Laiza (lore): an additional post: what exactly is belief?

I just wanted to write a very—or at least I hope so—short post about the concept of “belief” and how the original concept can not really be paralleled in the modern usage of that term. In Laiza part I, I talked about belief not being the actual foundation of what I’m describing, and I qualify that with examples of things having verifiable states and interactions that can be understood to thrive.

Belief comes from *bi- “by, with, through” and *laubô “permission, praise”. In Dutch geloof, and German Glaube, the final root is the same, but the prefix is *ga- “with”; cognate to Lat. co-. What it therefore means is: “by/through/with permission/praise”. It does not refer to what people believe in the modern term, but what is allowed or praised; and thus an external feedback loop. Piety seems the clearer direct cognate, in that pious action is what is religiously-speaking permitted and—when done—praised. It is thus a set of ideals and morals that is developed and reinforced within a given social or religious environment. Absolutely, it is possible to set down your own ideals and morals; however, it may be incredibly hard to sustain these when they are constantly being challenged or frowned upon; in other words, not allowed or praised by the society or gods/ancestors/spirits that you interact with. This is another reason why I’ve chosen to use laiza (lore) here, since at the foundation of discovering what is permitted and praised lies knowledge and a constant sense of learning.

In a Latin and Celtic context, the words for belief are linked to the root for heart, which is harder to disentangle and qualify. Not much is known about how the Celts viewed the heart; both symbolically and physically. In ancient Greece, it was already understood as an organ that pumped blood around the body, but it was also linked to consciousness. This is worth mentioning as—in a modern view, and unsupportable ethnic stereotyping—this could initially indicate that the Romans and Celts were much more about feeling than the Germans, but there’s simply no grounds for such a claim.

The term “holy” is also interesting, since it refers to *haila- “whole, sound, healthy” plus *-ga- “having the quality of”. So, something that is holy—in the original context—I would define as something that is present to create an “ideological” whole, which should not be dishonoured or violated. In short, something that is vital to connect to, or progress a state of wholeness. For example, in Middle High German the word heilig referred to a pious person, which could be interpreted as being someone who through his/her/their piety has achieved a mode of being that is inviolable. The clearest older form for this word—and one I prefer in my focus—is *wīhaz sacred in a sense of consecrated or dedicated, e.g., incense G wiihrauch, Du wierrook, from *wīharaukiz “dedicated smoke”. There’s also a noun *wīhaz or *wīham meaning sanctuary. Another related word to *hailaga-—and the origin for E worship—is *werþaskapiz, literally meaning the shaping of worth, holding the same meaning of piety; this term seems less common when considering its distribution, but it’s still valid.

Thus, combining the concepts of *bilaubô or *galaubô (religion/belief), *hailaga- (holy), and *wīhaz(consecrated), gives us a glimpse into what the foundation of religion is: namely something that determines desirable ideals and morals that devise practices towards achieving a desired wholeness. In many monotheist religions, that state of wholeness is unity with God, while in polytheism—and animism—it is—and this is purely my opinion—a way to navigate the mundane and spiritual worlds successfully.

Consider this article, about the Yukaghir hunters of Northern Siberia on how they tread the line between observing religious practices, while also ensuring the system does not become total. In this case, total refers to a state where mankind manages all resources—and within the concept of a sharing culture—the spirits of the forest are allowed to demand or take back what was theirs; thus leading to illness and death. From a modern perspective, it really does not seem pious behaviour to seduce, deceive, or steal from the spirits, but when considering this from a logical standpoint regarding survival it makes perfect sense. In a polytheist society that faces fewer challenges regarding survival, the concept of reciprocity seems a natural progression—without attributing to this an evolutionist sentiment of being superior—of the sharing culture: I give you (a relevant person, divine being, ancestor, or spirit) X in exchange for Y towards our mutual benefit. Speaking purely from my viewpoint, this is a similar relationship to the sharing culture in that it acknowledges a relationship, not necessarily one of divine superiority or literal god-fearing., but one where both worlds are connected; this is why it’s not so much an evolution as a different modality of the same. A question I posed in part I was regarding the statement: “There are no hard and fast divisions between physical and spiritual dimensions in the world, although socially defined relationships and hierarchies may be found”. This is the answer to that question, namely, both make up the whole of the environment we live in, and if we can mutually benefit each other in some way, it behoves us to interact and build relationships towards that goal.

Laiza (lore) – Part I

A little while ago I posted a “Rough Guide to Andî” in which I explained very briefly about my worldview and its Proto-Germanic framing. I intend to write a series of posts to expand upon this whole thing in more detail. I had a specific structure in mind, but given that I have a tendency to ramble—plus the topic being incredibly vast—means I’m going to keep it more flexible. Furthermore, I should also clarify that I’m perhaps not your average polytheist, as I’m very empiricist in my thinking. I quite simply can’t believe in anything without constructing an understanding of how and why based on my perceptions and inferences, something that you will see clearly in these posts, or anything I’ve ever posted here. Perhaps the earliest evidence of growing into this philosophical approach was when I—though growing up devoutly catholic—began to question it, and answers like “You need to have faith that God knows best” seriously frustrated me no end. Nor could I support a morality based on zombie-like, unthinking dogma. And before I get branded an anti-Christian, let me add the following very important statement.

I’m a polytheist, which means I subscribe to a worldview involving multiple gods. I do not subscribe to exclusionist, elitist, or conversionist notions, i.e., only the god(s) I worship is/are true. Every divine being ever worshipped in this universe—whether belonging to a group or being a single supreme being—is valid; the same holds for not worshipping any god. I will condemn groups who commit atrocities, racism, and discrimination on cultural or religious grounds, but that does not mean I will condemn the culture or religion as a whole. I hold myself to this same standard. Therefore, what I post here is not an effort to convince anyone that I’ve got the right end of the stick. I’m posting this for myself to reflect upon in a couple of years, and continue an internal dialogue on where I stand then, and how things have evolved in my understanding. If anything I write helps you to contrast and consider things, then great! I believe there is no such thing as an absolute truth, no black-and-white divide, but everything is grey with nuggets of truth and falsehood which shift or vary depending on many factors. I’m highly sceptical of anyone—including myself—who claims to have the final word or a world-shattering, conclusive theory on anything. This is based on the notion that people are limited beings; our sensory range is finite and defines our subjective and objective boundaries. Speaking of which, that’ll get covered in this very post, but first…

Introduction

Animism is an academic model developed by the British anthropologist Sir Edward Tylor in his book “Primitive Culture”, published in 1871. He states that animism was the earliest developmental phase in the formation of religion due to it stemming from a belief in souls; hence the coined term being built on “animus” soul. He also clearly expresses that “lower/savage” animism does not concern itself with morality, since his “hypothetical primitive peoples” were incapable of distinguishing objective from subjective reality.1 Eventually, it was replaced by polytheism and then monotheism, which implemented consecutively “better” moral value systems. Many anthropologists have rightly critiqued his work as naively evolutionist and overly intellectual. Considering that the origin of the term discusses “primitive peoples”, it does not centre itself on any cultural or linguistic paradigm. Because of this, one could argue that there is no such thing as a standalone or indigenous “animist” or “animism”. And considering the term’s judgmental baggage—despite its more recent developments—it does not seem entirely free of its evolutionist, colonial, and racial connotations; something that plagues modern polytheism as well. Without a cultural and linguistic context giving name and form to things, animism is a shell, a broad, simplistic, and abstract theoretical outline without substance or nuance. Simply put, culture and language are necessary to define and give form to a worldview. Therefore, a discussion of “animism” as a standalone subject without delving into lore is meaningless and unproductive.

