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Thread: Differences Between satr and Anglo-Saxon Heathendom

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    Arrow Differences Between satr and Anglo-Saxon Heathendom

    The ancient Germanic peoples essentially followed the same religion. Nearly all of them appear to have worshipped the major gods known to us from Norse mythology--inn, rR, FreyR, and so on. They also believed in many of the same "spirits" or wights--elves dwarves, thurses, and so on. They held various festivals, rituals, and customs in common. This is not to say that there were not differences among the tribes in their religious customs and beliefs. There was always some variation in religious practices and beliefs among the Germanic peoples.

    Perhaps the best demonstration of both the similarities and the differences which sometimes existed in the religious beliefs of the Germanic peoples would be to examine the respective beliefs of the Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic heathen.

    It must be noted right away that the ancient Germanic peoples lacked a name for their religion or its branches. An ancient Anglo-Saxon heathen if asked about his religion would probably have referred to it simply as mn odisc gelfa, "my tribe's belief." The Icelanders may have responded along similar lines, although today this ancient and modern branch of the Germanic heathen religion is called "Asatru." For simplicity's sake, we will use "Anglo-Saxon heathendom" and "Asatru" for the faiths of the ancient Anglo-Saxons and Icelanders respectively..

    Why There Were Differences

    Of course, it is understandable why there would be similarities between ancient Anglo-Saxon heathendom and ancient Asatru. After all, both groups of people descended from the Germanic tribes. Why, then, would there be any differences between the two? There are several reasons and all of them are very simple. The first is that even when a large group of people (such as several tribes or several nations) share a belief system, variations in that system will often arise peculiar to any given people. A perfect example of this is Irish and Italian Catholicism. Even though both Irish Catholics and Italian Catholics belong to the same denomination of the same religion, one can easily observe differences between the two, especially in the ways in which each group observes church holidays. The Anglo-Saxons and Icelanders would have naturally evolved their own beliefs and customs peculiar only to themselves.

    Second, ancient heathendom was a religion closely tied to the land and hence the changing of the seasons. For the ancient Germanic peoples, winter did not necessarily arrive with the winter solstice, but whenever the first frost occurred. The beginnings of the seasons and the dates of festivals would then vary according to the climate. Naturally, a festival which would take place at the beginning of winter would occur later in a warmer clime than it would a colder one.

    Third, there are differences between ancient Anglo-Saxon heathendom and ancient Icelandic Asatru because of the time frame involved. England was converted in the 6th and 7th centuries CE while Iceland was not converted until 1000 CE. In the 400 years between the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons and the conversion of the Icelanders there was considerable opportunity for the religion to change and evolve, and no doubt such changes came even quicker due to the ever changing social conditions forced upon Northern Europe by Christianity.

    Other changes developed from the social and political climate of the times. For the Anglo-Saxons the institution of sacral kingship was very important. Four hundred years later, however, the Icelanders had witnessed Norwegian kings demeaning the very office by breaking troth with the gods and the folk through unabashed tyranny. The institution of sacral kingship then ceased to be important for the Icelanders and they sought other ways of defending the tribal luck. Finally, it appears that the ancient heathen believed that great men could become gods upon their death--the Icelandic sagas show a few examples of kings being deified after they had passed on. In the 400 years between the Conversion of the Anglo-Saxons and the earliest Old Norse sources, various heroes could have been raised to godhood in the people's minds.

    While Anglo-Saxon heathendom and Icelandic Asatru both belong to the same religion and as a result share much in common, there are also minor differences between the two which can occasionally result in confusion for anyone new to the study of heathendom.

    The Gods

    By far our best source on information on the gods worshipped by the ancient Germanic peoples are the Old Norse and Icelandic poems and sagas. References to the gods in Old English (the language of the Anglo-Saxons) sources are exceedingly rare. The names of the major gods were, however, preserved in several place names. Because of this we know that ancient Anglo-Saxon Anglo-Saxon heathendom and Icelandic Asatru shared most of the major gods named in the Norse sources.

    Below is a table listing the major gods known to us from the elder sources. An asterisk before the name of a god indicates that it is a reconstruction (that is, the name does not actually appear in the language). A short commentary follows on each of the gods.

    The Gods of Anglo-Saxon heathendom and Asatru

    Old English - Icelandic/Norse
    Wden - inn
    nor - rR
    Frge - Frigg
    Tw - TyR
    Fra - FreyR
    Fro - Freyja
    *Nor - NjrR
    *Forseta - Foreseti
    Hama - HeimdallR
    Bealdor - BaldR
    Geofon - Gefjun
    Hel - Hel
    ostre - ?
    ? - UllR
    ? -Loki


    Even a cursory glance at this table shows that ancient Anglo-Saxon heathendom and ancient Asatru share the major gods of the Eddas in common. We know that these gods were worshipped by the Old Norse speakers from the literary record, place names, and archaeological evidence. While the Old English literary record of these gods is scant, we do have place names and archaeological evidence that shows that the Anglo-Saxons worshipped them. That the Anglo-Saxons and the Icelanders (and the ancient Scandinavians before them) apparently held these gods in common shows that there was a high degree of agreement in the overall religion that is heathendom. Naturally, there were a few differences between the two, and some gods found in Icelandic heathendom might not have been known to the Anglo-Saxon heathen. Similarly, a few gods appear to have been known to the Anglo-Saxons, but not to the Icelanders.

    Wden: Known in Old Norse as inn, best known now by an Anglicized version of that name, Odin, he appears to have been an important god for both the Anglo-Saxons and the ancient Scandinavians. He is the god most often mentioned in Old English sources and both England and Scandinavia boast several places named for him. Interestingly, the most important Old English source to mention Wden, The Nine Herbs Charm, casts him in a role familiar to us from Norse mythology--as the supreme wizard.

    nor: Called rR in Old Norse and Thor in modern English, he was perhaps the single most popular god among the ancient Germanic peoples. Both England and Scandinavia had several places named for him and the fifth day of the week still bears his name in English and most of the Scandinavian countries (in modern English, Thursday).

    Frge: Wden's wife, called Frigg in Old Norse and Frigga in modern English. She is rarely mentioned in Old Norse sources and references to her in Old English are nearly non-existent; however, places were named for her in both England and Scandinavia. The day Friday was also named for her (OE Frgesdg).

