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Thread: Old Norse Naming Practices

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    Old Norse Names

    In general, parents named their children after a deceased relative or hero. In some way the child was believed to inherit with the name the gifts or personality of their namesake: this belief almost seems to have been one of reincarnation of the named relative in the new child once the name was bestowed.

    It was very common to give children the names of honored relatives, for the Northmen believed that children would partake of the virtues of the ones whose names they bore. Relatives recently dead, in particular, were thus remembered by their kindred, a custom resulting from a half belief that the spirit of the beloved dead lived again in the little child. Present day Scandinavians still "call up" deceased members of their families in this manner. (Social Scandinavia p. 61).
    The religious basis of the practice was that a departed ancestor is reborn and again rejoins the living members of the family if his/her name is given to the new-born child. Only the departed ancestor was, therefore, renamed so long as the belief was a living force.... Originally the naming of the first two sons must have been very varied; it could have been after the father only in a small proportion of cases, or after an uncle in perhaps a somewhat larger proportion of cases; or again the child might be named after some other relative of the parents, as a cousin. Undoubtedly, however, it was a grandparent in a relatively large number of cases. If one or more of the grandparents were dead the old belief would practically decree it and filial love would perpetuate the practice after the belief no longer existed in its old form. As long as the old belief continued the cases of renamings of the child's great grandparent would undoubtedly dominate, but as soon as it ceased to be believed that reincarnation of the departed in the child took place with the bestowal of the name of the deceased, the possibilities for new forms of the practice were at once at hand. (Flom, p. 249, 251).
    Several scholars have commented on this, seeing it as a belief in transmigration of the soul among the Old Norse:

    According to the pagan view the name was a part of the personality, or rather the name in some mysterious way represented the spiritual and intellectual element of the individual for whom it stood. After death the soul went with the name and the individual was restored to new life with the name. But the soul and consequently the name signified not only renewed life in a new body, but a continuation of the whole siritual personality of the departed in the new body. The new-born child so named would with the name become endowed with the character and the personal qualities of the departed. (Flom, p. 252).
    There seem to have been definitite patterns in selecting which deceased relative's name would be used for a newborn. Scholars have analyzed historical records to determine these patterns, and in fact the practice has continued, though not as strictly, through the present day. The hierarchy of choosing a name was as follows:

    Man opkalder altid afdøde Slægtninge, helst direkte Forfædre, men ogsaa Faders eller Moders eller Farfaders eller Morfaders broder of Söstre: Naar en nær Slægtning dör kort för et Barns Födsel, helst under Svangerskabet, faar Barnet altid den Afdödes Navn; En Sön födt efter Faderen dör faar altid Faderens Navn; Naar den Opkaldte har et almindeligt Navn opkaldes Barnet med Tilnavnet.

    A child was always named after a dead family member, ideally a direct forefather, but also paternal or maternal aunts or uncles, great-aunts, or great-uncles. When a close relative dies shortly before the birth of a child, particularly while the child is in utero, the child is always given the name of the deceased. A son born after the father dies is always given the name of the father. When the person-being-named-after has a common name, the child is given the person-being-named-after's nickname (byname) [as well as the personal name]. (Ström, quoted by Flom, pp. 248-249. Special thanks to Mistress Brynhildr jarla Kormáksdóttir for assistance with the translation.)

    Other Considerations in Name-Giving

    Aside from the practice of naming children after deceased relatives, the two major principles of Germanic name-giving also influenced how children were named.

    Alliteration: The first principle was alliteration, in which the same sound at the beginning of one name is repeated in another, for example:

    Sometimes the names went from generation to generation in an alliterating series (Agni, Alrek, Yngvi, Iörund, Aun, Egil, Óttar, Adils, Eystein, Yngvar, Önund, Ingiald, Olaf were successive kings of the Uppsala dynasty, all with names beginning with a vowel) (Viking Achievement p. 115).

    Variation: The second principle was variation, the practice of forming a new name so that it differs from that of others in the family by changing one element in the name: sometimes names were chosen on the so-called "variation" principle -- a ninth-century Norwegian Végeirr had sons Vébjörn, Vésteinn, Véþormr, Vémundr, Végestr and more children with names of the same kind. (Viking Achievement p. 115).

    When variation was used, the childrens' names often contained one of the same name-elements found in the parents' names (Sørensen, "Personal Names", p. 499). Variation was not limited to keeping the first syllable unchanged: family names might use variation by changing the first name element in the various names while keeping the second name element the same, for example: Abjörn, Finnbjörn, Gunnbjörn, Hallbjörn, Ketilbjörn.

    The use of variation and alliteration appear to be the oldest Germanic practice. The custom of naming a newborn after a deceased relative displaced the older custom sometime during the 9th and 10th centuries.

