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Thread: A Proposed Model of Original Germanic Monotheism

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    A Proposed Model of Original Germanic Monotheism

    A proposed model of original Germanic monotheism

    By Anlef

    Introduction

    In this short article I would like to put forward a controversial yet in my opinion entirely reasonable theory: that the original Indo-European concept of the divine sprang from an originally universal concept of the divine of which traces can be found in the mythologies around the world, and that further research will reveal that Germanic religiosity and Christian religion are ultimately far more compatible than most people think.

    Also, I would strongly advise anyone remotely interested in the subject to read chapter 4 in G.K. Chesterton’s book The Everlasting Man, in which he argues that monotheism did not evolve from polytheism (or, as some would say, is a perversion of polytheism), but rather that polytheism as we know it is a distortion of original monotheism; that at the root of all mythologies there lie monotheistic notions and sensibilities. The book can be read online here. Chesterton was a highly witty Catholic author, who had quite a lot of sympathy for the old heathen religions. I hope the reader ventures upon that text as well as mine with an open mind, setting aside any anti-Christian bias for a moment.

    I would furthermore like to inform the reader of the academic worth of the mythology J.R.R. Tolkien created. I believe that behind the scenes Tolkien was suggesting more or less what I am suggesting here.

    Let it be known that this article is basically just a draft, and that I welcome any suggestions. However, I would ask the reader to first absorb the theory as a whole before dissecting it in its details.


    What we know

    We know from comparative mythology and religion that Teiwaz (> Old Norse Týr), the Sky-father, was the original Indo-European head of the pantheon. Had his full title survived in historic Germanic times, it would have been Teiwaz Fadēr, ‘father-god, father to all the other gods’, which suggests he existed above, beyond and ‘before’ all the other gods. Also, he was in essence the god of Justice, of Divine Law; he determined what was just.

    We know that in a later period the Germanic tribes worshipped ‘Tuisto’ as their ancestral spirit, as well as his progeny ‘Mannus’, who in turn was the progenitor of the tribes. Tacitus wrote in his etnographic work on the Germanic tribes:

    In their old ballads (which amongst them are the only sort of registers and history) they celebrate Tuisto, a God sprung from the earth, and Mannus his son, as the fathers and founders of the nation. To Mannus they assign three sons, after whose names so many people are called; the Ingaevones, dwelling next the ocean; the Herminones, in the middle country; and all the rest, Instaevones. Some, borrowing a warrant from the darkness of antiquity, maintain that the God had more sons, that thence came more denominations of people, the Marsians, Gambrians, Suevians, and Vandalians, and that these are the names truly genuine and original.

    However, in one manuscript a variant of the name ‘Tuisto’ appears, namely ‘Tuisco’.

    We also know that Wōdanaz (> Old Norse Óðinn) came relatively late to the scene, roughly during the Migration Age. He relatively quickly replaced Teiwaz as the chief deity in the Germanic pantheon. This ascension of Wōdanaz, a war god, is most likely the result of the Germanic tribes focussing more on warfare as demographic and political circumstances and pressures took a turn for the worst.

    And we know that by the time of the Viking Age, the Scandinavian pantheon had grown from a small body of Indo-European gods to a vast family tree of gods, giants and other spirits. From this observation, as well as observations of how other mythologies have developed over time, we can extrapolate and deduce that Germanic mythology (and Indo-European mythology before it) has undergone great changes during the ages. It is therefore not at all unreasonable to suggest that one such change entailed the transition from monotheism to polytheism.


