Help finding something on traditional germanic beliefs


#1

i’m half german and was born in germany. i was raised there for about two years before my family moved to the US because my dad’s American. Culturally, I was brought up with a lot of german values and still speak it with my mother and sister (though i’m not exactly fluent), but i never knew much about my ancestry or traditional german beliefs, other than the little my mother’s been able to tell me. apparently my great great grandmother, who my mom was lucky enough to have known in her childhood, would still reference old beliefs, talking about “Wotan” when she heard thunder and things like that. i’ve been looking for sources but haven’t found anything really legitimate so far, so i was wondering whether anyone here could point me towards something… ???


#2

Look up Asatru, heathenry, and Odinism as keywords. There’s a lot of much to read through, but you can find some great animistic traditions in the old religions of Northern Europe. Each region has its own specifics, of course. You might specifically want to specifically look for the works of a man named Stephen E. Flowers, who writes also under the name Edred Thorsson when the subject is more esoteric and mystical. Most of his works are centered on the runic traditions, but some of it is also just general Northern European religion.

When I get back home to my books, I’ll have more recommendations.


#3

Duh, should have thought of this first:

Get a copy of The Poetic Edda. It’s a collection of old Icelandic poetry which tells most of the major stories in the myth-cycle. There are also poems like Havamal (“the sayings of the High One”) which is basically a list of advice for ethical and sensible living.


#4

sweet. i just ordered An Introduction to Germanic Tradition by Thorsson and the Poetic Edda. thanks Dan. :slight_smile:


#5

http://www.runestone.org/ Asatru Folk Assembly,
I believe they are the largest and most credible Germanic group in America. They have quite a bit of good info on there site as well. ;D


#6

maybe we can talk about that im german


#7

mein deutsch ist nicht so gut, aber naturlich kann ich es probeiren :).


#8

thanks for the link, ulverston.

i was just about to say something about the agricultural aspects of asatru/heathenry and and also what seems to me like remnants of older animistc beliefs, but instead i read through the druidry thread and wow, there is a heck of a lot of food for thought there. i really need to start reading through the other threads before i post new ones :-[.


#9

I have a good friend who is into rewilding and has gotten a lot out of Raven Kaldera’s writings. He says Kaldera’s focus is more on the pre-agricultural germanic spirits.


#10

thanks


#11

I’ve checked out Raven Kaldera’s work as well and have found that I connect much more with it through my own exploration of animism. Her work seems to reflect the remnants of the old pre-agricultural european animism. A lot of focus on nature spirits, wights, jotuns, and wild places and beings. Very cool and very applicable to any landscape.


#12

That sounds nice - pre agricultural animism - way to go. One has to be a bit careful about german prehistoric beliefs though. Sadly the NAZIs did not only revive a lot of these beliefs (that may be why a german grandmother may have talked about Wodan), but they also used a lot of this for their propaganda and twisted things a bit on the way and a lot of that seeped into common culture. So I would try to focus on works that are based on pre 20th century primary sources. Also sadly a lot of the things got into the threadmill of New Age Esoterics who try to make money from it by giving rune horoscopes and such. That is a benefit of native americans - they still have a more active line to the past, while in Central Europe the origins are mostly lost and the connection has been severed in many parts.


#13

hi, Aurora. Thanks for your response.
it’s been a while since I’ve posted this topic and in the meantime I’ve done a good amount of research and made some pretty (in my opinion) neat insights. i have found, as you said, that there seems to be more disinformation out there than anything “authentic”. needless to say, there’s a lot of uneasiness around the topic, mostly due to the race oriented misappropriation. on top of that, all of the people who’ve delved into this reclaiming of european ancestral heritage came from a purely civilized approach, meaning that they’ve approached reconstructing the old beliefs and traditions unknowingly with civilized cultural values and so i’ve run accross some stuff that is so obviously misinterpreted that you can immediately throw it out along with all the fluffy new age mumbo jumbo. of course, this a problem that many people have encountered when trying to reclaim their indigenous heritage. as we know, cultural misappropriation is a hugely important topic in rewilding.
BUT, i have found some incredibly interesting and solid work by a number of authors who seem to have mostly approached this topic without (or at least with very little) preconceived notions. since no one has really approached the work of reclaiming european indiginousity from a rewilding perspective there really isn’t any work you can rely on %100, and so there’s a good amount of sleuthing involved.
all in all, there’s A LOT I want to address here in more depth when i have more time (though i’m considering creating a blog so i won’t clutter this forum), and i’m confident that we can rewild these old ways.

and as a side note, i’m sure that my grandparents were not mislead by any kind of Nazi propaganda. though both my great grandfathers fought for the germans in WW2, they were both enlisted against their will at the end of the war, and their families contributed to the resistance back home by giving jewish families and refugees safe haven in their chicken coups and cellars. my great grandmother, being a single mother, smuggled Jewish families through the forest at night while leaving her children at home unattended.


