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Author Topic: Totemic Heathenry  (Read 1982 times)

Juniperberry

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Totemic Heathenry
« on: June 18, 2014, 01:38:22 pm »
Totemic Heathenry is something I've been mulling over and I'd like to get some input. I posted most of this text in an earlier thread but I wanted it here in the SIG to get some more focused input.


Underneath the general understanding of the Germanic pantheon there seems to be evidence of a patrilineal totemic clan structure. I know a lot of heathens are reconning  a "local tribe" culture, but I'm wondering if it isn't even so much local gods as it is totemic?

Creation: There are a few different creation myths in Germanic mythologies, each with a different god creating/fathering a different tribe. Along with this are the Matronae/Mothers of tribes--numbering in the thousands.

Soul: Germanic spirituality has the belief of a fylgja (placenta) which is the animal/woman spirit that accompanies the birth of a child. This fylgja can identify which tribe/family you belong to. A hamingja is the personified familial luck spirit which is passed down to family members.

Death: Legends of the dead returning to an ancestral hall in the mountains.

So what I'm thinking is that a person was/is born with a tribal, ancestral god. In Shaw's book on Germanic goddess he talks about Eostre being the goddess of a tribe that had a linguistically similar name...goddess of the people from the east rather than goddess of the east.

These tribal gods are part of self. They aren't connected to land, or function, or natural phenomena; they're your essence, your spirit.. Outside of those gods we also live among gods of the sky, gods of beasts, gods of abstracts. Those aren't our personal gods. Our personal gods are those we have been born to ( and whose names we have forgotten? Like Regnator Omnium Deus? )

That god/dess is one we take with us whether its America, Scandinavia, Ireland.

Anyway, there's a lot I need to consider with that, and see how well it fits, but something about it rings really true to me. Thoughts? Disagreements? Areas of further research?
The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. [...] The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year timeframe. 10 years at most.--Elon Musk

I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence," [Bill] Gates wrote. "First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don\'t understand why some people are not concerned."

Megatherium

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Re: Totemic Heathenry
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2014, 12:13:31 pm »
Quote from: Juniperberry;150391
Totemic Heathenry is something I've been mulling over and I'd like to get some input. I posted most of this text in an earlier thread but I wanted it here in the SIG to get some more focused input.


Underneath the general understanding of the Germanic pantheon there seems to be evidence of a patrilineal totemic clan structure. I know a lot of heathens are reconning  a "local tribe" culture, but I'm wondering if it isn't even so much local gods as it is totemic?

Creation: There are a few different creation myths in Germanic mythologies, each with a different god creating/fathering a different tribe. Along with this are the Matronae/Mothers of tribes--numbering in the thousands.

Soul: Germanic spirituality has the belief of a fylgja (placenta) which is the animal/woman spirit that accompanies the birth of a child. This fylgja can identify which tribe/family you belong to. A hamingja is the personified familial luck spirit which is passed down to family members.

Death: Legends of the dead returning to an ancestral hall in the mountains.

So what I'm thinking is that a person was/is born with a tribal, ancestral god. In Shaw's book on Germanic goddess he talks about Eostre being the goddess of a tribe that had a linguistically similar name...goddess of the people from the east rather than goddess of the east.

These tribal gods are part of self. They aren't connected to land, or function, or natural phenomena; they're your essence, your spirit.. Outside of those gods we also live among gods of the sky, gods of beasts, gods of abstracts. Those aren't our personal gods. Our personal gods are those we have been born to ( and whose names we have forgotten? Like Regnator Omnium Deus? )

That god/dess is one we take with us whether its America, Scandinavia, Ireland.

Anyway, there's a lot I need to consider with that, and see how well it fits, but something about it rings really true to me. Thoughts? Disagreements? Areas of further research?

 

First of all, I love your posts. A collection of them would be better than most books about Heathenry out there.

Sadly, I haven’t done the requisite reading to be able to comment fully on your assertion .(I do have Shaw’s book on order though! woo-hoo!) But I have gotten the sense from a variety of sources that Heathen traditions may have had quite different ideas of what a deity is in comparison to the Greco-Roman concept of deity, which is what most Westerners inherit as their idea of what “polytheism” constitutes. It may well be that deities in Germanic traditions were far more local than the universal, cosmic forces worshipped by Mediterranean European cultures.

For the sake or argument, if we accept the idea that (some?many?all?) deities in Germanic societies were local/tribal, it leads to a couple of questions, for me anyway.

Firstly - is there still room for Gods of function in this concept of the world? Was Thor ever really a “god of thunder”, or was he just a multi-functional God for specific tribal groups?

Secondly - Does the connection these deities have with a “tribe” continue with descendants of that tribe if the original cultural and social circumstances under which that relationship was established have faded? Do “tribal” Germanic Gods continue their relationships with people when the “tribal” structure has been replaced by states and the very idea of a tribal God has been replaced by a millennium plus of Christianity?

My “problem” with the idea of tribal Gods is not so much in the accuracy of this theory as it pertains to pre-christian Germanic traditions, but more how that concept would function in revived heathen traditions.

The biggest problem I see with this is the lack of a tribal structure in modern circumstances. My family, colleagues, neighbours, and co-religionists are all different groups of people, whereas in pre-christian times, they would all have been basically the same group of people. Sure, individual heathen groups could perhaps have a “tribal” God, but  - firstly that deity is probably going to be a “deity of function” from the Eddic pantheon in most cases, and secondly, would the compartmentalization of modern life limit the strength of the relationship within any potential “tribal” patron?

I think the “deities of function” concept of Germanic polytheism will be difficult to do away with, even if the evidence for the primacy of a more localized/tribal relationship becomes clearer. Largely I think this is due to the fact that “deities of function” can be adopted more easily. If I believe there are deities associated with Thunder/Fertility/Death, I can connect with those deities at least partly through the direct and obvious influence of those forces in my life. A “tribal” deity would require the reestablishment of a very close relationship with a divinity in social circumstances that are far more fluid and unstable in comparison with pre-conversion societies.

