Witchdom of the True by Edred Thorsson: Discussion Part 2: Ritual/ Practice & the Gods

Hello everyone & welcome back for part 2. In our last discussion, I think we concluded the modern Wicca has no direct links to the ancient Anglo-Saxons or Celts. However, some of the folk practices that Gardner would have had some knowledge of may have originated from the ancients. In this discussion, I hope to take a closer examination of the practices that aren't Masonic or Thelemic (which is a good bit Masonic as well) & instead, try to separate what is Celtic from Anglo-Saxon. Let's wish each other luck & may good conversation commence.

In "Witchdom of the True" circular dancing is brought up quite a bit, which, is why I included the videos of Maypole dances & Beltaine fire dancers. It is all indeed circular. In the book (Witchdom of the True) Edred has this to say:

"One etymology connects it to the idea of twisting or turning, and links it to other words such as "wicker" and so derives from Proto-Germanic *wic-. This may be in reference to the circular or turning dance used in the practice of witchcraft. Another etymology connects it to the Proto-Germanic root wih- 'sacred'- which connotes something set apart from the profane. Semantically these two etymologies reconstruct an enclosure- perhaps made of wicker-work-used as a way to set apart sacred space and inside of which a circular dance was performed in order to excite the vital energies necessary to the performance of the operative acts." pg. 71

"The Work is really more a "play of creation." It consist of a circle or ring dance accompanied by a magical chant, by which power is raised." pg. 66

This next comment was made in regards to Freyja:

"Hers is the magic of the pure holy sign and song, the witchcraft of the offerings, dance and orgy and other means of raising ecstatic states." pg. 37

Now here, I'm going to do a little comparison to another author's writings. These next few quotes will be coming from Raymond Buckland's, "Wicca For Life":

"There they each (including HP and HPS) take the end of a ribbon and dance around deosil, sing the "May Eve Chant" or another song." pg. 248

"At a signal from the HPS, every other person (possibly alternate males and females) turns about and the dancing continues with two teams going in opposite dierections, ducking under one another as they go, to intertwine the ribbons." pgs. 248-249

"All accept the HP and one male sit in a Circle. HP dances, deosil, around the outside of the seated circle of Wiccans." pg. 255

"Coveners, led by HPS, dance all around the outside area, winding around, in and out, back and forth. Any small drums, tambourines, bells or similar instruments may be piled outside the Circle to be picked up now and used during the dance. pgs. 251, 243, 239 & 235 (Ray must have discovered copy & paste)

"Coveners, led by the HP and HPS, take up the poles, broomsticks, and pitchforks and riding them like hobby horses, dance all around the outside area, winding around, in and out, back and forth, jumping and leaping in the air as they dance." pg. 246

You can go to any Native American Pow Wow and see circular dancing. So it can't be uncommon in other indigenous practices around the world. Islam has it Suffis, also known as twirling dervishes, that spin and dance circularly. So, the first question is, is there any evidence of the Anglos, Saxons or Jutes doing this? What about the Celts?

Now another interesting aspect brought up by Mr. Thorsson is the calling of the four directions. He does it in the myth about how Freyja obtained Brisingamen. So, from "Witchdom of the True":

"There were some men in Asia, one of whom was called Alfrig, another Dvalinn, a third Berlingr and a fourth Grerr." pg. 51

"On one level the dwarves mentioned may be identified with the four dwarves at the four cardinal points of the world: Nordi, Austri, Sudri and Vestri (whose names oviousley mean the four directions: north, east, south and west). The names are different here, but such is often the case" pg. 52

He has a point about the names being different when you consider kenning was used through out the many poems written.

For the sake of those starting off in this, I give this quote about the four directions from Raymond Buckland's, "The Witch Book":

"Watchtowers are associated with the four directions- east, south, west and north- in the Wiccan ritual Circle." pg. 500

Other than what Edred mentioned, was any attention paid to the four directions in ancient Anglo-Saxon/Jute practices? What about the Celts?

