The Proto-Germanic Pantheon

‘Norse Gods’ and ‘Germanic Gods’ often seems to be used interchangeable – I have to admit even I did it before I started to research the difference. I have found that there are very few sources when it comes to continental germanic religion, and even less so written in English.

We all know the Edda(s) and stories of Richard Wagner, who after all was doing what he did in Germany and who used the same Gods as Snorri. Maybe that’s where the interchangeability started? I wouldn’t know but one has to note that Wagner wrote his plays and music around 1840, pretty late, an probably used the same sources we did today. (E.g. Snorri, 12th century, and Gesta Danorum, 11th century.)

But before Odin even entered this pantheon there was an entire different set of Gods ruling the skies and earth in Germany. Those were written in details about by:

The first main God was Tiwaz-Ingwaz, also called Tiwaz-Istwaz or Tiwaz-Irmin (variation of different tribes). He was a God of sky, peace and the sun. As his name indicated his symbol was the Irminsul. Alas, due to the attribute ‘Tiwaz’, meaning ‘the high one’, somebody identified him with the norse ‘Tyr’ and said he was a god of war. He wasn’t, not in general – although he did what he had to to protect his people. Other people identified Ingwaz with the norse Frey, and I guess he was a good mix between those two.

Ingwaz was called the allfather and had been given human sacrificies. He was worshipped in woods and grooves, around 100 AD. Often, an eagle figure was set on his pillar, facing east where the sun would rise.  Another one of his symbols was a wheel, also hinting at the sun.


Irminsul, pillar of Irmin, in front of a sun wheel and yet another wheel engraved at it’s down end.

He had a wife, the allmother. The name used the most was Frija – meaning woman, loved one. She, also, had connections to the sun, but to it’s softer side of ‘giving life’ and ‘abundance’, thus also referring to the earth and therefor underworld. Widespread names of her were ‘Erce’ (Earth), ‘Nerd’ (lat. Nerthus), ‘Tanfana’ (abundance, giver of food) and Austro (‘of the morning’).

Both gods had a wagon cult, fire cult and were connected to the yearly seasons and were, even if it sounds cliché for todays times, the Divine Pair that married each year to fructify the soil. Most likely the were called Divine Twins, which doesn’t signal relatedness but rather hints to their origin as two sides of a dema/hybrid entity. (Though I guess by 100 AD this was already forgotten and the gods had become more individual each.)

Also interesting at this point is the third main god, proto-germanic Donraz, later Donar, Thor and, for the celtic folks, Dor. He represents divine forces as well as human behaviour and was, because of the latter, the god closest to the ‘common people’. He also makes the earth fruitful, protects the family and had a fire cult, mostly in the private homes. The hearth was his stone that he threw down from heaven to the earth, and he was called for at weddings.

Once again I want to call out the similarities between these gods and the Baltic Gods Dievas, Saule and Perkunas. They practically are the same (especially ‘Dievas’ and ‘Tiwaz’ are identical in etymology), and assuming that the Proto-Germanics came from the East (as a tribe of the Indo-Europeans) I think we can learn much about their religion by comparing those pantheons. I for one was stunned when I discovered it. Not only that but the reconstructed religion of the Proto-Indo-European shows the same similarities.

From that I conclude (for me privatly, because who can ever know for real?) that the more war-like gods and religion added to it later, before or with the arrival of the Mongols and Huns. But my research isn’t done, so who knows what else I’ll discover. 🙂

God is a Circle

Picking up where I left things in my latest article (february). This is as far as my research goes and I feel like there is nothing more to discover in written history. From there on it’s all speculation, mixing stuff and UPG. I’m okay with that, although it does make it harder to find books and stuff.

Well, I made the connection between what we know about the Vanir, Baltic religion and PIE-religion. I can’t say that I’m reconstructing, I’m no scholar/expert. So I guess I’m (re?) building a pantheon?

The sun is the center of my worship, as it was the center of most old religions. And the sun travels in a circle. It has four phases, expressing themselves in a day (morning, noon, afternoon, night) and a year with it’s seasons. I do believe each of those phases has a God and Goddess ‘assigned’ to it.

For example, there are the two deities Morning Star and Evening Star, in Baltic Auzrine and Vakaryne, in German Ostara and Westara. (I am very much in love with Westara, also called Westia/Westya, Goddess of autumn, home & hearth, fire, magic and twilight! I feel that she is the goddess that has always been there with me but whose name I didn’t knew. I just called her ‘the fall goddess’.)

westara.jpg

The noon is associated with the Sun Goddess herself (Saula, Freia) and the night with a dark Goddess – but make no mistake, they are all connected and basically one. Like the Hindu-Gods that are all aspect of only one divine source. Again, this is my view, and I don’t claime that any old folks have seen it that way. They might have, or they didn’t.

The same goes for the male Gods associated with the phases, e.g. Balder is the Morning Star, and Weland (Loki) the Evening Star. And the fifth element are simply God & Goddess (which I mostly call Freia & Ingvi).

