The Well Spring of the Goths
About the Gothic peoples in the Nordic Countries and on the Continent
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The Well Spring of the Goths About the Gothic peoples in the Nordic Countries and on the Continent
All Rights Reserved © 2004 by Ingemar Nordgren
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Scriptures from Västergötland's museum nr 30, ISSN 0349-4829 Historieforum Västra Götaland, Series A, Academic dissertations No 1,
Printed in the United States of America
I dedicate this work to my wife
With thanks for support and understanding during many long years.
"Laws", writes S:t Isidorus of Sevilla
who was busy in the 7th century in the realm of the Goths, "are valid first when they are confirmed by the people" Here we now are sitting after thirteenhundred years, we, the cousins of the civilised Goths, and can not recall that the thief-and misdeed-balc, the shop-closing law, the bank law, the wood-care law, Kepler's laws and Gresham's law and Parkinson's law have ever been confirmed by us
Alf Henriksson in Snickargladje, 1974.
The Well Spring of the Goths 2
About the Gothic peoples in the Nordic Countries and on the Continent 2
About the religion in Scandinavia and Northern Europe during Pre-Roman and Roman Iron Age 10
Conclusion of fertility-cult 39
Secret men's—and warrior's—leagues (cultic leagues) 40
The cult of Ööinn 42
Why are death- and thief-gods linked in the same god? 43
Warrior's leagues in saga and reality 46
Harii (Lugii/Vandili) 47
Hjadnings, Ulvhednings 47
Vplsungs, Werewolves, Ylfings, Hundings, Myrgings 48
The different sagas about the V@lsungs 50
Burgundersaga and Skjpldungasaga 52
The name of the Vplsungs 52
Conclusion of the Vplsungasagas 52
Individual initiation 52
Haraldr Hflditpnn 53
l'varr viöfamöi 58
The battle-plough and boar-decorated helmets 63
Summary of characteristics in the hero-sagas. 64
Conclusion of the hero-sagas 65
About the cult of Ööinn on rune-stones 66
Runic magic: 71
The Helgikvfdae 75
Helgakvfda Hjprvardssonar 75
Helgakvfda Hundingsbana I 80
Helgikvfda Hundingsbana II 83
Helgi haddingjaskati 85
Summary of the Helgikvfdae 86
The cult of Odrnn and shamanism in icono- graphical representation and the ways of distribution of the cult 88
About skialfs, hjallrs and Odinn 123
Conclusions of the examination of the fertility-cult and the cult of Odinn 127
The cult of Gaut and the religion of the Goths—a cultic league? An hypothesis. 131
The Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age 139
Climatic variations 141
Archaeological results 145
Stone- and Bronze Age in the Kattegat-area with focus on Vastergotland 145
Statuettes with rings 147
The moon-goddess and the sun-god 148
Central or peripherial? 149
Burial customs and the religious representational world 150
The transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age and the riddle of the women's graves. 153
Gudhem and the Kattegat-area 156
The women's graves in Varnhem 156
Change of religion? 161
Tuna in Badelunda and similar women's graves 161
Weapon-graves and weaponless graves 165
Connection Scandinavia—South-Eastern Balticum 167
Cultic-political topography and continental connections 168
The realm on Zealand and the problems around Gudme 172
The Olgerdige—the Jutes, the Angles, the Herules 172
Conclusion of the archaeological results 204
The problem of cultic leagues 211
The Helgikvidae and the Semnonenhain 211
Tribal and cultic structure 216
Conclusion of the problem of cultic leagues 229
What do the teophoric and sacral 232
Västergötland (with parts of Halland and Dalsland) 233
The concept of Härad 235
The river Lidan's stream-system and Dalsland 238
Skalunda-Kållands Råda 241
Struggle of power 243
The thing 244
Summary of chiefdoms in Vastergotland 245
Denmark and Skåne 246
Description of the known history of the Goths 250
Sources mentioning the Vistula-Goths 250
The migration 251
The division into Greutungi and Vesi 252
Gutßiuda and Vesi-Tervingi 262
The Arian Goths 272
Summary of the known history of the Goths 277
What or where was the well 284
Gothic origin? 284
Classical literary confirmations 284
The research-discussion about the origin of the Goths 296
Direct archaeological proofs 306
Indirect proofs through cultural changes 307
The polish archaeology 309
The archaeological and paleodemographical estimations by Hachmann 317
Conclusion of the archaeological judgements 337
2. Historiographical judgements 341
3. Linguistic judgements 358
General survey 359
Ernst Schwarz and the Goto-Nordic 362
The Nordic Ring-names 382
The question of Crimean-Gothic 391
Conclusion of linguistic judgements 398
Strolling in the nature on a sunny spring-day, listening to the humming of a well spring, is an amazing experience. All sources are, however, not sources in the sense of a well spring, and they accordingly also not represent such an overwhelming beauty.
