Wyrtlār: Hemp/Cannabis

Hemp (Cannabis Sativa) is an annual herbaceous plant which was originally endemic to Eastern Asia [1]. In Old English, the plant was referred to as hænep, which comes from Proto-Germanic *hanapiz [2], which, in turn, derives from Ancient Greek, kánnabis [3]. It’s uncertain at what point the word was adopted into the Germanic language, but it was affected by Grimm’s law, shifting *k to *h and *b to *p [4], suggesting a fairly early transmission.

In terms of Old English medicinal usage, the plant is referenced a total of 4 times in the Anglo-Saxon leechdoms in conjunction with other herbs for treatment of a variety of issues.

A mention of hænep occurs in Lacnunga 63, where it is employed alongside a whole host of other herbs and “black snail’s dust” to produce a holy salve with apotropaic properties. Lacnunga 63 also lists the recitation of a so-called snake-charm 9 times.

“acre acre arnem nona ærnem beoþor ærnem nidren arcum cunaþ ele harassan fidine”[5]

This charm follows the typical Germanic pattern of utilizing the number 9, and some scholars have noted similarities between this charm and Gaelic charms found elsewhere – though none have been able to successfully decipher its meaning [6][7].  

In Herbarium 26, hemp is combined with wolf’s comb, raven’s foot and hart clover, pounded into a fine powder and mixed in wine to create a diuretic to treat “watersickness” (wæterseocnysse); an archaic term for dropsy or interstitial edema [8].

In Herbarium 27, we are provided with two uses for hænep in the form of an analgesic. In the first usage, cannabis is recommended to be pounded and laid into an open wound, or “if the wound be very deep then take the sap and wring it into the wound.”  In the second part, the writer suggests cannabis should be drunk to take away “pain of the innards” – a treatment which makes sense considering how effective endocannabinoids and cannabinoids appear to be in treating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)[9].

In the Hellenic world, cannabis and its medicinal applications were well-known. In his De Materia Medica, Dioscorides provides us with information about two plants; kannabis emeros and kannabis agria. The first plant, emeros, likely refers to cannabis sativa, a plant which was employed for a variety of uses.

“Cannabis is a plant of considerable use in this life for twisting very strong ropes. It bears leaves with a bad scent, similar to the ash; long hollow stalks, and a round seed. Eaten in quantities these quench conception. The herb (juiced while green) is good for earaches. It is also called cannabium, schoenostrophon, or asterion; the Romans call it cannabis.” [10]

The second plant, kannabis agria, may refer to hibiscus cannabinus, datisca cannabina, or cannabis sativa indica, according to Osbaldeston [11]. Cannabis sativa indica seems a rather likely choice when we look at the anti-inflammatory properties presented in the excerpt below.

“Cannabis sylvestris bears little stems similar to those of althea but darker, sharper and smaller. The leaves are similar to the cultivated but sharper and darker. The reddish flowers are similar to lychnis, with the seed and root similar to althea. The root (boiled and applied) is able to lessen inflammation, dissolve oedema, and disperse hardened matter around the joints. The bark of this is suitable for twining ropes. It is also called hydrastina, the Romans call it terminalis, and some, cannabis.” [12]

As in Herbarian 26, cannabis is used here to treat edema (swelling), as well as some sort of unspecified inflammation of the joints – perhaps a reference to gout or pseudogout.

In his Histories (440 BCE), Herodotus gives us a glimpse into the entheogenic usage of cannabis among the Scythians.

They make a booth by fixing in the ground three sticks inclined towards one another, and stretching around them woollen felts, which they arrange so as to fit as close as possible: inside the booth a dish is placed upon the ground, into which they put a number of red-hot stones, and then add some hemp-seed. … The Scythians, as I said, take some of this hemp-seed, and, creeping under the felt coverings, throw it upon the red-hot stones; immediately it smokes, and gives out such a vapour as no Grecian vapour-bath can exceed; the Scyths, delighted, shout for joy, and this vapour serves them instead of a water-bath; for they never by any chance wash their bodies with water” [13]

Herodotus’ account – at least the portion regarding their use of cannabis – is supported by archaeological evidence. In 2013, archaeologist Andrei Belinski unearthed a number of Scythian artifacts from a kurgan found in the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia. Two golden vessels filled with a black residue were discovered among the grave goods. When Belinski sent samples of the residue in for analysis, he found they contained remnants of opium and cannabis. Belinski believes the vessels originally held an opium-derived concoction which was consumed while cannabis was burned as a form of incense nearby. Archaeologist Anton Gass of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation supports Belinski’s theory, saying “that both drugs were being used simultaneously is beyond doubt.” [14]

The Thracians and Dacians were also not strangers to cannabis, which is unsurprising given their contact with the Scythians. Herodotus suggests the Thracians were skilled in the weaving of hemp garments, which he claimed closely resembled linen to those unfamiliar with the plant fibres.

In his Geography, Strabo makes reference to a people called the Kapnobatai, or “Those who walk among the smoke/clouds.” While it is unknown whether the Kapnobatai were a shamanic cult or an organized priesthood, we are provided with a brief look at their practices.

“Poseidonius goes on to say of the Mysians that in accordance with their religion they abstain from eating any living thing, and therefore from their flocks as well; and that they use as food honey and milk and cheese, living a peaceable life, and for this reason are called both “god-fearing” and “capnobatae”…” [15]

In A Treasury of Hashish, Dr. Alexander Sumach says this of the Kapnobatai:

The sorcerers of these Thracian tribes were known to have burned female cannabis flowers (and other psychoactive plants) as a mystical incense to induce trances. Their special talents were attributed to the “magical heat” produced from burning the cannabis and other herbs, believing that the plants dissolved in the flames, then reassembled themselves inside the person who inhaled the vapors.” [16][17]

Eliade also touches on Thracian cannabis use in his work, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy.

“Only one document appears to indicate the existence of a Getic shamanism: it is Strabo’s account of the Mysian kapnobatai, a name that has been translated, by analogy with Aristophanes’ aerobates, as ‘those who walk in the clouds,’ but which should be translated ‘those who walk in smoke.’ Presumably the smoke is hemp smoke, a rudimentary means of ecstasy known to both the Thracians and the Scythians. The kapnobatai would seem to be Getic dancers and sorcerers who used hemp smoke for their ecstatic trances.” [18]

The Scythian and Thracian fondness for cannabis may have been transferred to the Goths during their time on the Pontic Steppe. The earliest Greek accounts of the Goths refer to them as Scythian – a blanket identifier which was likely used due to their close proximity and shared nomadic lifestyle [19].

Herwig Wolfram makes mention of this shared affinity in his History of the Goths, where he touches on possible shamanic practices associated with the Goths.

