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Thread: Germanic Names for the Stars?

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    Germanic Names for the Stars?

    Once upon a time we must have had our own unique names for the visible heavenly bodies. Can anyone add to Grimm's comments here, taken from his Teutonic Mythology?

    Ursa Major (the Plough, the Dipper, Charles' Wain)
    Apkton q , hn kai a m a x a n epiklhsin kaleousin. Il. 18, 487. Od. 5, 273. So in OHG. glosses: ursa wagen, Jun. 304; in MHG. himelwagen, Walth. 54, 3. (28) herwagen Wackern. Ib. 1. 772, 26. The clearest explanation is given by Notker cap. 64: Selbiu ursa ist p demo norde mannelchemo zeichenhaftiu fone dien siben glatn sternn, die allr der liut wagen heizet, unde nh einemo gloccun joche (29) gescaffen sint, unde ebenmichel sint, ne (except) des mittelsten. The Anglo-Saxons called the constellation wnes sl (waggon's thill, pole), or simply sl, but carles wn also is quoted in Lye, the Engl. charles wain, Dan. karlsrogn, Swed. karlwagn. Is carl here equivalent to lord, as we have herrenwagen in the same sense? or is it a transference to the famous king of christian legend? But, what concerns us here, the constellation appears to have borne in heathen times the full name of Wuotanes wagan, after the highest god of heaven. The Dutch language has evidence of this in a MS. of as late as 1470: ende de poeten in heure fablen heetend (the constell.) ourse, dat is te segghene Woenswaghen. And elsewhere: dar dit teekin Arcturus, dat wy heeten Woonswaghen, up staet; het sevenstarre ofde Woenswaghen; conf. Huydec. proeven 1, 24. I have nowhere met with plaustrum Mercurii, nor with an ON. Oins vagn [[Othinn's Wagon]]; only vagn himnum [[wagon in heaven]].

    ...

    SIRIUS:
    Lokabrenna (Lokii incendium)

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    Stars

    Old Norse preserves almost no star-names, and mentions are often ambiguous. "The Star" (stjarna) indicated the constellation of the Pleiades, used for winter timekeeping at night. (Cleasby & Vgfusson An Icelandic-English Dictionary p. 594 s.v. stjarna)

    However, to sailors "The Star" was the "lode-star" (leiarstjarna) that we recognize as the North Star or Polaris today. Or the same term might instead refer to Arcturus, the brightest star of the northern hemisphere, which was also termed the vagnstjarna or "wagon-star" because of its nearness to the constellation of The Wagon (Ursa Major)
    Cleasby & Vgfusson's An Icelandic-English Dictionary also offers other words related to astronomical concepts taken from medieval texts that date after the end of the Viking Age, as well as terms for which no source is explicitly named.

    [...]

    blstjarna "blue star", i.e. Hesperus p. 68 s.v. bl-stjarna. Snt (a collection of poems from 1852)

    Friggjarstjarna "Frigg's star", i.e., Venus p. 174 s.v. Frigg. Clements saga 26

    Lokabrenna "Loki's brand; Loki's torch", Sirius. Under brenna Cleasby says, "According to Finn Magnusson (Lex. Mythol.) Sirius is called Loka brenna, 'the conflagration of Loki', referring to the end of the world." p. 79 s.v. brenna; p. 594 s.v. stjarna

    sjaustirni "the seven-star", i.e., the Pleiades p. 533 s.v. sjau
    Aurvandill's Toe

    The story of Aurvandill is mentioned only once in Norse Mythology, in the Skldskaparml section of Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda:

    [...]

