What Is the Etymology of Vanir?

Written by Dyami Millarson

Considering the consonants and vowel of the North Germanic root Van-, the two etymological options are thus:

  • A connection with the etymological cluster of Shire Frisian wenne accustom, get accustomed and waan delusion. The meaning of waan used to be more neutral. This can be illustrated with Middle Dutch waan which means ‘imagination, feeling.’  
  • A connection with the Shire Frisian prefix wan- as in wandied misdeed, wanhoop desparation, and wantastân unenviable, reproachable situation.

The second option is related to Old Nordic vanr deficient. The first option is related to the etymological cluster of Old Nordic vanr accustomed, vani custom, vęnja custom, and vęnja accustom. We can already observe that there are two instances of vanr in Old Nordic, which we can only distinguish semantically. Furthermore, as it so turns out, Vanr is the singular of the plural Vanir.

The connection of Vanr with the homonymous vanr seems really strong, but the question is: which sense of the adjective vanr is the theonym Vanir related to? If Vanr is related to vanr in the sense of deficient, then it means the one who lacks something, but if Vanr is related to vanr in the sense of accustomed, then it means the one who is accustomed or the like. The Vanir are obviously not Gods of Want or Deficiency, but of Plenty; for Njörth, father of Freyja and Freyr, is the God of Wealth. So, they must be the Gods of Customs, linked with the adjective vanr accustomed. They are the manifestations of old cherished traditions; they are the personhood in tradition.

The Vanir may be functionally compared with the Vedic Aryama(n) who is a Deity of Customs and one of the Adityas, which means He is connected with the sun (see page 349 of this book). One Hindu blogger writes in an article on Aryaman: “Aryaman maintains the code of conduct in the society. He protects the honor of men and women in the society. He has the last word in marriages and in the maintenance of tradition, custom and religion in the Vedic society. All rituals, relationships created and maintained in society are governed by Aryaman.”

Since we have interpreted Vanir as connected with Old Nordic vanr accustomed, vani custom, vęnja custom, and vęnja accustom, we can further connect Vanir with the Old Nordic yndi (< *vund-) ‘delight,’ vinr ‘friend,’ ósk (< *vonsk-) ‘wish,’ œskja (< *vonskj-), ‘wish,’ vinna ‘accomplish,’ undr (< *vund-) ‘miracle, wonder,’ and una (< *vun-) ‘dwell,’ which may be presumed to come from the same Indogermanic root as the etymological cluster to which Old Nordic vanr accustomed belongs. Furthermore, we may link Vanir with Latin venerārī ‘worship, adore’ and Venerēs, which the Roman Poet Catull invokes when he sings: “Ō Venerēs Cupidinēsque!” (O Venuses and Cupids!) Venerēs is the plural of Venus, the Goddess of Love. This page of a website dedicated to ancient literature explains: “It is interesting that Catullus refers to them in plural form as proper nouns. There was only one Roman Venus and Cupid, but Catullus is referring to several of them. He may be addressing several gods and goddesses of love.”

Although the adjective vanr accustomed is by no means directly associated with love in Germanic, we may still perceive the Vanir as Venerēs because Freyja plays a prominent role as a Goddess of Love, and we may compare Freyja with Venus. I assume that Venus comes from Indogermanic *wénh₁os, which should correspond to *wenaz in Ancient Germanic, which should correspond to *venr in Old Nordic. Old Nordic vanr accustomed apparently comes from Indogermanic *wónh₁os, which corresponds to *wanaz in Ancient Germanic. This mean that Venus and Vanir are similar formations, but the two seem to go back to different Indogermanic forms, which are ultimately etymologically related. The Indogermanic sense of ‘love’ must, therefore, be a distant memory just like the Indogermanic sense of ‘white’ is for Álfar and the Indogermanic sense of ‘sky’ is for Tívar.

In the Germanic context, the Vanir are associated with a semantic web relating to customs; this understanding of Vanir is of primary importance, since the speakers of Germanic languages could easily have used folk etymology to connect the Vanir with customs. A connection with customs also makes sense; a custom is also also a form of expressing love and a custom may be viewed as doing what you love. How should we imagine the connection of the Vanir with customs? For instance, just like the Indian God of Customs is associated with oaths, the Norsemen used to swear oaths to Freyr on the bristles of a sacrificial boar. Craigie quotes a passage from Hęrvarar Saga on pages 27-28 of The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia as follows: “King Heidrek sacrificed to Frey; he should give to him the largest boar that could be got. They considered it so holy, that over its bristles they took an oath about all important matters. That boar was sacrificed by way of an atonement; on Christmas eve it was led into the hall before the king, and men then laid their hands on its bristles and made their vows.”

On the Phenomenon of Serial Polytheism

Written by Dyami Millarson

What is said on page 578 of this work can be generally applied to monotheistic religions: “it became soon divided into an infinity of sects and systems.” Different nuances in the interpretation of the one Deity immediately lead to splits in monotheistic religions, such that serial polytheism is achieved. Monotheistic sects are worshipping different Gods because they interpret their one God differently. Having a different interpretation of God in monotheism effectively means worshipping another God, and therefore such deviations lead to sectarian splits and serial polytheism. One God leads to an endless series of new Gods. Serial polytheism may not occur within an monotheistic individual’s lifetime, but over the course of time, it will almost certainly happen. One historical example of serial polytheism is the conversion of Northwestern European countries from catholicism to protestantism.

This page explains — from a Christian perspective — the same point about there being different monotheistic Gods: “Many Muslims and Jews (and even some Christians) claim that all three monotheistic Abrahamic faiths worship the same God. But do Christians really worship the same God as the Jews, or the same God as the Muslims? Simply put, no, we do not. […] While Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are monotheistic religions asserting there is only one God, they disagree about who God is. Therefore, if who God is, is not consistent among the three systems, those systems cannot possibly worship the same God. The same could also be said within the umbrella of Christianity itself; the theology of the Roman Catholic and many Protestant churches paint the picture of a different God than the one known and loved in the authentic living Tradition of the Orthodox Church.”

In conclusion, there being multiple monotheisms means there is a polytheistic reality, i.e. a reality of people worshipping different Gods. The One God idea inevitably leads to sectarianism and serial polytheism, and thus a polytheistic reality is created from monotheism. This is not much different from ancient times where people devoted themselves to particular Gods. People like having a fully stocked shop; they like being able to pick different God ideas. It is like a market, and when there is plenty of choice, people can find the God idea they are looking for. Polytheism is the reality of a diverse market; monotheism tries to protect a market from developing diversity but inevitably ends up developing market diversity anyway.

What Is the Meaning of the Old Norse Prefix Ginn-?

Written by Dyami Millarson

The current article is in many ways the sequel to my recent article on Ręgin.

Ginn- pertains to magic, wonder-working, supernatural power. It is used with words of sacral meaning. Ginnheilagr, Ginnręgin, ginnrúnar, Ginnungagap, Ginnungavé, Ginnungahiminn, and Ginnarr/Ginnir (= Othin) therefore mean ‘magico-holy, wonder-holy,’ ‘Sorcerer-Advisers, Wonder-Advisers,’ ‘magico-runes, wonder-runes,’ ‘Sorcerers’ (= Ginnungar) Open Space, Wonder-Men’s Expanse,’ ‘Sorcerers’ (= Ginnungar) Sanctuaries, Wonder-Men’s Holy Places,’ ‘Sorcerers’ (= Ginnungar) Heaven, Wonder-Men’s Sky,’ and ‘Magician, Wonder-Man.’ All of these will be treated in this article in that exact order. Afterwards, we will treat ginnvitni ‘magical fire’ and ginnfasti ‘magical fire,’ and then we will also talk about inchoation magic, which we may term ginnseiðr. At the end of this article, there will be a conclusion and an enumeration of interpretations. However, before we can properly start our discussion of each of these items, we should examine the Old Nordic verb ginna in relation to ginn-.

Etymology of Ginna

I propose a 3-stage semantic evolution of ginna: ‘begin, start; cut open’ in Ancient Germanic > ‘inchoate magically, initiate something by supernatural means, bewitch, cast a spell’ in Ancient Norse > ‘trick, deceive’ in Old Norse.

Is there evidence that the concept of commencing something is connected with magic in the Germanic worldview? Is it at all plausible to suppose within the context of Eurasian folk traditions that beginnings can take on magico-religious significance?

Chapter 17 of the Latin Indiculus superstitiōnum et pagāniārum is instructive, as it demonstrates that there is a traditional connection between beginnings and magic in the Germanic worldview: “Dē observātiōne pagāna in focō, vel in inchoātiōne rēī alicūjus.” (On the pagan observation in the hearth/fire, or in the beginning of something.) Magical or magico-religious beginnings and the magic of beginnings are themes in East Asian religions as well. For instance, a Shintō priest may consecrate a new building. A Dutchman has the honour of being the first Shintō priest of European descent (see here, here, here, here). He owns his own Dutch website dedicated to Shintō, of which this page gives a brief but excellent explanation of the connection between beginnings and Shintō rites: “Shintoceremonies worden uitgevoerd op momenten die een nieuw begin inluiden, zoals nieuwjaar, het begin van een jaargetijde, geboorte, de bouw van een huis, fabriek of kantoor, de inwijding van een gebouw.” (Shinto ceremonies are performed at moments that herald a new beginning, such as New Year, the beginning of a season, birth, the construction of a house, factory or office, the dedication of a building.) Likewise, when starting a new building project, Chinese folk religionists may sacrifice chickens (see here). In addition to chickens, they may also sacrifice other animals at the beginning of new projects (see here). In conclusion, the importance of beginnings is evidently a common thread throughout Eurasian folk religions. We may analyse rites related to magical beginnings as incohation magic, and we may consider initiation rites as a common form of incohation magic; Germanic blood sacrifices for good harvest, longevity, victory, and so on can also be interpreted as inchoation magic since they relate to magical beginnings.

Is there evidence that trickery and magic are connected in the Germanic worldview? Does fate play a role in this connection?

