The Northern Way

The Voluspá, The Sibyl’s Lay in the Edda of Sæmund

The Cult of Nerthus

Page 3

Varini, Wærnes, on the map of Ptolemy, are placed fairly in the present Mecklenburg. One of the main rivers of the country till this day are called Warnow; it debouches near the well-known railway junction of Warnemünde. The reign of the Varines was ruined by the Franks in the year 595. The later invading Slavs who settled near the river of Warnow called themselves Varnabi; perhaps the tribe may have been a denationalised remnant of the Varines.

Eudoses are like the Eudosbi of Ptolemy (corrupted into Fundusioi). Ptolemy's map places them on the north-west coast of Jutland, as neighbours of the Charudes who lived on the east coast. In Cesar's time Enduses and Charudes jointly made an inroad into Gaul. We know of no other native possible equation than the tribe of Wederas in the Beowulf poem. As Euthungi are often called Vithungi, and the Jutæ often Vitæ, it does not seem to us quite excluded that a similar displacement of the initial sounds might have taken place in Euduses-Wederas. The R could be quite regularly developed from a voiced S.

Suarines or Suardones are by Chadwick and others combined with the Varini as Su-varines, and again refound in the Mecklenburgian town of Schwerin. We should prefer to correct Suarines, Suardones into Charudes, as these are the notorious neighbours of the Euduses.

Charudes on Ptolemy's map are placed on the east coast of Jutland, and here they are brought to mind by the medieval district of Harz Hæret, nowadays Hads Herred. The greater part of the Charudes, however, have moved on to the west coast, and live here as Hardboer, in the district of Hard Syssel.

Nuithones is evidently corrupt. It may be bettered inot Teutones or Euthiones. The Teutones, accordto Ptolemy's map, are the neighbours of the Varines, whereas Mela places them on the island of Codanonia (Scandinavia?). The Euthiones, who occur in a poem of Venantius Fortunatus, 583, of coursee would be identical with the well-known Jutes.

Half of the above interpretations, it is true, are questionable, but at least Angles, Varines and Euduses are firmly localised, and this is enough to give some idea of the general extension of the Nerthus community. Jutland in its whole length is included; that is to say, so far as it belongs to the Baltic sphere; the south-western part, because of its maritime intercourse ith the North Sea regions, seems to have belonged to another community. So the Nerthus-community belonged, moreover, to Mecklenburg, the territory of the Varines. As to the Danish islands, they are not directly mentioned. But the sacred "island in the ocean," in the opinion of many scholars, is Sealand. And at any rate we cannot wonder if Tacitus was not aware of the extension of the community beyond the Belts: for here his geographical knowledge was quite sporadic and unreliable.

IV. PLACE-NAMES OR RUNE-STONES PRESERVING THE NERTHUS-CULT. — Nærild in Varvith Syssel, West Jutland, anciently a church village = Nerthus-hill? Njære, vicarage in Aabo Syssel, near Randers, = Niarthar-ví, “Nerthus-sanctuary.” Nærbjærg, in Aabo Syssel, on Hælghænæs, the "Holy Ness," = Nerthus~Barrow? The "Holy Ness " is no doubt the most suitable place for a maritime cult on the whole coast of North Jutland, as it stands far out into the Kattegat, widely visible with its steep bank, which is called Ellemandsbjerget, “the Elf-mountain.” Rune-stone, on the island of Funen, mentioning Nora goÞi (Nura kuÞi), according to Magnus Olsen, "the priest of the Nerthus - worshippers.” Nærthøwæ, now N. and S. Næraa, in the northern and eastern part of Funen, = “Nerthus - hill." Niartherum, now Nærum, in N. Sealand, = “Nerthus-place." Närlunda, near Helsingborg in Scania = “Nerthus-grove." Niærdholm, an unknown islet near the coast of Scania.

In the Upper Swedish provinces, place-names, preserving the cult of Nerthus, are exceedingly numerous. Sometimes they are now singularlv distorted, such as Mjerdevid, formerly Njærdevi; (H. V. Clausen). Also in Norway the name of Nerthus is represented, e. g., Njarðey, now Næro is the well known Nærøfjord.

V. EVIDENCES ON THE CULT OF THE ANCESTRAL HERO, INGUO. — The Inguions, as we have said before, arc generally identified with the Nerthus-worshippers. We must remark beforehand that according to ancient Gottonic laws of nomenclature, no ordinary human being was allowed to bear the name of his own native eponymous hero, national nor gentile. Hence we draw the conclusion that eponymous names, found in the early parts of ancient pedigrees, have a certain systematic significance: they proved the means of indicating the genealogical classification of the families concerned. This must be remembered in order to understand the evidences correctly.

Pliny, Nat. Hist., IV., 96 and 99. The lnguions consist of the inhabitants of Saevo (Norway), 'moreover of Cimbrians, Teutons, i.e., Jutlanders, and of Chauks in northern Hannoveria.

GENEALOGY OF THE ANGLIAN KINGS OF BERNICIA — Woden — Beornec — Ing-ui. Anglo-Saxon Rune-Song. Ing was first among the East-Danes. Hence he went over the wave. The chariot (?) ran after him.

