INVESTIGATIONS Into GERMANIC MYTHOLOGY “ – Volume 1 – by Viktor Rydberg
With Gram-Halfdan, the Germanic patriarch period ends. The human race had its golden age under Heimdall, its copper age under Skjold-Borgar, and the beginning of its iron age under Halfdan.
The Skilfinga-Ynglinga race has been named after HeimdallSkelfirhimself, and he has been regarded as its progenitor. His son Skjold-Borgar has been considered the founder of the Skjoldungs. With Halfdan, the pedigree is divided into three through his stepson Yngvi-Svipdag, the latter’s half-brother Gudhorm, and Gudhorm’shalf-brother Hading or Hadding.
The war between these three – a continuation of the feud between Halfdan and Svipdag – was the subject of a cycle of songs sung throughout Germania, songs which continued to live, though greatly changed with the lapse of time, on the lips of Germans, descendants of the Teutons, throughout the Middle Ages (see Nos. 36-43). Like his father, Halfdan was the fruit of a double fatherhood, a divine and a human. Saxo was aware of this double fatherhood, and relates of his Halfdan Berggram that he, although the son of a human prince, was respected as a son of Thor, and honored as a god among that people who longest remained heathen; that is to say, the Swedes (Igitur apud Sveones tantus haberi coepit, ut magni Thor filiusexistimatus, divinis a populo honoribus donaretur ac publico dignus libamine censeretur).
It is possible that both the older patriarchs originally were regarded as the founders and chiefs of the whole human race rather than of the Teutons alone. Certainly, the appellation Germanic patriarch belonged more particularly to the third of the series. We have a reminiscence of this in Hyndluljóð 14-16. To the question, “Whence came the Skjoldungs, Skilfings, Andlungs, and Ylfings, and all the free-born and gentle-born?” the song answers by pointing to “the foremost among the Skjoldungs” – Sigtrygg’s slayer Halfdan – a statement which, after the memory of the myths had faded and become confused, was magnified in the Prose Edda into the report that he was the father of eighteen sons, nine of which were the founders of the heroic families whose names were rediscovered at that time in the heathen-heroic songs then extant.
According to what we have now stated in regard to Halfdan’s genealogical position, there can no longer be any doubt that he is the same patriarch as the Mannus mentioned by Tacitus in Germania, ch.2, where it is said of the Teutons: “In old songs they celebrate Tuisco, a god born of Earth (Terra; compare the goddess Terra Mater, ch. 40), and his son Mannus as the source and founder of the race. Mannus is said to have had three sons, after whose names those who dwell nearest the ocean are called Ingævonians (Ingævones), those who dwell in thecenter Hermionians (Hermiones, Herminones), and the rest Istævonians (Istævones).” Tacitus adds that there were other Germanic tribes, such as the Marsians, the Gambrivians, the Svevians, and the Vandals, whose names were derived from other heroes of divine birth. Thus Mannus, though human, and the source and founder of the Germanic race, is also the son of a god.
The mother of his divine father is the goddess Earth, mother Earth. In our native myths, we rediscover this goddess – polyonomous like nearly all mythic beings – in Odin’s wife Frigg, also called Fjörgynand Hlöðyn. As sons of her and Odin, only Thor (Völuspá) and Baldur (Lokasenna) are definitely mentioned. In regard to the goddess Earth (Jord), Tacitus states (ch. 40), as a characteristic trait that she is believed to take a lively interest and active part in the affairs of men and nations (eam intervenire rebus hominum, arbitrantur) (22), and he informs us that she is especially worshipped by the Longobardians and some of their neighbors near the sea. This statement, compared with the emigration saga of the Longobardians (No. 15),(23) confirms the theory that the goddess Jord, who, in the days of Tacitus, was celebrated in song as the mother of Mannus’ divine father, is identical with Frigg.
In their emigration saga, the Longobardians have great faith in Frigg, and trust in her desire and ability to intervene when the fate of a nation is to be decided by arms. Nor are they deceived in their trust in her; she is able to bring about that Odin, without considering the consequences, gives the Longobardians a new name; and as a christening present was in order, and as the Longobardians stood arrayed against the Vandals at the moment when they received their new name, the gift could be no other than victory over their foes. Tacitus’ statement, that the Longobardians were one of the races who particularly paid worship to the goddess Jord, is found to be intimately connected with, and to be explained by, this tradition, which continued to be remembered among the Longobardians long after they became converted to Christianity, down to the time when Origo Longobardorum was written.