    Tw: Called TyR by the Old Norse, references to Tw in Old Norse and Scandinavian sources are rare. Nonetheless, we know he was important to both the Anglo-Saxons and the ancient Scandinavians from the places named for him and the day which still bears his name (NE Tuesday).

    Fra: Called FreyR in Old Norse and Frey in modern English, he was frequently mentioned in Old Norse sources. Also called Ing or Yngvi in Old Norse, he may be remembered in the Old English Rune Poem's verse for Ing as well as the genealogy for the kings of Bernicia, where an Ingui is listed. Places were named for him in both England and Scandinavia.

    Fro: Called Freyja in Old Norse and Freya in modern English, the sister of Fra had places named for her in both England and Scandinavia. She appears in the Old Norse sources more than any other goddess.

    NjrR: The word Nor appears nowhere in Old English as the name of a god, though this would have been that god's name in the language. Though he is never mentioned in Old English sources, it is quite possible that the Anglo-Saxons worshipped him. The Roman scholar Tacitus in Germania records the worship of a goddess Nerthus among various Germanic tribes, among them the Angles who would settle Britain a few centuries later. The name Nerthus is almost certainly the same as NjrR, which has led to much debate as to this goddesses' identity. Some have even assumed that somehow through the centuries the goddess Nerthus changed sexes to become the god NjrR. More likely explanations are that Tacitus either heard the gender of the god's name wrong and assumed he was a goddess or that the Nerthus mentioned by Tacitus is simply NjrR's cult companion, perhaps the mysterious sister mentioned in Old Norse sources. At any rate, Scandinavia had many places named for the god.

    Forseti: The word Forseta appears nowhere as a name for a god in Old English. Like NorR, it is provided here to show what the Old English name of the god would have looked like. While his name does not appear in Old English sources, Forseti was probably worshipped by the Anglo-Saxons. He was the favourite god of the ancient Frisians (in whose language he was called Fosite), who later migrated to Britain with the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. The name literally means "he who presides" or "president." He was apparently less important to the Old Norse speakers, as references to him in their literature is sparse. Indeed, he is even made the son of BaldR! The Old Norse sources do show, however, that Forseti was thought of as a "president." In the Eddic poem Grmnsml it is said that Forseti settles all disputes. This brings to mind the head of a thing or judicial assembly, who often had to settle disputes between people.

    HeimdallR: In the Old Norse sources HeimdallR appears as the guardian of Bifrst and the enemy of Loki. A scrap of a myth refers to a battle between HeimdallR and Loki in the form of seals over a gem called the "sea kidney"--sometimes identified with Fro's necklace, Brsingamen by modern scholars. It is difficult to tell if the Anglo-Saxons knew of HeimdallR. The poem Bowulf relates a tale in which a hero named Hama rescued a necklace called Brosinga mene, which could well be the Old English name for Fro's necklace. It seems possible that the author of Bowulf confused the Germanic hero Hama (the German hero Heimo linked to the cycle of Dietrich of Bern legends) with the god HeimdallR and attributed one of the god's legends to the hero. It also seems possible that Hama was simply a shortened form of the Old English equivalent of HeimdallR (if one even existed). If this is the case, then HeimdallR may have been worshipped by the Anglo-Saxons. Unfortunately, as Bowulf drew heavily upon continental sources, the tale of Hama and the necklace may have come from Denmark, making it possible that the Anglo-Saxons did not known of the god.

    BaldR
    : It is difficult to say if BaldR was even a god. There are almost no places named for him and evidence of his worship is non-existent. To further complicate matters are the conflicting myths about BaldR. In the Icelandic sources he appears as a god. He is the son of Wden and Frge and the most beloved of the gods, brave, wise, and pure of heart. The Danish scholar Saxo paints an entirely different picture of him. He calls BaldR a semideus or "a demigod," indicating that he was the son of Wden by a mortal woman (keep in mind that this was not unusual--most Germanic kings traced their descent from Wden). Saxo also portrays BaldR as anything but pure of heart. He is selfish, devious, and wholly wanton. It then seems possible that the BaldR myths developed along national and political lines. For the Norwegians he may have been a hero, one of such stature that he was later deified. For the Danes he may have been an archvillain, one who would never see the halls of the gods. As for the Anglo-Saxons, there are no certain references to BaldR in Old English. Indeed, some scholars have questioned whether the word bealdor, a cognate of BaldR meaning "bold one, brave one." even existed. Of course, if BaldR was merely a hero deified by the Norwegians, we would have no reason to believe that the Anglo-Saxons worshipped him.

    Geofon: Geofon appears as a word for the sea in Old English. No place does it appear as the name of a goddess; however, it appears to be the cognate of Gefjun. Gefjun was a Danish goddess of whom Snorri tells a short myth in the Prose Edda. Gefjun came to King Gylfi of Sweden as an old beggar woman and entertained him so well that he offered her as much land as she could plough with four oxen in a day as a reward. She then turned her four sons by an ettin into oxen and hitched them to a plough. She ploughed so deep and so hard that she dragged the land to a sound west of Sweden. She then fixed the land so that it wouldn't move and named it Zealand (now Danish territory). Where Zealand had once been there was now the lake called Mlar. Considering the fact that in this myth Gefjun deals as much with the sea as she does the land and considering the fact that she was worshipped in Denmark (the general area from whence the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes originated), it is quite possible that Geofon was worshipped by the Anglo-Saxons and that her name later became a byname for the sea. Regardless, many places in Denmark bore her name.

