Thursday, July 29, 2010


In the book 'The Lombard Laws' (Fischer Drew; 1973), footnote 43, on page 245; it states regarding the "thinx":

"The thinx was, properly speaking, the public assembly, ding, of the Lombards. After the settlement in Italy, however, the wide scattering of the Lombard people would have made such a general assembly impossible.

Hence the witnessing of contracts--an important function of the assembly--was transferred to a smaller group of witnesses. "The gairethinx ("spear assembly") name remained, however, and from this word the shorter form thinx was often used to refer to the formal contractual procedure of gairethinx, or even to the gift, the object of the transfer, itself."

Gairethinx (from Wikipedia):

The gairethinx was a Lombard ceremony in which edicts and laws were affirmed by the army. It may have involved the entire army banging their spears on their shields. It may have been a much quieter event.

It is etymologically related to the Thing of the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons and the Althing of Iceland.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Gallia Cisalpina VI: Gaulish Bread Harvest

Gallia Cisalpina VI: Gaulish Bread Harvest (click here for link; YouTube did not allow our video to be imbedded due to the fact that the footage is copyrighted)

Lammas is a Neo-Pagan holiday, often called Lughnasadh, celebrating the first harvest and the reaping of grain. It is a cross-quarter holiday halfway between the Summer Solstice (Litha) and the Autumnal Equinox (Mabon). In the northern hemisphere, Lammas takes place around August 1 with the Sun near the midpoint of Leo in the tropical zodiac, while in the southern hemisphere Lammas is celebrated around February 1 with the Sun near the midpoint of Aquarius. On the Wheel of the Year, it is opposite Imbolc, which is celebrated on February 2nd in the northern hemisphere, and late July / early August in the southern hemisphere.



Harvest Festival

Celtic calendar

Wheel of the Year

*The footage shown is from the 2006 American remake of 'The Wicker Man' :


Internet Movie Database

[Music: Unknown]

Monday, July 12, 2010

Catholicism and Paganism in Latter Langobard Society

When one looks at the spirituality of the Winnili/Langobards in a historical sense, it's obvious that they ultimately traveled the full distance from Paganism (Wotanism) to Christianity (Catholicism). However, there were many grey areas in between.

Looking quickly through those fazes, we can probably guess that the Winnili very likely practiced some form of Wotanism. During their stay along the borderland with the Gauls, it's possible that there could have been some Cernic (Cernunnos worship) influence, as there was some crossover between Gaulic spirituality and Teutonic spirituality. By the time the Langobards had become Roman allies along the Danube River, they were possibly roughly half Wotanist and half Arian Christian. Arian Christianity was apparently a crude form of Christianity.

In the Langbard Kingdom, Queen Theodelinda officially turned the Langobards into a Catholic nation sometime during the 590s it appears. The native Romanized Gaulic population had already been Romanized and Catholicized for a long period of time. This appears to have been the first step to actually faze out Wotanism altogether. The Langobard nation, although linking themselves with the early Catholic Church, always seemed to have had a hot-and-cold relationship with the Papal institution. There were times where they seemed to float into the Eastern Orthodox camp.

Just a side note, but it's interesting that the Catholics always portrayed Queen Theodelinda as being "less than attractive," seemingly to de-sexualize her, when in reality, it was widely noted that the Queen was very beautiful. Early pictures of her, especially in the Monza Cathedral, portray her in this manner as well. For better or worse, Queen Theodelinda was the St. Patrick of Cisalpine Gaul/Langbard/northern nations, or whatever name one wants to give the land of our ancestors. From every account, and considering that this was a time of political and religious upheaval, she was a great Langobard leader. Strong, widely loved, a woman to remember. She did what she had to do.

Some of the laws of the Langobards give clues as to where they stood on the religious issue after the establishment of the Langbard Kingdom.

From the Wikipedia page Witch trials in Early Modern Europe and North America, under "Protests" (to witch trials and torture):

"There have been contemporary protesters against witch trials and against use of torture in the examination of those suspected or accused of witchcraft.

"643: The Edictum Rothari, the law code for Lombardy in Italy (‘Let nobody presume to kill a foreign serving maid or female slave as a witch, for it is not possible, nor ought to be believed by Christian minds')"

Obviously, at least under the rule of King Rothari, there was still some sympathy for the pagans. This seemed to vary from one ruler to the next, but ultimately going in the direction of Christianity. Although, the end came when they turned against the Church at a time of great inner turmoil in Langbard, and the Kingdom itself was destroyed by Charlemagne's Catholic Frankish army. Ironically the Langobards had long been strong allies with the Franks, and they shared a similar history, conquering and establishing Kingdoms on the lands of formerly Gallic nations.