    Single-Element Names vs. Compound Names

    The basic Old Norse name was usually composed of two name elements, although some names had only one element. Some good examples of single-element names might include:

    Male
    Egill
    Björn
    Fálki
    Úlfr

    Female
    Auðr
    Bera
    Drífa
    Finna

    Two-element names are combinations of single-elements. These single elements may sometimes be found standing alone as a single-element name, but the majority are found only in compound names. For instance:

    Male
    Þórbrandr (Þórr+brandr)
    Björnólfr (Bjorn+Úlfr)
    Guðmundr (Guðr+mundr)

    Female
    Ragnhildr (Reginn+Hildr)
    Álfdís (Alf+Dís)
    Halldóra (Halla+Þórr)

    It is crucial to understand that one cannot simply "mix-and-match" with random name-elements. Some name elements are only found in the first position and never in the second, while others occur only in the second element and never the first. And in some cases certain name elements were used only with a limited set of other name elements in compound names. As Geirr Bassi notes:

    Not all simple names occur in compounds; some may be used only as the first or the second element while some occur in both positions. If it were not for this problem of limited constructability, it would suffice to supply a list of 'name elements' from which compound names could be constructed at will. But a great number of potential compounds constructable from popular elements do not show up anywhere in the extensive documentation. To cite an example, the simple name Hallr (feminine: Halla) is documented as the first element of many compounds: (masculine) Hallbjörn, Halldór, Hallfreðr, Hallgeirr, Hallgrímr, Hallkell, Hallormr, Hallsteinn, Hallvarðr, (feminine) Hallbera, Hallbjörg, Halldís, Halldóra, Hallfríðr, Hallgerðr, Hallkatla, Hallveig, Hallvör, but it is not attested in compounds with the popular second components (masculine) -brandr, -fiðr, -finnr, -gautr, -gestr, - móðr, -oddr, -ólfr, -valdr, or (feminine) -finna, -gríma, -hildr, -ný, -unn, etc., although all such compounds are certainly theoretically possible. (The Old Norse Name, p. 5)

    There are also some elements which are only found in male names, while others are found exclusively in female names. In the first case, it may be that we are just missing women's names containing elements that are well-documented in men's names, since we have many fewer women's names surviving from this period than men's names. Some examples of name elements which are exclusive to women's names are: -dís, -veig, -ný.

    Names and Luck

    In Hauksbók it is mentioned that it was the practice to name children after the gods (Goð-, "god"; Þór-, "Thórr"; Frey-, "Freyr"; Regin-, "power, the gods"; Ás-, "god") and that:

    ...menn höfdu mjök þá tvau nöfn, þótti þat likast til langlifis ok heilla, þótt nokkurir fyrirmælti þeim við goðin, þá mundi þat ekki saka, eí þeir ætti eitt nafn...

    Thus it was thought that a compound name composed of two name-elements gave luck and long life, especially those compounded with the names of gods, and that people who had such compound names would have langlifis ok heilla, "long life and health", and it was also thought that if someone cursed a person by calling on the Old Norse gods that it would not hurt the person who was a namesake of the god invoked in the curse (Cleasby-Vigfusson, pp. 207-208 s.v. goð).

    Name Meanings

    Even a brief look through a list of Old Norse names reveals that the majority contain one or more name-elements which are identical to ordinary nouns and adjectives in Old Norse. While certainly people were aware of the meanings of these words which continued being used in the everyday language, some name-elements are derived from archaic words which were present in the most ancient Germanic roots of Old Norse, but which were no longer commonly in use. Modern philologists make a study of these names and attempt to reconstruct the ancient forms based on well-known rules which describe the way human languages change over time.

    Even in cases where name meanings were clearly understood in a contemporary sense, the meaning of the name was not important in choosing a name for a child. As has already been discussed, the use of a family name belonging to an ancestor was the most important factor for the Viking Age practice of naming.

    While the meanings of the names would not have influenced which name a Viking Age child was given, modern parents write and ask about names to give to their children today, medieval recreationists using these names for their Viking Age personas care about the meanings of names, and so forth. Just recall that a Viking hearing someone introduced as Björn probably didn't immediately think of a bear, any more than a modern person being introduced to a man named Forrest thinks of trees, or hearing of a person named Christie assumes that they are Christian. With a little thought certainly these meanings become apparent, and even today become the grist for puns, joke, nicknames or compliments -- but what we hear first when we hear a name is a "name word" and not the meaning underlying it.

    Nicknames and Short-form Names

    In addition, people were sometimes called by heiti, uppnefi, or viðrnefni (bynames or nicknames). These nicknames were rarely, if ever, used by the person themselves, and almost never used to the person's face. You were tagged by your friends (or enemies) with a byname. This becomes painfully obvious when you look at the historical bynames we have recorded. they are invariably descriptive, and mostly derogatory in some way, though a few denote desireable traits the person was known for.

    Bynames can be divided roughly into eight categories: (1) physical characteristics, (2) habits, (3) temperament, (4) occupation, (5) place of origin, (6) biographical, (7) inherited bynames, and (8) other. Studies of the bynames of modern Icelanders seem to indicate that the first two types of byname are the most prevalent.