In my article on the Germanic Isis, I mentioned the Lombardic story of Godan and Frea. The latter tricks the former in order to bring about a favourable destined outcome — the action is a manifestation of the Roman necessitās. Through trickery, Frea bent fate to Her will; She is evidently a fate-bender, i.e. sorceress. I said in the same article that “if one knows the ways of fate, then one can also bend or change reality.” Her act of tricking Godan must therefore be analysed as a magico-religious rite, which is aimed at bringing about a new beginning. The result of this rite is that the Lombards receive their tribal name from Godan. I said also in the same article: “There is an old Christian view that the Nordic Gods are tricksters, adulterers, and sorcerers, which is actually a more interesting perception than it seems at first sight: we may interpret this as being congruent with the Gods ability to manifest as multiple beings, thus confusing mankind, which is trickery in Christian eyes. The function of this confusion is, however, to impart humanity with secret knowledge.” We may conclude the following: in the Germanic worldview, the concept expressed in Latin as fallere trick, deceive has a very close connection with the concept expressed in Latin as necessitās necessity, inevitability, and consequently it is connected with fātum fate, through which it is also connected with the concept expressed in Latin as fascinum witchcraft and Ancient Greek as μαγεία (mageía) sorcery; trickery, fate and magic are, in other words, three semantically close concepts in the Germanic worldview.

Is the Old Norse ginna the same verb as found in prefixed verbal compounds in West Germanic and East Gernaic languages? If so, it may be the only instance where we find the verb unprefixed in the Germanic languages.

There is no verbal root ginn- in Old Norse, which has the sense of Latin incipere start, commence, begin (see also Cleasby & Vigfusson). In its stead, we find ginna which semantically corresponds to the Latin fallere trick, deceive. There is no corresponding verb in West and East Germanic languages, so that we are naturally led to linking up the unprefixed North Germanic root ginn- trick, deceive l with the prefixed West and East Germanic ginn- begin. This seems a safe bet since there is no better explanation.

We may thus connect Old Norse ginna with Dutch beginnen and ontginnen and Gothic duginnan. All have a sense of the Latin incipere start, commence, but may also take on the semantic role of Latin incohere lay the foundation of, create, begin.

We may further connect the verb ginna with the sacral prefix ginn- as found in ginnheilagr, Ginnręgin, etc. We may at first analyse ginn- as just an intensifier like commonly found in Dutch (e.g. ijzer in ijzersterk), but given its association with different word types of sacral meaning, I prefer calling it a sacral prefix. We may also connect ginna with Old English gynn- as found in gynnwised and with the adjective ginn.

The original West Germanic verb behind the verbal root ginn- in the West Germanic daughter languages may also have had a sense of incīdere ‘cut open,’ which can then be used to explain the Old English adjective ginn open and the intensifier gynn-. The Dutch ontginnen dig out, develop land and Old Frisian untgunst hewn open are instructive for this. When asked, my father glossed ontginnen as open werken, klaarmaken voor landbouw make open, ready for agriculture. A nowadays rare sense of ontginnen is begin: “Laten we dat ontginnen.” (Let’s start that.) I have seldom used or encountered ontginnen in that sense. The senses of ontghinnen in Middle Dutch are approximately ‘begin; cut (into); manipulate; attack.’ We may assume that the modern and medieval senses of ontg(h)innen developed from ‘begin,’ and so the later senses must have passed through an earlier stage where ontginnen meant ‘make a beginning with, make an opening in.’ It is nevertheless curious that the original sense of ‘begin’ is retained alongside the newer senses. The semantic web of the Dutch, Middle Dutch, and Old Frisian cognates helps us contextualise the Old English adjective ginn, making it easier to understand how the sense of ‘open’ could have developed from an original sense of ‘begin.’ It is possible that the development of this sense from an original sense of incipere ‘begin’ is peculiar to West Germanic, but it may also have been lost or unattested in North and East Germanic.

Why should we, in the North Germanic semantic context, not interpret the prefix ginn- as related to cutting, but to seiðr? The attested meaning of the Old North Germanic verb ginna may be traced back to a sense of bewitching (Latin: fascināre) instead of a sense of cutting open (Latin: incīdere). By contrast, the adjective ginn and the prefix gynn- in Old English may be traced back to a sense of cutting open (Latin: incīdere) instead of a sense of bewitching (Latin: fascināre). It should, nevertheless, be added that cutting open and Seiðr are interrelated, but the relationship of Seiðr with Ginnungagap is not dependent on the notion of cutting open. Therefore, if one interprets Ginnungagap as a cut open space based on the Old English cognates of ginn-, then the existence of that cut open space is related to inchoation magic, i.e. the magic of beginnings, yet if one interpets Ginnungagap as a magical space, which corresponds to the semantic genealogy of Old North Germanic ginna, then it is also related to inchoation magic. The latter if-then scenario is the likelier one, since the meaning of Old North Germanic ginn- is more likely to correspond to the semantic genealogy of ginna than that of the Old English cognates which have their own semantic genealogy, but the point I was trying to make with regards to inchoation magic is that regardless of the truth of either if-then scenario, inchoation magic has something to do with Ginnungagap.

Ginnheilög Goð

The Ginnheilög Goð are Creator Deities who fashioned the Dvergar, as said in stanza 9 of the Völuspô. This is congruent with the Divine Trinity interpretation of Uppręgin. Stanzas 6, 9, 27 and 29 of Völuspô suggest that Ginnheilög Goð = Ręgin. Stanza 11 of Lokasenna suggests that Ginnheilög GoðÆsir and Ásynjur. Under the lemma ginn- on page 200 of their Old Icelandic dictionary, Cleasby and Vigfusson interpret Ginnheilög Goð as Gods distinct from Æsir and Vanir. Being distinct from the Vanir as well is plausible since the Ginnheilög Goð have the function of deciding matters concerning creation and are consequently fundamental to the natural or cosmic order like Othin and his brothers. On account of their functional similitude, the Ginnheilög Goð must be identified with Rögnir ok Ręgin Othin and the Divine Advisers, which the stanzas of Völuspô do not gainsay. The Odinic Divine Trinity responsible for the creation of man and the world, namely Othin and his brothers, have the function of being Divine Judges, the Ręgin par excellance, therefore Ginnheilög Goð who are fundamentally Odinic beings or manifestations.

Ginnręgin as Gods of the Ginnrúnar

Analysing the Ginnręgin as the Gods of the Ginnrúnar has merit; for it is said in the Völuspô of the Elder Edda that the Ginnręgin ‘made’ (gerðu) the runes. While the Elder Edda leads us to believe that the Ginnręgin are the originators of the Ginnrúnar, we may connect Them with Rögnir, the foremost of the Ręgin, Othin, who has a special relationship with the Rúnar as well; for Hroptr Rögna, which is a manifestation of Othin, is mentioned shortly after the Ginnręgin when the origin of the runes is discussed in stanza 142 of Völuspô in the Elder Edda. I interpet Hroptr Rögna to mean that Othin is the wisest among the Divine Counselors. One may analyse wisdom as hierarchical; for when it comes to wisdom, Othin is on a whole other level compared to the Æsir and Vanir. I interpret the consecutive lines ok gerðu ginnregin and ok reist Hroptr rögna from stanza 142 of the Völuspô as meaning that the Ginnręgin made the runes together, and this includes Othin as He is one of the Ręgin, but it is Othin alone, as the wisest or foremost of the Ręgin, who ‘carved’ (reist) the runes; I interpret Othin as having a very privileged role, like befitting to a King, compared to the others. We must, therefore, take away from this that Othin is one of the Ginnręgin, as he is also one of the Ręgin, and that Othin has a very prominent position compared to the rest; for He is the one to stand out from the crowd. For my interpretation, I assume that it should not be taken lightly that at first a group of supernatural beings is mentioned and then the attention suddenly shifts to an individual, who is even called the ‘Wise One’ (Hroptr) of the ‘Divine Counselors’ (Rögn/Ręgin), i.e. the outstanding one of the group; given this context, I am inclined to interpret this Hroptr (= Othin) as very privileged, having a high rank, and being the leader of the Ginnręgin. In conclusion, the two aforementioned lines of the Völuspô may be interpreted as giving a clear demonstration of the real power dynamic between the Ginnręgin and Othin.

Cleasby and Vigfusson say that Ginnręgin is used “in the same sense as ginnheilög goð in Vsp.; in Hým. 4 opp. to [T]ívar (dii); in Alm. [G]oð and [G]innregin are distinguished.” This is consistent with the view that the Ginnręgin are distinguished Gods, i.e. they distinguish themselves in terms of wisdom and age from the other Gods; for they are Wise Primordial Gods, namely Othin and his brothers. So, if Ginnręgin is distinguished from Tívar and Goð, and if Uppręgin are distinguished from Æsir and Vanir as I explained in my article on the etymology of Ręgin, then this supports the view that Ginnręgin and Uppręgin = Rögnir and his brothers = the Creator Trinity. In other words, Ginnręgin = Uppręgin = Odinic beings. The father and grandfather of Othin and his brothers, namely Borr and Búri, may even be included among the Uppręgin/Ginnręgin; for, like Othin’s brothers, They are not reported to have passed away and must therefore be somewhere. After all, what kind of beings are Borr and Búri? One may suppose that they are not Æsir, Goð, Tívar, Vanir, or Jötnar, but belong to Their own separate category, which highlights Their role as supernatural being distinguished from all others, namely Ręgin, Rögn, Uppręgin, or Ginnręgin. Borr and Búri are Gods of Birth, and since birth is a magical beginning, one can see how Borr and Búri may be closely associated with Ginn-.

Furthermore, since Othin is the All-Father and since it is possible to interpret Othin’s brothers as manifestations of Othin, we may also interpret Othin’s father and grandfather’s as manifestations, reincarnations or extensions of Othin Himself; Grandfather, father and son may therefore be an Odinic trinity. It would mean that Othin is a being which birthed Himself and He had, according to His divine judgement, reached perfection by the time He had become the grandson, thus creating a perfect trinity. On the other hand, we may also suppose the Divine Grandfather, Father and Son are truly distinct beings and not just reiterations of Othin. In either case, whatever the truth may be, it makes sense to address or refer to the primordial trinity of Grandfather, Father and Son as types of Ręgin; the Grandfather, Father and Son trinity must have great cosmic significance, and if so, it makes sense for Them to assume the role of Divine Advisors. A trinity of the Grandfather, Father and Son is also found in Tacitus: Tuisco, Mannus, and three (grand)sons — an exact parallel to the Nordic trinity of the grandfather Borr, the father Búri, and the three (grand)sons.