From the Wikipedia page Val Camonica witch trials, under "Background" (regarding the Valle Camonica region):

"Christianity is not considered to have been strong in the area, though it was formally christened in the 400s. In 724, King Liutprando of Lombardy feared a rebellion after he had issued a ban against Paganism. In the laws of 1498, stern laws are issued against all "Devilish heresy". In 1499, it was accused of having participated in a "Black mass", and it was reported to be common with such "depravity" in the area."

From the book 'The Lombard Laws' (Fischer Drew; 1973), section III 'The Laws of King Liutprand', "From The Fifteenth Year (A.D. 727)," pages 180-181:

"[Concerning him who seeks the advice of a sorcerer]

"84.I. He who, unmindful of the wrath of God, goes to sorcerers or witches for the purpose of receiving divinations or answers of any kind whatsoever from them, shall pay to the royal fisc as composition half of the price at which he would have been valued if someone had killed him, and in addition, shall do penance according to the established canon. In like manner, he who, like a rustic, prays to a tree as sacred, or adores springs, or who makes any sacrilegious incantation, shall also pay as composition a half of his price to the royal fisc. And he who knows of sorcerers or witches and does not reveal them, or conceals those who go to them and does not reveal it, shall be subjected to the above punishment. Moreover, he who sends his man or woman slave to such sorcerers or witches for the purpose of seeking responses from them, and it is proved, shall pay composition as abovementioned. If indeed the man or woman slave goes to the soothsayer or witch without the consent of is or her lord and so without his authority, likewise for the purpose of seeking responses, then his or her lord ought to sell him or her outside the province. And if his or her lord neglects to do this, he (the lord) shall be subjected to the punishment noted above."

Needless to say, this is a sharp contrast from the earlier attitudes towards paganism. Actually, most of the Lombard Laws were very fair and humane, usually requiring simple fines of varying degrees, depending on the nature of the crime. However here, the fine for breaking a law that could stem from simply praying to a tree, resulted in a fine of half that person's total wealth! Further oppressive was the move to outlaw the act of merely not reporting "acts of paganism" to the authorities.

Therefore, the Langobards went from allowing a large amount of personal freedom, albeit in a caste system, to moving to a system in which victimless crimes in this one area was punishable by rather extreme means. Practically "thought crimes." The very next law of Liutprand was labeled "What is to be done if the judge or other public officials of a place fail to seek out sorcerers or witches." I will not type out this law, which had much text, because I think that the earlier law presented the basic gist of where they were coming from. However, here we see that the law officials were not nearly as powerful as the religious institution. Only the king held power over the major Catholic regional theocrats, the representatives of the Papacy itself.


8-4-10 Addition: From the book 'The Lombard Laws' (Drew; 1973), page 247; footnote 55, we find another interesting clue to this subject. It states: "A belief in witchcraft must, at one time, have been widespread among the Lombards or among the naive population of the Italian peninsula. The Lombard kings approached the subject in an enlightened manner, practically denying the existence of this occult science and providing protection against random accusations of witchcraft or sorcery which might bring death or outlawry to the person accused. Such would seem to be the intent of the present law. On the other hand, there are laws in the code (Liutprand 84, 85) which specifically state that it is the duty of royal officials to seek out sorcerers and such like and apply the penalty of the law--sale outside of the country (Liutprand 85)."


Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Twilight Saga and the Benandanti: Part 4

To tie up a few loose ends here. It's interesting that the Twilight Saga takes place in the state of Washinton, as that state resembles the natural landscape of Germany and the countries to it's east like Rumania, and the greater Alpine region. This is interesting because that is largely where this folklore has it's origins. I wonder of that was intended?

Someone who I know to be very wise, told me one time that if someone with ancestral origins in a particular type of environment feels nothing when they find themselves in a similar natural environment (ex. Alpine region and the Pacific Northwest)... I forget his exact words but the gist of it was that he would be baffled by that, and I agree. This would apply to any individual.

'Waking the Moon' (from Wikipedia)

Waking The Moon is a 1994 novel by Elizabeth Hand. It was the winner of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award and The 1996 Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature. It is set mainly in The University of Archangel and St. John The Divine, a fictional University inspired by The Catholic University of America, mentioned in a few of Hand's novels. About 100 pages were cut from the US edition.

Plot summary

Sweeney Cassidy starts out as a freshman at University, where she meets the mysterious Angelica and falls in love with the strange and beautiful Oliver. She gets tangled up in sinister, supernatural events involving the awakening of an ancient, malevolent goddess. According to the afterword for the short story The Bacchae, found in the collection Last Summer At Mars Hill, it is another trope on ancient Greek myth that prefigures Waking the Moon. They both involve murderous cults of women. Elizabeth Hand has said that she wanted to show that ancient goddess cultures were not all as peaceful and idyllic as we tend to think.