    Perhaps eventually I will compile a list of Norse bynames to accompany this article, however at the present time I am concentrating on further enriching the personal name information. In the meantime, perhaps the best collection of nick-names in Old Norse is to be found in Geirr Bassi Haraldsson's The Old Norse Name. Another source is in the glossaries and appendices of Viking Age literature such as the sagas.


    ***********************

    Ok, the next one might sound strange to you, but if you're looking for a beautiful Viking name, just have a look at the names the Icelanders give their horses. They're still using only old names, inspired by Norse Mythology, for their horses and the stallions and mares only have names also humans would have.

    Icelandic Viking names for men
    Icelandic Viking names for women

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    Norse names

    Names are magic, and gives tendences for the charachers development and shaping. Slave or Thrall would forexample be burdening names, like "A boy named Sue"...

    Randi, from Ran -A sea god, and dise - female deities, often considered godesses of fruitfulness. I like it.

    Personally I like the name Odd ( meaning Edge, like on an arrow or knife)very good. A bit ...odd.. in english, but referers to Odin.

    Thor, and double names of Thor (Thor Erik etc) have a reneissance here now, as also old norse female names. However some spell it Tor. IMO opinion, it should be spelled Thor. One reason for that is simply that we lack the Th letter as in Icelandic.

    But the major reason is that the original spelling of Thor shold be Thorn, Ur, Raido, all three runes dedicated to Thor. The simple T, points directly at Tyr.
    An Othal would referer to Odin. Not a bad bindings that either.

    Ragnar are in good use i Norway, and would be a helpful name for a rocker...

    One should beware of vulgarizing forms of names, as good names are balanced unities, and by removing one single letter, the name may become not like intended.

    A few years ago, the police published names and photos of the 100 most notorious petty criminals in Oslo. Nearly 20 of them were named Ronny, Johnny and Willy... Not Ronald and William.
    However I know plenty of decent and highly respectable men with these modernized names, and all you, please execuse my example.

    These may work well in another spiritual sphere, but maybe not in Norway. Just an example of the balanced construction of names. Every letter counts.

    Håkon or Hakon(M), referers to hawk, and is closely related to Frøya, and her spirits lurking in the curtains. The name referers to the Queens subjectivity for her son. A very good name. Favorized by Frøya.

    Alvild, or Alvilde, (F), may mean Elf- and ilde, probably another word for -gold. Can any of the Icelenders please enlight us on that word -ilde?

    Frode (M) comes from Frey, and can be considered <frodig> (fruitful), in norse lingo related to frø, frukt, fred, (seeds, growth, fruit, and peace) The totem animal to this name would be a <frosk>(the frog), related to Frey, and a powerful talisman for fruitfullness. I

    If you want children, just place a frog figure beside your bed, or under the pillow with a little prayer to Frey, and you will probably be pregnant before you reah to say no! Frey, (the dickman, pikkemannen) are also known to be able to visit females at night and making them pregnant. Specially in rainy weather.

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    Re: Norse names

    Jarle is a special name, means earl, http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~cousin/html/p282.htm#i17045

    Another name related to Frøy is Inge. The name referers to the Ing rune. I interprent Ing- as close to the principe of creative potens. Those I know by that name, are impressing creative and lofty in their arts.

    Then we have Trond / or Tron, which IMO points to "a throne". Also the sacred mountain Tron in Alvdal confirms that. The mountain is high, with a nearly flat plateau upon. A great throne.

    Frid do I believe to mean Friggas dis, maybe the root have been Friggdis?

    Reidar, the -ar ending means warrior. Reid referer to the rune Raido, and in this connection i believe its Raidos qualities of rapid motion, or quick action, that is suggested by the prefix. Reidar may then mean something like a swift warrior. Mark also the parallell to the word raid, then a raiding warrior, maybe also riding warrior. As the Raido rune is dedicated to Thor, so will this name be related to Thor.

    Vigdis is clear, Vig is stride or battle, so Vigdis is a striding dis. A good name for a career woman that competes.

    Knut may referer to a knot (magical). Norwegian for knot is knute. It is a very powerful and luckbringing name. I believe the origninal meaning referers directly to a magical knot. Vidar had a strenghtbelt.

    Geir, Asgeir Geir derives from Odins spear Gungnir, Asgeir would then be the spear of the æsis. An Odinic name. So also Gunnar and Gunn, also of Gungnir.

    Freid Derives of course from Frey or Freya. I suspect the original speilling to be Freidr, or Freidar, also Freys warrior. Freydis, and Frøydis follows the same locic and means Freys or Freyas dis.

    Can anyone clarify if the latest mentioned names referers to Freya or Frey?

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    Re: Norse names

    Här har du en riktigt trevlig sida för att kolla upp namn från runstenar i Norden och deras eventuella betydelse.

    http://www.sofi.se/servlet/GetDoc?meta_id=1472

    Frøy-
    Av urnord. *fraujaR 'herre'. I och med att ordet i de nordiska språken blivit gudanamn (fvn. Freyr, fda., fsv. Frø), kan personnamnsförleden Frøy- betyda dels 'herre', dels syfta på guden.

