Thursday, July 12, 2007
Tree and Gods
This thin carved branch is a goddess figure called Nerthus, found at Foerlev Nymolle in 1961." Under some stones a cloven oak branch was placed 9 feet in length. The branch possessed natural "feminine" form, suggesting a slender body, rounded hips and long legs, most distinctive features were shown by working or carving.
" Nerthus; Germanic goddess, a mother goddess who had a sacred grove on a Frisian island. At certain times Nerthus travelled inland along a recognized path, her image being placed in an oxen cart and attended by a priest, during this sacred journey, peace was expected to prevail and "all iron was put away"
She bathed at a lake and afterwards slaves who had helped in this ritual were drowned.. some say that in fact Tacitus may have been referring to Freyja, but some myths say that Nerthus was the mother of Freyja.The sacrificial bodies found in the "cauldron bogs" such as the Grauballe man and the Tollund Man maybe the "husbands" of the goddess Nerthus, sacrificed in some rite of spring after the mating with the goddess.
Male fertility gods were also found in the bogs, they are strangely grotesque, the following image (purloined from Glob) shows a rather playful nature.
Nerthus represents late Scandinavian Bronze Age earth goddess figure, a powerful female deity on which the fertility of the land and animals depended, later on she loses her power to the male deities - probably of war and Tacitus also gives evidence of this.
Also found in the bogs, apart from boats, were war spoils - silver helmets, coats of mail, roman coins, fine raiments - this war gear sacrifices were made at a time when there was strife amongst the tribal areas."When they join battle they promise the spoils of war to the war god, after victory, captured animals are sacrificed to him and the rest of the booty is gathered in one place. In many places heaps of such things are piled up in sacred places"
The above evidence is taken from Scandinavian iron age history, and their gods were somewhat different to ours, but what is interesting is the use of wood to represent their gods, and the wonderful image of the Tree of Yrgradsil, which in its mythological stories spread its great roots over their world. We have little evidence of wooden effigies in this country, though some small fertility objects have been found in the Somerset Levels, and the tree is also significant in celtic tradition.
Interestingly, phallic stone heads have been found in this country, one at Eype, Dorset. Presumably, they were brought in by the roman legion native soldiers, homesick for their own pagan gods, they would have carved replicas to worship out in the open. These heads are crude affairs, roughly shaped, and are only denoted as phallic by long necks with a head on top.