If the the trinity can be identified with the Ręgin, Uppręgin and Ginnręgin, one may compare Them to the Adityas of Indian folk religion, Celestial Beings whose mother is Aditi, the Limitless Being, the manifestation of the cosmos. The relationship of the Ādityas with Aditi may be compared to the relationship of the Ginnręgin with the Ginnungagap. The fact that the Adityas are Celestial Beings may also help us make sense of Uppręgin; the Ręgin are the Sons of the Cosmos, and since Their place in the cosmos is the Upphimin High Heaven, They are Celestial Beings, known as Uppręgin, and since Their wisdom of fate is so profound and They consequently possess unfathomable magical abilities to create and organise the world, They are the Ginnręgin. The Ādiyas are connected with sun worship, and since we may assume the Uppręgin are connected with Upphimin, we may likewise connect the Ręgin types with sun worship. In conclusion, the Ręgin must have a quintessential primordial celestial role; They are always there in the background.

“Gap var ginnunga”

Gap, which is the final element of the compound Ginnungagap, is cognate with Old English ᚷᛖᚪᛈ (gēap) ‘open space, expanse,’ Danish gab ’empty space,’ and Modern English gap. It is also related to the verb gapa ‘yawn, open one’s mouth’ and the Dutch gapen ‘yawn, open one’s mouth,’ which comes from an Indogermanic verb for ‘open one’s mouth, be wide open,’ and which is also related to the Greek χάος (cháos).

Ginnungagap looks like a kenning because ginnunga- has a limiting effect on gap: it specifies what type of gap is meant. Ginnungagap is a magico-religious space, of which the original name must be simply Gap and ginnunga is added to that name in order to emphasise the supernatural nature of the space; it is not just a space, but a magical space. Having said that, I interpret gap var ginnunga (stanza 3 of the Völuspô) as chaos was of (the) sorcerers.

Ginnungr, of which ginnunga is the genitive plural, later came to mean ‘jester,’ which, just like trickery, is to be regarded as extraordinarily closely related with sorcery; a semantic shift from sorcerer to jester is highly probable. The Gap animating or being animated by sorcerers, i.e. troll, belongs to an animistic worldview, which regards nature as peopled, and so it fits Germanic religion, which is inherently animistic.

This should not be surprising. Speakers of Germanic languages regard nature as peopled since time immemorial. One can still hear old stories of trolls in Scandinavian countries, for example. Trolls are forces of nature, beings of magic. The art of the trolls is sorcery. Given the importance of the trolls in the Scandinavian cultural landscape, it is perfectly sensible that the Germanic chaos be associated with trolls; equally important is the observation that trolls are the forces of chaos. In other words, trolls are beings of Gap, whence their magical powers come, just like Othin’s wisdom comes from Urth’s Well.

Who are the Ginnungar?

What is the relationship of the first beings with chaos in the Greek religion and what is the nature of these first beings?


In the Þulur, Ginnarr is listed as a Dwarf’s name, one of Othin’s names, and an epithet for a hawk. See pages 424, 426 and 436 respectively of Corpus Poeticum Boreale: The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue.

The hawk is very similar to the falcon. The falcon/hawk can be analysed as a magico-religious symbol. As we have seen in the article on the Germanic Isis, it does have merit to compare Germanic and Egyptian folk religion. The importance of the falcon in the latter is instructive for the study of the former. The Canadian Museum of History explains the following on this page of theirs: “Horus is the son of Osiris and Isis, the divine child of the holy family triad. He is one of many gods associated with the falcon. His name means “he who is above” and “he who is distant”. The falcon had been worshipped from earliest times as a cosmic deity whose body represents the heavens and whose eyes represent the sun and the moon.”

A Dvergr is an Artisian Deity. As skilled craftsmen, the Dvergar practise Creation Magic, hence They are associated with ginn-. Dvergar are the equivalents of the Greek Ἥφαιστος (Hḗphaistos) and the Roman Vulcānus, but They are multiple beings, therefore They may be interpreted as Ἥφαιστοι and Vulcāni, in which case I am using the plural of Ἥφαιστος (Hḗphaistos) and Vulcānus to match the plurality of the Dvergar.

Ginnvitni and Ginnfasti

Ginn- in the cases of ginnvitni and ginnfasti must be analysed as poetical. On page 200 of their Old Icelandic dictionary, Cleasby and Vigfusson describe the use of ginn- in ginnvitni and ginnfasti as “an intensive sense only [found] in poets.” Cleasby and Vigfusson cast doubt on the reading of ginnfasti. Cleasby and Vigfusson interpret vitni and fasti as fire, but only fasti can be connected with the sense of fire, while vitni cannot, because vitni is used only in the sense of witness. Vigfusson attributes ginnvitni to Sighvat. So who is Sighvat? Vigfusson and Powell explain that on pages 117-124 of Corpus Poeticum Boreale: The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue, where they include poetry of Sighvat from pages 124 to 150.

Ginnseiðr: Inchoation Magic

We may call inchoation magic Ginnseiðr. The use of ginn- with seiðr may seem tautological, but considering its reconstructed meaning, ginn- is associated with beginnings and helps to emphasise the inchoation-related aspect of seiðr.

When do the Germanic polytheists traditionally consider it proper to make a sacrifice? What determines this propriety?

Blood sacrifices mark new beginnings; for the Germanic peoples traditionally consider it proper to offer blood sacrifices at new beginnings. Ginnseiðr is the explanation for Germanic rites.


The Ginnręgin are Primordial Gods of Creation, Births, and New Beginnings. Synonyms of the Ginnręgin are Uppręgin and Ręgin. The leader of the Ginnręgin is Hroptr Ragna, whose name is also Rögnir, who is identical to Othin.

Othin is a distinguished being among the Æsir and Vanir. He belongs to His own category, therefore: the Ręgin. Being distinguished does not mean He cannot be part of other groups. Othin can be part of the Ginnręgin/Uppręgin and Æsir at the same time.

Supreme Gods of the Ręgin type pose no problem of any kind for the internal coherence of Germanic folk religion; for the existence of primordial supreme Gods, who are distinguished from the rest, is consistent with the known Germanic cosmogony and theogony from Ancient Germanic times to Old Nordic times. The Ręgin are undoubtedly native and ancient.

It may, however, be said that my interpretation of the Ginnręgin as laid out in this article and my interpretation of Uppręgin as laid out in another recent article is a reconciliation between the concepts of Ginnręgin and Uppręgin and the rest of Germanic theogony and cosmogony that previous generations have already deciphered. The philosophical question was how to make sense of these concepts and fit it into the whole of what is known with a decent degree of certainty.

Challenging the Conclusion with Pattern-Based Analysis of Alvíssmál

Just as we have used pattern analysis of Alvíssmál for making sense of Uppręgin, we will repeat the same investigation for Ginnręgin.

Interpretations of Ginnheilagr

  • On page 342 of this work, ginnheilagr is translated simply as ‘holy.’

Interpretations of Ginnrúnar

  • Edred Thorsson interprets ginnrúnar as ‘cosmic runes.’
  • Géza von Neményi interprets ginn- as Gunst- favour in German and so he interprets ginnrúnar as Gunst-Runen favour runes (see page XV of this work).
  • Fredrik Sander interprets ginnrúnar as utmärkelserunor runes of distinction in Swedish (see page 147 of this work). Utmärkelse may be understood as ‘accolade, praise, distinction, award.’ The noun comes from utmärka which means ‘to bestow honour upon someone, distinguish someone; distinguish between things, discriminate.’
  • Adolf Noreen interprets ginnrúnar as Grossrunen great runes (see page 257 of this work). Sophus Bugge likewise interprets it as storrunor great runes in Swedish (see page 334 of this work).
  • Thomas Birkett interprets ginnrúnar as ‘runes of power.’ It has also been interpreted as kraftrunor power runes in Swedish (see page 25 of this work and page 242 of this work for example) and Kraftrunen in German (see page 155 of this work for example). This is comparable to the translation of męginrúnar as kraftrunor power runes (see page 207 of this work). Ginnrúnar has also been interpreted as ‘mighty runes’ (see page 32 of this work), which is again comparable to that of męginrúnar.

Interpretations of Ginnungagap, Ginnungavé and Ginnungahiminn

  • Page 394 of this Latin work treats the etymology of “Ginnúngagap,” saying it can be derived from “Ginnúngr” or “Gínúngr” and “Gap.” The Latin work analyses “Ginnúnga” as a genitive plural. It also draws a comparison with “Ginnúngavé.”
  • A. Quak and Paula Vermeyden say in their Dutch chapter on Ginnungagap: “Voor het eerste deel, ‘ginnungi’ (ginnunga is gen. ev. of mv.) of ‘ginnungr’ zijn allerlei oplossingen gesuggereerd. Men heeft het o.m. in verband gebracht met een Germaanse woordstam *gin-, die ‘een geweldige, uitgestrekte leegte’ zou aanduiden, of met een ie. wortel *ghi- (opensperren). In beide gevallen zou Ginnungagap dan iets als ‘immense afgrond’ betekenen. Anderen brengen het woord in verband met een werkwoord ‘ginna’ (voor de gek houden) en weer anderen interpreteren ‘ginn-’ als ‘magisch geladen’. Ginnungagap zou een oerruimte zijn vol van de magische kracht die het scheppingsproces mogelijk maakte. De jongste suggestie is van Ursula Dronke. Zij meent dat het woord van origine niet Noords, maar Oudhoogduits is: ‘ginunga’ (spleet, gapende opening), een woord dat regelmatig in glossen te vinden is.” (All kinds of solutions have been suggested for the first part, ‘ginnungi’ (ginnunga is gen. sing. or plur.) or ‘ginnungr’. It has been connected, among other things, with a Germanic word root *gin-, which would indicate ‘a great, vast emptiness’, or with an IE root *ghi- (to open wide). In both cases Ginnungagap would mean something like ‘immense abyss’. Others associate the word with a verb “ginna” (to fool) and still others interpret “ginn-” as “magically charged.” Ginnungagap is said to be a primordial space full of the magical power that made the creation process possible. The latest suggestion is from Ursula Dronke. She believes that the word is not originally Nordic, but Old High German: ‘ginunga’ (slit, gaping opening), a word that is regularly found in glosses.)