“ We must not, however, see the entire ‘Gothic special vocabulary’ – namely, all words that have no direct corresponding words in Germanic or Indo-European languages – as the ‘genuine remains of the shamanic vocabulary.’ By no means must everything that remains unexplained be a reminder of a shamanic experience. Such a generalization would certainly be greatly exaggerated. But the intoxicating ‘cannabis sauna,’ which Herodotus noted among the Scythians, was not unknown to the Thracians and probably also sent the Gothic shamans on the desired ‘trip’.” [20]

The Egyptians utilized cannabis for various ailments. Cannabis is listed as a medicinal herb on several papyri, the most well-known of which, the Ebers papyrus, was recorded in 1550 BCE [21].  The Ebers papyrus presents cannabis as a remedy for issues associated with the female reproductive system and suggests the herb should be ground and mixed with honey and inserted as a vaginal suppository to alleviate “heat of the uterus.”  While “heat of the uterus” could refer to a fairly extensive list of reproductive issues, Egyptologist Paul Ghalioungui believed the suppository would have been utilized as an obstetric aid. This usage mirrors 19th century treatments which employed cannabis in a similar fashion to treat migraines and gynecological disorders [22].

In the  Ramesseum III Papyrus, dated to 1700 BCE, hemp is ground, mixed with celery and left out overnight to collect dew. This dewy concoction is then rubbed into the eyes the following morning to treat an unspecified eye-related issue [23]. This usage calls to mind one of the earliest modern uses of medical marijuana as treatment for glaucoma [24].

The Berlin Papyrus, dated to 1300 BCE, recommends cannabis be used topically to reduce fever and treat inflammation [25] – a practice we still see today with CBD infused ointments and lotions.

In the Chester-Beatty VI papyrus, cannabis is referenced twice as a component of a suppository to treat colorectal-related issues, such as hemorrhoids [26].  

The Hearst Papyrus, dated to 1550 BCE, provides us with three formulas utilizing cannabis for the treatment of foot-related difficulties. In one of the excerpts, cannabis is employed to treat what appears to be a gangrenous infection of the toenail where maggots have taken hold.

“”If you find a painful finger or a toe, from water having been around them (serosity), their odor being malignant, whereas they have formed maggots [worms], you must say to this patient: “A problem that I can treat”. You must prepare for him treatments to kill the vermin [. . .]. Another for the toenail: honey: 1/4; ochre 1/64; cannabis: 1/32; hedjou resin: 1/32, ibou plant: 1/32. Prepare as for the preceding, and dress with it”. [27]

The use of cannabis as an antibiotic is supported by modern science, since THC, CBD, CBN, CBC and CBG have all been shown to possess antibiotic properties and may be used in place of current medications due to increasing antibiotic resistance [28][29].

Cannabis has a long history in China, being used for both entheogenic and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Shennong’s  Ben Cao Jing describes the plant as having the ability to induce hallucinations and to cause those who ingest it to “throw themselves about like maniacs.” the author goes on to say that the plant, if taken over a long period, can provide the user with the ability to communicate with spirits and can cause their body to “become light” [30].

In another part of the book, the author gives us a description of the plant itself, which he claims possesses poisonous leaves and fruits.

The flowers when they burst (when the pollen is scattered) are called 麻蕡 [mafen] or 麻勃 [mabo]. The best time for gathering is the seventh day of the seventh month. The seeds are gathered in the ninth month. The seeds which have entered the soil are injurious to man. It grows in [Taishan] (in [Shandong] …). The flowers, the fruit (seed) and the leaves are officinal. The leaves and the fruit are said to be poisonous, but not the flowers and the kernels of the seeds.” [31]

The belief that cannabis was a means of communicating with the dead appears to have been widespread in ancient China. T’ao Hung Ching’s Ming-I Pieh Lu describes the plant as being utilized by necromancers in their work and when combined with ginseng, allows the practitioner the ability to fast forward time and peer into the future [32]. The Zhenglei bencao and Shiliao bencao  give a similar use and suggest the plant allows users to perceive spirits if “taken for 100 days” [33][34].

“The use of Cannabis as an hallucinogenic drug by necromancers or magicians is especially notable. It should be pointed out that in ancient China, as in most early cultures, medicine has its origin in magic. Medicine men were practicing magicians. In northeastern Asia, shamanism was widespread from Neolithic down to recent times. In ancient China shamans were known as wu. This vocation was very common down to the Han dynasty. After that it gradually diminished in importance, but the practice persisted in scattered localities and among certain peoples. In the far north, among the nomadic tribes of Mongolia and Siberia, shamanism was widespread and common until rather recent times.” [35]

Apart from its widespread necromantic uses, cannabis was also among the 50 fundamental herbs of traditional Chinese medicine [36]. As medicine, cannabis was used to treat a long list of ailments, including: tapeworm, blot clot, constipation and hair loss.

“Every part of the hemp plant is used in medicine … The flowers are recommended in the 120 different forms of (風 feng) disease, in menstrual disorders, and in wounds. The achenia, which are considered to be poisonous, stimulate the nervous system, and if used in excess, will produce hallucinations and staggering gait. They are prescribed in nervous disorders, especially those marked by local anaesthesia. The seeds … are considered to be tonic, demulcent, alternative [restorative], laxative, emmenagogue, diuretic, anthelmintic, and corrective. … They are prescribed internally in fluxes, post-partum difficulties, aconite poisoning, vermillion poisoning, constipation, and obstinate vomiting. Externally they are used for eruptions, ulcers, favus, wounds, and falling of the hair. The oil is used for falling hair, sulfur poisoning, and dryness of the throat. The leaves are considered to be poisonous, and the freshly expressed juice is used as an anthelmintic, in scorpion stings, to stop the hair from falling out and to prevent it from turning gray. … The stalk, or its bark, is considered to be diuretic … The juice of the root is … thought to have a beneficial action in retained placenta and post-partum hemorrhage. An infusion of hemp … is used as a demulcent drink for quenching thirst and relieving fluxes.” [37]

Like China, India too has a long history of cannabis use stretching back millenia. In Atharvaveda, cannabis – here referred to as bhang – is listed as one of the 5 sacred plants that deliver men from woe.

“To the five kingdoms of the plants which Soma rules as Lord we speak.
Darbha, cannabis, barley, mighty power: may these deliver us from woe.”

The Vedas also speak highly of the plant and refer to it as “liberator,” “joy-giver” and a “source of happiness” and the Raja Vallabha suggests hemp was sent from the heavens to provide humanity with delight, courage and a boost of libido. The use of cannabis as a form of aphrodisiac appears to be legitimate, given recent research by the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) into the relationship between sex and cannabis has revealed that people who smoke marijuana appear to have more sex on average than those who abstain.

“The researchers noticed a correlation between how often people smoked marijuana and how often they had sex. More specifically, people who used marijuana had 20 percent more sex than those who did not, and this applied to both genders.

Women who refrained from having marijuana in the past year reported having had sex six times, on average, in the past 4 weeks, while for marijuana users, this number was 7.1.