    Hel: In the Old Norse sources Hel is the queen of the realm of the dead (also called Hel). In Old English sources Hel is also the name of the realm of the dead (hence our modern word Hell). In his Teutonic Mythology Jacob Grimm theorized that the goddess Hel was known to most, if not all, of the Germanic peoples. He even theorized that she and her realm may well have been inseparable, if not one and the same. Grimm noted that in Anglo-Saxon literature the place called Hel is often described with the characteristics of a person or or a wolf (its gaping jaws are often referred to)--so often that it seems possible that they were not speaking figuratively of a place, but literally of an entity. If this is the case, then the newly converted Anglo-Saxons may have still held a belief in Hel as an entity who governed the dead. This particularly seems likely concerning Hel's position in the Eddas.

    ostre: In his De Temporum Ratione the Anglo-Saxon scholar Bede stated that the Old English osturmna (roughly around March or April by the modern calendar) was named for the goddess ostre, to whom the Anglo-Saxons sacrificed during that month. Our modern word Easter, used for the Christian festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, also derives from her name. That she was also worshipped by the Continental Germans can be proven from the fact that the modern German name for the same festival (Ostern) also derives from her name. The name ostre itself is related to the names of the Greek and Roman dawn goddesses, Eos and Aurora respectively, so that she was perhaps a goddess of the dawn and hence spring and the renewal of life. Unfortunately, ostre appears to have been unknown in Scandinavia and Iceland, as they preserve no trace of her name. It is possible that she was known to the Scandinavians under another name. The goddess Iunn mentioned in the Eddas as guarding the apples of immortality would seem a possibility, considering the fact that she also appears to deal in the renewal of life.

    UllR: UllR is mentioned infrequently in Old Norse sources, though place names in Norway and Sweden show him to have been an important deity. He appears nowhere south of Norway and Sweden, however, and references to him are almost totally absent from the records of Denmark, the Continent, and England. It seems unlikely then that he was worshipped by the Anglo-Saxons.

    Loki:
    Loki is one of the major characters in the Icelandic sources, although his behaviour seems a bit schizophrenic when the myths are taken as a whole. He appears as either a good natured trickster, sometimes getting the gods into trouble, but ultimately helping them, or a malevolent creature who commits acts of evil against the gods and ultimately sides with the ettins against them. The reason for this is difficult to say. Perhaps Loki began as a benevolent trickster figure but evolved under Christian influence into a demonic character. Equally likely is that there were two Lokis. Both the Eddas and Saxo Grammaticus refer to an ettin named Utaraloki, who is quite clearly hostile to the gods. It is possible that the two eventually became confused in the people's minds, so that myths once attributed to Utaraloki were now attributed to the trickster. Regardless, there is no evidence that Loki was ever worshipped. None of the elder sources refer to his worship nor are there any places named for him. Loki's name is entirely absent from Old English and it is impossible to know if the Anglo-Saxons believed in Loki at all, let alone whether they regarded him as a benevolent trickster or a malevolent ettin.

    The Wights

    Around the world most peoples believe in entities less powerful than gods, but more powerful than man. Generally scholars refer to such entities as spirits or demons (not to be confused with the demons of Christian mythology). Perhaps the best known example of such entities are the angels of the Judaeo-Christian mythos. Like most other peoples, the Germanic peoples also believed in such entities, generally calling them by ancient cognates of our word wight (OE wiht). Below is a table of the major wights known to the Germanic peoples. A short commentary on each of them follows.

    The Wights of Anglo-Saxon heathendom and Asatru

    Old English - Icelandic/Norse
    lf - lfR
    yrs - urs
    Eoten - Jtunn
    Dweorgh - DvergR
    Nicor - NykR


    lf: The plural in Old English is ylfe and in Old Norse it is lfar. The Old English word survived as our modern elf. In the Old Norse sources the elves are often named alongside the se (Old Norse sir) and were apparently closely related to the Wen (ON Vanir)--at the very least we are told that Fra was given lfheimR ("home of the elves") as a gift upon receiving his first tooth. The precise nature of the elves is unclear in the Old Norse sources. At times they appear to be entities nearly on par with the gods, even associated with the sun (an Old Norse kenning for the sun was "the ray of elves," almost as if they were somehow responsible for it). At the same time, however, they appear almost as if they were the spirits of the dead. They apparently live in mounds and at least two dead Norwegian kings bore titles with the word "lfR" in them. Anyhow, the elves were linked to healing and invoked in childbirth as well. Despite this, they were also believed to cause diseases though "elfshot"--tiny darts or arrows of their own design.

    In Old English sources the elves also appear to have been powerful entities. In Bowulf they are named alongside the eotenas ("ettins" or "giants") and other demonic (form a Christian point of view, anyhow) forces. In the charm With Fstice "elfshot" is named alongside "shot from the se (that is, the gods)" as a cause for disease. From later folklore we know that in England were also regarded as living in mounds, though this idea could have admittedly been imported by the Danes. We also know from Old English sources that they were regarded as causing diseases from "elfshot"--a belief common to most of the Germanic peoples.

    yrs and Eoten: These two terms appear to have been virtually interchangeable in both Old English and Old Norse (urs and jtunn respectively). In modern English the terms survived as thurse and ettin respectively. They refer to what we now sometimes call "giants." In his book Runelore Edred Thorsson theorized that the terms may have originally been more specific in meaning. That is, jtunn referred to the ancient, nearly cosmic giants such as Ymir. On the other hand, the term urs referred to the somewhat dull minded and less powerful giants we more often see in the Norse myths (usually as nor's opponents). Thorsson's theory is an appealing one, though it is not borne out by Old English records. In Old English the term yrs could hardly have referred to an unintelligent wight. It developed the meaning "wizard" and was also used of the Christian devil. The Anglo-Saxons may well have regarded the yrs not only as a malevolent creature, but one intelligent enough to be compared to the Christian Satan.

    Dweorgh: This is simply our modern word dwarf, in Old Norse dvergR. References to the dwarves are scant in Old English, where they are mentioned most prominently in two charms against diseases caused by them. Later English folklore, however, shows the English view of the dwarves to be consistent with that of every other Germanic people. The dwarves are master smiths, often living in mountains or rocks, known to be rather jealous of their treasures. This is the view of the dwarves seen in the Icelandic sources as well, although there they are no mere fairy tale characters, but wights powerful enough to associate with the gods. Indeed, the gods' greatest treasures (Wden's spear Gungnir, nor's hammer, and so on) were all made by dwarves.

    Wlcyrige: In Old Norse, Valkyrja, our modern word valkyrie. The word in both languages literally means, "chooser of the slain." In Old Norse sources the Valkyrjur appear as Wden's "handmaidens"--the wights charged with bringing newly killed heroes to Valhll or "Valhalla." Today many tend to view the Valkyrjur as beautiful maidens who wait upon the warriors in Valhll--Vendela in armour. And while the Valkyrjur are often said to be beautiful in the ancient sources, they also had a savage side. In Njals Saga Valkyrjur appear in a dream, weaving upon a loom of entrails and weighted with severed heads.