In modern Wicca, the God, is usually called 'The Horned God' in most Wiccan literature. In "The Witch Book" it says:

"The Horned God is very much a god of fertility and, from the earliest paintings, is frequently depicted as an ithyphallic figure." pg. 241

Edred Thorsson seems convinced that Freyr is that Horned God. In "Witchdom of the True" he states:

"Three symbolic animals are associated with Freyr: the horse, the boar and the stag." pg. 40

"But he was also (or alternatively) the Horned God associated with the hart or stag. In the myth recounted in chapter 4 about Freyr's wooing of Gerdr, he is said to give up his sword- and so is left with only a hart's horn with which to fight at Ragnarok. With this horn, or antler, Freyr is also said to kill the giant Beli (Prose Edda, "Gylfainning" ch. 23). The mythic Vanic King Frodi was said to have been killed when he was gored by a hart or the horns of a "sea cow". Heroes attached to Horned Gods often are said to be killed by horns or tusk. In this way the God is "reclaiming" them. So Freyr is also the "Horned God". There are also several associations of Freyr with horned cattle." pg. 40-41

"A famous image of Freyr shows his erect phallus, and the description of the temple at Uppsala says of the image of Fricco, or Freyr, as "cum ingenti priapo,"- with a enormous priapus." pg. 39

Is having a large penis and having a horn/ antler for a weapon enough symbolism to be a Horned God?

Wiccans often proclaim their goddess to be a Triple Goddess (of course a lot of the Eclectic Wiccans go on to say she every goddess). In "Witchdom of the True", Edred does not bring up the Triple Goddess idea at all. However, he does tell of a myth, that at least to me, screams out here's your Triple Goddess origins. Here are some excerpts:

"She was not greeted well by the Aesir in Odinn's hall. They tried to kill her with spears and after piercing her- they burned her body. But after they had killed her and burned her she rose up again and made herself known. So again the Gods pierced her body with spears and again they burned her. However, even after this she rose up once more for a third time." pg. 50

"But who was the mysterious Goddess from the Vanir, at first known as Gullveig and later a Heith? The answer might be clarified once one realizes that Freyja- who is always counted with the Vanir who now lives among the Aesir- is not one of the deities exchanged in the truce negotiations." pg. 50

Am I stretching it in thinking that resurrecting three times could make Freyja the Triple Goddess? However, isn't also true that the Celts had more than one example of a Triple Goddess?

Another point of interest concerning these deities:

"The winter is of the Lady, but ruled over by the Lord, while the summer is of the Lord but ruled over by the Lady." pg. 59 Witchdom of the True

"His symbol is the Sun, as the Goddess's symbol is the Moon. He rules over the "dark half of the year"- the winter months- while the Goddess rules over the summer months." pg. 241 The Witch Book

What do you think?

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Comment by Barry J King on July 6, 2014 at 2:30pm
Comment by Barry J King on July 7, 2014 at 6:13pm

According to this website, it was a part of Celtic practice. However, wiki states it to be Germanic.

Comment by Barry J King on July 7, 2014 at 6:15pm

I trust wiki more. According to it, it was brought in by the English.

Comment by Barry J King on July 8, 2014 at 10:25pm

 Thanks for your insights N.H. I agree that tons of information are missing & the "experts" do a fair amount of speculation, though, educated. This is why I'm not a reconstructionist. However, it intrigues me all the same. Between Roman propaganda & Christian propaganda, which at one point was the one and the same, history was indeed painted by the victors. Unfortunately, it is what we got. Well, that, and the occasional archeological find, plus UPG.

Other than Maypole dancing, I'm not finding anything to support the circular dance theory. According to the Wiki site it dates by to the 16 century in Germany & Austria, which, is much later than the time period we're looking at. I do, however, know of many ways to reach a deep trance like trace & one of those ways is exhaustive exercise, be it martial arts, dancing or prolonged sex. I first learned how to reach these altered states from my interest in meditation. I do not know if a meditative trance or hypnotic trance would be the same as a shamanic trance, though. With that said, there still seems to be no historical or archeological evidence of the ancient English (or Celts) dancing in a big circle.

