Monday, December 9, 2019

Exteter Book Riddle 29

Originally posted to the Ealdríce Théodish Fellowship’s old blog on the 23rd of January 2019.

Lay Wending (Verse Translation) by Þórbeorht
I saw a wondrous wight (being), laden with war-takings between its horns, a shining sky-vat, craftily bedecked.  The takings of the battle-march, it sought to bring home. There it would a-timber (build) a bower in the burg (stronghold) and skillfully set it so…if it might.

Then came another wondrous wight over the wall’s roof, known to all bondsmen of the earth. It freed the war-takings and drove the wretch, against its will, to its home.  Then west, to fare in its feud, it hastened forth.  Dust rose to heaven, dew fell on earth, night went away. None amongst men wist (knew) the wight’s wayfaring thereafter.

Old English Reading
Ic wiht geseah     wundorlice
horna abitweonun     huþe lædan
lyftfæt leohtlic     listrum gegierwed
huþe to þam ham     of þā heresiþe
walde hyre on þære byrig     bur atimbram
searwum asettan     gif hit swa meahte ·
ða cwom wundorlicu wiht     ofer wealles hrof
seo is eallum cuð     eorðbuendum
ahredde þa þa huþe     ⁊ to ham bedræf
wreccan ofer willan     gewat hyre west þonan
fæhþum feran     forð onetteð
dust stonc to heofonum     deaw feol on eorþan niht forð gewat     nænig siþþan
wera gewiste     þære wihte sið

Highlight here for the riddle’s answer: The first wight is the Moon, who has stolen the Sun’s light. His “horns” are the moon’s crescents.  The second wight is the Sun, who rises in the sky’s horizon (over the wall’s roof) to reclaim the light.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Alaisiagae: Frisian Goddesses in Roman Britain

[The following is a post made by Þórbeorht to the old ASHmail Yahoo Group on September 11th, 2011 and was reposted on December 23rd of that year to his blog, Fifeldór. On November 19th of 2018 it was then reblogged on the Ealdríce’s website.  It now returns to Fifeldór]

Recently I’ve been looking into evidence of Germanic Heathen worship in Britannia prior to the Anglo-Saxon invasion/migration. Thus far, my focus has been upon the Ceneus Frisiorum, a Frisian regiment of the Roman army stationed at the Housesteads fort (Hadrian’s Wall) during the 3rd century. This regiment, and possibly another in the 4th century (the Numerus Hnaudifridi), dedicated altars to a pair of goddesses known as the Alaisiagae.

The Alaisiagae, may or may not be Germanic goddesses. Indeed it seems as if plausible etymologies for their names can be drawn from both Celtic and Germanic roots. For example, the collective name of Alaisiagae has been interpreted as meaning “Dispatiching Terrors” by those who favor a Celtic etymology and as the “All Victorious” or even “Venerated Ones” by those favoring a Germanic etymology. Regarding their particular names, they are given in one inscription as Beda and Fimmilena in one inscription and Boudihillia and Friagabis, in another.

In the inscription bearing the names Beda and Fimmilena, all accounts that I have thus read agree that Fimmilena is a Germanic name, sharing its root with the Old Frisian Fimelþing, ‘court of judgment’, possibly a moving court. The name Beda, however, has been disputed. Some see it as deriving from a Proto-Celtic word for “burial.” Others see it as having its root in the same Old Frisian soil as Bodþing ‘convened Thing’.

The inscription is to DEO MARTI THINCSOET DVABVS ALAISAGIS BEDE ET FIMMILENE, “the god Mars Thingus (interpreted to refer to Tiw as god of the Þing, “the law assembly”) and the Alaisagae Beda and Fimmilena.” Given the connection to Tiw and the Þing and the Germanic etymology of Fimmilena, I am inclined to accept the proposed Germanic etymology for Beda as well.
Another inscription, this being the one from the 4th century, is dedicated to DEABVS ALAISIAGIS BAVDIHILLIE ET FRIAGABI… “To the Alaisagae goddesses Boudihillia and Friagabi.” Of these two names, Friagabi seems to be agreed upon as being Germanic, possibly meaning “Freedom Giver” (which may still connect well with having a role in the law assembly) or “Free Giver”.  Boudihillia, however is thought by some to derive from a Proto-Celtic root, having the meaning “victory’s fullness.”

It was Boudihillia  that prompted my post. As she was worshipped by Frisians, I was searching for a possible Germanic etymology. It was on this search that I came across the Frisian goddess Baduhenna, possibly derived from the Proto-Germanic *badwa- “battle.” Baduhenna is mentioned by Tacitus in book IV of his Annals. Apparently in 28 CE, some 900 Roman soldiers were “cut to pieces in a wood called Baduhenna’s” by the Frisians. This transpired in Frisia rather than Britannia. Obviously the temptation is to see in the 1st century Frisian Baduhenna the goddess Boudihillia that Frisians were worshiping in 4th century (in Britannia). Indeed, the Proto-Celtic *boud, “victory” and the Proto-Germanic *badu/badwu, “battle” both spring from the same Proto-Indo-European root: *bhau(t), “to knock or strike.”