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Thread: A Proposed Model of Original Germanic Monotheism

  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sigurd View Post
    That may well be the case, but at this stage, if we consider all Indo-European religiosity to be closer to each other in origin than they will be with another (though perhaps distantly related) concept, then this would still make Christian religion more distant to Germanic religiosity than Hinduism; a distance which is at this stage fairly large.
    Perhaps! But I'm not so sure. For one, many, if not most Hindu 'schools' are essentially monotheistic. Second, Hinduism as a whole has transformed quite a bit in its own direction. One could just as much say that the gap between Germanic religiosity and Hinduism has widened more than the gap between Germanic religiosity and Christian religion. Many of the sources we have for the old heathen ways were written by Christians. Even Snorri Sturluson was a Christian. Germanic religiosity is almost impossible to render free from Christian influence, while Hinduim has basically been left to its own devices for thousands of years, notwithstanding the indirect influence Christianity and Islam might have had on Hinduism.

    I would rather see it as organic evolution. The human perception of the divine widens or narrows to the needs pertaining to that particular folk, its habits and its memory.

    As such, as described in my previous post - the "idolisation" of Wōdanaz, as you call it, should not be understood as a negative act of degeneration, but merely as a redirection of priorities. Even if it were to derive from original monotheism, this should be understood as diversification of energies rather than a perversion thereof.
    I think that to have the needs of the people as a point of departure is a problematic, if not destructive way of looking at the divine. I think it leads to atheism. Before you know it the divine powers are looked upon forces that one might manipulate into favouring. That can lead to the idea that the divine powers are gears and levers one can pull by offering gifts. In fact, this development is exactly what happened in certain Hindu schools. I would add to that that Hitler and his mystic friends were a prime example of this. The 'god' they had in mind was ultimately nothing but the deification of the German people as a whole. I know that this is a thrilling thought for many here, but I see it as atheism unfolding. It is hardly different from the deification of the individual that our the liberals are practically doing.

    And look at it this way. Let's grant that for a certain period a reprioritisation from All-father to a lesser god is divinely warranted, as it would save the folk from ruin. How, then, would the folk shift back to chiefly venerating the All-father? What we see in stead is that the pantheon is adrift. I think it is only warranted pray to a lesser god (nót venerate!) if one keeps firmly fixed the notion that the All-father remains the highest authority.

    I suppose you might actually be quite right there. It wouldn't explain the existence of the Proto-German word ǥuđan, and certainly would be largely implausible.

    Whilst there is a hypothesis being continuously debated that Longobardic may have initiated much of the High German Consonant Shift, being more consequential in also partaking in the W > G shift (see also in n.-it. guardare < wartan [loanword]) it also wouldn't explain why the word should have spread to all Germanic regions from Longobardic, excepting of course that they were amongst the first to be converted.

    As such, Godan is clearly a cognate of Wodan, the relation with Gott to be likely rather unlikely --- excepting the possibility of the original Wōdanaz to have been the result of the earlier G > W shift under Grimm's Law, that is presuming that the <w> doesn't mean the labio-dental phoneme [v] but the labio-velar approximant [w] to be the result.

    More puzzling still would by why /u/ > /o/ should have happened, there is actually a rather complex way to find a keen etymology here, however it would be so highly uneconomic that we shouldn't consider it as particularly possible, hence why I'm not elaborating in detail.

    On the other hand he possibility of this keen hypothesis is curious when we consider similar "near-coincidences" of gr. Theus vs. Zeus, lat. Divus vs. Djus Piter or indeed latv. Dievs vs. Dievs, but of course internal reconstruction would be preferrable than keen hypoetheses.

    So I'm afraid I'm perhaps indeed stuck with the PIG root of "Gott" as *ghuto-m "to call" or *gheu- "to pour" (in the sense of liquid sacrifice) to be more likely etymologies for the God/Gott word.
    Interesting indeed! However, although I would love to converse with you on this particular subject, I'm afraid it is a bit too much of side topic.

    So you would assume the anthropomorphism in especially Germanic and Greek mythology to be a more recent phenomenon?

    Certainly, the human characteristics of Germanic gods - being able to feel love, grief, fear and experience very death himself - as much as their decided lack of limbs (Hödr is blind, Odin is one-eyed, Tyr is one-handed) is curious, most other mythologies (f.ex. Roman mythology) tend to view Gods as more abstract and certainly - especially when we look towards Vedic, and to some extent Slavic mythology - have an over-abundance of limbs.

