What Are Kynjamęnn?

Written by Dyami Millarson

Kynjamęnn, the singular of which is kynjamaðr, are Magical People. Kynja- is the genitive form of kyn, which means miracle, wonder, that which is unnatural, instance of magic. Męnn is the plural of maðr, which means person, human being, man. Álfar are considered a type of kynjamęnn.

What Are Meinvættir?

Written by Dyami Millarson

Meinvættir, of which the singular is Meinvættr, are Harmful Spirits. The first element is derived from the Old Norse noun mein, which means harm, crimemisdeed, mischief, disease, ailment, cancer. Mein is found in many Old Norse compounds: dauðamein deadly disease, fótarmein affliction of the feet, meinsęmi disease, meinsęmd disease, andlitsmein facial affliction, höfuðmein head affliction, męginmeingjarn extremely mischievous, kverkamein literally throat disease, by which bronchitis is understood, meinfang trouble, tunglmein literally moon affliction, by which scurvy is understood, meinvargr harmful wolf or beast, meining injury, harm, meinúðigr injurious, harmful, meinfullr injurious, harmful, meinka cause harm, meingöra cause harm, offend, meingörð offence, meinhægr harmless, causing no offence, meineiðr false oath, perjury, meineiða commit perjury, meinsæri perjury, meinlæta chastise, kynjamein miraculous affliction, i.e. disease of which the cause lies in magic, meintręgi affliction, meinbugir taboos, meinbæginn troublesome, meinyrða verbally abuse, meinblandinn poisonous, meinkvikęndi harmful creature, living organism that is dangerous.

The Old Norse noun mein is cognate with Norwegian mein harm, obstacle, Danish men injury, Swedish men handicap, Old Frisian mēn harm, Old English mān wicked act, crime, sin. We can connect the Old Norse term meineiðr with Shire Frisian meineed false oath, perjury, Dutch meineed false oath, perjury and Old English mānāþ false oath, perjury. Oath-breaking is traditionally considered a grave crime among the Germanic peoples (see here, see page 39 of this book, and see page 19 of this document); oath-breakers, along with other criminals, go to Náströnd Beach of Corpses in the afterlife. A perjurer in Old Norse is a meinsærismaðr or meinsvari, the latter of which is cognate with Old English mānswara perjurer, which we can connect with Old English mānswerian swear false oaths, commit perjury. Although Meinvættir are Mean Spirits, mein is actually not cognate with Dutch gemeen nasty, wicked, mean and the English adjective mean.

Keeping in mind the negative meanings of mein in Old Norse, the negative meanings of the Old Norse compounds with mein and the negative meanings of the aforementioned cognates of mein, namely men, mān, meineed, mānāþ, mānswara, mānswerian, we can see how Meinvættir are to be interpreted: they intentionally harm others and are thus, quite unambiguously, deliberately evil beings. While they are such malicious beings, no oaths are possible with them without harmful consequences and therefore prayers to them will not have the intended outcomes whilst their powers cannot be rendered favourable through worship; they will not do mankind any favours, but only cause harm, since that is simply in their nature as malicious consciousnesses. In conclusion, Meinvættir are the very embodiments of evil intentions; they are the Spirits of Crime, Wickedness, Evil, Mischief, Injustice, Perjury, Disease, Affliction, Cruelty, Injury; they are the causes of evil and disease in the world.

Consequently, we can compare Meinvættir to the conception of evil beings in the plural as inherited from the Middle Ages: they are called devils among the English, duivels among the Dutch, duvels among the Shire Frisians, Teufel among the Germans, and djävlar among the Swedes. All of these are perceived as demonic beings, who cause harm, and with whom no pacts without harmful outcomes can be made. The Old Norse equivalent of all these terms is djöflar, and one may say in Old Norse: “Meinvættir eru djöflar.” (Meinvættir are devils.) All the aforementioned cognates are not of Germanic extraction; for they are borrowed from the Latin concept of diabolī. Meinvættir are, by contrast, a generally forgotten indigenous Germanic concept, which came to be replaced by the foreign djöflar due to conceptual overlap. Cleasby and Vigfusson make a similar statement about djöflar in their Old Norse dictionary: “[O]f course in the old Saga time the word was almost unknown; the evil spirits of the [H]eathens were [T]rolls and [G]iants.”

Who Is the Germanic Isis Mentioned in Tacitus’ Germania?

Written by Dyami Millarson

The Suebī traditionally worship Isis according to Tacitus in his ethnographic work on Germanic-speaking Europe. Which Germanic Goddess does the Roman historian Tacitus mean by Isis in his work dē ōrīgine et sitū Germanōrum?

Isis may be identified with (a) Frigg and Freyja or (b) Frigg or Freyja. The first option supposes, according to arguments laid out below, that Frigg and Freyja are two manifestations of the same Goddess. For our identification of Isis with these both or either of these Goddesses, it does not matter whether or not Freyja and Frigg are ultimately the same (see this document for arguments against the notion that they are ultimately the same), because it cannot be dismissed that They are very similar to each other, and these traits, which make Freyja and Frigg very similar, match with those of Isis.

The most eminent Goddesses in the North Germanic tradition are Frigg and Freyja, whose names alliterate, and whose husbands’ names, namely Óðinn and Óðr, alliterate as well. All these correspond to *ᚠᚱᛁᛞᛃᚨ (*Friddja), *ᚠᚱᚨᚢᛃᛟ (*Fraujō), *ᚹᛟᛞᚨᚾᛊ (*Wōdans), and *ᚹᛟᛞᛊ (*Wōds) which we may reconstruct for Gothic, the Germanic language, of which the words tend to be the most similar to those of Common Germanic, and therefore are usually almost as insightful or even just as insightful as the Common Germanic lexical equivalents.

Why does Old Norse Frigg correspond to Gothic *ᚠᚱᛁᛞᛃᚨ (*Friddja)? The original stem of Frigg is Friggj- as seen in the genitive Friggjar. The Old Norse ggj corresponds to ddj in the Gothic language. If the reader is curious about this, I refer him to this page which offers an explanation of the correspondence between Gothic ddj and Old Norse gg.

We may identify Óðr/*Wōds as an epithet of Óðinn/*Wōdans in earlier times and Freyja/*Fraujō as an epithet of Frigg/*Friddja in earlier times based on the following arguments:

  • The popularity itself of both Frigg and Freyja in Norse tradition leads one to suspect a deeper connection.
    • The absence of Freyja in other Germanic traditions, despite her popularity in Norse tradition, only increases the suspicion that Freyja and Frigg are identical.
  • On the basis of alliteration alone, we may conclude there is a very strong poetical connection between the two pairs, which is why it is wholly unsurprising that the poetical pair Frigg ok Freyja is attested in the materials. This may be interpreted as a poetical memory of the superficially separate male-female pairs being underlyingly one male-female single pair.
  • Semantic evidence suggests that the two pairs of Deities are so similar that they may ultimately very well be a single pair of Deities. Namely, both the male names Óðr and Óðinn mean wrath; the female names Frigg and Freyja mean love and lady, which may easily be semantically connected as well, since ladies may generally be thought of as sexually attractive, and hence closely associated with love as well. The general Dutch and German words for woman are cognate with the theonym Freyja: vrouw and Frau respectively. Women in general are associated with love, and vrouw/Frau is apparently may originally have been an endearing title for females, i.e. a way of showing kindness, love and affection, hence considered appropriate in Dutch and German for describing all females. It must be said, though, that this title, even today, is only applied to sexually mature women, and in the same way as the Dutch and German terms, the name Freyja may be regarded as being inherently semantically associated with sexual maturity, which is something the theonym Frigg also seems to imply, namely love in a sexually mature sense. Supporting this mature interpretation, is Óðinn‘s epithet angan Friggjar Frigg’s love.
  • Functional evidence, by which I mean the evidence arising from the overlapping functions of the two pairs, suggests that the two pairs are actually one. Namely, the husbands are both Gods of Wrath and the wives are both Goddesses of Love; this functional symmetry — this rhyming of functions— must be no mere coincidence. 
    • The distinction itself between the wives is just as problematic as that between the husbands. The distinction between marital love and lustful love, as supposed to be represented by Frigg and Freyja respectively, may not be the original Germanic situation, because, after all, love is love and although it could manifest itself in different ways, it is still fundamentally the same thing; just as wrath may manifest itself in different eays, it is still the same thing. We may instead suppose a single underlying Goddess of Love, of which Frigg and Freyja are superficial manifestations.
    • The functional parallellism between the pairs does not end with the overlapping of functions between the two females in the two pairs and the overlapping functions between the two males in the two pairs. It is, in fact, also seen between the males and the females, which is to be expected from the worship of a husband-wife pair. Namely, functional parallellism is observed in the fact that Óðinn is the God of Death and the God of Magic while Freyja is the Goddess of Death and the Goddess of Magic; this makes them functional equals. The fact that the slain are divided by halves between Óðinn and Freyja only emphasises this functional male-female equality. Furthermore, while Óðinn is the God of Fate, Frigg is the Goddess of Fate. There is inherent overlap between knowledge of fate and magic so that one who knows fate may be regarded as one who knows magic, and vice versa. After all, sooth-saying is naturally connected with other magical abilities, such as shape-shifting; for if one knows the ways of fate, then one can also bend or change reality, and wield that power to manipulate appearances or forms, which renders essences visibly different from what they truly are or are originally meant to be. This connection between magic and fate is also seen with Óðinn because once he acquires knowledge of fate, he automatically also acquires knowledge of magic; based on the lore, we cannot escape the notion that fate and magic are intricately connected. Therefore, the parallellism between Óðinn and Frigg with regards to fate functionally rhymes with the parallellism between Óðinn and Freyja.
  • Frigg and Freyja being seemingly separate entities in Lokasenna, for example, is not at all a problem according to Nordic tradition for the “superficially two entities, underlyingly one entity.” Namely, Nordic lore informs us that magic allows a Deity to be separate beings at the same time. Therefore, it is not unheard of for Deities to have multiple apparitions or appearances at the same time; epithets may, in this sense, not just be interpreted as different aspects of a Deity, but as actual different manifestations, in other words, as seemingly distinct beings. This idea is not at all heretical among traditional pagan practitioners, and can be found in various old pagan traditions. For instance, the Mari pagans, who are found in the Mari El Republic of the Russian Federation, believe that Kugu Yumo, which is the Mari indigenous name for Óðinn, has many manifestations under different names; He is one and many beings at the same time. He is indeed allmátki almighty and the All-God or All-Father with countless names, the one who encompasses and created the world; Rudolph Keyser is apparently thinking the same when on page 128 of Religion of the Northmen, he writes that Óðinn‘s bearing of many names “expresses the World-Spirit as a Being who, by an infinite variety of modes, reveals himself in natureand on page 112, that Óðinn “is the Essence of the World, the Almighty As; [H]e alone is Al-father, from whom all the other superior, world-directing beings, the Æsir, are descended.”
    • Freyja and Frigg should be compared to the separate manifestations of Óðinn. As a Sorcerer-God, Óðinn can manifest himself as different beings; while we know that Freyja is closely associated with knowledge of seiðr magic (according to Ynglinga saga) and Frigg with knowledge of fate (according to Lokasenna), why should we not suppose that she can manifest herself as two instead of one? Just consider how Óðinn appears to the protagonist of the Younger Edda: He is Hárr, Jafnhárr and Þriði at the same time. Óðinn may, likewise, be thought of as manifesting Himself in three ways when He performs the sacred act of fashioning the world together with Vili and — which originally alliterate with Óðinn whilst the elder form is *Vóðinn — and as once again appearing in three forms when He finally performs the sacred act of creating mankind together with Lóðurr and Hœnir. Óðinn is, then, identical to Plato’s Δημιουργός (Dēmiourgós) demiurge whom Plato also describes simply as θεός (theós) God, yet Óðinn is at the same time magically one with His creation, thus appearing to humanity as the Cosmos, of which Plato suggests in sections 30b, 30c and 30d of his philosophical work Timaeus that it “has verily come into existence as a Living Creature endowed with soul and reason owing to the providence of God. […] [T]he Cosmos, more than aught else, resembles most closely that Living Creature of which all other living creatures, severally and generically, are portions. For that Living Creature embraces and contains within itself all the intelligible Living Creatures, just as this Universe contains us and all the other visible living creatures that have been fashioned. For since God desired to make it resemble most closely that intelligible Creature which is fairest of all and in all ways most perfect, He constructed it as a Living Creature, one and visible, containing within itself all the living creatures which are by nature akin to itself.” Plato distinguishes Θεός (Theós) God, i.e. Óðinn, from what he calls the Ζῷον (Zōion) Living Creature, yet the former can manifest Himself as the latter; for if He possess the magical ability to create that soul vessel which Plato calls Ζῷον (Zōion) Living Creature, He surely also possesses the magical ability to inhabit it, allowing Him therefore to manifest Himself as the Cosmos. In conclusion, it is consistent with Óðinn‘s magical ability to suppose that He can be multiple beings at the same time, even if that means being both the Creator, whom Plato calls the Δημιουργός (Dēmiourgós) Demiurge, and the Cosmos itself, which Plato identifies with the Ζῷον (Zōion) Living Creature.
    • Whilst Óðinn is associated with magic and is therefore associated with the magical ability of creating multiple manifestations of His being, we may by extention believe that Óðr is associated with these traits. Since Germanic peoples feared and hence respected the magical abilities of women, such as seen with Gambara (who is of Suebian origin), Ganna, Veleda and Albruna (all four of whom may be regarded as Dísir Holy or Wise Women), which is not incongruent with the later medieval belief that especially women may assume the role of witches, we may suppose that the wife of the superficially two husband-wife pairs, which are underlyingly one pair, taught magic and by extension the ability to manifest oneself as different beings to the husband. Hence, Óðinn‘s displayed ability of manifesting Himself as different beings must, at least in part, have been derived from His wife. Ynglinga saga narrates that Freyja taught seiðr magic to Óðinn; we may connect this to an underlying theme of a wife teaching her husband her secrets, namely his magical ability, and we may this interpret the underlying meaning of the whole affair as that the wife is teaching seiðr magic to the husband, i.e. Frigg teaching Óðinn = Freyja teaching Óðr. After all, we may see the teaching aspect in the fact that Freyja transforms Óðr, assuming He is identical with Óttar, into a boar; He got this transformative ability from Her, and we may interpret it as meaning that She was teaching Him magic or sharing magical secrets with Him. Óttar may be identified with Óðr and Óðinn, because (a) Óttar is the travel companion of Freyja whilst both Óðinn and Óðr are known to be a Travelling God, (b) Óttar alliterates with Óðinn and Óðr, possibly suggesting a reference or link, (c) Freyja takes very good care of Óttar like how a wife behaves towards her husband and we know from the lore that Freyja deeply and genuinely cares about Óðr, (d) Freyja helps Óttar with seiðr magic just as she helps Óðinn with seiðr magic, (e) Óttar‘s meeting with a Völva Seeress who is a Giantess, parallels Óðinn‘s meeting Völva Seeress who is a Giantess. 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. After all, confusion is potentially an effective way of learning as proven by modern psychological research (see here; also compare this and this). The Christian perception of the Gods as adulterous may be interpreted as follows: knowledge of fate leads the Gods to reproduce with various beings, perhaps in an effort to prevent Ragnarök or to improve the final outcome of that conflict. Reproduction is to be viewed as a magical act, as also seen in the description of the slave girl sacrifice by Ibn Fadlan. Therefore, the Gods are reproducing in order to perform magical rites for the protection of the Gods themselves, and by extension the world, since the Gods are the protectors of the world. This makes sense because people in the past got kids for their own physical safety in old age; it is thus also traditionally expected that the Gods will show the same behaviour, conforming to the ancestral view that kids are people’s life insurance. Being informed by fate, the Gods make seemingly incomprehensible decisions, at first glance devious, but all these magical acts are performed in order to save the world, and are therefore heroic. When the Gods are viewed as adulterers, one overlooks the fact that They are the ultimate benefactors, the ultimate altruists in the Germanic worldview; their every act of reproduction must, therefore, be for some higher purpose, which may be incomprehensible to humans — this is the mystery of the Gods. So, since fate informs Óðinn to commit seemingly devious acts, we can expect Óðr to have done the same by extension; and while knowledge of fate causes Óðinn-Óðr to act in such a way, it must also have caused Freyja-Frigg to act in such a way. After all, if the husband’s behaviour is the result of his profound knowledge of fate, his behaviour must be a mirror image of the behaviour of the wife. If we suppose on account of the profound connection with fate that both Freyja and Frigga are equally inclined to reproduce with other beings, which at first seems promiscuous, then the seeming distinction between the kinds of love that Frigg and Freyja is broken down, in other words, the final barrier between the two is shown to be void. Indeed, there is proof in the lore that the nature of Frigg and Freyja in this regard is the same. Dan McCoy reached the same conclusion in this article where he writes: “Alongside the several mentions of Freya’s loose sexual practices can be placed the words of the medieval Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus, who relates that Frigg slept with a slave on at least one occasion. […] Many scholars have tried to differentiate between Freya and Frigg by asserting that the former is more promiscuous and less steadfast than the latter, […] but these tales suggest otherwise.” The sexual nature of Óðinn-Óðr is identical to that of Freyja-Frigg, because, as I have explained, they have an all-important role of protecting the world from ending calamitously; certainly in this case, the Germanic peoples traditionally hold the conviction that the ends justify the means.
  • The Æsir and Vanir overlap in the sense that a Deity, which is counted among the Æsir, may ultimately be one of the Vanir. The identification of Frigg with Jörð, Mother Earth, as the mother of Þórr — knowing that the Earth-Goddess tends to be associated with birthing the Thunder God in polytheism — also leads one to connect Frigg with the female Nerthus, who is another manifestation of Terra Māter or Mother Earth, because the Vanir are Deities associated with nature like the Álfar and Dísir (compare, for instance, the close association between the generally female Älvor and nature in Swedish folk tradition).
  • The implications of identifying the two pairs as one pair may themselves be used to serve as a suggestion that the identification may be true. If indeed the Freyja-Óðr pair is a doublet of the Frigg-Óðinn pair, for which I find the arguments to be quite compelling, then the husband-wife motif as seen in the two pairs may be regarded as recursive. Such recursive patterns may be analysed as of magico-religious nature. Nature itself is also recursive; it shows the same patterns over and over again in different ways. We must also bear in mind that the Gods involved in this apparently recursive pairing are chief, ruling, royal or leading Deities, whose presence may be felt everywhere. The chief husband-wife pair is thus a recurring theme, observed everywhere by the primordial poets and artists and all those people who spontaneously appreciate poetry and art inspired by nature. Duality, union of two opposite forces, is observed everywhere in nature. Inspired by such duality, nature poets write their nature poetry, nature artists make their nature art and nature peoples develop their nature religion. One of the implications of a recursive powerful female-male pairing is, namely, that the pair is present everywhere in nature, as one would expect from an all-encompassing male-female nature motif, which is embodied in the male Deity being identified with the sky, i.e. Father Sky, and the female Deity with the Earth, i.e. Mother Earth. As immensely powerful beings which are naturally recursive, They are the male and female in everything; They are, to say it in Chinese, the (yang) and (yin) of the world; to say it in Latin, the animus and anima of the world; to say it in German, the Geist and Seele of the world. Due to their relation with the world, one may call them animus mundī world-spirit and anima mundī world-soul in Latin, Weltgeist world-spirit and Weltseele world-soul in German. These two seemingly opposed concepts, which may be used to describe the Divine Couple, are more united than one may think, leading to the novel conception of Them as a single pair of ultimately the same type of Beings, which we may call Weltgeister World-Spirits in German and Wareldsjeestere in Sagelterland Frisian, comprising of a female and male component: as Divine King and Queen, They represent all male and female souls in the world and They are both therefore “all-embracing World-Spirits” — a description which Rudolph Keyser, on pages 112 and 128 of Religion of the Northmen, applied originally only to the male half of the pair, Father Sky, but seems equally applicable to the female half, Mother Earth, as the female completes the male and vice versa, whilst They both constitute a union of opposite forces in the world, arising from a mutual attraction of opposites which energises or animates everything. In other words, They are the male and female par excellence, which explains their strong urges for reproductive behaviours as well; it is in Their very nature to reproduce with all life in order to protect life itself. With regard to the rite of reproduction, the Earth Deity is the mirror image of the Sky Deity; if the male half reproduces with the world, then so does the female half do her duty for the world, demonstrating that male and female are complementary in upholding the world, each doing their part for the natural order. They thus represent nature’s imperative of reproduction, which is seen in all living organisms that exhibit male-female pairs.

