Sunday, September 6, 2009

From Mercury to Wotan

In Paul the Deacon's 'History of the Lombards', Book I - Chapter IX, the last sentence reads: "Wotan indeed, whom by adding a letter they called Godan is he who among the Romans is called Mercury, and he is worshipped by all the peoples of Germany as a god, though he is deemed to have existed, not about these times, but long before, and not in Germany, but in Greece."

Was this true? Did the Romans and Greeks share a major god with the Germanic peoples, and perhaps others? If so, that would be a strong bond linking ancient Europe. It should also be noted that the Celts had an extensive mythology, and also we've begun to learn in recent years of the extensive "Slavic mythology" that existed. Staying with the original question, we might be able to start to answer some questions.


Hermes is the Messenger of the gods in Greek mythology. An Olympian god, he is also the patron of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds and cowherds, of thieves and road travelers, of orators and wit, of literature and poets, of athletics, of weights and measures, of invention, of general commerce, and of the cunning of thieves and liars.


In Roman mythology, Mercury (associated with the Greek deity Hermes) was a messenger, and a god of trade, profit and commerce, the son of Maia Maiestas, also known as Ops, the Roman version of Rhea, and Jupiter.

Also according to Wikipedia: "Mercury did not appear among the numinous di indigetes of early Roman religion. Rather, he subsumed the earlier Dei Lucrii as Roman religion was syncretized with Greek religion during the time of the Roman Republic, starting around the 4th century BC. From the beginning, Mercury had essentially the same aspects as Hermes, wearing winged shoes talaria and a winged petasos, and carrying the caduceus, a herald's staff with two entwined snakes that was Apollo's gift to Hermes."


So, according to the above paragraph, Mercury entered the Roman religion some time after the founding of the Roman Republic. There was a break in time there. To answer that question, we again have to explore the Roman ruination of ancient Etruria. The Etruscans called the Greek god Hermes "Turms" (see chart). Well, isn't that interesting. The Etruscans worshipped this god long before Rome, and is it such a stretch to ponder as to whether or not the early Roman elite deliberately deconstructed an important Etruscan god? I have made the comparison of the Etruscans to the USA nation state, and the Romans to the Globalist American leadership. Both deconstructed much of what had been tradition in favor of internationalism.

Now we do not necessarily know if Hermes appeared in Greek mythology prior to Etruscan mythology, but we would have to assume Greece until proven otherwise. We do know that Etruria was not a colony of Greece, and was a strong nation right along with Greece, and that the "Greece then Rome" concept is largely untrue. By destroying the highly advanced Etruscan architecture, the Romans were indeed able to wipe ancient Etruria out of memory.


[Left: A three-headed image of a Celtic deity, interpreted as Mercury and now believed to represent Lugus]

When they described the gods of Celtic and Germanic tribes, rather than considering them separate deities, the Romans interpreted them as local manifestations or aspects of their own gods, a cultural trait called the interpretatio Romana. Mercury in particular was reported as becoming extremely popular among the nations the Roman Empire conquered; Julius Caesar wrote of Mercury being the most popular god in Britain and Gaul, regarded as the inventor of all the arts. This is probably because in the Roman syncretism, Mercury was equated with the Celtic god Lugus, and in this aspect was commonly accompanied by the Celtic goddess Rosmerta. Although Lugus may originally have been a deity of light or the sun (though this is disputed), similar to the Roman Apollo, his importance as a god of trade and commerce made him more comparable to Mercury, and Apollo was instead equated with the Celtic deity Belenus.

Romans associated Mercury with the Germanic god Wotan, by interpretatio Romana; 1st-century Roman writer Tacitus identifies the two as being the same, and describes him as the chief god of the Germanic peoples. Julius Caesar, in a section of his "Gallic Wars" describing the customs of the German tribes, wrote "The Germans most worship Mercury," apparently identifiyng Wotan with Mercury.

In Celtic areas, Mercury was sometimes portrayed with three heads or faces, and at Tongeren, Belgium, a statuette of Mercury with three phalli was found, with the extra two protruding from his head and replacing his nose; this was probably because the number 3 was considered magical, making such statues good luck and fertility charms. The Romans also made widespread use of small statues of Mercury, probably drawing from the ancient Greek tradition of hermae markers.

Lugus was a deity apparently worshipped widely in antiquity in the Celtic-speaking world. His name is rarely directly attested in inscriptions, but his importance can be inferred from placenames and ethnonyms, and his nature and attributes are deduced from the distinctive iconography of Gallo-Roman inscriptions to Mercury, who is widely believed to have been identified with Lugus, and from the quasi-mythological narratives involving his linguistic descendants, Irish Lugh and Welsh Lleu Llaw Gyffes.

"Gaulish Mercury"

Julius Caesar in his De Bello Gallico identified six gods worshipped in Gaul, by the usual conventions of interpretatio Romana giving the names of their nearest Roman equivalents rather than their Gaulish names. He said that "Mercury" was the god most revered in Gaul, describing him as patron of trade and commerce, protector of travellers, and the inventor of all the arts. The Irish god Lug bore the epithet samildánach (skilled in all arts), which has led to the widespread identification of Caesar's Mercury as Lugus. Mercury's importance is supported by the more than 400 inscriptions into him in Roman Gaul and Britain. Such a blanket identification is optimistic – Jan de Vries[8] demonstrates the unreliability of any one-to-one concordance in the interpretatio Romana – but the available parallels are worth considering.

Ancient Germanic Peoples

Odin is considered the chief god in Norse paganism and the ruler of Asgard. Homologous with the Anglo-Saxon Wōden and the Old High German Wotan, it is descended from Proto-Germanic *Wōđinaz or *Wōđanaz. The name Odin is generally accepted as the modern translation; although, in some cases, older translations of his name may be used or preferred. His name is related to ōðr, meaning "fury, excitation", besides "mind", or "poetry". His role, like many of the Norse gods, is complex. He is considered a principal member of the Aesir (Norse Pantheon) and is associated with wisdom, war, battle, and death, and also magic, poetry, prophecy, victory, and the hunt.

Parallels between Odin and Celtic Lugus have often been pointed out: both are intellectual gods, commanding magic and poetry. Both have ravens and a spear as their attributes, and both are one-eyed. Julius Caesar (de bello Gallico, 6.17.1) mentions Mercury as the chief god of Celtic religion. A likely context of the diffusion of elements of Celtic ritual into Germanic culture is that of the Chatti, who lived at the Celtic-Germanic boundary in Hesse during the final centuries before the Common Era.

It can be concluded that various mythological figures, from different cultures, were "associated" with a counterpart. This may have been partly due to political maneuvering by Romans and others, to pacify the population. To conjoin different cultures under a unified imperial state, in the same way that early Christians, rather than try to force the abolition of a pagan holiday, just co-opted it until it more-or-less disappeared.

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