#14

Yes - it is important but especially in such long lost heritages it is also really difficult. I am very sad, that the European prehistoric or early historic culture has been rather thoroughly lost or re-interpreted. And in fact it is also the original culture of many US people who also descend from European ancestors.

BUT, i have found some incredibly interesting and solid work [...] all in all, there's A LOT I want to address here in more depth when i have more time (though i'm considering creating a blog so i won't clutter this forum), and i'm confident that we can rewild these old ways.
I'd be really interested in this (beeing from Germany myself)
and as a side note, i'm sure that my grandparents were not mislead by any kind of Nazi propaganda.
I didn't really think so. Just that during that time, people where in general encouraged to pick up old beliefs while before and after, Christianity dominated heavily. Especially in 10th to 19th century Germany, it was simply not really acceptable to not be christian or jewish or maybe even muslim, but anything else was a rare exception. Probably lead to many witch hunts starting after the end of the medieval age in the 16th century... There are still some nice interesting references to ancient things though. e.g.: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=825942553983229569#

So I guess a lot of the ancient culture of Germany is also Celtic, especially in the South, the home of Hallstadt which gave the name to a part of the Celtic culture in archaeology


#15

Interesting.

I’m not familiar with Kaldera, but sounds very interesting, thanks for the heads up.

I do really like some of Thorsson’s work, esp soul as a psychosomatic complex within a germanic/european context.

Very much agree with whoever advised caution, esp for 20th century material. Though, I would also add caution for most of the “Viking Age” material as well.

Personally, I think that this is the same as every other aspect of rewilding: reading is great, but it’s no substitute for hands on experience.


#16

ok, so i’m going to assume a basic knowledge of northern cosmology, and i’m actually going to start in the middle of the story, at the events leading up to rangarok.

ultimately at the final battle, you have four major worlds of beings colliding:

-the jotnar, or etins, giants who are the primal spirits of wilderness and untamed nature.

-the aesir, who were originally pastoral gods, but now representing the surviving northern culture in it’s currant manifestation.

-the vanir, who are agricultural gods.

-hel, the world of our deceased ancestors.

from my understanding, the aesir split from the jotnar when they killed the primordial giant ymir. they formed the worlds from his remains. not being agricultural gods, the aesir can be seen as a mixture of wild hunter gatherer and pastoral society, their ultimate progenitor being the cosmic bovine audhulma, and the fact that horses play such an important roll in the pre-vanic society. the tribe of the aesir is on neutral terms with the giants, as almost half of their members have giant blood, thor himself being 3/4 jotun. odin himself seeks much of his wisdom from his old giant uncle mimir who he sacrificed an eye to for the gift of omniscience.

then, after the worlds are created, a new tribe of beings enters the cosmology, the agricultural vanir. the aesir of course war against these new peoples and after a long and bloody war, they are forced to make peace. one of the conditions of this truce is the exchange of hostages. the vanir send over their gods of fertility, njord and nerthus and their twin children freya and freyr who replace the original earth goddess jord and encroaching on the roll of her daughter (and odins wife) frigg as the divine feminine figure.

in exchange for this the aesir send over their most trusted chieftan honir with the old jotun giant mimir. when the vanir find out where honir gets his insightful advice from, they chop off mimirs head and send it back to odin, who revives it and continues to seek advice from it.

now odin is in a tricky position. he understands that he has made an uneasy truce with the agricultural gods and that they are now in his own tribe as well, which makes them as much family as the giants are. but adopting the agricultural powers into his own tribe means the subjugation and slow destruction of the giants. even hel is quickly filling up with all the angry dead who suffered from the cruelty of agriculture. what can he do but prepare for the destruction of the worlds and except his fate. after all, his main responsibility is to preserve and protect the northern cosmology and if he sides with the jotnar, the aesir will surely be overrun by the vanir. so he bides his time and takes measures to ensure the survival of the old ways to the best of his abilities.

