Witches and necromancers in the culture of ancient Germans

Authors

  • Andrzej Piotr Kowalski Uniwersytet Gdański, Wydział Historyczny, Instytut Archeologii i Etnologii, Zakład Etnologii i Antropologii Kulturowej, ul. Bielańska 5, 80-851 Gdańsk

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.18778/1427-9665.14.13

Keywords:

Germanic women, witches, female necromancers, symbolism of grave and death, archeology of the Goths

Abstract

In the culture of the ancient Germans, women were of high rank. This was especially true of the prophets. Some of them, for example Veleda, Völva, Valuvurg, were named after the Indo-European root *h2wel-. It meant active vision, giving knowledge about the future. This root lies in the names of poets, deities of death and the land of the dead. Necromancers were also active among the Germans. They were called haliurunnae among the Gothic tribes. Their Proto-Germanic term *haljarūnō is applied to knowledge of the secrets associated with graves and of the goddess Hel. The article presents the hypothesis that these female necromancers dealt with the magic of graves and bodies of the dead. Their divination and magic had a “material” aspect. According to Jordanes, these witches were persecuted. The practices associated with the goddess Hel were dark and carried out in secret. Perhaps a vestige of the actions of these witches are tombs which have been destroyed, violated and disturbed. We know them from the area of cultures which have been identified with the Goths, of which Jordanes wrote. At the time, the prophetesses, such as Veleda, were acting officially. Their divination was more ‘spiritual’. Therefore, they were accepted and were found in the company of the Germanic chiefs.

References

The Aeneid of Vergil, Books I-VI, red. Ch. Knapp, Chicago, New York, 1900.
Google Scholar

Bellum Gallicum – Gajusz Juliusz Cezar, Wojna galijska, tłum. E. Konik, Wrocław 1978.
Google Scholar

Beowulf, red. W.J. Segdefield, Manchester 1913.
Google Scholar

Germania – Publiusz Korneliusz Tacyt, Germania, tłum. T. Płóciennik, Poznań 2008.
Google Scholar

Getica – Iordanis Romana et Getica, red. Th. Mommsen, Berlin 1882.
Google Scholar

Saxonis Grammatici Gesta Danorum, red. A. Holder, Strassburg 1886.
Google Scholar

Snorri Sturluson, Edda, Prolog and Gylfaginning, red. A. Faulkes, London 2005.
Google Scholar

Strabonis Geographica, vol II, red. A. Meineke, Lipsiae 1872.
Google Scholar

Tacitus, Histories: Books 4–5. Annals: Books 1–3, tłum. C. H. Moore, J. Jackson, Loeb Classical Library 249, Cambridge 1931.
Google Scholar

Beck H. (1999), Hel, [w:] Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde, Bd. 14, Berlin, New York, s. 257–260.
Google Scholar

Beekes R.S.P. (2010), Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Leiden, Boston.
Google Scholar

Bosworth J., Toller T.N. (1921), An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, Oxford.
Google Scholar

Brie M. (1910), Über die ags. Bezeichnung des Wortes ‘zauberer’, [w:] Englische Studien, Bd. 41, s. 20–27.
Google Scholar

Christiansen A.S. (2002), Cassiodorus, Jordanes and the History of the Goths. Studies in a Migration Myth, Copenhagen.
Google Scholar

Davidson H.E. (1998), Roles of the Northern Goddess, London, New York.
Google Scholar

Ellis H.R . (1968), The Road to Hell. The Study of the Conception of the Dead in Old Norse Literature, New York.
Google Scholar

Flowers S. (1983), Toward an Archaic Germanic Psychology, [w:] Journal of Indo-European Studies, t. 11, s. 117–138.
Google Scholar

Gahs A. (1928), Kopf-, Schädel- und Langknochenopfer bei Rentiervölkern, [w:] Festschrift P. W. Schmidt. Sprachwissenschaftliche, ethnologische, religionswissenschaftliche, prähistorische und andere Studien, red. W. Koppers, Vienna, s. 231–268.
Google Scholar

Ganina N. A. (2013), Relikty gotskoj apellativnoj leksiki v latinskich pamjatnikach, [w:] Voprosy Jazykoznanija, nr 5, s. 143–154.
Google Scholar

Hasenfratz H.-P. (1986), Seelenvorstellungen bei den Germanen und ihre Übernahme und Umformung durch die christliche Mission, [w:] Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte, Bd. 38, s. 19–31.
Google Scholar

Heather P. (1999), The Visigoths from the Migration Period to the Seventh Century. An Ethographic Perspective, San Marino.
Google Scholar

Holthausen F. (1967), Altsächsisches Wörterbuch, Köln, Graz.
Google Scholar

Ivanov V.V. (1986), O sootnošenii ètimologii i rekonstrukcii teksta, [w:] Ètimologija [1984], s. 66–70.
Google Scholar