    The more savage side of the Valkyrjur may have been remembered by the Anglo-Saxons. The word Wlcyrige is used to gloss the Furies of Greek mythology. Curiously, in his Sermon Lupi Wulfstan condemns Wlcyrigen alongside witches. This is odd, as the term wicce (our modern word witch) in Old English denoted a mortal, usually malevolent, spellcaster, while the Old Norse term Valkyrja denoted a goddess who chooses the slain. This leaves us with a number of possibilities. The first is that following the Conversion the myths of the Wlcyrigen degenerated until they were regarded as little more than mortal human beings. This often happened following the adoption of Christianity. The elves, once seen as being nearly as powerful as the gods, were reduced to the level of fairies. The second is that the Wlcyrigen could have originated as mortal priestesses who, upon their death, were deified and became part of Wden's entourage. This could be borne out by references in Old Norse and Icelandic literature to the Valkyrjur as "the adopted daughters of Wden." Third, Wulfstan could have simply been mistaken and assumed that the Wlcyrigen were mortal entities, when in truth they were regarded as goddesses.

    Nicor: Both Old English nicor and Old Norse nykr are cognate to German nix and nixie; however, both words appear to have referred to water wights of a much deadlier and more sinister nature than the Germans' fairy tale river spirits. Indeed, Grendel's mother (from Bowulf) is an example of the Anglo-Saxon's idea of a nicor!

    It must be noted that besides these wights, Anglo-Saxon heathendom and Norse Asatru apparently shared a host of other wights, who survived in the fairy tales of England, Scandinavia, and Iceland. And though the names may vary from country to country, as may the particulars, the stories are often so similar that one must wonder that they don't have a common origin in the ancient Germanic past. Indeed, if the elder sources and the later fairy tales are any indication, every house, hill, stream, and lake had its very own wight!

    Indeed, beyond the worship of a few major gods and various beliefs (such as Wyrd), it is in the area of the wights where the Germanic peoples held the most in common. The reason for this is simple. The worship of the gods, including deified heroes, was to a large degree the province of priests and kings. On the other hand, the worship of wights was largely a matter of folk belief--the belief of the common man. It was the owners of the homes that saw to it that the house wights got sacrifices, not the local priest or lord. Folk belief is often much more conservative than those beliefs controlled by priests and kings, so that such beliefs, if they originated in the deep past of the Germanic peoples, probably changed very little. This is how such customs as the Yule log managed to survive several centuries in different countries. For that reason, perhaps, do we see an amazing consistency in beliefs regarding the dwarves and other wights.

    The Holidays

    When it comes to the religious festivals of the Germanic peoples we enter a murky area of the lore. The elder sources record very little information about the holidays. It is difficult to say why, but perhaps the chroniclers took them for granted. After all, how many times does the average modern American feel the need to explain Thanksgiving to others? This leaves the modern heathen in a bit of a bind, as there is often little in the way of guidance from the elder sources when it comes to holiday customs and observances. In many cases we cannot even be certain that any given holiday celebrated by any given people (such as Lammas among the Anglo-Saxons) was ever celebrated by the other Germanic peoples. In other cases, we may be certain that a specific day was celebrated by the whole of the Germanic peoples, but be at a total loss as to the day's name.

    Regardless, we do have some information on ancient Germanic festivals, little though it may be. Similarly, we can somewhat use traditional observances that have been passed down through the ages as something of a guide. Between the little information contained in the elder sources and holidays as passed down to us from the day yore, we can hazard a few rough guesses as to how any one festival may have been conducted in ancient times. Below is a table listing the various holidays. A question mark following a holiday's name or a question mark in place of a name simply means that we cannot be sure of what it was originally called. A short commentary on each follows.

    The Holidays of Anglo-Saxon heathendom and Asatru

    Modern English- Old English - Icelandic/Norse
    Yule - Gol - Jl
    Candlemas - owomeoluc - Giblt?
    Easter - ostron - ?
    May Day - rimeolce? - Sumarml
    Midsummer - Midsumer/La? - Misumar
    Lammas - Hlfmsse - KornskurR?
    Harvest - Hrfest - Haust
    Halloween - Winterfylle? - VetrnttR


    Yule:
    Yule is by far the most documented holiday among the Germanic peoples. The holiday's name appears in nearly every Germanic languages and Latin sources even refer to Gothic months named for it. As early a source as the Latin scholar Procopius refers to a festival celebrated by the people of Thule (Scandinavia, perhaps?) to greet the sun on its return. Many of Yule's customs have survived to this day as part of the Christian and secular celebration of Christmas.

    Bede speaks at length of the Anglo-Saxon celebration of Gol. He states that their year began on December 25 and that they referred to this night as Mdranht or "Mothers' Night." Garman Lord thinks it is possible that the night was actually called Mdranecta or "Mother of Nights"--that is, the first night of the year--instead, although he admits that this is not confirmed by any surviving manuscripts. Another possibility that scholars have considered is that the Anglo-Saxons may have made sacrifices to their ancestral mothers--possibly the goddesses called in Old Norse the Dsir--on this night. Regardless, Bede notes that they watched the night through, proving that staying awake all night on "Christmas Eve" is a ancient custom. Anglo-Saxon sources also tell of the wearing of animal masks at the Anglo-Saxon Gol celebration, perhaps an indication that the mummer's plays of the Middle Ages may be more ancient than many scholars think.

    Like the Anglo-Saxons and probably every other Germanic tribe, the Icelanders and the ancient Scandinavians also celebrated Jl. One of Wden's names in Old Norse is Jlnir, which quite clearly derives from the holiday's name. An ancient historian mistakenly stated that Jl was named after Jlnir. Regardless, the holiday seems to have been sacred to Wden. It seems possible that sacrifices to Fra were also made at this time. At either Yule or February the boar to be sacrificed to Fra would be led before the king. He was considered so holy that men would place their hands upon him and swear oaths. In Heimskringla King Hakon not only ordered that Jl should begin at the same time as the Christian celebration of Christmas, but that every man should brew some ale and keep Jl holy for as long as it lasted. It seems then that drinking as always been a part of the Yule celebration.

