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mardi, 25 janvier 2011

Fire in Northern Mythology


Fire in Northern mythology


There are two primal forces in Nordic myths, two forces that are known under the names, “fire” and “ice”. Before there was anything, there was Ginungagap, a “yawning gap”. In the south of it, fire ‘resided’ and in the north, ice. When these two came together, everything started. So, fire is the primal force, one side of the Divine. Some symbology!

It is not strange that fire keeps coming back in the symbology of Nordic mythology. What may be strange is that fire is much better represented than ice, but this is not the subject of this article.

Later in the creation myth, the triple divinity Odin, Hænir (sometimes Hoenir, or Hnir) and Lodur give capacities and make man. “Spirit gave Odin, “óður” gave Hoenir, “lá” gave Lodur and the form of gods”. This is how Rydberg translates Völuspa 18. More often you will read something like “Soul gave Othin, sense gave Hnir, Heat gave Lothur and goodly hue”. (Ari Odhinnsen) In the Prose Edda it is Odin, Vili and Vé who are the givers of these things.


Lodur is often said to be Loki. In the preface to the Reginsmal Odin, Hænir and Loki are named together, so this is not strange. Loki is the most famous of ‘fire Gods’ from the Northern pantheon. The name Loki has been explained in different ways of which two are most interesting in our story. “Logi” supposedly means “flame” and the terms “liuhan” (Gothic) and “lecht” (Anglo-Saxon) are linked to the English word “light”, but also to the term “flame”. The same goes for the term “Lód”.

Fiery triplicity

When you think of it, there are three Gods connected to the concept of fire and also connected to eachother: Heimdallr, Balder and Loki. Heimdallr is the “white As”, the watchman on the Bifrost bridge and is therefor the middleman between the world of men and the world of the Gods. Heimdallr is not only the connecting smoke-pillar representing the Irminsul in the fire ritual, but also unchanging fire. He is the metaphysic flame, beyond time and space. In this regard Heimdallr can be equated with Brahman of the Hindus.

The second name that I mentioned is that of Balder. Balder is Heimdallr, but on another plane. We can place Heimdallr on the godly level, Balder on the human level and Loki on the underwordly level (or Asgard, Midgard and Utgard). Balder is the incarnated fire, the fire in ‘our world’ so to say. He is the warmth of our heart, the sun, the ancestral hearth-fire. To use another Hindu term, Balder may be seen as Atman.

I have already said a few things about Loki, but you can imagine that in regard of the previous, Loki is the destructive, incinerating, consuming fire. Loki is longing and desire.

When I draw this line further, I can say that Balder and Loki are dual aspects of Heimdallr, but on other levels.


Lightning is often connected to fire and when I say lightning, I say Thor. Lightning is sparks of fire when Thor’s hammer hits something. The hammer makes an interesting connection, since with his Mjölnir, Thor kills giants (ice-giants!), but the Mjölnir is also connected with right (the judge’s hammer), consecration (for example of marriages) and initiations (a ‘higher’ form of consecration).


To bring the above together, we get the following picture. Loki, the lower self, turns against the higher self (Balder), causing Ragnarök. During this Ragnarök, Thor kills the Midgard-snake (‘manifestation’), Heimdallr (our divine spark) fights Loki and all this in order to have our higher self ‘become divine’ (in other words: to develop and realise our Balder to become Heimdallr).

An interesting point that does not fit completely in the above is that Surtr, the leader of the fire-giants who raise up to fight the Aesir, also seems to be the cause of the sparks coming from Muspelheimr and thus creation. During Ragnarök Surtr destroys the Bifrost-bridge (Heimdallr’s ‘domain’), kills Freyr and sets the world to flames. Whereas Heimdallr seems to be some ‘overhuman’ fire-aspect, Surtr is more of an ‘underhuman’ aspect. Both larger than our petty selves, but completely opposital. In this regard Surtr maybe represents the outside forces that try to disconnect us from our divine origin. Whatever we may call “evil” maybe. Surtr seems to have always been there and whereas Loki, Balder and Heimdallr are ‘part of us’, Surtr is not.

