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Author Topic: Eostre, Local and Modern Gods  (Read 843 times)

Megatherium

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Eostre, Local and Modern Gods
« on: March 31, 2017, 03:26:05 am »
TL:DR - Our modern ideas of Germanic Deities are significantly different from historical Heathens. However, these “incorrect” ideas have successfully served as a basis for the revival of their worship. The modern “myths” about Eostre are similarly incorrect but useful. Eostre may be an entirely modern Goddess (and that’s okay).

Since it is time for Eostre’s annual existential identity crisis, I thought I might write something about the way the debate over her identity/existence relates to concepts of “local” deities as compared to “universal” ones. By this I mean the extent to which a given worshipper of a deity would identify that being as being related to a specific geographical location (or community) as opposed to a deity which has influence over a wider area.

People have argued over whether Eostre was a “pan-germanic” goddess, a non-existent invention of Bede’s, or a goddess specific to a particular community in England.   In the book I really should have read in order to improve the quality of this post (Philip A. Shaw, Pagan Goddess in the early Germanic World), I believe Shaw argues that “Eostre” did exist, but her worship was restricted to a particular to a particular area.

Given that people in temperate European regions in the first millennia sometimes primarily functioned as farmers or herders, the difference between a “local” or a “universal” deity may have been rather meaningless since the average person’s life and identity would be defined by a relatively restricted geographical and social area. There would be simply be no real need to reconcile the extent of a God’s geographical span in a formal way if the question simply never came up.

However, I do think that linguistically-related peoples may have used related words for their deities, and that the names which would be least likely to vary over a larger linguistic region would be those associated with abstract concepts and natural phenomenon as opposed to specific communities and places.

I imagine rather than a “universal” Eostre worshipped from the Alps to the Arctic Circle, there would simply be a large number of local cults some of whose members would worship a Goddess with names related to Eos/Aus/Aust, etc. Without the development of a culture with a certain level of population density and economic specialization, I don’t think Gods (or more accurately, people’s conceptions of them) acquire the self-identification as a single divine figure over a large area by their worshippers. (For example, I think many Greeks believed that Zeus was worshipped and had influence far from their home).

During periods where germanic speaking-peoples encountered sustained contact with Mediterranean cultures and/or calamities which expressed themselves geographically (continental migrations in late antiquity) there would have been a disruption of the religious structure. With continental groups in the former Roman world, this was often expressed by the adoption of Christianity. By the “Viking Age”, the remaining Heathen cultures would have had sustained contact with cultures whose religious traditions did contain some idea or conception of a deity’s geographical reach, and this may have manifested itself (I’m winging it here in case you haven’t noticed yet) in more organized cults. In other words, I think the cults of some Gods grew larger when a society experienced high levels of cultural exchange/population growth/migration, etc.

The Germanic Gods as we know of them today were likely never really organized in a formal way, and probably only had geographically large-scale worship for a relatively short period. When you add this to the further changes which happened when the germanic deities were imagined by Medieval poets, I think one can confidently say that our ideas of the Gods are vastly different than those held in pre-Christian cultures.

However, I think one could say that our “incorrect” conceptions of the Germanic deities does seem to work, at least in the sense that many modern Heathens have found Snorri’s Odin to be a way to initiate a relationship with that particular being. Gods, I believe, are capable of interacting with humans though a wide variety of stories/names/rituals, etc. I don’t the “Odin” worshipped by modern Heathens would be easily recognizable to a person from a pre-christian culture, but I do think there is a being which is choosing to interact with modern Heathens through that particular mythos.

If one assumes Shaw is correct that Eostre was only the goddess of a specific area, than the modern Eostre is an almost entirely modern phenomenon. However, I don’t think that means her modern cult is invalid. If people were capable of establishing relationship with deities in the past, than there is no reason why that can not occur today. I think there is some being related to Spring and the Dawn who has developed a relationship with modern pagans over the past few decades, and I think the idea of Eostre as a pan-Germanic goddess is, in a sense, a myth she has created as a point of interaction with her worshippers.
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Hildeburh

Re: Eostre, Local and Modern Gods
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2017, 08:31:05 am »
Quote from: Megatherium;204461
TL:DR - Our modern ideas of Germanic Deities are significantly different from historical Heathens. However, these “incorrect” ideas have successfully served as a basis for the revival of their worship. The modern “myths” about Eostre are similarly incorrect but useful. Eostre may be an entirely modern Goddess (and that’s okay).


Yes, modern cults are OK but why do you need to relate this new goddess with her new mythos back to an obscure Anglo Saxon goddess and claim it as a 'revival' of her worship?

 
Quote from:
Since it is time for Eostre’s annual existential identity crisis, I thought I might write something about the way the debate over her identity/existence relates to concepts of “local” deities as compared to “universal” ones. By this I mean the extent to which a given worshipper of a deity would identify that being as being related to a specific geographical location (or community) as opposed to a deity which has influence over a wider area.).


I doubt Eostre has an existential identity crisis, but some of her devotees may be a lttle confused and mislead by the rubbish written about her. Quite understandably, this time of the year all of the old scholarship is rehashed and the new is contorted, both may sell books to an audience hungry for myths that fit the popular mythological cycles, but in the long run they do us no favours.

