During the time of Roman expansion in Europe, the Romans encountered many Germanic tribes on the other side of the Rhine and Danube rivers.

The German people were a constant threat to the Empire since the first appearance of the Cimbri and Teutones at the end of the second century BC. Julius Caesar encountered them in his campaign in Gaul, in mid 1st century BC. In his memoir, called Gallic Wars, Caesar was able to distinguish the German from the Celts.

The origin of the German people was obscure, but it is believed that they were originally come from Scandinavia, before migrating to northern Germany and the Baltic. More Germanic tribes began migrating south, placing continuous stress on Roman defence frontiers.

A Roman historian named Tacitus, (fl. AD 100), who wrote Germania, provided some details of the German society culture and religion. Other writers including Strabo, Jordanes, and Procopius.

The continuous invasions and migrations on the Roman frontiers had caused instability and finally the collapse of the Roman Empire in the west.

Most of the Germanic religions and myths vanished because of the early conversion of the Germans to Christianity.

To read more about the history of the Germanic people, see About Norse Myths.


 
Wodan (Woden or Wotan)
Tiwaz (Tiw)
Donar (Thunor)
Frija (Frea)
Baldr, see Aesir, Balder
Nerthus
 
Germangabis
Irmin
Ing
Ostara & Eostre     


Fact and Figures: The Norse Way      

Related Pages:

      Aesir
      Vanir






Wodan (Woden)
 

Wodan was an ancient Germanic sky god. Wodan was known as Woden or Wotan to the Saxons and later Odin to the Norse. Wodan was also the god of war.

Wodan became an increasingly popular Germanic god, who replaced Tiwaz (Tyr), as the chief sky god and war god. Odin inherited many of Wodan's roles and attributes, as well as those of Tiwaz.

Wodan was particularly popular among the noble class, but was less popular among the working class and peasants. The rural people tend to be more interested in Donar or Thunor (Thor), the god of thunder.

Wodan (Odin) was the husband of the goddess Frija or Frea (Frigg). In the Lombardic myths, he was called Godan and was the husband of Frea.

Wodan was not only the god of war; he was the god of victory in battle. Victory was achieved in battle, when he pointed his spear in favour of one army over the other.

Wodan was death and blood sacrifice. The Cimbri, the Heruli and the Goths carrying out sacrificial rite, by stabbing and burning their victims. This would account for later Norse myths, when Odin stabbed with his spear and burned the Vanir goddess Gullveig three times, but each time, the goddess would be reborn. This attack upon the goddess, resulted in a war between the Aesir and the Vanir.

Like Odin, Wodan was the god of hanging. The Cimbri sometimes hanged their captives over the bronze cauldrons, while the priestess cut their throats. These sacrifices to Wodan would then later be thrown into sacred lakes. However, the Norse myths say that it was Odin who hanged himself, in order to learn the magic power of poetry and the magic of the runes.

The Roman identified Woden with the Roman god Mercury. The Germanic people honoured his name by naming Wednesday after him. Wednesday was also dies Mercurii (Mercury's Day).

Woden along with six other deities was mentioned in the Second Merseburg Charm, c. 900.

 
Related Information
Name
Wodan, Wotan (German).
Woden, Wôden (Saxon).
Godan, Wotan (Lombard).

Odin, Odinn, Othin, Othinn (Norse).

Mercury (Roman).

Related Articles
See also Odin.

Frija, Tiwaz, Donar.

Frigg, Thor, Tyr. Mercury.

Sacrifice: Hanging and Runes.



Tiwaz
 

Tiwaz was one of the earliest known Germanic god. Tiwaz was the chief sky god and the god of war. Tiwaz had been later identified with the Norse god Tyr, and the Roman god of war, Mars.

Like the later Norse myths, Tiwaz was the one-handed god, who lost his hand to the monstrous wolf, Fenrir. The Semnones, a German tribe living around the Havel and the Spree rivers (east of the Elbe), had to entered his woodland sanctuary with their hands and feet bound.

The Hermundurii offered human sacrifices to Tiwaz. The Goths sacrificed their prisoners to the war-god.

Tiwaz was the name of power, because it was believed that the spear become a powerful talisman of protection, when his name was cut into the spear, using runic symbols.

It was believed that Tiwaz was the original sky-god and god of war, until Wodan gained in popularity, and inherited many of Tiwaz's roles.

 
Related Information
Name
Tiwaz, Tîwaz (German).
Tiw, Tiv, Tiu (Anglo-Saxon).
Tyz (Gothic).

Tyr, Týr (Norse).

Mars (Roman).

Related Articles
See also Tyr.

Wodan.

Odin, Fenrir. Mars.



Donar
 

A Germanic god of thunder. Donar was also known as Thunor or Thonar to the Saxon and Thor to the Scandinavians. The Romans had identified Donar with the Roman thunder-god, Jupiter.

Donar was the god of storm, thunder and lightning. His symbols were the axe or hammer, which was sometimes a symbol of fertility. The presence of the hammer also identified Donar with the Roman hero/god Hercules (Heracles), who wielded the club as a weapon. Donar or Thunor was much more popular among the rural population than Wodan (Odin).