Of course there are more figures that can be connected to fire, but here I present a certain aspect that may shed light on some of the symbolism in Northern mythology.

lundi, 24 janvier 2011

Kinship, gift-exchange, honour and feud in Medieval Frisia and Iceland

Ancient Icelandic Manuscript depicting Odin
Kinship, gift-exchange, honour and feud in Medieval Frisia and Iceland

Ex.: http://www.gangleri.nl/

In this article I want to say a thing or two about a few interrelated ‘processes’ in the Medieval Germanic society. How groups form and how they are maintained and how ‘mechanisms’ such as honour and feudwork. These at first sight varied subjects will prove to be interwoven.
For this article I have used a few books that you will find listed at the bottom. All authors more or less treat parts of the whole, but from different perspectives and speaking about different societies. It seems as if all of these kinds of works owe a great deal to Willam Miller’s Bloodtaking and Peacemaking which is one of the books that I used. Miller is mostly concerned with Medieval Iceland. Another author I consulted is Jos Bazelmans who dived deeply into the Beowulf story and therefor Anglo-Saxon culture. Another Dutch author, Arnoud-Jan Bijsterveld wrote a book about gift-giving mostly concerning people and the Church in the late-medieval Netherlands, a period in which little empires started to arise and this lord-civilian bond is also very present in Bijsterveld’s book. Further I used two articles and last but not least, the inspiration to start this little investigation came from Han Nijdam’s excellent Lichaam, Eer en Recht which is about Medieval Frisian society, with many references to Medieval Iceland.

The individual

Nowdays we speak of an individualistic society, people are atoms in a society and hardly connected to anybody. This was different in times past. In fact, it is not entirely true nowadays either. When you think of who a person is, you think how that person relates to other people to ‘define’ that person. Han Nijdam says: “a person [is] dividable because it is defined in terms of the relationships that he and other members of the society maintains” (Nijdam 50). He continues with a simple example refering to a short film in Sesame Street in which a boy is the newspaper boy for one person, the grandchild of the next and the little brother of the third. The boy is ‘defined’ by the people he relates to. Or the other way around, who he is, depends on the person who describes him.

“If we could abstract a person’s movements and graph them into a network, we would find that the greatest predictor of the identity of the various households in which he or she gained entry, either as visitor or lodger, would be the presence of kin within that household.” William Miller writes (Miller 139), meaning that the visitor would define the persons in the houses he visits by looking at the other people present. Since it still works that way, one can hardly speak of an individual.

So if an individual is defined by his or her surroundings, what are these surroundings? “Family”, “kin”, “sib” , “tribe” perhaps? Just as with an individual, these terms are not so easy to describe, because they too are dependent on the situation. “The oldest Germanic societies that can be reconstructed using historical sources possessed, according to the most widely held opinion, a relatively stable order that was based on the natural principle of blood-relationship. Relationships of descent, whether fictional or not, gave each person a place within the tribal collective.” (Bazelmans 13) On a smaller scale Miller does not only speak of “regional variation[s] in householding practices” (Miller 113), but he continues with saying “that the precise sense of household might change depending on the context in which it is invoked. A household unit as identified for recruitment to the feud is not the same as the household unit used to determine whether someone qualifies for service on a jury or is required to attach himself to a chieftain for the purposes of Thing attendence.” (Miller 114). “Ego-focused kin groupings of shifting composition [...] were quite important in Iceland in a multitude of social and legal settings, even if these groupings were variously constituted depending on a number of personal, social, and other contextual factors and did not include all eligible members. Kinship mattered, even if not all people related to a person felt obliged to assist him or her.” (Miller 140) Or in the words of Jos Bazelmans: “The tribe consisted of a large number of relatively autonomous elements. These were not descent groups in the sense of lineages or clans, but name-bearing groups of disparate size which recruited their members on the basis of kinship and residence in the same geographical area. Each person was not only a member of such corporate, regional groups, but also of an open network of persons related on the father’s or the mother’s side along with dependents (the kindred). Such networks played an important rold especially in the resolution of feuds.” (Bazelmans 3)

“The extend of the kindred, that is, how genealogically distant two people can be and still count each other kin, is formally set in some provisions in the laws at fourth cousins.” (Miller 145) (addition: a fourth cousin is a person of my own generation with whom I share great-great-great-grandparents, in our reckoning that is an 8th grade kinship! Some texts speak of seventh cousins!!)

“Kinship mattered”. But what is a person’s kin? The people he is related to by blood of course, but both in the old and in the current view of things, blood-relations go in two directions, the father’s and the mother’s side. “Bilateralism, the tracing of relationship through links of both sexes, meant that not all a person’s relatives were related to each other. [...] An important feature of bilateral kinship reckoning is that your kin will not entirely coincide with your cousin’s kin; or, from another perspective, you are by virtue of kinship eligible for membership in several different kin groups with different overlap. [...] The kin group, in other words, was not a closed corporation of determinate membership; it did not constitude itself automatically. It always fell to someone to recruit his of her kin for the particular enterprise at hand.” (Miller 155)

You have family on both your father’s and your mother’s side, but the uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces of either side are probably not related to eachother, their kin is different from yours. Therefor the situation exists in which an uncle of both your father’s and mother’s side are called upon, but when one of these uncles invites (or whatever) his kin, he will most likely not ask your other uncle. With that in mind you can only conclude that kinship differs in different situations.