Men who abstained from marijuana had sex 5.6 times in the past 4 weeks, while men who used marijuana daily reported an average number of 6.9 times.” [38][39]

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Sources

[1] Florian, Mary-Lou E. Kronkright, Dale Paul. Norton, Ruth E. The Conservation of Artifacts Made from Plant Materials
[2]https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Reconstruction:Proto-Germanic/hanapiz
[3]https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%CE%BA%CE%AC%CE%BD%CE%BD%CE%B1%CE%B2%CE%B9%CF%82#Ancient_Greek
[4]https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Reconstruction:Proto-Germanic/hanapiz
[5]Pollington, Stephen. Leechcraft
[6]Pollington, Stephen. Leechcraft
[7]Grattan, John H. G. Singer, Charles J. Anglo-Saxon magic and medicine
[8]https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/water_sickness
[9]University of Massachusetts Medical School. “Cannabis link to relieving intestinal inflammation explained.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 August 2018.
[10]Dioscorides, Pedanius. De Materia Medica. Translated and edited by Tess Anne Osbaldeston
[11]Dioscorides, Pedanius. De Materia Medica. Translated and edited by Tess Anne Osbaldeston
[12]Dioscorides, Pedanius. De Materia Medica. Translated and edited by Tess Anne Osbaldeston
[13]Herodotus. Histories 4.75
[14]https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/05/150522-scythians-marijuana-bastard-wars-kurgan-archaeology/
[15]Strabo. Geography.
[16]http://www.lost-civilizations.net/scythians-page-3.html
[17]Sumach, Alexander. A Treasury of Hashish
[18]Eliade, Mircea. Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy.
[19]Kulikowski, Michael. Rome’s Gothic Wars: From the Third Century to Alaric
[20]Wolfram, Herwig. History of the Goths
[21]http://www.onlinepot.org/the-ebers-papyrus-the-oldest-written-prescriptions-for-medical-marihuana-era-1550-bc/
[22]http://antiquecannabisbook.com/chap2B/Egypt/Eber-A.htm
[23]http://antiquecannabisbook.com/chap2B/Egypt/Ram.htm
[24]https://www.verywellhealth.com/marijuana-and-glaucoma-3421696
[25]http://antiquecannabisbook.com/chap2B/Egypt/Berlin.htm
[26]http://antiquecannabisbook.com/chap2B/Egypt/Chester-Beatty-2.htm
[27]http://antiquecannabisbook.com/chap2B/Egypt/Hearst.htm
[28]https://www.royalqueenseeds.com/blog-marijuana-will-be-an-antibiotic-for-the-future-n366
[29]https://ministryofhemp.com/blog/cannabinoid-antibiotics/
[30]Needham, Joseph. Science and Civilisation in China
[31]Bretschneider, Emil. Botanicon Sinicum: Notes on Chinese Botany from Native and Western Sources. Part III, Botanical Investigations in the Materia Medica of the Ancient Chinese.
[32]Touw, M. The religious and medicinal uses of Cannabis in China, India and Tibet. Journal of psychoactive drugs
[33]Li Hui-Lin.  The Origin and Use of Cannabis in Eastern Asia: Linguistic-Cultural Implications, Economic Botany
[34]Shiliao bencao
[35]Li Hui-Lin. An Archaeological and Historical Account of Cannabis in China
[36]Wong, Ming. La Médecine chinoise par les plantes.
[37]Smith, Frederick Porter. Chinese Materia Medica: Vegetable Kingdom.[38]https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319907.php
[39]https://bigthink.com/philip-perry/heres-how-marijuana-use-effects-ones-sex-drive

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Under the Shroud: Reconstructing Niht

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On the surface, the concept of personified deities seems simple and straightforward – the sun, the moon, a lake or a mountain can all represent the divine or manifest divinity within, or at them. Despite this surface simplicity, contemporary practitioners appear to have difficulty comprehending and/or articulating animistic deities. Perhaps this disinclination is due to difficulties in reconciling animistic religiosity with modern scientific thought – an impediment that many Heathens, especially those who were raised in irreligious households, have difficulty overcoming. Whatever the reason, if we are attempting to reconstruct ancient, Germanic religion(s) with even a modicum of authenticity, it behooves us to appreciate divinity in all of its complex and multifarious forms.

In the following article we will attempt to extrapolate a Fyrnsidu specific deity associated with the Night by comparing like-deities from the Indo-European sphere. In order to provide our deity with a more multifaceted character, we will not only look at other “night deities”, but also feminine divinities with overlapping associations.



Nyx/ Nox

In ancient Hellenic religion, Nyx, whose name translates to “Night,”[1] was one of the primordial deities, or Protogenoi [2].  According to Hesiod’s Theogony, Nyx was born of Chaos “emptiness, chasm, void, or abyss” alongside her brother and consort, Erebus “Darkness.” [3]

From Khaos came forth Erebos and black Nyx ; but of Nyx were born (Aether, Bright Upper Air) and Hemera (Day), whom she conceived and bore from union in love with Erebos.” [4]

While she bore two children with Erebus, Nyx was also capable of begetting Gods asexually.

“And Night bore hateful Doom and black Fate and Death, and she bore Sleep and the tribe of Dreams. And again the goddess murky Night, though she lay with none, bare Blame and painful Woe, and the Hesperides who guard the rich, golden apples and the trees bearing fruit beyond glorious Ocean. Also she bore the Destinies and ruthless avenging Fates, Clotho and Lachesis and Atropos, who give men at their birth both evil and good to have, and they pursue the transgressions of men and of gods: and these goddesses never cease from their dread anger until they punish the sinner with a sore penalty. Also deadly Night bore Nemesis to afflict mortal men, and after her, Deceit and Friendship and hateful Age and hard-hearted Strife.” [5]

Although Hesiod’s account of Nyx paints a particularly frightening picture of her as the mother of calamitous Titans, the Orphic account is slightly different. In Aristophanes’ account, Nyx is similarly portrayed as the daughter of Chaos and lover of Erebus, though here she is said to have mothered Eros, God of love and sexual attraction.

“At the beginning there was only Chaos, Night, dark Erebus, and deep Tartarus. Earth, the air and heaven had no existence. Firstly, black-winged Night laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of Erebus, and from this, after the revolution of long ages, sprang the graceful Eros with his glittering golden wings, swift as the whirlwinds of the tempest. He mated in deep Tartarus with dark Chaos, winged like himself, and thus hatched forth our race, which was the first to see the light.” [6]

In the Iliad, Nyx is depicted as a powerful and protective Goddess. In this narrative, Nyx’s son, Hypnos, recounts the story of when he was asked by Hera to put Zeus to sleep, so that she might cause Herakles difficulties on his voyage home from Troy. Once Zeus awakens from his involuntary slumber, he flies into a rage and beat the gods up and down his house, looking beyond all others for [Hypnos]” [7]. Zeus’s vengeance, however, goes unfulfilled, as Hypnos takes refuge with his mother – a Goddess that even mighty Zeus was hesitant to anger.

The passages above portray Nyx as a powerful, protective entity with a potentially vengeful nature. This protective aspect is further demonstrated by her apparent role as protectress of seafarers – an association which was likely the result of her connection to the night sky and celestial navigation.

