Housekeeping

I’ve done some housekeeping for the website:

  • Goddesses are now separated out from the gods, which fixes an issue on some resolutions that hid later entries in the dropdown menu.
  • Gods and goddesses now have a better looking table at the start of their entries, rather than an admittedly sloppy-looking listing of cognates, etymology, and pronunciation.

There’s a lot of stuff that I’ve neglected to work on for a while, such as completing entries for each god. I also have a bunch of draft pages sitting around for literally years now. It would be nice to get these done. I hope to do so soon enough. Springtime and new medicine have been invigorating.

Blōstmfrēols and Blōstmgield

A few weeks ago Marc wrote about Blōstmfrēols, which appears in Old English as a gloss for Latin Floralia, in “Blōstmfrēols: A Distinct Fyrnsidu Holiday” (archive). It’s a good post. Do read it.

It’s awkward to admit that I’ve encountered the name before and found it interesting, only to leave it buried in my old notes and then forgetting about it entirely. Good job, past me; you dropped the ball.

Nonetheless, I don’t have anything particularly insightful to add about Marc’s post, as he did a thorough job. But let’s once again dive into the language itself because why not?

In both Blōstmfrēols and its apparent alternative Blōstmgield1This actually appears as Blōstmgeld and Blōstmgild in extant texts, but in standardised West Saxon it would be –gield. the lead word is plainly blōstma or blōstm “blossom”.2Ultimately which form appears in the compound means exactly nothing. And, one way or another, either becomes blossom through regular sound changes down the line.

In Blōstmfrēols, the second word in the compound, frēols, is actually really interesting. It is a contracted compound of frēo “free” and heals “neck”. Specifically as a masculine noun, it has various meanings3David A. E. Pelteret, Slavery in Early Mediaeval England pp. 282–283:

  1. Freedom, that is, the legal condition of personal freedom from slavery. This meaning only appears in two extant texts: the Laws of Wihtred and a manumission document.
  2. Freedom from dues payable to an overlord and/or freedom to exercise rights without being subject to the control of another.
  3. A charter granting the freedom described in 2.
  4. A feast day. “Whereas the Latin diēs fēstīvālis drew on the concept of feasting, the Old English word employed that of freedom, presumably freedom from labour.” This meaning is very active in compounds.

This word has no modern descendant, though we still have both its components in free and halse “neck, throat”4Compare with Modern High German Hals “neck, throat”., the latter of which is archaic today.

In Blōstmgield, the second word in the compound, gield, is fairly common. It may also appear as gildgeld, and gyld. It means “service, offering, worship, sacrifice; tax, tribute, compensation; guild, brotherhood; Heathen god, idol”. This becomes yield and, with influence from Old Norse, guild in Modern English.

Like Marc, I feel that this is an important name to use in place of, say, May Day, which is both rather generic and partially foreign in its name.5Or shall I call it instead fremd or literally outlandish? Linguistic purity is an interesting topic to me and something that I support, but obviously there are limits in my public postings. But we have our issues in bringing it into Modern English. Sure, we could use the Old English forms, as is all too common already, but how many people will actually pronounce the words correctly? Few at best, I would venture. We run into difficulty, though.

Frēols is a problem in itself. It does not survive into Modern English one way or another. Through regular sound change this would become *freels, but a modern speaker cannot parse this at all. Perhaps that’s not an issue. Religious terminology is naturally conservative, after all.

Gieldyield is convenient, but the exact meaning is lacking nowadays. In its obsolete modern sense, it does mean “payment, tribute.” This is not precisely the same meaning used in Old English, but it is still appropriate in its own way. Do ut des, after all. It does bring about an interesting idea regarding a quantity of something, a high yield of blossoms. This is appropriate and something in our interest, especially in these days of dying bee colonies.