A similar situation goes for “households”, a group of people living in the same house or on the same piece of land under guard of a “householder”. A household is something quite different from kin, since aunts and nieces do not often live in your house and the servants that do, are usually not related by blood. A household surely is a unit of society to take a look at, especially because often it is said that in governmentless society such as in Medieval times there first were separate households:
“Inevitably the attempt was made to add early Iceland to the number of regions that socialized people in nuclear families within simple households. As we shall see, what the sources tell us about the shape of Icelandic householding must compel a different conclusion. The sources, both sagas and laws, are not without their own special problems in this particular topic. For one thing, the laws take an explicit interest in households and even define what constitudes a household unit. But the “juridical” household does not seem to correspond with what archeological evidence there is, nor with saga descriptions of how the main economic unit, the farm, was populated and managed. Outside passages in the laws directly dealing with the legal household, information on householding must be culled from passing comments in the laws and sagas and inferred from contexts devoted explicitly to other matters. The fact that most of our information is acquired incidentally is in its way quite reassuring. Even the most committed member of the Icelandic school of saga scholarschip would have a hard time giving any reason as to why a thirteenth-century saga writer would want to situate his characters in households that had no basis in reality.” (Miller 112/3)

“While the laws formally imposed kinship out to fourth cousins, kinship in the practical or world depended on more than just biological or affinal connections. Just who would be counted kin was clearly subject to much situational variation and was quite context-specific. A second, even a third cousin with whom one shared common interests and with whom one consequently acted or consulted would be counted kin, while a first cousin with whom one was less involved might cease, for practical purposes, to be counted kin at all. Nor might the people with whom one claimed kinship for the purpose of invitations to feasts and weddings be the same people one counted as kin when it came time to assist in a lawsuit or help pay compensation for their wrongdoings.” (Miller 156) Miller calls this “recruitable kin” (Miller 156) and of course the situation is not different nowadays. I suppose the “common interest” could also be with a non-kin version but a friend.

Earlier we saw Jos Bazelmans speaking of “fictional relationships of descent”. This can refer to the famous, but in the used books little described subject of blood-brothership. “Blood-brothership was a formalized relation undertaken between two or more men in which each vowed to avenge the death of the other, just as if he were his own brother.” (Miller 173) And thus a new member of the kin was a fact.

What might sound strange in our logic is that “[i]n various places in the law a sister’s husband is considered an especially close relation. “He is disqualified for interest from sitting on juries and from judging his affine’s cases just as if he were a blood relative.” (Miller 162) This does not count for a wife’s brother!

“People looked to kin and affines for aid in law and life. They avenged each other’s wrongs; they invited each other to weddings and funerals; they gave each other gifts. They stood surety for each other hired on their poorer cousins as servants.” (Miller 178) This had the result that “[o]ne of the chief activities kin undertook with eachother was mutual consultation. Since the target of a vengeance killing might not be the wrongdoer himself, but one of his kin, there was every reason why kin would want to have some say in actions for which others might hold them to account. [...] Uncounseled deeds were considered reckless deeds.” (Miller 164)

The consulting of kin is very different from how things go today. When I do something to somebody, that somebody in most cases will not know my family and if (s)he does,

vendredi, 21 janvier 2011

Frans Eduard Farwerck


Frans Eduard Farwerck

by Roy

Ex: http:://www.new-antaios.net/

Some 8 years ago I met my girl­friend. We were both involved in a short-lived Dutch ‘spir­i­tual mag­a­zine’ that liked to treat con­tro­ver­sial sub­jects. Through the edi­tor of the mag­a­zine my girl­friend got acquinted with a Flem­ish ‘Asatru’ group and later so did I. At the time my inter­est still mainly laid at Renais­sance eso­teri­cism, Medieval magic, etc. This was already a bit closer to home, since before I had an inter­est in more exotic, East­ern sub­jects. In any case, meet­ing Asatru excelled my shift towards even more domes­tic inter­ests, the old reli­gion of North­ern Europe. While becom­ing active in the group I ini­tially sticked to my inter­ests, but I heard a lot of inter­est­ing new paths.