“All the stars wheeled aloft by Nyx (Night).”

“The [constellation] Altar even beyond aught else hath ancient Nyx (Night), weeping the woe of men, set to be a mighty sign of storm at sea. For ships in trouble pain her heart, and other signs in other quarters she kindles in sorrow for mariners, storm-buffeted at sea. Wherefore I bid thee pray, when in the open sea, that that constellation wrapt in clouds appear not amidst the others in the heavens, herself unclouded and resplendent but banked above with billowing clouds, as often it is beset when the autumn wind drives them back For often Nyx herself reveals this sign, also, for the South Wind in her kindness to toiling sailors. If they heed her favouring signs . . . Nyx kindles like signs of storm upon the gleaming Altar.” [8]

Nyx’s Roman counterpart, Nox, was of a seemingly more peaceful character and calls to mind pastoral scenes of dusk, as evidenced by Statius’ depiction of her as a Goddess who “laid to rest the cares of men and the prowlings of wild beasts, and wrapped the heavens in her dusky shroud, coming to all with kindly influence.” and as a  “gracious refresher of the mind”[9]. In the same prayer excerpt, King Adratus provides us with some insight into an acceptable sacrifice to the Goddess when he promises to sacrifice specially selected black bulls to Nox throughout the yearly cycle.

Nox is also closely associated with witchcraft. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the witch, Medea, invokes Nox alongside Trivia (Hekate), Luna (Selene), Tellus (Gaia) and Di Nocti (Gods of Night) to aid her in creating a potent poison. Likewise, the Witch Circe is depicted calling on Nox, Trivia and the Di Nocti to aid in a similar activity later in the poem.

“She [the witch Kirke (Circe)] sprinkled round about her evil drugs and poisonous essences, and out of Erebos and Chaos called Nox (Night) and the Gods of Night (Di Nocti) and poured a prayer with long-drawn wailing cries to Hecate. The woods (wonder of wonders!) leapt away, a groan came from the ground, the bushes blanched, the spattered sward was soaked with gouts of blood, stones brayed and bellowed, dogs began to bark, black snakes swarmed on the soil and ghostly shapes of silent spirits floated through the air.” [10]

 


Hekate/Trivia

If Ovid’s works are suggestive of a contemporaneous and ubiquitous belief in Nox’s associations with witchcraft, it might then be wise to touch upon some of the deities listed alongside her in the aforementioned invocation.

Hekate is a multifaceted deity who is particularly difficult to place in a restrictive framework. While few temples were dedicated to Hekate, she had a prominent place in home worship, where she was regularly petitioned in the guise of Apotropaia, or “She that protects,”  to ward against malevolent spirits and sorcery [11]. Hekataion, which in Attic Greek referred to shrines or idols dedicated to Hekate, were placed at the doorway of each household or hall to protect those who dwelt within. Shrines dedicated to Hekate were also found at city gates, undeniably distinguishing her as a Goddess associated with liminality and the in-between.

“You see, the oracles are coming true; I have heard it foretold, that one day the Athenians would dispense justice in their own houses, that each citizen. would have himself a little tribunal constructed in his porch similar to the altars of Hecate, and that there would be such before every door.” [12]

This liminal quality is further illustrated by Hekate’s role as Goddess of the crossroads and borders. In this role, she is referred to as Trioditis, or “She who frequents crossroads”[13], where she acts as intermediary between the world of the living and the realm of the dead. Hekate’s connection to the dead is further corroborated via her involvement in the Deipnon, or “evening meal,” where she is “fed” once each month alongside the restless dead to satiate their hunger. Accordingly to Aeschylus, this tradition was the result of a widespread belief that Hekate led an entourage of ghosts and otherworldly hounds up from Hades each month, calling to mind later depictions of Wōden and the Wild Hunt.

Dogs played a prominent role in Hekate’s cultus due to their widespread use as property guardians – an association which hearkens back to our earlier description of the Goddess as sentinel of the threshold. Dogs regularly featured alongside the Goddess in classical iconographic representations and according to Franklin, were her preferred sacrificial animal. Dogs were also occasionally consumed by adherents of Hekate’s cult [14]. Sarah Iles Johnston suggests the dogs found in Hekate’s iconography also possessed a fertility attribute, as the dog is regularly depicted alongside Greek deities attached to midwifery, such as Eileithyia and Genetyllis [15].   

In Greek religion, Hekate was often linked to plantlife, herbalism and the creation of both medicinal and poisonous elixirs and is credited with teaching the art of medicine and poison to Medea in the Argonautica [16]. While Hekate was depicted by Sophocles as being clothed in oaken garments, it is the yew that was of particular import to the Goddess and her cultus. Black sacrificial bulls dedicated to Hekate were often draped in yew boughs to win her favour. This connection between the yew and Hekate seems rather odd on the surface, but Suffness, in his work, Taxol: Science and Applications, has suggested a etymological link between toxos, the Greek word for “yew” and toxicon “poison.” [17] Other plants associated with Hekate include: garlic [18], cypress (common among chthonic deities) [19], belladonna, mandrake, dittany and wolf’s bane [20]; all of which were used for their medicinal, poisonous or entheogenic properties.

 

Selene/Luna

Another Goddess referenced alongside Nyx in Ovid’s Metamorphoses is Selene/Luna, Goddess of the moon.

Selene was of Titan stock, the daughter of Hyperion and Theia, Sister of Eos and Helios and wife of the shepherd, Endymion [21]. Selene was the mother of several Goddesses. Via Zeus, She was the mother of Pandia (All-Brightness) [22] and Ersa (Dew), via Helios, Her brother, She was the mother of the Horai (Seasons) [23] and by Endymion, the Menai (Months) [24].

As was the case with many “celestial” deities, Selene was often depicted on horseback or driving a chariot pulled by winged horses. Though an equine link is obviously present, Selene was commonly associated with the bull iconographically, where her crescent moon crown was often related to the horns of a bull [25]. Nonnus makes mention of this association several times in his Dionysiaca.

“Selene (the Moon) herself, bullshaped and horned driver of cattle, may be angry to see my horned bullshaped form.”

First towards the western clime he allotted the Onkaian (Oncaean) Gate to Mene (the Moon) [Selene] brighteyes, taking the name from the honk of cattle, because Selene herself, bullshaped, horned, driver of cattle, being triform is Tritonis Athene.” [26]

Nonnus also suggests Selene’s chariot was not pulled by equine means, but instead, by bulls.