 
Quote from:
People have argued over whether Eostre was a “pan-germanic” goddess, a non-existent invention of Bede’s, or a goddess specific to a particular community in England.   In the book I really should have read in order to improve the quality of this post (Philip A. Shaw, Pagan Goddess in the early Germanic World), I believe Shaw argues that “Eostre” did exist, but her worship was restricted to a particular to a particular area.


The notion of Eostre as a pan-Germanic goddess is a result of Grimm's work which by modern standards, is marred not only by the imposition of his folkish world-view but also by linguistic assumptions and conflations with folklore. Nevertheless, Grimm's portrayal of Eostre in his classic work Deutsche Mythologie (1835), has been a longstanding factor in the misrepresentation of Eostre and her proposed cult.

Shaw's work (Pagan Goddesses in the Early Germanic World: Eostre, Hreda and the Matrons, 2011) is pivotal in our understanding of Eostre, his theory that Eostre may relate to a specific tribe is based on the 1958 votive inscriptions dated 150-250 AD, to a group of deities called the matronae Austriahenae (eastern matrons) found in north Germany.  

Shaw (2011) explains that the Austriahenae provide important comparative evidence as Eostre and the Austriahenae can be linked etymologically and by naming patterns. Shaw (2011) conducted an exhaustive linguistic and historical study which took into account toponomy (placename evidence), Old English personal naming practices and the existence of the Austriahenae and concluded that Eostre was most likely a deity localised to a specific  geographical area and important to a group of local peoples, possibly Kent and possibly related to the cult of the matons/matronae,

So Shaw's (2011) answer to the conundrum that is Eostre is that she, " is probably not an 'etymological fancy' or a pan Germanic goddess". But neither can she still be considered a Germanic goddess of the spring or of the dawn.


 
Quote from:
However,I do think that linguistically-related peoples may have used related words for their deities, and that the names which would be least likely to vary over a larger linguistic region would be those associated with abstract concepts and natural phenomenon as opposed to specific communities and places.


This statement is a motherhood statement, how does it relate to your discussion of Eostre?

 
Quote from:
I imagine rather than a “universal” Eostre worshipped from the Alps to the Arctic Circle, there would simply be a large number of local cults some of whose members would worship a Goddess with names related to Eos/Aus/Aust, etc.


That is an imaginative and linguistic leap, which occured first in the 1950s when Grimm's work was expanded upon.  In the 1950s Eostre and *Ostara were linked to goddesses named after the dawn in non Germanic languages, in particular, Aurora (Latin), Eos (Greek) and Usas (Sanskrit).

It was then postulated that all these goddesses arose from a common Proto Indo-European (PIE) goddess of the dawn, which in reconstructed form would have been *Haeus(os. It is from this point that we have the pervasive notion of Eostre as a Spring goddess; as Spring was related to the dawn of the year.

This deduction cannot be drawn, it is too big of a leap to take an obscure local goddess, whose name is derived etymologically from the OE word ēast, and arrive at a Spring goddess with an extensive cult that reaches all the way back to PIE. Shaw (2011) also cautions, that there is a distinct lack of evidence for uses of the word ēast or derivatives of the word ēast to mean either Spring or dawn in the Germanic languages.

 
Quote from:
If one assumes Shaw is correct that Eostre was only the goddess of a specific area, than the modern Eostre is an almost entirely modern phenomenon. However, I don’t think that means her modern cult is invalid. If people were capable of establishing relationship with deities in the past, than there is no reason why that can not occur today. I think there is some being related to Spring and the Dawn who has developed a relationship with modern pagans over the past few decades, and I think the idea of Eostre as a pan-Germanic goddess is, in a sense, a myth she has created as a point of interaction with her worshippers.


It most certainly doesn't invalidate her cult but it is not the same cult as that mentioned by Bede or discussed by Shaw. Shaw is quite clear, etymologically Eostre is derived from the word OE word ēast, which has cognates in many Germanic languages, Eostre is not however related to the words for dawn or spring.

The notion that Eostre is related to the spring or dawn is still pervasive, we have iGrimm to thank for that, it was Grimm who speculated, based solely on the fact that the sun rises in the east, that Eostre must therefore be a goddess of the spring or the dawn.

Ronald Hutton; (Modern Pagan Festivals: A Study in the Nature of Tradition, Folklore, Vol. 119, No. 3 December 2008) " further points out that, " The spring has no recorded festival associations in northern Europe before the arrival of the Christian Easter".

Megatherium

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Re: Eostre, Local and Modern Gods
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2017, 11:21:35 am »
Quote from: Hildeburh;204465
....

 
Thanks for your response Hildebruh. My original post was fairly meandering and confusing, so let me just try to better articulate my points. Basically, I have two main ideas trying to crawl out of the muck of my original post; A) Eostre's cult is both entirely modern and valid, and B) the development of historically localized Gods, and their reinterpretation by Snorri/Grammaticus, has led to a situation where our current understanding of the Germanic Gods is highly distorted (but has been effective at establishing a relationship with deities in modern times).

To clarify, I am not trying to argue that the pan-Germanic Grimm-influenced ideas of Eostre are true, and for the sake of argument I am accepting Shaw's notion of Eostre as a localized deity are accurate.

Basically, I think the cults of many Germanic deities were localized for most of their history and only acquired more "universal" features with the social/geographical and economic changes of the first millennium. However, there may well have been certain linguistic and cultural associations which showed up in a number of regional cults.

