A Tentative List of Systems of Religion Applicable to Germanic Religion

Written by Dyami Millarson

I have previously discussed how systems of religion may be defined in universal ways despite their particular origins (e.g. Roman, Greek, and so on) and may then again be defined in a particularly Germanic way such that they are useful for understanding Germanic religion (see my article on universal and particular definitions of systems of religion). Having gained this insight, we may then proceed to ask the following question: which systems of religion are applicable to Germanic religion? There are quite a few systems of religion that are applicable to Germanic religion. Giving an exhaustive list is beyond the scope of this article, as this article is merely meant to demonstrate such a list could potentially be made. Consequently, here follows an incomplete list of systems of religion that appear to be applicable to the Germanic context if defined in a way that fits Germanic religion:

  • Theism (polytheism, Vættirism, Vættir faith, Vęrðirism, Vęrðir faith, Godism, Goð faith, Mögnism, Mögn faith, Böndism Bönd faith, Męginism, Męgin faith, belief in High-Ranking and Low-Ranking Gods), animism (spiritism, spiritualism, spirituality)
    • Ginnręginism (Ginnręgin faith, Uppręgin faith)
    • Æsirism (Æsir faith, Ręgin faith)
      • Ásynjurism (Ásynjur faith)
    • Vanirism (Vanir faith)
    • Hero worship (Einhęrjarism, Einhęrjar faith, Saint faith, virtuous men worship, glorious men worship, brave men tradition, great men worship, strong men worship, deified ancestor worship, fallen hero faith, great ancestor worship, prime ancestor worship, homourable men worship)
      • Valkyrjurism (Valkyrjur faith)
    • Elemental Spirits, Nature Spirits, Place Spirits, Mithgarth Spirits
      • Landvættirism (Landvættir faith)
        • Landdísirism (Landdísir faith)
        • Stone Spirit Faith (Steinvættir faith, Hörgvættir faith)
        • Tree Spirit faith (Lundvættir faith, Trévættir faith, Trémęnn faith, Skógarvættir faith, Viðarvættirism)
        • Household Spirit faith (Húsvęrðirism, Húsvættirism, Húsvættir faith)
        • Hill Spirit faith (Bjargvættirism)
      • Nykrarism (Nykrar faith, Marvættir faith, Marmęnn faith, Fjallvættir faith, Forsvættir faith, Vatnavættirism, Vatnavættir faith, Sævættir faith, Kęlduvættir faith)
        • Marmęnnillism (Marmęnnill faith)
          • Margýgrism (Margýgr faith)
    • Álfarism (Álfar faith)
      • Dísirism (Dísir faith, Álfkonur faith)
      • Ljósálfarism (Ljósálfar faith, Himinvættir faith, Loptvættir, leukotheism)
      • Dvergarism (Dvergar faith)
        • Dyrgjurism (Dyrgjur faith)
      • Svartálfarism (melanotheism)
      • Dökkálfarism (achluotheism)
    • Fylgjurism (Fylgjur faith)
    • Hamingjurism (Hamingjur faith)
    • Nornirism (Nornir faith)
    • Mörurism (Mörur faith)
    • Maltheism (belief in evil, harmful or hostile Gods, Meinvættirism, Íllskuvættirism, Úvættirism)
    • Eutheism (belief in friendly Gods, Hjálpvættirism, Holl Ręgin faith)
    • Draugarism (Draugar faith, zombie faith)
    • Ormarism (ophiotheism, Ormar faith, Drękarism, Drękar faith, ophiolatry)
    • Jötnarism (Jötnar faith, Þursarism (Þursar faith, trollism, troll faith)
      • Gýgjarism (Gýgjar faith)
  • Traditionalism (siðr, blótism, perspective, philosophy, worldview, way, code, thought, ritualism, custom, rite, superstition, Germanic sacrificialism, hemotheism)
    • Germanic fatalism (Ørlögism, Wyrdism, Urðrism, Urðarbrunnr faith)
      • Shamanism (Seiðrism, faith in magical wisdom, Galdrism, Görningism, Vittism, belief in Trolldómr, heroism, messianism, miracle-worker faith, sōtēres faith, soteric faith, soterotheism, Seiðmęnnism, Seiðmęnn faith, Spámęnn, Spámęnn faith, Görningamęnn, Görningamęnn faith, Galdravættirism, Galdravættir faith, Görningavættirism, Vittavættirism, Vittavættir faith, witch faith, sorcerer faith)
        • Belief in the quality of hamramr (shape-shifting, metamorphosis, transmutation)
          • Zootheism (animal worship, theriotheism)
            • Aviotheism (bird worship)
            • Lycotheism (wolf worship, lycanthropism, werewolf faith, vargúlfar faith, belief in eigi einhamr, hamramar faith, kveldúlfar faith, wolf-themed naming tradition)
            • Hippotheism (horse worship)
            • Arctotheism (bear worship, werebear faith, bęrserkar faith, bear-themed naming tradition)
            • Bootheism (cow worship)
            • Ichthyotheism (fish worship)
            • Myotheism (mouse worship)
        • Spá faith (millenarianism, omenism, omen belief, prophet faith, sooth-saying faith, prophesy faith, belief in fortune-telling, belief in foresight, belief in clairvoyance, Völurism, Völur faith, Seiðkonurism, Spákonurism)
          • Belief in drawing lots
          • Belief in interpreting animal speech (animal speech faith, animal-whispering faith, Speaking with animals
          • Belief in interpreting intestines
          • Belief in interpreting flight of birds
          • Belief in interpreting breezing of horses
          • Belief in foreboding dreams
        • Fetishism (magical items faith, magical objects faith) 
          • Magical weapons
          • Blótspánn faith
          • Totemism, idolatry, idolotheism, idolism
            • Pole God worship
    • Vé worship (sanctuary worship, Friðr observance, irenotheism, sacred space rites, sanctity faith, friðstaðr faith, hęlgistaðr faith), topotheism (place worship, landmark worship, landscape feature worship), nature worship (heimism, universism, cosmism, ‘naturalism’ redefined as the worship of natural events and forces of nature), Odinism (rex deōrum worship, animus mundī worship, King of the Gods worship; King of the Gods = King of the Heavens worship, King of the Clouds worship, worship of the ruler of the whole universe, worship of regnātor omium deōrum, Tīwaz worship)
      • Gardism (worship of the two garths, worship of Mithgarth and Asgarth)
        • Dendrotheism (tree worship, sacred grove worship, wood veneration, xylotheism, blótlundar faith, sacred tree worship, blótviðir faith, blóttré faith, sacred forest worship, hylotheism, blótskógar, forest worship, ‘arborism’ redefined as blóting to trees, dendrolatry, arborolatry)
          • Baduhennism (worship of Baduhenna’s forest)
          • Donarism (worship of Donar’s oak)
          • Yggdrasilism (world tree faith, axis mundī faith)
        • Hydrotheism (vatnablót, water worship, blóting to bodies of water, hydrolatry)
          • Njördism (sea worship, sæblót)
          • Blótkeldurism (sacred well worship, telmatotheism, bog worship, lake worship, blóting to lakes, Sacred spring worship, fanism, fanotheism, blótbrunnarism)  telmatolatry)
          • Forsism, waterfall worship (blóting to waterfalls), stream worship, brooklet worship
        • Ouranotheism and chronotheism (sky worship, heaven worship, heavenly body worship, celestialism, himinblót, ouranolatry; time worship, season worship, chronolatry)
          • Sólism (sun worship, heliotheism, solarism, heliolatry)
          • Mánism (moon worship, selenotheism, selenolatry, lunarism)
          • Thorism (thunder worship)
          • Sumarrism (summer worship, sumarblót, miðsumarblót)
          • Vetrism (winter worship, vetrarblót, miðsvetrarblót)
          • Dagrism (day worship, hemerotheism)
          • Nóttism (night worship, nyctotheism)
        • Geotheism (land worship, geolatory)
          • Blótvęllirism (field worship, heath worship)
          • Jördism (Earth worship, Mother Earth worship, jarðarblót)
          • Island worship (fositism, véey faith, eyblót)
          • Blóthaugar faith (ancestralism, ancestral rites, ancestor worship, howe worship, mound worship, gravehill worship, fęll faith, natural hill worship, arrificial hill worship, terp worship)
          • Sacrificial pit worship (blótgrafir faith, ground-hole worship, sacrificial hole tradition)
        • Petrotheism (Cairn worship, Hörgar worship, Kumbl worship, blóting to a heap of stones, hörgblót, petrolatry, border stone worship, liminal deity worship)
          • Worship of Freyja with cairns 
        • Domotheism (worship in houses, worship confined within house walls, worship in domestic environment, worship of divine houses, worship of dwelling place of deity, álfablót, Temple worship, Hófism, blóthúsism, hófblót, Díar faith, Goðar faith, Gyðjur faith)