unfortunately, this means he needs to keep the dangerous jotun powers inside his own ranks subdued until the final clash of ragnarok. for instance, his dear trickster jotun blood brother and fellow aesir (i think the spelling is actually “as”, since it’s singular…?), loki, has 3 children, all with the growing potential of incredible destructive power. one is the giant serpent jormungandr who odin throws down to the outskirts of the world, where he grows so large that he encircles midgard (the world of men) to the point where he bites his own tail (anyone see the intense mythic imagery here?). the next is a giant girl named hel, half of her being withered and decaying as a corpse, half of her beautiful and lively. odin places her as keeper of the spirit world, a decision that seriously effects the outcome of the ragnarok later on. the last is a wolf cub named fenrir, who is seemingly powerless and who odins son tyr takes under his wing.

but the cub grows far to large and wild to keep, so odin decides he needs to bind him so he won’t go AWOL. this proves hard to do, so eventually the aesir corner the wolf and come up with series of chains that wolf keeps on breaking. eventually they come up with the ribbon which was named gleipnir (the “open one”) that was literally made out of things that don’t exist, things like the nerves of a bear, or the sound of cats foot steps, or the breath of a fish. in this way, since they aren’t “real” and yet exist as concepts, they are literally unbreakable in a physical sense. the aesir tell the wolf that if he breaks this last and clearly feeble fetter that he will have rightly won his freedom. the wolf, sensing treachery, asks for someone to place an arm in his mouth so that if the fetters hold, that he will be able to bite off the arm in revenge. no one dares to do this but tyr, the one who raised the wild jotun as a pup and the one who he most trusts. the wolf ends up taking his arm. for me, this mythical imagery is particularly applicable to rewilding and civilization.

now that loki’s children have all been bound up or cast out, loki of course seeks rightful revenge, and we should remember that he does not have the foresight that odin has of ragnarok. odin had a son who was so flawless and beautiful that he was named baldr, the “shining one”. baldr had a dream in which he was killed and so his mother frigg went about getting pledges from all the beings of the nine worlds that they would not harm her son. all beings except a young shoot of mistletoe who frigg thought too be to young to make any strong vows. loki learned of this and, finding the mistletoe, tricked bladr’s blind brother hodr into killing him with it.

hodr was then killed and loki fled but was later caught (as a salmon in his own net) and bound to rocks with the intestines of his son narfi. a snake is placed over him that drips venom but his wife sygin collects the venom with a shell and when it is full she dumps out the venom, a few drops land from the snake onto loki. his writhing when this happens is felt by us as earth quakes.

eventually all of loki’s children revolt. loki frees himself somehow and goes to the realm of his daughter, hel, and rallies the angry spirits of the ancestors against the aesir and vanir, all of this amid intense ecological upheaval. the giants come out too and manage to organize themselves into an army strong enough to take down asgard, the home of the gods. fenris gets loose from his fetters and ends up devouring odin. all the gods are killed except a few. thors sons magni and modi survive and the brothers hodr and baldr come back from hel and reside in their fathers house. they find odins runes and thors hammer in the ruins of the battle.

but of course odin had been waiting and preparing for this all the time, and when he heard the giants approaching, he took two of human kind (male and female) and placed them deep in a forest where they wouldn’t be harmed so that they would live into the new age.

*and i’d like to add that in both of the most important sources of northern lore (both the prose edda and the earlier poetic edda) it is emphasized that after ragnarok, “fields unsown grow ripened fruit” and that “self sown acres of crops will then grow”. if that doesn’t hint toward a future without agriculture, i don’t know what does ;D.

aaand i 'd like to mention the parallels between the relationship between the pastoral proto indo-europeans of the steppes and the hunter gatherers or the ural mountains and how the jotnar and aesir reflect that relationship aaaand how the vanir might represent the agricultural people of europe that the proto indo-europeans later clashed with and then slowly mingled with until they formed the cultures of the later indo-europeans. i don’t think i need to point out the similarities between the final days of the aesir, ragnarok and our modern times.

for me these myths make a huge “click” in my mind, even on a daily basis. basically, this all boils down to a truce that my ancestors (and odin?) had to make with the agriculturalists in order to keep at least the vital parts of the wisdom of their traditions alive, eventually into modern times amidst the chaos of civilization and the destruction of the planet.

i apologize for my terrible grammar.


#17

Wow - that is quite a summary :slight_smile: - Some things sounds a bit far fetched, but overall, it really seems like the nordic mythology holds the same kind of hints to the “agricultural revolution” as the bible does.
The post-ragnarök scenario is interesting indeed. It has a lot in common with christian genesis-paradise actually (two humans in a forest with edibles growing by themselves). Just here it is at the end of the mythology not at the beginning, though in a way it is also the beginning.

Ancient mythology has a lot of circular times, that is something one has to accept, I guess. It always seems like the storytellers did not have a linear time concept, so that what is in the future is also in the past and vice versa.