The arguments for matching the Germanic Isis with Freyja/Frigg:

  • Looking at Frigg and Freyja as one whole, we can observe the prominence of the Frigg-Freyja pair in the Nordic lore, which may be interpreted as reflective of the popularity of the worship of this Goddess, which manifests as two. The popularity of the Frigg-Freyja pair, even if one treats them as separate Deities, is instructive, and it is doubtlessly a vital point which we have to consider, because this prominence corresponds to functional importance, which translates to popularity among pagan sacrificers. Isis is a likewise all-important Goddess; her all-consuming importance in Egyptian paganism cannot be emphasised enough. As this page of a website dedicated to Roman history explains, Isis “was the real power behind the universe” leading her devotees “to proclaim her as Mistress of Heaven” and owing to the fact that the importance of Osiris and Isis grew in Egyptian lore, “Isis began displacing other deities in the loyalties of the Egyptian population.” The Isis worship tradition may be functionally compared to the modern-day mother worship movement that is found in Vietnam. The Lombards, which are a Germanic tribal group also known by the name of Longobards, should be classified as a Suebian people according to Tacitus and Strabo. Therefore, the Lombardic or Longobardic tradition must be reflective of Germanic paganism as traditionally practised by the Suebī. Since we know that the most prominent Goddess of the Lombardic tradition is Frea, whom Gambara consulted according to the origin story which explains the name of the Lombards or Longobards (see here), it is very attractive to connect the Germanic Isis with Frea, the Goddess to whom the sixth day of the week, Friday, owes the first element of its name: Fri- = Frea/Frigg. Freyja is conspicuously absent in Lombardic tradition, which can also be said of all the other traditions that are not North Germanic. In stark contrast to the absence of Freyja from the materials of non-North Germanic peoples, Frigg is well attested among all Germanic peoples, strengthening the hypothesis based on prominence in the lore that Isis must be Frea.
  • Calling a Germanic Goddess Isis is in accordance with an ancient polytheist tradition, which is called interpretātiō Rōmāna in this case as Tacitus is practising the Roman variant of this tradition. We must bear in mind that Tacitus bases his interpretatio Rōmāna on functional comparison; to serve as the guiding principle for finding an equivalent that is familiar to the Romans, Tacitus uses the functions that the Suebian people of his time attribute to the Goddess in question. The functional similarities between Frigg/Freyja and Isis are indeed striking.  
    • Isis matches Freyja and Frigg in terms of blood relationships when one considers that Freyja must have had a brother-husband in the form of Freyja and that Frigg may likewise have had a brother-husband because She may be identified with Jörð, hence with female Nerthus/Njörðr, who is the sister-wife of male Nerthus/Njörðr. As this page of a site dedicated to Roman explains that “Osiris, the first [G]od-[K]ing of Egypt, introduced laws and agriculture to humankind” and Osiris “was […] deceived and murdered by his scheming brother Seth” who “hacked Osiris’ body into pieces and scattered them across Egypt.” As a result of this heinous act, Isis had to collect “the pieces and magically [revive] [H]er brother-husband Osiris, who became King of the Underworld.” How very similar the relationship between Osiris and Isis sounds to the relationship of Freyja Lady with her twin-brother Freyr Lord! After all, Freyr Lord was also conceived of as a God-King in the lore, and He was also closely associated with agriculture, which is, in turn, the reason why the Freyr-descended pagan dynasty of Sweden, the Ynglings, is traditionally associated with agriculture. The magical ability of Isis to revive her brother corresponds to the connection between Freyja and magic. When considering that the Álfar Ancestors or Holy Men are thought of as living in howes, the entrances of which may indeed also be regarded as gates to the underworld, and when we consider that Freyr is King of the World of the Álfar, we can see how both Osiris and Freyr are suffuciently similar in their chtonic functions to identify of Freyr as Osiris and Freyja as Isis.
    • Isis is “also thought to be a protector of sailors” according to this page of the website dedicated to Roman history, while Freyja may also be thought of as being connected to sailors through through her blood connections with the Vanir — to put it perhaps more clearly, through her descent from the Vanir. The boat burial tradition which is mentioned by Tacitus in connection to the Germanic Isis may likewise be better understood in the context of the boat burial tradition associated with the Vanir. Boat burials have been attested in the archeological record, and the archeological finds can be made sense of through literary sources, such as not only represented by Tacitus but also others: Ibn Fadlan mentions boat burial in his work, and I have interpreted a passage of his as reflective of Old East Norse religion and I have connected it to the worship of the Vanir, namely Freyr Lord and/or His father Njörðr, and the Álfar Elves (see this article). The father of Freyja and Freyr is associated with the sea, hence connecting boat burial with the Vanir is only natural and not at all that far-fetched. I have already pointed out a connection of Frigg with Mother Earth: since Frigg is the “Heavenly Mother” in the sense that She is the wife of the Sky-Father, she must functionally be identical to Jörð, who is the mother of Þórr. By identifying Frigg with Mother Earth, we can also identify Her with the female Nerthus/Njörth, whom I talk about at length in this article
    • Frigg and Freyja may be identified with Isis based on all the following functions which are beautifully described on this page of a website dedicated to Roman history: “the protector of family (especially women), the protector of newborns, the [G]oddess of fertility and good fortune, and the [G]oddess whose magic could cheat fate and death.”
      • As a Goddess of Fertility, Isis matches both Frigg and Freyja due to their common nature with regards to reproduction; like I have already explained, their reproductive behaviours are strikingly similar.
      • As a Goddess of Good Luck, Isis matches Frigg due to her association with fate. After all, fate and good luck are interconnected in Germanic lore. As pointed out earlier, fate is also connection with magic. So it may equally be said of Freyja that She is a Goddess of Good Luck.
      • In being the protector of newborns and (mothers in) families, Isis resembles Frigg. However, the same may be said of Freyja: being not without her own offspring, Freyja represents a protective mother not unlike Frigg.
    • Folk etymology may have played a role in Tacitus’ identification of the Germanic Goddess with Isis: Isis sounds very similar to Idis, which is the attested West Germanic equivalent of Old Norse Dís. Since Isis is a Deity familiar to Tacitus or any other Ronans for that matter, the similiary between Isis and Idis in terms of sound may have prompted him to identify the Goddess with Isis. Idis must — if it may be the folk etymological basis for the identification with Isis — be an epithet of the Germanic Goddess. In fact, a trace of this may be found in the epithet Vanadís, which is linked to Freyja, and Öndurdís, an epithet of Skaði, who may be connected with female Njörðr/Nerthus, who is Mother Earth and the twin sister of male Njörðr/Nerthus, of whom is said in Ynglinga saga that He was at one point married to his sister — bear in mind that if Jörð can reasonably be understood as a manifestation of Frigg, female Njörðr/Nerthus may also be interpreted as a manifestation of Frigg. It does, therefore, seem logical that Frigg/Freyja may be addressed as Dís/Idis. We should also consider that if Her twin-brother is connected with the Álfar, She must be connected with the Dísir, the female counterparts of the Álfar; for such parallellism seems only natural, and therefore fitting for the Vanir. Regardless of whether Tacitus bases his identification with Isis on Idis, a conviction which is only strengthened by functional comparison, I deem it quite possible that Dís/Idis may indeed be an old epithet of Freyja/Frigg; it is so attractive, convenient and straightforward to use this as an epithet for Freyja/Frigg that it should be very surprising if it is not the case.

Is Germanic Paganism Perhaps Not a Religion?

Written by Dyami Millarson

The answer to the question in the title is yes and no. Germanic paganism is more of a cultural thing: the traditional Germanic perspective is to treat Germanic religion as synonymous with Germanic culture (see my previous article on the reason for the Nordic ancestors’ perception of their religion as cultural heritage). Germanic culture and religion are merely two sides of the same coin, because Germanic religion and culture are traditionally indistinguishable; they form one whole which we may artificially separate into religion and culture based on our modern understanding. Germanic paganism is, however, all-encompassing. There is no clear demarcation between where Germanic culture starts and Germanic religion begins. Furthermore, there is no clear distinction between Germanic history and Germanic paganism.

Imagine the Roman army being confronted with a Germanic tribe, which sings songs of praise for their Gods and ancestors according to their tradition; to the Romans, it is evident that like in their own tradition, the Germanic pagans regard such songs as history. In fact, the Germanic paleopagans, holding a firm conviction that their lore is historical and therefore historically accurate from their cultural perspective, have a tradition of perceiving paganism as encompassing both history and culture. Germanic paganism is both a cultural history and a historical culture, i.e., a form of history which pertains to culture and a form of culture which has a firm historical foundation.