This also applies to the main way of explaining an animistic worldview, e.g., “A belief that events in the world are mobilized by the activities of spirits”,2 which outlines the broad strokes without further qualifiers and definitions: what events, what spirits, and how do they mobilise events, and why? Another definition, e.g., “A belief system in which all material or experienced phenomena—including, for example, humans, animals, plants, trees, rocks, mountains, rivers, rain, wind, sun, moon, and stars—have a soul, spirit, or sentience of some kind, and therefore have agency amongst themselves and with each other. There are no hard and fast divisions between physical and spiritual dimensions in the world, although socially defined relationships and hierarchies may be found”, is much more succinct and helpful, yet again, it does not present us with anything concrete regarding the how and why underlying this belief system. It is like skipping to the end-product without highlighting its underlying rationale. Why is there no division between spiritual and physical dimensions? How are these phenomena sentient, or why is this the logical state for them? Is there a purpose? Many modern “animists” believe in spirits and their agency in the world, but very few—based on personal experience—can qualify such underlying lore. “It is just the way of things” is a static religious trope.

Let me clarify this further before I come across as judgmental and insulting; yet I realise this is definitely possible even so. The fact of the matter is that an animistic worldview is not a belief system, but an ontological endeavour that strives to understand and explain the world around oneself to survive and thrive. Quite simply, there’s no belief involved whatsoever. Similar to science, there is a process of constant interaction—defining and redefining—going on. Furthermore, all the mentioned things in the last description, like plants, animals, mountains, rain, or the sun do not involve belief. They exist in a verifiable state. The same applies to the ways in which they interact with one another. Basically, animism is a method to engage with, what we nowadays call the broader grouping of natural sciences: physics, chemistry, biology, geophysics, environmental studies, ecology, etc., with the minor difference that science has developed the tools to see more distant and smaller aspects of this cosmos. Very little contradiction exists between science and indigenous knowledge on a whole. In fact, the interconnected world of indigenous worldviews is slowly but surely becoming supported by science, e.g., the gestalt formation, mutual aid, and kin recognition of a forest through the mycorrhizal network3, or consciousness theories, such as integrated information theory and panpsychism. Since animism isn’t a belief, plus carries many evolutionist, colonial, and racial notions, I will henceforth avoid the term in favour of laiza “lore”, which indicates learning and skill, and seems a less stigmatising way to consider indigenous worldview and knowledge. Of course, what will be described in this and the following posts will be lore extracted and framed through Proto-Germanic as its linguistic paradigm. It is lived tradition based on my personal positionality and understanding; something that the model described below highlights and clarifies as well.

Anaskawoniz (cosmology)

Anaskawoniz literally means “an observing upon”, perhaps better translated as “outlook” or “mode of view”. At first, this may not seem entirely synonymous with cosmology in the sense of being a knowledge system concerning how the cosmos is structured, but more with worldview. Many online sources indicate that the Germanic worldview begins and ends with the Norse model, which does not seem realistic when considering etymologies, e.g., the term “Yggdrasil”—presumably translated as “Yggr’s steed”—does not implicitly indicate a world tree; one needs to have read the Eddas to build that particular association, though the exact mythology behind that name is one that is not directly attested. What I’ve attempted to do is consider Proto-Germanic terms that have clearly attested implicit meanings for building an Early Germanic worldview.

Fulda: the physical plain; cognate to SKT prithvi (earth, mother Earth), YAv ząm pərəθβīm (broad earth), and Gaulish Litavi (the vast one); the latter attested as a theonym on at least three inscriptions.4 The term is related to the words felþaz (field), Flataz (flat), and flatjam (floor). This could be interpreted as supporting a flat-earth concept, but we have no concrete evidence of such applying to the Germans or Celts of antiquity. In fact, if we consider Pliny the Elder—who dedicates chapter 64 of his Naturalis Historia to the form of the earth5—in combination with the significant Roman-Celtic-Germanic contact and mixing, that such a view may have been—or became—shared. Thus, the predominant contemporary view around Pliny’s time (23/24–79 AD) was that the earth was a sphere, though still within a geocentric model.6

Weraldiz: the subjective plain. This term is a compound of wiraz (human) and aldiz (age, lifetime). This being a compound word, there are no clear cognates outside of Germanic, though it may have conceptual overlap with PCelt Bitus (world, life), which has a similar underlying concept of being. Interestingly, it does not present us with a locative concept, but a temporal one. Therefore, the moment you are experiencing now—and valid throughout your lifetime—is the world as you know it. A similar temporal notion can also be seen in terms such as English afterlife or hereafter, and Dutch hiernamaals (lit. The moment here after).

Combining these two Earths, we have a way to situate ourselves on the X-axis of “where” and the Y-axis of “when” or “what is being perceived”. In so doing, we have a firm foundational concept that every human being has their coordinates at which they are the centre of their reality. Expanding this further may indicate that plants, trees, animals and other phenomena occupy their own central perceptual centre; some of which may overlap with our human ones, while others may be wholly alien. Understanding this as a fundamental philosophy sets a precedent regarding interaction, dialogue, and obtaining knowledge. This is—what I shall refer to as—the 1st and 2nd principles, namely:

  1. Each living thing resides within the centre (weraldiz; personal, subjective, finite reality). This is the place of role and emotional embodiment (shifting identities and perceptions in response to the infinite reality).
  2. Knowledge and understanding can only be gained by stepping out of the centre by engaging in observation and dialogue (fulda; interactive, infinite reality). Of course, this is basically an amalgamation of countless subjective realities, and thus never an absolute form of objectivity or truth.

