Lascaux cave art

Lascaux cave art

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Towards a More Archaic Understanding of Woden

If it were not for the Icelandic Eddas and saga source material we would know very little about our own Saxon pre-xtian religion. This is partly due to the oral nature of Germanic society. By the time that the Elder and Younger Eddas were written Iceland had become a xtianised society, albeit long after the Anglo-Saxons who were one of the first to succumb to xtianity. This is not intended to be a criticism, merely a statement of fact. Their Saxon cousins in Germania held out much longer until after the wars with Karl the Butcher in the 9th century. The interesting thing about Iceland is that they agreed by voting at the All Thing to publicly accept xtianity. Germanic heathenism was still permitted privately until the famous witch hunts began several hundreds of years later.

This action by the Icelandic All Thing may be viewed by some as a cowardly act but the Icelanders were and are a pragmatic people and they knew that if they resisted they would be invaded by the Norwegian king and their independence as a sovereign people would be at an end and heathenism would be thoroughly eradicated. The myths of our Gods were still valued enough for them to be commited to writing. If this had not have happened it is questionable that we would have enjoyed such a heathen reawakening in the late 20th century.

The widespread literacy that xtianity brought has proven to be a double-edged sword. It has caused our mythology to survive but in its wake has become a very effective tool by state governments to social engineer society according to their own New World Order agenda. The propaganda which began with newspaper media has now began to flourish with television and its selective reporting of world events and the bias that it places upon its reporting and analysis under pressure from the NWO media moguls that pay their salaries. As an aside I balance my news intake by watching RT (Russia Today) which is a healthy antidote to the venom of western media outlets. However all news media by its very nature is subject to bias and we must bear this in mind.

Returning to the main topic of this discussion: the portrayal of our Gods and myths in the Icelandic sources. The problem with the Eddas is that they were composed fairly late: the 13th century, over 200 hundred years since the Icelandic conversion. We have to ask ourselves how well does a 13th century Scandinavian Odin represent the Woden of the pre-xtian Saxon peoples? This is a difficult question to answer and we may never have the answer. Whilst I am grateful for the Eddas we must look elsewhere to gain a fuller and more accurate understanding of our Gods. Germanic folklore, etymology, place name study, archaeology and historical records and literature can help us to a certain point but we must look to the mythologies of the closely related Celtic, Baltic and Slavic peoples which is the primary concern of my

To get a closer understanding of our primary deity Woden we would profit from a study of the Horned God archetype which in England is represented by Herne the Hunter. An excellent work on this subject is that by Eric L. Fitch,  In Search of Herne the Hunter (1994, Capall Bann Publishing).  He speculates that vestiges of belief in Herne survived right up to the coming of the Saxons and merged with facets of belief surrounding Woden. The Saxons were accustomed both in Germania and in England to a forest environment. Woden is such a deity and His English name tells us this whilst His Scandinavian Odin persona appears to have lost this attribute. We must remember that the cult of Woden originated amongst the Saxons and spread north to Scandianvia with varying success. Thor and Frey still hed sway as the primary deities in different parts of Scandinavia. He is specifically OUR deity. I say this as a part Englishman with Lower Saxon ancestry. He is the God who in particular belongs to the Saxons of England, Germany and the Netherlands. Therefore it is in these lands that we must search for a more archaic understanding of Him.

Woden's name is to be found in more places in the Saxon colonised areas of England than any other Germanic deity. Many of His attributes are similar to those of Thunor's:

"Woden was essentially a storm god manifesting himself in thunderous movement in the heavens." (Fitch)

It is interesting that in Jung's famous dream which was a premonition of his mother's death Wotan appeared as the collector of his mother's soul:
"The night before her death I had a frightening dream. I was in a dense, gloomy forest: fantastic, gigantic boulders lay about among huge jungle-like trees. It was a heroic, primeval landscape. Suddenly I heard a piercing whistle that seemed to resound through the whole universe. My knees shook. Then there were crashings in the underbrush, and a gigantic wolfhound with a fearful, gaping maw burst forth. At the sight of it, the blood froze in my veins. It tore past me, and I suddenly knew: the Wild Huntsman had commanded it to carry away a human soul. I awoke in deadly terror, and the next morning I received news of my mother`s passing.
"Seldom has a dream so shaken me, for upon superficial consideration it seemed to say that the devil had fetched her. But to be accurate the dream said that it was the Wild Huntsman, the `Gruenhuetl`, or Wearer of the Green Hat, who hunted with his wolves that night-it was the season of  Foehn storms in January. It was Wotan, the god of my Alemannic forefathers, who had gathered my mother to her ancestors-negatively to the `wild horde`, but positively to the `saelig Luet`, the blessed folk. It was the Christian missionaries who made Wotan into a devil. In himself he is an important god-a Mercury or Hermes, as the Romans correctly realised, a nature spirit who returned to life again in the Merlin of the Grail legend and became, as the spiritus Mercurialis, the sought after aracanum of the alchemists. Thus the dream says that the soul of my mother was taken into that greater territory of the self which lies beyond the segment of Christian morality, taken into that wholeness of nature and spirit in which conflicts and contradictions are resolved." (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, 1963, page 345)

This was a very personal encounter that Jung had with Wotan and the reader will notice that this Wotan bears a stronger resemblance to the Saxon Woden than to the Scandinavian Odin. He is pictured by Jung as being a forest deity and it is the forest which is the natural habitat of Saxon man.