I think perhaps the closest thing to an easily adaptable concept in relation to an inherited relationship with a divinity would be one’s relationship to the Disr and ancestors. I would think that such beings would continue to have an interest in an individual regardless of what social circumstances a person finds themselves in.

I hope that you don’t read the above as an attempt to reject or argue with your ideas-because I think you’re likely ultimately correct about the relationships in pre-conversion times. I’m just trying to articulate some of the difficulties I’ve personally had trying to apply this concept to modern circumstances.
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Juniperberry

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Re: Totemic Heathenry
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2014, 05:33:21 pm »
Quote from: Megatherium;150462
I hope that you don’t read the above as an attempt to reject or argue with your ideas-

No! And please do! I'd love the opportunity to flesh this out more or just scrap it altogether and get back to the drawing board. :)

Quote
For the sake or argument, if we accept the idea that (some?many?all?) deities in Germanic societies were local/tribal, it leads to a couple of questions, for me anyway.

Firstly - is there still room for Gods of function in this concept of the world? Was Thor ever really a “god of thunder”, or was he just a multi-functional God for specific tribal groups?

I don't think that all gods were tribal or even local. I still think Thor is a natural, functional god and not a tribal deity. But I also think there was a chief god outside of the well-known pantheon that was a god unique to a tribe.

For example:


Mercurius Arvernuix (unknown), Mercurius Arvernus (Possibly Wodan of the tribe Arvernus), Mercurius Channinus (possibly Wodan of the tribe Kannanefates), Mecurius Cimbrianus (possibly Wodan of the tribe Cimbri), Mercurius Dumiatus (Woden of Puy de Dome [place]), Mecurius Eriausius unknown), Mercuruis Gebrinius (possibly Wodan of the Ram), Mecurius Leudisius (possibly Wodan of [town] Luttich), Mercurius Mercator (Wodan the Trader), Mercurius Negotiator (Wodan the Dealer),  Mercurius Nundinator (Wodan the Trader), Mercurius Rex (Wodan King).

Here's where I'll lose you and where I'm probably way off-base: Mercury= Wodan is generally excepted, and Wodan as an individual god is generally excepted, especially as the chief god of the Germanic tribes (Tacitus). But what if--and this is a huge, blasphemous, uneducated leap-- Wodan is/was simply a generic god force? What if Wodan AS SOMETHING is what makes the god. Wodan as the Cimbri is now God of the Cimbri and that's the *only* name it needs, because God of the Kannanefates is altogether different? A unique and specific deity to a unique and specific people, identified only by their sense of self?

It's been a looong time since I read Shaw's 'Uses of Wodan' but iirc, he also has issues with the idea of Odin as a pan-Germanic individual deity with fingers in all the pots i.e, poet, magician, warrior, trader. He thinks that there were several Odins, basically. In the long run, though, that idea of Woden doesn't have to be right to support the idea.


Quote
Secondly - Does the connection these deities have with a “tribe” continue with descendants of that tribe if the original cultural and social circumstances under which that relationship was established have faded? Do “tribal” Germanic Gods continue their relationships with people when the “tribal” structure has been replaced by states and the very idea of a tribal God has been replaced by a millennium plus of Christianity?

I'm going to get woo-y. I don't think it's tribe, but ancestral soul.

From Simek: "The oldest written sources are the names of the gods written on ancient votive stones". (Like the names above. ) "[T]he individual Germanic tribes thought greatly about their sacred descendency." Tuisto fathered Mannus, who fathered three sons, who then fathered their tribes the Ingaveones, Hermiones, Istaevones. And supposedly those sons fathered the Marsis tribes, the Gambriviis, Suebi, Vandillis, etc.    

There were the Alcis, divine twins worshipped by the tribe Naharnavali, and may mean Elk gods. We saw above Wodan of the Rams. We know that the Harii may have been a group of bandits/outlawed that left their tribes and took on names that translate in part to 'wolf' and worshipped a wolf deity (again associated with Wodan). (Meaning they left their tribal totem?) We also know that a person's fylgja animal can show which family they come from even when they are orphaned and estranged. So, yes, I think there's evidence that it's inherited and not social. Meaning, you or I could have an inherited totemic deity ( even a wolf, if what we are doesn't match our kin?) that isn't dependent on tribal living or social circumstance. Ones that exists right alongside deities of natural function.  

Quote
I think perhaps the closest thing to an easily adaptable concept in relation to an inherited relationship with a divinity would be one’s relationship to the Disr and ancestors.

I definitely don't think those beings are out of the picture. I threw away my notes (stupid, stupid me), but I and someone else sort of worked through the problem of how fylgja are inherited and it seemed to come down to patrilineal lines. Which would make sense, and allow for the disir to serve as the protectors of your maternal lineage.


Ok... *laughs*. I think I probably did more harm than good for this idea by going off on another crazy ramble of "what could be". But, really, what could be? *shrug* What's the potential?
« Last Edit: June 19, 2014, 05:37:32 pm by Juniperberry »
The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. [...] The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year timeframe. 10 years at most.--Elon Musk

I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence," [Bill] Gates wrote. "First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don\'t understand why some people are not concerned."

Juniperberry

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Re: Totemic Heathenry
« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2014, 05:54:40 pm »
Quote from: Juniperberry;150483
...



Double posting to try and put all that a little more succinctly.

It seems as if originally the various Germanic tribes worshipped an inherited deity for which they had a myth of descendency. The inheritance of this deity is similar to your paternally passed fylgja and maternally passed disir.

As tribal groups became more united and cooperative, inherited deities fell away and the worship of "common" functional deities took precedence.

