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Thread: In Their Ancient Hymns: the Common Germanic Origin Myth

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    In Their Ancient Hymns: the Common Germanic Origin Myth

    "In their ancient hymns (which amongst them are the only sort of records and history) they celebrate Tuisto, a god sprung from the earth, and Mannus his son, as the fathers and founders of their people. To Mannus they asign three sons, after whose names so many people are called; the Ingaevones, dwelling by the seashore; the Herminones, in the interior; and all the rest, Istaevones. Some, borrowing the liscence that pertains to 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." Cornelius Tacitus (Germania, 1st century CE)

    Such is what we have of the earliest known Germanic origin myth. It is recorded in the works of both Tacitus and Pliny, both hailing frm the 1st century of the Common Era, and was already considered "ancient" at the time of it's observance by the Romans.

    While seemingly obscure on first glance from the stand point of one acquainted only with Eddic myth, one figure immediately stands out from a comparative Indo-European perspective; the god Mannus.

    The name Mannus has since evolved into Man in Modern English; though prior to the 13th century it was understood as a reference to genus as in human. Within a greater Indo-European context, it is cognate to the Indo-Iranian god-name Manu. Of Manu the Mahabharata states,

    "And Manu was imbued with great wisdom and devoted to virtue. And he became the progenitor of a line. And in Manu's race have been born all human beings, who have, therefore, been called Manavas. And it is of Manu that all men including Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, and others have been descended, and are, therefore, all called Manavas. Subsequently, O monarch, the Brahmanas became united with the Kshatriyas. And those sons of Manu that were Brahmanas devoted themselves to the study of the Vedas. The ten sons of Manu are known as Vena, Dhrishnu, Narishyan, Nabhaga, Ikshvaku, Karusha, Saryati, the eighth, a daughter named Ila, Prishadhru the ninth, and Nabhagarishta, the tenth. They all betook themselves to the practices of Kshatriyas. Besides these, Manu had fifty other sons on Earth. But we heard that they all perished, quarrelling with one another."

    While numerical value might differ, here we read essentially the same myth of Mannus, the co-progenitor of Mankind, who had a number of glorious sons, but also a number of others who, in the end, weren't so glorious.

    In this fact alone we can see that this "Ancient Hymn" is, at least in part, as ancient as boasted; containing elements directly descend from "Indo-European times".

    In terms of Eddic gods Mannus would seem to most closely resemble Rig-Heimdall; in their mutual asosciation with mankind, the social hierarchy, kingship, and etiquette.

    As Tuisto is named as the father of Mannus, we might expect that he is at least as ancient. The name or title, Tuisto, however is rather obscure. Jacob Grimm suggests that it is a corruption based on the P.I.E. root of the god-name Tiw, yielding a meaning of "son of Tiw". As this same P.I.E. root gave us such other god-names as the Sanskrit Dyaus, the Greek Zeus, the Latin Jovis, etc., not to mention the basic Indo-European word for god, the *root* itself certainly makes a degree of sense.

    Others however see the name being built from the "two-root" (tva, tvis), which itself is a fair notion. No reaching required or intellecutal gymnastics required. However, this observatin is generally followed with some reaching assumptions of it's own; that Tuisto "must" therefore mean twin, and must therefore mean he was a "composite being" identical to the Eddic Ymir, becasue Ymir also means twin -- or at least did back in "P.I.E. times", if not Old Icelandic times -- and is related to the Sanskrit Yama, who is the (animal) brother of Manu in old Hindu myth.

    Taking the name we have, Tuisto, and looking at it within a thoroughly Germanic context and making a best approximation, would seem IMO (a layman opinion) to point us toward the Modern English word twist and it's various cognates in the various Germanic tongues, eg. zwist, tvista, etc. It is also built on the "two-root" (as are MANY words/concepts, not JUST twin), and in all languages but the English (for whatever reason), it carries the meaning of "dispute/conflcit".

    A title that carried the sense of "dispute/conflict" would point us back to Grimm's initial gut instinct; that the name/title Tuisto had a relation to the god Tiw. Even in the Eddas Tiw is remember as being no peacemaker. And indeed, it was Tiw that was glossed as Mars; while Mars himself was no mere god of war, but also the progenitor of the tribes of Rome even as Tuisto is the progenitor of the Germanic peoples.

    Speaking of the Eddas, for their own part they do perserve the basic pattern of the Tuisto myth ... Mother Nurture (cow, earth) shapes a god (Buri, Tuisto) who begets a god (Bor, Mannus) who begets a trio of brother-gods (Woden-Will-Weoh, Ingui-Irmin-Istaev). The Eddic Ymir stands outside of this pattern and is in nowise "celebrated" as either Tuisto is in the Anceint Hymns, or as Yama is in Indo-Iranian belief.