    However, is there necessarily a direction? Could not the anthropomorphism be older, the attempt of mankind to see a divine being, or several divine beings, as its progenitors long before it was able to worship abstract concepts such as "victory" or "luck"?
    Well, I think it depends on what you count as anthropomorphism. Associating Şunraz with the hammer as a symbol would not count as anthropomorphism. Imagining Şunraz as a figure actually wielding a hammer, on the other hand, would in fact constitute an anthropomorphism, in my opinion. I do indeed think that such anthropomorphisms are typical to Germanic religiosity. A hardcore Germanic heathen might then say: "Because they are Germanic developments, such anthropomorphisms are warranted." A view I would strongly object to. What I see as the major flaw in Germanic religiosity is that it is too fluid, and therefore offers no real foundation. It reminds me of individualism, where a fixed foundation is likewise denied, in order to grant greater 'freedom' to the individual. Who then, on the contrary, has less freedom, since he is like an astronaut adrift in open space, i.e. he has no ground to push off from, and therefore no ceiling to aim for.

    Firstly, Indo-European and especially Germanic importance on having a female cognate and complimentary force to every male. I can see where this could be a latter addition, pointing out why women only had a considerably high position in NW-IE societies (Germanic, Celtic), but even some of the older Greek myth - especially connected to Hera (wife/companion of Zeus) - would herald that there was no clear patriarchy nor matriarchy, but a "different union of equals". Humans would have perhaps wished to have their anthropomorphic Gods to be represented just that way (which is actually why I also reject the hermaphrodite hypothesis).
    Yes, I see your point. Indeed, there is a strong notion of duality prevalent in Indo-European religiosity. Velvet pointed this out as well. However, I think that it does not (theo)logically follow that the highest being is also paired. At most, one can turn it into dogma. But then, isn't such a dogma something a great many heathens consider as a negative thing, a Christian thing no less?

    Secondly, because we see a companion of Tyr mentioned in Lokasenna. That she is unnamed could make her either not-so-important (no need for a name) or actually very important (so important that it would be clear to all listeners to the story who was meant), certainly lost deep in time, but likely there.
    Yes, but that is Tır, not Tuisco/Tuisto. You rejected monotheism because you said Tuisco/Tuisto would then be the candidate Supreme Being and that he would be in need of a companion. So why would Tuisco/Tuisto need a companion if he was the Supreme Being?

    But my point is that Tuisco/Tuisto is not the Supreme Being; Teiwaz is. Also, I do not find the Lokasenna a persuasive source, for various reason. One being that it is the height of anthropomorphism. Second being that in that episode Teiwaz is nothing more than one of many at the feast.

    I'm going to need to ponder upon that one at a more awake time, since that's perhaps a little more complex than what I've mentioned above. I actually have to give this some thought. I may not completely agree with what you're trying to establish, but it's certainly one of the most thought-provoking things I've read in a fair while.
    I'm flattered, thank you. I may be completely wrong about all of this, but I think it is fascinating to theorise about this, and that there are some pretty compelling clues. Also, I'm preparing a whole bunch of additional arguments. So stayed tuned!

  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vindefense View Post
    Anlef,

    First, I commend you on a very interesting contribution to Skadi. I have spent some time confirming some of the linguistic comparisons and I have found your research to be very accurate. I will also add that I believe that linguistics is the key to understanding the way our ancestors perceived the divinity.

    Now, here I am tonight enjoying a glass of wine, Handel's Sarabande playing and I am re-reading your first post, and that is when it hits me.
    Thank you, that is nice to hear. I think wine and Händel are excellent aids to soothe the mind for contemplation.

    Here your wrote:

    (...)

    And here:

    (...)

    Now, I must admit that I really did share the view that it would go against reason that the Creator god would need to procreate. But reading your post, I saw that you used the word 'begot'. To me this implies procreation.
    So, I thought about it for a bit and thought about what it takes to procreate. Besides the obvious, it was a Germanic custom and requirement to enter into a marriage contract. Not just Germanic but other branches of the Aryan root also hold marriage to be a sacred contract. Such a contract was a cemented bond, or union. But, what is union? Union is best defined as the combination of the specific into a general whole. Thus, could it be possible that God is composed of the union of male and female entities, so completely joined in wedlock, that they cease to be acknowledged as separate. The perfect combination of masculine and feminine, the light and the darkness, fire and ice, as represented by the Ehwaz or Ehe rune, which is also known as the marriage rune and which List equates "marriage is the raw-root of the Aryans."

    Also, supportive of this is understanding that what we perceive of the natural world gives us a window to the nature and character of the Creator. We recognize this through what seems to be duality, but what is really, unity. The stage where the individual or specific, becomes completely part of the whole. This is represented to us in birth which is the outward manifestation of the symbolic union of marriage. The joining of two.