Having a modern holiday of Blossom Freels or Blossomfreels is possible, but I find the lack of comprehension an issue. I propose that Blossomyield is an entirely worthwhile form for the modern holiday that can be parsed by modern speakers to some degree. It is definitely something that I should start using, especially with the appropriate time being so soon.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. This actually appears as Blōstmgeld and Blōstmgild in extant texts, but in standardised West Saxon it would be –gield.
2. Ultimately which form appears in the compound means exactly nothing. And, one way or another, either becomes blossom through regular sound changes down the line.
3. David A. E. Pelteret, Slavery in Early Mediaeval England pp. 282–283
4. Compare with Modern High German Hals “neck, throat”.
5. Or shall I call it instead fremd or literally outlandish? Linguistic purity is an interesting topic to me and something that I support, but obviously there are limits in my public postings.

Holda

I’m still failing at being a productive Heathen, as my lack of posts shows, but I still do odds and ends in my free time. Nonetheless, as always I’m interested in language. Endlessly.

I’m rather fond of Holda. She’s obviously a little outside the scope of Fyrnsidu (or *Firnsid, if you’re so inclined) in normal practices, but this is an ancestral religion and I’m only half English, the rest being from North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. In many respects, my German heritage is more important than my English heritage, as my German mother made sure that I understood my roots.

I love how many stories exist for her. I love that she has so many associated areas, which I hope to see firsthand one day. There’s just so much and it’s precious to me. Some see her as another version of Frīg/Frigg and I admit that there’s a bit of overlap in functions, but Holda is fully separate in my view.

I don’t, however, do my religious work in German and, as I’ve whined repeatedly in the past, would prefer to do all such work in Modern English. So just calling her Holda is in a way not good enough. Oddly, this doesn’t make too much of a difference, as you’ll see toward the end.

Modern High German Holda is from Proto-Germanic *hulþô “friend, trustee” < *hulþaz “inclined, favourable; gracious, loyal; graceful”. The noun isn’t attested in Old English, but the adjective survived into hold “kind, friendly, pleasant, gracious, faithful, loyal, devoted”. This actually survived into Modern English, but it’s obsolete now. This points us the right direction regardless for later work. We also have the fantastic example of unholda “fiend”. Very, very useful.

A-mutation is the reason why –u– became –o-; it caused a short /u/ or /i/ to be lowered when the following syllable contained as non-high vowel. This is how we got Old English hold from Proto-Germanic *hulþaz (among other sound changes) or, to use a more useful example with a modern version, gold from *gulþą.

Word-final overlong vowels became regular long vowels during the Northwest Germanic period, so we had *-ô > *-ō, which regularly became –a in Old English.

Medial *-– became –ld– regularly in Old English. This is why you have Old English fealdan “fold”, but Gothic falþan, both from Proto-Germanic *falþaną.

Bringing these together, we have a very familiar *Holda. Well, that was roundabout. So we can definitively say what Holda’s name is in Old English. This completely agrees with its aforementioned negated form unholda. Useful, indeed!

From here, nothing much happens. Word-final vowels that are not a part of the core syllable are lost consistently after Old English, so we’re left with Modern English *Hold, giving us a form that is identical with the obsolete adjective.

This is a fair amount of writing for a surprisingly simple outcome, but now I can definitely say that, yes, Holda is simply *Hold in Modern English and I have a proper name to use.

Using Modern Language

I’ve not been nearly as active as I would like to say that I am. Between health issues and work concerns, I’ve not really had time to think about things to post here or, indeed, do actual Heathen things. Even my research has largely ground to a halt. It’s a pity.

Nonetheless, there has been something that interests me considerably lately: the use of language in modern Heathen practices. I’ve written about language a fair amount in the past, such as in one of my most popular posts “When a Cognate Isn’t Cognate” or its sequel “Care with Cognates“. Though never really cited much anywhere, “Modern Gods” will be important here, too.

We’re again seeing a sudden surge in using Old English to define ourselves in these modern times. It warms the cockles of my heart to see people learning and using Old English, but I personally don’t think that sticking with a long gone language is going to help us much now. I am, however, a very strong proponent of Anglish. It’s quite the boon to know our roots and then grow from there.

