at the core essence of everything existent; the primal forces of nature, that – despite being bound to the law and order of the world tree – remain raw and in some ways forever untamed, unbound, evolution unleashed.
That most of mankind and most Germanic Pagans view these forces as “hostile” comes as no surprise, how tiny and insignificant are they in comparison, how powerless and envious.
Just as the Gods created the multiverse by murder thus the majority of mankind copies their actions, intruding, invading and destroying nature and the order of it by any means possible. To conquer and rule these ancient forces is their goal.
Yet once nature retaliates and puts mankind in its place, then the cry is waxen great, to speak in biblical terms.
“Enemies of the Gods”, “world destroyers”, “dumb”, “underdeveloped” “evil”, thus have the Giants been reviled.
All because mankind and Gods are not at the core of their concerns and are but a fraction of it, another wheel in the machinery of life, no more – or less – important than an ant.
Of course neither is all of mankind out to uproot the order of nature nor are all Giants the same. So let us take a look at how versatile these beings, these Primal Gods, truly are.

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The murder of Ymir

Etymology

In Old Norse they are called Jotonn, (Swedish Jotun (sg), Jötnar (pl)), the Anglo-Saxons knew them as Eoten and (German) Saxons as Etan or Etin. All of these words are related to the word “to eat” or “hungry” and this is indeed one of the main attributes of the Giants. They are always boundlessly hungry, just like life itself, metaphorically speaking.
Another term for Giant is Thurse, Old Norse þurs (Strength).
The German word “Riese” or Old High German risi or riso, originally wrisi, wriso means the same thing, “strong” or “powerful”. Nowadays the German word “riesig” means “huge”, “gargantuan” though.
The word Hiune (German: Hühne) was first used in Middle High German. It is believed to point to the intermixture between some of the Germanic tribes with the “barbarian Giant-like Huns”, but there is no definitive proof for this assumption.

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Runes

Thurisaz is the rune of the incredible strength of the Thursen-Giants. It is also associated with brutish Thunar, slayer of the Thursen and Jöten.

Uruz is the aurochs rune, the rune of the cosmic (“Allmother”) cow Audhumla. It also represents the power of creation and regeneration. For those that equate Audhumla with the Dark Mother figure (Angerboda etc.) Uruz also plays an important role.

uruz web
Kenaz, the “fire rune” is mostly associated with Loki, sometimes with King Surt or the Giants of Muspili in particular.

In modern times further attempts were made to assign runes to particular Gods and Giants.
For example Hagalaz or Isa are sometimes thought to be Hel’s rune(s), however others believe that Isa is solely Angerboda’s rune and Hagalaz in combination with Thurisaz representative of Ragnarök.

Laguz is linked with Ran or Aegir (and I assume would have to be representative of the Undines and all other “water beings” or beings linked to water, which begs the question whether the Idisen to whom many a pond and lake was dedicated are included in this equation.)

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Rökkatrúr believe the Futhorc rune Ac to represent Angerboda, likewise some Rökkatrúr believe that Tiwaz (original chief God Týr’s rune) is a link to the Fenriswolf.

And there are many more examples.
Whatever one may think of reinterpreting and changing a system as ancient and well thought out as the runes everyone must decide for themselves, though.

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The Natures and Responsibilities of the Giants

There are Wind-, Weather-, Water-, Mountain-, Forest-, Frost- and Fire Giants and several more.
What all of them have in common is that they “stand as tall as trees and hills”, are usually even-natured unless provoked and keep to themselves and their own kind most of the time.
Plenty of Giant Gods have been described as especially handsome and proportionate.
They do not appear to fit the prejudice of being monstrous, barbarian dim-witted creatures. –

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The Thurse Thrym is described as combing his horses’ manes and tending to his dogs with special care.
Gerd is so beautiful that she conquered Wanen God Frey’s heart at first sight.
Thjazi’s daughter Skadi is just as lovely, a skilled and disciplined huntress. She even marries into the Asen line.
Loki’s wit is beyond comparison. If not for him the Asen Gods would not have their most valued weapons and treasures.
Mimir is especially wise, his name translates to “The Pondering”.
Fenja and Menja cannot only see all of the worlds’ past but see the future as well.
And Aegir, Loki’s brother, is a generous host; his feasts are infamous and visited by both giants and Gods alike. He keeps the peace with Thunar even after he calls the Lord of the Sea a slave and inferior to the Asen, insulting Aegir’s hospitability.

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Aegir, the “barnteitr”

Whereas certain criteria must be met to be allowed into Wal’s hall, Hel is welcoming to all, no matter how they met their end.
Eggdher is the giant’s watchman, a thorough and meticulous Thurs who is sitting atop a mountain watching for intruders or playing his flute.
Suttung is also known as “Fjalar the Wise”.
Jord/Fjörgyn/Fitjung/Hlödyn is the embodiment of the earth. Is she not all-wise and by being welcoming to all all-loving in her own way?
Wafthrudnir (mighty riddler) is known for his boundless wisdom. The only question he can in fact not answer is what Wotan whispered into Balder’s ear on the latter’s deathbed.
Sunna (sun) and Dag (day) light our days and Mani (moon) and Nott (night) our nights; we have their parents Nör, Mundilfari (world-turner) and Delling to thank for their existence.
Other attributes of the Giant Gods are fjólkunnig and hundvíss (knowledgeable), froþe (smart), ámáttegr (almighty), trolltrygg (faithful as a Giant) meaning faithful till death, something that holds especially true for Sigyn who remained by bound Loki’s side for aeons.

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Statue of Fenja and Menja in Odense/Denmark, ~1967

So where does the idea originate that they are dim-witted, underdeveloped and inferior to the Asen and Wanen Gods?
For once the Giants are often known to be barnteitr, happy as children, a term especially attributed to Aegir.
This term at least implies a certain kind of emotional simplicity; as knowledgeable and intelligent as many of them are, they have no interest in the complications that Gods and humans have created for themselves and the rest of the multiverse, be they of emotional or another nature.
Nature itself is rather “simple”; there are few grey areas. Nature’s laws are black and white, they are impartial to a large degree and do not place the well-being and survival of mankind, which is grandiose enough to deem itself special, first.
A good example for this would be Brünhild’s Helvegr (“ride to Hel” in the Elder Edda) on which she is halted by an unnamed Giantess (most likely Modgud). The Giantess speaks:

Modgud

Modgud, the Giantess that initially refuses to let Brünhild pass

“Depart! You shall not pass though
My tall gates of towering stone:
It befits a wife to wind yarn,
Not to know another’s husband.”

It takes Brünhild a while to explain to the Giantess that she was tricked by evil men and that Siegfried is her true husband, that she belongs with him in death as she would have in life. She did not break any oaths (on her own accord), she did not violate the laws of nature hence. Such treachery, betrayal and cunning is apparently completely unknown to the otherwise rather knowledgeable Giantess, who is not unfamiliar with Brünhild and her fate save for the manmade trials and tribulations.
I often hear people say they wished they could live a simpler life, return or reconnect with nature, far away from the rest of society and its complex systems, only then would they be happy.
This is basically the “Giant life”. To return to nature means to absolutely and unquestioningly submit yourself to the primal and unchangeable forces of life.

Jotun - Fire

In addition to the wise and witty Giants there are indeed those who are not just emotionally but intellectually simpler.
They don’t expect to be cheated and betrayed as they so often are in lore, folk and fairy tales either; they are true to their word, upright and honest and have no ulterior motives hence it is easy to make a fool of them, because they keep repeating their “mistake” of being honest and having no ulterior motives. For a while at least…until they catch on and unleash their terrible (though justified) wrath upon men, the earth and Gods alike.
To call these Giants dumb and insensitive is unjust though. They are the natural urges, the subconscious powers embodied. They, too, play an important role in the cycle of life, even if an uncomfortable one that is harder to comprehend oftentimes.

Their names already speak volumes:

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We have Surt (dark), Syrpa (dirty colored), Lodin (shaggy) and Skinnnefja (fur nosed), Hrimgrimnir (frost-grim); all of who might just fit the common criteria for beauty a little less than the Giants mentioned in the second paragraph.
Jarnhaus (iron head), Hardhaus (hard head) and Skalli (skull) sound like stubborn but possibly also quite steady fellows.
A tad more intimidating sounding names are Hardgreip (hard grip), Wolvesmage (wolf stomach – voracious) Hrungnir (constantly hungry one), Hástígi (fast runner).
Many of these Giants are described as multi-headed creatures with dysmorphic proportions and some are alleged to have multiple extremities.
Scholars assume that these originally non-Germanic Giant beliefs may have been influenced by extended contacts with the Orient.

The unruliness and chaotic raw power of these type of Giants is not only displayed in their names but their features also. It is as though the power within is too large for them, fighting to break free again, misshaped their bodies in the process.
These are the Giants, often Thurses, who are responsible for floods, tornadoes, avalanches, tsunamis and other natural disasters. It includes Surt, King of Muspelheim, who longs to burn the world to the ground with his sword of fire. He sits on his throne biding his time until Ragnarök.

Surt Ragnarök

King Surt

They all are the cleaning agents of nature, dangerous and sometimes deadly. Hostile? In a way, yet only if you consider death the enemy of life rather than a part of the everlasting cycle.
Personally I have no desire to leave this mortal coil just yet, but I would prefer dying in a natural disaster rather than being shot dead by a thug out to get the 20 Euros in my purse. Fact is mankind is much more hostile towards mankind than nature could ever be.
Nature does everything for a reason whereas mankind acts on whims and trends according to their “Zeitgeist” most of the time.

Jotun's Revenge

The Worlds of the Giants plus Utangard and Ginnungagap

The first two worlds were Muspelheim and Nifelheim, realm of ice – Hel’s domain.
On top of these two there is Jötunheim, home to Giants of all tribes. Jötunheim is surrounded by the mountain range Grjótúnagard, where King Thrym and his Thursen folk reside.
Not only are the Giants found in all of the above mentioned realms but also in Midgard (and most likely all other remaining worlds), where they live in boulders, trees, in mountains, in the ocean and deep inside the earth. Again: they are what everything in the multiverse is made of, there is no way of locking them in or out of a world. Their power transcends everything.

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Lastly there is Utgard or Utangard, the “outer limits” of Germanic cosmology, home of King Utgard-Loki and more wild Thursen folk.
To make this very clear, Utgard is traditionally not one of the nine worlds, it is considered an Otherrealm by most Germanic and Norse Pagans.
Thursatrú acknowledges eleven worlds of which Utgard and also Ginnungagap are a part. Ginnungagap is the empty space, the great divide, nothingness, in which everything comes undone and is re-assembled before returning to order; the runes for example.
Whether it is a world but rather a state is debatable though I presume.
The same holds true for Utgard. It is not part of the order of the multiverse, something that becomes evident in the traits of its Giants. They appear not to have any of the trolltryggd in them that are innate in their world tree-cousins and are sly and often deceitful too.
Whilst the Yggdrasilian Giants still carry in them the original (Gnostic or primal divine) spark of a state of being before order, they too were forced into shape.
They are known to be able to shape shift in most (or possibly all) cases, but are still bound to the cycle and its order while residing in the multiverse.
Let it be noted that they willingly remain in it as it is made clear throughout the Eddas and other lore that Yggdrasilians and Utgardians can very well cross over into each other’s realities.