    Finally, it must be pointed that the imagery today associated with "Christmas" is fairly consistent among the nations descended from the Germanic peoples From Scandinavia to Germany to England, one will see houses decked out in holly and evergreens around Yuletide. Similarly, the Yule log is a tradition found in many of those countries. And, of course, drinking is done in abundance. This could well point to a common heritage for these customs in the depths of the Germanic past.

    owomeoluc: February 2 was chosen by the Christian church for the minor festival of Candlemas, though today it is better known to most Americans as Groundhog Day. Of course, on Groundhog Day the groundhog is supposed to emerge from his burrow, either seeing his shadow and forecasting four more weeks of winter, or not seeing his shadow and indicating an early spring. This superstition originated in Europe (particularly Germany), where a bear or a badger was often the animal people used to forecast the coming weather. It must be pointed out that the date varied from locality to locality, however, with some people observing it on February 14th rather than February 2nd (in fact, when Missouri officially recognized the second as Groundhog Day, there was a bit of an uproar among some farmers). This custom could well date back to ancient times, as many folk beliefs do.

    Among the Anglo-Saxons this date was called owomeoluc, from the fact that this was the time when the ewes came into milk. Bede wrote that the month of February was called Solmana in Old English, meaning "month of cakes," and that cakes were offered to the gods in this month. Bede may well have been mistaken on the name, as the word sol meaning "cakes" appears nowhere else. Garman Lord theorizes that instead Bede may have misunderstood the source for his information, probably a farmer in the countryside, who may have told him that it was Suhlmona or "plough month." Indeed, it must be noted that a custom still performed on various dates in late January and early to mid February in parts of Britain is the blessing of the plough. The blessing of the plough may well have its origins in rites of the sort described in the Old English charm cer Bt, which was meant to bring fertility to the land. The sacrifice of cakes to the gods may also have been meant to bring fertility to the land in hope of bountiful crops in the summer and fall. Of course, the Anglo-Saxons might have also spent some time watching for the bear or badger to come out of hibernation as well.

    It is unclear whether the Scandinavians had a holiday corresponding exactly to owomeoluc. They may have sacrificed to Fra in February, so that it is possible that they may have celebrated a festival equivalent to owomeoluc that month. The Icelanders conducted a sacrifice at the beginning of the month they called Gi, which generally fell anywhere from mid-February to mid-March according to our calendar. The Giblt could well have been an Icelandic version of the holiday called owomeoluc in Old English.

    Easter:
    Today Easter is used of the Christian festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus according to their mythology. Like Yule, the name Easter dates back to heathendom. The Anglo-Saxons usually called the holiday astron, the plural of Old English astre (see the discussion on astre above). Bede tells us that the Anglo-Saxons called April osturmona, after the goddess astre, for whom they held festivals that month. That the worship of astre and the celebration of her festival was not confined to the Anglo-Saxons can be seen in the modern German word for the holiday, Ostran, which also derived from the goddess's name.

    Though we know that the Anglo-Saxons apparently celebrated the holiday of Easter, we don't really know how they celebrated it. It is difficult, then, to say whether such things as "Easter eggs" are a survival of a heathen custom. In fact, some scholars argue that the egg symbolism of the Christian "Easter" originated in the Near East. Here I must disagree with them. It seems to me that the "Easter egg" is most prevalent in areas settled by speakers of Indo-European languages. That is, not only do the Germanic countries celebrate the Christian "Easter" with "Easter eggs," but so do the Slavs (indeed, the Russians are known for their exquisitely designed eggs), while the custom is much rarer in the Near East. The custom would then seem to have its origins among the Indo-European peoples. The "Easter bunny" or "Easter hare" first appeared in Germany in the 1500s, so that we cannot rule out the survival of a heathen custom, though we have no way of knowing if the Anglo-Saxons knew of the "Easter hare."

    As noted above, the Scandinavians either did not know of the goddess ostre or failed to preserve her name. In mediaeval Iceland the Christian holiday was not called by a cognate of Easter, but Paskar instead, a word descending ultimately from the Hebrew word for Passover. We see the same thing occurring in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. That does not mean that the ancient heathen Scandinavians did not celebrate their own equivalent of Easter, whatever its name may have been. In fact, they share many Easter customs with other Germanic peoples. In Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland, Easter is celebrated with decorating eggs, Easter egg hunts, and various games involving Easter eggs, much as it is celebrated in other Germanic countries. If these customs are indeed survivals of heathen ones rather than borrowings from foreign sources, then the Scandinavians may have celebrated a holiday analogous to the Anglo-Saxons' astron.

    rimeolce:
    May Day was a holiday long celebrated in England, though it was forgotten for a time in the modern era. Of course, it takes its modern name from the month of May, which is a Latin borrowing. It is then extremely doubtful that the elder heathen called it "May Day." This leaves us at a loss as to what the day was called. In many countries the day is known as "Walpurgis Day," a day named in honour of the early, Anglo-Saxon St. Walburga. This has led some scholars to theorize that a goddess named Walburga (often identified with Fro) must have existed, so that St. Walburga simply took over a holiday originally held in honour of a goddess of the same name. The elder sources, however, contain no references to a goddess called Walburga, so that it is doubtful she even existed. It seems more likely that the Anglo-Saxons may have originally called the holiday rimeolce, the name they gave the month of May. According to Bede, rimeolce was so named because the cows could be milked three times a day. If the Anglo-Saxons named a day for a time when the ewes came into milk (owomeoluc), who is to say that they wouldn't name one for the time when the cows could be milked three times a day? Regardless, the name rimeolce could well be very ancient and may have been common to all of the Germanic peoples at one time. In parts of Sweden the marsh-marigold is called trimjlkgrs or "three milk grass."

    Regardless of the holiday's name, we can be fairly certain that May Day is a heathen survival. In England May Eve was celebrated with bonfires. May Day itself was celebrated by gathering flowers and in some areas even a battle between individuals costumed as "Winter" and "Summer." The erection of the maypole on May Day could have been a borrowing from the Celts, as many other Germanic peoples erect it on Midsummer Day instead. Of this, however, we cannot be certain. Some other Germanic peoples appear to focus on May Eve as the primary time of celebration. Among the Germans Walpurgisnacht was celebrated with huge bonfires and much merriment. Of course, the Germans also believed Walpurgisnacht to be a time for witches, as so aptly portrayed Goethe's Faust.