    Hypotheses

    With the previous in mind, I would like to offer the following hypotheses.
    • As father to the rest of the gods, Teiwaz was the original All-father. He was the Supreme Being in an original Indo-European monotheism, presiding over lesser gods and divine powers. Teiwaz is one and the same as Eru Ilúvatar in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion and the God in the Bible.
    • ‘Tuisto’ and ‘Tuisco’ basically mean the same. However, the latter is easier to explain etymologically.
    • Tuisco comes from Proto-Germanic *Twiskan (< Pre-proto-Germanic *Tiwiskan), which in turn is derived from Teiwaz, and means ‘descended from Teiwaz’.
    • Twiskan is the name/title of the divinity who is delegated by Teiwaz, the Supreme God, to create mankind.
    • Twiskan is one of a fellowship of divinities that is one and the same as the Valar in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion and the Archangels in the Bible.
    • It might very well be that Twiskan formed a pair with Nerþuz (‘Nerthus’ in Tacitus). And that in turn Twiskan equals Frawjaz (> Old Norse Freyr) ‘lord’ and Nerþuz equals Frijjō (> Old Norse Frigg) and Frau Holle. The idea is that the traditional ‘fertility gods’ are those divinities that were delegated by the Supreme God to form and start human life, as well as other life.
    • (It may be noted that the Vedic divinity commonly associated with Tuisto/Tuisco is Tvastar, who was known as the ‘heavenly builder’, the divinity who forms the bodies of men and animals.)
  2. Twiskan is also one and the same as Heimdall. In other words: Heimdall and Twiskan are respectively Old Norse and Old Germanic titles of the same divinity.
  3. Heimdall was the creator of mankind, just like Twiskan. Both created a three-fold division of mankind.
  4. According to Dumézil Heimdall was a first god, which is not the same as the highest god. This makes sense in the model I propose. In my model Teiwaz is the Supreme Being who first creates a race of gods. Twiskan/Heimdall is the first of these gods.
  5. According to the Poetic Edda Heimdall is a son of Óðinn (< Proto-Germanic *Wōdanaz), while the latter is a later addition to the Germanic pantheon. It is plausible that since Wōdanaz basically replaced Teiwaz, he was ultimately associated with many of the original qualities and roles of Teiwaz. On such role is that Teiwaz was the father of Heimdall.
  6. The name Heimdall, while not etymologically clear, seems to have a female equivalent in the form of Mardǫll, in Eddic literature. These names can then be explained as ‘light over the world’ and ‘light over the sea’, respectively. Now, we know that Mardǫll is a title of Frigg. Since a case can be made that Frigg is the original partner of Twiskan, it can here be argued that Heimdall is a title of Twiskan.
  • Recapulating, it is possible that Twiskan, Freyr, Heimdall and perhaps also Ingwaz are all titles of the same divinity, and that his original ‘spouse’ was a divinity known by titles as Nerþuz, Frigg, Freyja, Mardǫll and Frau Holle. Remember that there seems to be a tendency in mythology to have more and more characters until the pantheon becomes quite crowded. It is reasonable to say that many characters are mistakenly ‘split’ into multiple characters.
  • ‘Mannus’ (< Mannaz) is the first human and as such equal to Adam from the Bible. We are, in a sense, all (like) Mannaz, but we are also the offspring of the original Mannaz, we are manniskan. However, Mannaz was mistakenly seen as a God, by the unqualified tendency to deify ancestors.
  • Wōdanaz was a legendary warrior-poet of some sort, who introduced the runes. He was either
  • a lesser divine power incarnate (comparable to Gandalf in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings) who was mistakenly promoted in the original divine hierarchy, or
  • a worldly figure who was eventually (and by definition mistakenly) deified.
  • The three major and related flaws in Germanic (and Indo-European) religiosity are
  • the gradual shift from a monotheistic divine order to a polytheistic jungle,
  • the continuous rearranging of the divine order, and
  • the habit of adding characters by deifying ancestors or otherwise.



  • A retelling of Genesis from Germanic perspective

    First, there was Teiwaz Fadēr, ‘father of the divine powers’, who created the heavens and the Earth.

    Proto-Germanic *Teiwaz


    Teiwaz begot, among others, Twiskan, ‘descendant of Teiwaz, he who is like Teiwaz’, a lesser divinity delegated by Teiwaz to create mankind and other life.

