[excerpts from Who We Are by William Luther Pierce]
The religion of the Scandinavians until a few hundred years ago, when it was forcibly replaced by Christianity, had a pantheon divided into gods and goddesses belonging to two distinct groups, the Aesir and the Vanir. The principal gods among the Aesir — Odin, Thor, and Tyr — are associated with the sky and with manly activities. Both Odin and Tyr were, at different times, assigned the roles of Sky Father and of war god. Thor, the thunderer, was the god of the air, of lightning, and of defense against enemies.
The three principal Vanir — Njord, Frey, and Freya — are, on the other hand, associated with the earth and the sea, with fecundity, and with sexual pleasure. Njord is clearly a masculinized version of Nerthus, the Earth Mother. Frey and Freya personify the male and female sexual principles, respectively.
It is very tempting to see in these two disparate groups constituting the Scandinavian pantheon an imperfect blending of the religions of two disparate peoples, the Aesir belonging originally to the Nordic Battle-Axe People and the Vanir to the Neolithic Mediterraneans conquered by the former.
Indeed, the ancient legends speak to us of just such a blending: of a war between the two groups of gods in the dawn of time, followed eventually by a truce and the acceptance by the Aesir of hostages from the Vanir.
The Heimskringla, a semi-historical compendium of the lives of the Norse kings, written early in the thirteenth century by Snorri Sturlason, the great Icelandic poet and historian, begins with the Ynglingasaga, an almost wholly non-historical account of conflict between Aesir and Vanir. In Snorri’s scheme of things the Aesir were the biological ancestors of the Norse kings, and he interprets the racial memory of a long-ago migration of people in this light.
His account correctly places the ancestral home of the Aesir (i.e., of the people whose gods the Aesir were) in the region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, but its geographical and historical details are not to be relied on. According to Snorri:
“North of the Black Sea lies Svithjoth the Great or the Cold (Russia)…. Out of the north, from the mountains which are beyond all inhabited districts, a river runs through Svithjoth whose correct name is Tanais (the Don River). In olden times it was called Tana Fork or Vana Fork. Its mouth is in the Black Sea. The land around the Vana Fork was then called Vanaheim, or Home of the Vanir. This river divides the three continents. East of it is Asia, west of it Europe. “The land east of the Tana Fork was called Home of the Aesir, and the capital of that country they called Asgard. In this capital the chieftain ruled” whose name was Odin….
“Odin made war on the Vanir, but they resisted stoutly and defended their land. Now the one , now the other was victorious, and both devastated the land of their opponents, doing each other damage. But when both wearied of that they agreed on a peace meeting and concluded a peace, giving each other hostages. The Vanir gave their most outstanding men, Njord the Wealthy and his son Frey….
“Odin appointed Njord and Frey to be priests for the sacrificial offerings, and they were gods among the Aesir. Freya was the daughter of Njord. She was the priestess at the sacrifices. It was she who first taught the Aesir magic such as was practiced among the Vanir….
“A great mountain chain runs from the northeast to the southwest. It divides Svithjoth the Great from other realms. South of the mountains it is not far to Turkey…. Because Odin had the gift of prophecy and was skilled in magic, he knew that his offspring would inhabit the northern part of the world. Then he set his brothers Ve and Vili over Asgard, but he himself and all gods and many other people departed. First he journeyed west to Garthriki (western Russia) and then south to Saxland (northwestern Germany). He had many sons. He took possession of lands far and wide in Saxland and set his sons to defend these lands. Then he journeyed north to the (Baltic) sea and fixed his abode on an island. That place is now called Odense (Odin’s Island), on the island of Funen.”
Besides Snorri’s tendency to switch the roles of gods and men back and forth, there are other defects in his account. The most serious of these is his chronological sequence of events. Before the migration into Europe even starts, Snorri has already brought about the reconciliation and union of Aesir and Vanir, of Nordic and Mediterranean religions, something which could not have happened until the conquest of the Neolithic-Mediterranean peoples by the Nordics had already taken place.