Nevertheless, I apply the term religion to Germanic paganism, because it is useful for analysis. However, in doing so, I have had to redefine religion because otherwise the term does not fit the Germanic context. When I use religion to talk about the Germanic peoples, I understand it to be simultaneously cultural and historical as well. Germanic religion is a religio-cultural system which gives a culturally accurate account of Germanic history. Separating Germanic religion from culture is alien to the Germanic tribes; it is really an outsider perspective. The ancient perspective — which is, by the way, not at all limited to the Germanic peoples in Pagan Europe — is that in order to be truly Germanic, one has to culturally assimilate with one of the Germanic peoples, and that assimilation automatically also means adopting the native religion and the native history. Religious conversion is, according to Germanic tradition, an indistinguishable event from cultural assimilation; one has to be culturally Germanic in order to be a Germanic pagan, and vice versa.

This is still how it works today with many indigenous minorities. When I immerse myself in the language of a minority, such as that of the Hindeloopen Frisians, it is expected that I also immerse myself in their culture, history, and folklore; it would otherwise not be considered a complete immersion, and therefore it would definitely be rejected as inauthentic.

Integration with traditional communities entails so much more than the analytical components alone; a community is not just a language, a culture, a history, a folklore, but they are everything at once and that is what you have to learn to master if you wish to interact with that community on a native level. The traditional communities I work with represent complete ways of life. Likewise, one cannot be native to the confederation of ancient Germanic communities unless one immerses oneself with, for example, the Old Norse language, Old Norse religion, the Old Norse account of history, and Old Norse culture as one whole; one has to adopt the Mōs Majōrum Way of the Elders of the Old Norse speakers — the Viking way.

In order to drink from the well of wisdom, one has to build such a profound connection with the community of Old Norse ancestral spirits, which can be invoked for guidance by absorbing old words, poems and sagas. Instead of being an outsider, one has to become an insider in order to unlock the essence of what it means to be Germanic in the most ancient sense; in order to achieve the level of knowledge an insider possesses, one has to study diligently.

The Way of the Nordic Gods and Ancestors: Why the Nordic Ancestors Regarded Nordic Polytheism as Cultural Heritage

Written by Dyami Millarson

Cultural heritage is a modern term. However, the Nordic ancestors did have the inherited concept of siðr at their disposal to describe their religion. Siðr may be translated as custom, habit, and may therefore be compared to Latin mōs. The Romans conceived of their religion as Mōs Majōrum, which translates to Custom of the Elders. Not unlike the Roman polytheists, the Nordic polytheists certainly viewed their siðr/mōs as inherited from their ancestors. Likewise, the Frisian polytheist King Radbōdus regarded the native religion as connected with the ancestors, motivating him to stay loyal to the native religion. Since siðr/mōs is viewed as inherited in this context, either of the terms may be interpreted as heritage. In Dutch, we have an old expression zeden en gebruiken, which, in the context of talking about volkeren peoples, is used to signify culture. Siðr/mōs may likewise be interpreted as meaning culture. The paleopagans, therefore, saw their religion as a cultural phenomenon and since they recognised that their religious culture was inherited, we can say they certainly viewed it as cultural heritage. The Nordic paleopagans must have regarded their siðr as divinely inspired. Consequently, their religion may be described as Ása Siðr Culture of the Nordic Gods or Ása ok Álfa Siðr Culture of the Nordic Gods and Ancestors. One may also freely render the aforementioned locutions as Way of the Nordic Gods and Way of the Nordic Gods and Ancestors.

Greenlandic Polytheism: the Eldest Religion of the Greenlandic People

Written by Dyami Millarson

Not unlike other polytheists of the Northern Hemisphere, the Greenlanders traditionally bring blood sacrifices — sometimes offerings of other appropriate items — to the Gods. Fridtjof Janssen says on page 292 of Eskimo Life (1894):

Offerings to the supernatural powers are very infrequent among the Greenlanders. The most common form of offering is made to the inie of the sea, the so-called kungusutarissat (the plural of kungusutariak). They are fond of foxes' flesh abd foxes' tails, which are, therefore, offered to them whenever a fox is caught, that they may make the fishing successful.  In travelling, too, the Eskimos will make offerings to certain headlands, glaciers, and the like, which they regard as dangerous, in order to get past them unharmed. The offering is as a rule thrown overboard into the sea; it often consists of food, but may also take the form of beads or other things which they value. 

Instead of interpreting the sacrifices as infrequent or limited, it is better to interpret them as situational: when the situation lends itself or when the situation necessitates it, a blood sacrifice is made. It depends on the situation. This is not unlike how it works among other paleopagans: they are not making blood sacrifices every single day, but they do it when they feel it fits the circumstances. Therefore, one should expect the polytheists to make blood sacrifices every single day for no particular reason; they make sacrifices to mark occasions, solve problems and foster a bond with the Divine. A blood sacrifice is costly by its very nature, and so it has to be done with intent. Not overdoing blood sacrifice makes perfect sense, but that does not mean they are necessarily infrequent; it just means it is a situational affair, while the circumstances have to align for it.

One has to consider what is a sustainable model: if we know blood sacrifices are expensive — though not prohitively so — to the community, then can we also make a guess that the community, in order to preserve itself, will only give as much to the Gods as it can reasonably be expected to sustain. Blood sacrifice is meant to assist the community in its survival efforts; it is, therefore, contrary to sacrificial tradition to expect communities to make an excessive amount of sacrifices. Each paleopagan comminity will make sacrifices within their means; that is the basic economics of sacrifice. In conclusion, blood sacrifice is not meant to bankrupt a community or to make it commit collective suicide by causing a food shortage.

Consistent with the analysis of blood sacrifice as a sustainable economic model, Othin says in stanza 144 of the Hávamál in Oliver Bray’s Elder Edda:

Betra er óbeðit
en sé ofblótit,
ey sér til gildis gjöf;
betra er ósent
en sé ofsóit.

(See page 104 of Oliver Bray's Elder Edda. Another version of the full text in Old Norse is also available here.)
Better ask for too little than offer too much,
like the gift should be the boon;
better not to send than to overspend.

(Translation by Oliver Bray: see page 104 of his version of the Elder Edda.)

Thus are the workings of blood sacrifice; it is not practical — not wise — to overspend. Heeding Othin’s wise counsel, the Greenlanders traditionally make offers within their means. I say about sacrificial moderation in my 2020 article on Germanic cultural religion: “It is not like Germanic peoples would slaughter animals every single day. A community could live off the meat of a slaughter animal for a long time and so there was no need for excessive slaughter. Sacrifice was done in moderation. This is highly understandable because the Germanic peoples had to be careful with their scarce resources. It is even recommended in the Poetic Edda that one should not sacrifice too much. The sacrificial cycles that occurred in the Germanic religion were entirely related to the cycles of food and slaughter.”

The concepts of Silla, Sillakangilak and Sillarsoak are described on pages 343-344 of the English edition of David Cranz’ History of Greenland, to which correspond pages 324-326 of the 1770 German edition of David Cranz’ History of Greenland. Silla is Týr’s name among the Greenlanders (see here also).

Sillagik Sartok is a powerful Goð Deity, who causes storms and dwells in the ice (see here).

It has been claimed that about half of the Greenlanders still practise Greenlandic folk religion (see here).

Vampiric Gods: Why Do the Paleopagans Bring Blood Sacrifices to the Gods?

Written by Dyami Millarson

The paleopagans from Eurasia, such as the Mari, the Ostyaks and the Germanic peoples to name a few, have traditionally in common that they bring blood sacrifices to the Gods. Why do they do so? Why is blood traditionally considered such an all-important gift to the Gods? What are the implications of the fact that the paleopagans of Eurasia offer blood sacrifices to the Gods? What ultimately motivates pagan traditionalists, across time and space, to consider blood sacrifice an appropriate gift to the Gods? I will attempt to provide an answer to these questions in this article; I believe the answer which I will provide is going to be relatively simple and straightforward as an analytic reference to modern lore helps us understand the Gods, and the timeless motivation for the traditional practice of blood sacrifice, which is called blót in Old Norse and blōt in Anglo-Saxon.

We may look for an explanation by analysing the Gods as vampires; for we know from the lore about vampires that they need blood. The term vampire may be new, but the concept itself is as old as time; while the words we use may change over the centuries and may vary accross cultures, the concept of a being that drinks blood is really nothing new under the sun. So vampire is already a very old concept. Since we are focused on Eurasian paleopaganism in this article, it ought to be mentioned that blood-drinking creatures feature not only in European lore, but also Asian lore. Therefore, I would argue that the term vampire represents a concept that transcends time and space, and I propose that the concepts of vampire and Deity may be of equal antiquity; given that the Gods are vampires since ancient times, the ancient word for vampire is basically God.

The Gods, whom the paleopagans of Eurasia traditionally worship, become reinvigorated with blood chiefly, and therefore blood sacrifice is necessary according to the various pagan traditions of Eurasia. While vampires are closely associated with blood-drinking, they are also closely associated with the undead and longevity. Vampires live unnaturally long lives. The Gods likewise exhibit traits which we typically associate with vampires, such as being connected with the undead, living very long lives, and the fact that the Gods apparently drink blood as that is what sacrificers give them to consume. The motif of the blood-drinking Gods is, according to my analysis, an inescapable fact of paleopagan blood sacrifice. Man’s fascination with blood is ancient, and likewise is his habit of eating meat ancient; blood sacrifice suggests that both this old fascination and this old habit bring him closer to the Divine. The sacrificial relationship between men who eat meat and Gods who drink blood is neither a match made in Heaven nor on Earth nor in Hell; for the relationship between the human carnivores and the Divine Vampires is a match from the beginning of time. Blood sacrifice, which magically binds men and Gods, is consequently the primordial link between Earth, Heaven and the Underworld, which are called Jörð, Himinn and Hel in Old Norse.

We may say in Dutch: “De levenskracht van een wezen zit in het bloed.” (The life force of an organism resides in the blood.) Therefore, when one consumes blood, one consumes the life force or spiritual essence of another being; by drinking the blood of a being, the soul-energy of one being is transferred to another. We have a saying in Dutch: “Ik kan je bloed wel drinken.” (I can drink your blood.) This is a way of saying you really feel wronged by someone, and therefore you wish to exact revenge by consuming their life energy. One who sucks blood is called bloedzuiger bloodsucker in Dutch, of which the Shire Frisian equivalent is bloedsûger, the German equivalent is Blutsauger and the Latin equivalent is sanguisūga. This is usually understood as a leech, an insect that drinks blood, but it may also be applied to persons: “Hij is een bloedzuiger.” (He is a bloodsucker.) This is said of a person who drains your energy or takes something valuable from you. Bloedzuiger, bloedsûger, Blutsauger and sanguisūga are concepts that may be used to describe a vampire. Synonyms in Latin are strīx and strīga.

Giving a scientific Latin name to the phenomenon of the Gods having vampiric traits, one may say the Old Gods are Vampȳrī Diī Vampire-Deities or Vampȳricī Diī Vampiric Deities — the plural of Deus God, by the way, may be Deī, Dīī or in Latin, so feel free to exchange Diī with any of the other plural forms. Regarding the term Vampȳrī Diī, please note that I used two nouns in the same grammatical case just like one may do for rendering philosopher-king and mother Earth in Latin: philosophus rēx and Terra māter. Another appropriate Latin term for the phenomenon of blood-drinking Gods may be Sanguisūgae Diī Vampire-Gods or if one wishes to coin a verb based on sanguisūga, one may say Sanguisūgantēs Diī Blood-Drinking Gods. The latter may be compared with homo necans killing man, which is a concept put forth in an eponymous book by Walter Burkert. After all, the Sanguisūgantēs Diī are just the other side of a two-sided relationship which homo necans has: man is the killer who eats meat and feeds blood to the Divine Powers and expects a favour in return for doing such a favour to the Divine Powers, which he knows are vampiric. The Gods thus play an essential role in man’s thirst for blood and hunger for meat; the Gods expect blood because They want to drink, humans likewise expect favours and also want to eat. Man, while he kills animals for food, therefore understands that the Gods want Their share; he gives to the Gods what belongs to the Gods — for the record, giving everybody their fair share is authentically pagan — and thereby he creates a strong social bond with the Gods.

The paleopagan relationship between mankind and Godkind is based around the social contract that man will give blood and Gods will give favours in return. Based on the existence of such a contract between hominēs necantēs men who kill and Diī Sanguisūgantēs Gods who drink blood, we have to assume that men and Gods are interdependent and complementary, i.e. men and Gods have a symbiotic relationship. After all, like men crave meat, Gods crave blood; men and the Gods are a match made in nature, while both components they need are conveniently derived from the same source, namely living organisms, which they can, then, divide fairly. The Gods fulfill hopes and wishes for mankind, which mankind can otherwise not achieve; men for their part give the life force of creatures to the Gods so that their power and longevity increases. Mankind plays an active role in the increasing power and longevity of the Gods; a similar theme may be seen in stories where humans befriend vampires, become accomplices in the lifestyle of the vampires, and thus help the vampires on their heroic — though morally ambivalent — journey, increasing their power and pethaps even positively influencing their longevity.

Vampires are considered magical beings; for they are capable of supernatural things. The close association between vampire and magician may, for instance, be observed in the Latin concept of strīx, which may mean witch or vampire. In the traditional pagan worldview, the Gods are capable of granting the wishes of their worshippers precisely because They are Sorcerer-Vampires, i.e. blood-drinking beings endowed with magical or supernatural powers. Vanpires are not only beings of otherworldly magic, but also of wrath and revenge and all that these powerful human qualities entail. Not unlike what the Dutch saying “ik kan je bloed wel drinken” implies, there is an element of wrath and revenge in blood sacrifice; it is a way of bringing about justice and order.

While the vampire is the symbol of wrath, revenge, death, and the resulting sense of justice and order, Othin derives His power from His fury as He is the very embodiment of wrath, He is connected with the undead called the Einhęrjar and in this role, He is known as the Father of the Slain, and we must also not forget He is the father of revenge, namely in the form of His sons called Váli and Víðarr who shall avenge Baldr, Othin’s son, and Othin Himself respectively at the end of time; Othin may consequently be analysed as the Vampire-God par excellence, whilst He embodies very typical symbolic traits of vampires, and having gained this insight, we may analyse the All-Father, the Rēx Deōrum King of the Gods, as the Lord of Vampire-Gods. Wrath, revenge, death, which are traditionally expected to result in justice and order, are ritualised in the form of blood sacrifice, which is called blót in Old Norse and blōt in Anglo-Saxon. The blót/blōt-accepting Gods are therefore associated with wrath, revenge, death, justice and order. The blood-sacrificing relationship with the Gods is thus about maintaining the order of the universe, and thereby maintaining order in human society, lest it descend into total chaos and depravity.

In conclusion, the Eurasians, including the Germanic peoples, traditionally worship Divine Sorcerer-Vampires or Sorcerer-Vampire-Gods, and therefore they naturally turn to offering blood to the Divine. During sacrificial rites, they are transferring to the Gods what we call libbenskrêft in Shire Frisian, levenskracht in Dutch and Lebenskraft in German and in return for this magnificent favour, they expect the fulfillment of their wishes. The Germanic blót/blōt is, not unlike its other Eurasian counterparts, a traditionally bloody affair; it is a natural exchange between Vampire-Gods and men. Gift-giving is a Germanic tradition for building friendship, as suggested by Othin in stanza 42 of Havamal in the Elder Edda, and what more appropriate gift is there than to give blood to a Divine Being that drinks blood? Will man not wish to give blood to a Divine Being when he knows that the Divine Being with superhuman and magical powers is a vampire and that the aforementioned Being can fulfill man’s most intimate desires? Since paleopagans know the Gods intimately, they give gifts which are appropriate for the Gods; it is implicitly assumed that the Gods consume blood, and the paleopagans do not need to call their Gods vampires in order to know this, but we may use that concept in order to analyse what is going on and understand why blood is required for the proper worship of the Forn Goð Ancient Gods.

Interpreting Religions Through the Lens of Germanic Polytheism Is an Art

Written by Dyami Millarson

This encyclopedia defines worldview as follows: “World view is one of a number of concepts in cultural anthropology used in the holistic characterization and comparison of cultures. It deals with the sum of ideas which an individual within a group and/or that group have of the universe in and around them.” Ancient peoples made their cultural contributions by bringing their own unique collectively agreed up thoughts to the table, which were inherited from the ancestors and dutifully transmitted; the Romans provided their own perspective known as interpretātiō Rōmāna, the Greeks their own perspective known as interpretātiō Graeca, and likewise the Germanic-speaking population had their own perspective, which we may call interpretātiō Germānica.

When comparing religions, it is an art to see things the Germanic polytheist way. I regard it, therefore, as an artistic endeavour to compare, for example, Greco-Roman folk religion, Ostyak folk religion, Surinamese folk religion, Nenets folk religion, Yoruba folk religion, Kartvelian folk religion, Hawaiian folk religion, and so on with Germanic folk religion. In other words, interpretātiō Germānica Germanic interpretation, which is a Germanic folk religious characterisation and comparison of religions, is an art; Germanic interpretation is itself an ancient method of analysis, which may be compared to how Mircea Eliade makes sense of shamanism — as seen in his magnum opus on that topic — by comparing it with Germanic paganism. After all, the Germanic ancestors must have made sense of the unfamiliar through the familiar: when they were presented with new information, they would have sought to fit it inside their worldview.

The Germanic ancestors must have looked at the Gods and rites of other ancient peoples, and thought to themselves: they are just like us, they are worshipping our Gods with different names and they are ostensibly giving blood sacrifices to our Gods. One way of studying Germanic religion is providing a Germanic perspective on other religions; for that helps to reveal what Germanic religion is essentially equal to or separate from. From a Germanic polytheist perspective, many peoples around the world are essentially practising Germanic folk religion or what istensibly looks like Germanic folk religion; for it is important to find out what the religions look look like when interpreting them through a Germanic folk religious lens.

Of course, there are also practices that incompatible with Germanic religion. It is also useful to identify those. Yet, what matters for the Germanic paleopagan perspective is finding in what ways religions are essentially the same as Germanic paleopaganism; what elements in religions which can be studied prove the universality of the core tenets in Germanic folk religion? What articles of religion show that the truths of Germanic religion are universal?

These are questions old pagan thinkers would certainly have concerned themselves with in interactions with foreign religions, and trying to answer those questions will help unravel paleopagan logic as well as explain Germanic religion as it relates to other religions in the world; for, from a Germanic paleopagan point of view, all primordial religions are ultimately Germanic religion.

Description of Ostyak or Khanty Folk Religion

Written by Dyami Millarson

Khanty or Ostyak Pole Gods at the Ethnographic Museum Park Open Air “Torum Maa.” The url of the web page where I found the image: http://m.tripsib.com/local/khanty-mansiysk

I first learned about the Ostyaks/Ostiaks from Mircea Elade’s monumental work on shamanism and volume IV of The Mythology of All Races.

The Khanty or Ostyaks (formerly spelled Ostiaks) live traditionally in the central part of the West Siberian plain, a region once known as Yugra and nowadays as the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, and their ancient religion may be called paganism, animism-polytheism, folk religion, nature religion, indigenous religion, etc. The quintessence of their religion is not unlike that of the religion of the Vikings; for the worship of the Gods is the quintessence of Ostyak or Khanty folk religion, and the ancient method of worship among the Khanty folk religionists is the blót blood sacrifice, which corresponds with all forms of Germanic paganism throughout the ages.

The Ostyak or Khanty Gods are, furthermore, not unlike the Tívar, the Germanic Gods; for, while the human eye wishes to be satisfied with something it can see and while human art fulfills this primordial need, the Khanty Gods are traditionally visualised as sacred wooden images by folk artists, whose spontaneous creations based on nature revelations, which are obtained from using whatever suitable materials nature provides for the creation of traditional sacred images, are artistic representations of the Oerfoarmen (Proto-Forms) which were sacrificed to (see information here about idols and fetishes). Since the Germanic and Ostyak peoples are sacrificers to the Oerfoarmen, more similarities are bound to be found, as seen in various — both old and contemporary — reports of the Ostyak or Khanty folk religion.

Page 328 of Panorama of Nations, Or, Journeys Among the Families of Men says: “The Ostiaks are pagans and idolaters of the most uncompromising description. They have four [G]ods, who are represented by their idols as creatures without legs, one of them having especial charge of the healing arts.”

The worship traditions of Deities and the worship traditions of Ancestors overlap; for there is correspondence between Gods and ancestors. See page 282 of this book: “The Ostyak has a wooden image of his deceased father in his hut , offers food to fit and worships it.” Page 111 of this work says: “Among the Ostyaks of Eastern Siberia, there is found a still more instructive case, in which we see the transition from the image of the dead man to the actual idol. When a man dies, they set up a rude wooden image of him.”

This work quotes from another relevant work as follows: “The idol was carved of wood, attired in green clothes, the evil looking face was covered with white iron, a black fox skin was placed on its head; the whole sanctuary, especially his site which was higher than anywhere else, was decorated with purple broadcloth. Other smaller idols nearby which where placed lower were called the servants of the real idol. I think there were many other things in front of him – caftans, squirrel skins, etc.”

Page 351 of The Origin of Civilisation and the Primitive Condition of Man says: “The Ostyaks when they kill an animal rub some of the blood on the mouths of their idols.” The same point is repeated word for word on page 475 of volume III of The Cyclopædia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia and on page 34 of volume V of Progress. The smearing of blood on images of the Gods is also a Germanic tradition.

The Khanty or Ostyaks, not unlike the Germanic peoples, worship nature traditionally. Page 192 of this work says there is a tree worship tradition among the Khanty. Pages 118 and 120 of this work mention the respective Khanty terms for sacrificial trees and sacred trees. Page 120 of this book says that the Khanty have sacred trees, mountains and sticks; which is another point of comparison with Germanic tradition. The earliest mention of pole worship — or one might say totem pole worship — I could find thus far is here on page 165. The worship of poles is apparently an ancient Ostyak tradition.

While the Germanic peoples hung up hides on trees of sacrificial sites, the Ostyaks or Khanty also have such sacrificial hides which they hang up for the Gods (see page 187 of this work).

There is a tradition among the Khanty or Ostyaks, i.e. a tradition of sacred spaces. In other words, the Khanty or Ostyaks observe ritual taboo in order to preserve the sacred natural peace — or friðr if you will — of certain places (see page 110 of this work). Such environments of natural peace are also found around Tin Hau temples in Hong Kong, for example; they are locations of peace which separates them from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The Khanty Gods are not nameless beings, and therefore there is, like in the Germanic tradition, a close association between names and Gods (see page 558 of this work, page 226 of this work, page 446 of this work; see this work; pages 153-154 of this work; see page 48 of this work for the Gods). The worship of Deities is essentially the worship of names, and it is also the worship of idols. The three-way sacrificial relationship between those three basic concepts is apparently circular: Gods — names — idols. One might make a cycle diagram to visualise that relationship, but I do not have time for that right now. Given that the Gods are name-bearing like in Germanic tradition, it is relevant for sacrificers to learn their names. The Gods may also have epithets or nicknames, which the sacrificers ought to know.

The Khanty Gods are divided between Ljóssálfar and Svartálfar, between Tívar and Þursar. Page 22 of Landscape and Gods Among the Khanty says: “According to Khanty belief, the world is divided vertically into several layers. Good, [W]hite [G]ods rule the Upper World; the [b]lack [G]ods of diseases and death inhabit the Lower World.” 

Num-Tūrem, also called Torom, Tarom, Turom, Numi Torum in different works, is the Khanty Rēx Deōrum King of the Gods who lives in the heavenly forest (see here; see page 22 of this work; the word for Deity can be found on page 382 of this work; see page 53 of this work for Torom). An epithet of Tūrem is Num-Iləm (see here). Tūrem is functionally comparable to Othin, Týr, Thor, Heimdallr, and Ullr at the same time; for He is a King God, Sky/Heaven God, Weather God, White/Light/Bright God, and Glorious God. Bear worship may be brought into connection with Thor, and bear worship is likewise associated with Tūrem (see here for information about bear worship).

Page 297 of this downloadable book says: “The management of mundane affairs is in the hands of a host of inferior deities, good and bad: the kuls, water-spirits, who are persistently hostile to man; the menks, forest spirits, who, though habitually ill-disposed toward man, can be brought to terms of friendship by sacrifices and offerings; and the fonxes, friendly mountain spirits.”

Is the Eye Witness Account of the Volga Vikings Reflective of Old East Norse Religion?

Written by Dyami Millarson

Source: https://www.asncvikingage.com/vikings-east

This article is a supplement to my recent article on Germanic Village Deities, where I quoted a passage on the Volga Vikings and that passage mentions a large wooden figure which I identified with Freyr. Since Freyr is involved, may the passage be reflective of Old East Norse rather than Old West Norse religion? Although the worship of Freyr is one of the circumstances that leads to this interpretation of the passage, it is not the sole circumstance that leads to this interpretation of the passage:

  • Monarchical lineage — The Old East Norse speakers of Sweden have a monarchical connection to Freyr. According to Old East Norse monarchical tradition, the Ynglings, the Swedish dynasty, are descendants of Yngvi, which is an epithet of Freyr. This makes the relationship between the Swedes and Freyr special. The worship of Freyr is prevalent among the Old East Norse speakers of Sweden.
  • Geographical proximity — The indigenous territory of the Old East Norse speakers is located relatively closest to the Volga; the territory of the Old East Norse speakers is essentially on the route to the Volga. Therefore, a significant portion of Volga Vikings being Old East Norse speakers is to be expected. As can be seen from the map above, there was a direct link between Sweden and the Volga trade route. It was practical and logical for Old East Norse speakers to expand eastward, while it was logical for their Old West Norse-speaking brethren to expand westward, of which the settlement of Iceland between 874 to 930, a period called the Age of Settlement, is an important result, and for which reason Old Icelandic, which is usually treated as the standard version of Old Norse, is to be classified as Old West Norse.
  • Demographic size — The passage, which I quoted in the article on Village Gods, is an account of the Volga Vikings from the 9th century. According to a Russian work by the title of Рост населения в Европе: опыт исчисления which is, by the way, also cited in the Wikipedia article on the population in the year 1000 AD, the Old East Norse-speaking regions Sweden and Denmark had about 0.4 million and 0.62 million inhabitants, while the Old West Norse-speaking Norway had only 0.2 million inhabitants. The Old West Norse-speaking colony Iceland must have had less than 0.1 million inhabitants at that time. The demographic size discrepancy between the East Norse and West Norse speakers persists to this day: Denmark and Sweden together have a larger population than Iceland and Norway. The practical explanation for this lies in the geographical fact that Denmark and Sweden possesses plenty of lands suitable for farming and these fertile lands have historically enabled the East Norse speakers to sustain a larger population, while Norway is mostly mountainous and Iceland used to be a barren wasteland. West Norse speakers would tend to sustain themselves more with fishing, while the East Norse speakers would tend to sustain sustain themselves more with farming; for that is what nature bestowed upon them. As a result, the East Norse speakers would lavitate more towards Freyr worship. It is also no wonder, then, that even in the 19th century Norwegian fishermen prayed to Njörth, whom they called Njor; for it is to be exepcted that the West Norse speakers would lavitate more towards Njörth worship. Of course, Freyr and Njörth worship occurred both in Sweden and Norway, and Freyr and Njörth were often invoked together; many Norse population centres were near the coast. So, there is overlap. As Montensen and Crowell say, “in the worship of the [G]ods there has been but little difference in the different provinces.” However, the emphasis on specific Gods — i.e., as in the sense of certain groups’ preference for specific Gods relative to other closely related groups’ preferences — may vary somewhat due to differences in lifestyle, influenced by factors which also affected the population growth, and that is my point. Furthermore, given the large excess populations of the East Norse regions, the East Norse speakers could easily have been a dominant cultural majority among the Volga Viking; the influence must certainly have been there, also considering the East Norse regions were on the route to the Volga and Volga Viking traders would likely pass by East Norse settlements, therefore maintaining close ties with East Norse culture and religion, while the Old East Norse-speaking regions were, I presume, in all likelihood for many Volga Vikings their historical homeland, and keeping close ties with their roots seems logical. Furthermore, while may have been linguistically, culturally and religiously influenced not only by contact with Old East Norse speakers but also by new blood from thr Old East Norse regions, as they might recruit new men from the nearest Norse population centres for Viking expeditions. Replenishing their ranks with new recruits of Norse extraction must, after all, have been essential for maintaining their presence in the Volga region and thereby ensuring the continuation of their activities along the Volga trade route.
  • Fertility worship tradition — On page 168 of the work titled The Gods as We Shape Them, Fokke Sierksma says of the Norse speakers that they ‘regarded the sacred union of a [F]ertility [G]od and a [F]ertility [G]oddess as prerequisite for the continued propagation of life in all its forms.’ The belief in Freyr is, therefore, all-encompassing and it is then no wonder that Freyr is also called the World God. The all-importance of fertility must have been especially so for the Old East Norse speakers such as the Swedes, who had a historically strong connection with the land and consequently with Freyr. While Freyr was a Great Lord to the Swedes, it is likely he was the Lord, whom the Volga Vikings addressed when they were praying to the large figure.

I have thus made a case for why the account of the Volga Vikings, which I quoted in the article on the Village Gods, may indeed be reflective of Old East Norse religion, although it must be borne in mind that there has always been a great deal of linguistic, cultural and religious overlap between the speakers of Old East Norse and Old West Norse; my interest is, nevertheless, in these local peculiarities, as they teach us a whole lot.