    Proto-Germanic *Twiskan (< Pre-proto-Germanic *Tiwiskan)


    Twiskan begot Mannaz, ‘human’, the first human, ancestor to all of us.

    Proto-Germanic *Mannaz


    Mannaz begot Manniskan, ‘human, he who is like Mannaz’, man as we know him.

    Proto-Germanic *Manniskan


    Notice the linguistic symmetry between Teiwaz who begets Twiskan, and Mannaz who begets Manniskan. I would think the ontological gulf between Teiwaz and Twiskan is far smaller than that between Twiskan and Mannaz. That would also explain why Twiskan is derived from Teiwaz, while Mannaz is not derived from Twiskan (or Teiwaz, for that matter).


    Implications


    Closing notes


    Disclaimer: preparing and formatting this text took precious time; please be gentle.

    The blue text is a later addition.
    Last edited by Anlef; Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 at 04:45 PM. Reason: Hypotheses added and extra formatting.
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    Linguistic addendum

    For those wondering why the derivation from *Teiwaz is *T(i)wiskan and not *Teiwiskan, here's why:

    Proto-Germanic inherited a so called ablaut-system from Proto-Indo-European. Basically this means Proto-Germanic roots can have different 'vowel modes'. Take for instance the root *flug-; it was at the base of the Proto-Germanic verb *fleugan (> Modern English (to) fly, Modern High German fliegen, Modern Dutch vliegen).

    • The infinitive was *fleug-an. It features the e-grade of the root.
    • The third person singular past tense was flaug. It features the a-grade of the root.
    • The third person plural past tense was fl[x]ug-un. It features the zero-grade of the root.
    • The past participle was (ga)-fl[x]ug-an. It also features the zero-grade of the root.


    (The '[x]' means no vowel is present where one could have been.) In Modern Dutch these forms have become vliegen, vloog, vlogen, gevlogen. A derivation of the same root led to fl[x]ug-il-az (> Modern Dutch vleugel), meaning 'wing'.

    As you can see, the zero-grade was mostly featured in words with suffixes, as in fact the stress in such words was on the part of the suffixes. The part of the word with no stress would usually have a short vowel. This was the Indo-European way. However, in Proto-Germanic this would all change:

    1. Indo-European had variable stress.
    2. Pre-proto-Germanic had variable stress; suffixes were usually stressed!
    3. Proto-Germanic had stress on the root, usually.


    If we go back to *flug- and its conjugations and derivations we can see how in Pre-proto-Germanic the stress was variable:

    FLEUgan
    FLAUG
    fluGUN
    (ga)fluGAN
    fluGILaz


    While in Proto-Germanic the stress was mostly fixed on the root of the word:

    FLEUgan
    FLAUG
    FLUgun
    (ga)FLUgan
    FLUgilaz



    Back to *Teiwaz and *T(i)wiskan. Since the latter is a derivation of the former, it is perfectly normal how the zero-grade of the root was used: *T[x]iw-isk-an. It was pronounced TiWISkan in Pre-proto-Germanic times. Later on the first /i/ was dropped to make pronunciation much easier, and when the stress patterns had eventually changed in Proto-Germanic times it was pronounced as TWISkan. Since the stress had moved to the front of the word, the ending wore off. By that time we have the word that Tacitus recorded: Twisko.

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    Senior Member Thyriusz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anlef View Post
    [*]Germanic religiosity and Christian religion can be harmonised.
    That's the sole purpose, an attempt to combine christian and germanic religion, which would be unnecessary, if christianity would not be so alien to us.

    Don't get me wrong, i don't imply bad intentions from your side, but this is perverting the ways of ours. Germanic Faith and Christianity is absolutely different from its very core on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thyriusz View Post
    That's the sole purpose, an attempt to combine christian and germanic religion, which would be unnecessary, if christianity would not be so alien to us.
    I understand your objection. But take note of this: what was normal and familiar to our ancestors in Pre-proto-Germanic times might very well have been very alien to our ancestors in Proto-Germanic times. And so on: what was normal and familiar to our ancestors in Proto-Germanic times might very well have been very alien to our ancestors in the Viking Age. Imagine, then, how alien the nature of Pre-proto-Indo-European religiosity would be to modern Germanic heathens. Do you see my point?

