Despite not intending this to be a very academically-inclined post, I will briefly touch upon attestations. The Matronæ Alaferhuiæ—or half of the time just Alaferhuiæ—are known from 16 inscriptions from Altdorf, Bonn (11x), Eschweiler (3x), and Gohr. The name can be explained as “all-life mothers” or “they of all-life”, but also all-people, all-worlds, all-oaks, all-life force/essence, and all-gods; possibly even all-fir trees and all-hills/mountains. Their iconography includes cornucopias of various kinds (with flowers, ribboned, etc.), a basket of bread, a fruit bowl, birds (possibly turtle doves or similar), a large caduceus, and various vegetal motifs (foliage, leafy branch, tree). Regardless, there is a clear theme in name meaning and iconography. For me personally, the Alaferhuiæ are care-takers of all living things and the interconnectedness and interdependence between these. In a modern-day context, I connect them to such things as multiculturalism, diversity, ecology, sustainability, and environmental morality and philosophy.
Below I present to you the myth of the Alaferhuiæ; first in dialectal Proto-Germanic, then the English translation. Although I’m fully aware that most people won’t understand much of the former, I still wanted to include it in this form. And perhaps, some speakers of modern Germanic languages may catch words that are familiar to them, or even get the gist of a phrase. It is my longest bit of writing in it to date (1051 words); and I should really really write a post on how my dialectal version works, but that’s one for that mythical day known as “someday”. I’ve deliberately kept the main figure in this myth ambiguous in terms of gender or exact origins. They have also been left unnamed to avoid situating them in a specific cultural context, since this story is set in an isolated place somewhere before written history.
Sagā (uppi mundardilīki Urþeudiski)
Nēwwihtiz isti ānu werþande. Allô þurbun wahsanam þanuh wanonam, andi mugīn wahsanam wanonahw wiþer. Sā isti ainafalþā wārā libjandis. Swalango kaliks efþau brunnaz lība haldit ahwām, neutēm it. Efþau, swe awô mīnaz ufto sagide: “Sīn fullo gafullido swa leudiz mugun drinkanam.” Wīsidâ himmi, ja? Auk, nem selbo ainam. Swa, hwar was ek? ā, wait wiþer. Kīk umbi þek. Managems stundāms hijam herþafor brinnit, ju gantā gaskihtiz isti langir þau aldiz. Samalīkê geldit furi hijām sagonum. Uns ijāz haitande “Alaferhwjāz”, ak sindi felu aldir þau þat—efþau euhwaþeram aljam—namô.
Ta þammi tīde ne was þurpam hēr, ak was fanjam an fotums hufâ. Umbi it mekilaz walþuz lag. Uppi lītilems aujams under gasigams es, talalause fugle būdedun. Flugun ab salihi, to bokum, at alisum, to hulisam, at askam. Ātun fiskanz auk olun junganunz erâ. Swa dedun furi þūsundjāz jārâ ānu sehwande ainahanis manniskanis. Awiz—hwande ufto skehit inni sagoni—dago ferri inni lidanni, kurtê after dagoni hijam skulde wandonam.
Hwan sunnâ staig uber widums andi guldinam leuhtam era raikide to rowogām ahwām, jungam urstautanô stop uz walþum. Was sairê moþum ab nahtlīki hlaupī es. Swa, an langi aiki satide sek hermjanam etanahw latistô braudas. Fure þrims dagams laiþ þurpam hwar mangode þarfuri medi kwennone sā bar krattô hlaibâ. Sa gaþankaz fragēninis branhte aljanunz. Þanhte uber hwifelu dagâ skāhun sīþiz warþ urstautanam bi þeudo.
“Minnist sindi mēr þau hundafimftigwiz dagâ. Langatīno laibjā jainar, ak nūn isti harbistaz hēr.” Kaik upp. “Blado werþandi raudo gelwohw. Þaruh, sehw! Gansiz kranozuh fleugandi sunþram.” Hwīlo ininam landaskapim; hrorî heuhmôhw es. Sehwanam allo þas branhte wiþram gafoljo ainasamīnis; was landafararjam, þeudā ainas ānu haimo. Sunnâ staig hauhir. “Ai!” Gol hwan euwihtiz fefall an habedam es. Þan aikilâ landide an skautam es. Bigann hlahjanam. Innane aiki aikwernô hlūdê babalode gagin immi. “Frijondukaz aikwernô! Wārī ātam þīnam þat dangide mek an habedam? Þankā þek þarfuri. Frahwīlēnam an fralidanni ne batiroþ ardim mīnām. Skal sinnanam hijām stowām an staþlo es. Aih swalīkām skaunīnum sā langano tīde ne sahw. Skal it mēr undersokjanam.” After mērīms mālāms drūsede; skīnalīkê ānu surgāms.