    Thrr went home to Thrdvangar, and the hone remained sticking in his head. Then came the wise woman who was called Gra, wife of Aurvandill the Valiant: she sang her spells over Thrr until the hone was loosened. But when Thrr knew that, and thought that there was hope that the hone might be removed, he desired to reward Gra for her leech-craft and make her glad, and told her these things: that he had waded from the north over the river livga (Icy Stream) and had borne Aurvandill in a basket on his back from the north out of Jtunheim. And he added for a token, that one of Aurvandill's toes had stuck out of the basket, and became frozen; wherefore Thrr broke it off and cast it up into the heavens, and made thereof the star called Aurvandill's Toe. Thrr said that it would not be long ere Aurvandill came home: but Gra was so rejoiced that she forgot her incantations, and the hone was not loosened, and stands yet in Thrr's head. Therefore it is forbidden to cast a hone across the floor, for then the hone is stirred in Thrr's head.

    [...]

    It is not known today which star the Vikings identified as Aurvandill's Toe. Old English has the name arendel, which is cognate to Norse Aurvandill, and used it to refer to the morning star (Venus), as in the Old English poem Crist I (ll. 104–108) by Cynewulf:

    ala arendel engla beorhtast
    ofer middangeard monnum sended
    and sodfasta sunnan leoma,
    tohrt ofer tunglas u tida gehvane
    of sylfum e symle inlihtes.

    Hail Earendel, brightest of angels,
    over Midgard to men sent,
    and true radiance of the Sun
    bright above the stars, every season
    thou of thyself ever illuminest.

    [...]

    Others believe Aurvandill's Toe to be the star Rigel (Beta Orionis), the bright blue star which makes up the right foot of the constellation we identify today as Orion the Hunter (See Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, Hamlet's Mill: An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time, Boston, David R. Godine, 1999, p. 354. Also Cleasby & Vgfusson An Icelandic-English Dictionary p. 594 s.v. stjarna.)
    The Eyes of Thjazi

    The tale of how the eyes of the giant Thiazi became a constellation is recounted in the Skldskaparml section of Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda. [...]:

    The goddess Iunn had been captured by the giant Thjazi with the connivance of Loki. Without the youth-giving golden apples of Iunn, the gods withered and grew old. They gathered to discuss the matter, and deduced that Loki had been involved. Under threat of death, Loki was sent to get the goddess back. Loki flew off to accomplish this task, wearing the magical falcon-cloak belonging to the goddess Freyja. Loki rescues Iunn, but in the escape Thjazi is killed, and the gods are forced to make amends to the giant's surviving daughter, Skai. The gods in compensation offered Skai the right to choose a husband from among their number, but with the condition that she could choose only by viewing the feet of the gods. Skai selected the most beautiful feet, thinking that she had chosen the bright god Baldr, but instead found she would marry Njr of Natn, a god of the sea-coasts. Another part of the compensation was that the gods had to make Skai laugh, which was accomplished by Loki, who tethered a goat to his own testicles, presenting such a bizarre spectacle that Skai laughed despite herself. Last of all, a final compensation for the slaying of Thjazi was offered:

    Sv er sagt, at inn geri at til yfirbta vi Skaa, at hann tk augu jaza ok kastai upp himin ok geri af stjrnur tvr.

    We are told that in compensated her by taking Thjazi's eyes and throwing them up into the sky, making of them two stars.

    We are not certain which stars were identified as the Eyes of Thjazi, but most scholars assume the constellation to represent two stars in our modern constellation Gemini, the Twins, which appears high overhead in mid-winter, above and to the left of Orion. The two brightest stars, Castor and Pollux (Alpha Gemini and Beta Gemini), are assumed to be the Eyes of Thjazi. (See Cleasby & Vgfusson An Icelandic-English Dictionary p. 594 s.v. stjarna, and Grimm's Teutonic Mythology ch. 22).
    Elsewhere in the Poetic Edda, the poem Alvssml gives a complex series of astronomical synonyms attributed to the various races of the Norse cosmos, but doesn't name stars or constellations:

    rr kva:
    "Segu mr at Alvss,
    - ll of rk fira
    vrumk, dvergr, at vitir,
    hv s himinn heitir
    erakendi,
    heimi hverjum ?"