“I spy a silverfooted maiden stretched under the streams of my river! I believe Selene bathes in the Aonian [Theban] waves on her way to Endymion’s bed on Latmos (Latmus), the bed of a sleepless shepherd; but if she has prinked herself out for her sweet shepherd, what’s the use of Asopos (Asopus) after the Okeanos (Oceanus) stream? And if she has a body white as the snows of heaven, what mark of the Moon has she? A team of mules unbridled and a mule-cart with silver wheels are there on the beach, but Selene knows not how to put mules to her yokestrap–she drives a team of bulls!” [27]

“He shouted boldly to the fullfaced Moon (Mene) [Selene]–‘Give me best, Selene, horned driver of cattle! Now I am both–I have horns and I ride a bull!’ So he called out boasting to the round Moon. Selene looked with a jealous eye through the air, to see how Ampleos rode on the murderous marauding bull. She sent him a cattlechasing gadfly; and the bull, pricked continually all over by the sharp sting, galloped away like a horse through pathless tracts . . . [it then threw him then gorged him to death].” [28]

Selene was also closely associated with proliferation of both flora and fauna. As Eileithyia (Aid-In- Childbirth), she provided both women and animals quick and easy childbirth [29], a relationship which seems to have entered the Roman consciousness, as evidenced by Cicero’s depiction of Luna, Selene’s Roman counterpart.

“She [Luna-Diana, Selene-Artemis] is invoked to assist at the birth of children, because the period of gestation is either occasionally seven, or more usually nine, lunar revolutions, and these are called menses (months), because they cover measured (mensa) spaces.” [30]

Selene was also goddess of dew and was considered a “nourisher of plants” [31] because of this association. This aspect calls to mind the earlier depiction of Hekate as Goddess of herbalism, suggesting a possible link between the two roles. The similarities between Hekate and Selene is further demonstrated via their shared importance to the practice of witchcraft. Ancient Hellenes believed the lunar eclipse was the result of Thessalian witches drawing down the moon and working their terrible magics. It was common for people to make noise with cymbals during the eclipse in order to nullify this witchcraft and return Selene to Her rightful place in the heavens [32].

“She [the witch Medea] is one to strive to draw down from its course the unwilling moon (luna), and to hide in darkness the horses of the sun (sol).” [33]

 

Ratri

Now that we’ve explored Hellenic deities associated with night and darkness, we can move onto our next deity, Ratri.

Ratri is personified night, often depicted as an ever youthful maiden, reborn and renewed with each passing cycle [34]. In keeping with the cyclical theme, Ratri is quite frequently represented alongside Her sister, Ushas, Goddess of the dawn. Interestingly, Ratri is not necessarily portrayed as a Goddess of darkness, per se, as one might expect from a deity of the night. Instead, Ratri is often thought of as the bright, moonlit night which chases away the darkness, assigning a protective Role to Her character [35].

“The Goddess Night has drawn near, looking about on many sides with her eyes. She has put on all her glories.”

“The immortal goddess has filled the wide space, the depths and the heights. She stems the tide of darkness with her light.”  [36]

According to Kinsley, Ratri is also associated with dew and the vitality it provides [37] – a quality which is reminiscent of Selene and Her role as nourisher of flora.

While Ratri is often listed as beneficent or benign, She is occasionally referenced in a negative manner. Where Ushas is seen as embodying radiance and motherly affection, Ratri is, in some depictions anyway, said to be barren and gloomy, illustrating the obvious contrast between the two Goddesses. She is also assigned a level of guardianship or responsibility for dangerous beings associated with the night, which may suggest many offerings made to Her were propitiatory in nature [38].  

Ratri, along with her sister, Ushas, is directly associated with the passage of time and are even called “the Weavers of Time” and “Mothers of Eternal Law” [39].

“Without Rātrī or Usas no concept of time would have emerged.” [40]

In his book, Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition, Kingsley says of Ushas and Ratri:

“In their alternating, cyclical, and endless appearances, they represent the stable, rhythmic patterns of the cosmos in which light and dark inevitably follow each other in an orderly, predictable manner. Together they illustrate the coherence of the created order: the ordered alternations of vigor and rest, light and dark, and the regular flow of time.”

While Ratri is considered a “minor” Goddess in terms of Her portrayal in Rig Veda, she is one of the few Goddesses who is given an entire hymn to herself.

“1.The Goddess Night has drawn near, looking about on many sides with her eyes. She has put on all her glories.
2.The immortal Goddess  has filled the wide space, the depths and the heights. She stems the ride of darkness with her light.

3.The goddess has drawn near, pushing aside her sister the twilight. Darkness, too, will give way. 

4. As you came near to us today, we turned homeward to rest, as birds go to their home in a tree.

5. People who live in villages have gone home to rest, and animals with feet, and animals with wings, even the ever-searching hawks.

6. Ward off the she-wolf and the wolf; ward off the thief. O night full of waves, be easy for us to cross over.

7.Darkness – palpable, black, and painted – has come upon me. O Dawn, banish it like a debt.

8.I have driven this hymn to you as the herdsman drives cows. Choose and accept it, O Night, daughter of the sky, like a song of praise to a conqueror.” [41]

 

Nótt

As is often the case, in terms of a Germanic Goddess associated with the night, we are provided with little outside of Norse sources. In these sources, Nótt is personified night and is listed as a Goddess in both the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda. Her name literally translates as “Night” and as such, there is little ambiguity in terms of her area of association and governance.

In the Eddas, Nótt is counted as the daughter of Narfi, a fairly enigmatic figure whose name may have some connection to the Old English word nearu, meaning ‘confined’, or ‘narrow’ [42][43]. According to Gylfaginning, Nótt was said to have taken three husbands, and with each, she had a single child. Her first husband was named Naglfari and with Him, Nótt bore Auðr, whose name, according to Simek, translates to ‘prosperity’. Her second marriage was said to be to a character named Annar, to whom she bore Jörð, the personified earth. Her third and final marriage was to Dellinger and it was to Him that she bore Her counterpart, the God of personified day, Dagr. Simek has indicated some scepticism as to the correctness of Gylfaginning’s list of Nótt’s kin, suggesting Snorri may well have incorporated them into his narrative as an attempt to mirror the classical mythology he was familiar with, with Narfi possibly being placed as Nótt’s sire in an attempt to emulate an Erebus-like figure[44].

Nótt is mentioned several times in the Poetic Edda and in each mention, we are provided with a tiny glimpse into Her attributes. In the 14th stanza of Vafþrúðnismál, we are presented with the name of Nótt’s horse, Hrímfaxi, or ‘Rime-Mane’, whose foam is said to produce the dew so often associated with the night.

 

“He is Hrímfaxi hight

which the hallowed night

Brings to the blessed gods.

As he fares, foam doth

Fall from his bit;

Thence cometh the dew in the dales.” [45]

This particular depiction of Nótt as a bringer of nourishing dew suggests a fairly consistent Indo-European motif; one shared by Greeks in antiquity and by ancient Indo-Aryan peoples.  

In stanza 25 of Vafþrúðnismál, we are provided with the name of Nótt’s father, Nǫrr (Narfi, Norvi) and are given a brief association between night, the moon and the reckoning of time.

“Is one Delling hight,

He is Day’s father;

But Night was born to Nor;

Waxing and waning moon

The wise gods made

To tell the time for men” [46]

In Alvíssmál, stanza 30, Nótt is given a list of potential epithets by the titular character, Alvíss.