But, in our modern world where we generally feel disconnected from our larger global community, does it make sense to return personalized deity to our pantheon of community deities?
The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. [...] The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year timeframe. 10 years at most.--Elon Musk

I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence," [Bill] Gates wrote. "First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don\'t understand why some people are not concerned."

Megatherium

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Re: Totemic Heathenry
« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2014, 11:32:08 pm »
Quote from: Juniperberry;150483

I don't think that all gods were tribal or even local. I still think Thor is a natural, functional god and not a tribal deity. But I also think there was a chief god outside of the well-known pantheon that was a god unique to a tribe.


Again, I haven’t really done the reading to be able to comment on the validity of this statement, but it has a certain amount of intuitive sense to me. I’ve always had a bit of trouble conceptualizing vast, cosmic forces that are also interested in the little details of my life. I think a primary deity more closely aligned to a specific group of people would be more interested in people and responsive to their issues.

Quote from: Juniperberry;150483

For example:


Mercurius Arvernuix (unknown), Mercurius Arvernus (Possibly Wodan of the tribe Arvernus), Mercurius Channinus (possibly Wodan of the tribe Kannanefates), Mecurius Cimbrianus (possibly Wodan of the tribe Cimbri), Mercurius Dumiatus (Woden of Puy de Dome [place]), Mecurius Eriausius unknown), Mercuruis Gebrinius (possibly Wodan of the Ram), Mecurius Leudisius (possibly Wodan of [town] Luttich), Mercurius Mercator (Wodan the Trader), Mercurius Negotiator (Wodan the Dealer),  Mercurius Nundinator (Wodan the Trader), Mercurius Rex (Wodan King).

Here's where I'll lose you and where I'm probably way off-base: Mercury= Wodan is generally excepted, and Wodan as an individual god is generally excepted, especially as the chief god of the Germanic tribes (Tacitus). But what if--and this is a huge, blasphemous, uneducated leap-- Wodan is/was simply a generic god force? What if Wodan AS SOMETHING is what makes the god. Wodan as the Cimbri is now God of the Cimbri and that's the *only* name it needs, because God of the Kannanefates is altogether different? A unique and specific deity to a unique and specific people, identified only by their sense of self?

It's been a looong time since I read Shaw's 'Uses of Wodan' but iirc, he also has issues with the idea of Odin as a pan-Germanic individual deity with fingers in all the pots i.e, poet, magician, warrior, trader. He thinks that there were several Odins, basically. In the long run, though, that idea of Woden doesn't have to be right to support the idea.


The list of “Wodan’s of X” reminds me of both the way that Tyr’s name is sometimes used to generically signify a deity (ex. Runatyr as a name of Odin’s), and also the Greek practice of combining the name of a deity with its specific local characteristics - Artemis Lygodesma – Artemis the “willow-bound”  as she was worshipped in Sparta.

I find these types of things really fascinating because I’m usually torn between the idea of a deity as a cosmic universal force, and a deity as a “type” of local/regional wight. Part of me thinks that Odin is an individual and universal deity with the ability to affect any geographical location, and another part of me thinks that Odin is just a “type” of deity, and the name Odin/Wodan could be applied to any local/regional wight with an interest in, for example, death/travel/war/poetry, etc. Sometimes I find myself doubting in the existence of “universal” deities at all – perhaps “pantheons” are just ways of simplifying your relationship with local wights – they give you a coherent system by which to organize your relationship with wights in any geographical location. Every region, for example, will have something akin to an “Odin”, a “Freya” a “Thor”, and we can establish relationships relatively quickly in a new environment because we already have an established way of relating to wights/deities.

That may be consistent with the idea of many “Odins”, because each tribe will have a different relationship with their local “Wodan” – for the English he’s an ancestor of kings, to the Scandinavians, he’s a “shaman”, for the continental Germanics, he’s more involved in fertility and farming, etc.
Maybe.


Quote from: Juniperberry;150483


I'm going to get woo-y. I don't think it's tribe, but ancestral soul.

From Simek: "The oldest written sources are the names of the gods written on ancient votive stones". (Like the names above. ) "[T]he individual Germanic tribes thought greatly about their sacred descendency." Tuisto fathered Mannus, who fathered three sons, who then fathered their tribes the Ingaveones, Hermiones, Istaevones. And supposedly those sons fathered the Marsis tribes, the Gambriviis, Suebi, Vandillis, etc.    

There were the Alcis, divine twins worshipped by the tribe Naharnavali, and may mean Elk gods. We saw above Wodan of the Rams. We know that the Harii may have been a group of bandits/outlawed that left their tribes and took on names that translate in part to 'wolf' and worshipped a wolf deity (again associated with Wodan). (Meaning they left their tribal totem?) We also know that a person's fylgja animal can show which family they come from even when they are orphaned and estranged. So, yes, I think there's evidence that it's inherited and not social. Meaning, you or I could have an inherited totemic deity ( even a wolf, if what we are doesn't match our kin?) that isn't dependent on tribal living or social circumstance. Ones that exists right alongside deities of natural function.  


I could definitely see a deity becoming involved with a specific group of people, or even an ancestral lineage. Part of me wonders if perhaps these totemic Gods could be literal ancestors – deified humans similar in some ways to the Chinese deities (Guan Yu as a post-Han dynasty general who now functions as a deity for many Chinese people). That could in part explain their relative proximity to human groups in comparison with more distant Gods of function.

Quote from: Juniperberry;150486
Double posting to try and put all that a little more succinctly.

It seems as if originally the various Germanic tribes worshipped an inherited deity for which they had a myth of descendency. The inheritance of this deity is similar to your paternally passed fylgja and maternally passed disir.

As tribal groups became more united and cooperative, inherited deities fell away and the worship of "common" functional deities took precedence.

But, in our modern world where we generally feel disconnected from our larger global community, does it make sense to return personalized deity to our pantheon of community deities?