I'm rather concerned about Edred's claim that the worship of Freyja involved orgiastic rites.

I'm not so much concerned about it from a moral view point as I am from a historical view point. When you look at Hinduism, which is the only surviving polytheistic Indo-European speaking religion that dates back to ancient times, you will find many different views on moral/ ethics from sect to sect. Yet in the end, they are all Hindus. I do not know how big of a window Tacitus could have had, would he have had knowledge of every cult/ sect in every tribe?

When looking at the myths, Odin had multiple wives, including some speculation that he was married to Freyja or at least had her as a mistress. Odin's two brothers took over while he was gone for a long time, they also, both took Frigg for a wife. They also split when he showed back up. So, it could be possible at one time polygyny & polyandry was a norm. I've read more than once that Freyja & Freyr were originally in an incestuous marriage when they first came to the Aesir. Also, that their father was either in an incestuous marriage as well or a self- impregnating hermaphrodite. Of course this takes us back to the question of how much of this is from the original myths & how much of it was the imagination of repressed Christian monks...

I agree that Edred's theory of Freyr being the Horned God is a bit speculative. On the same note, it is an interesting idea & deserves further investigation. With that said, Heimdall makes just as good of a possible Horned God.

Gullveig being the "Triple Goddess" is pure speculation on my part. What do you think of Edred's theory about Gullveig/ Heidr being Freyja?

Comment by Barry J King on July 9, 2014 at 7:18pm

there is an example of the drawing of a simple circle around oneself in the "Journey Charm" from the Leechcraft tradition.

I would really like to see this.

Comment by Barry J King on July 10, 2014 at 4:14pm

That is true F.C. Edred stated as much as well:

As opposed to Freyja, whose true cultic name is secret, the name of the Lord(Freyr) is thought to be Ingwi or Yngvi. Pg. 38

I think the comments  he made linking Gullvieg/ Heidr were more of who he believes she is.

It would seem, like there would be more myths about Heidr. This could be, that they were simply lost to time or perhaps, the storytellers assumed that everyone would know they were the same...

Comment by Barry J King on July 10, 2014 at 4:28pm

N.H. I would love to be able to visit India, that had to be real interesting visit. Mainstream Hinduism is nothing more than the largest sect(s). I just found a passage from W.o.t.T. That tackles this a little:

The situation with the common religion or Greater Troth as compared to the particular "sects" or schools within it can be compared to the way Hinduism works. Sects within Hinduism may differ widely on practice and the particulars of their philosophies- ranging from a kind of "philosophical atheism" (the samkhya system or philosophy) to a sort of "fundamentalism" (most common with the worshippers of Vishnu or Krishna)- but what they all hold in common are things such a belief in the infallibility of the Veda, reincarnation, immortality of the soul, a doctrine of karma (result of action), and the doctrine of the three gunas. pg. 84

Comment by Barry J King on July 10, 2014 at 4:39pm

I have found another statement in W.o.t.T. about the dance:

Tacitus in the Germania (ch 24) wries of naked youths dancing between swords and spears. Similar dances were mentioned in the 15 century and have continued into modern times (see mummer's dance). Of course Pope Cregory reports (Dialogs III:28) that the Langobards sacrificed a goat's head "to the devil" while dancing in a circle and singing "terrible" songs. Most intriguing is the report of behavior at the sacrifices at Uppsala among the "sons of Freyr"- which are said to involve "womanish body movements, the clatter of actors on the stage and the soft tinkling of bells."

                                                                                               pg. 72

Comment by Barry J King on July 11, 2014 at 5:05pm

Alright, I've got Pope Gregory's Dialogues III Ch. 28 right here. Funny, that he makes out that the Lombards were persecuting Christians...

What Germanic/ Nordic Deity were goats sacrificed to?

Comment by Barry J King on July 11, 2014 at 9:06pm

Thanks F.C. That was a duh moment, why didn't I think of Thor? That at least makes a little more sense.

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