    Like most Germanic peoples, the ancient Scandinavians also apparently celebrated May Day. In Sweden Valborgsmssoafton is still a major holiday, celebrated with bonfires and, today, even fireworks. For both the ancient and modern Icelanders the end of April marked the official beginning of summer. Sumurml, which usually occurred around April 20, marked the last days of winter and the first days of summer. It is possible that the "blt for victory" or sigrblt mentioned in Norse sources occurred at this time.

    Midsummer:
    The Christian church chose the summer solstice as the date for St. John's Day. At least part of the reason this date was chosen was the fact that it also marked the date of one of heathendom's biggest celebrations, Midsummer. Among many of the Germanic peoples, Midsummer was a summertime equivalent of Yule. In England Midsummer's Eve was celebrated with huge bonfires, through which daring young men would leap. Midsummer's Eve was also considered a perfect time for divination. Among other things a young maid could use various means of learning whom she would marry on Midsummer's Eve. Midsummer's Day was celebrated with the gathering of flowers (as on May Day) and the usual dancing and drinking.

    As to the holiday's name, the Anglo-Saxons probably did call it Midsumer, however, Old English sources could lead us to wonder if it wasn't originally called by another name. Anglo-Saxon chroniclers sometimes refer to June and July as rra La and ftera La, "before" La and "after La," respectively. This reflects the names for December and January rra Gola and ftera Gola, "before Yule" and "after Yule." This makes it possible, at least, that the Anglo-Saxons also knew Midsummer by the name "La" as well.

    As stated earlier, nearly all of the Germanic peoples celebrated Midsummer and the Scandinavians were no different. As in other Germanic countries, Midsummer's Eve was celebrated with bonfires through which young men would leap. To this day in Sweden young girls still weave garlands from flowers and the maypole is still raised. Today, as perhaps in ancient times, the Swedish Midsummer celebration lasts three days.

    Lammas: From Old English sources we know that Lammas or, in Old English, Hlfmsse was a Christian festival in which the season's first new loaves of bread were blessed, celebrated on August 1. Given the fact that Christianity's festivals almost never concern themselves with the first fruits of the season, it would seem likely that Lammas was a survival of a heathen festival, in which the first loaves of the season were baked and perhaps offered to the gods. Regardless, there are other clues that Lammas was originally a heathen festival. On the holiday "Lammas lands," lands that were held privately from spring to Lammas, were thrown open to common pasturage until next spring. Similarly, in Scotland, Lammas was one of the days on which tenants paid their rent.

    That Lammas was originally a heathen festival seems likely, though the heathen holiday could hardly have been called "Hlfmsse." The msse in Hlmsse is our modern word mass, as in "a Catholic mass" and stems originally from Latin. Garman Lord theorizes that the festival may have originally been called Hlfmst or "feast of loaves," though we have no way of knowing this for certain. Though we cannot be sure of its original name, it seems likely that it was named for the loaves of bread that were baked at the time.

    Old Norse and Icelandic sources show little trace of a festival celebrated in either late July or early August; however, this does not make it entirely impossible. In Sweden August was called Skrdemnad "reaping month" or Skortant "reaping." In Iceland it was called Kornskurmn or "corn reaping month." This means that the harvest of the first grain of the summer must have taken place in Sweden and Iceland at approximately the same time that it did in England. It seems possible, if not likely, then, that the ancient Scandinavians may have had a festival at this time. After all, it would have been a reasonable and pleasurable way to end the first harvest of the year.

    Harvest:
    In ancient times, as now, September was a month when several crops were harvested. It should come as no surprise, then, that the ancient Germanic peoples may have held harvest festivals around the fall equinox. Indeed, the Old English word hrfest and its cognates in the other Germanic languages not only meant "the reaping of grain," but also "the season of fall" as well. That the Anglo-Saxons may have held a harvest festival in September can be shown by the name they gave that month--Haligmona or "holy month." This indicates that some sort of sacral activity accompanied the September harvest. In other words, a festival may have been held. This festival could well have survived in many parts of England as "Harvest Home," in which the end of the harvest was celebrated.

    It seems likely that the Scandinavians also celebrated a harvest festival. Icelandic sources refer to the haustblt or "fall sacrifice" and the haustbo or "fall feast." And just as "Harvest Home" celebrations are common in England and America, so too are they to be found in Scandinavia and Iceland. These festivals could well be heathen survivals.

    Winter Nights or Winterfylle: The festival called VetrnttR or "Winter Nights" in Old Norse sources is one of the best documented holidays among the Germanic peoples. Several Icelandic sagas refer to it and its observance has survived in some form to this day. Celebrated around October 14 according to our modern calendar, the ancient Scandinavians considered VetrnttR to be the official beginning of winter (as it still is in Iceland and Norway). It appears to have been a time of several blts. Icelandic sources make it fairly clear that blts to both the lfar (the elves) and the Dsir took place at this time. It also seems likely that a blt to Fra also took place during this festival. A good part of this festival was celebrated in private, with only close friends and family present. King Olaf's poet Sigvat complained in one of his verses once that while travelling in Sweden he could not find lodging because everyone was sacrificing to the the elves.

    It seems quite apparent that the Anglo-Saxons celebrated their own equivalent of VetrnttR. The Old English name for the month of October was Winterfylle, which has been interpreted as "winter full moon." That the Anglo-Saxons gave this name to the month of October indicates that they may have considered it the beginning of winter, much as the Scandinavians did. Winterfylle is immediately followed by Bltmona on the Anglo-Saxon calendar. Bede states that Bltmona was so named because the ancient Anglo-Saxons gave a portion of their slaughtered livestock to the gods at that time. It would then appear that the Anglo-Saxons not only began winter at approximately the same time as the Scandinavians, but held blts at approximately the same time too. This Anglo-Saxon equivalent to VetrnttR could well have been called by the month name, Winterfylle.

    It would be misleading to say that these were the only holidays celebrated by the Germanic peoples. In the elder sources we sometimes see references to festivals which were apparently peculiar to only one tribe or region. For instance, the ancient Icelandic Asatruarar celebrated a festival called orrablt, so named because it took place in the month of orri (which began anywhere from January 9th to January 16th according to our modern calendar). Though an important holiday for the ancient Icelanders, it is not to be found among the Anglo-Saxons or the Continental Germanic tribes. Similarly, it must be pointed out that many rural areas in modern England celebrate their own festivals peculiar only to themselves. Many of these festivals could date back to heathen times. The above mentioned festivals are simply those that appear to have been the major festivals of the year for the Germanic peoples, what the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving are to modern Americans.