Hwan upanode augno es, luftuz warþ dunkraz. Mānanleuhtam skain an ahwām. Uppi oferi stodun þrīz kwennoniz. Ainâ was jungā andi twāz aljoniz wārun aldirīniz, ak sanþām aldīniz erâ ne kunþe þeudjanam.
“Līkēþe þiz hijam? Medi hino mainidâ hijām stowām.” Jungistâ þrijâ frah. Sī habde lango brūno hāro þāz wagodedun bi linþano windo auk glintidedun bi leuhto māninis. Ainagā farwā was inni grāweri weraldī. Bi wainagano leuhto graso trewohw wurdun grīso, auk harbistablado luzun farwīnum erâ. Þrīz kwennoniz drogun grīso klaiþo auk silubrino halbamānanmanjo. Aldironiz fraburgun hāro erâ medi braidems hodams.
“Miz līkēþe, sunderlīkê fugle fiskozuh. Ō, andi inni walþo aikwernaniz herutozuh wulfozuh beranizuh bījonizuh, andi swafelu aljanâ. Alatīde sindi swa bisīgo.” Jungistâ frawalīkê sagide. “Auk miz līkēþe þat airir wast ganāmim gagin aikwernanum. Fastjê mainide nehwainām ubilīnum. Miz aikwernaniz sindi leube. Alatīde sindi bisīge. Auk sindi swa witjage.”
Urstautanô ne kunþe andawurdjanam eri. Ne wisse ibu hiz wārī draumaz efþau taubram. Ainafalþê kunþe ne sprekanam nehw weganam.
“Leubā swesterukā. ne mainjā manonam þek, ak lāt.” Ainâ aldironâ strangjê sagide. “Ne kunnīz sehwanam þat ab ferri kwam andi skīnit worigaz ganhtis furi managems dagams nahtumsuh? Wurdo þīno sindi bisīgo swe þanz leubanz aikwernanunz þīnanz. Laibjēm immi swa mag hermjanam.”
“Warte, swestriz mīnāz, furi gēms.” Latistâ þrijâ sagide. Þan wand sek to urstautannum. “Apaldrā stēþi minnir þau feþurhundo gangjâ to westram ab hēr. Unnī þiz rowām auk neujām lībanarām.” Ainaklappo kwennoniz fradwinun; alaswa ijāz neumēr wārun. Nuh moþum, urstautanô slaut augno es wiþer.
After waknī, fanþ þat sezlāp und ābundum. Nūn was nāhw sunnonsatīniz. Sohte natam grumþum furi marko ak hehald nehwaino. “Was draumaz.” Bislaut. “Wunskjā þat wārī sanþam.” Hafide pakkam es; garwam furi kurtām wandlonim sokjanam matis hlewahw.
“Ne fragete apaldrām”. Was nāhw unhauridā hwisproniz uppi windi. Kaik umbi sek sehwanam ibu wārī sumô, ak was allainam. Awiz uberallo sahw deuro. Sokjanam furi mujo wrandilô flaug ab hrīsi to hrīsam. Twāz krudoniz huppode nāhw ahwi. Uber habedi flukkô gansis dede gardam es anakunþjanam kumþim wintrus andi langam sunþram fluhtim. Under hrorems laubāms kunþe haurjanam woginz managâ lītilâ deurâ. Urstautanô fastide pakkam es andi bigann ganganam westram.
“Feþurhundo stopiâ.” Mummode. “Wadjā þat isti nehwainā apaldrā.”
After kurtano hwīlo hlaupis, fraraskido hehald hwan apaldrā kwam inn sihtim. Bar felu mekilerâ gronjerâ aplâ. “Ne galaubā it”. Sagide andi bigann rinnanam medi pakkam þudonþi an rugi es. Lauside it an twatigwiz stopiâ ab apaldri. Allo inhaldas es wurdun gastawido uber grasam, ak skīnabārjê urstautanô ne surgede. Medi wundro linhtīnehw an seunī es starede at apaldrām. Wissê was taikniz. Ainâ kwennonâ—þāz wīsodedun draumam es—sprak uber apaldrām. Andi nūn was hēr.
“Hwaz sīþ?” Frah, ak kwam nehwainam andawurdam. Sohte gahugdim es. Hauride jungām kwennonum sā frawalikê sprekit uber manago deuro. Ainâ aldironâ manode ijâ furi bisīgo wurdo. Andi latistâ… Hwaz sagide sī? Ne kunþe innironam. Harbide lāguhanhandum aplâ andi nam bitanum. Was hailê likram; swotam sūrahw sappagahw krusogahw.