As stated above, I do not believe anyone can pull all of the interactive infinite reality into their subjective finite one, thereby obtaining absolute knowledge. We are limited to one core reality that we can shift in terms of embodiment. To put this into a numeric value, there are 7151 languages spoken today, 40% of which are endangered, and 21% accounts for half the Earth’s population.7 Language is the predominant medium for describing phenomena. In order to obtain all knowledge, one needs to have an understanding of all possible ways these can be described, which is complicated by the fluid nature of language, e.g., the concept of the colour orange existed in Old English, but not as a single colour, but as a compound of yellow and red: ġeolurēad. This illustrates how an explanation of a relatively simple perceived reality can vary based on words; linguistic embodiment. In the Old English paradigm, there was no such thing as a clear orange, which came in later through the import of the fruit that unambiguously helped to qualify the colour. The same is true for a more theoretical form of perception, e.g., temporal orientation. For most of us, the past is behind us and the future in front. However, Quechua—the language of the Inca—and Aymara-speaking populations of South America express the metaphysical directions of the past and the future in an opposite manner, I.e., the anterior space being the past where one can visually perceive the effects of time passing, whereas the posterior space expresses futurity which cannot be seen, yet can be based on the visible—and thus known—past. This may seem somewhat contradictory or unusual, however, one way to begin comprehending such a notion is by considering the orientation and directionality while rowing a boat; in which you can see where you’ve been, but your actions are moving you towards an as-yet unseen point behind you. With both examples, one needs a shift in linguistic embodiment to approach the concept fully and subjectively. Certainly, I may understand yellow-red as orange or the Quechua-Aymara temporal positionality through analogy, but that does not mean I occupy that reality in my own central position. In other words, I do not embody those realities, but I can at least acknowledge them without value judgments of right or wrong or superior vs inferior, and use them to expand my world’s horizons and evaluate my morality. My preamble was based on this very notion of embodiment and acknowledgment. And of course, someone can shift their role embodiment towards a new paradigm over time; this is natural, but will be constantly reinforced—or challenged—by the infinite reality; or rather the countless subjective views present there.

I hear you thinking: “This is not animism, polytheism, or as you call it, lore?” I would argue that this is—without claiming this to be a universal or anything other than my own understanding—the basis of everything; though admittedly, it can be framed in so many different ways. At the foundation of any religion is the embodiment of a certain reality based on interactions and internal evaluations. Why are you a polytheist, monotheist, or atheist? The answer is that you developed that role embodiment by being raised as such or later on based on interactions with parents, teachers, peers, travelling to other countries, reading books, facing life’s easy and difficult moments, etc. As described in the introduction, lore is a knowledge system to help you survive and thrive in the world. This initial bit on fulda and weraldiz lays a solid foundation for explaining how all those things interact to make you you; and by extension it can help explain the interactions of natural phenomena like animals, plants, mountains, rivers, rain, sun, but also spirits and gods by considering their subjective realities, role embodiments, and how they respond to, and are affirmed and challenged by things beyond their centre.

Since I’ve passed the 2.5k word count, I’m going to leave it for now. Next up I’ll be discussing ferhwam, andô, and līkahamô, which in a way is a rephrasing—or different layer—of the concept described here; thus building more nuance.

  1. Put in other words, these primitive peoples were inferior human beings, not much above animals, who mindlessly acted upon their urges and feelings.
  2. From the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology.
  3. https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2019/exploring-the-underground-network-of-trees-the-nervous-system-of-the-forest/
  4. From Aignay-le-duc: Aug(usto) sac(rum) / deo Marti Ci/collui et Litavi / P(ublius) Attius Paterc[l]u[s] / v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito)
  5. “Every one agrees that it has the most perfect figure. We always speak of the ball of the earth, and we admit it to be a globe bounded by the poles. It has not indeed the form of an absolute sphere, from the number of lofty mountains and flat plains; but if the termination of the lines be bounded by a curve, this would compose a perfect sphere. And this we learn from arguments drawn from the nature of things, although not from the same considerations which we made use of with respect to the heavens. For in these the hollow convexity everywhere bends on itself, and leans upon the earth as its centre. Whereas the earth rises up solid and dense, like something that swells up and is protruded outwards. The heavens bend towards the centre, while the earth goes from the centre, the continual rolling of the heavens about it forcing its immense globe into the form of a sphere.”
  6. Possibly a geo-heliocentric model in which Mercury and Venus revolved around the sun, which revolved around the Earth.
  7. https://www.ethnologue.com/guides/how-many-languages

(Apollo) Grannus: What’s in a Name?

I’ve been considering the name Grannus for a couple of years now and—due to having some time—I wanted to summarise my thoughts thus far and share them here. For a more general overview of Grannus and other Apollos in the Gaulish sphere, I would suggest this article by Viducus Brigantici Filius.

One of the places most heavily associated with Grannus was Aquae Granni (modern day Aachen), which was also a very important city in later years regarding being Charlemagne’s capital, and the cathedral hosting the Coronation of 30—out of 40—German kings (936–1531). The region’s history of inhabitation goes back to various flint quarries (roughly 3000-2500 BC) and the arrival of Celts around 600 BC. The clearest evidence of local Germanic groups was the presence of groups described in Cæsar’s Commentarii de Bello Gallico as the Germani Cisrhenani (58–50 BC), and the settling of the Ubii in Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippanensis in 38 BC (modern day Cologne; roughly 65 km distance). There’s no conclusive evidence that the Cisrhenani were Germanic, but there’s no doubt about the Ubii originating across the Rhine. The first Roman bath house at Aquae Granni was likely built around the start of the 1st century AD, which does not mean there were no local settlements there prior to this date. Apparently the town also included a a thriving Jewish community. Considering this, it is clear we cannot state conclusively what the ethnolinguistic paradigm was in the region. Looking at the epigraphic evidence for the name Grannus throughout the Roman empire—and specifically the date ranges— indicates a range of 71–300 AD; with the clear majority overlapping with the 2nd and 3rd centuries. This overlaps with the founding of Aquae Granni, and their locations does not definitively support any early cult centre where the worship of Grannus may have originated.

The following quote is interesting: “Later, the 25-hectare Roman spa resort town of Aquae Granni was, according to legend, founded by Grenus, under Hadrian, in ca. a.d. 124. Instead, the fictitious founder refers to the Celtic god.”1 This statement is obviously very sure of the Celtic identity of Grannus, plus the notion that he has a direct hand in the founding of the town. It provides us with an alternative spelling of the theonym; though one that is not reflected in the standardised form in epigraphic attestations. Another—and probably a more supportable—spelling for this mythical founder of Aquae Granni is “Granus”, and even includes the cognomen Serenus. Judith Ley mentions it when discussing the Granus Tower; part of Aachen’s city hall built late-8th and early-9th century and providing another spelling alternative: “In later medieval sources the tower is referred to as “turris regia” or “saltorn”, which underlines its connection to the King’s Hall. It is only since the Renaissance that it has been referred to as the “Granus Tower”. In those days, the tower was construed as a relic from Roman times and the home of the legendary founder of the town, Granus Serenus, a brother of the Roman Emperor Nero, as the legend would have it.”2 Whether Granus Serenus was an actual person is highly unlikely; including the supposed kinship to Nero. However, discounting the legend outright would disrespect its underlying folklore, thus it must be considered as part of the town’s mythos. Yet it also adds more cultural confusion as it introduces a supposed Roman angle of interpretation. Incidentally, a magazine by the historic society of Aachen from 1902 uses both spellings of Grenus and Granus.