Still those other sources also exhibit qualities able to attract you and to lure you on an enchanting quest. Apart of strictly literary sources we also have the by Jordanes mentioned maternal womb on the harsh and distant island of Scandza. I often wondered out of which well spring the lore-reputed Goths may have sprung forward—this people laying the Roman empire for their feet but later being regarded as preservers and saviours of the Roman culture. Do we deal with a usual source/well tied to a certain geographical area or is the telling of their emigration from Scandinavia, as Curt Weibull claims, just a literary construction in a fiction story source. Are there perhaps other kind of sources? Poets and artists often get their inspiration out of philosophy and religion. Maybe the well spring is the religion—a holy well? Something tells me that idea might be worth following up.
I invite the reader to join the quest for the well spring of the Goths, like the knights in the Arthurian lore riding out on the quest for the holy Graal, which, apart from a bucket, also could be interpreted as the holy well of origin of the Celts as hinted in Mabinogion. Hopingly the well spring of the Goths will in time turn visible.
This book is mainly based on my doctoral dissertation The Well Spring of the Goths. The Goths-Religion, Organization, Structure—On the problem of Gothic ethnicity. (Goterkällan. Goterna—Religion, organisation, struktur—Om den gotiska etniciteten), Odense university 1998, but it is later revised and partly also completed with new material which was not known when the dissertation was finished.
I want to express my deep gratitude to the following persons having helped me in different ways. First and most important my tutor, associated professor Tore Nyberg, Odense university and also professor Jose Luis Avello Alvarez, university of Leon, archeoastronomer and archaeologist Lars Bägerfeldt, Falköping, professor Torsten Capelle of Westfälische Wilhelms-universität in Münster, professor
Alfred Ebenbauer, the university of Wien, professor Alvar Ellegård, Göteborg, Götiska Förbundet, f. museidirector of Statens Historiska Museum in Stockholm and present secretary of Vitterhetsakademin Ph.D. Ulf Erik Hagberg, professor Lotte Hedeager, Oslo university, archeoastronomer Göran Henriksson, Uppsala university, professor Anders Hultgård, Uppsala university, professor Heinrich Härke at the university of Reading, archaeologist Jørgen Ilkjær of Moesgården, Aarhus, professor Piotr Kaczanowski, Krakow, researcher and journalist John Kraft, Västeräs, Ph.D. Svante Lagman, the Nordic Rune Data Base, MA Verner Lindblom, Götene, archaeologist Lars Lundqvist RAA, associate professor Tore Mörnsjö, Alingsås, professor Hans Frede Nielsen, Odense university, Ph.D. Andreas Nordin, Göteborg, professor Jerzy Okulicz Warszawa, archaeologist Ove Quist Råbäck, Kinnekulle, professor Lennart Ryden, Uppsala, professor Maciej Salamon, Krakow, professor Alexandra Superanskaya at Akademija Naust in Moscow, professor Jan Svanberg, Stockholm, archaeologist Ulf Viking at Alvs- borgs länsmuseum, professor Herwig Wolfram, the universitety of Wien.
In addition to this also thanks to all employees of Länsmuseet/Västergötlands museum in Skara, the staff of the distant-loans department of the City Library of Lidköping, and a lot of other skilled and kind persons having helped me, but for whos names I regrettably have not space enough. Without all help and understanding I have got from everybody I would not have been able to finish this work.