“Unnī þiz rowām auk neujām lībanarām.” Innirode it nūn. Þo wārun wurdo ab latisti kwennoni. Sunnaâ undergegang, mānôhw was nāhwbi hauhisti stalli. Gab ganogam leuhtam gaduronam aihtinz es. After kurtê sokjanam under widums lagide badjam es under buganum gamakodam bi twems berkāms andi saliho.
“Whaz sehwiz an laubi?” Stimnā neusīnilīkê frah. Urstautanô sat upp. Samāz þrīz kwennoniz stodun nāhw. Swe airir jungistâ stoþ an medli.
“Miz draumjun efþau sijâ wakram nuh.” Urstautanô frah.
“Be!” Jungistâ hloh, lukke era murgulīkê þudonþi. “Behw sindi sante.”
“Beum waldarunjāz.” Aldirâ an linkoni andawurdide. “Uns surgēms uber allo lībo. þatuh inisleutit þek.”
“Langano tīde hehlauft.” Aldirâ an tehswoni sagide. “Hwar isti andjam wandlonis? Efþau skalt ganganam und dauþum þīnam? Frastēms þat beusi furhtam būanam euhwargin wiþer, ak neumannô—auk nehwainaz landafararjaz—līþit weraldim swe gaistaz. Beum medifoljandunz gagin sundrodaniz ab weraldī; lībjam ānu lībo. Uns neuwihtiz aih werþam mēr þau firibundiþām. Hijā stowā kann haimatjanam þiz. Nemēz unseram budam?”
“Hidrê þadrêhw wandrodēz, skainuh swa ainasamam. Þauh isti kuzam þīnam.” Jungistâ sagide.
Fulgjande dagâ urstautanô bigann makonam kubanum uz þrinz gafallidāz aikunz. Habde hrainjâ ahwām, aplanzuh basjohw hnutunzuh. Jagode herutanz fuglanzuh, ak airēnam waldarunjāz alalībjâ, sundrô aldono seukonohw. Hwan bilībiz hlaupanam, skal motjanam mērô leudiâ, þauh kurtê. Hwan bilībiz euhwargin, kanst makonam haimam jahw bando gagin umbilegjandunz. After managano jarāms aljo wire kwennonizuh kwāmun an kubani es, auk kuzun būanam þar. Urstautanô—þauh nelangir urstautanô—talode ijo uber waldunjām alalībjâ; Modruniz Alaferhwjāz.
The Myth (in English)
Nothing exists without becoming. All must wax and then wane, and if allowed wax and wane again. That is the simple truth of life. For as long as the chalice or well of life contains water, let us enjoy its use. Or, as my grandfather often said: “May the cups be filled, so people may drink.” I was hinting at this, right? Also, have one yourself. So, where was I? Ah, I know again. Look around you. This hearth fire burns for many hours, yet its complete history is longer than an age. Similarly this applies to this story. To us, they are called Alaferhuiæ, but they are much older than that—or any other—name.
At the time there was no village, but It was a fen at the foot of the hills. Around it lay a great forest. Innumerable birds dwelt on small islands among its pools/swamps. They flew from willow, to beech, to alder, to holly, to ash. They ate fish and raised their young. They did so for thousands of years without seeing a single human being. Obviously—because it often happens in myths—during a day in the distant past, shortly after dawn, this was going to change.
When the sun rose above the trees and its golden light stretched out toward the calm water, a young outcast stepped out of the forest. They were very tired from walking all night. So, they sat down against a tall oak to rest and eat the last of the bread. Three days ago they passed through a village where they bartered for it with a woman carrying a basket of loaves. That thought of the past brought others. They thought about how many days had passed since the tribe cast them out.
“It has to be at least over a hundred-and-fifty days. I left over there during spring, and now it is autumn here. They looked up. “Leaves are turning red and yellow. And there, see! Geese and cranes are flying southward.” For a while they took in the landscape; its liveliness and abundance. Seeing all of that brought back feelings of loneliness; they were an itinerant, a tribe of one without a home. The sun rose higher. “Ai!” They called when something fell on their head. Then an acorn landed in their lap. They began to laugh. From out of the tree a squirrel chattered loudly at them. “Friend squirrel, was it your meal that hit me on the head? For that I thank you. Dwelling on the past does not improve my disposition. Instead I shall contemplate this place. It possesses such beauty that I haven’t seen for a long time. I should explore it further.” After several moments, they fell asleep; apparently without worry.