It is evident that the oral sagas must have undergone significant changes before Snorri began setting them down in writing, In fact, one should be surprised that, after the passage of several millennia, the sagas should still contain any historical truth at all. Nevertheless, the Ynglingasaga does appear to give us a link, however tenuous, between the Scandinavian mythology of seven centuries ago and actual events which took place more than five millennia ago, as indicated by the archaeological evidence.
The graves and tombs found at Mycenae and other Greek sites contained bronze swords, daggers, and battleaxes, and gold jewelry and utensils, all of exceptionally high craftsmanship and all testifying to the wealth and the martial lifestyle of the Greek upper classes. Burial itself, however, was a Mediterranean characteristic. The adoption of burial in the place of the original Greek practice of cremation was only one of many ways in which the invading Greeks of that early era were influenced by the Mediterranean natives.
One of the profoundest cultural interactions between northern invaders and southern natives, and one which shows with special clarity the racial differences in outlook and psychology between Hellenes and Pelasgians (as the Hellenes called the native Mediterraneans), involved religion. By the beginning of the historical period in Greece (around 650 B.C.), when we have our first extensive written references to religious matters (the “Linear B” inscriptions, dating back to 1300 B.C., were far too scanty to yield much insight in this regard), “Greek” religion was already a nearly inseparable blend of Hellenic and Pelasgian elements. Even Homer’s tales of a period six centuries earlier contain references to Greek gods who were no longer purely or exclusively Indo-European.
Nevertheless, it is still possible to analyze the religion of the Greeks of the historical period into Hellenic and non-Hellenic components. When the Hellenes first came to Greece, they brought with them an Olympian pantheon created in their own image, both physically and psychically. Their gods, with one notable exception (Poseidon, the black-haired sea god), were described by Homer as golden-haired and ivory-skinned.
In behavior, the gods were as human as their creators: sometimesbold and sometimes hesitant, sometimes forthright and sometimes devious, sometimes generous and forgiving, and sometimes stingy and vindictive — but never mysterious.
Altogether, the Olympian religion was a remarkably sharp reflection of the Hellenic spirit and Hellenic life. Even the legendary home assigned to their gods by the Greeks of the historical period, Mt. Olympus, lay far to the north of the centers of Greek civilization, reflecting their own northern origins.
At the head of the Olympian pantheon was Zeus, the Sky Father. His name was derived from an Indo-European root which means “the Shining One.” His counterparts existed in the religions of all the other Indo-European peoples, whose characteristic spiritual orientation is upward and outward. The inherent Indo-European religious tendency has always been, in a sense, solar, even when the sun was not explicitly regarded as a deity. And Zeus, in his relations with his family of gods and goddesses, perfectly reflected the essentially masculine spirit and the patriarchal structure of all natural and healthy Indo-European societies.
Pelasgian religion was, on the contrary, chthonic (embedded in the earth) in its orientation, feminine in its spirit, matriarchal in its structure. The gods and goddesses of the Pelasgians were mysterious, subterranean creatures, headed by the Earth Mother, who has homologues in the religions of most other Mediterranean peoples. The Pelasgian tendency, in contrast to the universality of Zeus and his fellow Olympians, was to localize their deities. Thus, while the concept of an Earth Mother was widespread among the Mediterranean peoples, she tended to be given various attributes in various areas, much as the various Virgin Mary cults of the Christian era, with their localized Our Lady of this or that.
The Pelasgians’ deities were concerned, above all else, with sexual reproduction, and they were worshipped in orgiastic rites and with much sexual symbolism. Snakes and bulls, for example, the former both phallic and chthonic, the latter a symbol of reproductive potency, played a major role in Minoan religion.
From the first contact between Hellenes and Pelasgians, there was an interaction between their religions, with each race over the course of time adopting and adapting elements from the religion of the other. Thus, for example, the Cretans adopted Zeus and adapted him as a youthful fertility god, portraying him sometimes as a bull, whose role was to fertilize the Earth Mother. They even claimed Crete as the birthplace of Zeus, thus provoking the indignation of the Hellenes, who already regarded the Cretan Pelasgians as an especially deceitful and untrustworthy people.