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    Re: Norse names

    Quote Originally Posted by Asthor
    Personally I like the name Odd ( meaning Edge, like on an arrow or knife)very good. A bit ...odd.. in english, but referers to Odin.
    Orel gives the origin as Oddr < PGmc. *uzdaz "goad, point, prick", cf. OE ord, OFris ord, OS ord, OHG ort, Albanian usht "ear (of grain)" < IE *us-to-, cf. Lith. usnis "thistle". Gmc. -zd- regularly becomes -dd- in Old Norse.


    Thor, and double names of Thor (Thor Erik etc) have a reneissance here now, as also old norse female names. However some spell it Tor. IMO opinion, it should be spelled Thor. One reason for that is simply that we lack the Th letter as in Icelandic.

    But the major reason is that the original spelling of Thor shold be Thorn, Ur, Raido, all three runes dedicated to Thor. The simple T, points directly at Tyr.
    An Othal would referer to Odin. Not a bad bindings that either.
    Thórr < EPNorse *Tho'r(a)R (stem nasal) < PGmc. *Thunraz "thunder", cf. Sanskrit stanati "to thunder, make a noise', Greek steno "moan, sigh", Latin tono "id.", Slavic *stenati "id." 'Thorn' should be from Gmc. *thurnaz or *thurnuz, a thorn plant, cf. Sanskrit trna- "grass, herb, blade, straw", Slavic *turni "thorn".

    Ragnar are in good use i Norway, and would be a helpful name for a rocker...

    One should beware of vulgarizing forms of names, as good names are balanced unities, and by removing one single letter, the name may become not like intended.

    A few years ago, the police published names and photos of the 100 most notorious petty criminals in Oslo. Nearly 20 of them were named Ronny, Johnny and Willy... Not Ronald and William.
    However I know plenty of decent and highly respectable men with these modernized names, and all you, please execuse my example.

    These may work well in another spiritual sphere, but maybe not in Norway. Just an example of the balanced construction of names. Every letter counts.

    Håkon or Hakon(M), referers to hawk, and is closely related to Frøya, and her spirits lurking in the curtains. The name referers to the Queens subjectivity for her son. A very good name. Favorized by Frøya.

    Alvild, or Alvilde, (F), may mean Elf- and ilde, probably another word for -gold. Can any of the Icelenders please enlight us on that word -ilde?
    Ilde could be Ic. eldr "fire", Dan. ild, but maybe also < hildi "battle" cf. Magnill < Maginhildi

    Frode (M) comes from Frey, and can be considered <frodig> (fruitful), in norse lingo related to frø, frukt, fred, (seeds, growth, fruit, and peace) The totem animal to this name would be a <frosk>(the frog), related to Frey, and a powerful talisman for fruitfullness. I

    If you want children, just place a frog figure beside your bed, or under the pillow with a little prayer to Frey, and you will probably be pregnant before you reah to say no! Frey, (the dickman, pikkemannen) are also known to be able to visit females at night and making them pregnant. Specially in rainy weather.
    Frode < Gmc. *Frod-on- < "Wise One" < *frodaz "wise, clever, learned", cf. Latv prats "understanding," Lith protas "id."; but Frosk < Gmc. *fruskaz with correlative pet-form *frauk(j)a- (?), derived from *frawaz "swift, hurrying, glad, happy" cf. Avestan fravi- "mobile", Slavic *pravi 'straight'.

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    Sv: Norse names

    Interessant länlk om de (gamla) hedniska namnen från Island: Nafnasafnið
    Lík börn leika best.

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    Old Norse Naming Practices

    I'd love to see a thread on this subject in a very general sense, listing common name elements and their English translations, or Old English equivalents [it's interesting how an Olaf who came to England to raid was called Anlaf by the locals.] How did parents choose a name? Was there a hereditary aspect, for instance allitieration in the male line as seen in several English dynasties? Were people conscious of the meanings of names, or had they become distorted enough to make them merely traditional forms to be combined as people saw fit, without regard to semantics?

    I'd love that, but I have a more specific question, myself!

    I just finished reading the Orkneyinga Saga today, and was rather surprised to read of two men named Valthjof. Is this a purely Norse name?

    One was a Jarl in Scotland, living around the Moray Firth, and the other was brother of Svein Asleifarson and son of Olaf Hrolfsson of Gairsay in Orkney. Both lived in the Twelth Century.

    The reason I'm not sure is because in the North of England in the previous century had lived several Earls Waltheof. It's pretty rare a name in England. If any of these Waltheofs had been made a Saint, it might explain the spread of the name, but that didn't happen as far as I have seen, nor were the Waltheofs even pro-Danish politically but quite the opposite!

    The meaning is rather odd, too. Wal = foreign/Welsh/British and theof = thief. Does it have another meaning in Norse, perhaps?