    This leads me to another realization, that the acknowledgment of the individual entities that make up the whole, was in itself the beginning of the corruption and has likewise weakened the marriage bond.
    Very interesting indeed!

    I have to take some time to absorb this notion, and to luxuriate in its implications. But here are two thoughts up front:

    One is that I was very careful to use the word 'begot' to actually avoid the notion of procreation. I thought it would be a more neutral word, denoting that the one 'proceeds, flows forth' from the other. Obviously I achieved the exact opposite. Yet since it led to your realisation, this is surely not something to weep over.

    My second thought is that your notion reminds me of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, which teaches the unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That concept in itself is comparable to that of the duality prevalent in Indo-European religiosity. What makes it extra juicy is that, traditionally, the unity of man and woman has been considered as the analogy for the Trinity. An analogy, mind you, not an equation. But the idea is the same, that at the very foundation of existence, one finds a being that is whole, yet divided at the same time, although not composed of parts.

    Also, I believe the idea of the Trinity, while quintessentially Christian, is not Judaic in origin, and that in most parts developing and contemplating the Trinity was in the tradition of the Greek philosophers.

  3. #23
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    Addendum: what Saxon religiosity might tell us

    Irminsūl
    Most holy to the Saxons was the Irminsūl. It is disputed whether there was just one Irminsūl or many. What is interesting is that the description of the Irminsūl is very reminiscent of the Jupiter Columns in Roman Germania (and to a lesser extent, Gaul). Since Jupiter and Teiwaz are orginally one and the same god in the Proto-Indo-European pantheon, it is entirely reasonable to think that the/an Irminsūl is dedicated to Teiwaz.

    Now, the etymology of Old Saxon Irminsūl (< Proto-Germanic *Erminasūliz) is a topic of debate among scholars. That the second element means ‘pillar’ is beyond dispute (cf. Modern Dutch zuil ‘pillar’). It is the first element that scholars cannot agree upon. While it is established that irmin (< Proto-Germanic *erminaz) means something along the lines of ‘great’, it is not clear whether Irminsul simply means ‘great pillar’ or that it is a ‘pillar devoted to Irmin’; Irmin then being the name/title of a god.

    Let us therefore take a closer look at the etymology of Proto-Germanic *erminaz (> Old Saxon irmin). A plausible theory is that the word is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *er- ‘fit together, join’; a root from which are also derived Proto-Germanic *armaz (> Modern English arm) and Sanskrit ṛtá ‘divine order’. It is not a stretch, then, to imagine that *erminaz meant ‘great’ in the sense that it denoted ‘what is a fitted whole’, or even ‘what is the fitted whole’. We might then theorise that the Irminsūl is the pillar that is dedicated to that which is great as a transcendent whole. Combined with the other evidence, we might then propose that Erminaz does indeed point to Teiwaz, and that Erminaz and Teiwaz are titles of the same Supreme Being who is the transcendent whole that is the source of creation.

    Remember: the Irminsūl was most holy to the Saxons. What is more holy than the Highest Authority in the Divine Order?

    Sahsnōt
    One of the most important gods in Saxon religiosity was Sahsnōt (also: Saxsnōt). Throughout the years, numerous scholars have argued that this god is the same as Teiwaz. Among other things, they point to the Old Saxon baptismal vow in which the Christian-to-be is ordered to forsake “allum dioboles uuercum and uuordum, Thunaer ende Uoden ende Saxnote” (i.e. to forsake “all the devil’s works and words, Thunar, and Wōdan and Sahsnōt”).

    The etymology of Old Saxon Sahsnōt (and its Old English cognate Seaxnēat) has never been explained to satisfaction. Scholars dispute over the meaning of both elements in the word. The first element could mean both ‘sword’ (< Proto-Germanic *sahsa- ‘(short) sword’), as well as ‘Saxon tribesman’. The second element is usually seen as the word *ganautaz ‘companion’, literally meaning ‘co-user’, which belongs with the verb *ganeutan ‘to co-use’. However, there is no trace of the original prefix *ga- in Sahsnōt. Scholars point to a variant without prefix, as attested in Old Frisian nāt and Old Norse nautr, both meaning ‘companion’. It is my understanding that these unprefixed variant forms are secondary, as they are attested in languages known for their general loss of the *ga-prefix. In Old Saxon this prefix was healthy and strong, in the form of gi-. The proper word to expect in Old Saxon would therefore be ginōt. I believe then that the second element in Sahsnōt does not mean ‘companion’, but is a different word, nōt (< Proto-Germanic *nautaz), that belongs directly to the verb *neutan ‘use, possess’. This word would mean ‘user, owner’. Sahsnōt (< Proto-Germanic *Sahsanautaz), then, would literally mean ‘sword wielder’.