More interesting to us is the influence of Pelasgian religion on that of the Hellenes. Some Mediterranean deities were adopted into the Olympian family and modified to suit their new relatives, while some Olympians acquired certain Mediterranean attributes. Black-haired Poseidon has already been mentioned.
But even as Hellenic a deity as Athena, the gray-eyed goddess of wisdom, daughter of Zeus, was adapted from a variant of the Pelasgian fertility goddess already localized in Attica when the Hellenes arrived, a sort of Our Lady of Athens. Even after she was adopted by the Olympians and universalized, she retained some of the essence of a local goddess.
Dionysus is an example of a god who came to be worshipped by both Hellenes and Pelasgians, but whose cult was much more Pelasgian than Hellenic in character, involving orgiastic rites.
Hera, the wife of Zeus, is clearly an adopted and modified variant of the Mediterranean Earth Mother. Greek mythology accounts for this dual nature and dual origin of the gods in a way remarkably reminiscent of the Scandinavian religious tradition of a war between Indo-European gods (Aesir) and Mediterranean gods (Vanir), after which hostages were exchanged (see installment 7, in the January 1979 issue of National Vanguard). The hostages from among the Vanir went to live in Asgard with Odin and the other Scandinavian gods and eventually came to be accepted on equal terms with the Aesir.
These adopted Vanir included Frey and Freya, the personifications respectively of the male and female sexual principles, and Njord, a masculinized version of Nerthus, which was one of the names of the Earth Mother. It is interesting to note that Njord also doubled as the Scandinavian version of Poseidon.
In Greek tradition Zeus overthrew an older group of gods, the children of Gaia, the Earth Mother, before securing his own role as Sky Father and supreme deity. Just as in the case of the Scandinavians it is very tempting to see in this tradition a mythologized reference to the ancient conflict between invading Indo-Europeans and conquered Mediterraneans.
Because the Mediterraneans were only conquered and not exterminated; because they formed the bulk of the economic base on which Greek society rested; because the lifestyle of Hellenes themselves changed, becoming more dependent on agriculture than before; and because race mixture inevitably followed conquest, it is not surprising that the religion of the conquerors underwent a change and assimilated many elements from the religion of the conquered natives.
In the 16th century B.C. there was a thriving, non-White civilization in the Indus valley, with centers at Mohenjo-daro and Harappa. Trade was carried on with countries as far away as Egypt.
Then the Aryans came across the towering, ice-covered Hindu Kush in the north and fell upon the dwellers in the southern valleys with irresistible ferocity. First Harappa, and then Mohenjo-daro, was razed, and the Indo-Europeans were in possession of the rich Land of the Seven Rivers.
It was yet another land whose aboriginal inhabitants differed profoundly from the Indo-European conquerors, both physically and spiritually. And in this new land the Aryans made as determined an effort as anywhere to avoid racemixing.
The tribal society of the Nordic invaders was already organized hierarchically into three estates, or castes: the priests, the warriors (from whom came the rulers), and the workers (farmers, craftsmen, and merchants). After the conquest of the Indian aborigines (or dasyus, as the Aryans called them), a fourth estate was added: that of the servants, the hewers of wood and the fetchers of water.
The estates, which among the Aryans had been somewhat flexible, offering the possibility of social movement from one estate to another, became fixed in an absolutely rigid caste system. The members of the first three castes, now called Brahmans (priests), Kshatriyas (warriors and rulers), and Vaishyas (workers), were Aryans. The members of the fourth caste, the Shudras (servants), were dasyus. Not only intermarriage, but every form of social intercourse between the castes except that absolutely necessary for the functioning of society, was banned, and the ban had the authority of religion as well as of law.
‘The Laws of Manu, the most ancient legal code to have come down to us from Aryan India, spell out explicitly the duties of the castes:
“To Brahmans he (Brahma, the Creator, the soul of the universe) assigned teaching and studying the Veda, sacrificing for their own benefit and for others, giving and accepting of alms. [The Vedas (the name comes from the Aryan word meaning “knowledge”) are the collections of sacred writings of the ancient Aryans from the period shortly after the conquest. The particular Veda referred to here is the Rig-Veda.]