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    Sv: Old Norse Naming Practices

    Teutonic Birthing/Naming Practices

    The first of the rites of passage are the birth-rites, which bring the newborn's soul (with all its many aspects) out of the Otherworlds and the darkness of death into the brightness of the Middle-Garth. They can be seen as the mightiest of the rites of life, for they set the ørlög (ur-layer or ur-law) for all the rest: name, soul, and wyrd come together.

    Many religions today have strong positions on various ways of dealing with the problems of unwanted pregnancies. The most extreme is probably that of the Catholic church, which even condemns the conscious waste of sperm. More moderate religions may accept birth-control; some allow abortion and some condemn it.

    The position of Teutonic tradition in these matters is quite clear. According to our forebears, a child had no soul until its name was given - nine days after birth - and if it was clearly weak or defective, or if available resources could not support it, it could be set out to die. This may seem heartless and inhuman to some today, but it stemmed from two things: short resources and the belief that soul came with name and acceptance into the clan.

    The former is especially important in considering different forms of family planning. It is irresponsible to have children that you and/or your kin are not able to feed, clothe, educate, and take good care of. This almost certainly means the use of birth control, inside or outside of marriage; it may also mean abortion or giving a child up for adoption, as your conscience dictates. It is likewise irresponsible to knowingly have a child who will not be capable of a decent human life. Physical defects, or even near-total incapability, no longer mean that one must be a burden on society - those who doubt that have only to consider Stephen Hawkins, among others! - but many forms of mental incapability can also be diagnosed during pregnancy.

    In short, there is nothing in the Germanic tradition which would offer the slightest condemnation of either birth control or abortion; and our practice of setting out infants who seemed unlikely to live also suggests strongly that it is appropriate to ensure pre-natally that one's children will not suffer from major mental incapacity. As always, however, the choice comes down to the individual family and, more specifically, to the woman who must bear the child. An Ásatrú individual might choose to consider abortion unacceptable for herself on personal grounds - but not on grounds of religion.

    Childbirth was the greatest danger faced by women in the early age, and, quite understandably, its mysteries formed a large part of women's religious and magical practice.

    Sigrdrífumál 9 offers this advice for birthing: "You shall know birth-runes, if you would give help in birthing, and loosen a child from the woman. You shall rist them on palm, and on the hand's span, and bid the idises aid.''

    Folk-practices of the time include the belief that there should be no knots in the birthing hall - for that would tighten the woman's womb.

    When the birthing-pains start, the obvious thing to do is to make a blessing to Frija and the idises. The woman should take a horn of whole milk in one hand, an apple or a pear in the other, and call out:

    Frija, kind queen! fair idises all,
    come to help your quick kin.
    Another branch your Bairn-Stock sprouts -
    bring it forth bright to day,
    blessed, bring babe to birth.
    Mighty ghost-frowes, my Mothers, be with me,
    as in the elder times,
    all bale from birthing bed ward off -
    bring child bright to day,
    blessed, bring babe to birth.
    Best of norns at need show forth
    fair apples and kindly eyes,
    that bairn and mother be ever whole -
    bring my babe bright to day,
    blessed, bring babe to birth.

    She should then sign a blessing (sun-wheel or spiral) over the horn (with a spindle, if she owns one) and drink from it before pouring the milk into the blessing-bowl. She should set the apple into the milk, then dip the spindle or a blessing-twig into it and sprinkle a few drops on her forehead and a few drops on her belly. The blessing-bowl should then be either set on the hearth or the milk poured on the earth outside, preferably at the roots of a tree. If there is a tree on your own land that the family has chosen as its Bairn-Stock, she should hold tight to its trunk for a few of the pains, calling silently on Frija and the idises. The apple should be dried and its seeds planted when and if you have lands that you mean to stay on.

    In older days, when the woman's water broke, she would start to weave or braid a red three-stranded string with which the child's umbilical cord could be tied off. Since most hospitals will not use a hand-woven string for this purpose, those modern Norwegians who still keep up the practice tie it about the child's wrist as well. During the braiding, she should chant or sing softly something like: "Idises all shall aid me now; Mothers mighty all help. Norns, weave weal for my bairn; wend all woe away.''

    In Norway, the midwife was called the 'light-mother' or the 'near-mother'. She had to bring a candle near to the face of the child as soon as it was born. This probably stemmed from both the wish to be sure that the child was well-shaped, and also the symbolic bringing of it into the light.

    Candles appear in the birthing-context in Nornagests þáttr (Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar, Flateyjarbók), when Nornagestr tells of how he has come to live so long:

    "Then there fared around the land völvas, who were called spae-women and fore-saw the lives of men. For that folk invited them and readied banquets for them and gave them gifts... My father did so, and they came to him...so as to fore-see my ørlög. I lay there in the cradle where they should speak about me. There two candle-lights burned over me. They spoke of me then, and said that I should become a greatly wealthy man, and greater than my forebears or sons of chieftains there in lands, and said all that should become of me"...