Interpretations of Ginnarr

What Beings Does Mannhardt Mean with Tossar?

Written by Dyami Millarson

Wilhelm Mannhardt says on page 190 of his work: “Aus diesem Grunde wohnen die Tossar in Grabhügeln.” (For this reason, the Tossar dwell in burial mounds.)

The explanation can be found in what Mannhardt says on page 169 of the same work: “altnord. þurs, norweg. tusse, dän. schwed. tosse.” (Old Nordic þurs, Norwegian tusse, Danish [and] Swedish tosse.)

Mannhardt does not mention the plurals: Tossar is the plural of the Danish/Swedish form Tosse, which is related to Norwegian Tussar (singular Tuss or Tusse). All these cognates ultimately come from Þursar Giants (singular Þurs).

Tosse/Tusse has come to mean simpleton, so it may not readily be understood as Þurs in modern times. It is, nevertheless, worth reviving the old meaning of these Nordic cognates.

What Is the Original Meaning of Uppręgin?

Written by Dyami Millarson

Uppręgin, which occurs in stanza 11 of Alvíssmál in the Elder Edda, is a compound noun, namely it consists of the prefix upp- and the noun Ręgin.  The latter is cognate with Rögnir, Rögnuðr and Rögn, which are all found on page 669 of the Latin work Lexicon poëticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis by Sveinbjörn Egilsson, who interprets Rögnir and Rögnuðr as epithets of Othin, and Rögn as a neuter plural which means Gods (Latin: “[D]ii”). For a contemporary discussion of Rögnir and Rögnuðr as epithets of Othin, also see page 164 of Petersen’s Nordisk mythologi, which was published 3 years after Sveinbjörn Egilsson’s work was published. Sveinbjörn Egilsson regards Rögn as another form (Latin: “alia forma”) of Ręgin. He also notes under Rögn that Hroptr Ragna, i.e. Hroptr of the Rögn/Ręgin, is an epithet of Othin.

Furthermore, we may connect ręgin with the verb ragna curse, swear, the neuter noun ragn swearing, cursing and the element ragna- such as found in the world-ending event Ragnarökkr and the personal names Ragnarr (think of Ragnar Lothbrok), Rögnvaldr, Ragnviðr, Ragnfríðr, Ragndís (attested in Old Swedish), *Ragnálfr (< runic Ragnælfʀ), Ragnhildr, Ragnvör, Ragnþrúðr, Ragnlaug, Ragnheiðr, Ragnbjörn, Ragnfastr, and Ragnleif (see here for the personal names; see page 80 of this Swedish book for the runic form Ragnælfʀ). The Elder Edda itself draws the same etymological connection between rögn/ręgin and Ragnarökkr in stanza 47 of Vafþrúðnismál, where Ragnarökkr is referred to as the time when the Ręgin/Rögn die (Old Nordic: “þá er ręgin deyja”). Outside of Old Nordic, we may connect ręgin/rögn with Gothic ᚱᚨᚷᛁᚾ (ragin) ‘advice, task, law,’ ᚱᚨᚷᛁᚾᛁᚾ (raginīn) ‘advisor,’ ᚱᚨᚷᛁᚾᛟᚾ (raginōn) ‘advise, rule.’ We learn from this that advice can apparently carry the weight of law, reminding us of the English expression “his word is law,” which corresponds to syn wurd is wet in Shire Frisian, and we learn that having the role of advisor is, according to the Germanic worldview, closely connected with the quality of rulership, giving us reason to believe that when Othin gives advice in Hávamál, He does so as a ruler, namely the Ruler of the Universe, and therefore His word is law.

Outside of Old Nordic and Gothic, we also find the root attested in Ancient Nordic, the precursor to Old Nordic. The stone of Noleby (KJ 67, Vg 63) contains ᚱᚨᚷᛁᚾᚨᚴᚢᛞᛟ, which may be transliterated as raginakudo. The last element -kudo is connected with the Gothic suffix -kunds, which is found in gumakunds ‘male,’ kwinakunds ‘female,’ gōdakunds ‘noble,’ himinakunds ‘heavenly,’ erþakunds ‘earthly,’ innankunds ‘belonging to the family.’ We may connect -kunds with Old English -cund and Old Norse -kunnr, and we may also connect these suffixes with Gothic kuni ‘kin,’ Old English cynn ‘kin,’ Old Norse kyn ‘kin.’ We may therefore regard the suffix -kudo and its cognates as a kinship term, hence we may also interpret raginakudo as ‘related with the Rögn/Ręgin.’ It so happens that raginakudo is cognate with Old Nordic ręginkunnr, which means divine, i.e. related with the Rögn/Ręgin. A parallel to this formation is the Old English gōdcund, which means divine, i.e. related with the Gods

How should we, then, make sense of Ręgin? What is its original intended meaning? We may regard the Old Scandinavian verb ragna as originally having meant give advice, and since it was so closely associated with the Ręgin/Rögn, it came to mean ‘curse, swear,’ i.e. utter words which carry negative magical power. After all, the words of advice from the Gods inherently carry magical power, and while earliest interpretation of this must be positive, the origin of the later interpretation of this as negative, which is attested in the association with expelling curses, must ultimately be sought in foreign influence, namely that influence which came to the Scandinavian lands in the form of an alien religion, affecting language and culture. In conclusion, we may interpret the Ręgin/Rögn not as the cursing or swearing ones, i.e. not as those who utter negatively loaded words, but as the advising or counselling ones, i.e. those who say positively loaded magical words. We may, then, also interpret this to mean that the Ręgin/Rögn give advice while They are rulers, whose words determine the law. Compare this to Ecclesiastes 8:4 in the Latin Bible: “Et sermo illius potestate plenus est, nec dicere ei quisquam potest: Quare ita facis?” (And his speech is full of power, and no one can say to him: Why do you do this?) Since the Ręgin/Rögn are not just any rulers, but they are apparently the Rulers of the Universe, we can interpret Their words as having cosmic significance in the sense that those words determine the laws to live by in our universe. They are thus the Gods of Order; for law and order are inherently associated since the dawn of time. Ręgin/Rögn are apparently the originators of old social rules. In other words, ancient customs, such as the blood sacrifice (Old Nordic: blót) for maintaining the relationship with the Gods, can be attributed to the Ręgin/Rögn.

Directional and Stationary Hypotheses

The prefix upp- occurs in a multitude of Old Nordic words. One example that immediately comes to mind is Uppsalir, which literally means Up-Halls in the sense that they are halls in an elevated position. Thus, we may render Uppsalir as Elevated Halls. The prefix Upp- is cognate with the Old English adverb upp(e) and the Gothic adverb iup, which mean up. We should consider that up can mean either of two things when we use it to refer to something’s relative position in two-dimensional space: relative to an elevated position, up is either directional or it is stationary. So, up can mean that something is moving towards an elevated position or is located at an elevated position — a distinction maintained in Old English where upp is used for a direction and uppe for a location. Therefore, we must ask the practical question: which of these two meanings is applicable to upp- in Uppręgin? The prefix upp- occurs in a similarly enigmatic Eddaic term: Upphiminn. The same question applies here: does it refer to the sky in an elevated position or the sky moving towards a higher position? If we follow the example of Uppsalir, which is a most sacred site for the Germanic folk religionists and where upp- also appears to have a magico-religious meaning, then we may interpret Uppręgin and Upphiminn as the Elevated Gods and the Elevated Sky. Carrying the sense of upper or elevated, one may interpret this as referring to rank in a cosmic hierarchy; one may therefore interpret it in the Dutch language as Oppergoden Highest or Supreme Gods and Opperhemel Highest or Supreme Heaven. Following the same logic, supreme leader is, for example, rendered as opperbevelhebber in Dutch. We should, however, also consider the Dutch word ophemelen, which literally means ‘to lift someone up into the sky’ and is, therefore, understood to mean ‘to praise or speak highly of someone, to put someone on a pedestal.’ Here op-, which is cognate with Old Norse upp-, clearly exhibits a directional meaning.

So if we suppose a verb *uppragna in Old Nordic (compare Shire Frisian opsizze recite from memory, literally say up(wards) and opneame recite one by one, literally name up(wards)), we may interprete that as ‘giving advice in an upward direction, passing on advice upwards,’ and then we may suppose that Uppręgin are those who pass on advice to beings in an elevated realm, hence advisers to the Gods. Taken in its original meaning, Ręgin means Advisors and this is merely an aspect of the Æsir, but not confined to them; it makes sense, therefore, that the term may be applicable to other beings in the universe as well. We should, nevertheless, bear in mind that Ręgin carries the connotation of being a ruler, therefore it should be closely associated with the Othin and the Æsir, yet we may also say that if it is strongly associated with Othin and the Æsir and if the Álfar are strongly associated with the Gods as the lore suggests, then it must also be applicable to the Álfar by extension — which is, perhaps, also suggested by runic Ragnælfʀ and Old Swedish Ragndís — and hence by extension to the Dvergar, who are counted among the Álfar and, as a consequence of this fact, frequently exhibit the element -álfr in their names. We must also remember that the Dvergar are wise beings, as seen in the Alvíssmál, and they could indeed play the role of shamanic intermediaties between the lower and higher realms. In fact, the Alvíssmál suggests there is competition between the Æsir and Dvergar to prove who is wiser; as it turns out, the Æsir are wider than the Dvergar. The context of where Uppręgin is mentioned in the Alvíssmál effectively excludes Álfar, Æsir, and Vanir as beings, and since we are looking for a Ręgin-like race of beings who could match the other Gods, namely the Æsir, Vanir and Álfar, to some extent and may therefote be considered deserving of the title Ręgin, the Dvergar seem a fitting match, particularly considering their profound wisdom as demonstrated in Alvíssmál, where the term Uppręgin is also encountered.

If, however, we suppose that Uppręgin means Supreme Advisors or Advisors in an Elevated Position, then we may connect this with the Æsir, sitting in their Seats of Judgement, namely the Rökstólar as mentioned in the Völuspá. Since the Æsir have already been mentioned in the same place where the Uppręgin are mentioned, we may make sense of this by distinguishing the ordinary Æsir from their supreme judges or advisors, reminiscent of the distinction between Hroptr and the Rögn as seen in the epithet Hroptr Ragna, namely Othin and His brothers or His multiple manifestations.

