Episode 24: Germanic Mythology

The role of Germanic mythology on modern English is explored. Germanic gods and religious traditions are examined with an emphasis on words and phrases which are still found in modern English.

8 thoughts on “Episode 24: Germanic Mythology

  1. It might be useful to note that Eostre is not nearly as well attributed as the other Germanic gods. In fact, the only reference we have is one quotation from Bede, late into the Christian era in England and centuries after the period under consideration here. Of course it’s possible he’s completely correct, but caution about any etymological connections and certainly about her role as a goddess should be the rule.

  2. Still enjoying this!

    Are “venom” and “wine” etymologically related? And what about “aspect” and “auspice?”

    Thanks,
    Avery

    • Hi Avery. “Aspect” and “auspice’ are cognate in that the second syllable of each word is derived from the Indo-European root word *spek meaning ‘to observe.’ However, the first syllable of each word is derived from unrelated roots.

      Despite the similarities between “venom” and “vino,” they are unrelated. So “wine” does not share a common root with “venom.”

  3. I enjoyed discovering your podcast immensely tonight, Kevin – very rich, educational, and well researched. I do have a question: my understanding is that the concept of Hel as a place for the “evil dead“ is something that arose as a Christian overlay, not from Germanic sources. If you have a reference for that piece of information, would you mind sharing? Thank you.

    • Hi Richard. I think you are correct. My source for the discussion about Hel was the book, “Barbarian Rites: The Spiritual World of the Vikings and the Germanic Tribes,” by Hans-Peter Hasenfratz, Ph.D. I went back and looked at the passage from the book that discusses Hel, and it describes Hel as the goddess of an underworld of the dead, but it doesn’t specifically say that it was a realm of the ‘evil’ dead.

  4. Interesting! I’m not up to this episode yet… I started just a few weeks ago, but I’m enjoying it immensely.

    Christian images for the after-life, and preceding Jewish ideas about ultimately reaping what you sew, whether for good or bad, are so powerful today as to seem obvious (or as if they were the only alternative to saying ‘when you’re gone, you’re gone’). But if we look at the Odyssey, Book 11, for example, we find people thinking about realms of the dead which do not differentiate between the righteous and the evil. (I’m tempted to mention references to She’ol in the Hebrew Bible, but it’s very hard to know what’s going on there, and how this jives with later Hebrew sources.) Isn’t it the case that human mythologies typically associate death and chaos? And doesn’t that make a lot of sense on a physical level (when one dies, the processes which maintained structure stop, and entropy disintegrates the body)? If death goes together with chaos, perhaps it’s daring to assert that there could be order in/after death.

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