    That it seems and feels alien is, in my opinion, something you have to set aside for a moment, since we know for a fact that the religiosity of our ancestors has changed considerably. Estrangement from the oldest notions in the most ancient of times becomes greater and greater over time. Especially since our whole ancestral religiosity has relied on oral tradition for so long. Say what you will about scriptural tradition, but you must admit that it's far easier for a message to become distorted when it is passed orally throughout the ages.

    And you have to ask yourself: what is more important, whether we are true to the divine order as it really is, or whether we stick to what feels familiar? (Please forgive me if I sound pedantic.)

    Don't get me wrong, i don't imply bad intentions from your side, but this is perverting the ways of ours. Germanic Faith and Christianity is absolutely different from its very core on.
    We'll see about that.

    Indeed, I don't have bad intentions. I considered myself a heathen up until a few years ago; I still have great sympathy for heathenry. But, just like G.K. Chesterton, I can't help but think monotheism is closer to the truth than polytheism as it is presently understood.

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    Other hypotheses

    Added to the original article.

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    Senior Member velvet's Avatar
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    I see some major flaws in your theory.

    First, while Tolkien indeed incorporated a lot of stuff from all sorts of mythology, one should not forget that Lord of the Rings is a FANTASY novel, as well as all his mystic world middle earth is.
    Dont get me wrong, I love Tolkien, but it is, even if highly educated, just fantasy.

    Second, proto-Germanic is a completely reconstructed language from scholars, that were at large christians and made heavy use of the interpretatio romana to fill in 'gaps'. Not with educated knowledge, but with what seemed fit for whatever point they wanted to proove. Proto-Germanic is by far no exact science.

    To base any serious theory on a combination of both seems to me a bit far out, sorry.


    Third, you try to proove the existence of a supreme being, but all you do it prooving the opposite, as any other theorist before you.

    The problem starts with the pair of gods, call them however you want, but the basic is a pair of the earth goddess and the sky god. End of story, end of monotheism. There has never been a single 'supreme being'. Thus, christianity (monopol, eh -theistic) and Paganism (polytheism) cannot be reconciled.

    And there is another problem. While Pagans regocnise the duality of everything and generate from that a much deeper and more complete understanding of the worlds and how they work, the monotheistic religions try to singularise everything. A singularity based worldview actually would render reality invalid. However, both worldviews that derive from this different understanding or misunderstanding of basic principles of life are not compatible or reconcileable.
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    Senior Member BurgMeister's Avatar
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    What I'd like to point out is that Late Neolithic burial sites all seem to follow a similar scheme towards a singular deity.

    To make it simple, I'll start from something everyone's supposed to know:

    In Greek mythology, Zeus is the king of the Olympian gods.
    But what interests me is less his function than his name.

    Indeed, Zeus is written 'Ζευς' and pronounced 'Dzeous'.
    The etymology of this word seems to be strongly linked to the Vedic Dhyauws(द्योस्).

    What striked me in your report is that Teiwaz's etymology can also be linked to the Vedic Dhyauws.

    Could this be a valuable explanation to the remains of early Neolithic burial cults?

    Considering that I am unable to link such etymology with Celtic deities (not surprizing if you consider that Celtic mythology is Celticized Basque mythology) and, more importantly; with Slavic deities such as Dajbog (Дажбог, Solar god): No.
    As a consequence, Kurgan burial sites (which are part of Neolithic burial cults) cannot be linked with the original Dhyauws
    http://forums.skadi.net/image.php?type=sigpic&userid=35100&datel  ine=1263407728

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    Thanks for your input, Velvet!

    Quote Originally Posted by velvet View Post
    I see some major flaws in your theory.

