Sunday, September 22, 2013

Gesta Danorum ("Deeds of the Danes") ... a patriotic work of Danish history, by the 12th century author Saxo Grammaticus ("Saxo the Literate", literally "the Grammarian").

Consisting of sixteen books written in Latin on the invitation of Archbishop Absalon, Gesta Danorum describes Danish history and to some degree Scandinavian history in general, from prehistory to the late 12th century.

From Wiki: Gesta Danorum

Now, Saxo and his bishop Absalon of Lund (where I studied, and in Malmö, under same ancient Catholic Diocese my grandfather was born and I lived most of my life), there is nothing in it which they would have qualified as prehistory.

They believed as historic facts that Denmark had a King called Froda (Anglosaxon) or Fróði (Icelandic) or Frotho (Latin) or Frodo (yes, we now know whom Tolkien named a fictional hero after). They believed under him Denmark was at peace, and that he was contemporary with Caesar Augustus - a Pagan God who was also a Human Ruler. The Martyrologium confirms this insofar as it says in enumerating the time specifications for Our Lord's birth ends "in the sixth age, when the world was at peace". Logically that includes Denmark.

Now, they also believed he had a guest. I am now following another Nordic historian, Snorri: it was a Swedish or rather Sweonic King. Today's Swedes are a Union of older peoples like Sweons, Geats, Helsings, Virds and the regions much later taken from Denmark (like Scania with Lund and Malmö) or from Norway. The guest of Frode was not a King of all Sweden, but only of the Sweons. His father Yngwe was worshipped under the name of Frey (which means "the Lord") as god of fertility, his aunt Freya was worshipped as goddess of fertility (Venus and Ceres in one), his grandfather Njord or Nerthus (which is also a name of the goddess Nerthus and therefore means about Demetrius for a male) was also worshipped as a fertility god. And Frey's or rather Yngwe's (let's stick to his human name) stepfather was Odin or Wotan, worshipped as creator and as king fo the gods and as lord of victory and of magic and of trade. So, King Frodo's guest was basically stepgrandson to a man worshipped with very undue divine honours. Fiolner was his name. He got drunk by mead (or hydromel, which is a Greek name for mead) and when going to bed he stumbled into a vat of the same drink. He was not worshipped as a god after death. How come? Well, whatever the reason, if it might have had something to do with even Pagans thinking that clumsiness a bit too unidivine or something, he was no god.

Now, that makes a difference from down south - at the same time Julius Caesar was worshipped as divinised and as for Caesar Augustus, his genius was worshipped, and after hs death he was also personally worshipped by decree of the senate and this went on to the battle of Ponte Milvio. For the Nordic dynasty, Fiolner ended all this in a vat of mead. But before that, with some assistance of Satan no doubt, such as later Simon Magus enjoyed up to when Saint Peter's prayers took it from him, Odin had beguiled the previous king of the Sweons. And had gotten two generations of his family, his own and that of his stepson Frey and stepdaughter Freya and his son Thor, adored as gods.

But Saxo the Grammarian also says there was a human Odin in Upsala - even before he mentions Fiolner and Frodo, appropriately enough, since Fiolner was no king before both Odin and Frey/Yngwe were dead. He gets into detail as a side issue on the war of a Norwegian King Swipdag (also of mythological fame, but nowhere worshipped as a god):

At this time there was one Odin, who was credited over all Europe with the honour, which was false, of godhead, but used more continually to sojourn at Upsala; and in this spot, either from the sloth of the inhabitants or from its own pleasantness, he vouchsafed to dwell with somewhat especial constancy. The kings of the North, desiring more zealously to worship his deity, embounded his likeness in a golden image; and this statue, which betokened their homage, they transmitted with much show of worship to Byzantium, fettering even the effigied arms with a serried mass of bracelets. Odin was overjoyed at such notoriety, and greeted warmly the devotion of the senders. But his queen Frigga, desiring to go forth more beautified, called smiths, and had the gold stripped from the statue. Odin hanged them, and mounted the statue upon a pedestal, which by the marvellous skill of his art he made to speak when a mortal touched it. But still Frigga preferred the splendour of her own apparel to the divine honours of her husband, and submitted herself to the embraces of one of her servants; and it was by this man's device she broke down the image, and turned to the service of her private wantonness that gold which had been devoted to public idolatry. Little thought she of practicing unchastity, that she might the easier satisfy her greed, this woman so unworthy to be the consort of a god; but what should I here add, save that such a godhead was worthy of such a wife? So great was the error that of old befooled the minds of men. Thus Odin, wounded by the double trespass of his wife, resented the outrage to his image as keenly as that to his bed; and, ruffled by these two stinging dishonours, took to an exile overflowing with noble shame, imagining so to wipe off the slur of his ignominy.