A special thank you to my brother-in-law, Kenneth Andersson, who has been sitting with me night after night discussing the problem, and through his interest having motivated me to carry on the work. I should also not forget my colleagues phil.lic. Stig Lundberg having given much good advice and the teacher and dia- con et c.Bertil Oscarsson who has been encouraging me all the time, and hence made it possible for me to continue also when I had almost given up. Finally a big thank you to Håkan Larsson for a good job in editing my manuscript technically and to my friend Paolo Dossena Lamper in Cremona who encouraged me to translate the book into English.
This edition is updated with the last relevant news in comparison to the Swedish edition. Quotations of Scandinavian texts are translated into English by myself in order to make the book more accessible, even if it means some of the finer nuances in the texts might be less easy to comprehend, but major languages like e.g. German and French I quote in original since they are more commonly understood.
Källby in November 2004
This work builds on an hypothesis that the original connection between the different Gothic tribes in fact is the common cult. According to this thesis a specific Gothic people does not exist, but instead there are a number of peoples or tribes connected by a common religion. I define this by claiming they are part of a common cultic league. The term cultic league has in the scientific debate been used in different ways. Some writers refer to a limited, local cultic community of secret nature within the frame of the more general religion. This definition is used also by me as an equivalent to secret men's leagues et.c. parallel with the the above mentioned broader definition. Some use the term to designate the religion of a single tribe or a specific sacral kingdom. I use in such cases sacral chiefdoms or sacral kingdoms. In mine general definition of a cultic league I do not include the necessity for organized cultic or political cooperation. Such an organization comes into being only when a cultic league is beginning to transform into some kind of political unit, and accordingly is in the process of gradually declining as a cultic league. Such a process of decline, however, is a slow and time-consuming process, during which the political power gradually grows stronger and stronger and at last is crystallized in a number of more or less independent units.
I accordingly also state that it is this religious foundation which decides the construction of the political power and the social organization in most ancient times, and also that these circumstances principally are valid even during the Christian Arian period of the Goths. In other words I state that the Ethnicity of the Goths basically is similar with their common cult/common divine ancestry.
In order to verify my hypothesis I undertake the following examination.
A number of concrete problems must be solved to reach a result at least close to be convincing. This means I must, beside my own disciplin history, move between a number of disciplines where I am not a specialist. This is something that goes with all multidisciplinary studies, and it will of course create problems when I e.g. must make comparisons between results from different disciplines that are not really compatible. Also in history of religion for example you often must use sources of quite different age, and normally all of them also younger than the period with whom you are working. There simply are no contemporary
Nordic sources. This means the results allways must be considered more or less inexact, which must be rembered when interpreting the total result of the examination. The same kind of not quite reliable results occur when comparing archaeological finds of different age and also trying to connect them with a written source. These factors should accordingly be remembered when confronted with the result.
In ordet to have a solid foundation for a work of this character, a minute survey of Germanic religion in pre-Christian times is absolutely essential. If not there is no chance to try to penetrate the religion of the Goths of which extremely little is known. Since different schools of research are divided already concerning the basic facts of Germanic religion in Scandinavia and on the Continent I have to ask myself some critical questions.
I question among else the function that is ascribed during different epochs to Asir and Vanir, who both by Dumezil are regarded as original, while other researchers mean they have been introduced in different epochs. This part of the examination concerns possible differences and similarities between possibly older fertility cult and cult of Odinistic character, as well as the possibility for conflicts between rulers founding their power on older fertility cult towards rulers claiming genealogical ancestry from Gaut or 03inn-gaut. The god O3inn is compared with the supposed god Gaut with whom he later possibly merges, and the question wether Gaut might have been a Nordic predecessor to—variant of—03inn is discussed and made probable. These circumstances are meant to tie the name Goths and variants of this to the god, and hence these names can be regarded as teophoric.
In the part specially treating the presumed cult of Gaut and the later cult of 03inn-gaut, and the with these connected political power, I undertake a survey of the archaeological results from Scandinavia and the Vistula area, after which I make a thorough examination of earlier research about cultic leagues inclusive classical literary sources and archaeological and historical results. In this field it has not been specially intense activity since the 1960's when among else Reinhardt Wenskus treated the problem. Thereafter follows a section where I try, with the help of place-names, to find power structures and sacral organization within specially the Scandinavian area. Also this section partly concerns the problem of cultic leagues but essentially it deals with sacral chiefdoms. I try to connect to as actual research as possible but I still have to use also the Saga literature and other older literary sources.