Dismissive and loaded interpretations of Germanic religion are superstition and mythology, which we should seek to abolish when speaking of Germanic theology as we should we sympathetic to Germanic religion when studying it, whilst hostility to the object of study only clouds our judgement and understanding. A similarly loaded and dismissive term in the science of language is dialect, which should be abolished just like the terms superstition and mythology when referring to Germanic religion or any other folk religion.

I used the plurals Æsir, Vanir, Jötnar, etc. to form Æsirism, Vanirism, Jötnarism, etc. to denote that it is not just about one of the Æsir, Vanir, Jötnar, etc. Thus, I used the plurals in the ism-formations to bear the same meaning as poly- in polytheism.

Germanic polytheism requires Æsirism, Vanirism, Jötnarism, Dvergarism, Álfarism, Fylgjurism, Hamingjurism, Nornirism, Nykrarism, Mörurism, Einhęrjarism, Seiðmęnnism, Draugarism, Ormarism, Meinvættirism, Hjálpvættirism, i.e., belief in the existence of the Æsir, Vanir, Jötnar, Dvergar, Drękar, Álfar, Fylgjur, Hamingjur, Nornir, Nykrar, Mörur, Einhęrjar, Seiðmęnn, Draugar, Ormar, Meinvættir, Hjálpvættir. The exact relationship with these divine beings may differ, as some require worship and others should be warded against. Similarly, Judeo-Christianity requires God faith, Angel faith and Devil faith, i.e., belief in God, Angels and Satan. This is simply how Judeo-Christianity works.