    As can be seen, the ancient Anglo-Saxons and the ancient Icelanders held quite a bit in common with regards to religious festivals. We know that both groups celebrated Yule and Midsummer. They may have also held Easter, "May Day," "Harvest Home," and "Winter Nights" in common. owomeoluc and Lammas are the only two holidays which they might not have shared--evidence for the celebration of the two lacking in Iceland and Scandinavia. Even then, however, we cannot rule out the possibility that they were celebrated in Iceland and Scandinavia in one form or another.

    Sacral Kingship

    As can be seen above, the Anglo-Saxons and Icelanders shared many beliefs and many religious practices in common. In addition to those cited above, both groups also believed in the dynamistic force called in Old English mgen and in wyrd. One of the biggest differences between the two groups, however, was in the fact that the Anglo-Saxons practised sacral kingship, while the Icelanders did not.

    For the Anglo-Saxons sacral kingship was a central part of their religion. The king was the high priest of the tribes. He was the bearer of the tribal mgen, its protector and guardian. As the king's luck fared, so too did the luck of the tribe. Sacral kingship was not unique to the Anglo-Saxons. It was also practised in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and other Germanic countries.

    On the other hand, circumstances would force Iceland to abandon sacral kingship. In the ninth and tenth centuries Norway suffered through some of the worst kings to appear among the Germanic peoples. The first of these was ironically the man who unified Norway, Harald Finehair. Harald Finehair seized the hereditary estates and forced all farmers, whether they owned land or not, to be his tenants. Many left their homes to settle in Iceland. His son and heir, EirkR Bloodaxe was even worse. He continued his father's reign of tyranny and even murdered his own brothers. In the end he was driven from Norway. In behaving as despots, Harald Finehair and EirkR Bloodaxe both violated the central tenets of sacral kingship. As the folk's representative to the gods, it was the duty of the king not only to defend the folk's luck, but the folk themselves. Unfortunately, Harald Finehair and EirkR Bloodaxe did very little in the way of defending the folk, instead violating their rights given to them by the gods, such as the right to keep their own hereditary lands. Since the kings of Norway had broken troth with them, many Norwegians fled for Iceland where they had to find new ways of defending the tribal luck.

    Even though the system the Icelanders developed lacked sacral kingship, its roots were still firmly in Germanic tradition. Like the other Germanic peoples, much of the task of determining the law fell to various local assemblies or ings. The highest ing, the "Supreme Court" if you will, was the Aling, the national "parliament" of Iceland. Within this ing system the duties which would usually fall to a king were divided between various offices. In the Icelandic government it was the lgsgumaR ("law speaking man") who acted as the guardian of the law. Indeed, he was required to recite it from memory at the beginning of each Aling. The interpretation of the law fell to the goar, who in heathen times had been the priests. The goar made up the Lgrtta, a legislative assembly consisting of forty eight members. Among other things, the Lgrtta named the men who would sit on the various courts. In this way the Icelanders saw to it that the tribal luck was defended, even though they lacked a king.

    It must be pointed out that the Icelanders were not the only Germanic peoples who did not have sacral kings. Many scholars believe that the Saxons may have lacked sacral kingship before they arrived in England, where they adopted the concept from the Angles. Yet other Germanic tribes failed to develop the concept of sacral kingship, depending on powerful nobles and the ing system to defend the tribal luck. That Iceland operated without a sacral king is then not a precedent, but another variation in the very flexible traditions of Germanic government.

    Endword

    Anglo-Saxon heathendom and Icelandic Asatru had much in common. Both groups worshipped the same major gods. Similarly, both groups believed in many of the same wights--no doubt elves, ettins, dwarves, and nickers populated the legends of both peoples. Finally, they also celebrated many of the same festivals. At approximately the same time of year, both the Anglo-Saxons and the ancient Scandinavians celebrated Yule, Midsummer, and Winter Nights. These two branches of heathendom are remarkably similar, as two branches of the same religion would be expected to be.

    Anglo-Saxon heathendom and Icelandic Asatru also differed in many respects. Some of the gods known to the Anglo-Saxons might not have been known to the Icelanders and vice versa. And while they appear to have held the major festivals in common, some of the lesser festivals may not have been celebrated by both groups or may have had much less importance to one group than it did the other. Of course, the most glaring difference between Anglo-Saxon heathendom and Icelandic Asatru is that the Icelanders lacked sacral kingship. This is not to say that the Icelanders did not believe in sacral kingship, but more likely that they did not practise it. Their own kings having broken troth with them, the Icelanders had to protect the tribal luck through other means. Even then, the system they developed was rooted firmly in the ing system found among many Germanic peoples, including the Anglo-Saxons.

    Though they differ in some respects, Anglo-Saxon heathendom and Icelandic Asatru are very similar. Both were genuine manifestations of Germanic heathendom and both grew out of the beliefs of the same peoples who inhabited northwest Europe in the days of yore.



    Source
    Lk brn leika best.

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    The Differences between satr and Anglo-Saxon Heathendom

    - Anglo-Saxon Heathendom has at least two Gods you can't find in Norse Heathendom (or which are at least not mentioned in Norse lore): Eostre and Hrea.

    - There are also minor differences in rites. A-S Heathens perform symbel differently in that it is more formal. And they prefer husel to blot, although most A-S Heathens still blot in ways very similar to Asatruar.

    - Some feasts are celebrated in satr that are of minor interest for A-S Heathens and the other way around, e.g. Samhain is a more important in A-S and connected with other traditions than in satr and Winter Nights is more important in satr and almost unknown in A-S Heathendom.

    - Anglo-Saxon Heathens seem to place more emphasis on Wyrd, satrar on personal orlog, but not a very great degree of difference.

    - satr often conflates the godhi role with chieftaincy while the Anglo-Saxons keep priesthood and leadership separate.

    - Do you know some more differences?
    Lk brn leika best.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blutwlfin
    - Anglo-Saxon Heathendom has at least two Gods you can't find in Norse Heathendom (or which are at least not mentioned in Norse lore): Eostre and Hrea.
    How about Ingui?
    I cannot find a many references to Ingui in Norse lore.
    ----------------------------------
    Another difference: Anglo-Saxons used a derived Futharkh (or in their case, Futhorc), different to any of the norse ones.