Nietzsche seems to have had a similar experience of Wotan although he never names this deity but it is obvious who he is referring to:

To the Unknown God

I shall and will know thee, Unknown One,
Who searchest out the depths of my soul,
And blowest through my life like a storm,
Ungraspable, and yet my kinsman!
I shall and will know thee, and serve thee.

 The Mistral Song

Mistral wind, chaser of clouds,
Killer of gloom, sweeper of the skies,
Raging storm-wind, how I love thee!
Are we both not the first-fruits
Of the same womb, forever predestined
To the same fate?

And from Thus Spake Zarathustra we have:-

Ariadne`s Lament

Stretched out, shuddering,
Like a half-dead thing whose feet are warmed,
Shaken by unknown fevers,
Shivering with piercing icy frost arrows,
Hunted by thee, O thought,
Unutterable! Veiled! horrible one!
Thou huntsman behind the clouds.
Struck down by thy lightning bolt,
Thou mocking eye that stares at me from the dark!
Thus I lie,
Writhing, twisting, tormented
With all eternal tortures,
By thee, cruel huntsman,
Thou unknown-God!
"Raging storm-wind", "cruel huntsman": are these not aspects of Woden? One way to experience Woden is to camp out alone in a solitary forest on a stormy night. This will bring you closer to an understanding of Woden than any mere words can portray. The reader will notice again from Ariadne's Lament the reference to the huntsman's lightning bolt, again a attrribute of Thunor. These two Gods seem to merge in so many ways which is not obvious from the Icelandic sources.

"The primitive west Europeans had called the god Wodenaz. This later developed into Wuotan (Old High German) and Wodan (Old Saxon). It is generally believed that he was first thought of as a sky deity-perhaps a wind or storm god-with great wisdom, and with some sort of powers over life and death. This may be evidenced by the derivation of Wodenaz from an Indo-European word, parent also of the Sanskrit vata and the Latin ventus, both meaning 'wind'. He could be compared to the Hindu Lord of the Wind, Vata, and the German storm giant Wode." (Buckland's Book of Saxon Witchcraft, Raymond Buckland, originally published in 1974)
At this point I would direct my readers to my analysis and comparison of Woden with Vata on

It is likely that Buckland obtained his comparison of Woden with Wode and Vatu from Brian Branston's The Lost Gods of England (1957) which he lists in his Bibliography as Branston states:

"We may examine the two sides of Woden's character in turn, and first that suggested by those who derive the name Wodenaz from an Indo-European word which is also the parent of Sanskrit vata and Latin ventus meaning 'wind'. Wodenaz would then be a god of wind and storm like the Hindu Vata, Lord of the Wind. In his turn, Woden is taken to be a deified development of the German storm giant Wode leading his 'wild army' (das wuetende Heer), his procession of the homeless dead across the sky. This view is supported by Adam of Bremen's definition 'Wodan, that is to say Fury' (Wodan, id est furor), and by the Anglo-Saxon wodendream which is glossed into Latin as furor animi, and also by the fact that in Sweden das wuetende Heer is known as 'Oden's jagt' or 'Woden's Hunt'.
Gudmund Schuettestates in his Our Forefathers the Gothonic Nations Volume 1 that the storm giant Wode developed into Woden or Odin:

 "The German Wode=O.N. Odr is a storm giant, the Wild Huntsman and Leader of the Host of the Dead who is finally exalted to the chief god under the name of Woden, Odin."
 In German and English folklore and songs Wod was just a shortened version of Woden as in the Lincolnshire spell:
 "Thrice I smites with Holy Crock, With this mell (hammer) I thrice do knock, One for God, and one for Wod, And one for Lok."

Buckland's book is a curious oddity for its' author was the founder of Seax Wica, Saxon witchcraft in the USA. In the early 1970s Odinism as a revived religion was only just getting started so it is remarkable that someone who was originally initiated into Gardnerian witchcraft should have the idea of cleansing Wicca of its non-Germanic elements and referring to its' primary male and female deities as Woden and Freya. One must remember that Wicca is an Old English word meaning 'witchcraft' and should be pronounced witchuh. Wicca is cosmpolitan and universalist in nature but certain brave individuals have attempted in their own ways to restore its Germanic nature.

 Edred Thorsson published Witchdom of the True. A Study of the Vana-Troth and the Practice of Seidr in 1999. Thorsson's book is a remarkable analysis of what should be referred to as the Vana Troth, a separate pathway in Germanic heathenism that honours the Vanir and their magical practices. Whilst Thorsson refers to Frey and Freyja as the Lord and Lady Buckland substitutes Woden for Frey. Seax Wica in my opinion should be viewed as a possible recruiting ground for suitable individuals to cross the bridge into Wodenism as the primary deity, Woden is the same. My review of this book can be found on

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