Since my teens I have been aware of people’s issues with Ásatrú when it comes to forming a noun for a practitioner of such. You’ll mostly see Ásatrúar, but that’s just a genitive form and is incorrect here. But no one wants to use Ásatrúmaður (or –maðr, if you prefer Old Norse) or some sort of odd Icelandic–English hybrid *Ásatrúman, so it just remains a sore point in those circles.

Fyrnsidu hasn’t really faired any better in this regard, but lately it seems that the people behind Lārhūs Fyrnsida are using Fyrnsidere, which is merely the Old English agent suffix –ere (> Modern English –er) being appended to the compound noun. This is a completely logical thing to do and I’ve seen others using it as well. Another possibility would have been *Fyrnsidman, but no one has ever used that evidently.

Both the Ásatrú and the Fyrnsidu examples suffer from the same issue in my mind: they’re not Modern English and that hampers people. I don’t much care for fixing Ásatrú’s internal messes, but let’s play with Fyrnsidu and its derivative:

  • For the prefix fyrn- “ancient, old; formerly”, the /y/ was unrounded in Middle English to /i/, then later made its way to /ɪ/, which tends to be pronounced as /ɝ/ when followed by <r>. That leaves us with *firn– /fɝn/.1This is then a homophone of fern and shares a vowel with fir.
  • Sidu “custom, practice; ritual; morality” had two different routes that it could have gone. Unstressed vowels were reduced to /ə/, spelled <e>, in Middle English, leaving us with side. This is where the split occurs. The unstressed vowel is dropped outright, leaving us with *sid /sɪd/. Occasionally, however, open-syllable lengthening occurs as well, which changes /i/ to /eː/, then later to /iː/ during the Great Vowel Shift.2You can see this in action with Old English wicu > Middle English weke > Modern English week. This leaves us with *seed /siːd/. I prefer the former, though.
  • Old English –ere just becomes Modern English –er, as already mentioned.

So for the religion itself we’re left with *Firnsid /ˈfɝnsɪd/ and for a follower with *Firnsider /ˈfɝnsɪdɚ/.3Those assume no R-dropping. If you’re in England, this is more along the lines of /ˈfɜːnsɪd/ and /ˈfɜːnsɪdə/, respectively. I personally find these forms to be better than using Old English, especially when keeping in mind that most people probably aren’t going to pronounce /y/ correctly anyway.

Truthfully, though, why stop there? Obviously English didn’t stop developing. So why not use *Tew /t(j)uː/ instead of Tīw? Or *Wooden /ˈwʊdən/ instead of Wōden? Easter instead of Ēastre? Sun instead of Sunna? These are easily figured descendants, after all. Conforming to Modern English’s patterns makes for an easier time for everyone, reduces the variety of incorrect pronunciations from people’s failed attempts at dead languages, and keeps our religious terms from sticking out like a sore thumb quite so much. And the joy of not needing to use macrons on everything!

There is honestly a good chance that in the future I’ll just switch over to projected forms of words instead of Old English, even going so far as to drop the asterisks. I won’t be able to pull this off everywhere, but here on Heargweard and in my private usage I see no issue whatsoever.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. This is then a homophone of fern and shares a vowel with fir.
2. You can see this in action with Old English wicu > Middle English weke > Modern English week.
3. Those assume no R-dropping. If you’re in England, this is more along the lines of /ˈfɜːnsɪd/ and /ˈfɜːnsɪdə/, respectively.

Sexual Euphemisms

I’m sorry that I never got to do any writing regarding Yule, so I hope that people are enjoying it (or will be, if you do it later in January).

Instead of my original plan, let’s have some amusement in Edmund Fairfax’s “The Birds and the Bees in Old English” (archive 1, archive 2):

“Birds do it, bees do it”—so the song goes. And yes, the Anglo-Saxons did it and had words for it. So to cut to the chase, how did one say ‘to have sex’ in Old English? As in Modern English, there were a number of words or expressions, although most of the extant items seem to have been euphemisms, not surprisingly, given that much of the writing in OE is devotional in nature.