The full package of beliefs native to Germanic polytheism appears quite complex, yet we should not forget that the bulk of the religious emphasis in Indogermanic polytheism lies in (intuitively) recognising supernatural beings whereas the emphasis in the various strands of Semitic monotheism lies in a centrality and reduction of beings  by enforcing strict rules. The natural human situation is recognising a multitude of beings and the opposite can only be achieved with strict rules prohibiting the natural human situation.

Germanic religion certainly meant a reverence for whatever was native to the North or more specifically the Northwest of Europe, as this was practical; being in harmony with one’s local environment by having a natural sense of respect for said environment is healthy. This may be described as North worship, Nordic veneration, Northern veneration, or septentrional veneration. After all, septentrional languages was a term used in the past to designate the Germanic languages and it would therefore not to be so strange to speak of septentrional veneration or septentrionalism as a key tenet of Germanic society.

Being Northern is a part of Germanic identity since time immemorial. Names such as Northvegr and Northmenn attest to this. Nevertheless, an even more important current in Germanic thought was the concept of centrality. Germanic identity, as seen in the concept of Mithgarth, was linked with the notion of centrality in ancient times. The Germanic peoples perceived themselves as being in the middle of the world, and so while the perception of being Northern has ancient origins, the prevailing Germanic view was that the Germanic peoples were central in the world, meaning that they were the closest to Yggdrasil, the world tree, at the centre of the world. A comparable perception has existed among the Chinese peoples since ancient times, who perceived themselves as living in the Central Kingdom, which is a concept that ultimately has the same intended meaning as Mithgarth.

Germanic religion has different theistic aspects: belief that Gods who have a favourable disposition towards mankind exist (eutheism), belief that Gods who are may or may not be evil, i.e. morally ambiguous, exist (dystheism), belief that Gods who are evil, i.e. misanthropic, exist (maltheism). 

Terms for a folk religionist are: blætr kumbla, blótmaðr. A female folk religionist is a blótkona. A folk religious priest is: goði, blótgoði, blótjarl. Folk religious priests may also be called díar. A female folk religious priest is a gyðja, blótgyðja.

Belief in shape-shifting is intimately related with the tradition of animal-themed personal names, the belief in werewolves and werebears (bear-skins), and the belief in the Fylgjur and Trolls who can appear in a great many animal forms — not even to speak of the shape-shifting abilities of the Gods. Witchcraft is the domain of the trolls, hence the term trolldómr. Troll means Werewolf-Witch-Giant, and can by extension also be used to possess the same magical powers as trolls. Cleasby and Vigfusson say that “the evil spirits of the heathens were trolls and giants” and that the Old Norse concept of trolls “conveys the notion of huge creatures, giants, Titans, mostly in an evil, but also in a good sense.”

I gave more prominence to Nykrar than Sævættir, Vatnavættir, etc. because Nykrar are a generic water sprite. Furthermore, a salt/fresh water distinction is not of primary importance for water spirits; Nykrar occur in both salt and fresh water environments. For example, the Dutch nikkers may be found fresh water.

See the examples of the use of hjálpvættur in Icelandic in this online dictionary.

The Purpose of Prefexing Religion With Folk, Natural, Indigenous, Traditional, Ethnic, Cultural, Etc.

Written by Dyami Millarson

When one says Germanic religion, that is just that – a religion that is defined by whatever Germanic means. However, when one prefixes religion with folk, natural, indigenous, traditional, ethnic, cultural, etc. one adds a new flavour to what religion means, and this may offer a fresh perspective that helps us improve our fundamental understanding of Germanic religion. So what we are looking for with these prefixed descriptors is gaining new perspectives that help enlighten us on the nature of Germanic religion. Another added bonus is the fact that the familiar-sounding word religion itself is not substituted, yet the connotation is changed.

When speaking of Germanic folk religion, Germanic natural religion, Germanic indigenous religion, Germanic traditional religion, Germanic traditional religion, Germanic ethnic religion, Germanic cultural religion, Germanic legal religion, etc. we are proposing equally valid alternate perspectives on Germanic religion and all of these perspectives have merit as they highlight or zoom in on a different aspect of the religion. The very nature of Germanic religion allows for this multitude of perspectives, and we should not be afraid to play with it and even have fun switching between different perspectives, as it deepens our understanding.

The ultimate purpose of this admittedly playful and fun approach is not just to entertain ourselves and the readers, but ultimately it is about learning to understand Germanic paleopaganism properly; we are trying to remove our own biases by highlighting various pristine associations – perhaps looking like contradictions to us – that exist within the religion. Changing between a variety of perspective namely has the advantage of opening our eyes to how religion penetrated the entirety of Germanic society.

Whilst Germanic religion is undoubtedly all-encompassing and spans across the entirety of Germanic existence, we cannot understand what it means to be Germanic without seeking to understand Germanic religion; being Germanic – or what it means to be Germanic – cannot properly be separated from Germanic religion. As Germanic religion is ‘everything that it means to be Germanic’ while it is everywhere in Germanic society, we must presuppose overlap that works like a vortex that cannot be escaped.

In other words, it is like the event horizon of a black hole which is inescapable. If we look at Germanic society from the outside, we see and feel an emptiness that is hard to define; we keep grasping at straws as we try to define what it is we are seeing. That is why we may symbolically see Germanic society as a black hole, it is a Ginnungap, an empty abyss that we can hardly comprehend. Continuing this black hole analogy, being Germanic is itself the event horizon, everything that is Germanic is connected and cannot be separated. Owing to the inescapable overlap that is inherent to the Germanic religious worldview or philosophy; as a result, every system of religion that is meant to help us understand Germanic religion is necessarily synonymous with Germanic religion itself (see my previous article).