That has always been the question for me when I read about “tribal” deities in a Germanic context – how can we get to know them? I can identify ancestors/Disr with my family, local wights with specific locations, and functional Gods with larger forces. I wouldn’t know how to “get to know” my totemic deity. I’m sure there are lots of folks out there with elaborate ways of communicating with deities, and perhaps we would be talking about, I don’t know, intensive meditation and divination perhaps?

I mostly relate to deities intellectually – through reading and conceptualizing, and through direct experience of natural forces – for example, I believe the winter itself is partly a reflection of Skadi’s personality. I rarely have experiences where I could say something like “Deity X wants me to do this”, which is I think perhaps the appropriate way to be dealing with a more intimate, totemic deity. Perhaps to really connect with our totemic deities we have to be willing to put aside the more, shall we say, distant/intellectual/communal relationship many Heathens seem to have with the Gods, and fully embrace the “woo”? Is it time to get my devotional pagan on in order to (re)build this relationship?
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Juniperberry

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Re: Totemic Heathenry
« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2014, 01:03:16 am »
Quote from: Megatherium;150510
I find these types of things really fascinating because I’m usually torn between the idea of a deity as a cosmic universal force, and a deity as a “type” of local/regional wight. Part of me thinks that Odin is an individual and universal deity with the ability to affect any geographical location, and another part of me thinks that Odin is just a “type” of deity, and the name Odin/Wodan could be applied to any local/regional wight with an interest in, for example, death/travel/war/poetry, etc. Sometimes I find myself doubting in the existence of “universal” deities at all – perhaps “pantheons” are just ways of simplifying your relationship with local wights – they give you a coherent system by which to organize your relationship with wights in any geographical location. Every region, for example, will have something akin to an “Odin”, a “Freya” a “Thor”, and we can establish relationships relatively quickly in a new environment because we already have an established way of relating to wights/deities.

I find myself doubting a lot as well. I know that I've seen fylgja, and had dreams about an ancestral home/soul, visitations from the dead, and I have real experiences communing with nature. But gods... they're a different problem altogether. I guess I'm sort of getting into this recent idea of mine because I've  had the feeling of a god idea(?how to explain) that's always been with me, but I just can't place who or what that is. It's frustrating beyond belief. When it comes to a Thunder God I verge on atheistic, there's just too much science in the way.  When it comes to maybe being born with an inate something, it's easier to swallow.

Quote
I could definitely see a deity becoming involved with a specific group of people, or even an ancestral lineage. Part of me wonders if perhaps these totemic Gods could be literal ancestors – deified humans similar in some ways to the Chinese deities (Guan Yu as a post-Han dynasty general who now functions as a deity for many Chinese people). That could in part explain their relative proximity to human groups in comparison with more distant Gods of function.

I could definitely get behind the idea of euhemerism.  The idea of Odin as some badass, one-eyed clan leader that wrestled a sabertooth back in 10,000 BC that subsequently had godhood attached to him is so easy and strangely uplifting. And I could see it working; after thousands of thousands of years as an ancestral deity you've gotta have some clout with the universal force, right?

Quote
That has always been the question for me when I read about “tribal” deities in a Germanic context – how can we get to know them? I can identify ancestors/Disr with my family, local wights with specific locations, and functional Gods with larger forces. I wouldn’t know how to “get to know” my totemic deity. I’m sure there are lots of folks out there with elaborate ways of communicating with deities, and perhaps we would be talking about, I don’t know, intensive meditation and divination perhaps?

I mostly relate to deities intellectually – through reading and conceptualizing, and through direct experience of natural forces – for example, I believe the winter itself is partly a reflection of Skadi’s personality. I rarely have experiences where I could say something like “Deity X wants me to do this”, which is I think perhaps the appropriate way to be dealing with a more intimate, totemic deity. Perhaps to really connect with our totemic deities we have to be willing to put aside the more, shall we say, distant/intellectual/communal relationship many Heathens seem to have with the Gods, and fully embrace the “woo”? Is it time to get my devotional pagan on in order to (re)build this relationship?

I feel a lot like you do. I'm going ahead with this totemic, ancestral deity idea (even changed my profile) but none of the obscure, possibly totemic, god names are doing anything for me. Maybe it's like you said, they're too removed now? I also like to analyze and intellectualize and have never been in a personal relationship with deity (except kinda my god-idea, which may just be self), but sometimes I just need a little stability. Like, I don't think I would ever be a person to say I had the whole system figured out so time to move on with life, because I do just like to wonder, but I also need something to fall back on, too. Because of my more woo-y experiences I can't give up on heathen spirituality, but I also can't connect with heathen divinity. Something is wrong.  


I feel like...almost like it's on the tip of my tongue but I just can't spit it out.  Boo hoo. :o
« Last Edit: June 20, 2014, 01:04:32 am by Juniperberry »
The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. [...] The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year timeframe. 10 years at most.--Elon Musk

I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence," [Bill] Gates wrote. "First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don\'t understand why some people are not concerned."

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Re: Totemic Heathenry
« Reply #6 on: June 20, 2014, 01:02:23 pm »
Quote from: Juniperberry;150516
I could definitely get behind the idea of euhemerism.  The idea of Odin as some badass, one-eyed clan leader that wrestled a sabertooth back in 10,000 BC that subsequently had godhood attached to him is so easy and strangely uplifting. And I could see it working; after thousands of thousands of years as an ancestral deity you've gotta have some clout with the universal force, right?


The funny thing is that I normally hate euhemerism with an utterly irrational passion, but in the case of ancestral/tribal deities, I think it seems to be the most reasonable way to understand a deity.

Quote from: Juniperberry;150516
I find myself doubting a lot as well. I know that I've seen fylgja, and had dreams about an ancestral home/soul, visitations from the dead, and I have real experiences communing with nature. But gods... they're a different problem altogether. I guess I'm sort of getting into this recent idea of mine because I've  had the feeling of a god idea(?how to explain) that's always been with me, but I just can't place who or what that is. It's frustrating beyond belief. When it comes to a Thunder God I verge on atheistic, there's just too much science in the way.  When it comes to maybe being born with an inate something, it's easier to swallow.