In the Nether­lands and Flan­ders we have a chain of fairly large anti­quar­ian book­shops called “De Slegte” and at the time I fre­quently vis­ited our local store. Nowa­days I specif­i­cally hunt for titles instead of just see­ing what I run into. Con­trary to my hab­bits of the time, I took a look through the folklore/faery tales sec­tion and my eye fell on the back of an enor­mous, red book. I took it from the shelf, paged through it and I realised that this had to a be title often used by the founder of the Asatru group. Sim­i­lar ideas, sim­i­lar sub­jects. The back said: Noordeu­ropese Mys­ter­iën. It was not cheap, but I bought it, read it and was blown away.

Since that time, this book has become a true cult-work among Dutch speak­ing hea­thens. The book has been out of print since 1978, but as there is demand for it, the price is pushed upwards. It has not yet become another Alt­ger­man­is­che Reli­gion­s­geschichte (Jan de Vries, 1956 and 1974, this two vol­ume work is usu­ally sold for sev­eral hun­dreds euros), but you do not just visit a (web)shop and buy it. Noordeu­ropese Mys­ter­iën is not impos­si­ble to find and it does not even have to be really expen­sive, but you have to look around not to pay an absurd price for it, since espe­cially after the inter­net cat­a­logues of anti­quar­ian book­shops, some peo­ple fig­ured out what they can ask for the title.

Con­trary to Alt­ger­man­is­che Reli­gion­s­geschichte, Noordeu­ropese Mys­ter­iën is writ­ten in Dutch (De Vries’ book is in Ger­man), nar­row­ing its audi­ence. This and the fact that is no longer in print, caused the fact that the book is unknown and over­looked in the non-Dutchspeaking world, espe­cially in the English-speaking world. I hope that this small arti­cle might change that. Of course, this might put even more pres­sure on the price, but per­haps a for­eign pub­lisher gets the idea of repub­lish­ing or even trans­lat­ing it. But at least, peo­ple who ‘should’ know the book, might now hear of it.

The book I am talk­ing about has the full title Noordeu­ropese Mys­ter­iën en hun sporen tot heden. This is trans­lated as ‘Northern-European mys­ter­ies and their traces to the present’. We know about the mys­tery cults of the medit­er­anean area, Greece, Egypt, etc.; we know about the mys­tery reli­gions of the near and far east, but mys­ter­ies in North­ern Europe? Was ancient North­ern Europe not inhab­ited by stu­pid plun­der­ing bar­bar­ians? Some schol­ars even doubt our ances­tors had a reli­gion to start with, let along a mys­tery cult. This book shows us oth­er­wise and shows more, much much more.

Noordeu­ropese Mys­ter­iën is the result of a life­long inves­ti­ga­tion and the result of a respect­full list of pub­li­ca­tions of the Dutch­man Frans Eduard Far­w­erck who lived from 1889 to 1978. Far­w­erck was a suc­ces­full trader of car­pets and joined Freema­sonry in 1918. It took a while before his first pub­li­ca­tion saw the light of day, in 1927 he pub­lished a book about the world’s mys­tery reli­gions through a reg­u­lar pub­lisher, but under the obvi­ously Masonic pseu­do­nym B.J. van der Zuylen (“Zuylen” is an old way of writ­ing “zuilen”, “pil­lars” and the ini­tials of course refer to Boas an Jachin). This impres­sive 565 paged book gives but lit­tle room to Ger­manic and Celtic mys­ter­ies, but they are already present. Farwerck’s next book is a truly Masonic one about the Hiram myth, pub­lished by “the lodge”. Then the Ger­mans raised to power, Far­w­erck joined the NSB (“nationaal-socialistische beweg­ing”, the Dutch national social­ist party) and he was expelled from “the lodge” in 1934 after a 16 year car­reer in which he reached the absolute high­est rank in his order.

With his national social­ist friends he founded a pub­lish­ing com­pany called “Der Vaderen Erfdeel” (losely trans­lated with “fathers’ her­itage”) through which in 1938 he pub­lished his clas­sic work Lev­end Verleden set­ting the tone for his later writ­ings. Far­w­erck trav­elled exten­sively, mak­ing count­less pho­tos, inves­ti­gat­ing local myths, sto­ries and folk­lore and ‘liv­ing past’ is a col­lec­tion of mostly build­ing and frontage sym­bol­ism, the ori­gins of which he traces back to the prechris­t­ian past. Then a few years of silence follow.