When he had retired, one Mit-othin, who was famous for his juggling tricks, was likewise quickened, as though by inspiration from on high, to seize the opportunity of feigning to be a god; and, wrapping the minds of the barbarians in fresh darkness, he led them by the renown of his jugglings to pay holy observance to his name. He said that the wrath of the gods could never be appeased nor the outrage to their deity expiated by mixed and indiscriminate sacrifices, and therefore forbade that prayers for this end should be put up without distinction, appointing to each of those above his especial drink-offering. But when Odin was returning, he cast away all help of jugglings, went to Finland to hide himself, and was there attacked and slain by the inhabitants. Even in his death his abominations were made manifest, for those who came nigh his barrow were cut off by a kind of sudden death; and after his end, he spread such pestilence that he seemed almost to leave a filthier record in his death than in his life: it was as though he would extort from the guilty a punishment for his slaughter. The inhabitants, being in this trouble, took the body out of the mound, beheaded it, and impaled it through the breast with a sharp stake; and herein that people found relief.

The death of Odin's wife revived the ancient splendour of his name, and seemed to wipe out the disgrace upon his deity; so, returning from exile, he forced all those, who had used his absence to assume the honours of divine rank, to resign them as usurped; and the gangs of sorcerers that had arisen he scattered like a darkness before the advancing glory of his godhead. And he forced them by his power not only to lay down their divinity, but further to quit the country, deeming that they, who tried to foist themselves so iniquitously into the skies, ought to be outcasts from the earth.

The Danish History by Saxo Grammaticus : Book I

If we now go to ...

The Danish History by Saxo Grammaticus : Book II

we shall find:

HADDING was succeeded by FRODE, his son, whose fortunes were many and changeful.

But in ...

The Danish History by Saxo Grammaticus : Book V

we find "another" Frode. Of whom Saxo says:

About the same time, the Author of our general salvation, coming to the earth in order to save mortals, bore to put on the garb of mortality; at which time the fires of war were quenched, and all the lands were enjoying the calmest and most tranquil peace. It has been thought that the peace then shed abroad so widely, so even and uninterrupted over the whole world, attended not so much an earthly rule as that divine birth; and that it was a heavenly provision that this extraordinary gift of time should be a witness to the presence of Him who created all times.

When it comes to Chronology, I think I put Snorri above Saxo. Since the latter puts Helge and Ro (back in book II) before this Frode. And Helge and Ro and Ro's son Rolf certainly were contemporary to Ottar and Adils (the latter being the Swedish King who started colonising Finland) and to Beowulf, whose uncle Hygelac or Hugleik or Clochilaicus was killed in Spain at a date mentioned by Jordanes, sorry, I thought it was Jordanes because I thought it was in Spain, but it was actually in Frisia, mentioned by Gregory of Tours. AD 516 Hygelac was alive, so Helge and Ro cannot have lived before the Frode under whose time as ruler in Denmark Our Lord was born.

What Saxo does is accumulate Frodes (attributing to each something pertaining to the real one) so as to get a chance to aggrandise early Danish conquests both East and West - not totally unlike the men who attributed incursions into the French side of the English Channel to one Niall of the Nine hostages. Possibly he mixes up as different periods of Swedish history what were in fact different regions of an only later unified Sweden. Right after Odin (whom he does not consider as King in Upsala) he names Swedish Kings with no connxion to the Ynglings at all. He may have thought these were kings before the Ynglings when in fact they were the actual royalty (Ynglings starting as god-priests) or royalty of other parts of Sweden than Upsala. And then the Frode contemporary with these Swedes must be differnet from the Frode contemporary with those. A mistake that this Young Earth Creationist and Geocentric considers an early equivalent of mistakes currently made by astronomers and paleontologists.

But if Saxo's grasp on Chronology previous to Christian times is weak or nearly non-existent, he does get the information right that one Frode was contemporary of Caesar Augustus, he only misses having Fiolner as his guest by the fact of making Odin a rough contemporary of one "earlier" Frode. And he does agree with Snorri Odin was human and a deceiver. Only when saying "he was honoured all over Europe as a god" he is mixing up Odin the human who lived in Upsala with Odin the equivalent of Mercurius.