Whilst Germanic religion was so deeply ingrained among the early Germanic tribes, it is inevitable that it survived in various forms. Similarly, Chinese religion survived in various forms despite the rise of Buddhism, Confucianism and Daoism. Various prefixes are applied to Chinese religion to differentiate it from those last three philosophies, and while our use of prefixes may also serve the purpose of differentiating from other philosophies prevalent in the West, really the main purpose for us is benefiting from the various perspectives that are offered – or conjured up – by the various terms that may be prefixed to religion.

Each prefix creates a new connotation or association that may inspire us and help us get a better intuitive grasp of Germanic religion. Since Germanic religion is as complex as it is, we cannot hope to ever fully intellectually understand it, but what we can hope for is to get an intuitive grasp such that we can be in harmony with the genuine tradition of the paleopagans who practised Germanic religion in their daily lives. Our goal is to get closer to the paleopagans and thus removing biases is vital; we have to embrace whatever it meant to be Germanic in the past and we have to let go of our modern ideologies which limit our understanding of the ancient world. Piecing together the ancient worldview that characterised Germanic religion means fitting pristine Germanic information into the matrix of our own worldview, as only then we can fully empathise with Germanic religion as it was. One has to live a philosophy or religion to truly understand it; Germanic religion is no exception.

Analysing Systems of Religion as Universal and Particular

Written by Dyami Millarson

Theism, animism, shamanism, messianism and totemism, which are respectively based on Greek, Latin, Manchu, Hebrew and Ojibwe terms, are systems of religion that may be analysed as universal despite their respective Greek, Latin, Manchu, Hebrew and Ojibwe origins, and therefore may also be analysed as particularly Germanic; for if the definition of each of these terms can be universally applied, it can also be particularly applied. When defining Germanic religion as theistic, animistic, shamanic, messianic and totemic, we need to define those systems of religion in a fitting Germanic way. The definitions, in other words, have to be adapted to the Germanic religious context if our stated aim is to study Germanic religion. The use of these terms in relation to Germanic religion is therefore no mere application of their universal definitions to the Germanic religious situation, but the universal definitions are merely a stage they pass through before being adapted to properly fit the Germanic context as we need an intermediate stage, free from particulars (e.g. Greek, Roman, Manchu, Hebrew or Ojibwe characteristics), that may help us get an idea of why the term may be useful. Regardless of the etymological origin of these concepts that we may define in such a way that they fit Germanic religion, the aforementioned terms are useful for describing the Germanic religious situation. After all, whilst students of Germanic religion, what we need is proper and familiar-sounding descriptors without preoccupying ourselves too much with their non-Germanic origins despite truthfully acknowledging these origins. When one speaks of Germanic theism, animism, shamanism, messianism and totemism, one is speaking of Germanic religion. To make any sense, these terms have to be defined in such a way that they are synonymous with (façets of) Germanic religion; they are merely alternate approaches to the same concept. In other words, each system of religion highlights another aspect of religion, and thus they are different, non-mutually exclusive ways to define what religion really is.

The key take-away from this article ought to be the insight that Germanic religion is theistic, animistic, shamanic, messianic and totemic as much as it is religious. The fact of the matter is that a Germanic theism, animism, shamanism, messianism and totemism defining and defined by Germanic religion are merely possible on the basis of the study of Germanic society as it once was before the decline of Germanic religion as an integral part of high culture (the culture of elite circles) as well as after Germanic religion was pushed out of elite discourse and receded to being merely part of low culture (the culture of the lower classes), as the decline of Germanic religion was a complex process whereby it did not die outright but simply gained a lower-class status in which it was socially locked and from which it could hardly escape before Protestants revived intellectual interest in the matter and began studying Germanic religious survivals into the modern era earnestly, which historically helped improve intellectual understanding of (continued) Germanic religion in elite circles. Given the unique situation of Germanic religion, culturally sensible definitions of Germanic theism, animism, shamanism, messianism and totemism cannot come from without by forcing universal definitions simply and mechanically on the Germanic situation, which will only create an anachronistic monstrosity unhelpful to our endeavour of trying to understand what Germanic religion is and what it is not – we seek to penetrate the Germanic zeitgeist using modern terms that may serve as tools for achieving that scholarly aim. Cultural sensitivity is a must when studying religion that is particularly Germanic rather than generally human, even though the general may be useful for the particular and vice versa. In other words, we cannot study Germanic religion unless we are sensitive to – and curious to learn – what makes it stand out as Germanic. The problem of the study of Germanic paleopaganism is that we have to be open to the ancient Germanic world and whatever that entails; we must not limit ourselves in seeking to understand, and thus our definitions ought to be flexible in that they may be adapted to what we learn as our study of Germanic religion progresses further.

Is Messianism Compatible With Germanic Polytheism?