Tacitus calls the goddess Jord, Nerthus. Vigfusson (and before him J. Grimm) and others have seen in this name a feminine version of Njörðr. Nor does any other explanation seem possible. The existence of such a form is not surprising since we have in Freyja a feminine form of Frey, and in Fjörgyn-Frigg a feminine form of Fjörgynr. In our mythic documents, neither Frigg nor Njörd are of Aesir race. Njörd is, as we know, a Van. Frigg’s father is Fjörgynr (perhaps the same as Parganya in the Vedic songs), also called Annarr, Ánarr, and Ónarr, and her mother is Narfi’s daughter Night. Frigg’s high position as Odin’s real and lawful wife, as the queen of the divine world, and as mother of the chief gods Thor and Baldur, presupposes her to be of the noblest birth which the myth could bestow on a being born outside of the Aesir clan, and as the Vanir come next after the Aesir in the mythology, and were united with them from the beginning of time, as hostages, by treaty, by marriage, and by adoption, probability, if no other proof could be found, would favor the theory that Frigg is a goddess of the race of Vanir, and that her father Fjörgyn is a clan-chief among the Vanir. This view is corroborated in two ways.
The cosmogony makes Earth and Sea sister and brother. The same divine mother Night (Nótt), who bears the goddess Jord, also bears a son Uðr, Unnr, the ruler of the sea, also called Auðr (Rich), the personification of wealth. Both these names are applied among the gods to Njörd alone as the god of navigation, commerce, and wealth. (In reference to wealth compare the phrase auðigr sem Njörðr – rich as Njörd.) Thus Frigg is Njörd’s sister.
This explains the attitude given to Frigg in the war between the Aesir and Vanir by Völuspá, Saxo, and the author of Ynglingasaga, where the tradition is related as history. In the form given to this tradition in Christian times and in Saxo’s hands, it is disparaging to Frigg as Odin’s wife; but the pith of Saxo’s narrative is, that Frigg in the feud between the Aesir and Vanir did not side with Odin but with the Vanir, and contributed towards making the latter lords of Asgard. When the purely heathen documents (Völuspá, Vafþrúðnismál,
Lokasenna) describe her as a tender wife and mother, Frigg’s taking part with the Vanir against her own husband can scarcely be explained otherwise than by the Germanic principle, that the duties of the daughter and sister are above the wife’s, a view plainly presented in Saxo (Book 7), and illustrated by Gudrun’s conduct toward Atli.
Thus it is proved that the god who is the father of the Germanic patriarch Mannus is himself the son of Frigg, the goddess of earth, and must, according to the mythic records at hand, be either Thor or Baldur. The name given him by Tacitus, Tuisco, does not determine which of the two. Tuisco has the form of a patronymic adjective, and reappears in the Norse Tívi, an old name of Odin, related to Dios, divus, and devas, from which all the sons of Odin and gods of Asgard received the epithet tívar. But in the songs learned by Saxo in regard to the northern race-patriarch and his divine father, his place is occupied by Thor, not by Baldur, and “Jord’s son” is in Norse poetry an epithet particularly applied to Thor.
Mannus has three sons. So has Halfdan. While Mannus has a son Ingævo, Halfdan has a stepson Yngvi, Ingi (Svipdag). The second son of Mannus is named Hermio. Halfdan’s son with Groa is called Guðhormr. The second part of this name has, as Jessen has already pointed out, nothing to do with ormr (worm, serpent). It may be that the name should be divided Guð-hormr, and that hormr should be referred to Hermio. Mannus’ third son is Istævo.
The Celtic scholar Johann Kaspar Zeuss(24) has connected this name with that of the Gothic (more properly Vandal) heroic race Azdingi, and Grimm has again connected Azdingi with Hazdiggo(Haddingr). Halfdan’s third son is in Saxo called Hadingus. Whether the comparisons made by Zeuss and Grimm are to the point or not (see further, No. 43) makes but little difference here. It nevertheless remains as a result of the investigation that all that is related by Tacitus about the Germanic patriarch Mannus has its counterpart in the question concerning Halfdan, and that both in the myths occupy precisely the same place as sons of a god and as founders of Germanic tribes and royal families. The pedigrees are:
21 In his saga, as told by Saxo, Thor holds his protecting hand over Halfdan like a father over his son. 21 Saxo, Book 7: “He soon gained so much esteem for this among the Swedes, that he was thought to be the son of the great Thor, and the people bestowed divine honoursupon him, and judged him to be worthy of public libation,” Oliver Elton Translation.
22 “They believe she intervenes in human affairs, riding in a chariot
among her people.”
23 This refers to the history of the Longobards by Paulus Diaconus, Paul the Deacon. In regard to this text, Jakob Grimm notes: “The passage quoted from Paul Diac. is one of the clearest and
most convincing testimonies to the harmony between the German and the
Norse mythologies.” Deutsche Mythology Vol. I, Ch. 13, section 8.
(Translated by James Steven Stallybrass)
24 Grammatica Celtica, 1853