Let us take another Christian historian of these times:

Paul the Deacon : History of the Romans

Ah yes, he had as much identification with Romans because of his Catholic Orthodoxy as with Lombards because of his Germanic origins. But Roman gods are set earlier in history:

Primus in Italia, ut quibusdam placet, regnauit Ianus.  
 First reigned in Italy, as some like to have it, Ianus.
Deinde Saturnus Iouem filium e Grecia fugiens, in ciuitate, quae ex eius nomine Saturnia dicta est, cuius ruinae actenus cernuntur in finibus Tusciae haut procul ab Vrbe. Hic Saturnus quia in Italia latuit, ab eius latebra Latium appellata est. Ipse etenim adhuc rudes populos domos aedificare, terras incolere, plantare uineas docuit atque humanis moribus uiuere, cum antea semiferi glandium tantummodo alimentis uitam sustentarent et aut in speluncis aut frondibus uirgultisque contextis casulis habitarent. Ipse etiam eis nummos aereos primus instituit. Pro quibus meritis ab indocili et rustica multitudine deus appellatus est. 
 Then Saturnus, fleeing from out of Greece from his son Jove, in the city, which from his name is called Saturnia, of which the ruins even now are seen in Tuscany not far from Rome. Here since Saturn was hidden (latuit) in Italy, from his hiding (latebra) is called Latium. For he taught up till then rude peoples to build houses, cultivate the lands, plant vineyards and live with human habits, when before they were half wild and only on food of glands sustained their life and either lived in caves or in huts woven together of leaves and branches. He also first introduced coinage of copper. For these merits he was called by the unteachable and rustic multitude "a god".
Post hunc Picus eius filius, de quo fabulose dicitur, quod a quadam famosissima maga Circe nomine ob contemptum eius amorem in auem sui nominis sit mutatus.  
 After him his son Picus, of whom it is fabulously said, that of some very famous witch called Circe for rejecting her love was turned into the bird that bears his name (picus = jackdaw).
Post hunc eius filius Faunus, qui fuit pater Latini, cuius mater Carmentis Nicostrata creditur Latinas litteras repperisse; quibus regnantibus centum quinquaginta anni referuntur euoluti.  
 After him his son Faunus, who was father of Latinus, the mother of whom Carmentis Nicostrata is beleived to have invented Latin letters; while they reigned it is said that hundred and fifty years evolved.
Regnante tamen Latino, qui Latinam linguam correxit et Latinos de suo nomine appellauit, Troia a Grecis capta est, cum apud Hebreos Labdon tertium sui principatus annum ageret et apud Assyrios Tautanes, apud Aegyptios Thous regnaret, expletis a mundi principio annis quattuor milibus decem et nouem, a diluuio annis mille dcclxxvii, a natiuitate Abraham et quadragesimo tertio anno Nini regis Assyriorum annis dcccxxxv, a natiuitate Moysi annis ccccx, ante Vrbem autem conditam annis cccciiii, ante primam quoque olympiadem annis ccccvi.  
 But while Latinus ruled, who corrected the Latin language and called the Latins by his name, Troy was taken by the Greeks, while among the Hebrews Labdon (?)was in the third year of his reign and among Assyrians Tautanes (? Was it a Hittite?) and among Egyptians Thous (Thot? Thutmoses? Thutanchamon?), having been fulfilled since the beginning of the world four thousand nineteen years and from the flood one thousand sevenhundred seventy seven yearsn from the nativity of Abraham and fortythird year of the ruler of Assyrians Ninus eighthundred and thirtyfive, from the nativity of Moses four hundred and ten, before the founding of Rome four hundred and four years and before the first Olympiad four hundred and six years.
Capta igitur Troia, Aeneas Veneris et Anchisae filius ad Italiam uenit anno tertio post Troiae excidium. Cum Turno Dauni Tuscorum regis filio dimicans, eum interemit eiusque sponsam Lauiniam Latini regis filiam in coniugium accepit, de cuius etiam nomine Lauinium oppidum, quod construxerat, appellauit. Regnauit igitur Aeneas Latinis annis tribus.  
 When thus Troy had been taken, Aeneas the son of Venus and Anchises came to Italy in the third year after the end of Troy. Fighting with Turnus the son of Daunus the King of the Tuscans, he killed him and took his bride to be, daughter of King Latinus for wife, from the name of whom also he named the town he constructed Lavinia. Thus Aeneas ruled over the Latins for three years.

When it comes to Saturn fleeing from Jove, we get a hint of scepticism ("ut quibusdam placet"), but it disappears (at least somewhat from the sight of this reader) when we arrive to Troyan War, Aeneas, Latinus, Lavinia.