To explain the name Granus Serenus, I found some interesting info in the Latin Etymologies by Isidore, bishop of Seville; written between 615-630 AD.3 The entry of pomegranate starts with: “The pomegranate ( malum Punicum ) is so called because that species was brought from the Punic region. It also has the name malogranatum , because it contains a great multitude of seeds ( granus ) within the sphere of its rind.” At the end of the paragraph, Isidore of Seville states: “Physicians say that our bodies are not nourished by eating pomegranates, but they consider them better for medicinal use than for eating.” The latter comment is obviously relevant; though obliquely. The notion of seeds ties in remarkably well with the meaning of the cognomen, because in his entry on agricultural practices he states: “Moreover it is called sowing ( serere ), because it ought to be done when the sky is clear ( serenus ), not in rain.” This creates quite an interesting mental image of healing seeds and clear weather. As was supposed in an earlier quote that the mythical founder of Aquae Granni was none other than Grannus himself, this name and the discussed meanings—in no shape or form—stands contrary to what we know of Grannus’s attributes and associations. Yet the double n from epigraphic sources is the predominant—and admittedly a very solid—counterargument why Granus Serenus being the same as Grannus is not a convincing hypothesis. Another argument could be the length of the “a” in the initial syllable, which for Granus is probably long, and short for Grannus; but this is not at all certain. However, it could be argued that the name Granus Serenus could have had more manipulation over the centuries; hence also the alternate spelling of Grenus. I do not want to discount the theory Granus and Grannus are the same, yet proving that link is perhaps only supportable by the attested Latin spellings “Aquae Granni” and “Aquisgranum”.

NB. Briefly, the closest Celtic and Germanic terms to lat. granus “seed” are PCelt *grānom and PGmc *kurnam “grain”; both are neuter and align more with Lat. granum.

Considering Celtic, Matosović discusses Grannus as follows, and includes a fair bit of the theonym’s academic backstory: “Another often-discussed problem concerns the etymology of the name of the Gaulish god Grannos. This theonym has been related to the PCelt. word for “beard”, *grendo-, *grando- (OIr. grend, W. grann “chin, beard”), and interpreted as “the bearded one”. However, this Gaulish god, who is usually identified with Graeco- Roman Apollo, is never portrayed with a beard (cp. Delamarre 2002: 183). On the other hand, Apollo is, especially in the later stages of Graeco-Roman religion, a solar deity par excellence. The name Grannos could, in principle, be derived from a proto- form *gwransos (with *-an- from syllabic *n), which would be parallel to *gwrenso- > W. gwres. That PCelt. *sn gave nn in Gaulish appears certain from the development of PCelt. *kwresno- “tree” (OIr. crann) > Gaul. prenne gl. arborem grandem (Endlicher Glossary). Also, a proto-form *gwransnos, parallel to *gwrensnā (> OIr. grían), at least does not contradict the evidence, since it is unknown how the cluster *-nsn- would have been reflected in Gaulish. However, it is possible to relate Gaul. Grannos to PIE *gwher- “hot” only if one assumes that g is the regular reflex of PCelt. *gw before r. Before vowels, PCelt. *gw regularly gives w /u/ in Gaulish, cp. PIE *gwhedh- “pray, beseech” (Gk. pothéō “wish”) > PCelt. *gwed-yo- (OIr. guidid “pray”) > Gaul. uediíumí “I pray” (Chamalières). It cannot be argued that, on structural grounds, PCelt. *gwr > Gaul. gr would be more probable than PCelt. *gwr > Gaul. wr-, since the onset wr- is attested in Gaulish, cp. Gaul. uroica “heather” (attested in the theonym Matres Uroicae, Delamarre 2002: 329) < *wroykā (OIr. fráech, fróech). So, if we insist that Grannos is related to the OIr. word for “sun”, we have to argue that PCelt. *gwr > Gaul. gr is a special development, occurring before the reflexes of PCelt. *gw and *w merged in Gaulish.”4 Although he supports this notion well, he also highlights a few uncertainties regarding this theory. The explanation of the double nn seems plausible.5 Addendum: Donodubus—who commented via Twitter—helped clarify the issue described by Matasović, and mentioned the following alternatives by De Bernardo-Stempel and Zeidler in recconstructing the theonym: “Stempel (in the same vein as Zeidler) uses: PIE gʷʰr-snó-s > garsnós, with regular metathesis to P-Celt. grasnós > Gránnos. Matasović is working from gʷransos or gʷransnos, which is why he runs into the problem of PIE gʷr > P-Celt. gr.”

In Germanic, one easily spotted potential is *grannaz “sharp, thin, slender, fine, accurate, delicate, pretty”, which to some extent could be considered applicable to Apollo as an adept archer, refined figure, or his youthful androgynous appearance, yet this term has only survived in Northern Germanic languages. Furthermore, it is supposedly derived from Granō “hair of the beard”, and thus leads to the problematic issue Matasović described regarding Grannus’s beardlessness. This makes it an uncertain explanation at best. In line with the Celtic interpretation, I’ve worked out *grinanaz > *grennaz6 “he who flashed, gavee light” or *Grenaz “he who flashes, gives light”, both from *grīnan. Another option is *grin(n)iz > *gren(n)az “able to flash; bare one’s teeth (grin, laugh, snarl, cry))”, and considering the related *grainōn- “to murmur, lament”, *granōn- “to grunt”, *granjan- or *granjōn- “to snarl, bare one’s teeth”, and *grīmô “mask, make-up”, this could mean “expressive”; perhaps in line with heat framed as “passionate”. The mentioned *grainōn- could potentially explain a shift to a long a, e.g. OE grānian, E groan, whereas *granōn, *granjan-, and *granjōn- could lead to a short a. The interpretation of emotive seems more likely considering Apollo’s general character and patronage of the arts and sciences, or… describing the sounds and expressions of people when stepping into his hot springs at Aachen; which are some of the hottest in Europe.7 Kroonen connects the initial element *grī- to OIr grían “sun”, but mentions that it has also been connected to OIr Grinniguth “the creaking of bows”.8 The latter also has some merit considering Apollo’s mythology, but what they show most of all is potential overlap with the above elements of bringing light and expression.