Again as Van der Zuylen in 1953 Far­w­erck pub­lishes Noord-Europese Mys­ter­iën en Inwi­jdin­gen in de Oud­heid (‘Northern-European Mys­ter­ies and Ini­ti­a­tions in ancient times’), a rough ver­sion of his much later Noordeu­ropese Mys­ter­iën. In the same year Far­w­erck pub­lished a book about that mys­te­ri­ous object that is nowa­days called the “Frank’s cas­ket” and after that the extremely inter­est­ing and (almost) impos­si­ble to find Noord-Europa, een der bron­nen van de Maçonieke sym­bol­iek (‘North­ern Europe, one of the sources of Masonic sym­bol­ism’ 1955). This lit­tle book con­tains infor­ma­tion that Far­w­erck appar­ently did not want/dare to pub­lish in his pub­lic pub­li­ca­tion, but roughly it rep­re­sents the next step in his inves­ti­ga­tions that would lead to Noordeu­ropese Mys­ter­iën.

This time under his own name, Far­w­erck again pub­lishes about the mys­tery reli­gions in gen­eral in 1960 and 1 year later fol­lows the final result, the man’s mag­num opus. It is sold out in no-time, but has but one reprint, since Farwerck’s war-past sud­denly became an obsta­cle. The sec­ond print­ing did not sell too well either.

Unfor­tu­nately the war past is a big issue in these parts. Many authors with inter­est in the pagan past of North­ern Europe thought that join­ing the national social­ists could be good for their cause and after the dis­as­ter of WWII they all remained with an inerad­i­ca­ble stain on their per­sons. Some even kept the ide­ol­ogy, oth­ers realised their mis­take, but the result remains that when some peo­ple started to raise ques­tions about cer­tain author’s past, they were banned. Their books were no longer printed or repub­lished, new authors who had no war-past what­so­ever can­not use these authors as their sources. The col­lec­tive shame for the actions of some of our peo­ple have made inves­ti­ga­tions in the sub­ject of the prechris­t­ian reli­gion of North­ern Europe vir­tu­ally impos­si­ble. Even the stan­dard works of Jan de Vries (1890–1964), no mat­ter how highly acclaimed by schol­ars, are no longer avail­ble. Iron­i­cally enough among schol­ars De Vries is pop­u­lar enough to give him some credit, so his Edda trans­la­tion can be found in most book­shops to this day and many authors cite him by lack of bet­ter sources. I do not expect a reprint, let alone a trans­la­tion of the Alt­ger­man­is­che Reli­gion­s­geschichte any time soon. The same goes for Farwerck’s superb work.


But enough about all that, let us talk a bit about the ideas in the book. Of course in a small arti­cle in which I want to give a biog­ra­phy and sum­merise the find­ings of half a decade of inves­ti­ga­tions, I can­not go into much detail. I hope to present you just enough to sparkle your inter­est in the sub­ject and/or inspire peo­ple to learn Dutch and/or do their own investigations.

Noord-Europese Mys­ter­iën

Far­w­erck starts with describ­ing “reli­gious and myth­i­cal con­cep­tions of the Ger­mans con­cern­ing rites of ini­ti­a­tion”. Death and the under­world, bur­ial prac­tices, life after death, imag­i­na­tions of the dead. This is all infor­ma­tion you can also find else­where, but it of course sets the tone, since the next part is about can­di­dates for the Ger­manic God of ini­ti­a­tion. Is it Wodan, is it Balder, is it Donar? Most exten­sively treated is Wodan/Odin. His con­nec­tion to the dead (con­form Mer­cury), his wolves, the eight-legged horse, hang­ings, offer­ing rit­u­als, the Ein­her­jar, all ele­ments that, put in the right per­spec­tive, could sug­gest Wodan has some­thing to do with ini­ti­a­tions. An entire chap­ter is ded­i­cated to the wild hunt(er) that goes around the nightly sky in the Yule-period, Wodan with his legion of the dead. Far­w­erck quotes from folk­lore and local myths to show that the idea of the Wild Hunt(er) can be found from France to Nor­way and from Slavic coun­tries to Ire­land. Wodan in con­nec­tion to fer­til­ity (and there­for again with the dead) is the sub­ject of the next chap­ter. After this Far­w­erck starts look­ing for infor­ma­tion about rites of ini­ti­a­tion, and we are not talk­ing about rites de pas­sage in which a boy becomes a man and a girl a woman. The first story that comes to mind is of course the story of Balder’s death and res­ur­rec­tion, the sec­ond Odin hang­ing down the world tree and learn­ing the runes or the hang­ing of king Vikarr by Starkadr, but first we go to another subject.