For example, lets say in my village we worship a "Tiu" which is seen as primarily concerned with law and justice in our community. 50 km from us there is a village which worships a "Tyr" which functions as the "head" of the pantheon. 25 km in the other direction, there is a village which worships a "Diu" associated with the sky and war, etc. There is no real shared idea of a pan-Germanic "Tyr" here, but neither is there an utter lack of linguistic links and cultural and/or natural associations.

Thsese various "Tyr"-ish deities begin to coalesce under the influence of Roman religion/Christianity, increased geographical mobility, population growth etc. When Snorri and Grammaticus finally get around to writing their works, they are in a sense completing a process of the amalgamation of a number of local cults. The "Tyr" as presented by those authors is quite a distortion from the original localized cults, but still functions well enough for modern Heathens to begin crafting relationships with a Deity/deities which accept interacting with humans through the use of those names/associations.

As another example, Shaw describes Snorri amalgamating several different figures in the Eddic concept of "Odin", something that has not prevented that/those deity/deities from entering into relationships with modern Heathens. (No, I haven't read the "Uses of Wodan". I have this strange thing for writing about works by Shaw which I haven't actually read. I guess I just like to live dangerously).

What I think is critical about this is that deities can and do interact with people even when our understanding of them quite different from how they were perceived historically.

This willingness to interact with humans despite our misunderstandings about the nature of deities, has, I think, reached a sort of an interesting climax with the figure of Eostre, who (if I accept Shaw's argument) has developed her relationship with modern Heathens entirely in contemporary times. The mistaken notion of her as a pan-Germanic goddess, has, perhaps, even facilitated the building of modern relationships with her. In other words, in the same way that Odin seeking to avert Ragnarok is not an actual historical event but a story which shows some of this God's character, the idea of Eostre as a pan-Germanic goddess is a "myth" which tells us something about her character.
My views are one that speaks to freedom.
-George W. Bush

Hildeburh

Re: Eostre, Local and Modern Gods
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2017, 07:49:26 pm »
Quote from: Megatherium;204471
Thanks for your response Hildebruh. My original post was fairly meandering and confusing, so let me just try to better articulate my points. Basically, I have two main ideas trying to crawl out of the muck of my original post; A) Eostre's cult is both entirely modern and valid, and B) the development of historically localized Gods, and their reinterpretation by Snorri/Grammaticus, has led to a situation where our current understanding of the Germanic Gods is highly distorted (but has been effective at establishing a relationship with deities in modern times).


I agree but I would say incomplete rather than distorted, but there is a great deal of academic material such as that by Shaw that adds to our understanding.


Quote from:
Basically, I think the cults of many Germanic deities were localized for most of their history and only acquired more "universal" features with the social/geographical and economic changes of the first millennium. However, there may well have been certain linguistic and cultural associations which showed up in a number of regional cults.


The localised nature of Germanic cults is fairly well established, there was no State in Germanic society and tribes were often at war with one another, so the notion of pan Germanic deities or pan European religion makes little sense. Cults were also unevenly distributed throughout time, location and social hierarchy, for example Odin was a god of primarily warriors and kings and his cult flourished in the Viking era.

 I don't really understand your last sentence are you saying that regional cults were linked? That is true in some cases such as the cult Nerthus for example, which according to Tacitus was worshiped by a number of tribes. Or the cult of the matres/matronae which was widespread but these goddesses were local and specific to kinship groups or individual tribes. I don't like to generalise.

Quote from:
For example, lets say in my village we worship a "Tiu" which is seen as primarily concerned with law and justice in our community. 50 km from us there is a village which worships a "Tyr" which functions as the "head" of the pantheon. 25 km in the other direction, there is a village which worships a "Diu" associated with the sky and war, etc. There is no real shared idea of a pan-Germanic "Tyr" here, but neither is there an utter lack of linguistic links and cultural and/or natural associations.


Some Germanic gods are going to have linguistic links simply because the Germanic tribes share a common ancestor language and a PIE religious heritage that includes the specific mythologies and the names of certain gods; such as the linguistic decendants of Tiwaz.

There is so little literature that it is difficult to say if the mythology of Tiw was similar to that of Tyr or if they were even considered the same or two different gods by this stage of separation from Tiwaz. Nor can the few PIE gods that have cognates throughout the Germanic world act as an example for a premise that all Germanic deities shared a 'natural/cultural association', that is a generalisation that cannot be supported.

Quote from:
Thsese various "Tyr"-ish deities begin to coalesce under the influence of Roman religion/Christianity, increased geographical mobility, population growth etc. When Snorri and Grammaticus finally get around to writing their works, they are in a sense completing a process of the amalgamation of a number of local cults. The "Tyr" as presented by those authors is quite a distortion from the original localized cults, but still functions well enough for modern Heathens to begin crafting relationships with a Deity/deities which accept interacting with humans through the use of those names/associations.


Snorri and Saxo represent the Christian cultures of Iceland and Denmark only and by this stage it seems that Tyr had been supplanted by Odin as there is very little of the mythos of Tyr in either of these works. So these authors did not need to conflate 'Tyrish' gods as the cult of Tyr seems to have all but been overtaken.

Quote from:
As another example, Shaw describes Snorri amalgamating several different figures in the Eddic concept of "Odin", something that has not prevented that/those deity/deities from entering into relationships with modern Heathens. (No, I haven't read the "Uses of Wodan". I have this strange thing for writing about works by Shaw which I haven't actually read. I guess I just like to live dangerously).