‘The Kshatriya he commanded protect the people, to bestow gifts, to offer sacrifices, to study the Veda, and to abstain from attaching himself to sensual measures.
“The Vaishya to tend cattle, to bestow gifts, to offer sacrifices, to study the Veda, to trade, to lend money, and to cultivate land.
“One occupation only Brahma prescribed to the Shudra: to serve meekly the other three castes.”
The dasyus were excluded not only from social intercourse with Aryans and from occupations reserved for Aryans, but also from any participation in the Aryan religion; the Shudra caste the only one not enjoined to study the Veda. Young Aryans were initiated into the adult religious community in special rites, the initiation being considered a “second birth.” The Laws of Manu say: “The Brahman, the Kshatriya, and the Vaishya castes are the twice-born ones, but the fourth, the Shudra, has no second birth. There is no fifth caste.”
The Sanskrit literature of the ancient Aryans is filled with references to the distaste the Nordic conquerors felt for the dark, flat-nosed natives. Poets referred to the dasyus as “the noseless ones” and “the blackskins.” One poet wrote, “Destroying the dasyus, Indra (the ancient Aryan god of the sky, cognate with the Hellenic Zeus and Roman Jupiter, head of the Aryan pantheon prior to the rise of Brahmanism) protected the Aryan color.” According to another poet, “Indra protected in battle the Aryan worshipper … he conquered the blackskin.” And still another: “He (Indra) beat the dasyus as is his wont…. He conquered the land with his white friends.”
The Sanskrit literature, incidentally, has preserved for us the most extensive sample of an Indo-European language from the second millennium B.C. (assuming that the earliest Vedas, which were originally transmitted orally, were fixed in their present form sometime prior to 1,000 B.C.). Many common Sanskrit words are quite similar to common words of the same or similar meaning in the classical or modern European languages, thus illustrating the unity of the Indo-European peoples and their languages over the enormous area of the earth’s surface which they eventually covered.
For example: pitar (Sanskrit), pater (Greek and Latin), vater (German), father (English); matar (Sanskrit), meter (Greek), mater (Latin), mat (Russian), mutter (German), mother (English); bhratar (Sanskrit), frater (Latin), brat (Russian), bruder (German), brother (English); svasar (Sanskrit), soror (Latin), sestra (Russian), schwester (German), sister (English); duhitar (Sanskrit), thugater (Greek), tochter (German), daughter (English); vidhava (Sanskrit), vidua (Latin), vdova (Russian), witwe (German.), widow (English).
Celtic society, following the customary Indo-European pattern, was hierarchical. At the top was a fighting and hunting aristocracy, always purely Celtic. At the bottom were the small farmers, the servants, and the petty craftsmen. The racial composition of this class varied from purely Celtic to mostly Mediterranean, depending on the region.
In pre-Christian Ireland there was an intellectual class which had a social status approximately equal to that of the warrior-landowners. This class consisted of druids (priests), bards, physicians, artists, and skilled craftsmen, who moved freely from petty kingdom to petty kingdom in a way that was not possible for any other class, thereby helping to maintain cultural unity throughout a wide area. A similar class served the same functions on the continent.
Blood relationships counted for everything in the Celtic world. Not only was there a distinction between those of Celtic blood and those descended from the aborigines, but among the Celts themselves all obligations fell not just on the individual but on his extended family, or kindred group. Loyalty was owed by every member of the kindred group to every other member, and debts and injuries involving two men from different kindreds automatically involved every other member of their kindreds as well.
The Celts, like the other Indo-European peoples of northern Europe in pre-Christian times, revered natural beauty, including that of the human body. Relations between the sexes were open and natural, and — in contrast to the norm for Mediterranean societies — Celtic women were allowed a great deal of freedom.