After the ground­break­ing work Kul­tische Gehe­im­bünde der Ger­ma­nen (‘cul­tic secret soci­eties of the Ger­mans’ 1934) the sub­ject of “Män­ner­bünde” (‘men bonds’) was ‘hip’ for a while. But… also Höfler became a mem­ber of the Ahnenerbe and the NSDAP so after WWII this was another sub­ject ‘not done’. Only recently schol­ars start to write about the sub­ject again. Even Eng­lish writ­ing schol­ars usu­ally use Höfler’s term “Män­ner­bünde”, so let us stick to that tra­di­tion. Män­ner­bünde, as the term sug­gests, are groups of men that stand with one leg out­side nor­mal soci­ety, they are secret groups. In the con­text of North­ern Euro­pean peo­ples we quickly think about some sort of elite war­rior groups such as the Ein­her­jar, the Uld­hed­nar and the Berz­erkr, but Far­w­erck sug­gests that many of the names that we think were tribes in the writ­ings of the Romans, actu­ally referred to such elite war­rior groups. The Harii, the Chat­tii, the Lan­go­b­ards, even the Vikings in the orig­i­nal mean­ing sup­pos­edly were such groups. Should the Män­ner­bünde have been mere war­rior groups, they would have not been as inter­est­ing as they are though.

When not at war, mem­bers of these groups had all kinds of spe­cial priv­iledges. The right of rep­ri­mand, the right to steal, they had cer­tain dances, fes­tiv­i­ties, dress­ing (such as ani­mal cloth­ing) and spe­cial roles in pub­lic cer­e­monies for fer­til­ity or sea­sonal feasts. Many things sug­gest that mem­bers of these groups ful­filled a spe­cial role in soci­ety, a role which even came with oblig­a­tions such as that of secrecy and sev­eral duties. Far­w­erck shows what he finds around these sub­jects and con­tin­ues to show that such groups have sur­vived much much longer than we may expect. They were cul­tic groups that sur­vived the com­ing of Chris­tian­ity by remod­el­ing to Chris­t­ian groups that we came to know as guilds. Besides such ‘reli­gious guilds’, there were of course the famous work­ers guilds of the masons, the tim­ber­men and the tan­ners, groups that have remark­able sim­i­lar­i­ties to the Män­ner­bünde of old.

Far­w­erck sums up a stag­ger­ing amount of folk­loris­tic hab­bits and other remains that are unmis­tak­enly con­nected to these groups. All kinds of saints seem merely Chris­tian­i­sa­tions of pagan deities and the tra­di­tions around them have but a thin layer of var­nish. Horn– and Mor­ris­dances, Mummer’s plays, sword dances, Schlem­laufen and Klaus­ja­gen, Far­w­erck lets a lot of these nice folk­loris­tic feasts pass the reader. It is amaz­ing how the steal­right or the right to rep­ri­mand are still rights of youth-groups as late as the early 20th cen­tury, groups that have some watered-down ele­ment of wear­ing ani­mal skin and cer­tain dances that have been per­formed in churches until the Ref­or­ma­tion. Of course much infor­ma­tion comes from Chris­t­ian sources try­ing to ban these pagan prac­tices, but this often did not work too well so they were tried to be Christianised.

Recon­struc­tion of ancient initiations

Chap­ter 10 is ded­i­cated to the sum­ming up of infor­ma­tion that Far­w­erck has been able to find to see if he can recon­struct the rites. He starts with the pos­si­ble places where the cer­e­monies would be held. Of course lakes, for­rests, hills, etc. were the sacred places for Ger­mans and Celts alike. There are many toponyms (place names) that sug­gest cer­tain cer­e­monies. Mur­der pits, wolf pits, devil’s hills even  “woensberg”en or places named “Woensel” (now part of the city of Eind­hoven) and “Woens­drecht” all clearly refer to Wodan and in the case of the mur­der pits, could there death-and-resurrection cer­e­monies have been held? There are also toponyms that seem to refer to (sacred) meals (cul­tic meals?), so called “troja burchten” (con­struc­tions or draw­ings in the form of a spi­ral) about which a lot is to say (Far­w­erck uses 24 pages). Then we have the sacred times of the sol­stices and equinoxes around which (folk)stories exist that sug­gest cul­tic rites vague shad­ows of which have been kept in folk­lore and recent fes­ti­vals. After this Far­w­erck comes to cloth­ing, sacred weapons, cer­tain songs and dances, hang­ings and spear-woundings, trav­els to the under­world and res­ur­rec­tions there­from, new names, the sacred potion (usu­ally some­thing made with honey) and old and less old ref­er­ences to broth­er­hoods of all sorts.

Far­w­erck con­tin­ues with guilds. Since they are fairly recent there is more infor­ma­tion avail­able about their struc­ture, hab­bits, legal sta­tus, etc. Not only workers-guilds are spo­ken about, but also for exam­ple shoot­ing guilds, a beloved sub­ject for peo­ple who want to find the traces back to a fur­ther past.