“‘Tis hight ‘Night’ among men,

but ‘Murk’ among gods;

Call the might powers it ‘Mask,’

The etins, ‘Lightless,’

The alfs, ‘Sleep’s Ease,’

The dwarfs, ‘Weaver-of-Dreams.’”[47]

The stanza above would suggest that Nótt is not the chaser of darkness that Ratri appears to be, and instead, exists as the enveloping darkness that masks the skies. This description mirrors Her appearance in Gylfaginning, where She is described as being ‘black and swarthy.’ Here we are also provided with the title ‘Weaver-of-Dreams,’ or ‘Draumnjörun,’ [48] illustrating Her potential role as Goddess who creates dreams.  

The fourth time Nótt appears in the Poetic Edda, is in Sigrdrífumál/ Brynhildarljóð, where Sigrdrifa recites a prayer to Dagr and Nótt.

Heill dagr,

heilir dags synir,

heil nótt ok nipt;

óreiðum augum

lítið okkr þinig

ok gefið sitjöndum sigr.”[49]


Hail, day!

Hail, sons of day!

And night and her daughter now!

Look on us here

with loving eyes,

That waiting we victory win.”[50]

 

Extrapolating a Fyrnsidu-Specific Goddess of night

Now that we have explored Hellenic, Vedic and Norse Goddesses associated with the night and darkness, we can extrapolate our Fyrnsidu-specific Goddess more efficiently.

While many of the aforementioned attributes could be ascribed to either Niht (Night) or to Mōna (Moon), for simplicity’s sake, we will focus on Niht for our reconstruction [*].

 

Like her Indo-European counterparts, Niht could potentially be viewed as a primordial Goddess, born from the chasm at the beginning of the cosmos. She may also be seen as being both a protective force and one that is somewhat temperamental – presiding over all things that are associated with the night, both good and ill.

Niht watches over beings during their nightly rest and, as is the case with Nótt, provides us with dreams and potential portents.

As is the case with Nox, Hekate and Selene, Niht is strongly associated with witchcraft and herbalism and may be invoked to aid practitioners in both pursuits. She is also the Goddess of “nourishing dew,” which also ties into Her herbalistic leanings.  

In terms of iconography, Niht could be represented on horseback, driving a chariot pulled by horses or bulls, or as a bull-like figure adorned with crescent moon horns. She also might appear as a woman clothed in a black shroud, similar to depictions of Nyx and Nox.


Niht is a decidedly liminal deity and, like Hekate, may be petitioned at crossroads and apotropaically at the threshold of homes. She may also be called upon in a protective capacity in times of duress, especially if one is being bombarded by witchcraft or by entities of ill intent.

Appropriate offerings might include black bulls (statuettes, carvings etc.), votive dogs, yew boughs, garlic, cypress, mandrake and belladonna, as well as black seeds and foodstuffs – a colour typically associated with liminal and chthonic deities.

If we’re to look for a holy tide directly linked to Niht, we have a variety of options at our disposal. First, we might reconstruct something akin to the Deipnon, where Niht and the restless dead are given a portion of the evening meal on a monthly basis to stave off their advance. We also might celebrate Niht during a specific time in the lunar cycle, such as the new or full moon. We may also give Niht a position of importance during the shortest day of the year, or on dates specifically associated with liminality, such as Winterfylleþ.

 

Potential Epithets

Mirce – Murky

Nifol – Dark/ Gloomy

Grīma – Mask

Swefngamen – Sleep-Joy

Swefenwebbe – Dream-Weaver

Dēawig – Dewy

Lybbestre – Witch / Sorceress

Lēodrūne – Witch / Cunning-woman

Wyrtgælestre – Herbalist / One who uses plants for charms

Egesgrime – A Witch. Lit. “Horrible Mask”

Deorcness – Darkness / Obscurity

* Þrīweg – Three-Way. OE etymological equivalent of ‘Trivia’.

——————————————

Sources

[1]Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert. A Greek–English Lexicon
[2]http://www.theoi.com/Protogenos/Nyx.html
[3] Hesiod. Theogony. Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White.
[4] Hesiod. Theogony. Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White.
[5]Hesiod. Theogony. Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White.
[6]Aristophanes. The Birds
[7]Homer. Iliad 14.
[8]Aratus. Phaenomena.
[9]Statius. Thebaid Book 3. TRANSLATED BY J. H. MOZLEY
[10]Ovid. Metamorphoses
[11]http://www.theoi.com/Cult/HekateCult.html
[12]Aristophanes. The Wasps
[13]Liddell-Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon.
[14]Franklin, Alberta Mildred. The Lupercalia
[15]Iles Jonhston, Sarah. Restless Dead
[16]Apollonius of Rhodes. Argonautica
[17]Suffness, Matthew. Taxol: Science and Applications, CRC Press, 1995
[18]Simoons, Frederick J. Plants of Life, Plants of Death, University of Wisconsin Press, 1998
[19]Freize, Henry; Dennison, Walter. Virgil’s Aeneid
[20]Graves, Robert. The Greek Myths, Penguin Books, 1977
[21]http://www.theoi.com/Titan/Selene.html
[22]Fairbanks, Arthur. Mythology of Greece and Rome (Special Reference to Its Influence on Literature)
[23]Quintus Smyrnaeus. Fall of Troy 10
[24]Pausanias. Description of Greece 5. 1. 4
[25]http://www.theoi.com/Titan/Selene.html
[26]Nonnus, Dionysiaca (via Theoi.com)
[27]Nonnus, Dionysiaca (via Theoi.com)
[28]Nonnus, Dionysiaca (via Theoi.com)
[29]Chrysippus.  Old Physics
[30]Cicero. De Natura Deorum
[31]http://www.theoi.com/Titan/Selene.html
[32]http://www.theoi.com/Titan/Selene.html
[33]Ovid. Heroides
[34]http://www.mahavidya.ca/2012/06/18/prthivi-usas-and-ratri-vedic-goddesses/
[35]https://archive.org/stream/hymnsfromrigveda00macdiala/hymnsfromrigveda00macdiala_djvu.txt
[36]Penguin Classics. Rig Veda
[37]Kinsley, David R. Hindu Goddesses : Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition
[38]Kinsley, David R. Hindu Goddesses : Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition
[39]Kinsley, David R. Hindu Goddesses : Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition
[40]Chattopadhyaya S. The female deities of Rksamhita.
[41] Penguin Books Ltd. The Rig Veda. Translated by Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty
[42]https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/nearu#Old_English
[43]Bugge, Sophus. The Home of the Eddic poems: With Especial Reference to the Helgi-Lays, tr. William Henry Schofield
[44]Simek, Rudolf. Dictionary of Northern Mythology
[45]Hollander, Lee M. The Poetic Edda.
[46]Hollander, Lee M. The Poetic Edda.
[47]Hollander, Lee M. The Poetic Edda.
[48]http://www.voluspa.org/alvissmal26-30.htm
[49]Jonsson, Finnur. The Poetic Edda
[50]Bellows, Henry Adams. The Poetic Edda
[*] As always, this is largely the choice of the respective practitioner/hearth/group and they may choose to petition a different deity in this role.