Bábu Rájendralál Mitra says on page 48 of this work: “The esoterics of Buddhism inculcate a trinity of Gods as supreme Arbitors of the universe; and Odinism doth the same. The Buddhists bave their Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and their counterparts appear among the Scandinavians as Odin, Thor and Frigga. Adam of Bremen, who lived about the middle of the 11th century, in describing the principal temple of Odin, says, “This nation has a most noble temple which is called Upsala, situated not far from Sictona or Birka. In this temple are statues of three gods entirely made of gold. The people worship them. Of them Thor the most powerful, occupies the floor in the centre, Woden and Fricco bave places on the sides.” This position of the Odinic Trinity is unmistakeably the same as that which the Buddhist trinity occupy to this day on the coyers of Tibetan Manuscripts or on the Sanchi gateway.”

As I have mentioned recently, Othin may manifest himself in multiple forms, and therefore Uppręgin may be understood to refer to multiple iterations of Othin, most probably a trinity of Othin-judges. Would it not seem fitting if the Æsir have a trinity of supreme judges, and that these supreme judges have their own mysterious language? The image of the three Divine Judges is akin to that of the three Nornir, and in being connected with fate, we may suppose that they utter mysterious words like the Oracle of Delphi. After all, today’s legal experts use highly specialisted language, of which the vocabulary will seem unusual and mysterious to outsiders, so that the words need to be interpreted for them. Different spheres of life have their specialised vocabulary, and so we may expect the same of the Nornir, Dvergar, Æsir, Álfar, Jötnar, etc. and by extension, we may perhaps expect this of the Creator Trinity as well. We can easily imagine the Creator Trinity using highly specialised language during creation, and as they continue to shape the world in their image, they take on the role of Supreme Advisors or Supreme Judges. Since the supposed Divine Judges would play a role that is so similar to that of the Nornir, we may feel compelled to regard them as identical. However, if we instead suppose that the Uppręgin may be identical to the Nornir, we must again suppose a directional rather than stationary interpretation of upp-. Nornir, Dvergar, and Othin and his brothers are undoubtedly wise beings, and therefore they make for good contenders for being the right match with Uppręgin.

Closer Analysis of the Prefix Upp-

We should, to make up our minds, take a look at a larger sample of Old Nordic words with upp- and before making any judgements related to the issue of interpreting Uppręgin, we should definitely also take the time analyse Alvíssmál, where Uppręgin is attested, so we can better weigh the options for interpreting Uppręgin.  Giving heed to the wider context in which the word is used, we can seek to better comprehend the meaning of what the all-wise Skáld, the Dwarf who is the composer of the verses, is trying to convey with Uppręgin and what led Him to this word choice. As we can seek to unravel the mystery of this word, we must finally also consider others’ interpretations and juxtapose them with our own.

The stationary, locative or static upp- answers the question of “where?” yet the directional, motional or dynamic upp- answers the question of “in what direction?” The distinction may be obscured by idiomatic translation, but the original type of upp- can still be determined.

Examples of the stationary, locative or static upp- are: uppdalr ‘elevated valley, inland valley,’ Uppsalir ‘Upper Halls, Elevated Halls,’ Upphiminn ‘Upper Sky,’ Uppheimar ‘Upper Worlds, Elevated Worlds,’ upphlutr ‘upper part of kirtle,’ etc.

Examples of the directional, motional or dynamic upp- are: uppréttr ‘upright, erect, facing upwards,’ uppþunnr ‘thin towards the top, thin upwards,’ uppmjór ‘slim towards the top, slim upwards,’ upprisa ‘resurrection,’ uppfæðsla ‘act of raising up, fostering’ uppęldi ‘act of raising up, fostering,’ uppgjöf ‘remission’ [think of ‘giving up’], uppskár ‘communicative’ [skár means open, so think of ‘opening up’], upphögg ‘cutting up,’ uppsmíð ‘raising a house, building a house,’ uppfyllning ‘fulfillment’ [think of ‘filling up’], uppgrip ‘abundance,’ upphillingar ‘phenomenon of when rocks and islands look as if elevated above the sea,’ etc.

Let us now take a look at Old English examples.

Examples of the stationary, locative or static up- in Old English are: Upengel ‘upper angel,’ Uprodor ‘upper sky,’ upeard ‘upper earth,’ upflēring ‘upper floor,’ upcund ‘celestial,’ etc.

Examples of the directional, motional or dynamic up- in Old English: upgān ‘go up,’ upgang ‘act of going up, ascent,’ upriht ‘upright, erect, facing upwards,’ upfæreld ‘upward journey, ascension,’ upcuma ‘come up,’ etc.

The examples are quite clear. The parallels between Upengel and Uppręgin, between Uprodor and Upphimin are particularly instructive. The similarity in the locative and motional uses of up(p)- suggests a system which has a common origin in the deep past. Namely, we observe that (1) pure nouns generally go together with stationary up(p)-, (2) adjectives usually go together with the directional up(p)-, (3) verbs usually go together with the directional up(p)-, and (4) nouns of which the derivation can be directly traced to verbs (or adjectives) go with the directional up(p)-. The exception to observation number 2 is Old English upcund because it literally means “related to up, belonging to up, derived from up.” We can understand this since -cund may be analysed not as properly an adjective but as a suffix, like we have seen with Ancient Nordic ᚱᚨᚷᛁᚾᚨᚴᚢᛞᛟ (raginakudo) and Old Nordic ręginkunnr.

Although we can easily see that the Gothic ragin is connected with the verb raginōn, we must bear in mind that not ragin is derived from this verb, but the other way around: raginōn is derived from ragin by adding the verbal suffix -ōn to the root. We may similarly analyse the Old Nordic verb ragna as being derived from rögn/ręgin, of which the root is ragn-; for the last point, please consider the fact that the nominative plural is ręgin/rögn while genitive plural is ragna. We should, then, classify Uppręgin as a formation which matches observation number 1. The Old English formation Upengel may serve as our closest parallel in this case just like the closest parallel to Upphiminn is Uprodor in Old English. Since we now know the linguistic context in which the Skáld/poet used the term Uppręgin, we have a decent idea of what he meant to convey and how he thought about upp- while compiling the poem; we are fortunate to be able to pry into his mind with the help of linguistic analysis. In conclusion, although we may still compile a larger sample size of words with up(p)- in Old Nordic, Old English and other Germanic languages to draw more definitive conclusions, we may already consider the directional hypothesis reasonably disproven and the locative hypothesis reasonably proven, which is fortunate, because it means we do not need to worry about whether to identify Uppręgin with the Nornir or Dvergar, but now the identification is actually quite straightforward: the Creator Trinity or the Three Divine Judges, namely Othin and his brothers. It implies that Othin and his brothers have 3 holy functions: (1.) creating the world, (2.) creating mankind, and (3.) creating order. Function number 3 is about properly managing their creations after the creation events; the Creator-Gods, therefore, continue to look after the well-being of their creations and are known as Uppręgin ‘Upper Gods’ in that function.

Discussion of Interpretations

Admittedly, an inherent weakness of the hypothetical identification of Uppręgin with the Dvergar is the fact that Dvergar are not traditionally considered Gods, but they can be described as lesser Gods or Spirits; for they are not as high-ranking as the Æsir or Vanir in the Germanic polytheist-animist system. Furthermore, the term Ręgin is rather associated with these High Gods in the lore than with the Dvergar, which makes the identification with any of the High Gods much more appealing than any identification with the Low Gods, such as the Dvergar. Even more reason to not identify the term with the Dvergar is that it implies rulership as we have seen when we analysed the Gothic cognates. In Germanic tradition, rulers are the ones who give advice, as they are expected to be the wisest. Being an advisor, therefore, has strong connotations of being a ruler and actually a Philosopher-King. Othin’s sayings in Hávamál may be analysed in this traditional context, and thus we should understand Othin in Hávamál as a ruler or king who gives very wise counsel. What the identification of Uppręgin with Othin has going for it from the outset is the fact that Rögnir and Rögnuðr is an epithet of Othin and additionally there is the fact that we must assume Ręgin are closely associated with rulership, i.e. wielding political power, which implies a functional correspondence with the Æsir who are portrayed as Divine Lords (Old Nordic: Dróttnar, Gothic: ᚠᚱᚨᚢᛃᚨᚾᛊ Fraujans, Latin: Dominī, Greek: οἱ Κῡ́ριοι hoi Cūrioi).

Petersen translates Uppręgin as Uplifting Powers (original Danish: “[O]padvirkende [K]ræfter”), which means he adheres to a motional interpretation of upp-. As a result, Petersen identifies the Uppręgin with the Dvergar. However unfortunate while the concept of uplifting powers seems intriguing, Petersen’s interpretation does not seem likely to be correct. I should also point out that opadvirkende is a quite obscure word in Danish, as it does not at all occur frequently. Jacob Grimm, who, unlike Petersen, adheres to a locative interpretation, translates Uppręgin with the Latin term Superī, which means ‘the ones who are above.’ Indeed, Superī is a very fitting translation, but the problem is that it only translates upp- and therefore it does not catch the whole sense; rather, it should be Superī Conciliātōrēs ‘Upper Advisors’ in Latin. Cleasby and Vigfusson translate Uppręgin as Heavenly Powers. My slight criticism of this translation is that the translation is as though it matches Uppmęgin ‘Upper Powers’ rather than Uppręgin ‘Upper Advisers,’ notwithstanding that Męgin does actually not have a plural. Translating Uppręgin as Heavenly or Celestial Advisers, instead, seems fine by me, because as long as we emphasise the personhood in Ręgin, it can quickly become obvious to our readership that the Ręgin are the very manifestations of wise counsel, i.e. Ręgin are to be understood as Advice Gods.

Winifred Faraday says on page 30 of The Edda: I. The Divine Mythology of the North: “The Regin (of which Ragna is genitive plural) are the ruling powers, often [sic: sometimes] called Ginnregin (the great Gods), Uppregin (the high Gods), Thrymregin (the warrior Gods). The word is commonly used of the Aesir in Völuspa; in Alvissmal the Regin seem to be distinguished from both Aesir and Vanir.” Faraday erroneously says often, but he means to say sometimes.

