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.

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.

Encyclopedia of Norse and Germanic Folklore, Mythology, and Magic

I first heard about Claude Lecouteux’s Encyclopedia of Norse and Germanic Folklore, Mythology, and Magic through Joseph Bloch’s review of it. I’ve purchased several of Lecouteux’s books before and always enjoyed them, though I often feel that his writing could use some reorganisation and better citation of primary and secondary sources.

One part of Bloch’s review especially caught my attention:

Where Lecouteux’s book distinguishes itself from those titles is both in its lack of focus on the Norse material and the Viking era (although it does not distance itself from either), as well as its inclusion of tons of folkloric references, rather than sticking to the same old themes found in Norse and/or Germanic mythology. And that in particular is where this work shines, since this is a focus that all too few such works, let alone Asatruar who endeavor to recreate the Germanic mindset, have.

That certainly tickles me in all the right ways, so I ordered the book forthwith.

I’m not impressed, I must admit. This is in my eyes the weakest of Lecouteux’s books that are in my possession. My very first issue is that Norse and Germanic are treated as separate categories, rather than the former being a subset of the latter. That’s been a pet peeve of mine for years now.

The handling of language is lacklustre. The book hops between languages often and inconsistently. Headwords are often in Old Norse, but are also in Anglicised Old Norse, Modern English, the occasional Old English, and German, even when the topic may be better served with a different language. For example, there’s no headword for Ēastre, which is attested well enough in Old English (and obviously later) as a word in itself, but there is one for Ostara, which is made up entirely of English sources.

Many things, such as epithets, are haphazardly translated. Some are dumped into the paragraph without translation, some are presented in English without the original, and some are correctly given in both the original and translation. It’s a bit frustrating.

The book is guilty of very poor citation. A fair number of entries is given a note underneath for further reading, often French or German tertiary sources, but this doesn’t help much. There isn’t a single footnote in the entire book. There is only the rarest of inline citations; this is often reserved for texts that come well after conversion occurred. More commonly known names, such as those from the Eddas, seem to be entirely uncited.

There are several times that non-Germanic topics are brought up without reason, such as Baltic deities. I am quite uncertain why this happens.

On far too many occasions assumptions are presented as facts, such as on page 224 regarding Phol:

A link has been sought between him and Volla with the idea that there could be a pair of gods, the masculine Phol/Fol and the feminine Folla/Volla, which would thus correspond to Freyr/Freyja.

Two sentences in particular ruined the book for me, both in regards to Óðinn. The very first thing said of him on page 213:

The principal deity of the Norse and Germanic pantheon is a cruel and spiteful god, a cynical and misogynistic double-dealer whom the Romans equated as being similar to Mercury.

I was so angry with that description that I put the book down for several minutes. It’s so painfully inaccurate, an issue that is seemingly only done to Óðinn.

On page 215 he writes:

Odin is omniscient[.]

This seems to be some misunderstanding of Hliðskjálf, which may mean something akin to “observation point, guard tower”, upon which Óðinn may see the entire world. Oddly, though, this very seat is mentioned only two paragraphs earlier and is accurately, if succinctly, described.

If there is one thing that this book does right, it’s the folkloric figures that are rarely mentioned anywhere. This is a delight in itself, but these are better handled in Lecouteux’s other books with greater detail.

I do not feel that this is a worthwhile book for the most part, especially if you own the author’s other works. If you’re just looking for an encyclopedia, I would recommend Rudolf Simek’s Dictionary of Northern Mythology. It contains most of the same content, but with excellent citation and more information.

Modern Gods

An interesting question was asked on reddit recently that is right up my alley (archive). Sadly, my several month absence from the Internet left me nearly two weeks late to the party, so I’ll discuss it here instead.

Linguistic question for ASH heathens from asatru

All in all, the thread was pretty barren, I’m sad to say, but some did help. Wodgar and /u/CorporateHeathen were the stars.

As always in linguistics, a reconstructed, projected, or outright incorrect form is marked by an asterisk. Chevrons are also used in their standard form; “<” denotes that the lead word descends from the following word, while “>” denotes that the lead word becomes the following word.

In all cases of two modern pronunciations, the first is General American and the second is Received Pronunciation.