With “build­ing huts” and build­ing guilds we are a step closer to our own time, because you will prob­a­bly know that they are well rep­re­sented in the his­tory the Freema­sons give them­selves. Dif­fer­ent kinds of guilds have all kinds of secrets that are both prac­ti­cal, but also reli­gious. You can read all about it in the pop­u­lar his­to­ries of Freema­sonry, but Far­w­erck presents a nice overview and very inter­est­ing details. Now also fol­low more pho­tos that Far­w­erck took in churches with faces with a hand below their chin, sup­pos­edly a secret sign of mas­ter masons. Of course there are also the master-signs (some sort of sig­na­tures) that often remind of runes, but we are already talk­ing about the 11/12th cen­tury here. Quite some infor­ma­tion about these guilds seems to come directly from Masonic writ­ings, but of course, Masons says that these guilds are their pre­de­ces­sors. And then we get pho­tos of all kinds of strange orna­ments in churches with one-eyed fig­ures (Wodan?), mock­eries of the church, pic­tures of men in strange pos­tures and all kinds of sug­ges­tive scenes that seem too unchris­t­ian to be built into a church.


And there we have it, Far­w­erck spends the last 150 pages of his book show­ing that “Freema­sonry [is] one of the youngest descen­dants of the ancient men bonds”. Hav­ing been a high-ranking Mason him­self, he quotes all kinds of Masonic texts, rit­u­als, etc. (but I think he tells us noth­ing he should bet­ter not) and com­pares them to what we find in myths, sagas, pagan art or folk­lore. The form of the tem­ple, the place where the dif­fer­ent offi­ciants can be found, rit­u­al­is­tic sym­bol­isms such as the limp­ing or signs of recog­ni­tion, sym­bol­ism on the “tableau”, the three pil­lars, the large and the small lights, Masonic cloth­ing (Thor’s iron gloves and gir­dle), the con­se­crat­ing ham­mer and even the open­ing and clos­ing rites, they all seem to have North­ern Euro­pean ori­gins rather than Jew­ish or Egyptian.

There is a lot more to say, but here you have the red thread. In work­ing to his con­clu­sion, Far­w­erck sheds light on a great many ele­ments of folk­lore and (folk) sym­bol­ism, giv­ing new inter­pre­ta­tions of tales, sagas and texts that we know, cross ref­er­enc­ing dif­fer­ent myths and dif­fer­ent folk­tales and all together his book is a true gold­mine and a just rea­son to have grown into being a cult book. This is the kind of book that I hope to run into some time again, but I doubt I ever will. Besides all the works that I own of Dumézil, Eli­ade, Guénon or De Vries, I often first check Far­w­erck, then the rest. Espe­cially when I am look­ing for visu­als, I go to Far­w­erck, since his books are as much stuffed with pho­tos and draw­ings as they are with infor­ma­tion and until this day, he has col­lected an unprece­dented amount of visu­als of details and sym­bol­ism. These alone are a rea­son to get the book.

Even when you are not inter­ested in the North­ern Euro­pean his­tory of Freema­sonry (most peo­ple who buy this book are not), you will find enough infor­ma­tion in the uplighted parts that Far­w­erck needs to present his proof. Per­son­ally I admire the book too for being a non-Traditionalist, he presents a story that almost no Tra­di­tion­al­ist has ever told even though (s)he should have: the unbro­ken chain has been kept in the West though West­ern organ­i­sa­tions until this very day.

dimanche, 26 juillet 2009

Le Chêne de la Vehme




Le Chêne

de la Vehme


par Ulrich STEINMET


Entre les villes de Borken et de Dorsten, dans le vieux Land saxon de Hama, se trouve le village d'Erle, près de Raesfeld en Westphalie. Il y pousse un chêne très  ancien, qui mesure 14 mètres à la cir­conférence; ses branches s'élèvent à 15 mètres du sol.


Au printemps, malgré son très grand âge, ses feuilles réapparaissent, toutes vertes. Le vieil arbre doit être soutenu par des poutres qui le maintiennent de­bout et stable. Ce chêne a été planté sur le site d'un Assenkamp,  «un camp des A­ses». Les Ases sont la plus vieille fa­mil­le des dieux germaniques; elle a com­battu, avant de pacifier le monde, la fa­mil­le des Vanes, divinités symbolisant la fertilité du sol.