Written by Dyami Millarson

Even though the concept of messianism is associated with monotheism in the popular mind, the answer to the question in the title of this article is a resounding yes and Germanic polytheistic messianism predates monotheistic messianism in Northwestern Europe. So how does Germanic folk religious messianism work? To answer that question, we need to define messianism first: messianism is the belief in a messiah or that a particular group under the influence of a messiah is destined to save the world. Apparently, to understand the definition of messianism, we need to take a closer look at the functional role of a messiah: what does a messiah do? A messiah saves, and so a messiah is a saviour, which is σωτήρ in Ancient Greek. This is a very important semantic connection to understand for Germanic messianism. Additional semantic connections with saviour which I deem particularly relevant for our discussion of Germanic messianism are protector, guardian, patron, hero, and tutelar. So, we may understand a messiah functionally as a Tutelary Deity or Spirit. This tutelary function is what we ought to focus on with Germanic messianism: since time immemorial, Germanic religion has had the concept of Tutelars.

In my estimation, messianism as a concept in monotheism is intrinsically connected with the concept of the Tutelar and ultimately comes from a belief in many Tutelars. Messianism in monotheism may be derived from a polytheistic ur-messianism. The Germanic peoples had Hero-Gods, who exhibited important heroic traits and performed great deeds (presumably for the benefit of humanity); the motif of the protective Deity or Spirit is essential to Germanic religion, and consequently it is essential to Germanic messianism. Additionally, the apparent Germanic belief that Deities or Spirits, to which one may sacrifice, are protectors, guardians, patrons, heroes and Tutelars is particularly relevant to our definition of Germanic messianism.

In Germanic religion, the Gods are messiahs; for their function is to save in return for blood sacrifices. It is a quid pro quo matter: salvation can only be achieved through blood sacrifice. Do ut des is inherent in Germanic polytheism, and this ethos may also be observed in the Hávamál. While blood sacrifice (blót in Old Norse) is the preferred instrument or means of salvation in Germanic religion, blood sacrifice is the way to come into contact with the Germanic messiahs (Æsir); the nature of blood sacrifice is defining for the relationship with the Germanic messiahs. While the concept of Patron God (which is Beskermgod in Shire Frisian and Beschermgod in Dutch) is native to Germanic polytheism, we can assert with confidence that messianism is also native to Germanic polytheism, and Germanic messianism is not about a single messiah but a multitude of messiahs; every single Deity or Spirit that can be prayed to with a blood sacrifice is a messiah of some sort.

While Deities in Germanic religion are to be interpreted as saviours who normally provide salvation by means of blood sacrifice, we can establish with a very high degree of confidence that the concept of messianism is not alien to Germanic polytheism. Germanic polytheism may be defined as the belief in multiple messiahs manifesting themselves as various Vættir (Divine Beings) and the belief that people who are under the influence of the Sacrificial Gods (Blótguð in Old Norse) are destined, or prophesied by the decree of the Nornir who spin the webs of fate, to save the world. In the vein of the second definition, Einherjar may be understood as manifestations of War Saints who help protect humanity.

While the world is continuously saved from the destruction of the Giants by the Gods, blood sacrifice may be interpreted as an act that is aiding the Gods in that continuous struggle for the world. While the Gods fight for humanity and are thus delivering humanity from danger, human beings provide food in return for their military service against the forces of chaos wreaking havoc on the natural world and the strongest, bravest or best of mankind may become Einherjar who aid the Gods in their war; this is the man-Deity role division.

So the concept of messianism is useful for understanding Germanic religion in the same manner that animism, shamanism and polytheism are useful, and while the aforementioned concept is relevant to Germanic theology, it certainly makes sense to tweak the definition to fit the Germanic context; Germanic messianism, which is messianism adapted to the Germanic context, is obviously messianism with Germanic characteristics, and therefore it ought to be understood through the lens of typically Germanic concepts (such as blót, Blótguð, Nornir, ørlög, etc.). Although messianism is superficially a new word, its underlying concept is ancient. Likewise, polytheism is a modern word, but its underlying concept is ancient. Messianism and polytheism describe something that has always been the case among the Germanic peoples. Germanic messianism as an aspect of Germanic religion answers the essential question of what is the ultimate goal or purpose of Germanic religion.

Dutch Folklore About Stinging Nettles

Written by Dyami Millarson

Rembert Dodoens, whose family originally comes from Frisia, is known for having published a Dutch plant book titled Cruydt-boeck in 1554. Dodoens was born in 1517, which is the exact year that marks the end of the MIddle Ages if we use the Protestant Reformation as the event that marks the historical separation between medieval and post-medieval Europe. Being perhaps a child of the Middle Ages, Dodoens grew up in a changing world. Nevertheless, he must have possessed linguistic and cultural knowledge of the old medieval world and this may be seen in his medieval-looking Dutch language. Dodoens ought to have been aware of medieval lore about spirits. His plant lore is very extensive and offers us, to some extent, a glimpse into medieval plant knowledge, which may be connected with the the knowledge that the Germanic pagans had of the natural world around them.