After having in this fashion tried to offer a general background of the different peoples I will characterize as Gothic, I take a closer look on those Goths who are referred to around the Vistula about the beginning of our time reckoning. I follow their migrations primarily to the Pontian Basin and the Black Sea, and later finally via Italy all the way till the dissolution of the Visigothic realm in Spain in 711. Of special interest here is the question how, and with what means, the different tribe groups were united, and particularly the organization of the Tervingian realm in Dacia, and the factors who constituted the ethnicity of the Goths during the Arian and Catholic epochs.
When I have so presented more or less known facts about the Goths, I move to the question about their origin. Are they, as claimed by Cassiodorus/Ablabius/Jordanes coming from Scandinavia in a mass-emigration or do they have a continental origin? Maybe they are a heterogenous mixture gradually melting into a common ethnicity? I start with examining the classical sources and so I go ahead for a closer look on the earlier research discussion about this topic. The discussion consists of three separate parts focusing on respectively archaeology, historiography and linguistics.
In the final part then I conclude the outcome I have reached concerning the ethnical origin of the Goths, based on the results of the examination.
About the religion in Scandinavia and Northern Europe during Pre-Roman and Roman Iron Age
Since witten sources for knowledge about Germanic religion, in the time that interests us, are almost non existent, researchers in history of religion normally have turned towards the generously flowing Icelandic literature and its testimonies about the world of the Germanic gods. The great systembuilders having achieved to build a structure, like for example Grønbech, de Vries, Ellis Davidson, Eliade and Dumézil have each presented their own individual schemes who are hard to prove or to counterprove.
In the following I will try to find what there is in these schemes, and in details in their works, being possible to apply to the Goths and possibly better enlight their cultic, system of which we know very little. Of course I will also look closer on the sources they use to make my own interpretations.
In this connection, of course, also archaeological finds and contexts are of major importance. It deals primarily with 03inn and the matter that he also appears with the double name 03inn-gaut. Between 03inn and Gaut there seems to be many similarities and these problems will be treated with respect also to the fact that the occurence of the name of 03inn is very frequent while the references to Gaut are scarce and mostly occuring in genealogies. Structural conditions in a society worshipping Gaut and/or 03inn is here positioned relative to conditions who have supported the developement of a traditional fertility cult.
The discussion goes about schamanistic elements and fertility cult. By this means you might, hopingly, better enlight the background of the double name 03inn-gaut and hence se differences and similarities between the two names.
Theories about the origin of the gods
The first problem that appears in this context is to decide wether the whole world of Germanic gods is Indo-European and besides also identical within all geographical areas, whether it is Indo-European but differs between different areas, or if it is not at all Indo-European. The last alternative might rather be regarded as rethorical, of course, and so remains the choice between the two first options. Let us for a start look on a spokesman for for the first alternative—identical Indo-European.
Georges Dumezil has in "De Nordiska Gudarna"(The Nordic Gods) performed an epochmaking achivement in showing the connection between the Nordic and also the general Germanic religion and the Indo-Iranian, vedic religion, and stated that most European religions generally fall back on the Proto- Indo-Europeans. His opinion can be demonstrated through the scheme of the world of the gods below. An Indo-European divine pantheon consists according to him of three levels:
1 Two ruling gods with complimentary functions or
One ruling god
A second level god—maybe several
Third level gods—fertilitygods being twins, and some times also a goddess
The two upper levels stick together against the third level which has a much lower position.
The pantheon which, according to Dumezil, is actual for the Nordic and general Germanic divine world is the one you find in e.g. the Mittanni realm during the 14 c. BC. It consists of two ruling gods—Mitra and Varuna. They dwell on the uppermost level and their equivalents in human society are the Brahmans, but this has no direct connection with the gods, being of mythic origin.
Mitra cares of this world, things that are visible, the daylight, juridics, law enforcement, contracts, agreements et.c. His name means just contract, agreement. In this administrative task is included the responsibility to control that wars are carried out in a correct and orderly way—he is accordingly also a military god—a god of war.