Regardless, given that the classical Apollo is a very multifaceted figure, it is easy to approach the name Grannus from various angles and being able to twist it into some sort of workable connection. What I have attempted is to highlight a few possibilities that I feel are worth consideration without getting too creative or hypothetical. Also, given that I’ve approached these from three linguistic paradigms, it is vitally important to mention that Grannus—above all—is a Gallo-Roman god with a difficult backstory that can’t be unravelled without any hope of finding a 100% clear explanation for the name and its cultural or linguistic paradigm. Personally, my favourite has to be “the expressive Apollo”, which I also read as the Apollo who is present in people expressing themselves; artistically or otherwise. Secondly, are the notions of the sun—or in the case of Granus Serenus—the seed of healing under a clear sky; the perfect conditions for sowing. These could also be linked to conveying a creative spark or seed. In this way, I’m combining all three explanations into a coherent whole upon which to base my Grannus-related practices.

  1. http://ancientworld.hansotten.com/germany/aachen-aquae-granni/
  2. Ley, Judith. The Granus Tower. Online. http://rathaus-aachen.de/en/tour-2/the-granus-tower/
  3. Barney, Stephen A., Lewis, W. J., and Beach, J. A., eds. 2006. The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  4. Matasović, Ranko. “sun” and “Moon” in Celtic and Indo-European.— Online. https://www.ulster.ac.uk/data/assets/pdffile/0004/937345/0212.pdf
  5. A statement I should qualify with that I have very little knowledge on Celtic sound changes.
  6. For this formation, the I becomes emphasised to a short e, and the a in the middle—being weakest—gets phased out.
  7. https://carolus-thermen.de/en/aachen-mineral-thermal-water/
  8. Kroonen, Guus. 2013. Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic.— Leiden, Boston: BRILL.

Myth about the Matronæ Alaferhuiæ

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.”

“Hwaz sīþ?”

“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.

Sturmagā Nahts

I simply wanted to share a quick poem in dialectal Proto-Germanic inspired by a bit of stormy weather we’ve been having lately. It’s probably not going to win any prizes for originality or innate poetic expression, but hey, it was fun to try and use assonance, alliteration, and rhyme.

Sturmagā Nahts

Hwan hemnos ginandi regnahw fallit

Þekjo trahno jabi flagâ bellit

Þurhwi þurpi þuriþ auke krunkoþ

Unstiz grimmit guljâ welþjê wallit

Aba ferri halli hurna gellit

Berhtê swē sunnonis gulda funkoþ

Dagaleuhtaz uber landi þaniþ

Winda selbo sturmas andja kaniþ

Translation:

Stormy Night

When heavens gape and rain falls

Fat tears, as a wind-gust roars

Through the village it sweeps and turns

The storm rages, the stream wildly seethes

From far away a clear horn sounds

It sparkles brightly like the sun’s gold

Daylight stretches across the land

The wind itself brings forth the storm’s end

The Rough Guide to Andî (animism)

A little while ago, I began work on a very long complicated article on animism and soul mechanics, but I’ve decided it would get very technical and thus conducive to creating brain ache. I’ve thus decided to present a shorter simpler form, because I know many people would find it hard to get inspired by something that involves a lengthy explanation of soul types, how they form, which ones can grow and which don’t, which linger and which don’t, what each contains, etc. etc., plus a look at indigenous animistic worldviews and science, such as integrated information theory. All of that is interesting, but a worldview isn’t intellectual. It is experienced, felt, and engaged with. Animism has remained an anthropological term without really making the core of it accessible, because it has been buried under jargon. Then again, Animism,, known by that term, is a academic model developed by the British anthropologist Sir Edward Tylor in his book “Primitive Culture”, which was published in 1871. It is vitally important to highlight the origin of the term, because, at its very root, it does not signify any cultural or linguistic paradigm. One could argue that, because of this, there is no such thing as a standalone “animist” or “animism” in the strictest sense of the word. Without a cultural and linguistic context giving name and form to things, animism is a shell, a broad, simplistic, and sterile theoretical outline without substance or nuance. Simply put, culture and language are necessary to define and give form to an animistic worldview.

So yes, no lengthy explanations, no copious referencing, quite simply, animism 101 as I see and live it; using dialectal Proto-Germanic terminology. Wunskī miz spodi!1

  • Ferhwa “life force” is the ubiquitous nourishing force. It can be found in the forms of air, warmth, light, electricity, and information. In and of itself, it’s entirely passive.
  • Andô “breath, soul, spirit”, contained within the līkahamô “physical form” of every living thing, is the active mover of ferhwa. It can absorb one or more of its forms, contain it, possibly transform it, and release it. The related term andî “animism” quite simply designates this as the core concept, the measuring and qualification of breath, soul, spirit.
  • Bisinnaz “consciousness” is the awareness of ferhwa and how the andô and līkahamô perceive and interact with it. Stored bisinniz becomes gahugdiz “memory” that informs future actions, including feelings of anticipation, fear, happiness, etc.. This is easy to see in animals and plants responding to their environment; maximising their intake of air, light, information, etc. for the purpose of survival. On the other hand, a stone, which could be argued to be a separated part of the Earth’s greater līkahamô, can still absorb, contain, and release heat, but whether it is conscious is not directly obvious. When you pick up a stone, the ferhwa that it contains, and is releasing, does cause an interaction between its andô and yours, leading to…
  • Wehtiz2 “thing, spirit, wight” is a manifestation of transferred ferhwa caused by direct interaction between two or more andaniz. A wehtiz’s līkahamô can be a more passive form of andô, such as stones, but also contained locations, like a room or house. Basically, anything of which the bisinnis is not directly obvious. For example, a room’s atmosphere is completely non-physical, but it can be influenced by actions that take place within that demarcated space; a quite literal process of absorption, transformation, and release that others can pick up on.
  • Aihter3 “spirit master” is a wehtiz-like entity that forms on a large scale; a unified gestalt linked to a collective: a grove, a forest, a stream, a river, a lake, a piece of shoreline, a sea, a hill, a mountain, but also social or man-made concepts like a family, group of people sharing an activity, a demographic, a village, a town, a neighbourhood in a city, all the way to an entire nation or even species. When an aihter has become fixed and given a līkahamô through anthropomorphisation or symbolic representation, they could be considered to be a single or multiple divinity. As an example, the many Matronæ, river deities, or well, any god really, exactly fit this concept.

Woo! I managed in 506 words (just the explanation plus footnotes, minus the intro and this bit), but, in essence, that is the synopsis of my animistic worldview. There are, of course, many many many many nuances and layers, but that is it, in all it’s (I hope) fairly simple glory.

  1. “Wish me luck!”
  2. The word derives from *weganą “to move, carry” plus a result suffix *-þiz. It’s identical to *wehtiz “weight”, being the perception of mass obtained when moving or carrying a given item. In this same vein, a wehtiz contains the perception of fehrwa; warmth, electricity, information, etc.. Consider, for example, a painting or book, which contains information that, in combination with your consciousness and memory, evokes physical, mental, or emotional reactions.
  3. Literally “owner”, and somewhat cognate with genius loci, though it can extend past this in various ways.