Bones and Bogs: An Update

Well, it has been well over a month since my last post and I feel it’s about time I write something on here. Y’know, to keep my devoted fans informed (lulz).

This Summer has been something of an interesting, albeit arduous journey for me with regard to my somewhat poor physical health. I have been dealing with autoimmune issues in the form of Celiac disease for the better part of a decade and had finally gotten comfortable(ish) with my gluten-free lifestyle, when some fun, new things started to rear their ugly heads. What began as mild hand stiffness and pain soon became fairly severe and spread to my lower back and ankles. At first I assumed the pain was the byproduct of physical exertion at my job, but as the pain progressed and new bits and pieces of me got involved in the pain-party, I knew something was up.

Several doctor’s appointments, blood tests, x-rays and specialist visits later and I’m inching closer to a diagnosis. The rheumatologist thinks I have a form of spondylitic arthritis – likely psoriatic or one related to an irritable bowel disease. I won’t know until my MRIs are completed and he’s had a chance to look over the imaging. So much fun!

In the meantime, I’m trying to make the best of a decidedly shit situation, stay somewhat positive and eat as healthily as I can. I made a massive change to my diet after doing some serious Google spelunking, and have adopted the paleo/primal diet for the time being, leaving behind an array of gluten-free foods I had grown accustomed to in the past 10-ish years.

It hasn’t been all negative, mind you. We Sundorwīcians went on a camping trip earlier this month to Algonquin Park – a place I hadn’t been to in nearly 15 years. The weather was perfect, we camped with family, I felt really well and I could feel the numinous in every nook and cranny of the place.

On our last day at the park, we went on a hike – one I had been on numerous times as a kid and loved. It’s called the Spruce Bog Trail and is basically a boardwalk built through two bogs-the Sunday Creek Bog and the Small Kettle Bog – both of which are home to some really fascinating flora and a plethora of blood-hungry insects. As is fairly standard with bogs, the water’s acid content is high, slowing the decomposition of organic matter, creating this sort of spooky, “fallen tree graveyard” vibe with the Sunday Creek Bog. The Small Kettle Bog, in contrast, had a thick carpeting of moss and other nondescript boggy plants growing over it and obscuring the water. According to the handy dandy trail brochure, these bogs were formed at the tail end of the Pleistocene (approx.11,000 years ago) when a massive glacier melted – an ancientness you could really feel while walking through the trail.

This ancient, numinous presence was so pronounced and tangible, I felt this overwhelming need to leave an impromptu propitiatory offering – something I often do when I am out in nature and floored by the inherent power of a place. I said some quick words of humble praise to the Wight/Wights of the waters and then I did something that multitudes of Germanic polytheists have done before me – I dropped my offering (two coins to be exact) into the dark, sunless waters of a bog.

The feeling of doing something like that, something that connects you in action to your ancestors and to the Gods, is profound. It left me feeling euphoric for the remainder of the day – something I feel whenever an offering goes well and feels well-received.

Anyway, that’s enough rambling for today. I am currently working on another comparative piece, so I expect that should be completed sometime in the next couple weeks, if I’m not too busy with work and doctor’s appointments, that is. Stay tuned, kids.

 

 

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A Prayer to Wada

 

wada1

Lo! Witness how the Earth shakes and trembles before you
Oh lord of the in-between places
You who treads unseen in shadow
Bringer of dreams and deluge
You who heals wound and ailment
You who lifts the veils

Now at my supplication, O Wada,
Apportioner of wealth and of mægen, grant that the fortunes of our hearth and household be firmly established,
so that those who desire peace and plenty may behold it

Please accept this gift, O Hellegod,
A gift for a gift
I dedicate and I give
May it please you
May you receive it well

Some Divinatory terms and Magical Vocations in Old English

Despite its questionable origin, “rune magic” has become the de facto form of divination associated with modern heathendom. While any writing or symbological system could, in theory,  be employed for the purpose of augury, for the purposes of Fyrnsidu, it may be beneficial to look at the Old English corpus for clues as to the divinatory practices and magical vocations of the Ur-Saxon Heathen.

Wīglere (m.) : A diviner / augur, derived from wīg/wēoh (m.), meaning ‘idol/image’, descending from Proto-Germanic *wīhą, meaning ‘sacred place or thing’

Steorwīglere (m.): An astrologer, derived from steorra (m.), meaning ‘star’

Wīgbedwīglere (m.): One who divines from sacrifices. Possibly one who interprets whether an offering was well-received by reading the organs (haruspicy) or bones of a sacrificed animal.

Fugelweohlere/Fugelhǣlsere/Fugelhwata (m.): A diviner by birds. Bosworth and Toller provide the Latin gloss of auspex, derived from the Latin/Proto-Italic word *avispex (m.), made up of avis, meaning ‘bird’ and speciō, meaning ‘to watch or observe’.

Dægmǣlscēawere (m.): An observer of the times and seasons, an astrologer. Dægmǣl essentially means ‘day-mark’ and relates to an instrument for telling time – perhaps a sundial.

Gebyrdwīglere (m.): A birth-diviner. Presumably one who divines a unborn or newborn child’s future.

Galdere (m.): An enchanter. Galdere is an agent noun derived from galdor/gealdor (n.), meaning a ‘charm,’ ‘incantation,’ or ‘enchantment,’ which suggests a verbal, spell-casting component.

Swefenreccere (m.): An interpreter of dreams/oneiromancer. The craft of dream divining is recorded as swefenracu (f.)

Tānhlyta/Tanhlytere (m.): One who divines by casting lots/ cleromancy. The casting of lots appears as gehlot (n.) in Old English. Tacitus records a similar form of divination in his Germania, where it is listed alongside divination by way of birds.

“Augury and divination by lot no people practise more diligently. The use of the lots is simple. A little bough is lopped off a fruit-bearing tree, and cut into small pieces; these are distinguished by certain marks, and thrown carelessly and at random over a white garment. In public questions the priest of the particular state, in private the father of the family, invokes the gods, and, with his eyes towards heaven, takes up each piece three times, and finds in them a meaning according to the mark previously impressed on them. If they prove unfavourable, there is no further consultation that day about the matter; if they sanction it, the confirmation of augury is still required. For they are also familiar with the practice of consulting the notes and the flight of birds.”

Hellrūn/Hellerūne (f.), Hellrūna (m.): One who is versed in the mysteries of Hell / Underworld. A necromancer. Possible allusions to conjuring and communing with the dead. The Latin gloss, pythonissa (f.), is used for comparison.

Burgrūne (f.): A sorceress. Bosworth and Toller provide the glosses parcæ, furiæ, oreades, suggesting some association with Wyrd, or Wælcyrian (ON: valkyrjur). The plural form is listed as burh/burgrūnan (f.). 

