View Full Version : German Birth Ritual - Salt on Swordpoint

Monday, February 22nd, 2010, 11:13 AM
Many years ago, I was told of an old German birth ritual by Stephen McNallen. I've since asked him about this and he has forgotten the source. I'm curious about the ritual itself and if anyone here might have heard about it, or ideally know of a source.

Immediately after birth, the newborn is forced to taste salt from the tip of a sword. The understanding being that this would be their *first* experience outside the womb, essentially a kind of harsh greeting into the world...both bitter and dangerous.

Thursday, March 4th, 2010, 04:33 AM
I've personally never read anything pertaining to such a ritual...But I would presume the gentlemen were probably mistaken. I base this opinion on the fact that swords were generally heirlooms/ mathmas or laf,AS.
The corrosive quality of salt makes it unlikely that anyone would be putting it on an expensive and probably very old family sword.
The references below are not exhaustive but this is basically what I could find regarding sword rituals:

"It seems the fathers weapons,in turn were often entrusted to the daughter so that she could pass them onto her children. In this way the sword "rested" between between generations while in the safe keeping of the woman , awaiting the maturity of the next generations menfolk. It was thus fitting that as a guardian of swords, the womans marriage vow should be made before a drawn sword as a reminder of her family role"

"The inherited sword was associated with the "luck" of the family"...
~Stephen Pollington, 'English Warrior'

Tacitus refers to women receiving weapons as a dowry.

I've also found a reference to an early German tradition of giving the bride her wedding ring on the hilt of a sword. Then of course there are several references to oaths sworn on swords and another Swedish ritual involved thrusting a sword into a roof beam, the depth was considered an omen for the success of the marriage.

I hope you good folk might find these interesting, however I could not find a reference to the "salt on a sword point" ritual. Pollington and Davidson are silent, and after an admittedly hurried scan over the four volumes Grimm has nothing to say either...If I missed it please let me know:)

Thursday, March 4th, 2010, 04:16 PM
About the Varangians in Eastern Europe:

As for the Rus, they live on an island ... that takes three days to walk round and is covered with thick undergrowth and forests; it is most unhealthy.... They harry the Slavs, using ships to reach them; they carry them off as slaves and…sell them. They have no fields but simply live on what they get from the Slav's lands.... When a son is born, the father will go up to the newborn baby, sword in hand; throwing it down, he says, "I shall not leave you with any property: You have only what you can provide with this weapon."—Ibn Rustah