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Utgardians are free of the cycle and its laws in their realm, but are they free in ours? – Skrymir, who has a run-in with Thunar at the outskirts of Midgard, is often equated with Utgard-Loki. While Thunar is traveling to Utgard, a Giant named Skrymir joins him.
We know that Thunar regularly journeys to Jötunheim to slaughter Giants with his hammer Mjölnir. Never has it been mentioned that Mjölnir did not fulfill its purpose.
Yet when Thunar attempts to murder Skrymir in his sleep three nights in a row he fails. Skrymir’s only comments in the mornings are that he wonders whether a tree leaf, acorn or bird refuse accidentally landed on his face at night, as he is noticing a slight itch on it.
The Utgardians appear to possess greater strength (and slyness) even in our realm.
In their own outer limits they can take shape if they want to, as they did when Thunar and Loki fared to visit them, but they don’t appear to remain in one form for long or only take it on in order to trick the Yggdrasilians visiting Utgard.
The “great Thunderer” Thunar was completely powerless against the Utgardian Thursen. His strength and knowledge was no match for the forces of boundless freedom, formlessness and chaos.
This is why I would view both Ginnungagap as well as Utgard as completely separate from the tree, with qualities and goals that run diametrically opposed to ours.
There is no reason for enmity though; different realities can indeed co-exist without (much) interference and especially without warfare after all.

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Utgard-Loki

The Price and Reward of Reintegrating into the Circle

The Eddas, folk tales and later (christianized) German fairy tales are filled with accounts of Giants as great builders, fine constructionists but also brutish simpletons with either rather basic needs or demands beyond human perception.
The story of Blast whose terms of building the walls of Asgard the Gods pretend to agree to, while really plotting to murder him, was already told in https://paganmeltingpot.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/holy-horse-horses-in-the-germanic-and-other-polytheist-traditions/.
Usually these kinds of stories are rather similarly constructed. The Giant agrees to do as he was asked by God or mortal and in return demands the home owner, his virginal daughter or in the case of Blast, the Wanen Goddess Freija as payment.
If we look at this as a metaphor, the meaning could not get much more obvious than this. This is the harsher (sounding) version of three times three.
If you invoke the primal, all-powerful forces of nature you better be prepared to pay the price to keep the balance intact.
Living in accordance with the natural laws, giving yourself to these ancient forces will bring you unimagined knowledge. – But you will lose your metaphorical “virginity”, basically your innocence and ignorance, in the process. There is no turning back. And this is not an easy road to walk.

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Grimm’s fairy tale “Das tapfere Schneiderlein”

The trolltrygga – ever-loyal – Giants never breech their contract in lore. They neither lie nor deceive, yet they are merciless in their demands and in their conduct, that much is true.
In the Grimm’s fairy tale Das tapfere Schneiderlein (The brave Tailor) the tailor has a run-in with a Giant who invites him to compete with him. Whilst the Giant plays fairly, the tailor cheats his vis-á-vis in order to win.
Needless to say the tailor is the “hero” in this story, alas, what moral of the story this is supposed to teach us I am not quite sure, but it remains a popular fairy tale nonetheless.

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In another Grimm’s fairy tale, Von einem jungen Riesen (Of a Young Giant) a human boy the size of a thumb is adopted by a Giant who feeds him of his own breast milk. 7 years later, when the boy is as tall as his stepfather, the Giant takes him to the forest and asks him to uproot a group of trees. The boy completes the task after some struggle.
Dissatisfied, the Giant takes home the boy again and feeds him for another 7 years until he asks him once more to uproot a group of trees. This continues once more until the boy has become a Giant himself. He returns home to his birth parents. Yet they are terrified of his height and strength and send him away.
In the course of the fairy tale it is emphasized that the once human boy is not just a Giant physically but he has become a Giant emotionally as well.
He finds employment on a farm, but instead of asking for food, shelter or money as payment he asks to strike his employer three times.
Interestingly the farmer agrees to this demand because he does not believe the Giant will complete the chores he assigned him on time. A big mistake.
On payday the farmer attempts to talk the Giant out of the agreed three strikes.
Enraged, the Giant hits his employer so hard he is cast out of sight, far beyond the horizon. The Giant then turns to the farmer’s wife and tells her she will have to pay the rest of her husband’s debt. The terrified woman begs for mercy; in vain.

Domino-Effect

In this story we find another universal law. That energy set in motion will have to discharge somewhere. This is the impartial, seemingly “careless” and merciless side of the Giants (or basically nature itself) mentioned earlier.
Likewise, in the Bible it is written that God will haunt and persecute the children and their children’s children of those breaking the covenant. This is the same principle. This is part of a person’s orlog (family fate) or as the Bible calls it, “original sin”.

Of course not all interactions with Giants demand a hard price to pay. There are also those tales of great reward and friendship between humans and Giants in which their strength is praised but also their meekness and goodness of the heart are emphasized.
In those tales Giants literally cry a river when witnessing the death of small forest animals and give them a worthy burial.
They are the protectors of the forests, tending to wounded animals and nursing them back to health, helping pregnant animals deliver their young, or they uproot dead trees and craft from them nice winter homes for rabbits, birds and other small or larger animals.
Some Forest Giants seek shelter on farms during especially stormy, icy winter nights. Come spring they grant the farmers their protection from spring floods and tend to their fields, granting them a good harvest.

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That the forces of nature are always both gentle and cruel, raw and merciful, steady and turbulent is emphasized in the marriage between Aegir and Ran. Aegir interacts friendlily with the Gods and grants good speed to every ship of mortals that he encounters.
His wife Ran (greedy robber) is the exact opposite. The sea witch in the fairy tale “The Little Mermaid” is based on her and like the original she collects unlucky souls and offers unholy contracts.
Ran herself sinks ships and forces sailors to live in her dark, wet, chilly hall. Neither Gods nor men interest her much if they don’t do as she pleases. The sea is both friend and foe to humans and especially seafarers.

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Ran

 Animal Giants

The most popular animal Giants are probably the Fenriswolf and Jörmungand, the Midgard Serpent. Fenris’ only crime was to grow swiftly in size and be insanely hungry at all times, gladly devouring everything the Asen Gods presented him with.
A great appetite is not exactly unusual for Giants, yet fearing young Fenris’ great strength and that they might be overthrown, the Asen Gods tricked and bound him.
In the process they betrayed and dismembered one of their own, Týr, who had given his word to Fenris that he would not be harmed.

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Hel, Fenris and Jörmungand

Jörmungand (from Old Norse jormun = Mighty and gandr = staff/wand) is sometimes described as curling around Midgard after he was thrown so carelessly into the sea by the Asen Gods.
Neither is Jörmungand’s sex mentioned nor are there any accounts about it other than a short notion that Thunar will slay the great serpent during Ragnarök and that he is known to go and stir it, poking, prodding and beating at it without much success – and most importantly – without point nor apparent reason.
Jörmungand could easily plague if not annihilate Midgard if it is large enough to curl around it. However, it doesn’t cause much trouble other than stir the sea at times and feed off careless sailors. Only when provoked by Thunar does Jörmungand display its true might.
(Although it might be concluded that – Jörmungand aside – generally minimizing the giant population as Thunar regularly does or “keeping the forces of unbound evolution in check” is a way of ensuring at least some form of stability and keeping the powers in “balance” for now.)

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Jörmungand, the “Mighty Staff”

In order to trick Jörmungand into thinking that it was just another sea serpent gliding through the waters rather than a boat full of mortals, the Vikings’ figurehead was a serpent head.
It is interesting that save for Loki’s only humanoid daughter with Angerboda, Hel, all of his children are bound in some form or another. Jörmungand is basically being “bound” around the countries of this earth and forced to eat its own tail.
Fenrir is bound by magically crafted rope.
Nari and Narfi are not bound but their intestines are used to bind Loki after Balder’s death.
Obviously, the binding of all these above-mentioned Giants was not very conductive to the survival of the Asen in the very end, but maybe they knew this and their story is not the Greek tragedy it appears to be at first sight. If they are the “Gods of consciousness” they will most likely be aware that a multiverse created the way it was would end (or keep repeating itself) in the same way.

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There are also the wolves of Ironwood, Angerboda’s other children. She nurses and prepares them until it is time for the end battle.
Her wolverine sons Skoll (greedy) and Hati (hateful) roam the skies, hunting Sunna, the sun, and Mani, the moon. For now we will have to thank them for chasing after the two, for Sunna and Mani had been too vain and lazy to shine their lights upon Gods, Giants, wights and men. If not for Loki who unleashed Skoll and Hati on them, we would all sit in eternal darkness now.
Skoll is so gargantuan that he will swallow Sunna whole, come Ragnarök. Luckily “Elf Candle” as she is also known, bore a child before her death, who will illuminate the New World.

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Nidhögg with messenger squirrel Ratatösk

The Storm and Weather Giant Hräsvelg (corpse-eater) is sitting atop the world tree, causing both storm as well as gentle breeze when flapping his wings.
The serpent (dragon) Nidhögg (low cowerer) curls around the base of the Yggdrasil, chewing at its roots. Nidhögg and Hräsvelg do not grow tired of throwing insults back and forth at each other. Alas they are so far away from each other on the tree that the squirrel Ratatösk keeps running back and forth between them, delivering their snarky messages.

Eight-legged Sleipnir is the size of a regular horse, yet since both his parents are the newly-called “Rökkr”-Giants (a term I’m not opposed to but that should be mentioned is not historical) what else would he be? He is well-liked by Germanic and Norse Pagans while his siblings are usually condemned and hated. Yet…it is Sleipnir that carries Wotan towards his death, his brother Fenrir will devour that once foreign and most likely originally Eastern/Slavic God.

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All these animal Giants appear not to be able to change shape. The Giants born into humanoid shape are often described as transforming into animals though.
Loki regularly turns into a fox.
Thjazi transforms into a Giant eagle.
Fafnir on the other hand used to be human and later changed himself into the grisly dragon that Siegfried slew.
Grendel might just be a kind of Giant, he is described as a strange blend between animal and human.
Is it supposed to tell us something that the animal Giants cannot change shape? Do they possess less power? Or are they more primal and hence powerful in turn, more Giant-like in nature because they are all instinct without complicated thoughts confusing them?
All of the above mentioned play a pivotal role in Ragnarök, without them the cycle could not be ended, a new cycle could not be begun.