When the wife of Sulpicius Severus, a Romanized fourth-century historian, reproached the wife of a Celtic chieftain for the wanton ways of Celtic women, the Celtic woman replied: “We fulfill the demands of nature in a much better way than do you Roman women: for we consort openly with the best men, whereas you let yourselves be debauched in secret by the vilest.” In fourth-century Rome, of course, virtually all the wealth was in the hands of “the vilest” men: Jews, Syrians, and other Oriental immigrants who dominated commerce and constituted the nouveaux riches.
The ancestors of the Celts brought the solar religion of their Indo-European homeland with them to the areas they invaded; three-armed and four-armed swastikas, as solar symbols, are an omnipresent element in Celtic art, as is the four-spoked sun wheel. One of the most widely revered Celtic gods, Lug (or Lugh), had many of the attributes of the Germanic Wotan, and one of his designations, Longhanded Lug, referred to his role as a solar deity, whoselife-giving force reached everywhere.
The Lithuanian nation officially subjected itself to the Pope in 1387, with the marriage of Lithuanian Grand Duke Jogaila to a Polish princess. In fact, however, Indo-European deities continued to be worshipped in the Lithuanian countryside for another 500 years, right up to the beginning of this century.
The chief Baltic deity was Dievas, the familiar Indo-European Sky Father (the modern Lithuanian common noun dievas, justas the Lettish dievs, actually means “sky”; both words are derived from the same Indo-European root which has given us “deity”). The number-two god was the Thunderer, the weather god. His name in Lithuanian was Perkunas; in Latvian, Perkons; in Prussian, Perkonis — all from the same Indo-European root as the Latin word for “oak” (quercus, originally percus), the sacred tree of the Indo-Europeans. Perkunas, of course, is cognate with the Germanic Donar, Thor.
One alien cultural element which did creep into the religion of the Balts soon after they had become thoroughly settled agriculturists was the feminine Earth Mother aspect of the religion of the Neolithic aborigines in the Baltic region. This was grafted onto the essentially solar religion of the proto-Balts, and the fertility rites of the Balts were commented on by their German conquerors during the Middle Ages.
Despite their more complete acculturation to the settled, farming lifestyle than the other peoples of the north, the Slavs retained the typically Indo-European spiritual and cultural traits of their ancestors. They were sun-worshippers, and their god Perun, a vigorous, red-bearded deity who wielded a mighty hammer and rode in a chariot drawn by a goat, is clearly just a Slavic version of the Balts’ Perkunas and the Germans’ Donar (Thor). Although the bulk of the Slavs were subjected to Christianity in the ninth and tenth centuries, the old religion persisted in some areas into the 12th century.
Antes, in fact, is derived from As, the name by which the Alans north of the Caucasus referred to themselves. A leading clan among them was known as the clan of the Rukhs-As (“the light, or shining, Alans”), and from this designation came the tribal name Rus, which was later adopted by the Viking rulers of Russia.
It is also interesting to note the connection between the Alans and later Scandinavian mythology. One of the two groups or factions (if Norse gods were the Aesir (singular Ass). As related in the eleventh installment of this series, the ancient legends tell of a time before the Aesir came to Scandinavia: “The land east of the Don River (i.e., the steppe north of the Caucasus, between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, which was the homeland of the Alans until the Huns arrived) was called Home of the Aesir, and the capital of that country they called Asgard [i.e., As(s)-stronghold]. In the capital the chieftain ruled whose name was Odin….”
For more than a century the Scandinavian Goths mixed with the Alans and Slavs over whom they ruled. Then came the Huns. Slavs, Goths, and Alans all suffered mightily, and we have dealt with the ensuing events in an earlier installment. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the Hun invasion was the disaster which befell the Alans. The godlike race of Odin and Frigg, of Thor and Balder, met its Ragnarok.
Although the Alan nation was not annihilated, its Golden Age was over. Some were driven south into mountain strongholds high in the Caucasus, where they maintained a national identity for another five centuries. Others fled westward, and most of these shared the fate of the Vandals in Africa. The rest became vassals of the Huns and were turned against their own race.