People are shaped by the zeitgeist. The fact that Dodoens was at the crossroads between medieval and post-medieval culture makes him an interesting character. In my view, it is unfair to say that Dodoens – despite his novel innovations that broke with established medieval traditions – was distinctly non-medieval, because, from our modern perspective, Dodoens was much more medieval than he was “modern” like us. After all, Dodoens lived much closer to the Middle Ages than we do; we are further removed in time from the Middle Ages than Dodoens was. If we take the Reformation as the definitive point where the Middle Ages ended, we may say that Dodoens’ parents were born and grew up in the Middle Ages. Dodoens reasons in a medieval manner and his way of explaining things is medieval. The only difference is that the post-medieval environment is more tolerant; medieval culture and language were not being wiped out, but they were being phased out gradually by an environment of cultural and linguistic blossoming. Complicating things is that, in fact, the suppressed cultural and linguistic elements of the Middle Ages were suddenly becoming more apparent in the post-medieval world, and so one may argue that the post-medieval world was actually more medieval than the Middle Ages; the oppression and suppression had been reduced, so what had been lying dormant in the Middle Ages could now finally awaken. Just as languages between ages are transitory and do not suddenly change, cultures between different time periods are transitory and do not abruptly change. So, early 17th-century Dutch will look like the 16th-century Dutch language, and early post-medieval culture will look very much like medieval culture. However, the winds of rapid change had started to blow in the 16th century and this would become increasingly visible in the ages that followed the 16th century.

In the year 1608, an amended version of Dodoens’ plant book was published, which contained addenda by various anonymous botanists. The 1608 expanded version of the book contains a passage where stinging nettles are mentioned as a remedy against “spirits and apparitions”. Curiously, the original 1554 version of the book does not contain this entry. So it was not Dodoens himself who transferred this spiritual knowledge, which probably had medieval origins. I had once discovered the passage in the book of Dodoens, but could not find it back after a lot of labour reading through the book over and over again; I found it very strange that the passage that I was looking for was not there, it had magically disappeared. It was only much later that I came to realise that I had read the passage in a later version of the book, which had not been edited by Dodoens himself. The passage from the expanded version (p. 225) that I worked so hard to retrieve is the following:

Early 17th-century Dutch

De ghene die de Netelen over hem draeght / met wat bladeren van Vijfvinger-cruyt / die sal vry zijn van alle geesten ende voorschijnselen die den mensche pleghen te vervaeren: want sy benemen den mensche alle vreese/als sommighe versekeren.


Someone who wears stinging nettles over himself / with some leaves of five fingerwort / shall be free of all ghosts and apparitions which tend to terrorise the individual: because they (i.e., the herbs) remove all fear from the individual/as some assure.

Important to remember here is the fact that Dodoens did, in all likelihood, not write this passage himself and it was added later. It does, however, offer us a glimpse into contemporary Dutch folklore, even though it was added 54 years after the original version was published. This addition must be seen in the context of an environment that is culturally increasingly tolerant to folklore, as this was already quite some time after the Reformation. Folklore had previously been heavily suppressed and it was now only starting to carefully rear its head. I have already previously talked about how the Reformation lead to a pagan renaissance; as a result of Protestantism, medieval paganism could make a resurgence.

I would have liked to put more time and consideration into my words in this article, but as fate would have it, I wrote it somewhat hastily while I am not in the position to spend more time on this than I have already done. Therefore, my assertions here and there might have needed more nuance and deliberation, but I simply had to go with what came to my mind and leave it as it is without any significant improvement. Of course, I may improve upon my current writings at a later time; I consider this article to be a public entry of a diary that records my thoughts.

Eating Strong Animals Made Germanic Polytheists Strong

Written by Dyami Millarson

We know the modern adage, you are what you eat. The ancient polytheists of the Germanic world had this folk wisdom as well, and it was so profound a wisdom to them that it was a basic principle of religion to them: having sacrificed a strong animal according to the ancient tradition, the strong animal’s spirit is transferred to the human sacrifiers who consume the animal’s meat, blood and bones. So, the Germanic polytheists believed that eating strong animals made them strong.

On Monday 20 December 2021, I was having a soup made of a cock (male chicken, called rooster in US) which we slaughtered on Sunday 19 December 2021 during full moon. It was my first time slaughtering chickens. Before, during and after the experience, it made me think about the philosophy of existence. It helped me gain more insight into the ancient Germanic traditions of communal blood sacrifice, as it allowed me to understand better, from a spiritual perspective, why blood sacrifice was a communal rather than individual affair; doing this together helps with the bereavement process (verwerkingsproces in Dutch).

I believe that everyone should actually experience what it is like to take another being’s life before you consume the meat, because it is a spiritual experience that makes you ponder about existence in the human world (which may also be called Mithgarth). I am thankful I could experience this because when we buy chicken in the supermarket, we miss this spiritual aspect of the acceptance of the transition between life and death as well as the transition from death to feeding other life. When I was having the chicken soup on Monday, I was thinking especially about the latter transition and as the meat of the cock was really strong, it made me ponder the notion that eating strong animals makes us strong.

Taking the life of an animal with your own hands for the consumption of all of its meat is not just a spiritual or philosophical experience, but it is also an ethical matter of taking responsibility. Modern people like deferring the responsibility of slaughtering animals to others or even machines, this seemingly dissolves us of guilt and responsibility so we do not think much about it when we buy meat in the supermarket and consume it on a regular basis. However, when we do take responsibility, it makes us much more mindful of the meat and where it came from.

If one were to live according to the ways of the ancestors in the modern day and age, I believe it is relevant to incorporate the notion of taking responsibility for the meat that one consumes; where possible, it is best to slaughter animals yourself so that you feel the full responsibility of your actions and know the value of the meat. To me, it seems logical that the traditional polytheist ancestors would have fully agreed with such a philosophical notion of taking responsibility; we have to do this with our own hands and we should experience the entire spiritual process.