A Re-examination of the Goddess Arduinna

Thanks to Viducus Brigantici Filius from Deo Mercurio for help with resources and for being a very patient sounding board while I kept asking questions and hammering on details.

Introduction

Arduinna is perhaps one of those divinities who have endured a longstanding local popularity, but with a disconnect between actual attestations and theories; most of which arose much later. It would therefore be best to describe this document as a personal project that re-examines sources and endeavours to form an understanding about the goddess Arduinna with a specific temporal focus on antiquity, namely the Roman Empire (1st-century BC to 5th-century AD), while also attempting to qualify the later development as a separate phenomenon.

Attestations

A search for Arduinna on Epigraphik Datenbank Clauss Slaby, EDCS (Clauss, Kolb, Slaby, Woitas), results in two inscriptions being found, namely:

  1. Gey, DE (EDCS-11100072): Deae Ard<v=B>i/nnae~ T(itus) Iuli/us Aequalis / s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito)
  2. Rome, IT (EDCS-17200105): [[Arduinn(a)e]] / [[Camulo]] / «Saturno Marti» Iovi Mercurio Herculi // M(arcus) Quartinius M(arci) f(ilius) civ<i=E>s Sabinus Remus / miles coh(ortis) VII pr(aetoriae) Antoninian(a)e P(iae) V(indicis) v(otum) l(ibens) s(olvit)

The former nowadays resides in the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Bonn, whereas the latter is located in the Vatican. Furthermore, concerning the Rome inscription, Jacques Terrisse (1991), who conducted an investigation into the inclusion of Arduinna and Camulos, concludes that these names were added later in what, in the kindest words possible, could be described as creative restoration1. He also describes two inscriptions that have been removed from the archaeological account, ascribed to be the work of the 16th-Century Italian forger Ligorio, who may also be the person behind the still considered valid Rome inscription, since these were also discovered in or near Rome. These two false inscriptions mentioned Dianae Arduinnae and Deanae Arduinnae respectively. However, it does beg the question: what did Ligorio base his falsified inscriptions on? The likeliest candidate for this is the other source regularly cited for the syncretism, namely Gregory of Tours’ history, which provides an account of Diana being worship in the Ardennes region in 585; and how he converted the people by tearing down statues. In and of itself, this in-depth account of religion at the time does not support the inferred syncretism between Diana, the location, and the hypothetical goddess thereof. Beck (2009), in chapter 2 III C1, also highlights the Gregory of Tours account, alongside an unmarked bronze statue of a Diana-like figure riding a boar, as having been a persistent misrepresentation of Arduinna. Furthermore, this statue was found in the Jura, France, which alongside it being unmarked qualifies it as an invalid attestation. Terrisse (1991) also discusses an 18th-Century ink drawing of Arduinna (montfaucon, 1719) that he describes as “exécuté dans un style mièvre et peu réaliste” (executed in a cutesy and unrealistic style). It seems to be inspired by the Diana syncretism, not to mention that its later date would make it a source we cannot work with. This leaves us with no single depiction of Arduinna upon which to base interpretations.

What is particularly interesting is the presence of the name Arduinna in 16th-century Italy, given that the Arduinna inscription from Gey was only discovered in 1859 (Ardbinna). In light of this, it seems reasonable that the Diana Arduinna and Deana Arduinna inscriptions, though forged, referred not to a syncretism, but an innovation combining the account by Gregory of tours with the attested toponym (see the next section) to form a new epithet for Diana, namely Diana of the Ardennes2; thereby initiating an alternate “broken” lineage with and enduring legacy. Unfortunately, the innovation of Diana of the Ardennes has been picked up by academics and often taken to be conflated with Arduinna and her presence in antiquity, for which we have just a single inscription. For example, The Routledge Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses, Devils and Demons (Lurker, 2004, 17), provides the following brief definition for Arduinna, attributing to her all the unattested associations discussed above: “Arduinna A local goddess in Gaul, named after the Ardennes. She was a goddess of hunting, and interpreted by the Romans as equivalent to → Diana. Her sacred animal was the boar”. John Aberth (2012, 79) makes the following statement: “Grove goddesses were also worshipped at the spring sanctuaries of Buxton and Bath in England, at Grenoble (dedicated to the “ Nemetiales ” ) and in the forest of the Ardennes in France (site of the cult to Arduinna), and near Speyer in Germany (which served as the capital for the Nemetes tribe devoted to the goddess Nemetona).” Later he also states: “In some figurines Celtic deities are depicted with boars, such as the bronze image of the goddess Arduinna shown astride a boar with a hunting knife in her hand that was found in the Ardennes Forest in eastern France. Stags were naturally associated with Cernunnos, the horned god who was “ lord of the forest, ” as well as with various hunter gods who adopted a complex and ambivalent protective posture towards their prey: (Aberth, 2012, 179). Aside from both quotes being poorly informed about topography, he also does not support his claim about a cult to Arduinna, which we can now support as referring to the cult of Diana of the Ardennes attested by Gregory of tours, plus uses the unmarked statue from Jura as evidence. Funnily enough, he then makes similar unsupported claims about Cernunnos; another divinity with many medieval and later interpretations leading to innovation and an ongoing legacy3. Regardless, without turning this article into a lengthy literature review, it is hoped the depth of this phenomenon has been sufficiently supported and clarified.

Arduenna Silva

Having discussed and discounted all depictions, and all but one inscription, the remaining source for the name remains amply attested and discussed in relation to the toponym Ardennes, which together with the Eifel and Ösling form the northwestern part of the Rhenish massif. Dowden (1999, 111-113) talks about divine ownership, stating that if a religion is anthropomorphic, groves are owned by gods, or more likely given growth and fertility associations, goddesses. He then goes on to state: “Groves, however formidable, are at least demarcated. Forests are altogether more impressive and may call into existence a divinity to empower them – the dea Arduinna of the wooded ‘high’ (ard) Ardennes or the dea Abnoba, the mountain-goddess of the Black Forest” (Dowden, 1999, 113). It is worth pointing out that the mentioned Abnoba has been syncretised with Diana in two out of ten inscriptions (Clauss, Kolb, Slaby, Woitas), which, as a counterargument supporting a Diana syncretism for Arduinna, at the very least shows that it is not a complete impossibility. There is also overlap, in that Pliny the Elder (Naturalis Historia), Tacitus (Germania), and Ptolemy (Geography) attest the name Abnoba as a toponym, similar to Julius Cæsar mentioning Arduenna Silva in book VI chapter 29 of Commentarii de Bello Gallico. Cæsar states:

“He himself, when the corn begins to ripen, having set out for war with Ambiorix through the forest of the Ardennes, which is the largest in the whole of Gaul and stretches from the banks of the Rhine and the territories of the Treviri to (those of) the Nervii and extends in length for more than five hundred miles, sends forward Lucius Minucius Basilus with all the cavalry, (to see) whether he can profit in any (way) through speed of march and the advantage of time” (Sabidius, 2013).

Since this and most other translations use the modern name, Ardennes, the original Latin for the above quote is:

“Ipse, cum maturescere frumenta inciperent, ad bellum Ambiorigis profectus per Arduennam silvam, quae est totius Galliae maxima atque ab ripis Rheni finibusque Treverorum ad Nervios pertinet milibusque amplius quingentis in longitudinem patet, Lucium Minucium Basilum cum omni equitatu praemittit, si quid celeritate itineris atque opportunitate temporis proficere possit” (Rice-Holmes, 1914).

A dictionary of Latin by Lewis & Short defines Arduenna as : “The forest-covered mountains in Gaul”, which seems a somewhat augmented definition given that the added “silva” from the above text is defined as “a wood, forest, woodland”. Thus leaving us with a basic definition of “mountains in Gaul”. Moreover, due to the found inscription of “Curia Arduenn” in Amberloup, Luxembourg province, Belgium, we know a municipal council served the region, though exactly when, in what sort of capacity, or under which civitas is impossible to determine. Cæsar does not tell us who informed him the region was called ‘Arduenna silva”. Before his lengthy segue into discussing the Gauls, the Germans, and the Hercynian forest, Cæsar describes his dealings with the Menapii, Treveri, and Ubii; the latter two having territories bordering on the region makes them likely candidates for the name’s origin.

On a side note, Cæsar’s proposed length of the Arduenna Silva being more than 500 miles (ca. 805 km) seems a serious overestimation or exaggeration. Admittedly, the Roman mile was not standardised until Agripa defined the Roman foot in 29BC, thus several decades after Cæsar’s Gallic wars. Before that, legions literally measured distances on the march, placing a stick in the ground every thousand paces (milia Passuum), with a pace referring to each time the left foot strikes the ground. This would result in longer miles for well-rested or harshly driven legions, or on easy terrain. Since the Arduenna Silva, with its higher elevations and deep river valleys, was considered even less penetrable than the Silva Carbonaria to its northwest, it does not seem particularly conducive to easy marching, and thus measuring.

There is also a forest of Arden in Warwickshire, UK. “Virtually no Roman roads cross the region. It has been suggested that this was due to the difficulty of building roads through woodland. The Arden area is effectively bounded by Roman roads (shown in red on this map): in the West by the Ryknield Street, in the South by the Salt Road (the modern Alcester to Stratford Road), in the East by the Fosse Way, and in the North by the Watling Street.” (Webb, 2008). The forest was also mentioned in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, yet merely serves as a setting for this pastoral comedy (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust). There is no direct link between Arduinna or the Ardennes and forest of Arden, except that the names may share the same initial root.

Considering a further, but very tenuous link, Arduinna could potentially be interpreted along the same lines as wild women in later German mythology, on which Keightley (1870) says: “THE Wilde Frauen or Wild-women of Germany bear a very strong resemblance to the Elle-maids of Scandinavia. Like them they are beautiful, have fine flowing hair, live within hills, and only appear singly or in the society of each other.” The part about living in hills may be most relevant within this article’s context. In medieval Britain, the Netherlands, and France, these spirits became known as white ladies, witte wieven, and dames blanches respectively.

Name and etymology

Thus far, the examined information supports Arduinna as being a mountain goddess linked to the particular region of the modern Ardennes, Eifel, ösling, and potentially their foothills, verified by the Gey4 inscription being found within this geographic zone. De Bernardo-Stempel translates her name as “the high”, while dismissing the possibility that it could be interpreted as “the exalted”, thus sticking primarily to the literal meaning (Ardbinna). Admittedly, this emphasises only the initial element of the name, which nonetheless may provide us the opportunity to see if there are potential tentative overlaps with other goddesses, e.g., Brigantia, whose name also refers to “high”. On the Proto-Germanic front, there is *ardugaz “steep”, implying a noun *arduz “elevated ground”, which obviously overlaps with the proposed Celtic interpretation by De Bernardo-Stempel of “the high”. However, the “inna” part is harder to explain, since the PGmc *-inī “female person suffix” would result in *Ardinī and skip the v from the Gey inscription in which it is represented by a B; a common Vulgar Latin substitution indicating that the v would have been a consonant rather than a vowel. A similar issue would present itself in Gaulish where “she, the high” would likely be more like the -ardua element (Gaul. arduwā) in the theonym Ahuardua, which is interpreted as “the high” or “the supreme goddess” (TFA). This also presents somewhat of a clash, since de Bernardo-Stempel argues for Ahuardua indicating “high/supreme”, whereas for Arduinna it does not5. A further counterargument to this interpretation is that logically one would expect proportionally more attestations in cases where a god or goddess has been given a high or supreme status6. However, the epigraphic evidence should not be considered conclusive as it may present a somewhat skewed point of view. As a side-note, Omsted (2019), who translates the name “Ardbenna” as high hill, should be considered unproductive in light of the commonality of the V>B substitution, plus spellings of Arduenna in Cæsar and Amberloup.

Since I am more familiar with Proto-Germanic7, I have worked out the following suggested interpretations of *Arduwinnā”, collapsed to *Ardwinnā8, with the meaning of “she who works the elevated territory”. Furthermore, the verb used, *winnaną, has a wide array of meanings, such as to toil, labour, struggle, suffer, fight, and strive, which does not provide clarity as to the actual contextual meaning. The derived noun *winnǭ “battle/struggle” qualifies it further, but requires a more creative, rather than literal translation. Another etymology, which helps to support, as well as clarify matters, is formed from *ardiz “disposition, nature, species, kind” + *winnaną “to struggle, strive, labour” or *winnǫ “struggle, conflict” to form *ardiwinnā9 > *ardwinnā meaning “she of a struggling or striving disposition”. This would shift the interpretation towards describing Arduinna as being a goddess of overcoming challenges, survival, and an innate lust for living. Combined with the first interpretation, we could specify this as being related to hilly or mountainous landscapes. This aligns somewhat with Brigantia, who has been syncretised with the martial aspects of Juno and Minerva, though predominantly a protective one due to associations with hill forts (Beck, 2009). However, In comparison to Brigantia, and in light of the second interpretation, Arduinna could best be considered as an anthropomorphic embodiment of a primal and unbiased force more than a protectress, which seems fitting due to the region described above being a particularly contested area throughout history, in part due to its innate impenetrability; also illustrated in Cæsar’s quote above. In such a landscape, the person with the most local knowledge will have a strategic advantage, but the territory itself is unconcerned about who gets lost, slips and falls on a muddy incline, or gets impeded by its innumerable streams, seeps or marshes; these are all part of the natural struggles of life after all.