This subject ties into what I would call the final period, the Middle Ages, of the stamping out of the pagan traditions of Europe through the various "witch hunts." A lot of people don't tie in the words "infidel" with "heathen," which are one and the same. Even today, every person fits that description in someone's eyes, whether they like it or not.


Friday, July 2, 2010

The Twilight Saga and the Benandanti: Part 3

The second Carlo Ginzburg book on this subject was entitled 'Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath'. This book seems to delve into the greater issue of "European witchcraft," which is a catch-all term not always accurate.

Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath (Ginzburg; 1991)

Library Journal (book review)

Emerging from testimonies during witchcraft trials in Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries are consistent descriptions of the Witches' Sabbath: night flying, ritual cannibalism, etc. Most scholars dismiss these descriptions as torture-induced gibberish. Ginzburg (history, Univ. of California at Los Angeles) proves that these descriptions are bastardized accounts of ecstatic experiences practiced by a shamanic culture. In addition, he links the persecution of the witches with that of other social outcasts (lepers, Jews, and Muslims). Europeans thought that these groups conspired against society, which led to their wholesale slaughter. Very interesting and very convincing. For collections serving upper-level undergraduates and graduate students. --Gail Wood, Montgomery College. Library, Germantown, MD

Shamanism In Europe (review by user Zekeriyah)

Yes, Ginzburg actually contends that the so-called "witches" of old Europe were in fact remanents of the old Shamanic cultures of Europe, and he does make an excellent arguement for it. I will admit, I do agree with him on some points. Shamanism is a universal phenomena, and yet (with the notable exception of the Lapps in Scandinavia and a few scattered myths and legends like Orpheus and Odin) Shamanism seems to have all but been absent in Europe, and this has always puzzled me. Certainly, had Shamanism been widespread in Europe, it probably would have survived well into the Christian era, just as it has in other parts of the world. As such, Ginzburg may be right on the money about the witch hunts and such. Regardless of your thoughts on the subject, this remains an excellent book. And if you like it, he has another book, entitled "Night Battles" about a community of Shaman in northern Italy.

A Post-modern analysis of the Witchcraze of the Middle Ages (review by user Tribe)

Ginzburg is one of the first historians who has come forward with a convincing theory that there may well have been pagan sects during the Middle Ages that were the focus of persecutions and regionalized hunts and crazes. This is a fascinating analysis of the legendary Witchs' Sabbath and its mythical foundations, as well as a convincing theory of what led localities to persecute those suspected of being witches.

Missing Link (review by user Aziliz)

It is easy to be acquainted with the mainstream Greek, Roman, Norse and Egyptian mythologies that are so easily acquired from any mythology shelf in library or bookstore but the mainstream doesn't talk about the deities and their mythologies discussed in Carlo Ginzburg's books although his research shows they were obviously widely worshipped just didn't make it into the 'official' pantheons of Rome.

It is also easy to pick up a book on modern paganism/shamanism or on pagan/shamanic religions of exotic cultures--far harder to find anything on European shamanic roots.

Research in many books also too often divorce the mythology from religion; rituals, customs and practices from their adherents and their geographical locations; and don't quote their original sources. Carlo Ginzburg puts this all together and the depth and breadth of the research in this book is fabulous.

The book is a feast for anyone interested in mythology, folklore, old religions, the history of witchcraft, werewolves, history of shamanism or medieval history.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Twilight Saga and the Benandanti: Part 2

It should be pointed out that the Benandanti were not part of Stregheria, which is largely of Etruscan/Tuscan origin. Carlo Ginzburg seems to have been the only author to really dig into the history of this group. In 'The Night Battles' and 'Ecstasies', he traced a complex path from certain European witch persecutions to the Benandanti to a wide variety of practices which he describes as evidence of a substrate of shamanic cults in Europe.

'The Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries' (Ginzburg; 1983)

Ian Myles Slater: on Popular Belief and Official Doctrine (book review)

"Whether or not Carlo Ginzburg actually discovered evidence of shamanism in sixteenth-century Italy, in this or later books, is in part a matter of how one defines shamanism. What he undeniably found, in the seemingly unpromising records of the Inquisition, was evidence of beliefs so remote from those of official European culture as to be flatly unintelligible to the churchmen who first encountered them. Eventually, the Church courts managed to impose something resembling officially acceptable doctrines on the local population, but the process took generations, as Ginzburg is able to show from trial records.