Tīw /tiːw/ > *Tew or *Tue /t(j)uː/

The name is fairly simple and predictable. For the same sound shift, consider hīw > hue and nīwe > new. CorporateHeathen did a fine job of pointing this out:

The two spellings are purely orthographic differences, as shown in the IPA. The biggest difference will be seen across the Atlantic: /j/ would be in England, while the sound would generally be lacking in the US.

Wōden /ˈwoːden/ > *Wooden /ˈwʊdən/

Old English <ō> /oː/ split into a few sounds on its march to Modern English. On its own it often became <oo> /uː/, but its environment could cause /ɔ(ː)/ (before <r>), /ʌ/ (occasionally before /ð/, /d/, and /v/), and /ʊ/ (often before /ð/, /d/, /t/, and /k/).

Due to this, /ˈwʊdən/ is the likeliest result, but also possibly /ˈwʌdən/. Assuming the former over the latter, the word is a homonym to wooden “made of wood”.

The issue of Wednesday does pose an interesting question. Had Wōden been the base form, we would have *Wodnesday instead, just as Old English had Wōdnesdæg /ˈwoːdnesdæj/. Wednesday is the result of Old English *Wēden, which would share a root with Old Frisian Wēda and Old Norse Óðinn in the form of Proto-Germanic *Wōdinaz, as opposed to Wōden‘s antecedent of Proto-Germanic *Wōdanaz.

Accepting this otherwise unattested variant, we would have *Weeden /ˈwidən/. This is despite the fact that Wednesday is pronounced with an /ɛ/, but this is a result of two consonants following <e>. This environment always caused <e> to become /ɛ/ later and would not be applicable to the base form.

UPDATE: Thoraborinn takes issue with the above two paragraphs.

Ing /iŋg/ > *Ing /ɪŋ/

Nothing especially changes here. /i/ becomes /ɪ/ in most environments. /ŋg/ always becomes /ŋ/ due to NG-coalescence.

Þunor /ˈθunor/ > Thunder /ˈθʌn.dɚ/ or /ˈθʌn.də/

The noun did not die out and is thus fully known without ambiguity. The intrusive /d/ appeared between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries and is otherwise not predictable.

Frīg /friːj/ > *Frie or *Fry /fɹaɪ/

This one is interesting:

  • Popularly the goddess’s name is written as *Frīge, but this is incorrect. There is no nominative ending for feminine strong nouns with a long syllable (which is either a long vowel or a short vowel followed by two consonants). If this word had a short syllable, it would be Frigu, which is actually attested, but never in this context to my knowledge.
  • Frīge is, however, the genitive form, which is firmly attested in Frīgedæg “Friday”.
  • There aren’t too many words ending in –īg that survive into Modern English, especially once you discount the adjective ending –ig /ij/ “-y” /i/.

Old English <ī> /i:/ very often became Modern English /aɪ/, except when two consonants or /m/ followed, plus some other odds and ends.

/j/ entirely disappeared in this environment. Modern English doesn’t especially like /j/ coming after a vowel at the end of the word.

Spelling is really the issue here. Despite the spelling of Friday, ending a word in <i> just doesn’t happen, nor is <i> often pronounced /aɪ/ on its own. This immediately removes *Fri as an option. In keeping with patterns in orthography and the handful of words with similar sounds, though, *Frie or perhaps even *Fry would be the likeliest outcome.

Eorþe /ˈeorθe/ > Earth /ɝθ/ or /ɜːθ/

The noun did not die out and is thus fully known without ambiguity.

Folde /ˈfolde/ > Fold /foʊld/ or /fəʊld/

All word-final vowels that are not a part of the root syllable were dropped after Old English.

The word survives dialectally and thus has a known modern form regardless.

Sunne /ˈsunːe/ > Sun /sʌn/

The noun did not die out and is thus fully known without ambiguity.

Mōna /ˈmoːnɑ/ > Moon /muːn/

The noun did not die out and is thus fully known without ambiguity.

Ēastre /ˈæːɑstre/ > Easter /ˈi.stɚ/ or /ˈiː.stə/

The noun did not die out and is thus fully known without ambiguity.

Wēland /ˈweːlɑnd/ > Weeland /ˈwilənd/

Despite how predictable this form is, it has instead survived as Wayland /ˈweɪlənd/.