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Storm Jotun

Historical and Modern Giant Cult

Ich paut dir Fasolt, dass du das wetter verfirst mir und meinen nachpauren ân schaden.
(“I beg you, Fasolt, that you grant me good weather and keep harm from my neighbors and me”).
Thus goes an ancient German prayer to Storm- and Weather Giant Fasolt.
To say that there are no traces of a historical Giant cult or of Giant veneration is not completely correct hence. There are – admittedly scarce – traces in the fairy tales and in classical lore as mentioned before. One other example is the prayer of Thorvald Holbark to Surt (!) in Landnamabók.
Save for the above weather blessing and a few vardulokkur and galdralát as sung in Seid rituals – such as the Buslabaen – there are however few testimonies that Giants were called upon. Which is not to say that they could not have existed, a lot got lost in the course of christianization after all.
One German(ic) incantation to stop heavy bleedings addresses “Tumbo” (unfeeling, silent, the name of a Stone Giant). It speaks of how Tumbo is sitting in a mountain with a child in his arms. The Giant is being flattered by calling him “holy” and then asked to close the wound.
Whether this charm or prayer was tied to the rock formation of a specific location that looked like a Giant holding a child cannot be determined anymore.
It’s possible that just like the German Horse Blessing there are forgotten allegories or metaphors we just cannot decipher anymore nowadays.

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Even if there had never been a historical Giant cult, who says they cannot or should not be venerated? They have truly remained trolltrygg and have kept this world alive and still in relative balance despite what we have done and continue to do to it. For this alone they deserve the utmost respect that they were so long denied.

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Their path is one of selflessness. They know of their personal futures, of their fates, and yet they accept it, working towards the next great leap in evolution (Ragnarök) without fear or regret. Nature itself cannot die. Nothing can. There is no death, only transformation.
The Asen are fighting so that there will be something left after our world has been burned, that is their role and they fulfill it just as dutifully. They are the stabilizing forces, without the giants they would represent stagnation. Without the Asen the giants would be “Utangardian”, unpredictable and most likely utterly dangerous.

If you praise the Asen and the Wanen, blot to the Alben, toast the dwarves, bow to the Idisen and give a nightly thanks to your Fylgja, yes, even give an acknowledging nod to Hel around the time of the second Idisenblot, do not be a hypocrite and shun or ignore those forces this world was made of and still essentially consists of. Hail the Giants!

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Balder, Frija and the Relics of the pre Germanic Fertility Cult

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written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt

The hero was inextricably connected to the matriarchal Goddess. Just as she, the Earthmother, was the embodiment of the cycle of life as maiden, mother and crone, the hero, Sunfather, in his birth/son, sacrifice and rebirth aspects was too.
He was not permitted to age or die of old age; otherwise the cycle would have been broken. Instead, he was sacrificed.
In other words, he was given back to the cycle during the height of his fertility, so he would return renewed, refreshed and the cycle would begin anew.
By returning into the Earth (mother) he fertilized her until she was ready to give birth to him again.
Some people are offended by these apparently “incestuous” ideas, but it is important to understand that they are not to be taken literally.
These were metaphors known in almost every ancient culture. They were merely a way of explaining the circle of life in a non-scientific way with strong images everyone could relate to at that time.

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Frija/Frigga/Frikka the great Weaver, depicted with swans (also the attribute animals of the Valkyries and Idisen).

Traces of the Earthmother/Sunfather idea can be found in the tale of Balder and Frija (Frigg). Balder (Lord) and Frija (Lady, originally “beloved” from Sanskrit priya) belong together as the later siblings Frikka and Frikko or Freija (Lady) and Frey (Lord) do.
Originally these were not divine names but only titles with which they were respectfully addressed.
These titles lived on the Old High German word frouwe and nowadays German Frau for “woman”, “miss/misses”, (“wife”) or Fräulein for “young miss” (literally: “little lady”).

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Balder’s death

Balder is not just gentle and fair, his beauty is so overwhelming that it is described as “gleaming”, he is “like the sun”, loved and appreciated by all.
Frija, his mother, knows the future of all beings. She foresaw Balder’s death.
It is hard to believe she would just “forget” to ask the thistle to swear an oath on not harming her beloved son.
Especially if she foresaw that in order to rule in the New World Balder had to “die”/fare to Hel so he would survive Ragnarök.
She must have acted in accordance with Loki and the “masterplan”.
This was remembered in the annual ritual spearing of a boar, slaughter of a white horse or the stag that was shot with an arrow around the time of harvest. This ritual sacrifice and the following celebration were similar in style to the original Celtic Lughnasad celebrations, although the background stories differ mostly.
By the way, boar, white horse and stag are attributed to the God Frey as well.
(Compare https://paganmeltingpot.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/holy-horse-horses-in-the-germanic-and-other-polytheist-traditions/).
In this charm Balder is first called “Phol” (Foal God) before it is mentioned that the foal he was riding on had twisted its ankle. Most scholars were quick enough to identify Phol as Frey, but for some reason refused to equate him with Balder.

bacchus03In Southern Germany Frija was known as Frikka. At least two local legends in the Schweinfurt (“Pig (boar)’s ford” – !) area near Frikkenklingen are about her and her son Lall (also: Loll, Löll, Lell, Lull), meaning “Little Lord”, to whom a fenced iron statue was dedicated.
It was the statue of a young boy with poppy wreath draped around his neck and shoulders and curly hair as fair as the sun (>sunwheel/cycle of life).
With his right hand he was touching his tongue in lustful jest (>maturation), in his right hand he held a cup of wine filled with ears of corn (>sacrifice).
He was naked save for a loincloth and the effigy of vitality, fertility, youth and beauty, a remnant of the ancient “Sunfather” God, youthful companion of the Mother Goddess.
The German word lallen (to babble) is directly based on the child-God Lall. He marks the transition from babbling infant to child and child to young adulthood. These children are still called “toothers” (Zahner) in German.
This is also where the idea of the “tooth fairy” comes from:
A Swedish legend says that when Frey was little the Gods gave him Albenheim (Alfheim) as a gift for growing his first tooth.
A custom that was adopted by many peoples in the North, giving little gifts to their toothing children in order to soothe their pain and welcome the next stage of their lives.

tooth-fairy-silhouetteAs the patriarchal Wotan cult and the Roman influence altered the originally matriarchal structures of pre and early Germanic society from simple to developed to dependent matriarchy and then – at last – patriarchy, this had to be explained in lore somehow.
This is the origin of the Wanen-Asen war.
The Wanen deities were given male counterparts who dominated them or had distinctly more power.
In some cases they were replaced by superior male Gods; in Saxon Nerthus’ case: Njörd who was made father of Freija and Frey.
Wotan did not replace but marry Frija, but he “stole” her presidency as head of the Wild Hunt, amongst many other things.
In fact Frija, the weaver of fates, the Nornen Queen, was suddenly good for little else than to bless marriages and watch over them.
When her husband had been away on his travels for so long the Asen thought he was not to return anymore, his brothers Vili and Ve decided to divide all his riches but share (!) Frija.
This humiliating practice was common law in the Germanic and Norse societies in the early middle ages.
Furthermore, Freija, both maiden and crone aspect of Frija, the mother, was degraded to being a whorish love deity who slept with four dwarves for a necklace…amongst other things… Welcome to patriarchy.

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It’s a Girl Thing – Germanic Heroines, Warriors, Seers, Witches and Goddesses *Part 2*

written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt

This is the second part of the Germanic Women series. In the first part the role of the Sibyllen/Völvas, Matrons, Norns and Disir were covered.

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Walküren (Valkyries)

The Walküren once were more than just „Wotan’s Wishmaidens“. The independent guardian spirits of the dead suddenly had a stern, “all-powerful” master in Wotan, and were not good for much else than to fulfill his personal demands and act on his whims.
The origins of the Walküren lie in the pre indo-Germanic mother/Goddess cult. Their name alone sparks terror, for Old Norse valkyrjar and Old English waelcyrge mean those who choose the corpses (from the battlefield) or literally “corpse-chooser”.
The only account regarding the original independent nature of the Walküren is found in the Njalssaga. It speaks of twelve females sitting at a weaving chair inside a mound. Their weaving wool is made of human intestines, the weights for looms are made up of male skulls. They are singing a song about harvesting the warriors on a battlefield.

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After finishing their grisly incantation the Walküren leave the mound, six of them ride towards the South and six towards the North. (Six to Muspilli and six to Nifl? Also, six is the number of rebirth or renewal by destruction; this is the Kenaz rune principle, the sixth rune of the Futhark dedicated to world-renewer Loki.)
It is insinuated that while they are sitting inside the mound weaving the warriors’ fates they are at the same time present on the battlefield itself.
Like the Nornen the Walküren alone decide what to weave, what warriors, both male and female, to choose and who to spare.
Neither prayer nor offering will change their decision; they are independent and do not answer to any God such as Wotan, let alone humans.

Walküren

As already mentioned their independence was taken from them later on; but even worse, in Medieval Skaldic Poetry the Walküren are described as lowering themselves enough to fall in love with mortals.
These beings obviously have nothing in common with the strong, independent female guardian spirits that once wove the fates of warriors; instead they let humans determine theirs (!) as the story of Brünhilde and Siegfried (Das Nibelungenlied) shows.

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This particular storyline of the Nibelungs is especially interesting as it points to the death of the Mother Goddess cult, which did not suit the rigid and patriarchal structures of Medieval, and most importantly increasingly Christian, society.
In the course of the story Brünhilde the Walküre is betrayed and dethroned by men. Still, as long as she is in possession of her magical belt, she remains independent to a degree.
Siegfried and Gunther trick her, forcing off her belt and Siegfried rapes her in front of her husband, Gunther. The matriarch is dead, figuratively speaking, and as she falls and the balance between male and female rule is destroyed, thus falls all of mankind: The saga of the Nibelungs ends with an inferno no one survives, a kind of Ragnarök on a smaller scale.

Die Walkurie! (The Valkyrie)

The same principle can be found in Véølundarkvipa. Here, as much as in several folk tales, the Walküren are depicted as swans. The swan, representing purity both spiritually as well as physically, was also associated with the soul and death in general.
In Véølundarkvipa the swan girls fly through the dark forest to “ørlog drýgja” – decide (clan/family) fate. They sit down at a lake, taking off their wings and feathers to “weave fine linen”, in other words they weave the fate(s) of the warriors on the battlefield.
Wölund and his brothers steal their feathers and force them to take them as husbands. 7 years go by in which the Walküren yearn to return to weaving the fates of the warriors. In the 8th year they plot their escape, in the 9th year (note the sacred number 9 in this context) they leave behind their captors and children to become what they once were. This, of course, is a bit of a happier ending, if only slightly.

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There is also an Anglo-Saxon blessing in which the Walküren are basically described as a witch army riding in the sky and casting their spears down into the warriors’s backs, claiming them thus. The (German) Saxons held a similar view of the Walküren and so even in today’s German we use the word Hexenschuß (“witch shot”) for lumbalgia.