Heagorūn (f.):  A mystery where magic is involved/ necromancy.

 Lēodrūne (f.): Witch or wise-woman/cunning-woman. Derived from lēod, meaning ‘man,’ ‘country,’ ‘people.’ Possibly synonymous with burh/burgrūne.

Wyrtgælestre (f.): A woman who uses herbs or plants for charms.

 Wammfreht (n.): Divination using stains or impurities, with wamm meaning ‘stain,’ or ‘spot.’ Bosworth and Toller doesn’t give a precise definition, so it’s uncertain whether the stains mentioned might be related to sacrifice (blood), or some other form of stain/impurity.

Hǣlsung/Hālsung (f.): Divination/augury.

Wīgle (n.): Divination / Heathen praxis

Wītgegung (f.): Prophecy. The word also appears in the compound wītegungbōc, or ‘book of prophecies.’

Wītegestre (f.): Prophetess. The Latin gloss prophetissa is provided for comparative purposes.

Unlybwyrhta (m.): A poison-maker, one who prepares poisons for witchcraft. Comes from unlybba (m.), meaning ‘poison’.

Wiccecræft/Wiccedōm (m.): Witchcraft/sorcery.

Wicce (f.), Wicca (m.): A witch, sorcerer/sorceress

Wiccian (verb.): To practice witchcraft.

Wiccung (f.): Literally ‘witching’/ witchcraft.

Hægtesse (f.): A witch, hag, or Fury. The Latin gloss Furia is provided for comparison and may suggest some affinity with both hellerūne and burgrūne. An Old High German equivalent is recorded as hagzissa, from which modern German hexe is derived. Seolfor Cwylla Heorþ recently published a short article on burgrūnan and Hægtessan, which might be of interest in relation to this topic.

Drȳ/ Drȳman/ Drȳmann (m.): A magician or sorcerer, which is etymologically linked to Proto-Celtic *druwits (druid). The word might represent a shared concept with analogous words having been lost in other Germanic languages, or may represent a Brythonic influence on Anglo-Saxon culture. The plural form of the word is recorded as drȳmen (f.). 

Drȳcræft (m.): Sorcery or magic related to the term drȳ, related above.

Scīnlāc (n.): Magic, necromancy, sorcery, stemming from scīn, referring to ‘a deceptive appearance,’ ‘a phantasm,’ or a ‘spectre.’ This is suggestive of some form of illusory magic.

Līcwiglung (f.): Necromancy. Likely associated with the use of corpses or bodies, via the word, līc.

The_Oracle_of_Delphi_Entranced

 

A Short Analysis of Neorxnawang

 

Barley_field-2007-02-22(large)

Neorxnawang is an interesting subject, considering the absolute confusion the word has elicited among scholars. While the second element of the compound, –wang (field, plain country, place) [1] is fairly straightforward in its meaning, the first element, Neorxna- , presents a serious problem. In his translation of Genesis, Ælfric uses Neorxnawang as a gloss for Latin Paradisum, the biblical Heaven, which has lead academics, such as McKinnell, to suggest the translation “Field of Contentment” [2]. This translation doesn’t seem a considerable leap if one looks at the context which it is used in other works, such as the Blickling Homilies and the Anglo-Saxon translation of Gregory’s Dialogues – the latter of which uses the adjective, Neorxnawanglic (of paradise) [3].

Jacob Grimm was the first to really tackle the etymology of the word. In his own musings, he mentioned a contemporary belief that the word was related in some way to the Norns, but that it posed too many issues to be suitably substantiated.

“The A. gen. pl. neorxana, which only occurs in ‘neorxena wong’ = paradisus, has been proposed, but the abbreviation would be something unheard of, and even the nom. sing. neorxe or neorxu at variance with norn; besides, the Parcae are nowhere found connected with paradise.” [4]

More recently, Rudolf Simek suggested Neorxnawang may have acted as a pre-Migration Period analogue for “Asgard”- an idea which he asserted might be proven by the existence of an earlier etymological equivalent in Gothic waggs (meadow, paradise) [5] and by how obscure and confusing the term had become even by Ælfric’s time.

Simek is not the only scholar to attempt to connect Neorxnawang to more well-known Norse cosmology. In The Ship in the Field, Haukur Þorgeirsson and Joseph S. Hopkins suggested a possible connection between Folkvangr and Neorxnawang, going as far as suggesting (via de Vries) that, while Folkvangr is Freyja’s field, Neorxnawang might similarly belong to Njord, or a Njord-like deity known to Anglo-Saxons.

“Neorxnawang and Folkvangr may have a relation besides cognate second elements. While the root of Njörðr and the apparent first root of Neorxnawang are both elusive subjects, it has been theorized that the two may be one and the same, perhaps rendering Neorxnawang as an Old English ‘Njörðr’s field’ or as the field of a deity sharing this root (de Vries 1957: 410-411). This approach has difficulties, but if the roots are connected, a father-daughter relationship may be demonstrated between the afterlife fields of Njörðr and Freyja.” [6]

While the Njörðr connection is fanciful and something of a leap in my opinion, I do believe they are correct in assuming Neorxnawang may have been a sort of pre-Christian, godly paradise not unlike Folkvangr. Earlier scholars were quick to dismiss the idea of Neorxnawang being in any way a pagan concept – a dismissal which was likely due to ingrained notions of heavenly paradise being limited to Abrahamic religions. This dismissal would also seemingly discount similar paradise realms, such as Greek Elysium, the Asphodel Meadows (a particular part of Hades where average people go upon death) and Egyptian Sekhet-Aaru (The Reed Fields) – all of which predate Christianity.

to the Elysian plain…where life is easiest for men. No snow is there, nor heavy storm, nor ever rain, but ever does Ocean send up blasts of the shrill-blowing West Wind that they may give cooling to men.” [7]

In the end, it’s impossible to know for certain what Neorxnawang truly is – at least with our current information. It’s up to the contemporary practitioner to decide if and how Neorxnawang might be approached and how it might incorporated into belief system of their respective hearths.


Sources

[1]Bosworth, Joseph. “An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary Online.” Wang. Ed. Thomas Northcote Toller and Others. Comp. Sean Christ and Ondřej Tichý. Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague, 21 Mar. 2010. Web. 14 Apr. 2018.
[2]McKinnell, John. Meeting the Other in Norse Myth and Legend
[3]Bosworth, Joseph. “An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary Online.” Neorxnawang-lic. Ed. Thomas Northcote Toller and Others. Comp. Sean Christ and Ondřej Tichý. Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague, 21 Mar. 2010. Web. 14 Apr. 2018.
[4]Grimm, Jacob (James Steven Stallybrass Trans.)  Teutonic Mythology: Translated from the Fourth Edition with Notes and Appendix Vol. I.
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[6]Hopkins, Joseph S. Þorgeirsson, Hauker. The Ship in the Field. pp 17 (in notes)[7]Homer, Odyssey (4.560–565)