    The youngest Norn then takes offense because she is not asked to prophesy and the folk there are disrespectful, jostling her from her seat. She calls out sharply to the other two, telling them to leave off their good foretellings, and says:

    "I shape for him that he shall live no longer than it takes for that candle to be burned up. After that the elder völva took the candle and put it out and told my mother to keep it and not kindle it until the last day of my life''.

    After the child's birth, the 'light-mother' sometimes took it and nursed it or fed it on cow's milk; she was also, in some places in Scandinavia, responsible for keeping a candle burning in its room from birth till baptism, presumably to keep the alfs or trolls from getting it.

    This may well have stemmed from heathen times, as the child was equally in a border-state in the nine days between birth and naming - in the same class as the sundry wights, and thus able to be touched by them. 'Light-mother' was a long-term relationship, similar to that of 'godparent' in later times. Another Norwegian term for midwife was 'jordmoder', 'earth-mother'; 'straw-mother' was also a common term, since birth traditionally took place, not on a bed, but in a special straw-bed prepared for the occasion.

    In modern times, midwives are seldom used, but there may still be a place for the 'light-mother' in birthing today. Obstetricians are used to a surprising range of bizarre things done by families which are about to give birth, and a sympathetic one will put up with almost anything which does not compromise hygiene or endanger the health of the mother or child. They may or may not let you light a candle in the birthing-room, but it is worth asking.
    If the child is born with a caul, this must be carefully kept and dried, as it is an emanation of the fetch in the Middle-Garth, and to lose or destroy it means to lose or destroy much of the child's soul-might. The placenta is traditionally kept and either buried at the roots of a growing tree or put in the earth with a new tree planted above it. Both caul and placenta belong to you and cannot be denied you if you ask for them.


    The Source gives a 404 error now but I saved it on my computer
    Lík börn leika best.

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    Sv: Old Norse Naming Practices

    Naming

    The greatest moment of the birth-rites, however, is not the actual birth, but the naming, which takes nine days after birth. At this time, assuming the child has not been deemed defective and set out to die - or given up for adoption - a feast is held at which all the kin and friends gather together with gifts and good wishes for the new member of the clan. The center of this rite is the moment at which the father takes the child from the mother's arms, sprinkling it with water and giving it a name.

    Although such "baptism" is most often considered a christian custom, the use of water as a purification is much more ancient. The Greeks, Romans, Aryans, Finno-Ugrics, and Teutons associated it with some form of initiation as well. Ceremonial use of water can be both simple and complex. As children are born of the water of the mother, a parallel of washing away the old and beginning fresh becomes evident.

    The four elements of classical times, among those who believe that they have a life of their own or are even animistic (such as, for instance, the Germanic peoples) have often been venerated in their own right. Sacred wells, springs, and lakes with reputed healing powers have outlasted all attempts to christianize them if not to co-opt them. Superstitious Romans believed that water could purge them of all sins. Many Indians today believe that immersion in the Ganges will wash away all the past sins of a lifetime. If water can wash away dirt and contamination on a physical level, then it follows that it is possible that water can purify one on an emotional, spiritual, moral, and even psychic level as well. Such was the current of thought (so to speak) of the ancients. It is still prevalent among some Pagan peoples today.

    Our Teutonic ancestors had a custom of "baptism" observed by Roman writers as early as 200 B.C.E. Among the Norse, it was called "ausa vatni'' (sprinkling with water), and signified acceptance into the family. Until the ausa vatni had been performed, a child had no legal rites or standing within the community, and was not even considered a human being. Even in christian times, the wergeld for killing an unbaptized child was half that paid for the death of a baptized one.

    On the ninth day after birth the baby was brought to the father (or closest male relative) for the public performance of the ritual, and at that time it was also given a name. The Norwegians, Lapps, and Finns performed the ceremony on a Thorburnsday. It was often accompanied with a feast given by all the blood relatives. The name chosen was usually that of an ancestor or a parent.

    The name of an ancestor (usually a deceased grand-parent on the mother's side) was conferred so that the qualities of that person could live again in the child. Giving the parent's name granted one immortality in one's own lifetime (alliteration of names, as for instance Gjúki - Gunther - Guðrún, or repetition of a name-element, as in Sigmundr - Signý - Sigurðr, was also a means by which the clan-soul could be shared and reborn - KHG).

    When a child was born, it was first laid upon the ground to reverence the earth as the source of all life. The Scandinavian term for midwife, jordemoder, means earth-mother... She then lifted the child up and presented it to the father, who had the power of life or death over it. This power was nullified, however, if the child had partaken of milk or honey, or if it had been washed. If any of these things had been done, a child was considered to have equal rights in the family into which it was born. If the father were unavailable, the mother had the right to acknowledge or expose the infant.

    Another important custom was the planting of a tree on the day of birth. This tree became the child's tree of life and they mirrored each other's growth. This custom has a lot more going for it than passing out cigars.