'The Uses of Woden' is available free online and is a good read. In this work Shaw (2002) discusses the cult of Woden which is geographically limited and substantially separate from the development of the cult of Odin. In this work Shaw goes as far as saying it is quite possible that Woden and Odin are not cognate deities. You do like to live dangerously :)

Quote from:
What I think is critical about this is that deities can and do interact with people even when our understanding of them quite different from how they were perceived historically.

This willingness to interact with humans despite our misunderstandings about the nature of deities, has, I think, reached a sort of an interesting climax with the figure of Eostre, who (if I accept Shaw's argument) has developed her relationship with modern Heathens entirely in contemporary times. The mistaken notion of her as a pan-Germanic goddess, has, perhaps, even facilitated the building of modern relationships with her. In other words, in the same way that Odin seeking to avert Ragnarok is not an actual historical event but a story which shows some of this God's character, the idea of Eostre as a pan-Germanic goddess is a "myth" which tells us something about her character.

 
This is your UPG, personally I think the Eostre that is widely worshiped by modern pagans is an entirely new goddess with her own mythos not the localised Kentish Heathen figure that may or may not a etymological fancy of Bede.

 Many cling onto the idea that they are the same goddess because so much fluff has been written about her and some modern pagans like to universalise deities, which seems like a hangover from a Xtrian worldview to me. Thankfully there are quite a few good articles online now that counteract said fluff.

Megatherium

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Re: Eostre, Local and Modern Gods
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2017, 10:03:07 pm »
Quote from: Hildeburh;204566
I agree but I would say incomplete rather than distorted, but there is a great deal of academic material such as that by Shaw that adds to our understanding.


I'm thinking here of, for example, the way Odin is presented as a ruling, Zeus like figure in Snorri's Edda. While I think some Heathens in some times and places may have held this view, I am skeptical about it as a definitive view of the deity's character.


Quote from: Hildeburh;204566
I don't really understand your last sentence are you saying that regional cults were linked? That is true in some cases such as the cult Nerthus for example, which according to Tacitus was worshiped by a number of tribes. Or the cult of the matres/matronae which was widespread but these goddesses were local and specific to kinship groups or individual tribes. I don't like to generalise.....Some Germanic gods are going to have linguistic links simply because the Germanic tribes share a common ancestor language and a PIE religious heritage that includes the specific mythologies and the names of certain gods; such as the linguistic decendants of Tiwaz.....There is so little literature that it is difficult to say if the mythology of Tiw was similar to that of Tyr or if they were even considered the same or two different gods by this stage of separation from Tiwaz. Nor can the few PIE gods that have cognates throughout the Germanic world act as an example for a premise that all Germanic deities shared a 'natural/cultural association', that is a generalisation that cannot be supported.  


I'm not imagining them so much as linked as just sometimes sharing features due to lingering PIE influence. To take another example, it seems like there was a Frigga/Freya/Frija - type name which shows up in several different places and times. I imagine most of the time these would be seen as local goddess, but some localized Fr-something Goddesses may sometimes have had vaguely similar roles. For example, my village has a Frija, your's has a Friga. Both these goddesses have associations with, say, childbirth and social harmony in the community. But my village also understands our "Frija" as having associations with war, while your "Friga" has associations with magic. Not the "same" Goddess in the view of the worshippers, but still sharing some similarities.



Quote from: Hildeburh;204566
Snorri and Saxo represent the Christian cultures of Iceland and Denmark only and by this stage it seems that Tyr had been supplanted by Odin as there is very little of the mythos of Tyr in either of these works. So these authors did not need to conflate 'Tyrish' gods as the cult of Tyr seems to have all but been overtaken.


I'm just trying to think of how "Tyr" as he was understood by Snorri and Saxo came to be. Was the Tyr as presented by Snorri an amalgamation of different myths? Does it represent one local deity? Was the cult of Tyr widespread enough that Heathens from a wide variety of places would have recognized similar myths, etc. (There's some evidence that his cult was much more prominent in Denmark than in Sweden/Norway/Iceland: http://germanic.eu/Heathen-and-mythological-elements-in-Scandinavian-place-names.htm)




Quote from: Hildeburh;204566
'The Uses of Woden' is available free online and is a good read. In this work Shaw (2002) discusses the cult of Woden which is geographically limited and substantially separate from the development of the cult of Odin. In this work Shaw goes as far as saying it is quite possible that Woden and Odin are not cognate deities. You do like to live dangerously :)


I have the pdf for this downloaded...and i haven't even read it! Danger is my middle name.


 
Quote from: Hildeburh;204566
This is your UPG, personally I think the Eostre that is widely worshiped by modern pagans is an entirely new goddess with her own mythos not the localised Kentish Heathen figure that may or may not a etymological fancy of Bede.

 Many cling onto the idea that they are the same goddess because so much fluff has been written about her and some modern pagans like to universalise deities, which seems like a hangover from a Xtrian worldview to me. Thankfully there are quite a few good articles online now that counteract said fluff.


While I think that Shaw's work is a critical addition to the question of Eostre (based on, ahem, what I have read other people say about it), I'm not 100% convinced of his thesis. Given the Austriahenae votive alters are mostly dated to 250 AD at the latest, and if this does represent a goddess of a particular people, I am a bit skeptical that the level of group cohesion necessary to maintain her cult would have survived the intervening centuries intact to arrive on British shores.

