Gārsecg (*Garseg)

Old English Modern English
Name Gārsecg *Garseg, *Goreseg1Everything about this is inconsistent, but this is how the modern forms appear. The first name matches the current spelling for a spear, but the second is what would be consistent with sound changes and does, in fact, appear in the verb gore. –seg has no variants in the modern era, but would be *sedge normally, like the plant. To complicate matters, both the “man” definition and the plant definition were spelled the same in Old English and share an etymological source ultimately.
Pronunciation /ˈgɑrsed͡ʒ/ /ˈɡɑɹsɛɡ/, /ˈɡɔɹsɛɡ/
Etymology Used as “ocean” in Old English in about 100 occurrences throughout extant texts, it is typically considered since Bosworth-Toller a compound of gār “spear” (< Proto-Germanic *gaizaz “spear, pike, javelin”) and secg “man” (< Proto-Germanic *sagjaz “retainer, warrior”) and thus referring to a figure similar to Neptune with his trident. Earl Anderson considers this erroneous, arguing that it is a syncopated version of gāres ecg “edge of the promontory”, literally “gore’s edge”, under the influence of folk etymology.2Earl Anderson, Folk-Taxonomies in Early English (2003) pp. 272–273 The University of Toronto’s Dictionary of Old English does not, however, even consider this an option, listing the many times that gārsecg is used for areas nowhere near the edge of the ocean, such as the depths.3Gārsecg“, Dictionary of Old English

Gārsecg is an entirely opaque figure, if he is even a god at all. If he is, there is no surviving information beyond the possibility of having a spear, as his name implies. He is so poorly considered past some dictionary entries that he is barely mentioned at all in modern works.

The Saxons were noted as expert sailors who, as claimed by Sidonius Apollinaris in approximately 480, made sacrifices at sea4Sidonius Apollinaris, Letters, book 8:

Moreover, when the Saxons are setting sail from the continent, and are about to drag their firm-holding anchors from an enemy’s shore, it is their usage, thus homeward bound, to abandon every tenth captive to the slow agony of a watery end, casting lots with perfect equity among the doomed crowd in execution of this iniquitous sentence of death. This custom is all the more deplorable in that it is prompted by honest superstition. These men are bound by vows which have to be paid in victims, they conceive it a religious act to perpetrate this horrible slaughter, and to take anguish from the prisoner in place of ransom; this polluting sacrilege is in their eyes an absolving sacrifice.

Pollington seemingly conceives that Gārsecg and this sacrifice may have some sort of relation5Stephen Pollington, The Elder Gods: The Otherworld of Early England (2011) pg. 238, but we have no way of being certain of that.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Everything about this is inconsistent, but this is how the modern forms appear. The first name matches the current spelling for a spear, but the second is what would be consistent with sound changes and does, in fact, appear in the verb gore. –seg has no variants in the modern era, but would be *sedge normally, like the plant. To complicate matters, both the “man” definition and the plant definition were spelled the same in Old English and share an etymological source ultimately.
2. Earl Anderson, Folk-Taxonomies in Early English (2003) pp. 272–273
3. Gārsecg“, Dictionary of Old English
4. Sidonius Apollinaris, Letters, book 8
5. Stephen Pollington, The Elder Gods: The Otherworld of Early England (2011) pg. 238