Comparison Between Uppręgin, Baugręgin, and Hęlręgin

Egilsson notes under the lemma Reginn that “Baugreginn,” “Hofreginn,” and “Helreginn” exist — which is relevant to our analysis. On page 40, he interprets Baugręgin, which he spells with two n‘s, as “Wight of Rings” (Latin: Numen Annulōrum), which may remind us of the “Lord of the Rings” concept as popularised by Tolkien and Wagner in the forms of Sauron and Alberich/Nibelung respectively. Finn Magnusen translates Baugręgin as “the Ring-God” (original Danish: kreds-guden, ring-guden) and identifies it as an epithet of Mímir (see page 234 of his Eddalæren). Rydberg likewise identifies Baugręgin with Mímir. Konrad Schwenck says on page 102 of his work that Baugręgin must be interpreted as Ringręgin and he assures us that the identification with Mímir is beyond reasonable doubt. Ludvig Christian Müller glosses Baugręgin on page 365 of his book as God of Wealth or Heaven (Danish: “Rigdoms- eller Himmel-gud”).

The interpretation of Baugręgin as Mímir is not inconsistent with my interpretation of Ręgin as Divine Rulers, i.e. High Gods, which, by definition, excludes the Gods of the lower strata. Therefore, we can safely say that such an interpretation of Baugręgin does neither contradict nor challenge our identification of Uppręgin with Othin; to the contrary, it supports it for a number of reasons, since Mímir has a very close relationship with Othin, even likeness to Othin, as borne out by the following facts:

  • Both Mímir and Othin are closely connected with fate and wisdom. The Mímisbrunnr, the spring named after Mímir, demonstrates Mímir’s close connection with fate and wisdom.
  • An epithet of Othin is Vinr Míms Friend of Mím which we may interpret as Vinr Mímis Friend of Mímir. Compare how we may interpret Óđr as Óđinn.
  • Mímir‘s embalmed head shares wisdom (knowledge of fate) with Othin, which only cements the close relationship between the two. Since Othin is in the possession of Mímir’s head, one may even argue that Mímir’s entire being is an attribute or an aspect of Othin, therefore Othin is one with Mímir.
  • Mímir is a High God for sure. He is one of the Æsir. The Þulur suggest that He is one of the Jötnar. Whether He is both or either does not matter for identifying Him as a high-ranking God.
  • Othin sacrificed His eye to Mímir for wisdom once again demonstration His close relationship with Mímir and showing that the nature of the relationship is Their common appreciation for wisdom.
  • Mímir is a proven Advisor-God or Philosopher-God, therefore the meaning of the name Ręgin fits Him. He acts as an advisor to Hœnir and he is beheaded once the Vanir find out that Hœnir cannot act without His advisor.

Egilsson glosses Hęlręgin as gigās Giant on page 321 of his dictionary. In the second footnote on page 67 of his work De godsdienst der oude Noormannen, Louis Suson Pedro Meyboom lists Hęlręgin as one of the Jötnar Giants based on Skáldskaparmál. See page 555 of this work to verify that Hęlręgin is listed as one of the Jötnar in Skáldskaparmál. On page 190 of this work, Mannhardt interprets Hęlręgin as Todesherrscher Death-Ruler, whilst arguing convincingly that the Jötnar are connected with the Todeswelt Death Realm.

Wishing to make sense of Hęlręgin, my first intuition is to connect Hęlręgin with Hęl, since:

  1. Hęl is the Ruler of Hell while Hęlręgin means Hell-Ruler, and
  2. Hęl is of Giant descent while Hęlręgin is listed as a Giant.

Using Patterns Found in Alvíssmál to Make Sense of Uppręgin

Alvíssmál employs the normal Eddaic alliterative verse, which consists of stanzas. The stanzas of Alvíssmál also follow the normal Eddaic pattern; each stanza has 6 lines. However, what is peculiar about Alvíssmál is that there is a Dvergr named Alvíss who usually enumerates 6 beings in each line and gives a word in the language of those beings — I will hereafter refer to Him as Dvergaskáld Poet of the Dwarfs. We may expect the following order in which the beings are named: the holiest first and the least holy last, therefore the high-dwelling beings first and the low-dwelling beings last. We must bear in mind that folk religions usually exhibit a traditional belief in a tripartite division of the world: the high realm (= the sky), the middle realm (= the earth), and the low realm (= the underworld). For instance, the Sámi, the Greenlanders, the Khanty, the Yoruba, and the Māori have this old belief. The Nordic peoples likewise exhibit a traditional belief in upper worlds, middle worlds, and nether worlds. It would then make sense for the Dvergaskáld to organise the beings enumerated in His poem according to the tripartite order of these worlds. This hypothesis, which is aimed at finding an upper-middle-nether realm order in Alvíssmál, may be called the tripartite cosmos hypothesis.

Overview of Others’ Interpretations of Uppręgin

  • Bellows interprets Uppręgin as “the holy ones high.”
  • G.A. Gjessing interprets Uppręgin as “Heaven-Gods” (Norwegian: himmelguder).
  • On this page of his website, Taylen Carver includes in his list of beings living in Hęl: “Uppregin (“Upper Powers”, deities who live in Hel but perform significant functions in the world above, e.g. Sól, Máni).”

Philosophical Musings on the Nature of the Ljósálfar, Dökkálfar and Svartálfar

Written by Dyami Millarson

Being related to Latin albus white, Old Norse Álfr, of which the plural is Álfar, originally means White One. Therefore, it seems a tautology when we encounter Ljósálfar and a paradox when we encounter Svartálfar and Dökkálfar. We still encounter the old meaning in Old Norse, which implies the original association with white is not entirely lost, but we also encounter cases where the original meaning has made way for a more generic meaning, namely that of Spirit. To understand Ljósálfar, Dökkálfar and Svartálfar, we have to apply the generic rather than the original meaning of Álfr.

It is striking about the trinity of the Álfar types that the distinction is based on a gradation of basic colour distinctions associated with the presence or absence of light; namely, the distinction runs from light (ljóss) all the way to black (svartr) with dark (dökkr) as an intermediate stage, just like the distinction between day and night with twilight (i.e. dusk or dawn) as an intermediate stage.

The primary distinction is the ljósssvartr pair, as that primordial colour distinction is based on the presence or absence of light; the Ljósálfar and Svartálfar consequently also happen to be the best distinguished in the lore. The ljóss-svartr duality is seen everywhere in nature, just as the male-female duality may be seen everywhere in nature (see my article on the Germanic Isis), and may thrrefore be conceived of as a naturally united lair, of which the unity parallels that of the concept dægr, which is used to denote both night and day. Given the primordial nature of the ljósssvartr pair, the trinity of Álfar types may be analysed as “2 + 1,” so that the holy pairing is rendered complete with a third element, i.e. the two holy elements augmented by the third holy element are the holiest combination.

The third basic colour tone, namely dark (dökkr), may be brought into connection with dökkna darken and dökkva darken, the latter of which may be used in an impersonal expression as found on page 113 of Cleasby’s and Vigfusson’s Icelandic-English dictionary: “Dag dökði.” (It darkened the day, i.e. it became dark). Also when I think of tsjuster dark in Shire Frisian, I think of the expression: “It wurdt tsjuster.” (It is becoming dark.)  As a young child living in Amsterdam, the expression with donker that I was most familiar with was “het wordt donker” (it is becoming dark). This image always left a deep impression on my mind: magical event of the darkening itself and the mysterious relationship of the “it” with the “dark,” of which my mind was trying to make sense in relation to what I observed.

The ancestors, when they were once children, must have learned words for colour distinctions from their parents while observing nature, thus impronting natural images in association with colours on their psyche. Given that humans must have learned basic colour distinctions from nature, it should, then, be no surprise that colours, particularly basic colour tones which may be regarded as primordial colours, have an inherent association with natural imagery; colours ought to be analysed in close relation to images of nature which are important to the human consciousness, the human individual, as this consciousness grows up surrounded by nature and develops an understanding of the world based on its natural surroundings. In ancient times as in modern times, the most significant image associated with “dark” must be the darkening of the day. Therefore, we may assume that when the Old Norse speakers thought of dökkr in relation to Dökkálfar, they must also have intuitively connected it with dökkna and dökkva, and therefore with . Likewise, they must have connected Ljósálfar intuitively with ljós (sun)light, therefore with dagr day, and Svartálfar with night, of which one may describe the colour as pitch-black in English, and which reminds me of the description of the Dökkálfar as being “blacker than pitch,” although one may make better sense of that by reinterpreting it as applying to the Svartálfar; for the Ljósálfar are, based on their association with colour tone, likewise brought in connection with the sun when it is said in the Younger Edda that they are fairer than the sun.

We may, then, suppose an inherent natural connection of the primary Ljósálfar-Svartálfar pair with dægr, which comprises of both dagr day and nótt night. Likewise, we may suppose a natural connection of Dökkálfar with rökr dusk, twilight and Old Norse terms with like meaning. For instance, Old Norse kveld may he understood in the sense of twilight when it is used in the terms kveldvaka time inbetween bedtime and twilight and kveldriða twilight-rider. Having brought the basic pair and the third element in connection with dægr and rökr respectively, we may reason about the natural forms of the Álfar: since if, for example, Dagr, Sól, and Nótt can be manifestations of day, sun and night, may, then, the Álfar also not be manifestations of, perhaps more minor, phenomena in nature? If so, then what may the Álfar be manifestations of in nature?

