The Northern Way

Grimm's Teutonic Mythology

Chapter 9

(Page 4)

Still more plainly are High German races, especially the Bavarian (Marcomannic) pointed to by that singular name for the third day of the week, Ertag, Iertag, Iertag, Irtag, Eritag, Erchtag, Erichtag, which answers to the rune Eor, and up to this moment lives to part off the Bavarians, Austrians and Tyrolese from the Swabians and Swiss (who, as former Ziowari, stick to Ziestag); along the boundaryline of these races must also have run formerly the frontier between Eor- worship and Zio-worship. True, the compound Ertac lacks the genetive ending -s which is preserved in Ziestac, and I have not been so fortunate as to hunt up an Erestac (18) in the older records of the 13-14 centuries; nevertheless the coincidence of the double names for the day and for the rune should be conclusive here, and we must suppose an OHG. Erestac, to match the Eresberg. One might be led to imagine that in Ertag the Earth (Erde according to the forms given at the beginning of ch. XIII) was meant. But the ancient way of thinking placed the earth in the centre of the world, not among the planets; she cannot therefore have given name to a day of the week, and there is no such day found in any nation, unless we turn Venus and Freyja into the earth.---To bear this Ertag company, there is that name of a place Eersel, quoted p. 154 from Gramaye, in which neither êra honor, nor its personification Era (ch. XVI, XXIX) is to be thought of, but solely a god of the week. It is worth noticing, that Ertac and Erdag occur as men's names; also, that the Taxandrian Eersel was but a little way off the Tisberg or Fanmars in Hainault (see Suppl.).---Now comes something far more important. As Zio is identical with Zeus as directors of wars, we see at a glance that Eor, Er, Ear, is one with "Arhj the son of Zeus; and as the Germans had given the rank of Zeus to their Wuotan, Týr and consequently Eor appears as the son of the highest god. Have we any means now left of getting at the sense of this obscure root Eor?

The description of the rune in the AS. poem gives only a slight hint, it runs thus:

Ear bið egle eorla gehwilcum,

þonne fæstlîce flæsc onginneð

hræw côlian, hrusan ceosan

blâc tô gebeddan. blæda gedreosað,

wynna gewîtað, wera geswîcað;

i.e., Ear fit importunus hominum cuicumque, quum caro incipit refrigescere, pallidumque corpus terram eligere conjugem. tunc enim gloriae dilabuntur, gaudia evanescunt, foedera cessant. The description is of death coming on, and earthly joys dropping off; but who can that be, that at such a time is burdensome (egle, ail-some) to men? The ordinary meaning of ear, spica, arista, can be of no use here; I suppose that approaching dissolution, a personified death is to be understood, from which a transition to the destructive god of battles, the brotoluigÒj, miaifÒnoj "Arhj is easy to conceive. (19) "Arhj itself is used abstractly by the Greeks for destruction, murder, pestilence, just as our Wuotan is for furor and belli impetus, (20) and the Latin Mars for bellum, exitus pugnae, furor bellicus, conf. 'Mars = cafeht,' gefecht, fight, in Gl. Hrab. 969ª; as conversely the OHG. wîg pugna, bellum (Graff 1, 740) seems occasionally to denote the personal god of war. 'Wicgch quoque Mars est' says Ermoldus Nigellus (Pertz 2, 468), and he is said to farneman, AS. forniman, carry off, as Hild (Bellona) does elsewhere: dat inan wîc fornam, Hildebr. lied; in AS.: wîg ealle fornam, Beow. 2155; wîg fornom, Cod. exon. 291, 11. Do we not still say, war or battle snatched them all away? A remarkable gloss in the old Cod. sangall. 913, p. 193, has 'turbines = ziu' (we have no business to write zui), which may mean the storm of war, the Mars trux, saevus, or possibly the literal whirlwind, on which mythical names are sometimes bestowed; so it is either Zio himself, or a synonymous female personfication Ziu, bearing the same relation to Zio as diu (ancilla) to dio (servus).

Here comes in another string of explanations, overbold as some of them may seem. As Eresburg is just as often spelt Heresburg by the Frankish annalists, we may fairly bring in the Goth. haírus, AS. heor, OS. heru, ON. hiörr [[sword]], ensis, cardo, although the names of the rune and the day of the week always appear without the aspirate. For in Greek we already have the two unaspirated words "Arnj and ¥or, sword, weapon, to compare with one another, and these point to a god of the sword. Then again the famous Abrenuntiatio names three heathen gods, Thunar, Wôden, Saxnôt, of whom the third can have been but little inferior to the other two in power and holiness. Sahsnôt is word for word gladii consors, ensifer [Germ. genoss, sharer]; who else but Zio or Eor and the Greek Ares? (21) The AS. genealogies preserve the name of Saxneát as the son of Wôden, and it is in perfect accordance with it, that Týr was the son of Oðinn, and Ares the son of Zeus (see Suppl.). But further, as the Saxons were so called, either because they wielded the sword of stone (saxum), or placed this god at the head of their race, so I think the Cheruscans of Tacitus, a people synonymous, nay identical with them, were named after Cheru, Heru = Eor, from whom their name can be derived. (22) After this weighty consonance of facts, which opens to us the meaning of the old national name, and at the same time teaches that 'heru' was first of all pronounced 'cheru,' and last of all 'eru, er,' I think we may also bring in the Gallic war-god Hesus or Esus (Lucan 1, 440), and state, that the metal iron is indicated by the planetary sign of Mars, the AS. 'tîres tâcen,' and consequently that the rune of Zio and Eor may be the picture of a sword with its handle , or of a spear. (23) The Scythian and Alanic legends dwell still more emphatically on the god's sword, and their agreement with Teutonic ways of thinking may safely be assumed, as Mars was equally prominent in the faith of the Scythians and that of the Goths.

The impressive personification of the sword matches well with that of the hammer, and to my thinking each confirms the other. Both idea and name of two of the greatest gods pass over into the instrument by which they display their might.


18. In a passage from Keisersberg quoted by Schm. 1, 97, it is spelt Eristag, apparently to favour the derivation from 'dies aeris.'  (back)

19. Or, without the need of any transition, Ear might at once be Ares: 'war is burdensome in old age'. ---Trans.  (back)

20. The notions of raving (wüten) and insanire are suitable to the blustering stormful god of war. Homer calls Ares qoàroj the wild, and ¨frwn the insensate, Öj oÜtina o de qšmista, Il. 5, 761. But ma…netai is said of other gods too, particularly Zeus (8, 360) and Dionysos or Bacchus (6, 132).  (back)

21. One might think of Frô, Freyr (ch. X), but of course glittering swords were attributed to more than one god; thus Poseidon (Neptune) wields a deinÕn ¥or, Il. 14, 385, and Apollo is called crus£oroj, 5, 509. 15. 256.  (back)

22. The suffix -sk would hardly fit with the material sense of heru, far better with a personal Heru.  (back)

23. Does the author overlook, or deliberately reject, the ON. ör, gen. 0rvar [[arrow]], AS. arwe, arrow? Among the forms for Tuesday occur Erigtag, Ergetag; erge is to arwe, as sorge to sorwe, morgen to morwen, &c.----Trans.  (back)

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