BEOWULF. - The Skjoldungs or Danes are constantly called Ing-wine, i.e., "friends of Inguo."

GENEALOGY OF THE SIKLINGS, who, according to Saxo, have emigrated from Götland to Sealand. Ungavin the top of the genealogy, = Ing-vin.

GENEALOGY OF THE YNGLINGS OR SKILFINGS, Kings of Sweden, worshipping the gods called Vanes. Niorthr-Freyr (called Yngvi, Yngvi-Frejr or Ingunár-Freyr) (Vana f.) Vanlandi (Skjalf f.) Yngvi.

VI.FIRST COUNTER - VERIFICATION. LOCAL OR NON - LOCAL CHARACTER OF THE NERTHUS - CULT. — It is a question how much of the above~mentioned rites is international, and how much of more local origin.

The sacrificial procession of driving is of course not local. We again find it with the lascivities, etc., on Rhenish ground in the year of 1123 (Rodulf's Chronicon abbatiæ S. Trudonis lib. XI., see Kögel, Gesch. d. deutsch. Litt I., p. 23, Grimm Mythologie [3] 242, [4] III., 86).

The chariot with religious images is found on Celtic ground in Steiermark (Sophus Müller, "Urgesch. Europas," p. 131, Hallstadt Period) and Danish ground near the Seelandic place of Trundholm, belonging to the cult of the Sun (Müller, ibid, p. 116).

Survivals of sacrificial sexual rites were found on the island of Helgoland as late as in the 17th century (Nathan Chytræus).

If we should try to trace the existence of more local features, we should like to point out the difference in means of conveyance. The Baltic districts evidently prefer the ordinary chariot. Evidences : Nerthus, goddess of Lejre, Peace-Frode, Freyr, Sun-chariot from Sealand. We may, perhaps, add Gefion’s plough as a sub-species. Only one instance of ship driving is known within this region; the custom exists till this day in Aarhus, the capital of Jutland.

The South Teutonic region seems to prefer the ship driving. Tacitus relates that a goddess, "Isis," is worshipped by the Swebians in the likeness of a ship. And we again find the ship-procession both on Rhenish ground and in Tyrol (Kögel, i.e.). As the ship symbol is inappropriate for an inland country like the Tyrol, the custom may have been carried thither by Swebian "Isis-worshippers."

VII. SECOND COUNTER-VERIFICATION. — EVIDENCES ABOUT NON-INGUIONIC TRIBES. — (a) Saxons. A national symbol of theirs is Saxnôt. From him the East-Saxon kings in England are derived, whereas all Jutic and Anglian kings are derived from Woden. Another national god of the Saxons is Er, who is also worshipped by the Bavarians. His symbol most likely is the Irmin-sûl, "the enormous column," worshipped by the Saxons, who therefore would seem to belong to the Ermines, a group co-ordinate with the Inguions; the Saxons, and the neighbouring Sigulons and Ambrons of classical times appear in the same relation to the Inguions as the Saxons, Siggs and Ymbres of Widsith, not being mentioned within the Nerthus group.

(b) Swebians, etc. According to Pliny, they belong to the group of Ermines, co-ordinate with Inguions. The Bavarians in 'the middle ages remembered their origin from Ermin or " Armen," who was, by learned conjecture, derived from Armenia. The national god Er is worshipped from Saxony to Bavaria; hence Bavarian Ertag=Tuesday. Symbol: Irmin-sûl? Compare the Saxons. The god Woden is unknown to the Bavarians; hence German Mittwoch = Wednesday. A part of the Swebians, according to Tacitus, Germ. c. 9, worship "Isis," symbolized as a ship. The ship-symbol also found in the Rhine-province (near Aachen), and the Tyrol, see above. The German name of " Isis

It was perhaps Hulda, Frau Holle. She may have been counterpart of the female Nerthus.

(c) Frisians, etc. A national god of theirs is Forsete, president of the "thing” or law-court, worshipped especially in Helgoland, or "Fosetesland." He seems be the same as the Mars Thingsus, worshipped by Tuiantes the inhabitants of Twenthe, south of West Frisia. Tuesday in German is named after Mars Thingsus:Dingstag, Dienstag; this denomination is most frequent in Western Germany and Holland. The Norwegians in later times adopted Forsete into their mythology, but real worship of him cannot be traced on Scandinavian ground.

(d) Franks. According to Pliny, the people near the Rhine form a group called Istiones, or Istvæones. The statement is supported by a 6th century "Generatio regum and gentium," written down in Gaul; here the Franks appear as “sons of Istio.” Even if the genealogy is not to be trusted, its statement about vernacular tribe may lay claim to reliability. We know nothing about local Franconian gods of greater significance.

The collective evidence from the tribes south of Jutland seems to show that their worship is characterized by special features, in contrast to that of the Inguions. At any rate, we have found nothing which justifies the assertion that the Inguions belonged to a southern type, limited to the countries west of the Øresund and sharply contrasting with the Scandinavian type.


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