It is the Idisen (Disir) that are specifically named in the first Merseburg Incantation, yet it is impossible not to think of the Walküren when reading the following:

“Eiris sazun idisi, sazun hera duoder,
suma hapt heptidun, suma heri leridun,
suma clubodun umbi cuoniouuidi:
insprinc haptbandun, inuar uigandun”

 Once Disir were sitting, sitting here and there.
Some were binding fetters, some were restraining the army.
Some were undoing the fetters, ????????
Free yourself from the fetters, escape the warriors!

Are the Walküren Hlokk (“restraint/chain”) and Herfjotr (“fetter”) described in this charm? It becomes clear that the idea of Idisen, Walküren, Nornen, Alrunen (witches), anthropomorphic Fylgjen, Hamingjen and others all seem to have influenced each other to some degree; it can be tricky to distinguish between them nowadays because contemporary Norse and Germanic Pagans mostly don’t make the same tribal distinctions between Gods, beings and practices anymore as was common in the old days. To shed some light on the Idisen/Walküren mystery though: In Germany the Norse Valkyries were adopted from the Norse and the Idisen turned into meek, benevolent female spirits, often ancestral spirits.

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Alrune, Heid, Haegse – The Witches

There is a common misconception amongst the majority of today’s witches that everything was peachy for witches in “ye olden days”. This is not completely the case with the Germanic peoples.

There were Healers and Herbalists, those we would call Naturopaths today. They applied their potions, crèmes and herbs while whispering charms or prayers.
Healing used to be a solely female occupation and was passed on from mother, aunt or grandmother to the younger female generation of one family; there are no accounts of male healers from those times at all. Under certain circumstances women could fight alongside the men on the battlefields, yet men were barred from entering the areas of “female mysteries” without exception.

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Countless accounts from Viking times mention that the Germanic healers that accompanied their army or troop set up their tents near the battlefield and treated both their own men as well as the hostile warriors.
They treated them no differently and if need arose, they buried them and spoke a blessing over their grave as well.
One example is the account of the healer Halldora:
“Halldora called her women to follow her into the battle between Glums against Thorarinn. – “We shall tend to the wounds of the men who are still filled with life, no matter which army they are from”.
The story mentions another interesting belief from those days; healers could not only heal but resurrect the dead as Helga did with Thorarinn.

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What might the mighty Walküren have thought of this? Or did this happen in accordance with them?
Another thought comes to mind. – What of Iduna and her “magical” (healing) apples? Once the Asen Gods did not have them at their disposal they grew old and withered. Had Iduna not returned in time to rejuvenate them and they had died, would she have been able to resurrect them as well?
It is Eir that is the healer amongst the Asen, but not even she holds the power to resurrect the dead. This truly is a practice that reeks of witchcraft rather than (natural) healing.
Many unanswered questions remain when it comes to “loopholes” in the usually very structured Germanic belief system of old.

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The Völven (aka Sibyllen, Spákonur, Wicce – Wise Women/Seers), already mentioned in part 1, often traveled from Hof (farm) to Hof, offering their services and in return demanding food and shelter until they journeyed on.
Whether these women, who were often called to mediate between two opposing tribes or political factions within one tribe, possessed actual magical powers or were mainly mentalists with exceptional power of observations is a matter of interpretation I presume.
They did, however, consult the runes (as described in the accounts of the battle between Sueban king Ariovist against Cesar 58 BC for example) and worked with other oracles and incantations called vardlokkur (spirit-luring) in Old Norse.
The lines were blurred between Völven and Wîsiu Wîp, wise women, as they were called in German and Spákonur (seeing women) in Old Norse.

bded9915dd4405a531e923cecaf6e7eeDivination was regarded as a high magical art indeed, yet witchcraft was also often viewed as harmful and dangerous as it was a direct infringement onto the personal wyrd and orlog of a person. The further the North was christianized the more Christianity influenced the beliefs of those who remained Pagan.
Had they already been skeptical and partly fearful of certain types of witchcraft, they now fell prey to the mass-hysteria and bottomless fear of witches; they persecuted and banished those accused of practicing magic almost as much as the Christians did.
There were many different names for witches, specifying what kind of witchcraft they practiced. The more Christianity wreaked havoc the more negative connotations these originally rather neutral names received.

seidr 1To give a few examples:

The word Haegse originally meant fence-seer in Old High German. It was related to the Old High German word Hagazussa meaning fence-sitter and the Old Norse word Túnridur meaning fence-rider.
Both are pointing to the Shamanic practice of traveling between the worlds.
Later, however, the Haegsen and Hagazussen were suddenly described as being monstrous, evil magic-weavers living in the deep, dark forest and coming out at night to plague and harm common people.
The word fence-sitter or fence-rider was reinterpreted as meaning that the witches were breaking the “Hoffrieden” (literally: farm-peace) and destroying the sacred barriers (fences) of the community against unlucky and negative forces.

CaptureLikewise the terms Myrkridur (Old Norse: Darkrider), Kveldridur (Old Norse: Eveningriders), or Nahtvrouwen (Old High German: Nightwomen) were also reinterpreted to mean something solely negative and sinister, instead of describing the practice of diving into the “dark”, i.e. subconscious powers within via Shamanic or other magical journeys.

The Hamhleypa (Icelandic: Running into a different Shape = shapeshifter) were accused of transforming into an animal and bringing on hail, storms, being responsible for a bad harvest, the death of cattle or children. These misconceptions about witches lived far beyond the middle ages and frighteningly are embraced by a majority of the followers of the monotheistic religions to this day.

familiar_medThere is one famous incantation in the Hávamál (13th century) against the “evil witchcraft” of the Hamhleypa:

“One tenth I know, when Trollkonor (Magical Women)
Ride through the air in flight:
Make them change their route I can[.]
Homeward, robbed of their cover (their animal form or (dis)guise)
Homeward with a confused mind.”

The author of the Hávamál, the Icelander Snorri Sturlason, was a Christian who lived in a completely Christian society already, so his accounts of witches (and alleged incantations warding them off) better be taken with a grain of salt.

0362ba31c164f7c63bd5f558b6f333a8Similar to the Hamhleypa was the practice of Hamfór and Gandreiðr. As mentioned in part 1, a Gand or Gander was a kind of wand, but Gandr also meant spirit, ghost, other-worldly creature. A Gandreiðr was “spirit-riding”, basically a magical, Shamanic journey during which you could see your past, present or future in a different light. Likewise the Hamfór was a spiritual journey during which your soul left the body and traveled through different spheres to gather information.
The giantess Hyrrokin was described as riding on a wolf (gezäumt) with snakes when attending Balder’s funeral. Hyrrokin is sometimes equated with Angerboda. Did Angerboda-Hyrrokin attend Balder’s funeral during her Gandreid in order to see or secure his future after Ragnarök? If not by her consort Loki’s doing, Balder would not have been kept safe by Hel during the end battle so he could return to the New World afterwards.

p206Other names for witches were Alrunen (all-whisperers/rune-expert), Heid (clear, bright), Fordoeða (Murderer), Wicce (pronounced “witcheh”. Anglo-Saxon: knowledgable, wise, from which the modern term “Wicca” comes from), Anglo-Saxon Witega (knowing signs), Old High German Wizago (German: “Weissager”) and Old Norse Vitki all describe someone who is knowledgeable in the art of divination (usually conducted with runes).
The Old Norse word Galster is related to Old High German Kalstahari, a term for someone who knows how to sing the magical songs, the vardulokkur or galdralát as described above.
Although there are some historians and scholars who insist that all witchcraft was persecuted pre-Christian times, the different descriptions and attributes of the different terms for ‘witch’ indicate otherwise.
After all several Gods (Freija, Holle-Frigga, Iduna, etc.), Jöten and Thursen (Hyrrokin, Heid, Gullveig, Elli, Fenja and Menja, etc.) and wights practice magic and/or witchcraft without any negative connotation in lore. The Völva of the Völuspa, Heidi, is human even and both humanity as well as Gods were grateful for her messages.

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Bindrunes for galdraworkings

The Edda teaches that Wotan even crossed the social taboo of forcing himself into the sacred space of female mysteries such as healing, witchcraft and divination; he learned the “womanly” art of Seid, the art of divining with the help of the spirits (of the deceased), something that Völven traveling from Hof to Hof also often engaged in.
However, Seid (Old Norse: Seidhr) became popular enough for several males to become Seidmen. These men were often looked down upon, probably because this “womanly” practice was of female Wanen origin and it was mentioned that the war-happy Asen were helpless against the Seid magic of the Wanen deities.

tumblr_lu81k7dtRq1r1d1wro1_500Seid could also be used against people as described in the stories of the witch Busla who curses a king with galdr to do her bidding and in Laxdoelasaga it is the farmer Thorleikr who asks the witch Grima to help him curse his neighbor.
In both cases the witches cursed the men while they were asleep and helpless, something that influenced the medieval (Christianized) belief of “demonic” Alben riding people’s chests at night in order to cause bad dreams and bad luck.
Since the Germanic peoples were all highly virtuous and incredibly brave folks with a strong morale of right and wrong it comes as no surprise that such cowardly practices that avoided a fair and open fight were condemned and despised.
In fact, they were even punishable by fine or in the case of Ragnvold in the Förnmannasaga it was even punishable by death.
It’s also possible that Seid, “death magic”, was also feared more than other forms of divination, because of the old Germanic belief in aptrgangr, draugr, other kinds of revenants and ghostly beings out to harm humans.
Seid is often described as being accompanied by heavy storms, the Gerningaveðr (magical weather).
In later times people were of the opinion that only evil magic brought on such storms.

tattooYet…where was Thor when his domain was invaded like this? Is this just an indication that the Gods did not intervene unasked, much like nowadays when we pollute and destroy the earth given to us, or that while humans viewed such witchcraft and storms as evil the Gods did not? Who knows.
Fact is that even in today’s Germany we know the term Wetterhexe (weather witch) which is used either to describe meteorologists but also people very sensitive to the weather, and is not associated with anything harmful or negative (anymore).
Viking female warriorFemale Warriors

There were active and passive female warriors. The passive warriors accompanied their tribe’s army or troop and cheered them on from the sidelines of the battlefield.
Plutarch writes that during one particular battle the Teutonic warriors tried to retreat. Their women ran at them with axes and swords, fighting them – the traitors – as much as their enemies, the Romans. This appears to be a common phenomenon amongst the Germanic tribes as Tacitus in his “Germania” and Cesar in his “De Bello Gallico” confirm.
Furthermore, Tacitus writes that the women used psychological warfare against their own men by shouting at them to spare them and the children the humiliation of Roman captivity and all the gruesomeness it entailed.
If their men fought successfully the Germanic women would bear their breasts and shake them so as to keep up the motivation of the warriors.

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Active female warriors (“shieldmaidens”) often bore names ending with or including the syllables wig, hild, gund, gart, hadu, ger (spear), brünne, helm (helm) etc. They were found in all known Germanic and Scandinavian tribes. Were they raised to become warriors or did they choose their (warrior) names later on as they decided to join the army?
Even in the saga of Erik the Red we hear of brave Freydis, the pregnant wife of a warrior, who actively joins the battle, fighting with exposed breasts. Something that confused and frightens the enemies so much that they escape as quickly as possible.