But I do agree with his general point of Germanic deities being more localized. Hence this thread. I am trying to experiment/think of how localized deities became the "pantheon" described by Snorri, and what that means for our relationships with these deities today.
My views are one that speaks to freedom.
-George W. Bush

Hildeburh

Re: Eostre, Local and Modern Gods
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2017, 07:19:49 am »
Quote from: Megatherium;204569
I'm thinking here of, for example, the way Odin is presented as a ruling, Zeus like figure in Snorri's Edda. While I think some Heathens in some times and places may have held this view, I am skeptical about it as a definitive view of the deity's character.


We agree on this issue and I think we have discussed this on other threads.


Quote from:
I'm not imagining them so much as linked as just sometimes sharing features due to lingering PIE influence. To take another example, it seems like there was a Frigga/Freya/Frija - type name which shows up in several different places and times. I imagine most of the time these would be seen as local goddess, but some localized Fr-something Goddesses may sometimes have had vaguely similar roles. For example, my village has a Frija, your's has a Friga. Both these goddesses have associations with, say, childbirth and social harmony in the community. But my village also understands our "Frija" as having associations with war, while your "Friga" has associations with magic. Not the "same" Goddess in the view of the worshippers, but still sharing some similarities.


By the Viking era Freyja and Frigg (ON) or Frige/Frig (OE) are separate deities (Frigga is a later anglised version of the name- Victorian era).  The proposed Freyja and Freyrs'  PIE  etymology is
*pro-w-(y)o-s,  this simply gives us lord and lady in later Germanic languages,  so there is the possibility that Freyja had many different names, though she does seem to be an entirely Norse goddess.

The reconstructed etymology of Frige/Frigg on the other hand is  *priy-a (beloved/dear), *frijjo is proto Germanic. Frigg is more widely attested in place names and the surviving literature. She may also not have been the wife of Odin but rather a goddess separate from the later cult of Odin or attached to another god........sadly we will never know.

I agree entirely with your analysis that the mythos of this goddess, whilst similar in key aspects, would have had regional variations.


Quote from:
I'm just trying to think of how "Tyr" as he was understood by Snorri and Saxo came to be. Was the Tyr as presented by Snorri an amalgamation of different myths? Does it represent one local deity? Was the cult of Tyr widespread enough that Heathens from a wide variety of places would have recognized similar myths, etc. (There's some evidence that his cult was much more prominent in Denmark than in Sweden/Norway/Iceland: http://germanic.eu/Heathen-and-mythological-elements-in-Scandinavian-place-names.htm).


Who knows! Snorri and Saxo represent medieval post Christian interpretations of specific regional mythologies, Saxo was hostile to Heathen mythology and euhemerized pretty much everything, Snorri whilst euhemerizing Icelandic mythology was not hostile to his countries Heathen mythology, he simply thought his ancestors were misguided. Medieval literature is what it is, we are lucky to have as it as it preserves pre Christian themes but it does require a critical eye.

Heathens were a culture of primary orality so I tend to think that central myths and stories would have had key elements that were widely recognisable. But many other deities and myths would have been local and would not have been the subject of stories/poems recited by skalds.


Quote from:
While I think that Shaw's work is a critical addition to the question of Eostre (based on, ahem, what I have read other people say about it), I'm not 100% convinced of his thesis. Given the Austriahenae votive alters are mostly dated to 250 AD at the latest, and if this does represent a goddess of a particular people, I am a bit skeptical that the level of group cohesion necessary to maintain her cult would have survived the intervening centuries intact to arrive on British shores.

But I do agree with his general point of Germanic deities being more localized. Hence this thread. I am trying to experiment/think of how localized deities became the "pantheon" described by Snorri, and what that means for our relationships with these deities today.


Shaw is not saying that this group migrated to Kent and brought their matronae with them he is saying that it the etymology of Eostre represents a similar naming pattern to that of the Austriahenae; Shaw's work is a solely linguistic analysis. No one considers anyones interpretations 100% correct, they just add to our general understanding.

How did local deities become a pantheon? Christian scribes were familiar with and influenced by classical Greek and Roman mythology, they systemised Heathen mythology making it more coherent for their readership.  Local polytheistic cults would have been long gone when these Christian scibes writing or would have been underground, plus they had no interest in preserving Heathen forms of worship.

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Re: Eostre, Local and Modern Gods
« Reply #6 on: April 08, 2017, 02:51:00 pm »
Quote from: Hildeburh;204726

By the Viking era Freyja and Frigg (ON) or Frige/Frig (OE) are separate deities (Frigga is a later anglised version of the name- Victorian era).  The proposed Freyja and Freyrs'  PIE  etymology is
*pro-w-(y)o-s,  this simply gives us lord and lady in later Germanic languages,  so there is the possibility that Freyja had many different names, though she does seem to be an entirely Norse goddess.

The reconstructed etymology of Frige/Frigg on the other hand is  *priy-a (beloved/dear), *frijjo is proto Germanic. Frigg is more widely attested in place names and the surviving literature. She may also not have been the wife of Odin but rather a goddess separate from the later cult of Odin or attached to another god........sadly we will never know.

I agree entirely with your analysis that the mythos of this goddess, whilst similar in key aspects, would have had regional variations.


Thanks for the analysis. The relationship between Frigga/Freya has always puzzled me, but I don't find that uncertainty to really negatively influence my practice. I think sometimes a bit of ambiguity is actually helpful in reinforcing my conceptions of the Gods as ultimately incomprehensible beings for humans.