    Tangently, Ymir, as the primal ox, stands juxtaposed to the primal cow, Audhumbla. Woden's slaughter of him is of course a mythic parallel to the act of animal sacrifice that our ancestors called Blot, rightdown to the custom of setting the blot-animals head apart as the portion that goes to the gods and even the hoisting of it on a pole as observed amongst the Danes for example. Interestingly, the early Hindus sometimes perceived Tiw's Indic cognate, Dyaus, as a red ox whose bellowing was the thunder, while Earth's counterpart, Prthivi was at times perceived as a cow. And perhaps even more interestingly, they say that Dyaus and Prthivi were originally a composite being called Dyausprthivi, but that Prthivi eventually gave birth to Dyaus, who then took his "mother" as a consrt.

    One might begin to wonder if the notion of "twin" and Ymir doesn't fit in their somehow afterall?

    As for the sons of Mannus. the first two are easily identifiable as FreyR and Odhinn. FreyR for instance was also called Yngvi-FreyR and the Swedish royals, the Ynglings, looked to him as their divine progenitor even as all of the seashore tribes, the Ingaevones, did. The term -ing means descendent/offshoot. The name Ingui which is the exact cognate of the Old Norsew Yngvi is found in the geneology of the Royal House of Anglisc Berncia in England, and like the Swedish beliefs regarding the holy power of FreyR's bones, the Berncians believed that the blood and bones of such prominent kings as Oswald had healing/holy/hallowing/whole properties.

    The Viking Age sources also preserve Jormun -- cognate to the German Irmin and the Old English Eorman, meaning Great/Encompassing -- as one of Woden's many bynames. The Saxon clergyman Widukind (not to be mistaken for the resistence leader of the same name) noted that the Irminsul was raised in honour of Mars who was called Hermes ... the confusion between Mercurius/Hermes and Mars being a clear indication of Woden, rather than Tiw, even if the explicit Eddaic association between Woden and Jormun weren't themselves enough.

    With this all laid out for what it's worth, it seems to me that once we take Mannus' first son, Ing, into account we can see how central this "Ancient Hymn" was to our folk in the Germanic alphabet known as the futhark. As you might well know the futhark was authored amongst men no later than the mid-1st century CE, ie. the Meldorf Brooch, and that our folks earliest example of experimentation with written text goes back to 300 BCE and the Negua Helm. So, the "Ancient Hymns" were certainly the standard as the futhark was being formulated. Thus it cannot be mere coincidence that in the 3rd aett of the futhark, generally considered the "divine" aett, we find runes for Tiw at the head of the aett, soon to be followed by the Man rune, and then to again be followed up by the Ing rune. In short, as first suggested by Freyja Aswynn in her book Leaves of Yggdrasil, this anceint myth of the ethnogenesis of the Germanic peoples is itself INGRAINED in the 3rd aett of the futhark.

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    Just a few nits to pick, in all respect.

    Tangently, Ymir, as the primal ox, stands juxtaposed to the primal cow, Audhumbla
    Ymir was a Giant.. not a Cow.

    Mother Nurture (cow, earth) shapes a god (Buri, Tuisto)
    Auđumbla, only licked the salt that freed Buri from the ice. She did not create him or give him his shape. She only uncovered what was already existent.

    Nerthus was the Mother of Earth if we go in that fashion at all.

    Earth as we would consider it was not even formed yet when Auđumbla was nourishing Ymir. Lastly, It was from Ymir's flesh that the earth was formed from, as you may recall.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aedan View Post
    Ymir was a Giant.. not a Cow.
    I came across a dictionary reference, by all means correct me if I'm wrong, that the name Ymir is a form of a word that the folks that spoke the language of the Eddas used to reference ox. AS they used the name Ymir it meant, bellower, noisemaker. Meanwhile, Ymir's Sanskrit cognate, Yama, was mostly seen as a horse -- his death being the first horse sacrifice, which stands alongside the ox sacrifce as basic I-E -- which really should give us reason to loosen our thinking and make it less analytical reductionist and more in line with the poetic thinking of the elders.


    Quote Originally Posted by Aedan View Post
    Auđumbla, only licked the salt that freed Buri from the ice. She did not create him or give him his shape. She only uncovered what was already existent.
    Yes. Audhumbla licked the ice block. And on the first day a man's hair appeared, on the second his head, and on the third his entire form. The Eddas mention nothing of Buri already existing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aedan View Post
    Nerthus was the Mother of Earth if we go in that fashion at all.

    Earth as we would consider it was not even formed yet when Auđumbla was nourishing Ymir. Lastly, It was from Ymir's flesh that the earth was formed from, as you may recall.
    If we are going by the Eddas then Jord is, literally, ie. the lingusitic cognate of, Earth. The cow is the animal form of the earth; both representing Mother Nurture, ie. the nurturing quality of nature.

    Again, logical reductionist thinking is of little use when considering myth. And in this case is actually detrimental to noting the fundamental pattern, which is of course the point of the comparison.

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