Edmund Fairfax has various other enjoyable articles, too.  Take a look.

Thinking of Yule

Joseph Bloch has started a series of articles regarding Yule. In fact, several articles are already up:

  1. Kicking off the Yuletide: St. Nicholas Day / Krampusnacht
  2. A paucity of celebrations
  3. Lussinatta: Celebrating the Light
  4. St. Thomas the Brewer revisited

At least another four articles are forthcoming, as outlined in the introductory post, so keep an eye on his posting. Each post has only been a few days apart, so you won’t be waiting for long.

In the past I’ve written about my Yuletide plans, but I’ll be writing another post in the coming days hopefully. Our fall decorations are still slowly coming down, but we’ve had our first snowfall already. It was meagre, but it gets the ball rolling, I suppose.

In other news, my research has been a bit slow lately. I’ve tried to read Sacred Waters: Holy Wells and Water Lore in Britain and Ireland by Janet Bord and Colin Bord, but it’s painful so far. It’s been overwhelmingly about Celtic things, which with hope will change eventually to something more useful for me. The writing just doesn’t excite in any way, too.

Meanwhile

Nearly two weeks ago I attended the Southern New Hampshire Pagan Pride Day, which was run by the lovely Fred Bower of Frithstead. It’s not what it once was; previously the event occupied the commons, but it is now sequestered away to a UU church many blocks away. Normally I would not care about such an event, but there was quite the prize: Ceisiwr Serith was giving two short lectures.

Ultimately the lectures were things that I already largely knew, but that’s quite okay. Serith is a kind person and has about him the kind of scattered eccentricity with which I grew up.

At the time I didn’t have the cash to purchase any of his books, but I rectified that a few days later. I’ve since become the owner of Deep Ancestors: Practicing the Religion of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. His website has long contained lengthy excerpts of that book, so I figured that I was in for a treat.

I was unfortunately wrong. Here’s a litany of issues:

  • The excerpts are, like so many movie trailers out there, simply the best parts of the book.
  • Citation is almost entirely lacking throughout. When it does exist, it’s only inline citation, which I find to be wholly inappropriate.
  • The table of contents doesn’t even have chapter names.
  • There’s no index.
  • Serith doesn’t use standard Proto-Indo-European forms. (I shouldn’t have been so surprised by this, considering that his website does precisely the same thing, but I’m nonetheless irked.)
  • A huge portion of the book is made up of rituals of the author’s own creation. They’re interesting enough in their own ways, but they shouldn’t have been included in the book at such length. I feel like more work was put into the rituals than the rest of the book.
  • There’s too much assumption and not enough acknowledgement  that we have major gaps in our sources.
  • Germanic sources are ignored for the first half of the book. Even after this there isn’t much inclusion. My biggest sadness is the ignoring of the Æcerbōt, which happens to include several of the very elements that Serith found so important.
  • In fact, pretty much anything that isn’t Roman or Indian gets ignored much of the time. Slavic and Baltic sources are ignored fairly thoroughly, for example. While there are issues of preservation, of course, I know that there’s useful content for comparative purposes.
  • Serith loves changing things to reflect modern dogmas regarding so-called equality. He does not mark these changes very well, if at all. This is, however, a one way street, which is in tune with the current dogma. While women are suddenly permitted access to things that were likely male-only in the past, men are not permitted access to female-only things. Such equality.
  • Clearly no copyeditor was employed. There are so many issues in grammar, pacing, punctuation, and repetitiveness.

Probably one of my favourite failures comes on page 103:

Another servant of the members is the Rḗḱs. *Rḗḱs is the root of Irish ri, Sanskrit rajan, and Latin rex. It is sometimes translated “king”, but “chieftain”, or perhaps just “someone with special power” would be more accurate.

Six paragraphs later on the next page:

If you are disturbed by the monarchical overtones of Rḗḱs, choose a Chieftain (or simply an Executive) to fulfill the temporal duties. […] A wíḱs can have a Rḗḱs for the ritual side of things, with the Chieftain having the real authority[.]