    As water is elemental in nature, an ausa vatni is a Vanic rite. The new member of the community was thrice sprinkled with water by the father: once, in the name of Thorburn; again in the name of Freyr; and lastly in the name of Njörd. By sprinkling the babe with water it was believed that the beneficial forces of water could be brought to bear their various powers for good and healing to the newly-born. This attunement of the child with the element of water was also thought to protect it from the harmful elements of water as well.

    Among the Finns and Lapps, baptismal names were bestowed by the 'wash-mother' (laugo-edne). The following ceremony was then performed:

    Warm water was poured into a trough, and two birch-twigs - one in its natural condition, the other bent into a ring - were laid in it. At the same time, the child was thus addressed: 'Thou shalt be as fertile, sound, and strong as the birch from which this twig was taken.'

    Then a copper (or silver) talisman was cast into the water, with the words: 'I cast the nabma-skiello (talisman) into the water, to wash thee; be as melodious and fair as this brass (or silver).'

    Then came the formula: 'I baptize thee with a new name, N.N. Thou shalt thrive better from this water, of which we make thee a partaker, than from the water wherewith the priest baptized thee. I call thee up by baptism, deceased N.N. Thou shalt now rise again to life and health, and receive new limbs. Thou, child, shalt have the same happiness and joy which the deceased enjoyed in this world.'

    As she uttered this words, the baptizer poured water three times on the head of the child, and then washed its whole body. Finally she said: 'Now art thou baptized adde-nabma (underworld name), with the name of the deceased, and I will see that with this name thou wilt enjoy good health' (Jessen, E.J., Afhandling om de norske Finners og Lappers hedenske Religion, pp 33-42)

    Specific legal rights were conferred by the ausa vatni as well. Both the Eddas and Heimskringla have reference to the custom. In Hávamál 158, the master magician states, "If I shall cast water onto a young thane, he shall not fall, though he comes among the host, nor the hero sink before swords''.

    In Heimskringla, we are told that at the birth of Haraldr gráfeld, "Eiríkr and Gunnhildr had a son whom Haraldr inn hárfagri sprinkled with water, and to whom he gave the name, ordaining that he should be king after his father Eiríkr''. Haraldr inn hárfagri, we will remember, was the father of Eiríkr Blood-Axe; though he had given his kingdom up to his son before his death, he was clearly still seen as the head of the clan when it came to family matters.

    These legal, social, and spiritual rights could also be conferred, when necessary, by a man who was not related to the woman or child: when Hjördís bears Sigmundr the Völsung's posthumous child Sigurðr, it is Hjálprekr, the father of her rescuer, who sprinkles the child with water and, marking the keenness of his eyes, states that no one will ever be his like. By naming and claiming a child as his own, according to our legalistic ancestors, a father granted protection, provision, and the right of inheritance and succession to the father's estate.

    The sprinkling of water together with the naming is also important as part of the rite which sets the child's ørlög. The water, which should be drawn from a holy well or running burne, embodies the might of the holiest water of the Well of Wyrd: the drops sprinkled on the child also fall back into the Well to set its roots firmly in that-which-is - the source of the bairn's name and soul - and to lay down what shall become for it.

    Once the naming has been done, each of the folk there should come forth with a gift for the child which embodies some quality that they themselves have in great store and would wish to share with the newborn. These are usually not things the child can use right away, but things that will be needed in later life.

    Weapons are also appropriate gifts, though of course the parents will have to keep them until the child reaches the age of man- or woman-making. A cup or horn may embody both wod and the source of life and strength. Helgi Hunding-Bane's father Sigmundr gave him a sword and a leek at birth - the former an obvious gift for a warrior, the latter showing forth the swift and shining growth of the hero, and perhaps also the manly power of life to match the slaying-might of the sword. Jewelry of appropriate sorts (in the shape of holy animals or made with stones of particular power, for instance) can also be given. A young maiden may receive a spindle or a cauldron; as a boy-child is given a leek, a girl-child can be given a length of linen. Runic inscriptions can be made upon many of these things to strengthen their working. The child should be allowed to touch each gift (very carefully, in the case of items with sharp edges or things that can easily be popped into the mouth).

    The name-giving basically involves the father taking the child from the mother's arms, lifting it up, saying that he takes it into his clan and speaking the name that he wishes to give it (together with a brief speech on the earlier bearer whose soul he wishes to live again, and, if he feels so inspired, a statement on its ørlög) as he sprinkles it with the hallowed water.

    The sprinkling should be done with a leek or sprig of oak or ash for a boy; for a girl, it should be a twig of birch, rowan, linden, elder, or elm. The light-mother, perhaps together with two other women, can come bearing candles and speak for the Norns (though hopefully not as eventfully as at Norna-Gestr's wyrd-setting!). If there is an actual spae-speaker or völva in the group or within the general area, this person might also be invited and asked to fore-see for the child.