In the Norse myths, Thor inherited Donar's attributes, and Thor became the strongest defender of the gods. Thor was the son of Odin (Woden) and Jord.

Thursday or "Thor's Day" was a sacred day of the week, which corresponded to the Roman dies Jovis or "Jove's Day", which was a sacred day for Jupiter. The Modern German called Thursday, Donnerstag ("Donar's Day").

 
Related Information
Name
Donar (German).
Thunaer, Thunær, Thunor, or Thonar (Saxon).
Thor, þórr (Norse).

Jupiter (Roman).

Related Articles
See also Thor.

Wodan.

Odin, Jupiter, Hercules.



Frija
 

Frija was the goddess of childbirth and midwifery. Frija was the wife and consort of Wodan (Odin). Frija was identified with the Norse goddess, Frigg.

Her name appeared in the Second Merseburg Charm (c. 900) as Frea, in Saxony. In the Lombard's legend found in Origo gentis Langobardorum ("Origin of the Nation of Lombards", 7th century), Frea tricked her husband Godan (Woden) into giving victory to the Lombards over the Vandals.

 
Related Information
Name
Frija, Friia (German); Frea (Gothic).
Frigg, Frigga (Norse).

Related Articles
See also Frigg.

Wodan.



Nerthus
 

Nerthus was an ancient Germanic earth goddess. She was known since the time of the Roman Empire. Tacitus, the Roman historian in 1st-2nd century AD, identified Nerthus with the Roman goddess Terra Mater. Nerthus was a popular goddess since she was worshipped by seven Germanic tribes – Reudigni, Aviones, Anglii (Angles), Varini, Eudoses, Suarines and the Huitones.

Tacitus recorded that each year there was festival where the goddess would supposedly travelled in a chariot pulled by two white heifers, escorted by the priest. No one was allowed to take up war or bear arms during the festivities. Even iron tools were locked up during the goddess' journey. It was good luck for those settlements she visited in her journey.

At the end of the festival, the priest would guide the chariot to a sacred lake, where Nerthus would bathe. Her chariot would be covered with a cloth. After the selected slaves bathed the goddess in the lake, the slaves were then drowned, as sacrifices to Nerthus.

Nerthus' attributes also resembled that of the ancient Celtic counterpart, Matres or Matrone, the group of mother goddesses that was popular around the Rhine River.


Though the worshipped of Nerthus seemed to ended in the 5th or 6th century, the later tradition says that she had been identified with Norse god, Njörd (Njord), the Vanir god of the wind and sea. Njörd was the male form of Nerthus. How had Nerthus undergone a change of sex, still baffled modern scholars.

Nerthus may well have been the unnamed sister and wife of Njörd, in the Norse myths, who became the mother of Freyr and Freyja. Though none of the Norse authors ever gave a name to Njörd's sister. Or she may well be the ancient form of Freyja herself. Since the Norse writers believed that the Vanir deities were older than the Aesir, then that Teutonic Nerthus became the Norse Freyja is more than likely true.

 
Related Information
Name
Nerthus, Herthum, Hertha (Germanic).

Jord, Fjorgyn, Erda (Norse).
Njörd (male?).

Matres (Celtic). Terra Mater (Roman).

Related Articles
Njörd, Freyr, Freyja.

Terra Mater, Matres.

Facts and Figures: Astronomy.



Germangabis
 

Germangabis was the tutelary goddess of the Suebi tribe that lived around the Elbe River, Germany. Germangabis was the goddess of prosperity and was possibly associated with the Norse goddess, Gefjon.

 
Related Information
Related Articles
Gefjon.



Irmin
 

Irmin was the god of war. Irmin was either equated with Tiwaz (Tyr) or it was possibly another name for Tiwaz. His name implied that of one of great strength or that he was the god of strength.

 
Related Information
Name
Irmin – "Strength".

Tiwaz?

Related Articles
Tiwaz.



Ing
 

Ing was the ancestral god of the Germanic tribes – the Angles and the Saxons. Ing was possibly an Aesir god, or even a Vanir god.

 
Related Information
Name
Ing.



Ostara & Eostre
 

Ostara was the Germanic goddess of the sun and fertility. Ostara was also associated with the coming of spring, and her festival was held on the spring equinox, which is March 21. For the Germanic people, spring was the time of fertility and rebirth. She was equated with the goddess Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess. Eostre was most likely just another name for Ostara. Eostre was the goddess of spring.

St Bede the Venerable wrote that the Christian Easter derived its name from Eostre, which was held on the same day of the festival of the German Ostara, but the date was later changed. Easter Sunday, the day of Christ's resurrection, varied between March 22 and April 25, depending on when the first Sunday of the full moon (the paschal moon), after the spring equinox. See also Norse Festivals.

The usual tradition of modern Easter, such as the Easter eggs and Easter bunny, also come from pagan custom. The rabbit was the sacred animal to Eostre, the symbol of fertility. The egg also symbolised fertility and rebirth of spring. The whiteness of the egg and the rabbit also indicated purity.

 
Related Information
Name
Ostara (German).
Eostre (Anglo-Saxon).

Related Articles
Norse Festivals.









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