    Note that traditional explanations of Sahsnōt as ‘companion of the Saxons’ or ‘sword-companion’ do not make a whole lot of sense in the first place.

    Identifying Sahsnōt as Sword Wielder makes sense, given the general idea that Sahsnōt is the same as Teiwaz. Why? Because Teiwaz is the Lord of Justice. What is generally the attribute associated with justice? The sword. Lady Justice, for instance, is traditionally depicted as carrying a sword. Historically, the sword is a weapon of a king, i.e. the highest authority, contrasted with the hammer of Şunraz (> Old Norse Şórr), which rather represents brute force. In short: Teiwaz and Sahsanautaz are both titles of the same god, i.e. All-father, Sky-father, Lord of Justice, Sword Wielder, King of Heaven and Earth, Supreme Being. The Saxons, then, would constitute the 'people of the sword', i.e. those who enforce the Divine Order. Whether their understanding of the Divine Order (and their role as enforcers) was valid is another matter, however.

    Also: the dynasty of Essex claimed descent from Seaxnēat. Although claiming descent from gods was normal for our heathen ancestors, claming descent from All-father would make even more sense. It would also dispell notions of Sahsnōt/Seaxnēat being a ‘national god’. That is, at the most, a national god is what he came to be, not what he originally and truly is.

    Note: I am not trying to say that the Saxons (or Germanics in general) were monotheists proper; my suggestions is that Germanic religiosity shows echoes of an ancient monotheism, and that linguistic and other ventures such as these might yield evidence of this lingering monotheism.

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    By the way, I have found an interesting and thorough article, in which the author explains how even in later heathen times Wōdanaz was not much of a chief deity. That his 'rising to the throne' of the pantheon, so to speak, was hardly a fully realised and established act.

    In the same thread where that article was posted, another interesting article, on Tır, was posted, which I believe is worth reading. There the author tries to rehabilitate Tır, and restore his position.

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    Arrow

    "In Tacitus' work Germania from the year 98, regnator omnium deus (god, ruler of all) was a deity worshipped by the Semnones tribe in a sacred grove. [..]"

    "some scholars have identified the deity of the Semnones with an early form of Odin. Others suggest an early form of Tır may have been involved as he is the one to put fetters on Fenrir in Norse mythology; yet Odin is considered the god of binding and fettering of the will. There is insufficient evidence for a certain identification." [...]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regnator_omnium_deus

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    Thanks pppp,

    Very interesting! I wondered why I hadn't spotted that before. It turns out the translation of Germania that I use gives quite a different reading:

    On that place their entire superstition is centred, as though from there the tribe has its origin, as though there the god is ruler of all, and the remainder subordinate and submissive.

    And in the commentary (same book as above) Rives says the following:

    Pettazzoni (1954: 141-5) convincingly argued that the phrase ibi regnator omnium deus does not mean 'in that place is the god who rules all things', as it is usually interpreted, but rather 'in that place the god is absolute ruler'.

    Rives' translation and commentary is pretty recent and well researched. So although it is interesting, I'm not sure it helps my model. I do want to see that article by Pettazzoni! Either way, it is an interesting passage in Germania, as it shows how godliness (i.e. fear of and utmost humility towards a divinity) was not an exclusively Christian thing.

  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anlef View Post
    The etymology of Old Saxon Sahsnōt (and its Old English cognate Seaxnēat) has never been explained to satisfaction. Scholars dispute over the meaning of both elements in the word. The first element could mean both ‘sword’ (< Proto-Germanic *sahsa- ‘(short) sword’), as well as ‘Saxon tribesman’.
    That can be credibly described, as is commonplace, in that the members of that folk called themselves 'Sword companions' or 'sword bearers'. Certainly it comes from the same root as lat. saxum 'stone', i.e. from PIG root *sek- 'to cut'.

    Whether this became the first element of Sahsnōt via the Saxons or directly is rather irrelevant, it would have still meant "highest swordsman of sorts" to the Saxons, since to them their tribal declaration meant no more than 'Swordbearers'/'Swordcompanions'.

    However, there is no trace of the original prefix *ga- in Sahsnōt. Scholars point to a variant without prefix, as attested in Old Frisian nāt and Old Norse nautr, both meaning ‘companion’.
    Assuming it had been sahs for a while, it is well possible actually that a combination sahs-ginōt could have produced sax-not. I disagree with your latter statement that the prefix gi- was automatically all strong - erosion of the unstressed /i/ is always possible (cf. for instance homine(m) > homne > ... > hombre), and is seen at different stages in different German dialects. We would possibly have a medium state of sahs-gnot.