    Obviously much of this rite is very individualistic, but a sample ritual framework could be as follows:

    I. The Father does the Hammer-Rite. The Norns (or Norn; can be done by a single woman) are within the circle, but completely shrouded in dark cloaks. The Mother sits on the hearth, if there is one, or in whatever spot has been chosen as the heart of the home. The Child is in her lap. The Guests sit ringed around her in a half-circle. On the harrow or a small table beside the hearth is a blessing-bowl full of water that has been drawn from a holy well or running spring, preferably at dawn but before sunrise (for the child's sake, this water should be warm, and should also perhaps have been boiled a little while before the rite). Beside it are two twigs from appropriate trees, one in its natural state, one bent into a circle, and a taufr [talisman] of silver or polished brass (such a taufr can either be a piece of jewelry or a flat piece of metal with runes graven on it - berkano, dagaz, ansuz, perthro, laguz, and othala are especially fitting, though your high [hugr] may also guide you to others). There is also a horn and drink to fill it, and a plate with three pieces of bread. The Father has a gift for each of the Norns. There is a basin of earth on the floor. You will need either a cradle to put the Child in for some parts of the rite, or a trusted kinsib to hold it when both the Mother and Father are acting.

    II. The Mother says:

    Idises, alfs all awesome wights,
    ye gods and goddesses all,
    Well-come are you, wise ones to hall,
    who blessings would give to babe.

    She turns to the Father, saying:

    Nine months in womb has whiled this bairn,
    Nine days in light has lived this bairn,
    Now the Nine Worlds ween our choice to know,
    Shall s/he be clan-sib or cast out for trolls?

    The Father bends down to look closely at the Child. The Norns also move closer, as if to hear him better. Trusting that the Child is indeed to be raised rather than set out or sent away for adoption, he lifts it in his arms and holds it high, saying:

    Now hear me, all ye hallowed ones,
    both high and low of Heimdallr's sib!
    I hold this bairn to be my own,
    a Bairnstock-branch sprung bright from me.

    III. The Mother fixes the Child with a steady and loving gaze, laying the two twigs into the water and holding there as she says:

    Be sound and strong as stock of tree
    from which fair twigs sprang forth!
    Fruitful and joyous in frith and good cheer,
    so long as your days dawn,
    so long as life shall last.
    She casts the taufr into the water, saying,
    I lay this sign in laguz-depths,
    it sinks, to shine from roots.
    as ringing and bright when rinsed with this stream,
    be thou, stemmed from our stock,
    be thou, beloved bairn!

    IV. The Father takes the twigs from the water and sprinkles the Child, speaking the name, the deeds of the forebear or hero/ine after whom it is being named, and so forth. As the first drops hit the Child, the Norns should light their candles.Their hands can now be seen, but not their faces.

    When the Child has been thoroughly sprinkled or even washed with the water, what is left should be poured over its feet into the basin of earth.

    V. The Guests now come to give their gifts, each one saying briefly what it is and what gift of soul, body, or mind s/he gives to the Child with that sign.

    VII. The Norns now come closer. The Mother swiftly fills the horn, bringing it and the plate of bread to them. She says:

    Well-come are you, women of might,
    Candle-bearers kind!
    Holy guests, have food and drink,
    I hail you in our hall!

    Very slowly, showing as little of their faces as possible, the Norns eat and share the horn between them (a single Norn or völva may content herself with a ceremonial sip before handing it back to the Mother). They then come forward to ring the Child around and speak their spae-sayings. The eldest should have talked with the family about the source of the name, so that she can speak a fore-saying based on the deeds and life of the one who bore it earlier. The middle Norn should make reference to the gifts the Child has gotten and how they will show forth in its life, while the youngest should spae-speak as well as she can.

    VIII. At the end of the spae-saying, the Norns set their candles on the mantlepiece or table. The Father comes forward with their gifts as the Mother refills the horn, saying:

    Hallowed frowes, have our thanks aye,
    good ones, I give you gifts.
    The Norns take their gifts, nodding in thanks, and withdraw to stand behind the row of guests again. The Father takes the horn from the Mother and raises it, saying,
    Idises, alfs, all awesome wights,
    gods and goddesses all,
    I hail you here with horn of frith,
    let none be left out,
    let all bring blessings here!

    He drinks, then passes the horn about to each of the Guests, who may speak a blessing as they sip from it. The Norns also share in this horn. The last to drink from it is the Mother. Mother and Father then set their hands on the horn together and pour it into the blessing-bowl. The Mother sprinkles the eight ways, above, and below; the Father sprinkles the Child, then picks it up again and says:

    Now (Name of child) is named, with frith and friendship of all the mighty ones. Let all join in the feast!

    The Norns leave, taking off their cloaks out of sight of everyone else before they come back. The feast begins.



    (the same goes for the source of this article)
    Lík börn leika best.

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    Sv: Old Norse Naming Practices

    Nafnasafnið is a list of Icelandic names that were used in heathen times. Many, indeed most, are still used today. The spelling used is more or less appropriate for the later part of the saga-writing period.
    Lík börn leika best.

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