When they opened their eyes, the sky had become dark. Moonlight shone upon the water. Three women were standing on the shore. One was young, the other two were older, but their true ages couldn’t be determined.
“Does this please you? With this, I meant this place.” The youngest of the three asked. She had long brown hair that waved in the soft breeze and glinted in the light of the moon. It was the sole colour in a grey world. By the poor light, the grass and the trees had become grey. And also the autumn leaves had lost their colourfulness. The three women wore grey dresses and half-moon-necklaces. The older ones had their hair covered by broad bonnets.
“I like it. Especially the birds and fish, oh, and in the forest squirrels and deer,, and wolves, and bears, and bees, and so many others. They’re always so busy.” The youngest said happily. “I also like that you were kind to the squirrel earlier. It surely didn’t mean any ill. I love squirrels. They are always busy. And they’re so clever.”
The outcast was unable to respond to her. They didn’t know if this might be a dream or an enchantment, but They were simply unable to speak or move.
“Dear little sister, I don’t mean to admonish you, but let them alone.” One of the others said sternly. “Can’t you see that they came from far away and appear weary of walking for many days and nights. Your words are as busy as those beloved squirrels of yours. Let us leave them so they may rest.”
“Wait, my sisters, before we go.” Said the last of the three, who then turned to the young outcast. “An apple tree stands less than four hundred paces to the west from here. May it grant you calm and new vitality.” Suddenly, the women vanished, as if they had never been there. Still tired, the outcast closed their eyes again.
After waking up, they found that they had slept until evening. It was now near sunset. They searched the wet ground for marks, but it didn’t hold any. “It was a dream.” They decided. “I wish it were real.” They hefted their pack; ready for a short hike to search for food and shelter.
“Don’t forget about the apple tree.” It was an almost inaudible whisper on the wind. They looked around to see if it had been someone, but they were alone. Of course, everywhere they saw animals. Searching for insects a wren flew from bush to bush. Near the water two frogs were hopping. Overhead a flock of geese was doing its circular dance heralding the coming of winter and a long southward flight. Among the stirring foliage they could hear the movements of small animals. The outcast secured their pack and began to walk westward.
“Less than four hundred paces.” They mumbled. “I bet there’s no apple tree there.”
After walking a short while, they stopped in surprise when an apple tree came into sight. It bore many large green apples. “I don’t believe it”. They said and began to run with their bundle bouncing on their back. Twenty steps from the apple tree they let it go. All of its contents were strewn across the grass, but the outcast didn’t care. They stared with wonder and relief on their face at the apple tree. This had to be an omen. One of the women—who visited their dream—spoke about an apple tree. And now here it was.
“Who are you? they asked, but didn’t get any answer. They searched their memory. They heard a young woman happily talking about many animals. One of the older ones admonished her for busy words. And the last… What did she say? They couldn’t remember. They plucked a low-hanging apple and took a bite. It was very delicious; sweet, and sour, and juicy, and crunchy.
“May it grant you calm and also new vitality.” They remembered now. Those were the words of the last woman. The sun had set, and the moon was near its zenith. It provided enough light for gathering up their things. Then, after a briefly searching among the trees, they lay their bedding under an arch created by two birches and a willow.
“What are you seeing in the foliage?” A voice asked curiously. The outcast sat up. The same three women stood nearby. As earlier the youngest stood in the middle.
“Am I dreaming or still awake?” They asked.
“Both!” the youngest laughed, her curls bouncing merrily. “And both are real.”
“Who are you?”
“We are caretakers.” The older one on the left replied. “We concern ourselves with all life. And that includes you.”
“You’ve walked for a long time.” The older one on the right said. “Where is the end of your wandering? Or will you keep going until your death? We understand you’re afraid to put down roots again, but nobody—even an ittinerant—should pass through the world like a spirit. We’re compassionate toward those sundered from the world; a living thing without life. To us nothing possesses more value than connectedness. This place can provide you with a home. Will you take our offer?”
“You’ve been wandering hither and thither and seemed lonely, but it’s your choice.” The youngest said.
The next day, the outcast began to build a cabin out of three fallen oaks. They had clean water, and apples, berries, and nuts. They hunted deer and fowl, but respecting the caretakers of all living things only those that were old and sick. When you keep moving, you meet more people, but only briefly. When you stay somewhere you can create a home, and also bonds with your surroundings. After many years other men and women arrived at the cabin, and decided to build/dwell there to. The outcast—though an outcast no longer—told them about the caretakers of all life; the great mothers of all living things.