How Saturn is supposed to have earned a false divinisation (in his case without active betrayal) reminds me of how St Savvas as the Serbs call him showed his holiness in Serbian legend. But since Serbs are patriotic, let us now go to Paul the Deacon's patriotism:

Idem : History of the Lombards

8. Refert hoc loco antiquitas ridiculam fabulam: 
 This is the place where Antiquity relates a ridiculous fairy tale:
quod accedentes Wandali ad Godan victoriam de Winilis postulaverint, illeque responderit, se illis victoriam daturum quos primum oriente sole conspexisset. 
 that Wandals approached Godan and asked for victory over Winiles, and he answered, he was going to give vitory to those whom first at sunrise he set eyes on.
Tunc accessisse Gambaram ad Fream, uxorem Godan, et Winilis victoriam postulasse, Freamque consilium dedisse, ut Winilorum mulieres solutos crines erga faciem ad barbae similitudinem componerent maneque primo cum viris adessent seseque a Godan videndas pariter e regione, qua ille per fenestram orientem versus erat solitus aspicere, collocarent. 
 Then Gambara approached Frea, the wife of Godan, and asked for victory for the Winiles, and Frea gave the counsel, that the women of the Winiles should loose their hairs and arrange them around the face in an image of beards and early in the morning be there with the men to be seen by Godan together placing themselves from the region, where he was used to regard sunrise throgh the window.
Atque ita factum fuisse. 
 And so it was made.
Quas cum Godan oriente sole conspiceret, dixisse: "Qui sunt isti longibarbi?". 
 When Godan saw them at sunrise, he [is related to have] said: "Who are these Longbeards?"
Tunc Fream subiunxisse, ut quibus nomen tribuerat victoriam condonaret. 
 Then Frea added that he should give victory to those he had named.
Sicque Winilis Godan victoriam concessisse. 
 And thus Godan [is related to] have given victory tothe Winiles.
Haec risu digna sunt et pro nihilo habenda. 
 All this is worthy of laughter and should be held for nothing.
Victoria enim non potestati est adtributa hominum, sed de caelo potius ministratur. 
 For victory is not given into the power of man, but is rather served from Heaven.
9. Certum tamen est, Langobardos ab intactae ferro barbae longitudine, cum primitus Winili dicti fuerint, ita postmodum appellatos. 
 But it is certain, that Lombards [longbeards, langobards] were hereafter so named from the length of beard untouched by the iron, when they had previously been called Winiles.
Nam iuxta illorum linguam lang longam, bard barbam significat. 
 For in their language "lang" means long and "bard" means beard.
Wotan sane, quem adiecta littera Godan dixerunt, ipse est qui apud Romanos Mercurius dicitur et ab universis Germaniae gentibus ut deus adoratur; 
 As for Wotan, whom adding a letter they said Godan, he is who among Romans is called Mercurius and by all of the nations of Germania is adored as a god.
qui non circa haec tempora, sed longe anterius, nec in Germania, sed in Grecia fuisse perhibetur. 
 who is held to have been not around these times, but far earlier, and not in Germania, but in Greece.

Do you see what he is doing? He is not saying Godan was a demon or totally invented from nothing. He is saying since Godan/Wotan is Mercurius (in Pagan syncretistic equivalences of deities!) so he must have lived (as a man!) when and where Mercurius lived and not far later elsewhere.

And when he says victory is given by heaven, he does not add "and not by demons", but rather "and not by men".

He is very much ignoring that Germanic nations (I distinguish Germania from Germany as I do Germanic nations from Germans - these Lombards became Italians later and some became Dutch, French or English, and Germania had no borders all around, only the Roman limes) considered Wotan as precisely the lord of Heaven. Not only is he denying it, he is not even considering their mistake, which of course it was. And he is forgetting for the moment too that Pagan deities (as worshipped) are demons. That is how much he was sure that Godan in the story is a man. And that (with lots of similar examples all through Nordic and Germanic stories about Godan/Wotan/Odin) is where for instance Hilaire Belloc got his impression of Wodan being a man from too. In Return to the Baltic Belloc reasons that Odin is so obviously a character with specific human traits, like his propensity to make a fool of himself in company of women (his wife "Frea" - rather Fricca than Freya, but Pagan "theologies" may have mixed it up among Lombards before Paul the Deacon wrote - in this story being a very mild example).

Now, someone stated that St Augustine treating the sack of Troy as history or St Jerome speaking of a faun and possibly a centaur too (which might have been real or might have been an apparition of a demon, but not so the crying faun) in the times of St Anthony and St Paul the First Hermit, or that other Church Father who called Hercules "not a god, just a strong man" (thereby saying he is a historic character of human history) were somehow odd exceptions. Looking at other Christian author s of the West, I think rather not. Saxo and his bishop Absalon, Snorri, Paul the Deacon, all of them were Catholic Christians, none Protestant or Pagan or Jew.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
BpI, Georges Pompidou
Sunday after St Matthew
(and Tolkien geeks like to add
Bilbo's and Frodo's birthday)

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