I feel a lot like you do. I'm going ahead with this totemic, ancestral deity idea (even changed my profile) but none of the obscure, possibly totemic, god names are doing anything for me. Maybe it's like you said, they're too removed now? I also like to analyze and intellectualize and have never been in a personal relationship with deity (except kinda my god-idea, which may just be self), but sometimes I just need a little stability. Like, I don't think I would ever be a person to say I had the whole system figured out so time to move on with life, because I do just like to wonder, but I also need something to fall back on, too. Because of my more woo-y experiences I can't give up on heathen spirituality, but I also can't connect with heathen divinity. Something is wrong.  


I feel like...almost like it's on the tip of my tongue but I just can't spit it out.  Boo hoo. :o

 
I also have a feeling that something is a bit “off” with the way modern heathens perceive divinity. I think there are many factors that contribute to this. There are Christian filters, the influence of Mediterranean polytheism, the lack of information about how Germanic deities were perceived, the shadowy lines between ancestors/wights and deities, the problems of worshipping Germanic deities in a different geographical environment than which they sprang from, the influence of naturalistic world views, the deeply embedded distrust of polytheism in our culture, the shifting theories and emphasis among academic researchers, and finally what seems to be an almost unconsciously deliberate refusal to engage in theology among modern heathens. I mean, when have you ever read a modern heathen who has actually tried to articulate what a god is and how they are different from wights, for example? Yet we are told to place them at the centre of our spiritual life without even having a vocabulary to talk about what they are.

As an example, I’ve often read about how we are engaged in a process of reciprocal gift-giving with deities that can affect our “luck”. Yet how do we account for the fact that these deities were widely and aggressively rejected during the conversion process without any discernible negative effects? (I can say the same thing of course for my father’s rejection of Christianity - hasn’t seemed to hurt him one bit).

Another big problem I have is with geography, and the relationship between different pantheons. Generally the attitude I see from modern heathens and pagans seems to be something like “all our deities are real, distinct, and cosmically powerful beings”. That’s a very nice and respectful modern way to look at it, but I have problems with it, and those problems are directly related to the “location” of deities in space.
If deities are not bound to a particular area, then why do they tend to occur in cultural groups in specific regions? And if they are not bound to a particular area, how do I know that the thunderstorm I am perceiving is the work of Thor rather than Zeus? Or are Thor, Zeus, Indra, Taranis, Perun and a thousand other Gods all constantly manifest in every thunderstorm on earth? (The Greeks, of course, didn’t believe that “every deity is real” - as far as I can tell Gods from other cultures were understood as the same thing as the Greek Gods - which would probably get them into trouble with a lot of pagans today).

Yet if Gods ARE specific to a geographical location, then the Gods I worship are not here - they are still in Europe.

Yet despite all the above I do find it easy (now) for me to believe that there are beings inherent and manifest in the world, and that the Norse “pantheon” is a useful way of organizing my relationships with those beings. But in order to arrive at this point, I’ve ended up rejecting a lot of the attributes of deities that many modern polytheists   focus on. I think the Gods have very little concern with humans, (our rituals are mostly for us), I think their degree of agency is quite limited (they don’t do “supernatural” things, Thor doesn’t make thunderstorms appear in the middle of a cloudless sky in the Atacama desert), I don’t think they actually get married/angry/have sex (I think ultimately they are not like humans at all, though I still think anthromorphizing them is a useful way to establish a relationship), and I don’t think they are really separate from each other either - rather than humans I think they are more like climatic phenomenon - they are constantly shifting their characteristics, and they bleed into each other all the time. Thor is in part composed of evaporated water from Aegir, and he bleeds into Freya/Freyr when his rain turns into plant life, etc. etc.

I think I should get some kind of prize for the exquisite way I’ve turned your awesome thread into “See Megatherium struggle with polytheistic theology!”. Sorry about that.
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Re: Totemic Heathenry
« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2014, 02:31:01 am »
Quote from: Megatherium;150550
Yet despite all the above I do find it easy (now) for me to believe that there are beings inherent and manifest in the world, and that the Norse “pantheon” is a useful way of organizing my relationships with those beings. But in order to arrive at this point, I’ve ended up rejecting a lot of the attributes of deities that many modern polytheists   focus on. I think the Gods have very little concern with humans, (our rituals are mostly for us), I think their degree of agency is quite limited (they don’t do “supernatural” things, Thor doesn’t make thunderstorms appear in the middle of a cloudless sky in the Atacama desert), I don’t think they actually get married/angry/have sex (I think ultimately they are not like humans at all, though I still think anthromorphizing them is a useful way to establish a relationship), and I don’t think they are really separate from each other either - rather than humans I think they are more like climatic phenomenon - they are constantly shifting their characteristics, and they bleed into each other all the time. Thor is in part composed of evaporated water from Aegir, and he bleeds into Freya/Freyr when his rain turns into plant life, etc. etc.

I think I should get some kind of prize for the exquisite way I’ve turned your awesome thread into “See Megatherium struggle with polytheistic theology!”. Sorry about that.

No worries. :) It's been a good discussion.

I read your post earlier this morning (and now it's late and time for a stream of consciousness-- sorry!), then decided to reread Tacitus' Germania, because he does specifically say in there that, "The Germans, however, do not consider it consistent with the grandeur of celestial beings to confine the gods within walls, or to liken them to the form of any human countenance. They consecrate woods and groves, and they apply the names of deities to the abstraction which they see only in spiritual worship."

I think when Tacitus calls the German gods "celestial beings" he's probably looking at it from his POV, but I do find what he says about abstraction interesting. Is he saying that the gods exist only as an idea?  Gods who have been removed from a source? Does it really matter or is that just his way of saying that our gods are lesser than his gods?