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Two factors influenced the drastic change in Pagan Germanic societal structure in which women had had a relatively good standing: The diffusion of the Wotan cult and the increasing contact with the Christian Romans who did not grant any rights to women.
Before the Winniles had accepted the Wotan cult and renamed themselves Langobards their women had had the right to carry swords, axes and other weaponry and use it as well. If not for them, they would not have defeated the Vandals.
However, in 568, after they had settled in Northern Italy, they enacted laws that clearly stated that women were absolutely forbidden to carry or use weapons.
Either due to societal change or by (Christian) law and conversion, one after another all Germanic tribes began treating their women as second-class citizens without any rights, feelings nor wits. The beginning of the dark age.

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“Holy Horse!” – Horses in the Germanic and other polytheistic Traditions

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written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt

Alongside the multitude of deities in Germanic Paganism there are several other beings of importance, which are all too often overlooked.
The horse is an especially sacred animal in the Northern traditions, particularly to the Saxons.

Horses attested to in Lore

Sleipnir

There is, of course, the most famous horse Sleipnir, the eight-legged son of Loki. Unlike his siblings Fenris, Hel and Jörmungand, he is not met with general hostility. This is the story of his conception:

mason-svadilfariBlast, a Hrimthurse (frost giant) was asked to build an impenetrable wall around Asgard. As payment he asked for the giant siblings Sunna (the sun), Mani (the moon) and – should she have him – Wanen Goddess Freija, hostage of the Asen deities.
The Asen pretended to agree to Blast’s terms, but resorted to threatening Loki with a painful death if he didn’t find a way to cheat the great builder out of his payment.
Svadilfari (“Unlucky traveler”) was the name of the Thurse’s horse that helped him carry the heavy boulders used to build the Asgardian walls.

Odin_Loki_and_Sleipnir_by_Hellanim

image by Hellanim

Loki turned himself into a female horse, luring away Svadilfari from his master and mating with him in the forest. The story’s end varies from culture to culture. Here we know that despite being delayed by the absence of his horse Svadilfari the great builder still finished Asgard’s walls on time. Outraged, Wotan and the rest of the Asen Gods sent Thunar to murder the Hrimthurs. Another story is that they murdered him only after finding out he belonged to the race of giants.
Shortly afterwards Loki gave birth to Sleipnir (“Swift Glider”) who – according to different stories – was either claimed by or given to Wotan as a gift.

Sunna’s Horses

Many other horses are attested to in the lore. Amongst them are Alswinn (“Very swift one”) and Arwark (“Early Guard”), Sunna’s horses. Then there are the Goddess Dag’s (“Day”) horse Skinfaxi (“Shining Mane”) and Hrimfaxi (“Frost Mane”) who belongs to the Goddess Nótt (“Night”).

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In 1902 a Bronze age artifact was unearthed in the Moor of Trundholm in Sjelland, Denmark. As can be told from the image below this sun chariot has six wheels (Could this possibly be linked to the sixth rune of the Futhark, Kenaz, the fire-sun of life?) and carries one large disk which strikingly resembles the sun itself – the Goddess Sunna.

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The Nibelungs and others

In the Nibelungs we have Goti, Gunther’s (Gunnar/Gundahar) horse that refused to pass Brünhild’s ring of fire and famous Siegfried’s (Sigurd) Grani, a descendent of Sleipnir. The name Grani has been translated as “Grey” but also as “Conifer” (even today the word gran means conifer in the Scandinavian languages.) The latter translation would point to a connection with Saxnot-Týr and the world yew tree Yggdrasil.

There are those horses belonging to humans, Beli, Falhofnir (“Fallow hooves”), Skeidbrimir (“Snorting”), Swedish King Adil’s horse Slöngwir and King Ali’s horse Hrafn (“Raven”).

Giants’ Horses

The horses of giants like Gullfaxi (“Golden Mane”) who belongs to the giant Hrungnir (“Hunger”), the giant who challenged Wotan to a horse race and who was then murdered by Asgardian Thunar.

CaptureThere is even a giant with the name of Hrosstjofr, simply meaning “Horse Thief”.

A German folktale from the Harz region knows of the giant Bodo who had a run-in with Brünhilde in the forest.
He wanted her for a wife, but terrified, she fled on her horse. Bodo, also on his giant horse, chased after her.
Finally, Brünhilde reached a great ravine. As Brünhilde preferred death over being married to a giant she forced her mare to leap, but instead of falling into the divide they both safely landed on the other side.

Brunhilde-Sprung__716x500_The impact had been so severe that until this day you can see Brünhild’s horse’s hooves on the “Roßtrapp” stone.
On the other hand Bodo and his horse – too heavy for the jump – had both fallen into the ravine. All he has left of Brünhilde is her crown that she had lost during the fall. He is still holding on to it and keeps everyone who attempts to dive to the ground of “Bodo River” (Bode) in order to retrieve it in his watery grave.

_hufabdruck2There are even children’s books loosely based on or inspired by this tale such as “The Giant and the Nymph” (Der Riese und die Nixe) from the 60’s.

Dwarves’ Horses

One of the known dwarves’ horses is Verdrasill, usually translated as “Path-Horse” but possibly meaning Earth-Horse, which appears to make a little more sense.

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Asen Horses

The horses of the Asen we know of are Gisl (“Whip”), Glad (“Happy”), Heimdall’s Gulltopp (“Golden Braid” NOT Golden Mane!), Gna’s Hofwapnir (this could mean “He who throws his Horse-Shoes” but it could also mean “Farmyard Protector”), Lettfetti (“Lightfoot”), Silfintopp (“Silver Braid”) and Sinir (“Sinewy”).

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 Horses, Magic and Shamanism

 Horse Blessing

Northern polytheistic Shamans use the ancient “Horse Blessing” (Pferdesegen) to this day. In recent years the medieval rock band In Extremo has turned the Pferdesegen into a song quite popular on our Medieval Fairs.

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The Original Text (plus translation):

Fonna demo uelle in diz tulli
Gang ut, nesso, mid nigun nessiklinon
Ut fana themo marge an that ben
Ut fan themo bene an that flesg

: Ut fan themo flesgke an thia hud
Ut fan thera hud an thesa starla :

Gang uz, nesso, mit niun nessinchilinon
Uz fonna demo marge in deo adra
Uonna den adrun in daz fleisk
Fonna demu fleiske in daz fel

: Ut fan themo… :

Translation:

Crawl out,
Worm, with nine other worms,
From marrow into vein,
From vein into flesh,
From flesh into skin,
From skin into hoof. (Literally: sole of the hoof)

Crawl out, Worm,
with nine other wormies,
From marrow into bone,
From bone into flesh,
From flesh into skin,
From skin onto this arrow head.
So you can be shot far away.

There have been countless (fruitless) attempts at making sense of the Horse Blessing intellectually and several German shamans have warned academics that this is something to be understood “with the heart and soul only”. Of course, the questions are valid and remain: Why 10 worms all in all? Was the Horse Blessing only meant for horses or for men as has been stated before?

Runes

Whatever the answer, one thing that is for certain is that horse and man have a deep (spiritual) connection in the Germanic belief system(s). Even in rune lore we don’t only have Raido, literally ride, but find that Mannaz (“Man”) is strikingly similar to the Ehwaz rune (“Horse”). Maybe because “Marr er manns Fylgja” (Mare is man’s Guardian Spirit see https://paganmeltingpot.wordpress.com/2014/09/06/the-fylgjen-guardian-animal-spirits/) was the motto of several Germanic tribes, and especially the Saxons, the “horse people” as they often called themselves.

ehwazmannaz
Ehwaz is etymologically related to the Eiwaz rune also known as “Eo” or “Eolh”; eoh in Old High German means horse. This would complete the yew world tree/Shamanic horse travel circle.

Oracles

009 white horseWhite horses were the oracle animals of the Saxons. The white horse represents spirituality and spiritual purity, the “Otherworld” or other realm, Shamanic travel, also in other cultures. These horses were kept in sacred groves where they were tended to with loving care. Alrunen (witches), Sibyllen (seers) or other cunning women read the future of their tribe from the behavior of the animals, sometimes in combination with the runes.

NiedersachsenLower Saxony’s crest consists of a rearing white horse (German “Schimmel”) connecting horse divination with the legend of the Schimmelreiter (rider of the white horse, linked to the Wild Hunt). The story has survived in stories such as Theodor Storm’s novel of the same name, albeit drastically altered.

Second Merseburg Incantation

Original text (plus translation):

Phol ende Uuôdan uuorun zi holza.
Dû uuart demo Balderes uolon sîn uuoz birenkit.
thû biguol en Sinthgunt, Sunna era suister,
thû biguol en Frîia, Uolla era suister;
thû biguol en Uuôdan sô hê uuola conda:
sôse bênrenkî, sôse bluotrenkî,
sôse lidirenkî:
bên zi bêna, bluot zi bluoda,
lid zi geliden, sôse gelimida sin!

Translation:

Phol and Wodan were riding to the woods.
And the foot of Balder’s foal was sprained
So Sinthgunt, Sunna’s sister, conjured it.
and Frija, Volla’s sister, conjured it.
and Wodan conjured it, as well he could:
Like bone-sprain, so blood-sprain,
so joint-sprain:
Bone to bone, blood to blood,
joints to joints, so may they be mended.

merseburger zauberspruchOn 5th and 6th century bracteates Wotan is often shown as healing the front leg of a foal or horse, so the content of the second Merseburg Charm is clear.
However, some of the names in this old 9th/10th century incantation had scholars scratching their heads for a long time.
Who or what is Phol/Fol? – It is none other than Balder-Frey himself. In Germanic lore there is hardly one God that did not appear as the aspect of another at some point.
Both Balder and Ingvi-Fro (Frey) are referred to as “Fohlengott” (Foal god).
Unrelated to this, one of Frey’s Swedish attributes is “yew tree god”. The god of the (world) yew tree or Yggdrasil was Saxnot/Sahsnotas to the Saxons and Týr-Tiuz in the rest of the North of Germany. And thus the story comes full circle.

As for Sinthgunt, her name is mentioned nowhere else. Might she be a personified star if she is Sunna’s sister? The Northstar perhaps? Whether any of this will ever be reliably solved is doubtful.