In this regard, I said the following in my article on the etymology of Tomte and Tufte: “Holy Beings of Nature, souls associated with whiteness and therefore sunlight, perhaps manifesting in nature as shadows which result from sunlight in the forests and as the beams of light creating the shadows, namely the Álfar.” We may bring Ljósálfar and Svartálfar, the primordial ljóss-svartr (i.e. light and black) pair, in connection with the Nótt-Máni (i.e. night and moon) pair and the Dagr-Sól (i.e. day and sun) pair respectively. After all, Álfar have a connection with specific times of the day in both modern and ancient folklore, and they are also associated with sunlight and moonlight. We know from the Norse lore that Dvergar die upon coming into contact with sunlight, and Dvergar are counted among the Álfar. We may, then, suppose that the different types of Álfar have different rationships with light and consequently with time; as Beings of Light and Time, the Álfar appear and disappear/hide at specific times of the day as a result of their specific relationships with light. They are thus akin to daytime and nocturnal animals — which is a natural motif. The duality of appearing and disappearing, which is closely associated with the Álfar, is reminiscent of the image of lights and shadows in the natural world. All things considered, we can surmise that the Svartálfar are shadowy figures, while the Ljósálfar luminous figures; the former are as hideous as night, the latter as fair as day — although not the direct inspiration for this poetical way of explaining the different Álfar‘s relationship with beauty, compare the Dutch idiomatic expression “zo lelijk als de nacht” (as ugly as night). The primordial pair of Álfar types, namely the Svartálfar and Ljósálfar, can be regarded as the consequences of the appearing and disappearing of Sól ok Máni Sun and Moon, Dagr ok Nótt Day and Night; these consequences are the lights and shadows observed in the natural world; and as they are magical consequences of dualistic major natural phenomens, the primordial pair of Álfar types can be regarded as followers, who have a lower rank in the order of the cosmos while their leaders, namely the Sól-Máni and Dagr-Nótt pairs, have a rank naturally higher; and it should be noted that the identification of Ljósálfar and Svartálfar with lights and shadows makes perfect sense from not only the perspective of cosmological hierarchy but also the perspective of natural dualism, namely just like the dualistic natural forces to which they are subservient, shadows and lights are dualistic natural phonemena, which exist due to interaction.

Recalling that svart is associated with absence of light and ljóss with presence of light and that shadows cannot exist without light, how can Svartálfar be interpreted as Shadow-Beings and Ljósálfar with Light-Beings? We must also recall that the Álfar are associated with moonlight, which is a fact also shown in modern folklore. Moonlight can create shadow figures as well, and when moonlight shines upon a forest, one may see figures of beings, which one may identify as Svartálfar. Forests, which have always been prominent in the Germanic landscape and with which the natives of the land traditionally have an intimate relationship, are full of lights and shadows. There ought to be no doubt that the Germanic peoples traditionally regard the forests as peopled with Numinous Beings; such beings, which are strongly associated with forests, are still prominently featured in modern folklore. Therefore, while we know for sure that such beings are traditionally observed in the forests by the Germanic peoples since time immemorial, the only question is what Norse-speaking people would be prompted to call those beings, and considering both modern and ancient evidence, the best candidate is really Álfar. There is only a limited set of terms available to describe forest beings, and this motivates one to identify Álfar with the forests. Therefore, if one observes light-figures and shadow-figures in the forests, and wishes to call them by the names which the ancestors gave to them, then one may identify them with Ljósálfar and Svartálfar. The ancestors certainly had a name for all these beings, as they did not have a habit of letting magical things go unnamed, and thus diligently named magical weapons, animals, and so on.

Given that the Álfar represent different, naturally playful interactions with light, I am led to the following conclusion: the Ljósálfar and Svartálfar are synonymous with what I would call schaduw- en lichtspellen in Dutch. These words are not usually encountered in the plural in Dutch, but it seems appropriate to use the plural in order to properly match them with the Ljósálfar and Svartálfar. The Dutch term schaduwspel literally means game or play of shadows, and may be interpreted as effect(s) of shadows, working(s) of shadows, dancing of shadows, shadow spectacle; lichtspel likewise literally means play of lights, and may likewise be interpreted as effect(s) of lights, working(s) of lights, dancing of lights, light spectacle. Since Álfar are associated with dancing in modern folklore, I like interpeting spel as a dance in English, although it should be schaduwdans and lichtdans in Dutch in that case, which also actually seem fitting in this context. So, then, we may observe the beautiful dances of lights and shadows in the natural world, and we may identify these with the Álfar. Thus, one may say in Old Norse: “Svartálfar ok Ljósálfar eru skuggar ok ljós.” (Black Spirits and Light Spirits are shadows and lights.) We may also say: “Svartálfar eru skuggasamligar, Ljósálfar eru bjartar.” (Black Spirits are shadowy, Light Spirits are bright.) These seem examples of a cultural concept so obvious that it need not be expressed explicitly, since everyone, who is part of the culture where that cultural concept comes from, already understands. A Dutch term I would like to bring up in relation to schaduwspel and lichtspel is schimmenspel, which means shadow puppetry. Schimmen means shadows, spectres, ghosts in Dutch, and Álfar may be thought of as SchimmenSchimmenspel is performed by humans, who have mastered art of manipulating lights and shadows, and this is an art which humans have performed since time immemorial. While humans perform this art, we may wonder what its relationship with nature is apart from manipulating the natural phenomena of lights and shadows: since the Gods are manifestations of the natural world according to the Germanic worldview, we may interpret the Gods as performing the aforementioned magical art for mankind: Therefore, we may say that both Æsir and Álfar play their respective cosmic-hierarchical roles in the cosmic schimmenspel, namely the Æsir as controllers of the Schimmen play a higher role in the cosmic schimmenspel, while the Álfar as Schimmen play a lower role in the cosmic schimmenspel .

We may also consider the disposition of the Ljósálfar and Svartálfar towards mankind. Is ljóss associated with a favourable disposition, and svartr with a negative disposition? In other words, is ljóss associated with good, and svartr associated with evil? As expected from observations of nature, shadows have an  association with darkness in Old Norse, as seen in skuggamikill dark; and shadows being dark produces negative associations, as seen in skuggaligr suspicious-looking. Black has negative associations in Old Norse as well. For instance, there is a strong association between black and the Goddess of Death in Old Norse: Hęlblár as black as Death, blár sęm Hęl as black as Death, and Hęljarskinn Hell skin, i.e. black skin. It becomes apparent from these examples that the Goddess of Death herself was thought of as having a Hęljarskinn. Death cannot be counted as a positive association, and such a close association between black and death puts this colour tone firmly in the same category with other unpleasant, negative and taboo things. Further negative associations with darkness are found in the close association between darkness and the Dvergar; for they die when they come into contact with light. Although interactions with Dvergar can yield positive results, they are undeniably viewed quite negatively on account of their unpleasant natures, in stark contrast to the positively depicted Álfar who serve as companions of the Æsir. There is some room for ambiguity in the pagan worldview, but we can safely conclude that black represents evil, white represents good even in the Germanic pagan worldview, and the evil-good duality associated with the natural duality of light and black is therefore not alien to the Germanic peoples. Such traditional views based around attributing positive connotations to light and negative connotation to black are also encountered among other Eurasian peoples, such as the Chinese, and the Germanic peoples are thus by no means alone in their interpretation of light and black. Since we can connect the black-light duality, which is found in nature, with an ethical duality of good and evil, we can also regard the Ljósálfar and Svartálfar as the good and evil forces inherent in nature; so we can say that the Germanic peoples traditionally view the cosmos in an ethical light, namely as being a place of a constant struggle between good and evil. The same cosmic struggle, which has apparently inherent ethical connotations, can also be seen in the relationship between the Æsir and Jötnar.

The Germanic worldview has monistic, dualistic, and pluralistic elements, since nature is complex. We have discussed the primordial pair of the Álfar trinity at length; one may now be tempted to think that dualism, as observed between opposing natural forces, is the ultimate reality of the Germanic worldview. Superficially there are two, but when inspecting closer, there is one more: the third, which, as an expansion from the original pair, has the symbolic function of affirming natural pluralism. As much as Germanic people have a traditional preference for pairings, they do view groups of three as symbolising wholeness, and consequently holiness. This is not to say that the number one does not play a role either. Ýmir, from whom the world is fashioned, represents such a number one; Divine Couples represent the number two; and Holy Trinities, such as Othin and his brothers, represent number three. All these numbers are represented, showing different sides of life and hence of nature. We can, therefore, say that Germanic religion, owing to its adoption of natural complexity, has monistic, dualistic, and pluralistic tendencies.