Or, more importantly, is he saying that the gods are really only present for the Germans during times of important ceremony/ritual, as in: "they apply names to [that] which they see only in spiritual worship."

Could that mean that we should live our lives doing the Three Basic F's (farming, fighting, and fucking) except on those occasions where we express all of our gathered and stored spiritual energy at once?  And in doing so, the abstraction of the gods are made manifest? The idea of them becomes clearer to us, and they are removed from the greater source to become Odin, or Thor, or Freyr?

Maybe it's really not about where they're tethered locally, or about being tribally linked in some way, but that it's the creative and spiritual event that we perform that brings them to life for us? And not on a daily or weekly basis either (no, you don't have to pull out your pagan devotional :) ), but during one, two, or even three significant moments a year.  A custom and tradition.

And I also think, too, that could mean that not every thunder storm is Thor, but that that one storm that fills you with awe-- that significant to you storm-- that is when the source has become the idea of him.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2014, 02:38:24 am by Juniperberry »
The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. [...] The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year timeframe. 10 years at most.--Elon Musk

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Re: Totemic Heathenry
« Reply #8 on: June 21, 2014, 03:36:36 am »
Quote from: Megatherium;150462
First of all, I love your posts. A collection of them would be better than most books about Heathenry out there.



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Re: Totemic Heathenry
« Reply #9 on: June 21, 2014, 07:31:41 am »
Quote from: Juniperberry;150391
Totemic Heathenry is something I've been mulling over and I'd like to get some input. I posted most of this text in an earlier thread but I wanted it here in the SIG to get some more focused input.


Underneath the general understanding of the Germanic pantheon there seems to be evidence of a patrilineal totemic clan structure. I know a lot of heathens are reconning  a "local tribe" culture, but I'm wondering if it isn't even so much local gods as it is totemic?

Creation: There are a few different creation myths in Germanic mythologies, each with a different god creating/fathering a different tribe. Along with this are the Matronae/Mothers of tribes--numbering in the thousands.

Soul: Germanic spirituality has the belief of a fylgja (placenta) which is the animal/woman spirit that accompanies the birth of a child. This fylgja can identify which tribe/family you belong to. A hamingja is the personified familial luck spirit which is passed down to family members.

Death: Legends of the dead returning to an ancestral hall in the mountains.

So what I'm thinking is that a person was/is born with a tribal, ancestral god. In Shaw's book on Germanic goddess he talks about Eostre being the goddess of a tribe that had a linguistically similar name...goddess of the people from the east rather than goddess of the east.

These tribal gods are part of self. They aren't connected to land, or function, or natural phenomena; they're your essence, your spirit.. Outside of those gods we also live among gods of the sky, gods of beasts, gods of abstracts. Those aren't our personal gods. Our personal gods are those we have been born to ( and whose names we have forgotten? Like Regnator Omnium Deus? )

That god/dess is one we take with us whether its America, Scandinavia, Ireland.

Anyway, there's a lot I need to consider with that, and see how well it fits, but something about it rings really true to me. Thoughts? Disagreements? Areas of further research?

I hope it's OK to contribute from a Brythonic and Gaelic viewpoint. This is very much how I think of the Northern European tribes and their gods. The Brythonic tribes certainly seem to have had tutelary gods, based on inscriptions found from Romano-Brythonic Britain. The god of the tribe of my area (the Trinovantes) seems to have been Camulos. Place names in the area include Camulodunum, now known as Colchester, where they've found coins with his name on. Some of the relevant archeological finds can be seen here. He was also honoured by other tribes, as the website Celtnet explains:

Quote
Insular evidence for Camulos comes from an inscription found at Bar Hill, Dunbartonshire on the Antoine wall that reads Deo Marti Camulo. A second, possible inscription reading Marti C.... was found at Croy Hill. Otherwise evidence comes from place names: Camulodunum (Fort of Camulos) now Colchester, Essex also Camulodunum now Almondbury, Yorkshire. The place name Camulosessa Præsidium (Seat of Camulos), identified as Castle Greg, West Lothian, Scotland may also be associated with this deity, especially as the nearby Camilty, which, as Cameltree (C18th) may derive from Brythonic Camulos Tref, meaning "village of Camulos". The cult of Camulos would therefore seem to be spread throughout the length of mainland Britain and might reflect the northwards spread of the Belgic tribes in Britain.

I'm also near the area of the Catuvellauni tribe, whose name may mean something like 'Host of Belinos'. It's not clear whether either Camulos or Belinos were gods 'of' something. Camulos seems to have been a war god, from evidence from across Europe, but not necessarily a god *of* war.

Then there are the gods that seem more like land deities - inscriptions and the temple to Sulis at Bath, and a city that seems to have worshipped Epona and may have inscribed her into the land at Uffington.

And there are the ones the cross the boundaries between tribal deities and land deities. The tribe from the area that is now Yorkshire had Brigantia as a tutelary deity, but there are also rivers and springs in other places that are named after her.

But I think it's very likely that the Brythonic tribes had tutelary deities more than they had gods of function. Even the gods that we now think of as 'Celtic' aren't really gods of function. Morrigan is a battle deity, but she's not the deity of battle. Manannan mac Lir is the son of the sea, but not exactly the sea god. And so I wonder how far we've absorbed the idea of gods of function from the Greeks and Romans, and whether that model can't be translated into Northern Europe.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2014, 07:33:00 am by Naomi J »
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Re: Totemic Heathenry
« Reply #10 on: June 21, 2014, 02:52:59 pm »
Quote from: Juniperberry;150634
No worries. :) It's been a good discussion.

I read your post earlier this morning (and now it's late and time for a stream of consciousness-- sorry!), then decided to reread Tacitus' Germania, because he does specifically say in there that, "The Germans, however, do not consider it consistent with the grandeur of celestial beings to confine the gods within walls, or to liken them to the form of any human countenance. They consecrate woods and groves, and they apply the names of deities to the abstraction which they see only in spiritual worship."