    You can find it here


    Plus, maybe there is something in
    this
    thread you posted? :icon1:
    -In kalte Schatten versunken... /Germaniens Volk erstarrt / Gefroren von Lgen / In denen die Welt verharrt-
    -Die alte Seele trauernd und verlassen / Verblassend in einer erklrbaren Welt / Schwebend in einem Dunst der Wehmut / Ein Schrei der nur unmerklich gellt-
    -Auch ich verspre Demut / Vor dem alten Geiste der Ahnen / Wird es mir vergnnt sein / Gen Walhalla aufzufahren?-

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

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sigurd
    How about Ingui?
    I cannot find a many references to Ingui in Norse lore.
    Ingui (in Old English even Ingui Frea) = (Yngvi) Freyr

    The Anglo Saxon Futhorc derives from the Norse Fark, it was just modified in around the 5th century to accommodate sound changes that were occurring in Old English. Even the name "Futhorc" is evidence to a phonological change where the long "a" vowel in Old English evolved into a later "o" vowel.

    The new letters compensated for sound changes in Old English. For example, the Eldra Fark letter "k" became the Futhorc letter "c", which was pronounced as "k" before mid and back vowels ("a", "o", "u") and as "c" before front vowels ("e" and "i"), so a new Futhorc letter, "k", was created to always represent the sound "k" regardless of the following vowel. Similarly, the Eldra Fark letter "g" came to represent "g", "y", and "gh", so a second "g" letter was invented to consistently represent the "g" sound. And finally, many new vowels arose in Old English, so a lot of new vowel letters were created.
    Lk brn leika best.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blutwlfin
    Ingui (in Old English even Ingui Frea) = (Yngvi) Freyr
    Undebatable similarities. I cannot currently recall a source that blatantly calles him Ingui Fre. It is highly assumable that they were the same, indeed. Leaving that disregarded for a short time.

    The Anglo Saxon Futhorc derives from the Norse Fark,
    I said never anything different than that it derives.

    We may run different on this, but IMO the derivations are good enough to have it as a seperate Fuarkh/Fark/Fuorc. If we changed some of the Roman letters, their order, and added others, then it would really be a new alphabet, so to speak.

    1.runes/their shapes
    For example Ingwaz has extended "legs".
    You may also wish to understand the difference between jera and jear, which, obviously have the same roots.
    Also the shape of kaunaz, as it goes over to cen has changed immensely.
    You have already commented on added letters, but with added letters it can constitute a new "set of letters". Don't use the example of "" and "" "" and "", "", "" and "" on me now

    2. rune Order
    The order is entirely different. Note for example the change in the place of Ansuz to sc that it has become by the Anglo-Saxon Fuork. You have commented on the shift from A to O; but you leave this order shift out of consideration. That the Swedish alphabet has "", "" and "" at its end is not an argument. That is merely because it seems them as fresh letters rather than the German seeing them as "Umlaute".

    [/QUOTE]
    -In kalte Schatten versunken... /Germaniens Volk erstarrt / Gefroren von Lgen / In denen die Welt verharrt-
    -Die alte Seele trauernd und verlassen / Verblassend in einer erklrbaren Welt / Schwebend in einem Dunst der Wehmut / Ein Schrei der nur unmerklich gellt-
    -Auch ich verspre Demut / Vor dem alten Geiste der Ahnen / Wird es mir vergnnt sein / Gen Walhalla aufzufahren?-

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

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    Links to Ingui Frea

    Link 1
    Link 2
    Link 3
    Link 4
    ...

    And about the Futhorc:

    Yes, their positions were changed and yes, there appeared some new signs, but the ones still left had at least the same meaning (albeit not the same sound). Just compare the three Rune Poems (Anglo-Saxon, Icelandic and Norwegian) and you can see, although all of them use the Younger Fark all of them have almost the same meaning of Runes.

    So this is actually not a real difference in the way of "doing something different" from the Norse people. If we count the Futhorc and the Fark as differences we can also invoke the different languages they spoke now....
    Lk brn leika best.

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    It is totally stretching one point into triviality, but...

    yes they mention Yngvi-Freyr. However, how could you be sure that Ingui-Frea would exactly be the same. Apart from unless I overlooked this, that these two words are neverused in conjunction (that is Ingui and Frea)
    You may like to recall that Germany saw a confusion between Freya and Frigg; mainly because Freya or Frija is Frigg, and Freyja stands for Freya. So, for all we know they could be different. Highly unlikely that there is a great difference in person.
    Nevertheless, all these sources are the subjective interpretations of people. This includes the Eddas etc. To interpret things, in generally different, we have to be active on our own, collect our own ideas, form them and execute these interpretations; however, with a common heathen practice gone for 1000 years, we are highly unlikely to find the varying opinions. :

    "All" is hinting into Ingui and Freyr being the one and same person. However, if you gave me a couple of books of lore, a few days time, and a less hungover mind then I am sure I could find you a different interpretation than the generally accepted one with substantial amounts of evidence for it.
    -In kalte Schatten versunken... /Germaniens Volk erstarrt / Gefroren von Lgen / In denen die Welt verharrt-
    -Die alte Seele trauernd und verlassen / Verblassend in einer erklrbaren Welt / Schwebend in einem Dunst der Wehmut / Ein Schrei der nur unmerklich gellt-
    -Auch ich verspre Demut / Vor dem alten Geiste der Ahnen / Wird es mir vergnnt sein / Gen Walhalla aufzufahren?-

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

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    I read that one of the main differences between the Anglo Saxon Woden and the Norse Odin, is that Woden is more of a shamanistic deity rather than a warrior god. He is the guider of souls, god of poetry, transported states of being and inspiration, he never became a warrior god. Overall I don't think there is a huge difference, Odin is basically the same I think, but is also a warrior god.

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    For your question mark against 'ostre'. It's Norse counterpart is 'Ostara'...No? Idun (O.N) has also been thought to be the same.

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    Both England and Scandinavia had several places named for him and the fifth day of the week still bears his name in English and most of the Scandinavian countries (in modern English, Thursday).
    And isn't Wednesday derived from "Wodan's day"?

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