Quote from: Hildeburh;204726
Shaw is not saying that this group migrated to Kent and brought their matronae with them he is saying that it the etymology of Eostre represents a similar naming pattern to that of the Austriahenae; Shaw's work is a solely linguistic analysis. No one considers anyones interpretations 100% correct, they just add to our general understanding.


Ah, okay. So not so much that Eostre IS the same being worshipped as the Austriahenae, but rather her name is consistent with other forms used to identify local deities, hence, making her more likely to be a local deity than a pan-Germanic one.




Quote from: Hildeburh;204726
Who knows! Snorri and Saxo represent medieval post Christian interpretations of specific regional mythologies, Saxo was hostile to Heathen mythology and euhemerized pretty much everything, Snorri whilst euhemerizing Icelandic mythology was not hostile to his countries Heathen mythology, he simply thought his ancestors were misguided. Medieval literature is what it is, we are lucky to have as it as it preserves pre Christian themes but it does require a critical eye.

Heathens were a culture of primary orality so I tend to think that central myths and stories would have had key elements that were widely recognisable. But many other deities and myths would have been local and would not have been the subject of stories/poems recited by skalds.

How did local deities become a pantheon? Christian scribes were familiar with and influenced by classical Greek and Roman mythology, they systemised Heathen mythology making it more coherent for their readership.  Local polytheistic cults would have been long gone when these Christian scibes writing or would have been underground, plus they had no interest in preserving Heathen forms of worship.


As you can tell, I've been struggling with how to reconcile the concept of germanic cultures worshipping localized deities and the organized pantheon presented by Snorri. I don't mind if my modern religious beliefs differ from historical heathenry in some way, but I like to know how and why they do so rather than accepting inaccurate modern ideas as accurate descriptions of historical practice.

Part of my issue is that I tend, where possible, to integrate ideas from continental sources rather than Norse ones since that is my primary area of interest. It seems to me a focus on local deities might be more characteristic of continental germanic cultures, though this of course presents the problem that those localized deities represent communities which have changed beyond recognition and/or places far from where I actually live. In other words, the worship of localized deities, while perhaps more historically accurate, presents its own problematic issues.

I'm fairly comfortable with worshipping deities associated with natural features in my own location - that seemed to develop quite naturally for me. However, I don't really see a meaningful way to worship Gods from small communities who were worshipped 1500 years ago.

I am, of course, perhaps overthinking this. Maybe I should just accept the fact that the Eddic pantheon described by Snorri is flawed, but still a useful starting point to worship some of those deities whose cults did seem to expand beyond a local level- Odin, Frigga, Freya, Thor, Freyr, etc.
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Hildeburh

Re: Eostre, Local and Modern Gods
« Reply #7 on: April 18, 2017, 08:11:20 am »
Quote from: Megatherium;204768
Thanks for the analysis. The relationship between Frigga/Freya has always puzzled me, but I don't find that uncertainty to really negatively influence my practice. I think sometimes a bit of ambiguity is actually helpful in reinforcing my conceptions of the Gods as ultimately incomprehensible beings for humans.


Frigga is Anglicized, it's Frig (AS) or Frigg (ON), Frija (OHG) I'm not sure that there is a relationship, there was a theory that they were once the same goddess and later split into two separate goddesses, not a theory I think is overly convincing. Freyja is not attested outside of Scandinavia so she may be a solely Scandinavia goddess.

Quote from:
As you can tell, I've been struggling with how to reconcile the concept of germanic cultures worshipping localized deities and the organized pantheon presented by Snorri. I don't mind if my modern religious beliefs differ from historical heathenry in some way, but I like to know how and why they do so rather than accepting inaccurate modern ideas as accurate descriptions of historical practice..


All of our modern practices differ from historical heathenry, there is no avoiding that, we  cannot recreate the local tribal Heathenry of our ancestors because we simply do not have the resources or continuity of practice to allow us to do. Neither do we have to accept that all modern Heathenry is Asatru, that forces homogeneity on Heathenry. I think many Heathens overthink their practice, we are a votive folkway that honours our wights and our ancestors, our ritual cycles are focused on our local region and environment.

Quote from: Megatherium;204768
Part of my issue is that I tend, where possible, to integrate ideas from continental sources rather than Norse ones since that is my primary area of interest. It seems to me a focus on local deities might be more characteristic of continental germanic cultures, though this of course presents the problem that those localized deities represent communities which have changed beyond recognition and/or places far from where I actually live. In other words, the worship of localized deities, while perhaps more historically accurate, presents its own problematic issues.


Of course it is problematic but so is accepting the Norse pantheon, as outlined by medieval Icelandic literature as representative of the entirety of the Germanic world view. The Germanic tribes were polytheists their god/esses were localised and specific to tribes and regions. There are Continental sources, may I suggest that you focus on them rather than the Icelandic literature, it may assist you in building a more individual, regionally focused practice.

Quote from:
I'm fairly comfortable with worshipping deities associated with natural features in my own location - that seemed to develop quite naturally for me. However, I don't really see a meaningful way to worship Gods from small communities who were worshipped 1500 years ago.


Like who? Wodan, Frija , Ziu, Donar, Nerthus, Tuisto, Sunna, Baduhenna, Tamfana, the ancestral Mothers' etc. These were all local deities,  how is that different from honouring the Norse pantheon?