Jakobson R. (1985), The Slavic God Velesъ and his Indo-European Cognates, [w:] R. Jakobson, Selected Writings, vol. 7, red. S. Rudy, New York, s. 33–48.
Google Scholar

Jente R. (1921), Die mythologischen Ausdrücke im altenglischen Wortschatz. Eine kulturgeschichtlich-etymologische Untersuchung, Heidelberg.
Google Scholar

Kalygin V.P. (2006), Ètimologičeskij slovar’ keltskich teonimov, Moskva.
Google Scholar

Kapcár A. (2015), The Origins of Necromancy or How We Learned to Speak to the Dead, [w:] Sacra, nr 13 (2), s. 30–58.
Google Scholar

Keyser R. (1854), Religion of the Northmen, New York.
Google Scholar

Kloekhorst A. (2008), Etymological Dictionary of the Hittite Inherited Lexicon, Leiden, Boston.
Google Scholar

Kokowski A. (1991), Lubelszczyzna w młodszym okresie przedrzymskim i w okresie rzymskim, Lublin.
Google Scholar

Kokowski A. (1995), Grupa masłomęcka. Z badań nad przemianami kultury Gotów w młodszym okresie rzymskim, Lublin.
Google Scholar

Kolendo J. (2008), Komentarz do tekstu Germania Tacyta, Publiusz Korneliusz Tacyt Germania, przeł. T. Płóciennik, wstęp i komentarz J. Kolendo, Poznań.
Google Scholar

Kowalski A.P. (2017a), Antropologia pierwotnej kultury Gotów. Zwyczaje pogrzebowe, [w:] Rocznik Antropologii Historii, R. 7 (10), s. 177–201.
Google Scholar

Kowalski A.P. (2017b), Kultura indoeuropejska. Antropologia wspólnot prehistorycznych, Gdańsk.
Google Scholar

Kroonen G. (2013), Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic, Leiden, Boston.
Google Scholar

Lehmann W.P. (1986), A Gothic Etymological Dictionary, Leiden.
Google Scholar

Malinowski T. (2013), Uwagi o pochówkach cząstkowych ludności kultury pomorskiej, [w:] Z badań nad kulturą społeczeństw pradziejowych i wczesnośredniowiecznych. Księga jubileuszowa dedykowana Prof. Bogusławowi Gedidze w osiemdziesiątą rocznicę urodzin, przez przyjaciół, kolegów, uczniów, red. J. Kolenda, A. Mierzwiński, S. Moździoch, L. Żygadło, Wrocław, s. 251–259.
Google Scholar

Matasovič R. (2009), Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic, Leiden.
Google Scholar

Much R. (1937), Die Germania des Tacitus, Heidelberg.
Google Scholar

Orel V. (2003), A Handbook of Germanic Etymology, Leiden.
Google Scholar

Rives J.B. (1999), Tacitus Germania, Oxford.
Google Scholar

Samplonius K. (1995), From Veleda to the Völva. Aspects of Female Divination in Germanic Europe, [w:] Sanctity and Motherhood. Essays of Holy Mothers in the Middle Ages, red. A.B. Mulder-Bakker, New York, London, s. 69–100.
Google Scholar

Schnurbein S.V. (2003), Shamanism in the Old Norse Tradition, [w:] History of Religions, t. 43, nr 2, s. 116–138.
Google Scholar

Slovar’ (2006), Slovar’ staroslavjanskogo jazyka, t. II, K-O, Sankt-Peterburg.
Google Scholar

Storms G. (1948), Anglo-Saxon Magic, S-Gravenhage.
Google Scholar

Tempelmann-Mączyńska M. (1992), „Specyficzne pochówki” kultury wielbarskiej, [w:] Acta Universitatis Lodziensis, Folia Archaeologica, t. 16, s. 191–199.
Google Scholar

Tiefenbach H. (2010), Altsächsisches Handwörterbuch, Berlin, New York.
Google Scholar

Timpe D. (1998), Ganna, [w:] Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde, Bd. 10, Berlin, New York, s. 429–430.
Google Scholar

Turville-Petre E.O.G. (1964), Myth and Religion of the North. The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia, Westport.
Google Scholar

Vries de J. (2000), Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, Leiden.
Google Scholar

Wesche H. (1940), Der althochdeutsche Wortschatz im Gebiete des Zaubers und Weissagung, Halle (Saale).
Google Scholar

Wolfram H. (2006), Origo et religio. Ethnic Traditions and Literature in Early Medieval Texts, [w:] From Roman Provinces to Medieval Kingdoms, red. Th. F. X. Noble, London, New York, s. 57–74.
Google Scholar

Zoëga G. T. (1967), A Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic, Oxford.
Google Scholar

Published

2018-12-30

How to Cite

Kowalski, A. P. (2018). Witches and necromancers in the culture of ancient Germans. Acta Universitatis Lodziensis. Folia Germanica, (14), 139-151. https://doi.org/10.18778/1427-9665.14.13