Briefly, Ginzburg found that, in the Friuli district, there was a widespread belief that certain men and women were marked at birth as defenders against witches and demons, these being regarded mainly as the enemies of the people, their livestock, and their crops. The chosen defenders, the "Benandanti," or "good walkers," ventured forth in their dreams to do battle with the forces of evil. Those born with the mark of the Benandanti regarded themselves as good Christians, the allies of the Church. To those outside the local culture, this position was clearly nonsense; unauthorized and unsanctified supernatural power could only be Satanic in origin, and those who claimed to exercise it were, at best, dangerously deluded. In the end, if the court records are to be trusted, they persuaded even the Benandanti themselves that this was the case. At least, the "absurd" and "outrageous" testimony of self-described Benandanti fades from the records, to be replaced with conventional witch-beliefs endorsed by the Holy Office.

The official tendency, Catholic and Protestant, to lump local witch-doctors together with the witches they claimed to counter had long been recognized by historians. Ginzburg, however, discovered, and offered to surprised historians (in the original Italian edition of 1966), a stratum of belief that, when first recorded, seems to have been entirely outside the mainstream of medieval European culture. There is scattered evidence for similar concepts in other parts of Europe, and abundant evidence from other continents, but the connections and age of the beliefs in and about the Benandanti remain subjects for controversy. The demonstration that diverse local beliefs had been rendered uniform by the judicial process, and by intensive indoctrination of the "lower classes," however, remains a landmark.

As described in the "Preface to the English Edition," the Italian version rather quickly received favorable -- and some unfavorable or uncomprehending -- notice from historians of European witchcraft. It was interpreted, or perhaps misunderstoond, by Mircea Eliade, the influential figure in "History of Religions" at the University of Chicago, one of the great authorities on shamanism (and much else). Although sections had been published in English earlier, the whole book became available in English in 1983, in the present translation, from Routledge & Kegan Paul in Britain, and Johns Hopkins University Press in the U.S. I first read it a few years later, and eventually acquired a copy of a Penguin Books re-issue of 1986. (All the English-language editions seem to differ only in cover art, besides the name of the publisher.) I have re-read it from time to time over the years. Although historical views of European witch-beliefs and popular culture have both been in flux, this book remains among the most fascinating in its crowded field."

Ground-breaking work (book review by kaioatey)

"As anthropologists fanned around the world they brought back detailed accounts of shamanic practices of indigenous peoples from Africa, Asia, Siberia & Native America - but not from Europe. European shamanism (including druidism) is thought to have been largely stamped out due to the combined efforts of Enlightenement and the Holy Inquisition. The book opens up the question of the many similarities between Germanic, Latin, Slavic agricultural cults and their relationship to the Dionysian rituals as well as the issue of universality of core beliefs that underly indigenous practices around the world.

The book also pioneers a new understanding of Europeans and their history - one that focuses on the peasant and his relationship with the land (and the Church). The aristocratic elite that controlled the politics and religion of mediaeval Italian city states was just a tiny fraction of the population; Ginzburg therefore opens up a new (and should i say delicious) can of worms.

This book represents a huge step forward in our understanding of European shamanism. Ginzburg burrows deep into the 16th century Inquisition archives from the Friuli region of Northern Italy (where Latin, Slavic and Germanic traditions come together). He returns with a fascinating discovery of an ancient fertility cult, whose participants (the benandanti) represented themselves as defenders of harvest and fertility of the fields. A benandante was someone who four times a year during the Ember days left the body and went "invisibly in spirit" to fight the witches and the devil - "we fight over all the fruits of the earth and for those things won by the benandanti that year there is abundance", said a peasant while questioned by the Inquisition. The benandanti were united by a common element of having been born with the caul (i.e., wrapped in the placenta, which was thought to be an object endowed with magical powers). The departure of the spirit from the body, which was left lifeless, was understood as an actual separation, an event fraught with perils, almost like death. The soul was considered very real and tangible. "We crossed over water like smoke and following combat, everyone returned home as smoke...". The soul was always associated with a spirit animal (usually hare, but also pig, rooster, mouse etc.). This was a world of spells, incantations, evil eye, herbal potions, spirits and communication with the dead.

Ginzburg shows that these beliefs in 16th century peasants were all-pervasive and deeply connected with Earth and its cycles. The Ember Days (i.e., Christmas) festivities had survived from ancient agricultural cults and symbolized the changes of seasons, the passage from the old to the new time of year and a promise of planting, harvest, reaping and autumn vintage. Ginzburg paints a interesting picture of Italian Inquisition - that of a huge centralized organization which was inefficient, swamped with bureaucratic legalisms and in most cases not that interested in prosecuting "ignorant peasants" . The book also champions a rather controversial thesis according to which the Church managed to steer the perception of the benandanti cult from representing fertility rites to that of witchcraft and the devil, almost as if the Church created the very devil that it abhorred. Interesting parallels with modern times, I should say."