Vulcanism and flooding

As an aside, it is worth mentioning two particular hazardous features of the Eifel, namely vulcanism and flooding. The region, known as the Vulkaneifel, covering 770 square miles (ca. 2,000 km2), displays obvious signs of previous vulcanism and is considered to still be active. Scientists believe the crust under the Eifel is relatively thin and showing an unexpected higher-than-average ground movement that possibly indicates the presence of a magma plume; the ground rises roughly 1 millimetre per year. It would seem plausible that the Romans, particularly after the eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD, recognised the region’s vulcanism for what it was, though this is not attested anywhere. A more immediate hazard to the region is flooding. With approximately 900-1300 millimetres annual precipitation in the North “Hohes Venn” Eifel, the seven local rivers, of which the Rur10 is most known and romanticised, would often flood in winter. This resulted in the construction of dams and 15 larger lakes and water reservoirs at the start of the 20th century (Tcherner). That the Romans experienced these annual floods, which were bound to force limitations or sudden alterations in travel, warfare, construction, agriculture, and other activities, seems indisputable. This continues the theme, presented above, of Arduinna being an indifferent natural force with both positive and negative effects on human society11.

Conclusion

Based upon this, the interpretation of Arduinna is that she is a goddess associated with elevated, or at the very least more difficult terrain. She is a primal force who embodies the favourable and unfavourable qualities of nature without bias, and the challenges and conflicts that arise in a complex ecosystem; the interactions between plants, animals and humans, including predator vs prey. Seen from another angle, and relating this back to the concept of labour discussed in the etymology, perhaps it is also fitting to say: Arduinna toils to keep the numerous scales balanced within an ecosystem to ensure its ongoing survival and biodiversity. This also lines up with Eifel national park, located approximately 10 miles (ca. 16 km) from the Gey inscription, being a wildlife sanctuary that is home to over 10,000 species of flora and fauna; of which 2,300 are on the endangered species list (nationalpark)12. This interpretation stands separate from an alternate timeline and ongoing legacy, likely started in the 16th century by the Italian forger Ligorio, regarding an innovation and re-emergence of the Diana, described by Gregory of Tours in his 6th-century accounts, as Diana of the Ardennes. Both narratives are often conflated in academia and contemporary culture.

Bibliography

Aberth, John. 2012. An Environmental History of the Middle Ages : The Crucible of Nature. London: Taylor & Francis Group.

”Ardbinna.” In: Spickermann, Wolfgang. ”Die keltischen Götternamen in den Inschriften der römischen Provinz Germania Inferior.” Online. https://gams.uni-graz.at/context:fercan

Beck, Noémie. 2009. ”Goddesses in Celtic Religion: Cult and Mythology: A Comparative Study of Ancient Ireland, Britain and Gaul.” Online. https://theses.univ-lyon2.fr/documents/lyon2/2009/beck_n#p=0&a=top

Clauss, Manfred, Anne Kolb, Wolfgang A. Slaby, and Barbara Woitas. ”Epigraphik Datenbank Clauss / Slaby.” Online. http://db.edcs.eu.

Dowden, Ken. 1999. European Paganism : Realities of Cult from Antiquity to Middle Ages. London: Taylor & Francis Group.

Lurker, Manfred. 2004. The Routledge Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses, Devils and Demons. London: Taylor & Francis Group.

Montfaucon. 1719. “L’antiquité expliquée”. Tome I, p. 50.

Nationalpark Eifel. Online. https://www.eifel.info/en/a-nationalpark-eifel

Olmsted, Gareth. 2019. “The gods of the Celts and Indo-Europeans (revised)”

Sabidius. 2013. ”CAESAR: “DE BELLO GALLICO”: BOOK VI.” Online. http://sabidius.blogspot.com/2013/08/caesar-de-bello-gallico-book-vi.html

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. As You Like It Summary. Online. https://www.shakespeare.org.uk/explore-shakespeare/shakespedia/shakespeares-plays/as-you-like-it/

Tcherner, Wolfgang. Simmerath. Online. https://www.staedteregion-aachen.de/en/navigation/cities/simmerath

Terrisse, Jacques. 1991. ”La dédicace de Quartinius à Rome.” Bulletin de la Société archéologique champenoise 84. p. 87-96.

TFA (Thia Frankisk Aldsido). Ahuardua. Online. https://frankisk-allodium.com/cultus/divinities/ahuardua/

Webb, John. 2008. Forest of Arden. Online (archived). https://web.archive.org/web/20110707054554/http://hearteng.110mb.com/arden.htm

  1. Viducus’s synopsis of Terrisse’s explanation: “the leftmost corner of the stone was broken off, and the pieces were discovered separately. There was enough of Mars left to restore him, but the fifth figure was a total mystery, so somebody tossed in a Diana depiction because, why the heck not” (personal communication, May 2021).
  2. The Rome inscription mentioning Arduinna instead of Diana Arduinna could be viewed as a counterargument to this theory, yet location, chronology, and practicality of working within the purview of restoration are clearly in favour still.
  3. The name Cernunnos and the associated depiction of a horned deity is only attested on the Pilier des Nautes from Paris (EDCS-10502026), though similar horned divinities are found elsewhere; including on the Gunderstrup Cauldron. The title “lord of the forest” seems primarily based on interpretations of the horned god found in modern paganism and Wicca.
  4. Gey is located in Kreis Düren, North Rhine Westphalia, Germany, which encompasses part of the lowlands of the lower Rhine bay and parts of the North Eifel.
  5. Without clearly indicating the reasoning behind this, since both only have one inscription, and nothing concrete in the way of supporting evidence.
  6. Following this line of reasoning, among Tungrian auxiliaries, Virodecdis, attested on six inscriptions, would therefore seem to be more popular than Ahuardua.
  7. Using “Kroonen, Guus. 2013. Etymological Dictionary of Photo-Germanic. Leiden, Boston: BRILL” as the main source.
  8. Substituting the ōn-stem for -ā to create a clearer overlap with Latin, as well as likely West Germanic developments, e.g., PGmc sunnǭ “sun” becoming sunna in Old High German, Old Saxon, and Old Dutch.
  9. Since the first i is not in a stressed position here, and has no function for showing inflection, it was probably not pronounced, which closely matches the pronunciation and syllabic division of “Ard·bin·na” as indicated by the Gey inscription.
  10. We have one inscription to Rura, the goddess of the river Rur, from Roermond, NL (EDCS-67800024): Sex(tus) Opsilius / Geminus / Rurae / v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito).
  11. This point seems of particular relevance when considering the 2021 European floods, caused by heavier-than-average rain fall due to climate change, during which 196 people died in Germany and 42 in Belgium, with the most severely affected areas being in and around the Eifel and Ardennes. Although it would be false to blame Arduinna for climate change, nevertheless the features of the landscape were clearly proven to have been a compounding factor leading to higher numbers of casualties in the region.
  12. With those staggering numbers, one has to wonder at the sheer biodiversity the region may have had 2,000 years ago.
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