I think when Tacitus calls the German gods "celestial beings" he's probably looking at it from his POV, but I do find what he says about abstraction interesting. Is he saying that the gods exist only as an idea?  Gods who have been removed from a source? Does it really matter or is that just his way of saying that our gods are lesser than his gods?

Or, more importantly, is he saying that the gods are really only present for the Germans during times of important ceremony/ritual, as in: "they apply names to [that] which they see only in spiritual worship."

Could that mean that we should live our lives doing the Three Basic F's (farming, fighting, and fucking) except on those occasions where we express all of our gathered and stored spiritual energy at once?  And in doing so, the abstraction of the gods are made manifest? The idea of them becomes clearer to us, and they are removed from the greater source to become Odin, or Thor, or Freyr?

Maybe it's really not about where they're tethered locally, or about being tribally linked in some way, but that it's the creative and spiritual event that we perform that brings them to life for us? And not on a daily or weekly basis either (no, you don't have to pull out your pagan devotional :) ), but during one, two, or even three significant moments a year.  A custom and tradition.

And I also think, too, that could mean that not every thunder storm is Thor, but that that one storm that fills you with awe-- that significant to you storm-- that is when the source has become the idea of him.


Well that was awesome. I usually interpreted Tacitus’ passage in a relatively simplistic way - Germanic’s worshipped non-anthropomorphized Gods representative of natural forces. I like what you’ve done here though.

For a long time I was quite resistant to the idea that humans or their worship could affect the Gods - I thought it was something beneath them to be affected by puny mortals like us. But if you consider humans a force of nature - which, in this day and age, we most certainly are, I can see our presence affecting their structure. Perhaps the Gods are more human-like today because the world is more human like. And although perhaps they are often distant, overlapping forces of nature with very little human-like about them, when we engage with them in spiritual worship, we draw out more human like aspects of them (I’m picturing a stalactite, connected to a vast body of rock (the deity) coming to a sharp point (the anthropomorphic God we interact with)?

And to add this to my earlier idea of “Gods as ways of relating to wights”, perhaps when we engage in spiritual worship we draw these massive, unindividualized cosmic beings towards us through the local wights? if humans can be “ridden” by a deity, why not a wight?
“Thor” could perhaps be mostly a very nonhuman like awareness manifest in storms, but when we engage, perhaps not just in worship but in the simple experience of awe, he is drawn towards us, through the local wights, and is manifested in a way that we can more easily interact with?
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Re: Totemic Heathenry
« Reply #11 on: June 21, 2014, 02:55:21 pm »
Quote from: Naomi J;150636
I hope it's OK to contribute from a Brythonic and Gaelic viewpoint. This is very much how I think of the Northern European tribes and their gods. The Brythonic tribes certainly seem to have had tutelary gods, based on inscriptions found from Romano-Brythonic Britain. The god of the tribe of my area (the Trinovantes) seems to have been Camulos. Place names in the area include Camulodunum, now known as Colchester, where they've found coins with his name on. Some of the relevant archeological finds can be seen here. He was also honoured by other tribes, as the website Celtnet explains:



I'm also near the area of the Catuvellauni tribe, whose name may mean something like 'Host of Belinos'. It's not clear whether either Camulos or Belinos were gods 'of' something. Camulos seems to have been a war god, from evidence from across Europe, but not necessarily a god *of* war.

Then there are the gods that seem more like land deities - inscriptions and the temple to Sulis at Bath, and a city that seems to have worshipped Epona and may have inscribed her into the land at Uffington.

And there are the ones the cross the boundaries between tribal deities and land deities. The tribe from the area that is now Yorkshire had Brigantia as a tutelary deity, but there are also rivers and springs in other places that are named after her.

But I think it's very likely that the Brythonic tribes had tutelary deities more than they had gods of function. Even the gods that we now think of as 'Celtic' aren't really gods of function. Morrigan is a battle deity, but she's not the deity of battle. Manannan mac Lir is the son of the sea, but not exactly the sea god. And so I wonder how far we've absorbed the idea of gods of function from the Greeks and Romans, and whether that model can't be translated into Northern Europe.


Thank you for bringing in ideas from a Brythonic and Gaelic viewpoint, I think it is very much relevant to this discussion given the relatively close geographical and cultural proximity with Germanic speaking areas.

I think you are correct regarding the relative importance given to deities as Gods of place/tribe. As I said above, my own practical issue with this is how to establish a relationship with a deity of a social group that no longer exists in a place which my family no longer resides in. (As an aside, as a resident of the U.K., perhaps your relationship to a deity associated with a place is less problematic than a North Americans? Maybe?)

However, in the process of mulling over this discussion, I may have come full circle. See, I’ve been describing the deities of the Germanic pantheon as “Gods of function”, (notice the incessant references to Thor/Thunder) but I’m beginning to think I’ve greatly oversimplified things. Thor isn’t really just “the thunderstorm”, he is also a protector, and a guardian of boundaries. Wodan doesn’t have any easily identifiable “natural” associations. His areas of function are predominantly cultural - war, poetry, etc. Morrigan is a complex personality that cannot just be reduced to “War Goddess”, etc. So here goes my theory...

 Uno!) pre-human deities were very non-human like, their personalities and awareness were best understood as a direct outgrowth of natural phenomenon.

Dos!) With the emergence of humans as a major “natural” force in the world willing to engage spiritually with deities, aspects of these deities develop in close conjunction with humans and develop more humanlike personalities (hence deities like Morrigan and Wodan). These deities are not completely separate from their “parent” deities of natural force and function, (stalactites!) but in practical terms for humans they may as well be.

