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6. The meaning of the word Wöd

Besides the name of Othin which lingered on in popular tradition we find a shorter form Wöde or Wöd. If we reject the opinion that it is only a defective form of Wödan, worn out during so many ages, we are necessarily driven to the conclusion that Wöde is the more original, Wödan the more developed form. A bit of etymology may elucidate the real character of the relation between these two words.

In great parts of Germany people speak of “Das wütende Heer". The leader of this host of spirits must be inspired especially by this fury or “Wut”. He is the furious one in the most absolute sense. The connection between this “Wut” and the racial element of the name Wöde and Wödan is of great importance and to determine it we must study the exact meaning of these words.

The proper meaning of the word Wut is, as far as the extant documents are concerned, exclusively that of a high mental excitement. The Gothic translation of the Gospel uses the word woþs in the story of the possessed man cured by Jesus (St. Mark. V, 15 and 18); here it renders the Greek words daimonizomenos and daimonistheis. The Old German translation of Tatian has for the Latin words: demonium habet et insanit the translation “er habet diuual inti vvuotit” 64). Mental derangement is the common idea this word conveys. Isidor renders the sentence Quod ita existimare magnae dementiae est with “dhazs so zi chilaubanne mihhil uuootnissa [31] ist.” As a translation of freneticus, furiosus, lyphaticus 65) it does not mean a violent movement, a rushing onward in blind fury, but the being possessed by a spiritual force, being in the state of a daimonios.

The Old Norse language has three different words óðr: n. a noun meaning “intellect” or “poetic genius”, 2. an adjective “raging, furious, terrible”, 3. a proper name Óðr as the name of a god. The adjective is used in many cases, where the meaning is only “furious, in a highly excited movement”, as when the storm, the sea or the fire are called óðr. The adverb ótt often means simply “quick, swift”. In str. 43 of Atlakviða we read the words: óvarr hafðe Atle óðan sik drukkit; óðr is here the mental state of drunkenness, which, however, according to the heathen conceptions, in many cases does not simply mean a kind of bewilderment, but the being possessed by a divine force. The noun óðr clearly has the same meaning. Its use as a word for the poetic genius is very significant; this is always considered as the result of the spiritual force entering the human mind 66). In the myth of man's creation, as it is told in the Völuspá, we read: önd gaf Óðenn, óð gaf Hœnir (St. 18); usually rendered as “Othin gave breath, Hœnir intellect” and this is certainly substantially correct. But óðr is not the sedate use of one's mental qualities as distinguishing it from animal 67); it is a god who inspired the first man and accordingly it is the same divine spirit,, that manifests itself most perfectly in a state of high excitement 68). For the poet of the Völuspa the gift of this god is not common sense but the ecstatic state of mind when by the inspiration of a god, man sees visions, creates poetry and grasps new ideas.

7. Óðr and Óðinn

The third meaning of the Old Norse óðr is the name a god. Here we are placed before a double problem: [32] what is the relation between this Óðr and the Wöde of popular lore, what between Óðr and Óðinn? The question is a difficult one, because the original meaning of Óðr does not become clear from extant literary tradition. In the Snorra Edda (c. .34) it is told that Freyja was married to Óðr and that their daughter was Hnoss (= jewel). But Óðr went away on a far journey and Freyja wept golden tears. Under many different names she travelled from people to people in search of her husband who had disappeared. This myth is alluded to in a skaldic verse of about 1020, Skuli þorsteinsson using the kenning Freyju tör for gold 69). And more than a century later Einarr Skulason calls gold augna regn Óðs bevinu 70). If Snorri's myth of the wandering Óðr is more than a mere conclusion from this kenning of Einarr Skulason which he quotes in his chapter on the kenningar for gold 71), then it has a very singular resemblance with a myth of Othin who too is said to have been absent from his home for a long time. But his wife Frigg was not faithful to him, according to the account in the Ynglingasaga and in the first book of Saxo Grammaticus.

If the only myth which is told of Óðr is found also among the many traditions about Othin, then we may ask if the relation between Óðr and Freyja is not of the same nature as that between Othin and Frigg. Now these female deities are difficult to distinguish from one another; both names, alliterating with each other, are appellatives, one meaning “the mistress”, the other “the beloved one”. Frigg is known all over the Teutonic world, as is proved already by the name of the Friday; Freyja however is particularly Scandinavian and the name is obviously formed after the example of Freyr; most scholars hold her to be the same deity as the Nerthus about whom Tacitus speaks in his Germania.

The scanty information we possess admits of many explanations, because if Freyja is a later form of Nerthus, [33] she is also an offshoot of Frigg. The occidental Germanic tribes in the first centuries of our era knew both Frigg (here called Frija) and Nerthus (or at least a goddess corresponding with this deity); may we conclude that they are originally the same goddess? As Friday is a translation of dies Veneris, we may assume that the divinity whose name has the meaning “the beloved one” was a goddess of love.

More than ten centuries later the poet of the Lokasenna says of her: þú hefir vergiörn verit. But this conception is not incompatible with the character of Nerthus who as a goddess of the fertilizing powers in the earth might be considered as giving fertility to mankind also. As a chthonic force she was considered with awe and might be called Freyja, just as Persephone had the name Despoina. And Frija or Frigg might be a kind of noa-name used to avert the danger which the invocation of this terrible goddess might produce. The connection of the goddess Frija of the continental Germans with the fertility of the soil and the agricultural rites seems moreover to be proved by the fact that Friday is still considered to he a propitious day for the sowing 72).