    First, while Tolkien indeed incorporated a lot of stuff from all sorts of mythology, one should not forget that Lord of the Rings is a FANTASY novel, as well as all his mystic world middle earth is.
    Dont get me wrong, I love Tolkien, but it is, even if highly educated, just fantasy.
    You're right, he wrote fantasy, and as such not actual lore. Yet I didn't involve him and his work to prove my specific arguments, I did it because I believe it shows how the difference between Germanic (< Indo-European) religiosity and Christian religion isn't as great as many would claim.

    Second, proto-Germanic is a completely reconstructed language from scholars, that were at large christians and made heavy use of the interpretatio romana to fill in 'gaps'. Not with educated knowledge, but with what seemed fit for whatever point they wanted to proove. Proto-Germanic is by far no exact science.
    I would agree with you that a scientist's personal motives will always seep through, into his/her work, and influence objectivity. Yet the same goes for heathen scientists. Plus, the reconstruction of heathen religiosity so far has just as much relied on linguistic research. So the burden lies on all our shoulders. Trying to know anything about the (original) nature of Germanic religiosity will require linguistic research, regardless of your affiliation or bias.

    Furthermore, the reconstruction of Proto-Germanic has been pretty hard-core so far. A very real and scientific part of it is creating theories, models and laws (of sound changes and such) and testing them for each and every instance. As such linguistic research like this is pretty much settled science. Criticism will have to be pointed at specific parts of the reconstruction. Merely saying reconstruction in general is not to be trusted, without giving specific examples why, is, I'm afraid, far too easy.

    To base any serious theory on a combination of both seems to me a bit far out, sorry.
    We'll have to see where my model fails specifically.

    Third, you try to proove the existence of a supreme being, but all you do it prooving the opposite, as any other theorist before you.

    The problem starts with the pair of gods, call them however you want, but the basic is a pair of the earth goddess and the sky god. End of story, end of monotheism. There has never been a single 'supreme being'. Thus, christianity (monopol, eh -theistic) and Paganism (polytheism) cannot be reconciled.
    I would say this is one of the greater challenges to my model, indeed. However, I don't think there is enough evidence to reject that this basic pair (an Earth-mother and a Sky-father) is an early change. Besides, in my model there is such a basic pair: Twiskan, who of all the gods is most like All-father (and a bit of Sky-god himself) and the Earth-mother proper.

    Note also that in Hinduism, which is also Indo-European, there is a Supreme Being too, who is beyond any pairing.

    Proving the existence of the Supreme Being is another matter entirely, by the way. Lets say you're right, and agree that nowhere in the Indo-European tradition there was anything like a Supreme Being. That doesn't mean there is no Supreme Being in reality. But this is besides the point of this model.

    And there is another problem. While Pagans regocnise the duality of everything and generate from that a much deeper and more complete understanding of the worlds and how they work, the monotheistic religions try to singularise everything. A singularity based worldview actually would render reality invalid. However, both worldviews that derive from this different understanding or misunderstanding of basic principles of life are not compatible or reconcileable.
    I'm not sure I understand what you mean. I would agree there might be more duality to be found in Indo-European religiosity. However, is it really such a stretch to think that before all duality, there was one singularity? That above and beyond twoness, there is oneness? That the many come from the one?

    Also, say there is only twoness at the bottom. What makes the two stick together? There has to be an overarching thing to keep them together. A principle at the very least, yet something greater.

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    BurgMeister,

    Indeed, all those names come from the same Proto-Indo-European root. See this overview.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anlef View Post
    BurgMeister,

    Indeed, all those names come from the same Proto-Indo-European root. See this overview.
    Everyone knows this, yes; Dumézil wrote a very good book about it also...

    What I point out is that Dhyauws oddly can't be linked with the descendants of the Kurgans in Europe: The Slavs.
    http://forums.skadi.net/image.php?type=sigpic&userid=35100&datel  ine=1263407728

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