From that perspective it is also interesting to note, that many mythologies seem to have similar elements, just at different ends of the “timeline”.

I read an interesting book once about mythology. It was also very convincing in terms of the apocalyptic visions shared in many mythologies around the globe. The basis of it is, that a comet struck Earth at around 10.000 bc. Many stories of apocalypse, ragnarök, the rapture but also of creation, genesis do fit into the events that one would expect from the aftermath of this (fire from the sky, darkness, colored rain, crops dying, tsunami, light coming back, plants coming back, animals coming back,…).
Its quite interesting, esp as they have found geologic evidence for such an impact recently.

It kind of makes me wonder if that event actually caused some people to become mad from PTSD and founded the kind of destructive culture we see.

Anyways - I am straying OT. :wink: - While nordic mythology is not exactly german mythology, I think they probably share a lot and I like your summary. :slight_smile:


#18

most of what we know about germanic mythology (the term “germanic” refers to all the peoples who speak a germanic language, norse, german, dutch, all those guys) only survived in the scandinavian places, or at least the meat of it. we don’t actually have nearly any real myths from continental germany, just folk stories (thanks to the brothers grimm), place names, and vague inscriptions from romanized germany witch only mention certain deities and so only point towards their functions and all that. the actual myths we have now come from the farthest reaches of the germanic peoples in the north, like iceland, and even then, those scholars were christians, not heathens, and were only piecing together the fragments that had survived where they lived. i mean, one of the most famous of these scholars, Snorri by name, had a theory that the myths were really about the descendants of troy that settled in europe ::)! but the basic skeleton of the myths was evidently common all over europe, so the peoples of southern germany would have had the same basic mythic imagery as the peoples of iceland, give or take a few names for certain deities and a few cults, like northern odhin equates to wotan of continental germany (although the name wotan goes waaaaaay farther back than the more recent “odin”).

and there is always the danger of certain aspects of the lore being reinterpreted to accommodate the beliefs of the scholars who recorded it. even what we know about the old beliefs of the continental germans comes from roman historians (like tacitus), who blatantly romanized what they recorded. and it’s interesting that tacitus had the same “noble savage” approach to these people as modern civilized historians have had towards indigenous peoples.

but, even with all these obstacles, we’ve been able to work out the basic framework of these myths, with a few chunks of meat here and there. we know for example that the idea of ragnarok and the two female and male survivors and progenators of humans were an old and universal concept of pre christian germanic beliefs.

but what you said about most ancient cultures having a circular concept of time, i think, is actually a plus. i mean, it keeps us connected to the cyclical nature of things rather than having this false concept of “progress” that we get with linear time. cyclical time basically keeps things returning to where they came from, with respect to where they came from, rather than developing the linear concept of manifest destiny that cultures who operate in linear time seem to develop.

but the beginning of the mythology does actually have things growing by themselves.
infact, the world tree yggdrasil, the central supporting structure of the cosmos, grew by itself with roots that reach where “no man knows”. as things evolved (notice i shy from using the term “progressed” ;)), yggdrasil (which means “odins horse”) seems to have simply grown of it’s own accord with the development of the worlds. the whole germanic concept of time is also connected to this via the norns who also have a past beyond time, who nourish the tree with the waters (and i think some sources say mud) from the well urd.

originally, all life came from a meeting of hot and cold, fire and ice. these things all “grew” of their own volition, without the gods. the gods never created the universe, but were produced by it, and only created the worlds of certain beings. and as i pointed out in my previous post, the gods are cultural gods, not only of humans, but of all the peoples (other than humans as well!) in the nine worlds they created. the vanic gods are foreign (and this isn’t just my interpretation) cultural gods of their own right, and literally imposed their culture of agriculture on the nine worlds aaand it’s only after this that odin learns of ragnarok and imbalanced strife develops within the tribe of the aesir and throughout the different worlds.

but the fun of all of this lies within it’s interpretation. i’m not saying my interpretation is universally the “right” one. and of course i’m approaching all this with the intent of “rewilding” it, which means that my interpretation is totally influenced by my intent. as joseph campbell liked to say, all good myths have infinite layers of interpretation but also a timeless truth.


#19

I just wanted to say that my opinions on this whole topic have changed radically, too radically to address here. For the record, these ideas do not represent my thoughts as they are now. It’s been a while since I posted this and I kind of regret posting it now. Just goes to show how all ideas are subject to evolve and change. Ho-hum. :-[


#20

Maybe you could enlighten us just a little bit? :smiley: :smiley: :smiley: