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

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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.
[5]Lehmann, Winfred Philipp. A Gothic Etymological Dictionary. W1-W4
[6]Hopkins, Joseph S. Þorgeirsson, Hauker. The Ship in the Field. pp 17 (in notes)[7]Homer, Odyssey (4.560–565)

A Prayer to Sōl-Hǣlugifestre

Sōl-Hǣlugifestre, High-Leech
She who mends bone, She who removes pain
Oh, Radiant Goddess who illuminates the heavens
and swaddles us in warm embrace

Heaven-kind maiden
She who warms the healing springs
Those who petition you know no distress
And those who wrong you know your curses
For your power is felt in all earthly things

Celestial One, I approach You humbly
And petition You on this day, as I have done many days prior,
So You might cure me of this sickness which afflicts me
So You might provide me with bountiful strength for recovery
So You might shield me from future incursion
Whether elfshot, dwarfshot or witch’s work

A gift for a gift, I dedicate and I give
May this offering please You
May this offering find You well
And may I receive Your blessings,
if You see fit to bestow them upon me


Sol

An Update with pictures

Well, it has been a while since I last checked in here. I moved at the end of the Summer and it has been a slow descent back into normalcy here at Sundorwic- a normalcy which I hope is conducive to writing and maintaining this blog again.

As per tradition, we did manage to find time to craft our yearly corn dolly out of a sheaf of wheat and make offering to Ingui Beorgweard and our ancestral dead on the 4th of November (the date of Winterfylleth as per my reckoning).

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Our corn dolly for 2017

I have also been working sporadically on my outdoor wigbed dedicated to Thunor Eodorweard, the Hedge-Warden, a cult which I fleshed out in detail in my previous post.

Though my work was cut somewhat short due to inclement weather, I’m hoping to get it finished in the coming weeks. The colder the weather becomes, the less motivated I feel.

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Snakes!

As a final note, I’d like to show off the gift we received from my very talented stepmother as a housewarming gift. The imagery couldn’t have been more fitting for us, given that herons have become an intrinsic part of our hearth’s symbology of late – something I explained in greater detail in a previous post.

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Warden of the Property: Þunor Eodorweard

This article is a continuation of my previous article entitled, Threshold Guardians: Dūrupālas, where I established an Anglo-Saxon door-guardian cult based on Greek, Roman, Frankish and Southeast Asian examples.

In this article, I will attempt to extrapolate an Anglo-Saxon cult associated with the protection of the domicile, utilizing examples from Greek and Roman cults.


Zeus Herkeios, Ktesios and Kataibates

In ancient Greek religion, Zeus was a multifaceted deity possessing a number of attributes and epithets. Of specific interest here are three cults of Zeus directly associated with the household and its corresponding boundaries.

The first of the three cults- that of Zeus Herkeios– is associated with the household boundary and with guardianship over the property found therein. The name Herkeios itself comes from the ancient Greek word, hérkos, meaning ‘fence’ or ‘wall’ [1], which is indicative of the specific realm of influence associated with this particular guise of the God.

According to Homer, each home had an altar dedicated to Herkeios in the courtyard directly preceding the home, or megaron. It was in this location that libations were poured and sacrifices were made to the God to elicit his protection [2]. Because this cult was an Athenian universal, it was customary for those who lived within the polis to say “where is your Zeus Herkeios?” when asking for a particular address [3].

“The house and its fence protected man against enemies and other dangers, but it needed divine protection itself. Its protector was Zeus, whom we here meet in various roles quite different from that of the weather god.” [4]

Zeus Herkeios also plays a role in Virgil’s Aeneid, as it is upon his altar that Priam and Polites are killed by Achilles’ son, Neoptolemus (Pyrrhus). It is in this act that Virgil attempts to illustrate Neoptolemus’ savage nature, due to the connection between the altar and domestic sanctuary [5][6]. This connection between sanctuary and Herkeios is further elucidated in the Odyssey, where Phemius claims asylum at an altar of Herkeios to escape Odysseus killing him.

“To go out of the megaron and sit at the altar of great Zeus Herkeios, a properly made altar where many were the thighs of oxen that Laertes and Odysseus had burnt.” [7][8]

The cult of Zeus Ktesios differs from that of Herkeios in that it deals specifically with the inside of the Greek megaron as opposed to the outer perimeter. According to Harpocration, Ktesios lived in the storeroom and his divinity was housed in a amphora-like vessel called a kadiskos, which had dual handles crowned in white wool [9].

In his Orations, Isaeus poetically describes the cultic practices associated with Ktesios.

“When Ciron sacrificed to Zeus Ktesios, a sacrifice about which he was especially serious, he did not admit slaves or non-family members. He did everything himself, but we shared in this sacrifice and joined with him in handling and placing the sacrificial victims and in doing the other things. He prayed that the god give us health and good ‘property,’ and this was only natural because he was our grandfather.” [10][11]

The connections between Ktesios and the protection of property can be seen in the root of the God’s name, which comes from ancient Greek verb, ktéomai, meaning ‘to have,’ ‘to gain,’ ‘to possess’ [12]. The cult of Ktesios was widespread throughout the Hellenic world- a fact which is supported by a Doric etymological equivalent existing in Zeus Pasios [13].

In terms of iconography, Ktesios lacked an anthropomorphic representation. As stated above, the kadiskos was typically representative of his cult, though serpentine imagery also played a role. On a relief discovered at Thespiae, the epithet of Ktesios is recorded above the image of a large snake, iconography which was paralleled in later, Roman lararia. Snake worship associated with the home is believed to have originated in an earlier, agrarian period where the snake was seen as a chthonic protector of the storeroom against vermin and blight [14].

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In Zeus Kataibates we find a deity with a very specific function – a function which is mirrored by other Indo-European thunder deities. The title Kataibates means ‘he who descends’ and is a direct reference to the thunderbolt, which was considered in ancient times to be the resulting impact of a stone axe wielded by Zeus [15].

In the ruins of a house at Oinomaos, the altar of Kataibates was found alongside an altar of Herkeios. Altars to Kataibates were also found at a home on Thera and at Tarentum, where, like the aforementioned example, they appeared in the courtyard before the megaron alongside Herkeios [16]. Here sacrifices were made to the God to stave off lightning strike and according to Chambers Guthrie, may have acted as an ancient lightning conductor [17].

In Slavic and Germanic religion, we see parallels to this apotropaic function. In Slavic culture, Gromoviti znaci or ‘thunder marks,’ are considered by some scholars to be an ancient symbol of Perun which, when engraved on roof beams or on the threshold of the home, protect against lightning strikes [18]

We see a similar motif appear in Germanic culture where stonecrops and houseleeks were planted on the roofs of houses to protect against lightning strike. In Anglo-Saxon England, these plants were referred to as Þunorwyrt, or ‘Thunder-plant,’ [19] suggesting a possible parallel to the functions of both Kataibates and Perun.

 

Roman Boundary Deities

In Jupiter, we are met with a number of epithets associated with protection and warding, including Tutator ‘warden,’ Vindex ‘protector,’ Serenator ‘he who clears the sky,’ and Praestes ‘protector.’ [20]

Of particular interest is the epithet, Terminalus, associating Jupiter with the God of boundaries, Terminus. According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Numa ordered that all Roman citizens should mark their boundaries with sacred stones consecrated to Jupiter Terminalus [21]. It was at these boundary stones that sacrifices were made to Terminalus each year at the festival of Terminalia.

In his De Condicionibus Agrorum, Siculus Flaccus gives an account of the ritual used to sanctify Terminus’ boundary stone, a ritual which consisted of placing ashes, bones and blood of a sacrificial victim, along with crops, wine and honeycomb in a hole where the estates converged. The hole was then sealed when the boundary stone was driven into it [22].

At Terminalia, families would decorate their side of the boundary marker with garlands and make offerings of crops, honeycomb and wine. The blood of a sacrificial lamb or pig would be poured over the marker, an act which was followed by communal feasting and the singing of hymns [23].

Woodard briefly explains the cultic origins of Terminus in his work, Indo-European Sacred Space: Vedic and Roman Cult.

“This observation immediately raises the question why a sacred stone
of fertility should be associated with boundaries at all. One could imagine that the development would be entirely secondary. One might expect that the nomadic Proto-Indo-European pastoralists had no need for boundary stones. In the sedentary Indo-European daughter cultures, such as that of Rome, stones provide an effective means for marking boundaries, and the archaic sacred stone might naturally be assimilated to such markers. Indeed, Terminus is not always a stone but at times is identified with a stump that serves to demarcate adjacent properties (see Ovid, Fast. 2.641–642; Tibullus 1.1.11).” [24]

While Terminus is likely the most well-known of the Roman boundary deities and had the most fleshed out cult, we can also look to Silvanus to buttress our reconstructive efforts. According to Dolabella, Silvanus was the God responsible for erecting the first boundary markers, positioning him as a deity associated with the delineation of coterminous space. He also states in his Ex Libris Dolabellae, that each homestead possessed three protective Silvani. Silvanus Domesticus ‘of the home,’ Silvanus Agrestis ‘of the farmstead,’ and Silvanus Orientalis ‘of the estate boundary,’ correspond closely to the tripartite Zeuses of the earlier, Hellenic house cult [25]. In terms of sacrifices, Silvani received offerings of grapes, milk, ears of grain, meat, wine and pigs [26][27].

 

A Fyrnsidu-specific Boundary Deity

Based on information collected from Greek and Roman sources, we should now be able to reconstruct a comparable household cult based in the linguistic and cultural framework of Fyrnsidu.

The first challenge we’re presented with is the sheer multiplicity of deities one could reconstruct from the cults listed above. For simplicity’s sake, we will focus our efforts on a singular deity which presides over the domestic property in toto, encompassing elements from tripartite Zeus, Terminus/Jupiter Terminalis and tripartite Silvanus.

The deity most suited to this role would likely be Þunor, due to the obvious parallels between him and Zeus. Þunor’s Norse counterpart, Þórr was a hallower and protector, a function shared by both Zeus and Jupiter in a number of their epithets.

In terms of providing a name for this distinct divinity, we have a variety of Old English compounds available to us – Þunor Eodorweard ‘Fence/Hedge Ward,’ Þunor Hūsbonda ‘Master of the House,’ or something to that effect, would be most consistent with the epithets attributed to Silvanus and Zeus [*].

The location of the altar, if we’re following the Greco-Roman example, would likely be placed outdoors in the yard near the fence or property boundary. Gifts of honeycomb, libation, grain or the ashes from a burnt offering might be given periodically at this location – an act which would be repeated at regular intervals to ensure protection for the domestic enclosure.

Given that Terminus’ cult was aniconic, associated imagery may not be wholly necessary. If you opt to use iconography, the snake might make a good zoomorphic representation, especially considering the snake played a prominent role in both Greek and Roman house cult. Iconography associated with Indo-European thunder deities, such as the thunderbolt, hammer, or axe might be used, especially if anthropomorphic representations are to be employed. Silvanus is also regularly represented alongside a canine companion, a detail which would lend itself nicely to a cult focused on protection and vigilance.

If one were to celebrate a feast day specific to this cult, the date of Terminalia (February 23rd) might be used as a guideline.


[1]https://en.m.wiktionary.org/w/index.php?title=herkogamy&oldid=43964216

[2] Nilsson, Martin P. Greek Popular Religion.

[3] Mikalson, Jon D. Ancient Greek Religion.

[4] Nilsson, Martin P. Greek Popular Religion.

[5] Anderson, Michael John. The Fall of Troy in Early Greek Poetry and Art.

[6] Virgil. Aeneid 2. 499-500

[7] Odyssey 22.334-6

[8] Dowden, Ken. Zeus.

[9] Harrison, Jane Ellen. Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion.

[10] Mikalson, Jon D. Ancient Greek Religion.

[11] Isaeus 8.16

[12]https://en.m.wiktionary.org/w/index.php?title=κτάομαι&oldid=47028907

[13] Nilsson, Martin P. Greek Popular Religion.

[14] http://creadm.solent.ac.uk/custom/rwpainting/ch6/ch.6.6.html

[15] Nilsson, Martin P. Greek Popular Religion.

[16] Nilsson, Martin P. Greek Popular Religion.

[17] Chambers Guthrie, William Keith. The Greeks and Their Gods.

[18] Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3

[19] Bosworth, Joseph. “An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary Online.” þunor-wyrt. Ed. Thomas Northcote Toller and Others. Comp. Sean Christ and Ondřej Tichý. Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague, 21 Mar. 2010. Web. 7 Aug. 2017.

[20] Thulin, Carl. Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft

[21] Dionysius. Roman Antiquities

[22] Flaccus, Siculus. De Condicionibus Agrorum.

[23] Ovid. Fasti 2. 639-684

[24] Woodard, Roger D. Indo-European Sacred Space: Vedic and Roman Cult.

[25] Dolabella. Ex Libris Dolabellae

[26] Tibullus. II.5.27, 30.

[27] Horace. Epodes II.21-22.

[*] These are merely the names that Sundorwic Hearth has chosen to use. For your practice, you may decide on a different name or names for this particular cult.