History and Legends

The Saxons

Offering_by_LundThere have been some misconceptions about the “Barbaric, brutish” Saxons having slaughtered and eaten horses in twisted ceremonies.
This is not correct in its entirety and derives from the attempt of (early – and later…) Christians to present everything non-Christian as blood-crazed insanity. (Ironic considering they practice theophagia, something that no sensible Germanic Pagan would have ever dreamt up in their wildest nightmares).
The truth is that on major holidays or very special occasions – such as a Blót or wedding – a horse was slaughtered and its body consumed completely, as was the standard for that time.
Its head was often hung from a pole or from the main hall’s door.
Its blood was sprinkled on an offering stone and sometimes on the foreheads of the newlyweds or participants. This was considered a blessing, as the horse was “holy” due to being tied to the Yggdrasil (Yewhorse, Yewpillar see https://paganmeltingpot.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/yggdrasil-yew-not-ash-tree/) and its blood, the essence of its life, held significant magical/Shamanic powers.
The horse’s skull, its hooves and some of its bones were later used for a Nidstang, but that is a post for another day.
Anyhow, the idea that you can eat deer, hares, pork or beef but not horse meat is a socio-cultural development, a Christian development. This hysteria could be compared to the hysteria of moslems who claim that pork is “unclean” and pig and dog  “filthy beasts”.

gans2These “horse Blóts” are still somewhat remembered in Grimm’s Fairy Tale The Goose Girl/The Goosemaid (“Die Gänsemagd”) in which the horse Falada’s (note the runic incantation in this name!) still speaking head is hung from the city gate, dripping blood onto everyone who passes under him.

Hengist and Horsa

Hengist HorsaFamous even across the borders of both Germany and England are Hengist (“Stallion”) and Horsa (“Horse”), the legendary Saxon warriors and conquerors who invaded the English island.
To some they are only heroes, to others semi-Gods, and then there are those that apotheosize them.
The Greek historian Timaeus (345-250 BCE) already wrote about the North Sea Germanic peoples that they worshipped a pair of mythological twins, which he equated with the Greek Dioskouri (Castor and Pollux).

Hengist Horsa PferdeschmuckFact is that the beautiful carved horse head gables representative of Hengist and Horsa embellish many of our houses in the North. Like back then, these horse head gables are supposed to watch over the household and family, and they literally do.
Whether White Horse Hill (Uffington in Oxfordshire/Berkshire) has anything to do with Hengist and Horsa has been wildly disputed, however, this impressive piece of art was formed by filling dug trenches with crushed chalk.

horse in ukHorses in other polytheistic religions

Gallo-Roman

Of course the horse wasn’t only sacred in the Germanic belief system. Epona is a Celtic horse Goddess or more accurately a Goddess in the shape of a horse.

Celtic

Celtic horse Goddesses are Irish Macha (“Mare”) and Etain Echraide (“Etain Horserider”) for example.

Welsh

rihannonRihannon is usually depicted as riding on her white mare.

Pictish (Scottish)

The Kelpie is a water being or spirit inhabiting the lochs (lakes) of Scotland. It either appears as horse or human to other humans.

Greek

Poseidon is the Greek God of the Sea whose waves were called “mares of Poseidon” by poets and whose chariot was pulled by a hippocampus.
In his hieros gamos, sacred (spiritual) wedding, with Demeter, the latter turns into a white horse in order to express her grief over Hades having kidnapped her daughter Persephone.
Poseidon falls in love with equestrian Demeter and changes himself into a steed to woo her.

Another famous Greek horse is winged Pegasus, who was born out of the bleeding neck of Medusa after Poseidon had decapitated the Gorgon woman.

birth-pegasusAbraxas, Bronte, Eous, are sungod Helios’ faithful horses.

Aithon has alternately been used to identify the horse of Ares but also one of the horses of Helios. Other horses belonging to Ares are Phobos (“Fear”) and Phlogeus.

Zeus’ four horses, corresponding with the four winds, are called Anemoi. Their individual names are Euros, Boreas, Zephyrous and Notos.

Kyllaros and Harpagos are the horses of Castor and Pollux.

Hindu

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHayagriva is a guise/avatar of the God Vishnu. The early Indus Valley population venerated Hayagriva as the deliverer of the Vedanta and horses in general for their speed, strength and intelligence.

Ancient seals of the Indus Valley population already depict the Unicorn as we still know it.

Roman

Since Latin poet Virgil was the first to mention them, Hippogriffs might just be of Roman origin. However, Hippo is Greek for horse but griff comes from Roman gryph for griffin.

The October Horse was the annual sacrifice of a horse to the God Mars.

Mongolian

wz-windhorse1The soul of a person is referred to as wind-horse.

Ksaya Tngri is an equestrian deity protecting souls and earthly riches.

The horse of a Mongolian “Robin Hood” figure lifted itself and his master off the earth and flew across a river when they were pursued by lawmen.

Slavic

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The God Svantovit owns a white horse.

Chinese

langmaHorse is part of the Chinese zodiac. Horses in general play an important role in Chinese mythology. Langma is the “dragon horse” and Tianma is a type of Chinese Pegasus for example.

Swedish (contemporary)

dalahc3a4stIn Sweden the Dalahästar, the crafty and beautifully painted wooden horses from the Dalarna region are popular souvenirs and are usually found in standard Swedish homes as well.

English (contemporary)

The Red Vale Horse is a work of art first recorded in the 16th century and maintained until this day. It is similar to the White Horse Hill mentioned earlier in this post. The only difference is that instead of using white chalk, red clay was used.

It’s a Girl Thing! – Germanic Heroines, Warriors, Seers, Witches and Goddesses *Part 1*

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written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt

 Germanic lore is filled with heroines, fierce women, both mortal and immortal. It seems important to note that neither mortal women – priestesses and seers, amongst others – nor the Goddesses were meek, gentle loving mother figures; the warrior aspect was very strong in each of them.
Too many Pagans pervert Freija into nothing but a “Love Goddess”, completely ignoring her role as head of the Walküren. – Once the Walküren bring in the slain warriors it is not Wotan who first gets to choose the strongest, bravest and boldest ones but Freija. If you have ever listened to German or Scandinavian folk tales in which Freija angrily rides on her chariot drawn by gargantuan cats bearing their claws, you might not look at her as nothing but a gentle deity of love anymore.

The Sibyllen (Seers)

seerThe Sibyllen (seers) had a very high standing in Germanic culture.
Waluburg is one that deserves more credit than she receives these days; the Walpurgisnacht fest is named after her. On the contrary to popular belief it does not derive from Christian Benedictine nun Walburga who lived in the 700’s AC. – !
Walurburg’s name was mentioned on Greek ceramic shards found in Egypt from around 2 AD.
Another source for her existence was found on a list of Greek-Egyptian soldiers – “Waluburg, Semnoni Sybilla”, meaning Waluburg, Seer of the Semnone tribe.

It is unclar how she wound up in Egypt, it may be concluded that she was either a hostage or more possibly accompanied a Germanic troop of the Roman army. Seers were highly valued by both the Germanic and also the Roman people.

In fact, Waluburg’s name already points to her profession. Walus means stave. Sibyllen worked with rune staves but also a wand-like stave with which they directed power.

gambara

Gambara is another potent Sibylle. She was a Winnile high priestess who represented the female principle of the Goddess(es) and of her tribe, just as her two sons, warriors, represented the male principle. The name Gambara also reveals her position. Gambara comes from gand, gander, gandr = stave and bara means to bear.
The Laiamicho-myth describes in detail how the Langobards received their name and Gambara’s role in it. But it is mainly a tale about how the formerly rather Goddess-centric culture and religion of the Winniles saved their tribe from Vandal annihilation by converting to the Wotan cult, quickly spreading up North from the Nether-Rhine region. The Mother cult was long dead before the rise of Christianity for those tribes who followed the Wotan cult.

 220px-Velleda

Weleda/Veleda/Velleda of the Bructeri might be the most commonly known of the Sibyllen due to the accuracy of her predictions during the Batavian rebellion. Seers often had a great amount of political power as well. Tacitus writes in his “Germania” that Veleda was requested as a referee and witness during a dispute between the Tencteri tribe with their Roman neighbors.
On a side-note she appears not to have been held in high esteem by the Greek. A satirical poem on a marble fragment speaks of her as “That long (tall) snobbish virgin who is venerated by the Rhinewater-drinkers”. Message received.

Veleda’s name might derive from the word völva, another term for Seer or possibly from the Celtic word welet, to see. Some argue that her name might mean “good leader” from vel/vael = good and leda = to lead.

The Matronae

 

How much of the Matron cult was Roman- and Celtic-inspired is unclear. Votiv-stones were primarily Roman and the layout of the temples and altars dedicated to the Matrons reminded of Celtic traditions.
The ancient German votive-stones, altars and temples were meant to honor the Mothers, both human and immortal, with inscriptions such as “To my Germanic Mothers” or “To all Sueban Mothers”.

Interestingly, the Matrons were always depicted in pairs of three, one virgin, one married woman (as illustrated by her bonnet) and one elderly woman.
You might recognize a familiar principle here. – Maiden, mother and crone.
Matrons, similar to the Idisen, are female guardian spirits and worshipping them was a highly personal and individual matter.
In the family home this motherly spirit was represented by a serpent and little bowls of milk were offerings to her.

From Anglo-Saxon historian Beda Venerabilis (673-735 AD) we know that Yule Eve was called “modra nect” – Mothers Night and the temples of Matrons were overflowing with offerings that night.

Saxo Grammaticus (1150-1220 AD) describes how a man named Fridlevus, who was deeply immersed in prayer, approached the shrine of a Danish temple depicting three Teutonic Goddesses.

The Nornen (Norns)

 index

The Nornen are three sisters (here we have the threefold Goddess theme again) who weave every being’s fate from birth to death. They weave our wyrd, personal fate and our orlog, family karma/fate.

Urd is the Norne of the past. Her name comes from the word wurd and even in modern German the word “wurde” means “was”. Her name is also related to the term wyrd, fate, something that was also determined in the past.

Verdandi is the Norne of the present. In German she is“die Werdende”, becoming. – The present is a rather timeless zone, it is gone as soon as you think “now” and not just there yet whenever you think “soon”, so it is constantly becoming.

Skuld is the Norne of the future. The meaning of her name is a little harder to translate into English. Skuld can mean guilt but here it is rather debt, to owe something. Etymologically the English word “should” probably comes closest. In the future there is always something you “should” or must do.

Apart from those three there is a wide variety of other Nornen, some of them of divine origin, some of them Dunkelalben (dark alfs), Vaettiir/Vaesen (wights), Dverger or of other descent.

In ancient times it was believed that the good Nornen grant good, happy, easy lives whereas the bad Nornen granted difficult lives filled with strife, illness and bad fortune.

A runic inscription in a 12th century church (!) in Norway says, “The Norns determine the good and the bad, to me they only brought sorrow”.

What they determine for us is the law, only they know why they weave our lives the way they do and we only have a limited amount of free choice. No matter what we do, we are always being led back to crossroads or situations determined for us. Personality or conduct don’t matter, all must bow to their universal law. A harsh truth, but a truth nonetheless.

The Norns are basically the rulers of the multiverse, not even the Aesir Gods can escape the fate woven for them – they will fall in the end battle of Ragnarök to make way for the New World.