Varuna takes care of the other world icluding the invisible, the night, the magic (mäyä), the violently killed and specially the hanged. He has a snare with which he can fetter and kill enemies. He also has an army of natur- and death- demons, the Maruts, with whose help de evil chaos-forces kan be controlled and which can be used schamanistically to enforce the fertility of the fields.
(Other researchers, for example von Schröder, Wikander, Höfler place this army under the Indian god Rudra. The entities of the army are called the Maruts after its leader Marut, who in Indian mythology is the son of Rudra. Rudra is storm god, god of the nature forces, the wrath of Brahma, god of healing, of peace and of animals. He later becomes part of Brahma under name of Vishnu— the destroyer.)
In post Vedic time the Maruts are transferred to the god of war, Indra, who takes care of both of the two former high gods responsibilities as single high god of the uppermost level.
The second level, comparable in human society with kshatriya, the warriors, is ruled by the god of war, Indra, who also has the thunderbolt as a symbol and is said to have red hair. Indra has a son called Arjuna. Dumezil thinks Arjuna reminds of the 03inn-heroes.
The third and lowest level, in human society equivalent to Vai9ya, peasants, is occupied by Nasatyas—the fertility gods consisting of twin gods, who in India and Persia also are connected with a goddess. Dumezil refers to an Iranian legend from fifth Veda treating warfare between the gods of the 1st and 2nd levels against those of the 3rd. Nasatyas, or Aijvins, demanded to get their share of the sacrifices given to the gods by the humans, but the higher ranked gods denied them this because they meant the Aijvins were to close to the humans. The war that followed was won by the Aijvins thanks to an ascet who helped them create a being, Mada, who was intoxication personified. He was that hughe and strong that even Indra was helpless. After peace was made Mada was chopped in four pieces by the ascet and those remains were distributed to four special areas—drinking, gambling, hunting and women. (Mahabharatta 123-25)
He also gives parallels with the religion of the Italics. Here he finds divine triads comparable with the Indo-Iranian:
Pre-Capitolian triad: Umbria—Triad Germania (Tacitus)
Iupiter, Dius Fidius (fidelity, promise) (and the
Iupiter, Mars, Ouirinius
Inn, Mart, Vofiono
Mercurius (Wodan) Mars (Tyr) Hercules (E>6rr) (two levels)
Sun(Wodan), Vulcanus (&6rr), Moon (Frejr/Freja)
The mentioned three levels Dumezil also finds in the Nordic pantheon with the triad 03inn, E>6rr and Frejr (he also mentions 03inn, Vile, Ve) where 03inn is the ruler god, god-king
, and closest under him, in the 2nd
level, comes his son E>6rr as god of war. He posesses the thunderbolt and the hammer as symbols, and he has red hair. E>6rr leads the other gods on this level. The gods of 1st
levels are all called Asir.
On the lowest level are the Vanir, who he defines as Njorär, Frejr and Freja. He remarks that even Nerthus must be seen as a name-variant of Njorär. (Dumezil, De Nordiske Guder, 1969, p. 9-39)
In opposition to the structuralistic approach above stands the older historical school, that originally goes back to Snorri Sturlusonar and Ynglingasaga. The person who can be referred to as the modern founder of this "school" is the Swedish researcher Bernhard Salin who 1903, in Studier tillägnade Oscar Montelius, put forth a theori which literally is very close to Ynglingasaga. It describes the cult of Oäinn and the Asir as invading and superposing the old Vanir cult. In this spirit he also published his famous work of the Nordic animal ornaments, Die altgermanische Tierornamentik, which he tried to connect to this approach. H. Schück, E. Mogk and several others have thought of a regular war of religions, but most think of an ethnical, political war. Concerning to Salin and others the penetrating by the Asir cult happened during the 4th century AD while others relate the happenings to the time of the Indo-European immigration in the North. They support their opinion with archaeological finds indicating a transition from the Megalithic culture to the Corded Ware Culture. This is claimed by e.g. E.A. Philippson in Die Genealogie der Götter. (Philippson 1953, p.19) According to this approach the myth should relate a factual warfare.