Quote from:
I am, of course, perhaps overthinking this. Maybe I should just accept the fact that the Eddic pantheon described by Snorri is flawed, but still a useful starting point to worship some of those deities whose cults did seem to expand beyond a local level- Odin, Frigga, Freya, Thor, Freyr, etc.


It's a useful starting point if you are Asatru not so much if your focus is the Continent or in my case Anglo Saxon England. Did these cults expand from Scandinavia? Or did they expand into Scandinavia? Or are some of these cult specifically Scandinavian? All interesting questions to ask youself and research.

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Re: Eostre, Local and Modern Gods
« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2017, 11:00:31 am »
Quote from: Hildeburh;205035

 


That's an interesting discussion you have going here. I'd like to know more about it.

I consider myself heathen to some extent, but not Asatru. My daily practice focusses on Cernunnos as he was the first to reach out to me. But Woden has been on my mind a lot lately too. This confuses me as I really do search for deities from western continental Europe where I live (Netherlands, Belgium, Germany). Cernunnos pops up throughout this region, but so does Woden. Yet they are of completely different 'pantheons'. And I use " for pantheons cause I'm not even sure of Cernunnos belongs to a pantheon at all. I am not sure how I should look at both.

Whats more, they say Woden is the same god as Odin but somehow he feels different to me than the Odin I know from stories. Older, less refined and more brutal. It's difficult for me to reconcile Woden with stories of Odin cause Odin feels very Scandinavian to me.
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Re: Eostre, Local and Modern Gods
« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2017, 03:52:21 pm »
Quote from: Vixen;205042
That's an interesting discussion you have going here. I'd like to know more about it.

I consider myself heathen to some extent, but not Asatru. My daily practice focusses on Cernunnos as he was the first to reach out to me. But Woden has been on my mind a lot lately too. This confuses me as I really do search for deities from western continental Europe where I live (Netherlands, Belgium, Germany). Cernunnos pops up throughout this region, but so does Woden. Yet they are of completely different 'pantheons'. And I use " for pantheons cause I'm not even sure of Cernunnos belongs to a pantheon at all. I am not sure how I should look at both.

Whats more, they say Woden is the same god as Odin but somehow he feels different to me than the Odin I know from stories. Older, less refined and more brutal. It's difficult for me to reconcile Woden with stories of Odin cause Odin feels very Scandinavian to me.


While I don't really have the knowledge base to speak intelligently about Cernunnos, I honestly don't think any of the temperate European deities were really organized into a codified pantheon. In addition, I think it is perfectly reasonable to worship deities from a particular geographic location even if they come from different linguistic groups. Ultimately, I think worshiping the Gods of your local region is an excellent way to develop a meaningful practice.

In terms of the Woden/Odin issue, I don't think it is possible to prove definitvely one way or another whether they were  distinct but similar Gods, or two "aspects" of some larger divinity. But given that you seem to experience Woden as distinct from Odin, that may well be the most productive way for you to approach this/these deity/deities.

The following articles may be of some use to you; the first link is to the "Uses of Wodan" article mentioned earlier in this thread, and the second article is by an Anglo-Saxon Heathen and pertains to the relationship between Woden/Odin. Happy reading!

http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/393/

https://thelettuceman.wordpress.com/2015/05/16/woden-vs-odin-differences/
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Re: Eostre, Local and Modern Gods
« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2017, 04:25:22 pm »
Quote from: Hildeburh;205035
Of course it is problematic but so is accepting the Norse pantheon, as outlined by medieval Icelandic literature as representative of the entirety of the Germanic world view. The Germanic tribes were polytheists their god/esses were localised and specific to tribes and regions. There are Continental sources, may I suggest that you focus on them rather than the Icelandic literature, it may assist you in building a more individual, regionally focused practice.

 Like who? Wodan, Frija , Ziu, Donar, Nerthus, Tuisto, Sunna, Baduhenna, Tamfana, the ancestral Mothers' etc. These were all local deities,  how is that different from honouring the Norse pantheon?

It's a useful starting point if you are Asatru not so much if your focus is the Continent or in my case Anglo Saxon England. Did these cults expand from Scandinavia? Or did they expand into Scandinavia? Or are some of these cult specifically Scandinavian? All interesting questions to ask youself and research.


The difficulty I have with "localized" deities is that I am imagining, correctly or not, that their primary means of relating to humans was through the community rather than through a particular "function" like war, fertility etc. For example, a "localized" Frija may have been primarily a goddess who provided benefits for the community that worshiped her rather than as a deity that presided over a particular set of functions.

The reason why this is difficult for me, and ultimately why I find the pantheon as described in Snorri's Edda to be useful, is that I have no real connection to either the geographical or the community-based roles of theses deities. Frija as the goddess of a particular location is unhelpful as I am not located anywhere near those areas where she was historically worshiped. Frija as the goddess of a particular community is not particularly helpful as I can can't be part of a cultural community that is quite distant from me both geographically and temporally.

This is why I tend to be more focused on the "function" of Gods because that is something I can relate to. Frija as a goddess who has influence over the functioning of the family is something that works for me, because that is something I experience every day. It is difficult for me to related to Donar as, for example a God who protects a particular small and extinct community in Germany 1300 years ago, but I can easily relate to him as a more general protector of mankind or as deity associated with storms, thunder, rain etc.