The Idisen (Disir)

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The Idisen are a group of semi-divine origin. They were named in the Merseburger Zaubersprüche (Merseburgian Incantations):

“Eiris sazun idisi, sazun hera duoder,
suma hapt heptidun, suma heri leridun,
suma clubodun umbi cuoniouuidi:
insprinc haptbandun, inuar uigandun”

Once Disir were sitting, sitting here and there.
Some were binding fetters, some were restraining the army.
Some were undoing the fetters, ????????
Free yourself from the fetters, escape the warriors!

As mentioned before the Idisen were female guardian spirits, mostly thought of as ancestors watching over their family line. In the above incantation they intervene during war, on the battlefield. I’m curious as to what the Walküren would think of that!

Etymologically the word Disir derives from the indo-Germanic root dhei. Flamish “dyze”, old Slavic “deva” = virgin and the Sanskrit words “devi” = female aspect of the divine and “dhisanas” = female godlike beings are related to it as well. The singular Idis or Dis is synonymously used as Lady (or Queen), for example Wanendis is another title of Freija, Lady/Queen of the Wanen. Jodis is another name for Hel, Queen of the Dead.

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Countless places, especially forests and lakes in Germany and places in Scandinavia attest to exactly how venerated the Idisen were. Diseberg, Disevid, Disasen, Disin (Sweden), Dispe, Dissau, Disinsfurt in Germany. Also Itzehoe (Itz being etymologically related to Dis) and hoe meaning forest.

In the same way in which the Idisen were revered as the female guardian spirits of a family clan the Alben (alfar, elves) were revered as the male guardian spirits of a clan or Hof (family farmhouse). However, the veneration, blot, sumble, libation, etc. was always conducted by the women of the house. This is also accounted for by Sighvat of Norway. In 1018 the Christian skald traveled from Norway to Sweden. When nightfall came he stopped at several farms, asking for a place to stay. The men of the houses did not answer him. Finally one woman confronts him and yells at him,

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“Do not dare come inside,
you miserable man!” said the wife.
“I fear Odin’s wrath, for we are Heathens!”

The nasty woman, who senselessly
chased me away from her farm
like a wolf said
that they were having an Alfablót inside.

The Idisen were also offered to and worshipped during the Rauhnächte (the twelve days of Yule), also still called the Mothers’ Nights in the Ore Mountains of Germany and in Bohemia (In nowaday’s Czech Republic).

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Next up: Part 2 including the Valkyries, the White Lady: Frau Holle and more.

Naströnd – “Hell” in the Germanic and Norse traditions

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written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, June 2014

Heathens and Germanic Pagans will often be quick to tell you that there is no hell in their religion, but that Helheim is the place of those who did not fall in battle but died of old age, due to illness and such. While Helheim means nothing else but “Hel’s home” (home of the Goddess of the dead, Hel) Niflhel etymologically already hints at something more sinister. “Dark beyond” or “’cloudy beyond” doesn’t sound like an inviting place at least.
In Gylfaginning King Gylfi learns that Niflhel is a place where “evil’” people go. Now, the Eddas are already full of Christian mythology and a good vs. evil approach, originally foreign to our Germanic ancestors. A more detailed description to what “evil” or wrong is can be found in the tales of the the Sibylle (seer) in Völuspa. She tells us: Naströnd, the “Corpse Shore” or “Dead Man’s Shore” is a place in the realm of the Goddess Hel, a place where the dragon Nidhögg lives and chews on both corpses as well as the roots of the world tree Yggdrasil. Who goes to Naströnd? Nidings, (cowards) in other words: Murderers, adulterers, blood-oath- and just general oath-breakers. And even suicides as suicide was viewed as something just as abhorrent as oath-breaking by all Germanic tribes alike.

“…a hall I saw standing
remote from the sun (From the realm of the living/life)
on Dead Body Shore (Naströnd)
Its door looks north (Into eternal darkness)
There fell drops of venom
in through the roof vent.
That hall is woven
of serpent spines (Reference to Loki being bound with his sons’ intestines)
I saw there wading
onerous steams
men perjured
and wolfish murderers
and the ones who seduces
another’s close-trusted wife.
There Nidhögg (=Malice Striker) sucked
corpses of the dead,
the wolf tore them. (It has been debated whether this wolf would be Fenrir or possibly another of Angerboda’s children)

Naströnd is sometimes described as a realm cut off from Helheim, bordering on it but only on the margins of Hel’s jurisdiction, and sometimes Naströnd is referred to as a castle within Hel’s kingdom, which is made up of venomous snake skin, poison dripping from its walls and toxic fumes filling it.
In German folklore both Nighögg as well as Naströnd survive Ragnarök, Nidhögg continuing to gnaw on the roots of the tree that Lif and Lifthrasir survived the end battle in. Even in the “new world” there will be a place for those who did not use their chance of living in an uncorrupted world butwho choose to do evil. And the dragon/serpent Nidhögg will stand guard of this place, continually poisoning the bolverkers (evildoers) with his toxic breath and dripping venomous saliva in order to keep the ergis in Naströnd.
Unlike the rest of Helheim’s citizens, who will either be reborn or be called to take their place on the ship Naglfar, in order to bring forth Ragnarök, the lost souls of Naströnd will remain stuck forever, never being granted a chance to re-emerge again.
For Saxon parents the warning, “Nastrond fahan dig!” (Naströnd will take you!”) was a common warning or curse towards disobedient children.

Quick Facts – The God Kári

Copyrighted and written by Penny Rebel

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Kári [Kah-ree] is the Norse God of winter, frost, snow and the Northwind – or rather – he IS the Northwind itself. Like hardly any other God Kári represents the harshness of the Northern climate and overall life in Scandinavia and Germany. Fathered by the frostgiant Fornjotr he is brother to Loki (fire) and Aegir (water). On 18th century German paintings he is sometimes depicted as a youth in a spring setting and as an old man in winter settings; an indication that he changes and ages with the seasons.
The only mention of Kári in the Eddas is in one of Snorri’s thulur (rhymes) but traces of him can also be found in the Finnish Hversu (as the ruler of Finland) and Orkneyinga Saga. It is unclear whether Kári is father of one son named Frosti (frost) according to the Orkneyinga Saga or whether his name is Jökull according to the Hversu or whether these are two different sons. By Frost’s son Snaer, however, he is great-grandfather to Fon (snowfall), Drifa (snowdrift), and Mjöl (powder).
Although he is often accompanied by reindeer or depicted as riding a reindeer, being a God of the air and sky he is also associated with Northern birds such as the snow goose, snow owl, robin and it is also from thence that he started being regarded as the ‘patron’ of singers, bards and those who otherwise use their voice artistically or professionally. In spring Kari’s own voice is the gentle breeze caressing the first buds and leaves, but in winter his song is more of an eerie howl or screech as he haunts the North with blizzards and snowstorms, bemoaning his own age and approaching “death”. Alas, he will be born again in the ever-repeating cycle of the seasons.

What is Norse Wicca?

Copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014.

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Most Heathens gasp in terror at the notion of Norse Wicca and are quick to point out that Wiccan principles and Eddic ones could never merge, while not even raising a brow at Egyptian, Hellenic , Roman or other types of Wicca.
What riles the majority of them most is Wicca’s alleged “fluffy” nature – the rule of three and harm ye none.
Our Germanic and Norse ancestors were a harsh yet playful people and the revival of the Norse spirituality often forgets the playful and joyful part and instead focuses on the warrior-like nature of it. But ripping one element out of context of a whole spirituality of course makes little sense and thus I proclaim that Norse Wicca comes much closer to our ancestors’ spirituality than what today’s – especially American – Heathens have turned this faith into.

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(From the shrines of the Matrons and the Nornen we have the “threefold Goddess”)

Simply because most of our ancestors were in fact farmers, traders and craftsmen rather than Kings and/or heroic Warlords. They lived a life full of austerity during the long, bitter winters, a life filled with hard work and the struggle to survive all year long. They enjoyed games, contest and competition and a rather unceremonious but light-hearted spirituality to compensate for that.
The (folk)lore and sagas were traditionally passed on to the next generation orally and the Eddas themselves were written down in the 1300s by an already christianized Icelander named Snorri Sturlason.

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He was in the quandary of having to abide by the strict church laws declaring everything non-Christian heresy and blasphemy under the penalty of death, while still wanting to note down the tales and beliefs of his Norse ancestors.
It may very well be assumed that he had to “compromise” in certain areas, so everything that has been written about our ancestors and that wasn’t taken directly from rune stones must be taken with a grain of salt.
However, the Eddas and especially the Hávamál, the Words of the alleged “High One” aka self-proclaimed “AllFather” Wotan/Odin, regularly speak of retaliation towards one’s enemies as well as a strong moral code of loyalty, honesty, truth, honor and defending yourself and your own, whilst praising physical as well as mental strength.
And it is also by death and carnage, by Wotan’s murder of the Jotun (giant) Ymir, that the nine worlds and ultimately mankind were created.
Wotan’s son Thor is another “giant murderer”, faring to the lands of the Jötnar whenever boredeom strikes him in order to wield his mighty hammer Mjölnir and kill everything in his way.Surtr will burn the worlds at Ragnarök, the Norse equivalent of Armageddon, and there are many more of that nature.
In other words: War definitely IS a common theme in the Eddas, yes. But by far the only one.

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There are just as many Gods and Goddesses of a gentler nature, whose stories find lesser recognition amongst the war-struck Heathens of new.
There’s Eostre from which the holiday of the same name, better known as “Easter”, comes from, Hönir who (ast least in the Edda) helped Wotan create the worlds together with Loki and is referred to as “The silent one” which may also be translated to the meek one from old Norse. Eir is the Aesir Goddess of healing, Baldur the God of rebirth, peace and beauty. And on and on it continues.

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If we now go back to the principle of “An ye harm none do what you wilt” I personally don’t know one single Wiccan who would attest to that without explaining this a little further. The principle here is not much different from Buddha’s golden rule, Christianity’s “Don’t do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, and many other religion’s central law. It is even rather close to philosopher Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative.
It is a “Do your best not to harm anyone” or also a “Try to find a solution which will do the least harm to everyone involved.” Harm none otherwise is impossible. Many Wiccans I know eat meat, wear leather shoes, unlike me use a flyswatter, make Freudian slips or get on people’s bad side every once in a while, so to take it completely literal makes little sense of course.

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As for the rule of three, “Whatever you do it will come back to you times three” the core of it may just as well be found in the Eddas as “What goes around comes around”. What else is Lokasenna about?:
In this chapter of the Eddas, the Aesir Gods along with Loki, sit in Valhalla enjoying a large feast, when Loki rises to turn to every single God to remind him/her of his/her mistakes, misdeeds (sins) and concludes his statements with personal insults.
And right he is, the arrogant tribe, the reigning “caste” of the Aesir Gods with Wotan – the God of corruption and crime, as their King – will face all their mistakes made out of fear to lose their status and superiority. At Ragnarök, the worlds’ will end. What goes around comes around indeed.