    Alvss kva:
    "Himinn heitir me mnnum,
    en hlrnir me goum,
    kalla vindfni vanir,
    uppheim jtnar,
    alfar fagrarfr,
    dvergar drjpansal."

    rr kva:
    "Segu mr at Avlss,
    - ll of rk fira
    vrumk, dvergr, at vitir,
    hversu mni heitir,
    s er menn sa,
    heimi hverjum ?"

    Alvss kva:
    "Mni heitir me mnnum,
    en mylinn me goum,
    kalla hverfanda hvl helju ,
    skyndi jtnar,
    en skin dvergar,
    kalla alfar rtala."

    rr kva:
    "Segu mr at Alvss,
    - ll of rk fira
    vrumk, dvergr, at vitir,
    hv s sl heitir,
    er sa alda synir,
    heimi hverjum ?"

    Alvss kva:
    "Sl heitir me mnnum,
    en sunna me goum,
    kalla dvergar Dvalins leika,
    eygl jtnar,
    alfar fagrahvl,
    alskr sa synir."


    Thrr said:
    Say to me, Alvss,
    for it seems to me
    there is nothing you do not know:
    what is heaven called,
    that all know,
    in all the worlds there are?

    Alvss said:
    Heaven it is called by men,
    the Arch by gods,
    Wind-Weaver by the Vanir,
    by giants High-Earth,
    by elves Fair-Roof
    by dwarves the Dripping Hall.

    Thrr said:
    Say to me, Alvss,
    for it seems to me
    there is nothing you do not know:
    what is the moon called,
    that men see,
    in all the worlds there are?

    Alvss said:
    Moon it is called by men,
    the Ball by gods,
    the Whirling Wheel in Hel,
    the Speeder by giants,
    the Bright One by dwarves,
    by elves Tally-of-Years.

    Thrr said:
    Say to me, Alvss,
    for it seems to me
    there is nothing you do not know:
    what is the sun called,
    that is seen by men,
    in all the worlds there are?

    Alvss said:
    Sl it is called by men,
    Sunna by the gods,
    by dwarves, Dvalinn's toy,
    by giants Everglow,
    by elves Fair-Wheel,
    All-Bright by the sons of gods.
    Source: Viking Answer Lady Webpage - Viking Age Star and Constellation Names

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    On this site devoted to Faroese stamps that depict mythological themes, there is a page claiming that the Ramsund carving in Sweden may represent constellations:

    http://www.tjatsi.fo/?side=da5617c18...051e81367a3d67



    So Orion would be the headless Regin, while Pegasus is Grani.
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    The sitters in the hall seldom know
    The kin of the new-comer:
    The best man is marred by faults,
    The worst is not without worth.
    -- The Havamal, #133 (trans. Auden and Taylor)

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    There is some information here.

    https://www.folklore.ee/folklore/vol32/cps.pdf

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    The best research on this has been done by Otto Sigfrid Reuter as far as I know. His most important work on this topic is Germanische Himmelskunde. He has also pointed to the extensive Icelandic knowledge of astronomy and proposed a revaluation of it, as a response to our focus on Greek science.
    Oddi Helgason is a great example of Germanic astronomy.

    He has also reconstructed (Gza von Nemnyi follows his findings) a Germanic zodiac system which he found in the grmnisml, consisting of the twelve homes of the Gods.

    Below is a starmap from his booklet Himmel ber den Germanen with the Germanic names for the stars (in German).

    Click image for larger version. 

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    The identification of the world tree with the Milky Way is subarctic.

    Heino Eelsalu suggests that the concept of an association between the world tree and the Milky Way could have emerged about six thousand years ago at latitudes 30–40 degrees North (Eelsalu 1985: 69) – at lower latitudes, the association with a pathway or a river is more common, whereas the latter is almost never mentioned in the north.