Oops. That’s a bit contradictory.

While I’ve been rather saddened by the quality of Ceisiwr Serith’s work, other people have been putting out content that is similar to his in terms of prayers and how to write them properly.

Marc wrote “‘Prayer’ in a Heathen Context” (archive 1, archive 2), which was later reposted to Lārhūs Fyrnsida.1I feel that Marc’s work was, however, hurt a bit by the inclusion of John Lindow’s “Addressing Thor“. I find that its obsession with differences in the male and female enemies of Þórr to be misplaced and ultimately fruitless due to a lack of useable sources on the topic, from which poor conclusions are drawn by Lindow. This, in turn, caused Wodgar’s “‘Prayer’ in a Fyrnsidu Context” (archive 1, archive 2). This has been an interesting topic to me for a few years now. Back in April 2014 I tried my hand at a historically inaccurate offering in some bumbling Old English. Since then I’ve improved somewhat, but I’ve never posted the results of that work. I should get on that.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. I feel that Marc’s work was, however, hurt a bit by the inclusion of John Lindow’s “Addressing Thor“. I find that its obsession with differences in the male and female enemies of Þórr to be misplaced and ultimately fruitless due to a lack of useable sources on the topic, from which poor conclusions are drawn by Lindow.

Stunning Hatred

I am just stunned by the nonsense that has been happening in the last month or so in Heathen and polytheistic circles. It’s been one madness after madness. Normally I would be entertained to some degree, but I’m getting worried for what it means in the future.

The biggest was the brouhaha regarding the AFA’s announcement of supporting its own people:

afapost

Somehow this meant that the AFA was irredeemably evil in the eyes of far too many people. But why is it that Europeans are not allowed to have any interest in their own wellbeing while practising a European religion? And why is it an issue that an organisation take a traditional, scientifically accurate view regarding gender?

Truthfully, the answer is simple: the regressive left is incredibly intolerant of any who disagree with their current whims and has successfully trained many people to see the world in such a distorted way. Their endless march to the left has left me politically on the right even without changing much over the years. Being respectful of others and accepting of the existence of differences were once the supposed hallmarks of the left, but now it’s essentially a value of the alt-right alone. What interesting times we live in.

Of course, people love clutching their pearls, but why even make a scene about it? These same people already hated the AFA for being a successful organisation that cared more about its own people than making mindless platitudes to supposed diversity. They already hated that there might be Europeans who care about themselves at all. But that’s somehow racist, even though every other group is allowed to do it.

I don’t see people attacking other ethnic religions for limiting their exposure to unwanted elements. Shinto isn’t attacked. American Indian religions aren’t attacked. But this is the true hilarity: the AFA never said that they weren’t allowing non-Europeans to join. For that matter, they also never said that gay or transgendered people can’t join. Straight Europeans are, however, the primary target demographic one way or another. And haven’t we always talked about the need to grow the religion? People are generally opposed to proselytising, so that really only leaves breeding. Oh, how gauche! What were they thinking in [current year]?

Lucius Helson has done a lovely job pointing out the nonsense of people:

Joseph Bloch also did wonderfully in response:

Even Galina Krasskova had her fun.

Obviously this nonsense couldn’t stop, though. The Troth has been throwing a fit the whole time and has lied every step of the way. Their mind-numbingly stupid, initial response was rather passive for them (archive 1, archive 2):

The Troth is open to all who seek to know and to honor the Gods, ancestors, and values of the Germanic Heathen traditions, regardless of gender, race, nationality or sexual orientation. The Troth stands against any use of Germanic religion and culture to advance causes of racism, sexism, homophobia, white supremacy, or any other form of prejudice.
While we are aware that there are some Asatru organizations that are not inclusive to all people, the Troth’s doors are open to all those who may have been excluded due to their ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or ability. The Troth stands against the AFA’s vision of what Asatru should be, and we do not recognize their beliefs as representative of a majority of American Asatru (Heathenry). There are no arbiters of who can and cannot worship our deities, but the Gods themselves. We are a family religion, and to the Troth that means all families.