Retenons que le Chêne de la Sainte-Veh­me, avant sa christianisation toute su­per­­ficielle, était consacré à Wotan, le pè­re des dieux qui errait, monté sur son che­val Sleipnir, souvent gravé sur les pierres runiques pourvu de huit jambes; Wotan est également accompagné de deux loups, Freki et Geri, et de deux cor­beaux, Hugin et Munin, qui lui trans­met­tent la sagesse et lui rapportent tout ce qui se passe dans le monde des hom­mes. Les Indo-Européens ont tou­jours par­faitement perçu le caractère sacré des arbres; le Freistuhl, littérale­ment «siège de l'homme libre», en fait siège où s'assied le chef qui donne les di­rectives pour administrer le peuple et dit la justi­ce, est toujours situé au pied d'un grand et vieil arbre. Le Chêne de la Sainte-Veh­me, lui aussi, est le site d'une ancienne Gerichtstätte  (lieu de justice), où les li­bres communautés paysannes saxonnes venaient discuter et appliquer leurs lois.


Par un calcul approximatif, nous devi­nons que cet arbre, qui nous reste au­jourd'hui, devait déjà avoir été énorme au temps de Charlemagne. De nos jours, on estime qu'il doit environ avoir deux mille ans. C'est le seul arbre d'Alle­ma­gne qui reste debout et qui date d'avant le Christ. Le prédicateur chré­tien Boniface n'a sans doute jamais réussi à trouvé le Chêne de la Vehme: sinon, il l'aurait a­bat­tu lors de la chris­tianisation comme ont été abattus tous les arbres sacrés pro­pres aux cultes païens. Après la sou­mis­sion et la san­glante évangélisation des Sa­xons, Charlemagne n'a pas supprimé le Freistuhl  d'Erle mais l'a transformé en Tribunal de la Feme ou Vehme, c'est-à-dire en un des tribunaux institué par le monarque carolingien pour maintenir en état de soumission les Saxons et com­battre les païens et les hérétiques, au mo­yen de procédures secrètes, dont la lé­ga­lité était des plus discutables. De nom­breux nobles francs se sont installés, sur ordre de l'empereur, dans la région, dans le but d'empêcher toute restaura­tion de la religion et du droit des an­cê­tres. C'est la raison pour laquelle le Chê­ne d'Erle a été nommé Feme-Eiche,  Chê­ne de la Sainte-Vehme. Mais dans les proverbes de la région, on l'appelle le Ravenseiche,  le Chêne des Corbeaux.


Durant le Moyen Age, on a assisté à une revitalisation tacite du vieux droit ger­manique: les Westphaliens, Frisons et Saxons ont remis à l'honneur la libre ju­ridiction, propre de leur souche. Leur tribunaux étaient composés de Fri-gre­ven  (des «comtes libres»), choisis parmi les paysans libres, puis nommés par l'empereur. Ce personnel des tribunaux a fini par fusionner avec la magistrature officielle. Ceux qui n'étaient pas Fri-gre­ven  devaient se rendre à cheval au pa­lais de l'empereur pour recevoir confir­mation de leur nomination en tant que juges. Le libre banc (= tribunal) d'Erle pou­vait, lui, nommer d'office un Greve  et sept conseillers, de façon à ce que le tribunal puisse siéger au complet.


Pendant les XVième et XVième siècles, le pouvoir des nobles (de souche franque ou gallo-romaine) et du clergé est devenu tellement puissant que les Freistühle  fu­rent interdites. Mais pour parvenir à les interdire, nobles allochtones et clergé ont dû livrer aux libres autochtones une lon­gue lutte sanglante; au XIXième siècle en­core, les libres paysans de la ré­gion s'op­posèrent, par des émeutes et du tu­mul­te, aux lois imposées par l'arche­vê­que de Münster.


Témoin de l'esprit d'indépendance de la race saxonne, l'énorme plaque de pierre qui constituait le Freistuhl  proprement dit, a été déposée sur le pont de Dorsten et est devenu un monument vénéré par la population. En 1945, des soudards bri­tanniques l'ont fait basculé dans la ri­vière, au fond de laquelle elle se trouve toujours, en dépit de son importance his­torique et culturelle. L'arbre, lui, a ré­sis­té à tout. En 1928, il a fallu l'étayer de pou­tres de bois. Son tronc s'est scindé en quatre et a été renforcé par un anneau de fer. Plus tard, le chirurgien du bois, Dr. Michael Mauer, a renforcé ses racines et sa couronne. Ainsi le Chêne de la Fe­me/­Vehme peut espérer résister en­core aux défis du temps et témoigner de sa noble histoire.



(d'après Gedenkstätten deutscher Geschichte, Orion Heimreiter Verlag; trd. franç. d'après un extrait de cet ou­vrage paru dans la revue milanaise Orion).

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