    Therefore identifying the large ash tree Yggdrasill with the Milky Way is a logical solution for Scandinavian regions. The Milky Way is observed far into the south. This is highly likely considering that the Vikings also travelled in the Mediterranean area. The interpretation of some constellations on the Milky Way (Swan, Eagle, Ratatosk [constellation of Squirrel (Lizard)], Snake) is also likely, and the rest may already be too hypothetical.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bernhard View Post
    The best research on this has been done by Otto Sigfrid Reuter as far as I know. His most important work on this topic is Germanische Himmelskunde.
    Michael Behrend has produced an English translation and titled it Skylore of the North. There is a wealth of other valuable texts on his site: http://www.cantab.net/users/michael....ubs/index.html

    Stars and constellations

    The word “star”, whose root is common to all Indo-European languages, appears to have meant originally “the scattered, strewn” (cf. Latin sternere = strew).

    The traditional star names do not refer only to single stars; the Germanic peoples, like all others of the world, brought the profusion of stars, scattered seemingly at random and yet moving in regular paths, into patterns of constellations.

    1. The Lode Star (32 Camelopardis) common Germanic; in Anglo-Saxon Tir (= Old Norse Tyr), name of the old sky god (Old Saxon Saxnote).

    2. The Lady’s Wain (or Wagon) (Ursa Minor), old Icelandic; probably connected with the sky mother, as the great wagon was connected with Woden; east Swedish, North Wagon.

    3. Woden’s Wain (Ursa Major), Old Dutch; in Old High German, Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse, Charles’s (i.e. Woden’s) Wain.

    4. Day Star (Arcturus), Old Norse; for telling the time.

    5. Orendel’s (Aurvandil’s) Toe (probably Corona Borealis); Old Norse. According to the Edda, placed in the sky by Thor himself as a memorial to his divine power.

    6. South Star (Vega), Old Icelandic; probably used in navigation.

    7. Frigg’s Distaff (Orion’s belt), old in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. In Old High German: the Rake, the Three Reapers, the Plough. In Norway, mostly the Three Fishers. Seasonal and nightly time marker.

    8. The [Little] Wolf’s Jaws (Hyades), Old Icelandic. Directly on the sun’s apparent path (ecliptic); see the star-map.

    9. The [Great] Wolf’s Jaws (Andromeda, Milky Way, surrounding branching point, that is, the great semicircle of stars through Pegasus to Cygnus), old Icelandic. The opening of the jaws is turned towards the pole of the sky. See item (15) below.

    10. Battle of the sir (Auriga with Capella), old Icelandic. On the Milky Way.

    11. The Torch Waver (Procyon), old Icelandic; near the Milky Way, the precursor of:

    12. Loki’s Brand (Sirius), Icelandic; at the foot of the Milky Way.

    13. Seven Stars (Pleiades); common Germanic, Cluck Hen and Evening Hen with seven (also twelve) chicks; perhaps old European. Herd of Boars (old Saxon, Anglo-Saxon), along with Hen perhaps the oldest Pagan description of the year marker (see Section III under “star year”).

    14. Thiazi’s Eyes (probably Castor and Pollux); according to the Edda placed in the sky by Thor as “the greatest memorial to his deeds”.

    15. Iring’s Way (Milky Way), Old Saxon, Anglo-Saxon, Old High German. Its two streams of saliva falling from the Wolf’s Jaws are Wan and Wil; the “evil Wan” as Hell’s stream and road of the dead, Old High German. In the Edda, Bifrost = shaking bridge, that is, road of the dead, and Fenrir = Wan’s Wolf, wolf of the river Wan. The Milky Way is at the same time the “god’s bridge” leading from earth to highest Heaven, and thence to Hell.


    It is perhaps important to note that the first concrete representation of a star in (pre-)Germanic and all human history depicts Pleiades. The Nebra sky disk obviously had not yet been discovered in Reuter's own time.
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