Slaughtering an animal for meat was a part of growing up among the ancients, and since we still consume meat in the modern day and age, I do not see why we should shun the entire spiritual process, we are missing the spiritual part where we take matters into our own hands and my heart tells me we should reclaim this spiritual aspect of existence that we are currently missing when it comes to consuming meat; meat is not just about consumption, but also taking a life and we ought to be part of the process of helping the animal spirit pass on to the afterlife. It is a very intimate process when you take an animals life, and this ought to be done properly.

To me emotionally, it makes sense to believe that the animal spirit transfers its power to the human who consumes its meat. When we are present during the process of the animal’s death, we share a very intimate moment with it and we are also going to be the ones who will absorb its powerful spirit. When I ate the chicken soup on Monday, I felt much more intimate with the meat because I had slaughtered this cock myself, and I felt deeply thankful to the cock’s spirit. I noticed that the cock’s meat was very strong in texture and very tasty as well; this feeling made an image of a strong spirit entering my body appear before my mind’s eye.

Essential Germanic Polytheism: Strength in Numbers

Written by Dyami Millarson

The idea of strength in numbers is the essence of Germanic polytheism. The plurality of the divine or numinous world is seen as a sign of strength. The fact that the Gods are many/plural is what makes them strong.

As polytheists, the Germanic peoples worshipped the Gods in groups of two, three and possibly twelve. The number 2 stands for special connection, 3 for holiness and 12 for wholeness or totality.

The “twelve” Germanic Gods, with the exception of Othin as he represents the whole anyway and his mention therefore magically invokes all the Gods, are possibly Thor, Njorth, Frey, Tyr, Ull, Heimdall, Balder, Hodur, Frigg, and Freyja.

The effect of mentioning these twelve deities is that this would be regarded as “having mentioned all the deities.” Twelve was regarded as a powerful number by the polytheists; they believed in the magic/power of numbers.

Although there are more Gods than 12, naming 12 Gods suffices as the magical property of 12 is that all the Gods are invoked. Therefore, the number 12 has maximum effect for worship in case all the Gods’ attention is required.

The Germanic peoples did, however, invoke two or three Gods at a time the most frequently; it was customary to worship dualities and trinities. These groupings are usually recognisable by the fact that the names of such deities at least alliterate or else they may even be identical or similar-sounding.

Germanic Deity pairs include Frey and Freyja, Vali and Vithar, the brothers Alcis, Sól ok Mani (Sun and Moon), Æsir ok Álfar (the Æsir and Elves), husband and wife Nerthus, etc. The Vanir have a tendency to come in pairs (usually divine twins).

The Æsir, who also include Vanir, may be worshipped in groups of three: Othin, Thor and Frey. This trinity may be perceived as the leaders or the most popular deities of the Æsir, therefore they represent the Æsir as a whole and worshipping them together may be regarded as the worship of all the Æsir.

Significant Gods, particularly outlier Gods, may be worshipped individually as well: Othin, Thor, Frey, Ull, Forseti (originally a Frisian God), Njorth, etc.

It is important to remember that the Gods are numina; they are essences of the universe or cosmos in which we live, and they are Gods in the sense that they are powerful spirits which have the qualities of extraordinary living men such as wizards, smiths, kings, etc. Combining all their resources and skills is what makes the Gods an exceptionally powerful/strong community.

There were many Germanic clans/tribes in the past, and the Gods ought to be regarded as the most powerful tribe/clan in the Germanic world. The Germanic clans/tribes had different relationships of power, some tribes were stronger than others and yet all culturally agreed that the Gods were the strongest.

Germanic Folk Religious Adoration of Blood

Written by Dyami Millarson

The early Germanic peoples were fascinated with blood. When studying Germanic folk religion, the centrality of blood as a topic and symbol has been often overlooked or deliberately ignored due to modern negative conceptions – as well as fear – of blood. In the ancient Germanic world, blood was highly respected. While blood is the force of life, it was an integral part of many Germanic rituals. Blood played an important role in blood sacrifice rituals and blood brotherhood rituals.

To understand the Germanic philosophy, we have to set aside our modern, especially urban, disgust with blood. Rather than seeing it as filthy and repelling, the Germanic nature peoples perceived it as pure and regenerating. Sacrificial blood was therefore considered sacred, and it was sprinkled on the attendants of a blood sacrifice.

Blood is essential to life and if one embraces nature, one ought to embrace blood as a substance of natural purity intrinsically associated with life. Germanic blood sacrifices are a celebration of life, because such rites are dedicated to blood as a force of life leaving the victim’s body. Blood sacrifice is an ancient way of helping the victim to say farewell to life and welcome the afterlife. The rite is dedicated to the transition from life to death, and this transition between two worlds is an awe-inspiring miraculous and important moment for living creatures.

Of course, there is an element of appeasement in the sacrificial blood rite. The creature, which is sacrificed, is dedicated to the Gods before consumed by humans; this is the religious tradition through which humans rendered the meat safe to consume without invoking the wrath of a vengeful animal spirit. The Gods drink liquids, and it can be presumed they drink blood, as that is a life force with regenerative powers. Sacrificial blood was smeared onto the tree idols of the Gods and the symbolism of this must be that the Gods gain life – and youth by extension – from the sacrifice and the sacrificers of blood are therefore contributing to the life – and youth – of the ancient Gods; those who sacrifice blood give power to the Gods.