Drei!) Deities like Morrigan and Wodan are originally tribal deities, but as social conditions change,  and Christianity becomes dominant, they develop into something that is more individualized - they are now distinct personalities that are not tied to a specific tribe, or even area of land, but can now engage with any human of sufficient worth who makes the effort to establish a relationship with them. Because virtually everybody they deal with is a Christian who approaches divinity in a vastly different way, they continue their relationship in the guise of mythological figures. Odin is still there for Scandinavians, but he now relates to them as a folkloric figure - the leader of the Wild Hunt, etc.

Vier!) Modern Pagans/Heathens, etc. are able to revive the relationship with these beings as figures of worship and veneration. Odin, Morrigan , etc. are (in some cases) happy to oblige.

There we go. All tied up nicely with gift wrap and a bow. I’m going to have a cookie now and wallow in self-congratulation.
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Re: Totemic Heathenry
« Reply #12 on: June 21, 2014, 03:20:17 pm »
Quote from: Megatherium;150666

 
I’m picturing a stalactite, connected to a vast body of rock (the deity) coming to a sharp point (the anthropomorphic God we interact with)?*

First, Naomi! The more the merrier. I'm also interested in how your close proximity affects your perspective. :)

Second. OMG. Yes! You're thinking rock but I'm thinking air. As if the source is like a massive storm system and Thor is the funneled and very precise point of the tornado that touches us. Except, you know, metaphorical. But that precise point reaches out to us and us to them and then it recedes back into the storm system and we recede back into mundane life, both gods and man affected by the moment of interaction and carrying it with them.

And locality...a tree, a rock formation, any type of 'weird' place is a physical place of that precise point, something we can touch,  but which can also grow anywhere.  We just need to draw it towards us.



You deserve that cookie!

(Oops. More on function later, gotta run. )
« Last Edit: June 21, 2014, 03:22:41 pm by Juniperberry »
The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. [...] The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year timeframe. 10 years at most.--Elon Musk

I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence," [Bill] Gates wrote. "First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don\'t understand why some people are not concerned."

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Re: Totemic Heathenry
« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2014, 03:39:05 pm »
Quote from: Juniperberry;150668
First, Naomi! The more the merrier. I'm also interested in how your close proximity affects your perspective. :)

Second. OMG. Yes! You're thinking rock but I'm thinking air. As if the source is like a massive storm system and Thor is the funneled and very precise point of the tornado that touches us. Except, you know, metaphorical. But that precise point reaches out to us and us to them and then it recedes back into the storm system and we recede back into mundane life, both gods and man affected by the moment of interaction and carrying it with them.

And locality...a tree, a rock formation, any type of 'weird' place is a physical place of that precise point, something we can touch,  but which can also grow anywhere.  We just need to draw it towards us.



You deserve that cookie!

(Oops. More on function later, gotta run. )

 
Honestly, any praise coming from you is a compliment of the highest order. Thank you.

To try and tie this back to the idea of totemic deities - perhaps we don't need to establish a relationship with an unknown deity because the well-known deities of the pantheon (Odin, Thor, Frigg) ARE those tribal deities, and with the decline of the social/religious structure in which their relationships were originally established, they have developed the ability to ADDITIONALLY relate to humans as figures of folklore (in the Christian period and for many people today), or functional deities (for modern pagans and polytheists). However, they still retain the personality and interest in humans that they developed in earlier times as deities of a particular time and place.
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Re: Totemic Heathenry
« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2014, 06:03:45 pm »
Quote from: Megatherium;150669
Honestly, any praise coming from you is a compliment of the highest order. Thank you.


It feels awkward acknowledging this because I really don't think it's something I deserve. Thanks though. :) And likewise, your posts always contain a lot of great points and give me more to think over. :)

Quote
To try and tie this back to the idea of totemic deities - perhaps we don't need to establish a relationship with an unknown deity because the well-known deities of the pantheon (Odin, Thor, Frigg) ARE those tribal deities, and with the decline of the social/religious structure in which their relationships were originally established, they have developed the ability to ADDITIONALLY relate to humans as figures of folklore (in the Christian period and for many people today), or functional deities (for modern pagans and polytheists). However, they still retain the personality and interest in humans that they developed in earlier times as deities of a particular time and place.


Have you read "The One-Eyed Man Against Rome"? It tries to show how the myth of Odin was applied to Hannibal the Barbarian. Hannibal was also one-eyed and walked among troops in disguise,  which created a living legend of the shaman war god among the people. After Hannibal there came another one-eyed general who used similar tactics and was a continuation of the legend. And then another.

Now, I'm not saying Odin's existence is all down to euhemerism. But it could be applied to what we're talking about here; Odin emerged from the source, and his "point of contact" (PoC) was maybe in directing/inspiring the leaders of war. Actually... If Odin is our PoC for the source, then the king could be the PoC for the tribe. (Somewhere I read that if a tribe's lucked turned for the worse that they would sacrifice the king and establish a new one.) And that shows how Odin can be an individual in a larger whole, just as we are individuals within a tribe.

You know, in a weird way, it even explains Christianity. If they understood gods as abstracted from a source (immutable and unalterable like the Norns) , and then were told that there was a listening God who *was* the source and could fulfill all functions, then conversion would eventually make sense. Especially considering that the *whole source/God* established a PoC with man through the Christ, who could be accessed at anytime by anyone. (Which is pretty much exactly what was explained in the conversion poem "The Heliand".)

So what does that have to do with totemic gods? Nothing. :/ The post title is actually kind of moot now. Unless we considered ourselves as the most recent layers of the human versions of  "stalactite" and connected inherently in that way? And about reconciling gods with wights, for me as a Continental-inspired heathen that's a moot point as well, considering Germanic tribes didn't seem to have had much belief in elves and the like. I do think that there was a tribal ownership of gods, because the ways and whys of worship varied and resonated differently.

Too woo-y? Too far off from the source material?
The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. [...] The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year timeframe. 10 years at most.--Elon Musk

I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence," [Bill] Gates wrote. "First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don\'t understand why some people are not concerned."

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