Those four phases, seasons or directions lie on a circle, the Wheel of Life. This is my focus, this is what I discovered works for me. Honestly, I felt very weird with that so I didn’t write about it until now. I only do because recently I read an article about the ancient native-american concept of the Medicine Wheel – and had a pretty great aha-effect! Sure, there was no mention of Gods connected to the directions but in general they feel that this Wheel is life, god, the universe.

But now I’m thinking – is this still Vanatru? Can I honestly still call myself that? I have written a mythology that is unlike the stories known, but then again radiats with all the old tales. I am very sure about this concept – but not about what to call myself. Please, give me your opinion.

Searching for the Vanir

I have felt drawn to the Vanir for a long time and thus researched them for years now. Of course I first heard of them through the Edda but their mythology there always seemed so incomplete, at times even wrong and more like Aesir stories – which might be because what is most known about them are the stories that were written down after they have become one of the Aesir. In fact, the Edda begins with how Freyja, Freyr and Njörd go to Asgard and get integrated.

As interesting as that is I want to take a closer look at who the Vanir originally were before the Aesir came and changed them. For example the story of how Freyr forced Gerda into marriage, and how she later killed herself because of it – this is not a relationship I consider vanir, more aesir-like.

But it surely is too simple to look at Vanic as peace and at Aesir as war. I get that there are people who connect with the Edda stories and e.g. feel that Freyr and Gerda make a happy couple, in spite of what is written down. I can understand that because I have made experiences of the real Gods being different than to what is written in the Edda. Of course that is perfectly fine as well; it’s just not what I feel right for me.

But what exactly am I looking for?

The term Vanatru describes an established religion. It is listed right next to Asatru; and, as I understand it, describes people who worship the Vanic gods of the Edda as mentioned above. The word ‘Vanir’ itself comes from Snorri Sturluson. It seems to be either his invention or a term that was only common in (later?) Scandinavian mythology. In the continental Proto-Germanic and earlier religions there was no such distinction between the Gods, there they all seemed to be of the same kind or family.

Snorri described Asgard as being located at the Black Sea and the river Tanais (nowadays Don, in South-Russia). That river was once called Wanaquisl and between his arms Snorri located Wanaland or Wanaheim, today known as Vanaheim, and the people he described as ‘Vanir’ were either the proto-Slavic Venedi or – more likely because of his use of Germanic names – the east Germanic ‘Vandals’, who had been in that region for more than a thousand years.

So going by Snorri one could assume that the Vanir were the Gods of the Vandals, a tribe fighting with their neighbors, and eventually mixing with them.

But there’s more to it.

We can look at the translation of the Old Norse word ‘Vanir’. It means ‘the shining ones, the bright ones’, and identifies the Vanir as a group of gods associated with fertility, vegetation, wisdom, nature, magic, but also the underworld. From this view they are said to be peaceful, just and to keep everything in balance. These are gods of nature, the home, the family and the hearth.

Those are the gods I’m looking for. But the term vanir is bound to Norse Mythology while ‘the bright gods’ are found in many (earlier) cultures. A good example would be Proto-Germanic (Tiwaz-) Ingwaz along along with his wife Frija. Baltic gods fall in this category, too. And while a specific term for the gods isn’t known from Proto-Germanic it is actually reconstructed for the Proto-Indian-Europeans as *Ausos: ‘those that shine with a golden light’.

So what to call the act of worshiping gods that fit the broader definition of the Vanir as old forces of nature, golden gods and friends of the people and aren’t ‘Snorri-Vanic’ but rather PIE gods? Ausostru? (Nope, I don’t see this catching on soon.)

I called this blog Freiatru for lack of a better term, yes, but also because Freia is the most known goddesss and leader of the Vanir. Her name developed from Pria to Frija to Freyja and various other spellings, and I use ‘Freia’ as the modern German version. She is the Great Goddess around all things resolve although I view her as equal to her counterpart Ingvi – but that is the topic for another post.

 

 

 

Religious identity?

I have spent much time of this year to research gods, cultures and their common attributes, because I felt that if I could reconstruct a ‘original vanic’ pantheon it would be easier for me to connect to the gods. It has worked so far that I have found the Balts and built a theory that they are related to the Vanir, or are their predecessors, or are the same god energy with different names.

I kind of always have tried to find this one drawer my religion fits into. This way I have concluded that Germanic Ostara is the same as Baltic Ausrine.

Well… what can I say. I have been wrong.

The gods aren’t that easy to simplify. Everyone who has a name has their own personality, or at least that’s what Ausrine told me when I tried to pretend she was Ostara. It did destroy my world view a little bit – but it’s not the first time I had to learn this lesson. The lesson here is, I think, that I can have different gods from different cultures at the same time since I am, after all, not a product from only one culture and nothing more.

But at the same time I’m kind of unsure about having all those gods – if I’m trying to worship them all, will I ever have time for anything else? And what does it make me? I’m not a Druidess, not a Wiccan, not exclusively Vanatru…. I know labels aren’t everything but I want to have one. Because how could I tell people about it if I don’t know who I am?

So maybe the word ‘Freiatru’ is actually the best description – meaning true to Freia and her kin, which I believe can be found in many other cultures, not only Germanic. 🙂