    From there it'd be easy, actually try saying sahsgnot. This would then naturally become *sahsgnōt > *sahsnōt > saxnōt, either by assimilation or by metathesis, or both. Alternatively is also possible. If this took place before Latinisation of script, it would obviously have been collected as Saxnōt, rather than any other "more autochthonous" version.

    but is a different word, nōt (< Proto-Germanic *nautaz), that belongs directly to the verb *neutan ‘use, possess’.
    There is actually a third possibility, which would be nōt (< Proto-Germanic *nauthiz, which would then mean 'need of the Saxons'. The only problem we see here is chronology. At Old-Saxon times we would expect either *nauşiz > *nōşiz or *nauthiz > *nṓdiz, but the above is difficult.

    Still it is offered as a common explanation for the Anglo-Saxon variant Seaxnēat. Perhaps you could help me reconstruct a plausible etymology to come from *nauşiz?

    Note that traditional explanations of Sahsnōt as ‘companion of the Saxons’ or ‘sword-companion’ do not make a whole lot of sense in the first place.
    What, if not a companion, is a God? If we understand 'sword companion' as metaphorically meaning 'battle companion', i.e. 'he who will watch my back in battle' then this is actually more than plausible for a divinity of war.
    -In kalte Schatten versunken... /Germaniens Volk erstarrt / Gefroren von Lügen / In denen die Welt verharrt-
    -Die alte Seele trauernd und verlassen / Verblassend in einer erklärbaren Welt / Schwebend in einem Dunst der Wehmut / Ein Schrei der nur unmerklich gellt-
    -Auch ich verspüre Demut / Vor dem alten Geiste der Ahnen / Wird es mir vergönnt sein / Gen Walhalla aufzufahren?-

    (Heimdalls Wacht, In kalte Schatten versunken, stanzas 4-6)

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    About what people have said on the universe being the result of a balance in opposite forces: we know that in the first second after the Big Bang, there were two opposing forces: Matter and antimatter. However, the universe did not come into being because of a balance. Matter and antimatter particles collided, destroying each other. However, perhaps because some imbalance in antimatter, matter particles managed to survive, whereas antimatter was destroyed. Everything after was the result of the remnants of matter. So we exist not because of a balance, but because of a superior force (matter) destroying its opposite (antimatter). Do you see any problems with this?

    Great thread, and I am reading with interest. I really need to start studying Germanic lore and language more.

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    Without going into excessive detail about the extensive arguments presented here, I will simply note this:

    Any theories about Proto-Germanic religion will inherently be highly speculative, as we possess absolutely no written sources about it. This is what have led authors such as Dumezil, Tolkien and Lewis to speculate based on etymology, and especially reconstructed etymology, to form theories about what might have been back in a time of which we have no written accounts about and sparse archeological finds.

    These hypotheses are based almost entirely on the work of two fantasy authors and a rather excentric historian.
    The works of Dumezil, Tolkien and Lewis are indeed so speculative, hypothetical and at times even self-serving that they cannot be used for any academic, peer-reviewed work.

    Comparing to Roman religion and Hinduism as Dumezil does might result in a few superficial resemblances, but how do account for the huge discrepancies and differences that also occur?

    How do we know with certainty that Hindu monotheism as it exists today is the restoration of original thoughts and not a modern influence by outside monotheism (the Islam of the Mughal conquerors or the Christianity of the British Raj)?

    I am sorry, but these speculations are simply unscientific, however interesting and even fascinating they might be.

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    While I cannot speak much for the linguistic element of the subject at hand, being much more interested in the concepts behind language than language itself, I would like to say that I have always been skeptical of the supposed disparity between monotheism and polytheism.
    To the uninitiated, Christianity would seem polytheistic as the trinity of the Ancient of Days/Father (Gnosis), Christ (Logos), and Holy Spirit (Sophia) are regarded in ways that make them seem separate, but they are in actuality aspects of the same unified Divinity.
    I would say that many of the ancient religions of our ancestors only seemed pluralistic from the perspective of outsiders, and if we were to converse with our ancestors themselves on how they conceptualized their spiritual beliefs, we would see in them an understanding much more in line with monotheism than polytheism.

    In all of my searching, I've never found a description of this inconceivably ancient Indo-European understanding of God than this passage from the Rig Veda:
    "They call him Indra, Mitra, Varuṇa, Agni, and he is heavenly Garuda. To what is One, the sages give many names; they call it Agni, Yama, Matarisvan."

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