Seaxnēat /ˈsæɑksnæːɑt/ > *Saxneat /ˈsæks.nɛt/

<ea> /æɑ/ typically became <a> /æ/, while <ēat> /æːɑt/ often became /ɛt/ (as opposed to /iː/ when there is no /t/).

Seax did also survive into Modern English as sax. Nēat died out, but was borrowed back into Modern English in its full form as geneat for historical purposes.

Bēow /beːow/ > Bue /buː/

<ēo> /eːo/ often became /uː/ before/w/, written as <ue>.

Frēa /fræːɑ/ > *Frea /fɹiː/

Though often combined with Ing in emulation of the Norse form, there is no direct attestation that this was ever used as a theonym in Old English. It does, however, have a curious usage in Beowulf when Hroþgar is called frēan Ingwine “lord of the Ingwins”.1Beowulf, line 1319. If this usage implies any religious meaning, it is now lost on us. The word is included only for the sake of argument.

<ēa> /æːɑ/ very often became /iː/, usually written as <ea>.

Frēo /freːo/ > *Free /fɹiː/

It is sometimes believed that Freyja existed among the Anglo-Saxons as well, but there is no evidence of this. Personally I believe that the split between what would later be known as Frigg and Freyja had not occurred in the southern tribes at all. The word is included only for the sake of argument, though on even shakier ground than Frēa above.

Without any other conditional changes due to environment, <ēo> /eːo/ very often became /iː/, usually written as <ee>.

The Problem with Frēa and Frēo

Other than not being attested as theonyms, there’s one overarching issue: they would have become homophones, if not also possibly homographs. Had they survived into more modern times at all, the meanings would have probably collapsed together into some general “noble” definition. That alone might have killed the words later anyway.

Truthfully, though, the words were already limited largely to poetry, especially Frēa. The words were probably moribund regardless.

Conclusion

Language is fun! It’s always a delight to see what might have happened in a different word. Amusement aside, it’s not a bad idea to use these reconstructed forms instead. The language changed and that would not have skipped theonyms.

This being said, things are not always predictable, as seen in a few examples above. No one could have predicted Þunor becoming Thunder. This could be equally true for any number of other names. Religion is by its very nature conservative, which may lead to some names being severely delayed for some sound changes, if included at all.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Beowulf, line 1319.

While I’ve Been Gone

The last few months have been a blur. Truthfully I’m stunned that it’s June and not April anymore. I can’t really tell you what I’ve been doing for the most part, but, whatever it was, I’ve been horribly distracted. I haven’t really been reading my books, doing rituals, attending the Anglo-Saxon Heathen meetup in New Hampshire, reading the Heathen groups on reddit and Facebook, or doing much of anything. It’s a pity.

I can at least say that I have enjoyed Stellaris a great deal. It was oddly nice to be among the earliest people to get some of the hardest achievements in that game. It’s a rare thing that I can earn any at all, but that game really does excite me.

I don’t really have much to offer, but below are some links to things that have been recently posted that I enjoyed. It’s hardly inclusive of the odds and ends that I’ve read over the last few months, though.

Stevie Miller’s “You Should Read Bad Books“:

Do you think Wudan would ever ignore a book because it was “bad”? Do you think He would ever pass by an area of potential knowledge because it was unpopular, or willingly leave any stone unturned where information might exist?

Wodgar’s “What I do“:

When I first discovered Heathenry, I really wanted to snoop around and see what others did, as far as home practice. What I quickly realised is, hearth-cult is exceedingly personal and the minutiae of one’s practice is not transferable from home to home, person to person. Sure, some basic fundamentals are there, but every man’s family is different, their experiences are different and how they approach their dead is inevitably different.

Marc’s “On the Importance of Ritual: Or, Why Taking Communion IS a Big Deal“:

There seems to be an all too familiar seems to be one that is all too familiar to individuals partaking in a religious ceremony in what is actually a religiously mixed marriage:

Being forced to suffer through a Christian ceremony for the sake of familial peace. Or, being forced to suffer through distinct Christian ritual for the sake of familial peace.

I hope to be doing some posts of my own again soon. I have several drafts that are months, if not years, old at this point and a few new ideas that need to be hashed out.