8. Some observations on the names of Othin and of other Scandinavian deities

It seems to me that we are entitled to consider Óðr and Óðinn as two different forms of the same divine power. As Óðr can only be glimpsed very vaguely in the background of the heathen pantheon and as Othin on the contrary is seen in his full vigour and glory, it is obvious that the latter deity is a later and more developed specimen of the former. Even the name points in this same direction; compared with the short form Óðr, the name Óðinn is a derivative. [34]

Nouns in -ina, -ana are rather rare in the Germanic languages; they belong to an early stratum of derivations and are used to denote persons of high rank or condition.

The Gothic word þiudans is the same as O. E. ðeoden, O. N.        þjóðann and means “the king, as the chief of the þiuda or the people”. O. E. dryhten, O. N. dróttinn is “the leader of the host, the comitatus". Gothic kindins used to translate “hègemon” originally denotes the chief of the *kind or clan (cf. Latin gens). To the same group of words belong the Burgundian title hendinos for the king and the word thunginus in the Lex Salica, meaning “centenarius”. As these words occur in all three groups of the Teutonic languages we may surmise that they are of the highest antiquity; the formation with this suffix itself reaches back into the Indo-European period as is proved by such words as Skr. karana, janana, Gr. koiranos and Lat. dominus, tribunus, patronus 73).

The name Óðbinn, Wuotan, in its Old Germanic form * Woþanaz denotes this divine power as a being in anthropomorphic form, moreover as a manlike being of high rank and power. The shorter word Óðr, Wod(e) does not convey this same meaning; its older form *Woþuz, which is found in the proper name Woþuriþe on the runic stone of Tune, shows its derivation by means of the Indo-European suffix -tu, which usually forms abstract nouns made from verbal roots, in some instances however also nomina agentis, such as Gothic hliftus “thief” belonging to hlifan “to steal” or Old Norse smiðr from the verbal root *smi-, *smi- 74). So etymological evidence makes it possible that the name Óðr means “the fury” as well as “the furious one”.

The Old Norse pantheon has more instances of gods with names in -ina, —ana 75). So Óðinn is called þjóðann as the supreme chief of the people (or perhaps as the king of the gods) or Herjan which is related to the [35] Gothic word harjis and accordingly has the meaning of “the leader of the host”. The comparison with the Gr. koiranos makes the formation of this word particularly clear. Perhaps we may add the name Leudanus, used as a surname of Mercury on a Latin inscription (CIL XIII 7859) as it has been suggested by Marstrander 76), who connects this word with O. N. lýðr, 0. H. G. liut “people''.

The female form of this suffix would be -ano, which we find in the names of some female deities mentioned by classical authors, such as Tanfana and Hludana (with a latinized ending -ana for original -ano). These names, however, are despairingly obscure. Marstrander tries to explain the former as a mistake for *tafnana, which might be brought into connection with Old Teutonic *tafna-'“sacrificial animal, sacrifice” (cf. O. N. tafn). No more satisfactory is the explanation of Hludana which may be derived from a Germanic *hluþa, “of unknown origin”, as Marstrander avows. So he does not venture to connect it with the word *hluþa, *hluða to be found in proper names such as Chlotharius, Chiodavichus, as has been done already by Müllcnhoff 77), nor does he accept an identification with the Old Norse Hlóðyn as has been proposed by several scholars 78), although the forms of the two words do not fully agree.

Of more importance are the following names of Old Norse tradition. The study of place names, which is carried to a high perfection by Magnus Olsen 79), has led to the result that people used divine names which do not occur in our literary sources and formed in the same way with the suffix -inn. Magnus Olsen has discovered the otherwise unknown divinities Fillinn and Ullinn. Fillinn is the protector of the field and the word goes back to an older form *Felþanaz. Ullinn, according to the evidence given by the place names, stands in close connection with this god of the cultivated earth ; it corresponds with the [36] name, well known from Eddic mythology, Ullr, developed from an original form *Wulþuz.

Here we have the same relation between the names Ullr and Ullinn, as between Óðr and Óðinn, the shorter forms are Ullr and Óðr, both stems in -þu; the longer ones are Ullinn and Óðinn, both derived by means of the suffix -ana 8o). The name Ullr corresponds with the Gothic wulþus, an abstract noun meaning “glory, magnificence", and it is often explained as “god of the brilliant heaven” 81); so it may have had as its original meaning “a divine person, whose activity consists in cosmical brilliancy”.

Finally the same word-formation is found in the name Nerthus which Tacitus in his Germania mentions as a female deity of fertility. Nerthus, the Old Norse Njörðr, is consequently derived from a root *ner- which may have had the meaning “force, vigour", 82). If the formation with the suffix -þu has in this case the same meaning as in Óðr and Ullr, then Nerthus might be “the divinity who gives this fertilizing power”. If we take into account that this root ner- is used as a word for “man” (Skr. nara, Gr. anèr), then it seems probable that the original meaning was “virile power, especially in the sense of procreative power”. We find quite the same idea in the Latin word Nerio Martis which means “the virile force of Mars” and as this god originally was a deity of fertility, this nerio may distinquish him not as the valiant warrior, but as the god of procreation.

The Scandinavian peoples venerated a male god Njörðr, which is according to the soundlaws the same word as Nerthus and it agrees quite well with the original significance of the root *ner- that he was a god, not a goddess. Usually scholars consider him to be a later form of the female divinity mentioned by Tacitus, the reason of the changing of sex being the fact, that stems in -u most commonly had a masculine gender 83). I think it altogether [37] improbable that a deity should have changed its sex only because the form of the word could favour such a change and I am inclined, on the contrary, to suppose, that this deity Njörðr has been from the very outset a male god; what must be explained is not the male gender of Njörðr but the female sex of Nerthus.

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