Blood is not just a bestower of life force, but it is a symbol of binding living entities together as well. The magical binding properties of blood are particularly relevant in a rite such as blood brotherhood. The mixing of blood symbolises kinship, and therefore a familial duty to protect each other. Blood could thus be a source – as well as a symbol – of familial rights and duties. All of this is to highlight how immensely important the concept of blood was in the pristine Germanic world, and this article ought to prove to the reader that blood as a topic must not be overlooked when studying Germanic traditional religion.

Sigrdrífumál 2-3: A Model for Folk Religious Prayer

Written by Dyami Millarson

Verses 2 and 3 of Sigrdrífumál provide us with a model for Germanic folk religious prayer: (a) entities are invocated with good luck wishes/greetings, (b) favours are asked immediately after the invocations, and (c) alliterative verse is used for expressing the invocations and requests that may together be interpreted as constituting a Germanic prayer.

Those who are willing to adopt Germanic folk religion have to learn how to pray again. The three components of the model prayer in Sigrdrífumál offer us a look into an authentic folk religious prayer. We ought to note that it is very succinct; no words are wasted as the purpose of the invocation is made immediately clear by the invocator who speaks in alliterative verse.

Religious speech among the Germanic peoples would have been spontaneous yet bound by the rules of alliterative poetry, which distinguished religious speech from ordinary speech. Alliterative verse makes each utterance memorable as it leaves a distinct rhythmic impression. Poetry had strong religious connotations among the Germanic pagans.

Sociologically, we can interpret alliterative verse as fulfilling a societal need, namely that of distinguishing magico-religious activities from day-to-day activities. When one comes into contact with higher entities, the correct way to address them is in alliterative verse which is perceiced as holding magical properties that may persuade them to fulfill one’s requests.

Thorism Defines Germanic Folk Religion

Written by Dyami Millarson

Analysing Germanic religion as Thorism, the veneration of Thor, is practical for comprehending Germanic religion since Germanic folk religion is essentially Thorism while Thor was popular among all Germanic peoples. Thor was the God of the Germanic herdsman/farmer. The roaring of thunder did not just speak to his imagination and the dynamism of the sudden, awe-inspiring occurrence of thunder did not just remind him of heroic deeds which were performed for slaying monsters and serve as a reminder for monsters to be scared of thunder, but thunder was also associated with the rain that would bring life to all plants. The Germanic peoples must have seen the correlation between drought and lack of rain, so thunder was a good sign that made them feel protection and hope; their life depended on rain.

Although the royals and nobles of the Germanic world did also depend on rain, they had a closer relationship with Othin and Frey respectively whilst farmers were closer with Thor. The Germanic peoples lived in a society with a tripartite division, and this also seems to have coincided with the worship of the Othin-Frey-Thor trinity. Whilst Thor was the commoners’ God, the worship of Thor was understandably widespread; it even spread to the neighbouring Estonians and Sami. As the commoners were far more numerous than the royals and nobles, it was easier for Thorism to spread far and wide; the dynamic phenomenon of Thorism was a defining and unifying aspect of Germanic culture.

Thor is a sturdy hero protecting the Gods from harm of wild nature as the Jötnar that Thor battled may be seen as representing wild nature. Thor as a central and iconic figure in the Germanic indigenous worldview protected the holy enclosure of the Gods, and this represents the farmer/herdsman protecting the sacred enclosure of the Germanic folk village. The farmer/herdsman had a very important function of protecting his ætt (family clan) from wild beasts and angry spiritual beings living outside the village. Wild animals and spiritual beings would not have been distinguished; they were the same thing essentially.

Thorism is still very close to the spirit of Germanic communities living in rural areas; it cannot be denied that Thorism resonates with the isolated Germanic communities, such as the various Frisian tribes, because farming and herding are traditionally about the relationship between earth and sky (please note that earth precedes sky according to the Germanic traditional order of this expression whereas the non-Germanic order of this expression is ‘sky and earth’). Njörthism should be analysed as the counterpart to the farming and herding lifestyle, as Njörthism is the aspect of Germanic religion that fits the coastal regions of the Germanic world. Inasmuch as Thorism resonates with farmers/herders and Freyism and Othinism is linked to nobles and royals respectively (Germanic dynasties even traced their lineage to Othin traditionally), Njörthism resonates with fishermen; the Germanic peoples were herders (cattle farmers), noble and royal warriors and fishermen since time immemorial.

The warrior culture of the nobles and royals seems to have caught the attention of modern (chiefly urban) people, and they might get the idea, for this reason, that the warrior ethos was all there was to Germanic society. However, while the warrior spirit was definitely ingrained in Germanic society, so was the spirit of the fishermen and the spirit of the cattle farmers an integral part of Germanic society. The chief Gods of the Germanic world represented key aspects of the Germanic spirit; namely, Thor, Frey, Othin and Njörth represented the farmer spirit, nobleman spirit, king spirit and fisherman spirit. The Germanic Gods are thus Gods of essential aspects of Germanic society; as spirits they embody various social functions and roles. One might express this spiritual embodiment with an Old Norse soul concept as follows: the Gods are the hamr (body) of key social functions and roles in Germanic society.