According to my opinion neither of these "schools" stand above objections. On the contrary both of them from time to another have failed in taking notice of all relevant sources or, alternatively, failed to see the connection between different types of sources. The reasoning is many times logically inconsistent. The structuralistic school has great trouble to show the existence of a cult of Oäinn in an early stage. You just have to remind of the tribal saga of the Goths which, over- handed already in the 6th century, by Jordanes/Cassiodorus/Ablabius in Getica, where explicitly is told that the Goths converted to the cult of Oäinn in the 3rd c.AD under Filimer, and that halirunnae were chased out into the wilderness. A similar ethnogenesis between fertility cult and cult of Oäinn can be derived from the tribal saga of the Langobards, when the Vinnilii convert to Oäinn and the religious power of the women disappear (Origo Gentis Langobardorum; Paulus Diaconus Hist. langob., 8thc.AD) and the Vandilii are mentioned at the same occasion. (Wolfram, Origo et Religio)
Let us briefly regard both stories and compare them to each other: Before the decisive battle the two Vandilic twins ask Oäinn, leader of the Asir, to give them victory. Oäinn seems inclined to want to help them and not least because the Vandilii are more numerous than the opposers. In the meantime the pristess of the Vinnilii gets support by her Vanic goddess Freja. The witch introduces her as the mate of 03inn in spite of the fact that this position normally is held by the asynja Frigg. It has however been pointed out that Frigg and many other Scandinavian goddesses probably should be regarded as variants of Freja. It is accordingly the Vanic Freja who makes the Asir wargod fullfill his own oracle towards the Vandilii, who originally are supported by him. One of many divine names of 03inn was Longbeard. Under the leadership of the wise mother the Winnilic women and their Vanic goddess outmanuevre the wargod; unintentionally he happens to call the threated tribal group "longbeards-longobards"after himself and, accordingly, he has to grant them the victory. Both peoples were prepared—it is the Vandilii who at first invoke the wargod—to constitute a progressive military organization in form of a wandering army.
This means in the language of myth that they are prepared to forsake their Vanic origin and accept the Asir god 03inn as leader of their army. It is the Vinnilic women, the goddess Freja and her priestess who not only prepare and ease the happening, but also forces this change of cult and name and through this produces victory for their men. As representatives of the Vanic tradition they sacrifice their whole past, and their cult, to secure the rescue and survival of the tribe, legitimating a new ethnogenesis. It is not astonishing that they make to their first governing king the son of the younger Vinnilic dioscur, which creates a legal constitution till well into historical time.
This is nothing you can dismiss with a shoulder-shrug referring to Middle Age monk-chronicles. The divine pictures of the rock-carvings, who partly might be more ancient than the IE immigration, are also uncomfortable and Dumezil admits there might be older remains from the defeated proto-population. (Dumezil 1969, p.30) There are also e.g. references to later archaeological evidence of an "old" extra-Nordic divine triad from the christening of the Saxons by Charlemagne. Dumezil means this is a sign the religion was old and original up North. (Dumezil 1969, p.31). This one is however late—9th c.—and he also means that Saxn6t = Seaxnet is a fertility god since he finds the meaning 'fellow of the Saxon's, 'Genofie' and compares with Frejr as veraldar go3, folkvaldi go3a 'the god of the human herd'. Other researchers see in Seaxnot the god Tyr as 'follower of the sword','fellow' armed with the short, single-egged Saxon sword—seax— which was his attribute in late time. The name can be derived from *Sahsginot. (Ellis Davidson 1984, p. 59).
The traditional "historical" school on the other hand must face the fact that there are great similarities with Vedic and Iranian myth, even if they are not total. That our system accordingly is connected with the general Indo-European divine world is undeniable and not to discuss. Hence 03inn might have been here all the time without us being able to confirm it. In the following I shall try to find evidence, or at least in any case indices, that can give a more understandable wiew of the origin and spread of Odinistic cults and the relations with fertility cult.
To be able to work systematically with the mythological material, and to get kind of hold of it initially, I start with a mythological overwiew where I indicate more detailed those components who later should be examined more thoroughly.
This presentation builds on old and accepted, popular estimations of the divine world, and every god/goddess of importance will later be examined in detail in order to judge the reasonableness of the role this entity is regarded to play within the divine pantheon. The question is whether the world of the gods is as systematically and simply built as Dumezil indicates, and for that sake generally also is assumed by tradition.