We must now turn our attention to the Dökkálfar: if the Ljósálfar are associated with light spectacles lichtspellen and of the Svartálfar are associated with shadow spectacles schaduwspellen, then what natural spectacles are the Dökkálfar associated with? Twilight is a time when lights leave the world and make way for darkness; during this time, spectacles can be observed where, as the lights, i.e. Ljósálfar, are leaving, there is a blurring of shadows and lights, while everything is becoming vaguer. The Ljósálfar are the Álfar of the day shift, the Svartálfar of the night shift, while the Dökkálfar are the intermediaries, as the two parties are changing shifts. The Dökkálfar are the beings of the blurring between shadows and lights; They are the manifestations of the waxing shadows and the fleeting lights. The Dökkálfar are more dark than light; for They are shadows which grow before the night falls. What kind of disposition can we expect from the Dökkálfar compared to the Svartálfar and Ljósálfar? Svartálfar, presumably beings native to the darkest hours of the day, may be compared with the Mörur Nightmares, which are unambiguously evil beings of the night, associated with death and disease and therefore with the black-skinned Goddess Hęl, while Dökkálfar may be compared with the Dvergar, who, through being associated with the dark hours of the day, have an unpleasant nature but may still make contributions as skilled craftsmen, hence proving themselves to possess an intermediate nature between good and evil; and the Ljósálfar, who are undoubtedly good spirits, can be compared with the Æsir and Vanir, beings favourably disposed towards mankind. As intermediaries between the light and the dark, the Dökkálfar may be interpreted as possessing shamanic qualities, namely beings who transfer things between the Worlds of Darkness and the Worlds of Light, the Worlds of Death and the Worlds of Fertility, which are the dead, barren, inhospitable wastelands of Hęl, Svartálfheimr also known as Niðavellir, Jötunheimr, Niflheimr, Múspelheimr contrasted with the green, fertile, pleasant lands of Miðgarðr, Ásgarðr, Vanaheimr, Ljósálfheimr also known as Álfheimr; the Dökkálfar must, undoubtedly, be skilled in Seiðr, as the Germanic lore of all ages attributes magical abilities to the Álfar and Dvergar, and with such skills, we can surely interpret the Dökkálfar as Dark Shamans, who possess the ability to carry messages, that is to say omens, between the worlds. Unlike the Dvergar who have an intermediate nature, the Mara produces nothing of positive value, as the Mara only gives bad omens. In other words, the Mara, the Germanic incubus, only has the role of carrying bad messages to mankind and using magical abilities for bringing misfortune; the Mara is a Harbinger of Death, Disease, Destruction, hence a true native of the evil worlds outside the realms protected by the Benevolent Gods, namely the Ljósálfar, Æsir and Vanir. So when night falls, evil makes its entrance into the world. Since the Mörur are messengers of evil and beings who have magical abilities to cause death and disease, They are Black Shamans, devout servants of evil. The lore relates how the Gods encounter Dvergar in the home world of the Svartálfar, which poses no problem for our perception of Dökkálfar as an intermediary stage. In fact, Dökkálfar as waxing shadows may be thought of as growing into the very beings, with which the Ljósálfar exchange their shift. Furthermore, as beings native to the dark, one can expect the Dökkálfar to be just as comfortable in the Svartálfar‘s shadowy realm as the Svartálfar Themselves; as I said earlier, They are more shadow than light, because, I may add, that is what Their name literally suggests. Svartálfar and Dökkálfar both live in the dark; they are both natives of the dark hours of the day. As nocturnal beings, they rule the evening and night, while the Ljósálfar rule the day. One may, therefore, consider them Evening-Rulers, Night-Rulers, and Day-Rulers. Inspired by this tripartite division of the day, one may come up with the epithets Kveldálfar ‘Evening Spirits, Dusk Spirits,’ Nóttálfar ‘Night Spirits,’ Dagálfar ‘Day Spirits.’ Since the tripartite division of the day can be observed in nature, it seems most likely that that while the Álfar are connected with time and light, the Álfar must be connected with this natural observation. On page 340 of the 2019 book Red Dwarfs: Their Geological, Chemical, and Biological Potential for Life, which does not treat the topic of the Álfar, David S. Stevenson explains: “Next, think about temporal niches. On Earth, there are at least three: day, night and crepuscular (dawn and dusk).” So, to briefly rehearse what we have discussed regarding the Álfar thus far: during our search for patterns and forms in nature that are compatible with the features of the Álfar, we have found that the temporal niches of our planet help us to make sense of the tripartite division of the Álfar because after examining the Álfar‘s association with colour tones, light and time in the context of natural or cosmological phenomena observable to humans of all centuries past, present and future, we finally arrive at the view that the Álfar are Divinities of the Day, Night, and Crepuscular. Since we live on the same planet as the ancestors, we observe the same things in nature, and the earthly experiences we have in common with the ancestors, despite our distance in time, is what we can use to interpret the lore which we have inherited from them. The distinction between Nóttálfar and Dagálfar is the clearest; however, just as it may be hard to tell where exactly evening ends and night begins, the lines between the Kveldálfar and Nóttálfar are somewhat blurred. Since Álfar is a general concept for Spirits, the terms Kveldálfar and Nóttálfar may be considered generic descriptors for being active during the dark and darkest hours of the day; one may, for example, call a Mara a Nóttálfr due to the Mara‘s nightly activities. I have suggested earlier that it is possible to reinterpret the description of the Dökkálfar/Kveldálfar as being pitch-black as that the Svartálfar/Nóttálfar are pitch-black. We should, nevertheless, also consider the possibility that both these types of Álfar may be pitch-black; for they are both shadowy beings, averse to sunlight. After all, the shadows of night and twilight may have been considered pitch-black by the ancestors, implying that the Álfar of night and twilight, that is to say the Nóttálfar and Kveldálfar, must both be pitch-black based on their identification with shadows.

The Etymology of Swedish Tomte and Norwegian Tufte

Written by Dyami Millarson

The Swedish Tomtar and the Norwegian Tuftar, of which the respective singulars are Tomte and Tufte, are Homestead Spirits, akin to the Dutch Kabouters, whose existence is affirmed by a number of Dutch people (see evidence here).

Tomte and Tufte come from tomt ‘property designated for housing’ and tuft ‘homestead; property designated for housing’ respectively, with which the forgotten English term toft, meaning homestead as well, is cognate. All these can be connected with Old Norse topt, tupt, toft, tuft, tomt, which means ‘property designated for housing; homestead’.

The aforementioned cognates presumably come from an Indogermanic root, which also produced the Latin domus house, Ancient Greek δόμος (dómos) house, and Russian дом (dom) house, confirming that Tomtar and Tuftar are Spirits associated with the domestic environment.

We can, consequently, connect the Tomtar and Tuftar with the Álfablót ‘blood sacrifice to the Álfar,’ the Álfar ‘Spirits, Gods of lower rank compared to the Æsir snd Vanir’ and the Húsvættir ‘Domestic Spirits, Home Deities, Household Gods, House Wights.’ After all, one may say of the Tomtar/Tuftar in Old Norse: “Þeir eru Húsvættir.” (They are Household Gods.) 

Other Eurasian domestic worship traditions are informative in this context as well: the Chinese 灶神 (zaoshen) ‘Kitchen Deity’ and the old 祭灶 (jizao) ‘sacrifice to the Kitchen Deity’ (see here), the Korean 가신 (Gasin) ‘Domestic Deity’ (see the Encyclopedia of Korean Folk Beliefs) and the Roman Diī Familiārēs, Penātēs, and Larēs.

The Tomtar are also mentioned in relation to the Roman Penātēs on page 1431 of volume IV of Teutonic Mythology by Jacob Grimm which is translated by James Steven Stallybrass. 

For a brief discussion of the Roman household worship traditions, see page 2 of this Dutch book, pages 80-81 of this book, page 230 of this book, page 321 of this book, pages 443-444 of this book, pages 11-14 of this work, page 4 of this book, page 373 of this book, pages 84-87 of this book, pages 25, 39, 41, 275, and 333 of this Latin book on blood sacrifices.

For an in-depth discussion of the Roman and Greek household worship traditions, however, I may refer the reader to Alexandra Sofroniew’s 2016 work Household Gods: Private Devotion in Ancient Greece and Rome. I may also refer the interested reader to Margaret C. Waites’ 1920 article The Nature of the Lares and Their Representation in Roman Art, which is freely available here.

Not unlike my identification of the Tuftar and Tomtar based on my Dutch lore instinct with the Kabouters, two Norwegian Tuftar are identified with the Dutch Kabouters on page 481 of this book. This may be called an interpretātiō Batava or Hollandicā ‘Dutch (folk religious) interpretation,’ which is a phenomenon comparable to how the Germanic peoples replaced the Roman names of the Gods in the days of the week with indigenous names and to how Tacitus equates the Germanic names of Deities with Roman names familiar to him. This native-(re)naming phenomenon, which I discussed in my recent article on the Germanic folk religious interpretation, and which, as an expression of a nature poetical worldview, I consider to be epithet-based or heiti-based thinking, is apparently completely normal, spontaneous, natural, instinctive, and logical for different ethno-religious traditions in Europe, and it actually is quite practical as human beings are all trying to make sense of things through what is most familiar to them and thereby fit it into their existing worldview; man may achieve greater understanding of unfamiliar things through such identifications, which are based on the lore instinct or lore skill he possesses (compare my use of goðmálugr and fornfróðr in my recent article discussing a selection of pages as a poetical introduction to Old Norse), and this also explains the inherent, in fact poetical, overlap between Divine Beings in indigenous lore; after all, the overlap, observed by the ancestors or Álfar to be inherent in nature, is a natural motif in the lore which inspires poetry, also called Othin’s gift, and prose, and that natural motif informing poets and story-tellers alike, that notion of natural overlap on account of which natural beings are observed to blend and distinctions tend to become blurred like the distinctions between shadows disappearing as the sun on the primordial forest sets, may lead to the understanding that the ancestors become one with nature, thus becoming Holy Beings of Nature, souls associated with whiteness and therefore sunlight, perhaps manifesting in nature as shadows which result from sunlight in the forests and as the beams of light creating the shadows, namely the Álfar; and finally, armed with the knowledge of biological evolution and genetic research, we can nowadays confirm the ancestral sentiment that all living organisms are somehow related and that they ultimately sharing a common source at the beginning of time, which the Álfar surely know by the epithet of All-Father from whom all life descends, thus the divine manifestation of a common descent of all life on Earth — the idea of a common source is apparently something the ancestors during their lifetimes already knew by observing nature during their daily interactions with it, before finally, at the unfortunate end of their lives, becoming one with it and manifesting in it as Álfar, who may hence be called Nature Spirits.

For Dutch household spirit traditions, see page 193 of this book, the explanation under the lemma kaboutermannetje on pages 824-827 of this dictionary, page 286 of this book on Dutch folklore up to the 18th century, pages 71-72 of this book, an etymological discussion on pages 181-182 of this book, page 32 of this book which analyses Sinterklaas as a Dutch pagan festival, page 96 of this book, a comparison between the cat in boots and the Kabouters on page 55 of this book, the footnote and references on page 206 of this book, a mention of a caring Dutch household spirit on page 162 of this book.

Selected Book Pages Serving as a Poetical Introduction to Old Nordic Folk Religion

Written by Dyami Millarson

Pages 458-472 of volume II of Corpus Poeticum Boreale: The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue may serve as a poetical introduction in the English language to Old Nordic folk religion.

I find it particularly useful to look at Germanic religion from a poetical angle, because that is culturally appropriate given that Germanic magico-religious knowledge is traditionally chiefly expressed through divine poetry.

I can only wish for more handbooks of Germanic religion to take such a culturally appropriate approach, which is the most practical. It may seem complicated at first, but understanding the mechanics of Germanic poetry helps one to comprehend the Germanic worldview.

I do think that poetical introduction to Old Nordic folk religion contained in the aforementioned volume can be used as teaching material for aspiring Germanic nature poets as well as for people who have only rudimentary knowledge of Old Nordic polytheism and wish to know more. It is a good starting place for building knowledge.

If the goal is to help people understand the authentic Germanic worldview, it will certainly be essential to teach people Old Norse and to educate people to be skáld poets, because what better way is there to understand the old materials than being able to produce poems in Old Norse whilst following the Eddaic tradition? Is a skáld, who follows the tradition of the heiðnar skáld folk religious poets, not naturally goðmálugr skilled in the lore of the Gods, putting him at an immense advantage compared to those with little to no practical skaldic knowledge?

Active learning is more effective than passive learning. So familiarising oneself with Germanic polytheist poetry by not only passively studying but also actively practising it is undoubtedly a great asset in the journey towards recovering proper understanding of the ancestral worldview, i.e. becoming fornfróðr wise in ancient matters.

The selection of relevant pages, which may be thought of as constituting a poetical introduction to Old Nordic folk religion, are freely available in our public library.