Good for them, but they aren’t actually doing anything differently really. They were just using this as a cheap tactic for recruitment, which, if I understand correctly, hasn’t been so great. It was just such a tiresome thing to read, even when written so shortly. There was some amusement in a comment from a certain “Acid Queen”:

So what will you do about AFA members who are also in the Troth?

Incorrect thoughts! Must purge!

But the Troth did not fail me. They had a far more entertaining post just tonight (archive 1, archive 2), of which I will quote the first two paragraphs:

Racist or homophobic actions or speech are considered to be violations of military discipline under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) article 134, and the Canadian Queens Regulations and Orders 103.60. Recent statements from the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA) that Asatru or Heathenry is only open to those who are white, heterosexual gender conforming are in fact untrue. This represents their internal policies, not Heathen belief. The AFA present the US and Canadian military a clear-cut, but false, statement that those service folk who express Heathen or Asatru religious beliefs are in contravention of UCMJ 134, and QR&O 103.60. Because the Department of Defense guidelines specifically prohibit this sort of prejudice (http://diversity.defense.gov/About/), the statements of the AFA, if accepted as true, would appear to put Heathen or Asatru soldiers in breach of the policies of the forces and nations they are sworn to serve. This has severe career implications for all Heathen service folk, as well as being a slur upon countless good and worthy men and women who are forbidden by existing regulations to advocate for themselves.

It falls to organizations like The Troth to provide the strong and clear message that Asatru and Heathenry as a whole strongly condemn racism, homophobia, and similar forms of discrimination. For those Heathen men and women who now serve under arms, and who are forbidden to speak in their own defense, let us be as clear as possible.

What delightful lies, hyperbole, and stupidity! Of course, the AFA said nothing of the sort, but why let facts get in the way? They’re so burdensome and inconvenient anyway. Playing pretend is so much more fun, after all.

I just don’t understand how someone can write such a plainly and factually incorrect statement about the AFA. They merely stated their positions, which are not falsifiable. Gender is not a social construct, after all.1In fact, claiming otherwise would undermine the very goals and hopes of transitioning for any transgendered person, as there would suddenly be no point because there’s nothing else there to become. Feminine women and masculine men are the norm. Children are cherished things. Being of European descent cannot be incorrect. Loving your own people is not a crime. None of this is somehow wrong. Supporting these does not make you a bad person.

I am a gay man who is married to another man. I celebrate my English and German heritage, just as my husband celebrates his Swedish heritage. We plan on having kids, which have been otherwise delayed because of financial constraints. I support all of the AFA’s statements. I am not banned by them in the slightest. This does not make me or anyone else homophobic, transphobic, or racist magically. The Troth’s shrieks about military discipline simply do not apply, although it would not take much to level such allegations of racism against them due to their (often self-)hatred of Europeans.

The AFA and the Troth differ a lot. While I have had issues with the former in the past, I consider the latter to be rather unhinged much of the time. But neither is my concern, as I am a member of neither. I have no ties to any organisation. I mind my own business. I don’t force my values onto others.

Sadly, shoving one’s values around seems to be the biggest thing in the eyes of many on the left. It’s an issue that will only hurt Heathendom ultimately.

EDIT (11:20 PM): Joseph Bloch has already penned his piece on the Troth’s latest failure. I rather like one particular paragraph:

The level of self-contradiction here is just incredible. First they say nobody can speak for all Heathens, and then they proceed to… speak for all Heathens. Especially when what the AFA said was neither racist (it is not, by definition, racist to say that all races should have the same opportunity to worship their ancestral gods), nor homophobic (because it’s not homophobic to say that heterosexual relationships are normal and good; doing do is not an implicit or explicit condemnation of non-heterosexual relationships, no matter how hard they want to say otherwise).

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. In fact, claiming otherwise would undermine the very goals and hopes of transitioning for any transgendered person, as there would suddenly be no point because there’s nothing else there to become.