In other words, I think "function" has a transferability across time and space that geographical and community specificity does not. I'm not saying that this is the way it has to be for everyone (for example, a geographical specificity may be a much more useful way of building a relationship with a Germanic/European deity for Vixen than it is for me), but I personally find "function" to be the only thing that has really allowed me to conceptualize the Gods as something actually existing in the world rather than as names in a book.

To some extent I am somewhat influenced in this by a long-ago thread on Asatru Lore,
which articulated what I found to be a fascinating, and possibly unique take on what a God is.
(http://www.asatrulore.org/index.php?page=Thread&threadID=8741).

To take a couple of quotes from the first two posts in the thread which I think articulate the overall idea quite well;

"What if heathens carried in their worldview not so much the being of the god but rather the title/ role? Through worship and results, the role is filled and the folk are satisfied."

and...

"This fits very well with my own interpretation of the 'American-enigma'. For me the notion of a god breaks down to a simplified combination, that the god is a being that provides for x need better than another being, in time the same concept of the being or the god's functionality, iconography and etymology can spread over a wide territory. Now, in my model, based upon various sources, the god's funtions ands hades of being may be what is spreading and not so much the actual being (god). In short, the gods differ, but have a similar name based upon a similar combination of memes and influences.

And so, Donar of my people and region may have a similar name and role to my folk than he does to Icelanders, but he is widely different than the Thor of Iceland. I think a good way of illustrating this in a global village (there is no need for this on a smaller more local scale) is if we called them by their name and region or people of worship, IE Donar of Runatyr, Thor of Iceland, Thunnar of England, etc."

What I take from this is that a God can be a local wight that fulfills a particular role for a community. A "Thor" of Western Canada need not be the same being as a "Thor" is Australia or Denmark. But all of those local beings can do what a "Thor" is expected to do by a community that worships him.

To try and square the circle of this thread, perhaps the modern Eostre is not the same being as the local Anglo-Saxon deity, but instead a number of local beings who (in modern conceptions) as associated with/have some influence over/are manifest within spring and the dawn. Perhaps.
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Hildeburh

Re: Eostre, Local and Modern Gods
« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2017, 07:41:55 pm »
Quote from: Vixen;205042
That's an interesting discussion you have going here. I'd like to know more about it.

I consider myself heathen to some extent, but not Asatru. My daily practice focusses on Cernunnos as he was the first to reach out to me. But Woden has been on my mind a lot lately too. This confuses me as I really do search for deities from western continental Europe where I live (Netherlands, Belgium, Germany). Cernunnos pops up throughout this region, but so does Woden. Yet they are of completely different 'pantheons'. And I use " for pantheons cause I'm not even sure of Cernunnos belongs to a pantheon at all. I am not sure how I should look at both.

Whats more, they say Woden is the same god as Odin but somehow he feels different to me than the Odin I know from stories. Older, less refined and more brutal. It's difficult for me to reconcile Woden with stories of Odin cause Odin feels very Scandinavian to me.

Your instict that Wodan and Odin are different gods is correct. Woden is Old English, Wodan is Old Saxon, Wodan is found in the continental sources. There are limited sources for both Wodan and Woden and much of what you read online conflates Woden and Wodan with Odin as if they are interchangable. Etymologically, as Shaw points out, the words Wodan/Woden have a different origin from that of Odin. The name Wodan/Woden is derived from Wod = mad and  the suffix "en" in Old English means made of whereas Odin name derives from Óðr with the suffix inn. There's a discussion here on the etymology of Odin here

http://norse-mythology.org/odr-concept/

There is an interesting theory (Kaliff and Sundqvist) that the cult of Odin was influenced by that of Mithras:

https://books.google.com.au/books?id=gjq6rvoIRpAC&pg=PT42&lpg=PT42&dq=cult+of+odin&source=bl&ots=dqv9oq-CJi&sig=b4tMlCk692-0JwMzRElgLq26f0I&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiHt-DH1LHTAhXClZQKHXhNCG44ChDoAQgiMAQ#v=onepage&q=cult%20of%20odin&f=false

Heathen cults were regional,  Odin's cult is much later than that of Wodan and Woden and does not appear to have been known outside of Scandinavia before the 10th century.
Continental Wodan is first mentioned in the 7th century by Jonas of Bobbio (Vita Sancti Columbani), who also tells us that Wodan was worshipped by the Suebi. Wodan is attested in the origin myth of the Langobardi (in the Chronicon and Origo Gentis Langobardorum), the Nordendorf brooch rune inscription and the Second Merseburg Charm these sources seem to indicate that Wodan is a God associated with healing, military victory and tribal identity.

In the Old English sources Woden features in the Maxims I (B), Old English Nine Herbs Charm, as an ancestor in the royal house of Æthelberht of Kent and place name evidence. So from surviving sources Woden seems to be associated with healing, building or creation and royal identity. The continental Wodan and OE Woden were equated with the Mercurius, who in Anglo Saxon sources seems to be associated with healing.

I tend to stay away from neopagan sites, the information can be questionable, so besides the medieval and archeological sources these are well worth reading:

P.A. Shaw: Uses of Woden
S. Gundy: Cult of Odinn: God of Death?
N. Price: Odin's Whisper

There is very little archeological evidence of the cult of Cernunnos and a great deal written is still corrupted by Margaret Murray depiction of a widespread cult of the horned god. There's a good discussion of Cernunnos here:

https://www.manygods.org.uk/articles/essays/Cernunnos.shtml
« Last Edit: April 19, 2017, 07:47:05 pm by Hildeburh »

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