In pre-xtian Germania a band of warriors flourished called the Harii. According to Rudolf Simek in his Dictionary of Northern Mythology Harri was a latinised term for the Gothic harjis meaning `army`. The meaning that Tacitus was trying to convey is that of `warriors` rather than `soldiers`. Today there are no real warriors in the western world only soldiers, a Latin derived term from solidus, a gold coin. This implies that the soldier as opposed to the warrior is little more than a paid mercenary, another Latin derived term. This tells us a little about the character of the Germanic `warrior` as opposed to the Latin `soldier`.
Tacitus refers to the Harii in his Germania:
"For their part, the Harii, besides the military might in which they surpass the peoples listed above, savage as they are, enhance their inborn ferocity by trickery and timing: their shields are black, their bodies stained, they choose dark nights for battles, and thus inspire terror with the shadowy horror of a ghostly army. None of their enemies can withstand that strange and so to speak hellish sight: for in every battle the men are overcome first."[Rives translation]
I prefer the Mattingley translation:
"As for the Harii, not only are they superior in strength to the other peoples I have just mentioned, but they minister to their savage instincts by trickery and clever timing. They black their shields and dye their bodies, and choose pitch dark nights for their battles. The shadowy, awe-inspiring appearance of such a goulish army inspires mortal panic; for no enemy can endure a sight so strange and hellish. Defeat in battle starts always with the eyes."
Simek draws an interesting link between the Harri and the Einheriar:
"The name of this shadowy army of warriors also reminds us of the einherjar, who do not necessarily represent an old detail from the concept of the Germanic warrior`s paradise. A more likely explanation is the night-time activity of the Wild Hunt, which O. Hoefler convincingly interpreted as a band of warriors, which he associated with the cult of Odin."
Caesar in his de Bello Gallico refers to a similar staining of the body by the ancient Britons:
"All the Britons paint themselves with woad, which produces a dark blue colour: by this means they appear more frightening in battle."[Book 5,14]
Woad[vitrum or isatis tinctoria] is a plant from whose leaves a blue dye was pressed. So either the Celts shared a similar cultish practise to the Teutons or perhaps Caesar was inadvertantly referring to a colony of Teutons already established in England as some scholars such as Oppenheimer proposes in his groundbreaking work The Origins of the British which I referred to in my articles The Belgae and the Ancient Germanic Colonisation of England and The Ancient Presence of the Germanic Peoples in England both posted on my Celto-Germanic Culture, Myth and History blog on 11/4/13 and 24/6/12.
The Harii were not a tribe in the usual sense of the term but a band of brothers sworn and bound together by sacred oaths to Woden[the God who binds], to their lord and each other. Their bonds were considered more sacred than the bonds of family and tribe.
Hoefler identified the Harii with the God of storms and battles, Woden and he was right to do so for this God is the one who was primarily honoured by the warrior elite and most of the Anglo-Saxon royal houses acknowledged Him as their divine ancestor, thus conferring legitimacy for their right to rule.
In addition to Woden it is quite possible that the Harii also honoured other battle deities such as Hariasa. An old but now lost stone from Koeln in the Rheinland refers to this Goddess. Her name reminds one of the valkyrie Herja. An inscription on a 1st-2nd century BCE helmet fom Slovenia refers to a God Harigast. This could be an alternative name for Woden whose alternative names include Herass[`army-god`] and Herblindi[`the one who blinds the enemy army`].
I believe that the Harii chose black not just as a means of camouflage or to inspire terror but also for more spiritual and cultic reasons. My readers will recall from my article The Significance of Red, White and Blue/Black in Aryan Society and Cosmology posted on this blog on 8/4/13 that the colours in the combinations of black/blue/green, white/gold and red feature on the flags of most European nations and are a manifestation of the deep cosmological significance of these colours for the Aryan peoples.
A more recent manifestation of the Harii as a Maennerbund is of course Germany`s Waffen SS, a pan-Germanic body of highly trained mystical warriors devoted to the lord-retainer concept which features not only amongst the Teutonic peoples but other ancient Aryan peoples as well. A scholarly work which explores this concept amongst the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic peoples of Britain is Lords of Battle by Dr Stephen S. Evans. The associations between the Maennerbund and Woden are fully explored in Kris Kershaw`s Odin: The One-Eyed God and the [Indo-] Germanic Maennerbuende. I have only a German translation of this work, the English language one being long out of print and the cost of second hand copies being quite prohibitive.An essay titled The Woden Maennerbuende by the leader of our Order, Wulf Ingesunnu was published in Troy Southgate`s Woden, which I highly recommend.
One will recall the ceremonial black uniforms of the SS with their silver insignia incorporating such ancient Germanic symbols as the Totenkopf and the Sigel runes. As a Woden Mannerbund today we follow this tradition in our donning of black which I tend to wear all of the time. This visually sets us apart from the masses and reinforces in our minds that we are mystics and warriors sworn to Woden and the Maennerbund in which we serve with the higher purpose of engaging in spiritual warfare for the destiny of the English, Germanic and Aryan folk.