Wicca is not a dualist but a very inclusive religion, it accepts that all of nature and all elements of the circle of life are necessary and beautiful in their own way, not just the stars, the moon, spring blossoms and majestic sunsets, but also thunderstorms, tornados, the food chain and death just as much as life. Gerald Gardner was eager to promote a more positive image for witchcraft and Wicca and emphasized its meeker, gentler and more joyful qualities, but it is more than just that.

Germanic and Norse beliefs are partly very similar to that concept, although they, too, have been twisted and willfully misinterpreted by most “Heathens” or rather Heathen converts.
The Aesir Gods are always holding back the Jötnar and Rökkr Gods (those who will bring about Ragnarök). They are usually deemed chaotic, but in truth they are the evolutionary forces of nature; stagnation and evolution constantly struggling with each other, some say keeping each other in check.
The Vanir are somewhere in between these two, after the Aesir/Vanir war the Vanir were basically annexed but still were not at war with the giants at least. A trinity of balance if you like.

Of course the next thing extremist Heathens will attack is magic (or, as one spat at me, “Your Pagan magjickckk or whatever you call it”.), claiming that our ancestors did not practice magic.

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Really!
And what would you call Seidr, Spae and Galdr? Why are there magical incantations or inscriptions on drinking horns, battle helms and weaponry and even other everyday items, found of nearly a thousand  years ago?
Did not Wotan himself learn the “womanly” practice of casting the runes, of the magical practices named above? Oh, we had magic alright.
Even a simple Blót by the use of blood already had something magical, meant to weave a connection between man and God or to call upon a certain God or Goddess – hence the name “Blót” simply meaning blood.

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Some Heathens, especially those on the fringe of it like Odinists, criticize Ásatrú’s practice of calling upon the four dwarves when creating a Vé (holy space) or beginning a Blót, ritual or holiday celebration, because it is most likely not historical and reminds of calling the four corners. In fact, there is much critique trying to establish new rituals based upon our ancient moral codes, beliefs, lore and the little we know about our religion and magic.
Sadly almost all of it was destroyed due to violent Christianization and thus we have to piece together the facts and fill in the blanks where facts are missing. Maybe it is less about “right and historically authentic” ritual, but much more about the intention behind such a ritual? At least in the case of…simply not having any historical sources to go with?! … After all, over the ages our ancestors had developed and kept developing their practices as well, quite naturally and over time.
And not every tribe held the same beliefs, believed in the same Gods or even knew of them. So maybe a tad more acceptance and open-mindedness would suit our angry Heathen brethren regarding the ideas and concepts of Norse Wicca.

Sadly it is especially an (American) Heathen issue to keep the mindset of monotheism, the “versus mentality” of “If you are not for me you are against me”. Dealing with the Heathen community feels a lot like my time at Catholic church or the mosque. A repressive atmosphere with all too many sugary sprinkles of self-righteousness mixed in. Bon appetit!

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As for the celebration of Sabbats, while not all overlap, several of the Germanic and Norse ones are similar to Wiccan ones. Differences would be the Germanic Cake Fest on the first new moon after Yule and the Horse Fest on Sept. 22 (especially important to us Saxons) for example. And the Germanic peoples had no Imbolc but especially in Sweden the Disablot was celebrated around that time of year. So yes, there are a few differences here and there, but there are a few – more than a few – differences in the Germanic, Norse, Anglo-Saxon, Icelandic traditions too, although they were all related. Anyhow, Nordic Wiccans and Germanic and Norse Pagans alike have come up with ways to incorporate the Germanic holy days into the Year of the Wheel and I was happy to witness the merging of Brighid/Imbolc with a wonderful ritual dedicated to Baldur and his wife Nanna. A very thoughtful choice to celebrate Baldur on that day.

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What else Norse Wiccans will or will not do varies greatly. As many Heathen kindreds, hofs, cults, sub-cults and the like there are, Norse Wicca is just as versatile, albeit on a more individualistic level without the righteous Heathen condemnation of everything and everyone who disagrees with their views and practices.

Generally, to Norse Wiccans all Gods are still essentially the one God and all Goddesses the one Goddess. Nature is sacred, the Eddas and sagas are the texts they draw strength, wisdom and inspiration from, there are Norse Wiccans focusing more on the Aesir, many on the Vanir and some even on the Rökkr, depending on their personal preferences or inclinations.
Norse Wicca is a small faith, often practiced by solitaries and even covens are not very outspoken and a little shy to speak about their practices. They are sometimes slightly feared by other types of Wiccans because those have already mostly made very negative experiences with Heathens, as much as they are hated and ridiculed by Heathens, labeled “Wiccatru”, fluffy bunnies or much worse.
The use of Norse symbols and symbology is a given, in addition to that Norse Wiccans just like every other Wiccan have the pentagram. Often assigning their patron and matron deities or just the Gods they work closest with to the single points. For example: Fire – Surtr, Air – Loki, Earth – Fjörgyn, Water – Ran and Ether – their personal high god, sometimes Odin as the “AllFather” for the Aesir-oriented Norse Wiccans or Freyr for the Vanatrur or Loki for the Rökkatrur.

It is my sincerest hope that while the hardcore Heathens keep bickering and excluding everyone who dares disagree with them at least Wicca and other Pagan traditions will slowly start being more open towards Norse Wiccans, and that the latter will finally start stepping out of the shadows and claim what is theirs – a rightful place in the worldwide Pagan community.

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Edit/P.S.: Just for reference, I’m not Norse Wiccan. I got a dozen replies of (American of course) Heathens, half of them all in capital letters (…) the other half offering to teach me “their ways” and told me my religion was as “real” as believing in the Jedi. To those I say: I grew up in the Firne Situ, so I really don’t need your convert opinions on our Northern European ways, thanks. And thanks for proving me right regarding everything I’ve written about you folks on here. 😉

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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.

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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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Heimdall – The “White God” in the Germanic and Norse traditions

written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014

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In Heathenry there are not just many different paths – Ásatrú as the most popular one, then also Vánatrú, Theodism, Rökkatrú and on the margins of Norse cosmology even Thursatrú, we also have almost too many Gods to count. One of them is Heimdallr or Heimdall. So who is Heimdall? Or rather, what is he? He was born by nine Jotun (giant) sisters, the Undines, Heimdal_and_his_Nine_Mothersnamely Gjálp, Greip, Eistla, Angeyja, Ulfrún, Eyrgjafa, Imðr, Atla, and Járnsaxa; yet who fathered him remains subject of speculation. So which tribe of the Gods he exactly belongs to is unclear, only that he joined or is  now regarded as one of the Aesir, although he is also attributed with Vanic powers. (>Thrymskvidha 15, “Then Heimðallr spoke, whitest of the Aesir,

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Like the other Vanir he knew the future well.“) One of the more popular theories is that his father must have been Wotan/Odin, as Heimdall – who lives in Himinbjörg at the end of the heavens – is the guardian of the burning rainbow bridge Bifröst. This bridge separates Asgard, home of the Aesir Gods  from Midgard, home of humans (and a few other beings of course). Who better to protect the Gods and the “Allfather” Odin than someone of Jotun (giant) blood after all? Especially since Odin himself derives from the giants despite often being at war with them due to their wild and free nature.
All we we know about Heimdall regarding this is from Hyndlujod (Thorpe translation): He was nourished “with the strength of earth [Mother Jördr/Earth], with the ice-cold sea [his Undine-mothers], and with Son’s blood.“ That is a clear indicator of his Jotun origin and powers.

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Other names for him are Gullintanní – the one with the golden teeth, Rígr – king, Vindhler and Hallinskiði, the latter two being the subject of many a scholarly debate about their possible meaning. Sadly, a lot of our culture and language was destroyed, so while some say Vindhler means “Laughing like the Wind” others are convinced it means “Wind-Sea”, which would make a little more sense for obvious reasons.

The name Rígr, King, stems from the story in which Heimdallr visits Midgard and fathers three races of men: Thrall, the father of slaves, Carl, the father of free farmers, farmerand Earl, the father of rulers. Some view this as an act of separation of mankind, yet if we look at the fact that Thrall’s parents are called great-grandparents, Carl’s are called grandparents and Earl’s are called parents it appears to be more of a matter of family hierarchy. Each of these “family members” have their own qualities, talents and wisdom, amount of knowledge and abilities with which they contribute to this world and mankind in general.

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Heimdall is “the white As” (As = singular of Aesir) or white god; the color white was – or still often is – regarded as the color of purity and virtue. White is a color “unstained” or untainted, there are no secrets, no hidden agendas; he is but a truthful god. What you see is what you get so to speak. This title reflects how revered he was amongst his fellow Aesir as much as by our ancestors. On a personal note the title may also refer to his Vanic ability to be clairvoyant/see the future.

Heimdall is the god that will announce the coming of Ragnarök, often falsely described as “the end of the world” although it is basically renewal by destruction as known and acknowledged by so many other cultures and early religions.

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As the guardian of Bifröst Heimdall will see Surtr, the “world destroyer”, coming from afar with his burning sword of destiny and then sound his Gjallarhorn to alert the other gods of the upcoming battle. The end of his trumpet is referred to as “head,” and is referred to as being his sword. His horse is Gullintop and his loyal companion the rooster Gullinkampi. There are several depictions of Heimdallr sounding his horn with Gullinkampi perched on his head or shoulder, chiming right in.
The relationship of Gods with their animals or “pets” is an interesting one, and there are those who claim that they might as well be Fylgjas (similar to what Wiccans and a few other paths know as “familiars”), though there is no clear reference or confirmed academic source for that as far as I found.

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When Loki stole Freya’s necklace on Wodan’s behest, Heimdall retrieved it, and he is also the God who competed with Loke for the Brisingamen. It is not just because of the latter that Loke and Heimdall are mortal enemies. As Laufeysson (=Loki) will be one of those to bring about Ragnarök the enmity is not surprising. The Aesir strive to preserve this world in its pitiful state as much as the Rökkr Gods long to renew it. So those two will slay each other in the very end.
(Here’s a Rökkatrú source on this: http://www.northernpaganism.org/rokkatru/jotunbok/loki-and-heimdall.html)

Gulltop-Heimdall

In conclusion Heimdall – like several other Gods of the Heathen or Norse Pagan religion/s – is amongst those we know rather little about. There are no facts as such regarding him. – Scholars have tried to piece together information on this ominous god, yet the debate on the validity of those attempts keeps going on.
What we know for now is that there is no evidence for a “Heimdall cult” of old per se, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t or can’t be venerated nowadays. (Something Heathens – for once – agree with, although the lack of evidence for a Loki or other Jöten cults frequently prompts them to state that if they weren’t worshipped in the past there’s no need honoring them today. Hypocrisy at its best.) Those who believe Heimdall to be another aspect or guise of Wodan might find the uncovering of the Saltfleetby lead spindle whorl in which Heimdall is named alongside Odin and Thjalfi rather interesting.

Saltfleetby_spindle_whorl

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