Monthly Archives: October 2017


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One of the more interesting words in Slavic is taran.  It means, literally, a battering ram.  Interestingly, the word for “ram” is also related being baran.

Baran Taran

The thing is the word taran can be derived from the Slavic tarać meaning to tear.  It may also be that the same etymology explains the word targ where people go to tarać or targować meaning to haggle (think of the verbal back & forth much as the physical).

an urword of uncertain origin

And there is Tharant which may have been an old name of a reindeer?

Lucan’s Pharsalia

Which raises a question: how is that a word survived in Slavic that so well matches the name of a Celtic God known from Marcus Annaeus Lucanus or Lucan (On the Civil War or Pharsalia, Book I):

at mihi semper
tu, quaecumque moues tam crebros causa meatus,
ut superi uoluere, late. tum rura Nemetis
qui tenet et ripas Atyri, qua litore curuo
molliter admissum claudit Tarbellicus aequor,
signa mouet, gaudetque amoto Santonus hoste
et Biturix longisque leues Suessones in armis,
optimus excusso Leucus Remusque lacerto,
optima gens flexis in gyrum Sequana frenis,
et docilis rector monstrati Belga couinni,
Aruernique, ausi Latio se fingere fratres
sanguine ab Iliaco populi, nimiumque rebellis
Neruius et caesi pollutus foedere Cottae,
et qui te laxis imitantur, Sarmata, bracis
Vangiones, Batauique truces, quos aere recuruo
stridentes acuere tubae; qua Cinga pererrat
gurgite, qua Rhodanus raptum uelocibus undis
in mare fert Ararim, qua montibus ardua summis
gens habitat cana pendentes rupe Cebennas.
tu quoque laetatus conuerti proelia, Treuir,
et nunc tonse Ligur, quondam per colla decore
crinibus effusis toti praelate Comatae,
et quibus inmitis placatur sanguine diro
Teutates horrensque feris altaribus Esus
et Taranis Scythicae non mitior ara Dianae.
uos quoque, qui fortes animas belloque peremptas
laudibus in longum uates dimittitis aeuum,
plurima securi fudistis carmina, Bardi.

or in the rather crappy Ridley translation:

The tents are vacant by Lake Leman’s side;
The camps upon the beetling crags of Vosges
No longer hold the warlike Lingon down,
Fierce in his painted arms; Isere is left,
Who past his shallows gliding, flows at last
Into the current of more famous Rhone,
To reach the ocean in another name.
The fair-haired people of Cevennes are free:
Soft Aude rejoicing bears no Roman keel,
Nor pleasant Var, since then Italia‘s bound…

…No skilful warrior of Seine directs
The chariot scythed against his country’s foe.
Now rest the Belgians, and th’ Arvernian race
That boasts our kinship by descent from Troy;
And those brave rebels whose undaunted hands
Were dipped in Cotta’s blood, and those who wear
Sarmatian garb.  Batavia‘s warriors fierce
No longer listen for the trumpet’s call,
Nor those who dwell where Rhone‘s swift eddies sweep
Saone to the ocean; nor the mountain tribes
Who dwell about its source. Thou, too, oh Treves,
Rejoicest that the war has left thy bounds.
Ligurian tribes, now shorn, in ancient days
First of the long-haired nations, on whose necks
Once flowed the auburn locks in pride supreme;
And those who pacify with blood accursed
Savage Teutates, Hesus’ horrid shrines,
And Taranis’ altars, cruel as were those
Loved by Diana, goddess of the north;
All these now rest in peace. And you, ye Bards,
Whose martial lays send down to distant times

(Hey, didn’t that say Taranis Scythicae above?)

This name survived in Celtic languages as well (Irish toran or now toirneach thunder) but that is little wonder.  After all, Taranis was supposed to have been a Celtic God.

The Slavic remainder of the name and the connection to the ram should leave people scratching their heads.

Taranis was associated with the wheel but was it a wheel or a sun disk?

(And speaking of wheels, try looking up the etymology of koło or kula or kulka (from kūle?)).

Esus may well be Yesza.  Teutates on the other hand may well be the same as Tuisco.

The Tusk of Esus and Taranis?

Now we hear that a tusk has been discovered which reads (or so it seems as of now and there are questions already):


For Esus for Toranis?

(arguably, it seems to say giesuitoranei to the extent you can read it at all).

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October 29, 2017

A Bridge Not Too Far?

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The reports of the Tollense (Slavic dolenzia) battle (re)raise a bunch of interesting questions.

Was that battle something major politically or more like a skirmish of invaders with locals?  You could see a few different local tribes fighting but you could also see a group of marauders roaming the lands, the locals becoming aware of them and their activities and, eventually, facing them somewhere at some strategic point.  For example, the Bridge at Tollense.

From the Krueger article

Curiously, although the battle of Tollense took place about 1200 B.C., that bridge had been built about 600 years before that. This is nothing short of fascinating. In fact, the bridge with its apparently complicated and sophisticated construction is as much of interest as the battle itself.

Getting back to the combatants.  We have “locals” who seem to have come from the Baltic area where the battle took place and we have people that may have come from the “south”.  The “south” here seems to be somewhere in the Danube region (speaking in generalities), perhaps the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) on the Czech-German border, perhaps Silesia a bit further East.

Now, there are a number of questions about this battle that we are unlikely to learn the answer to.

First of all, the assumption that the “southerners” and the “northerners” constituted two separate groups is just that an assumption.  It may well be that each group that fought was composed of both northerners and southerners.  In fact, there may have been multiple groups.

Second, the numbers of combatants are as yet unclear and may never be clear.  As far as I understand, the reports are based on a number of dead or, more precisely of bones (reconstructing the number of dead from merely scattered bones is not that easy either), found on the battlefield and the assumption that only about z% of the battlefield has been explored.  From that German archeologists have extrapolated the total number of dead.  Then they needed to extrapolate the size of the battle based on a yet another assumption, that the typical number of fallen corresponds to y% of total combatants. From all that the assumption came back that the number of warriors was about 4,000 give or take.

Third, there is the question of who “won”?  If the north-south divide described above was real -and, again, it may not have been – then the answer to this may well be found one day.  All you would have to look for is burials of southerners nearby.  If they lost, there would likely be no further such remains found in the area. But if they won, they would likely have stayed in the area, seized the locals’ wives and the rest is, as they say, history.  Of course, even this would not be “clean.”  For example, it may be that some of them could have been kept as thralls/slaves but if you could isolate their y-dna you probably could test whether any later dna (if you found it) matched that.  Slaves tend to have fewer chances at procreation.  But even that is unclear… Suppose they were freed later.

Can we guess who these intruders (if indeed they were intruders) were?  Here we can let the reins of fantasy loose a bit.  The person that we can look to is a professor of the l’École d’anthropologie de Paris, one Sigismond Zaborowski-Moindron.  He wrote Les Peuples Aryens d’Asie et d’Europe. Zaborowski, was one of those Polish-French hybrids who contributed to Slavic studies like Mr. Motylinski.  His specific contribution was in this article:

  • Les Slaves de Race et Leurs Origines (Bulletins de la Société d’anthropologie de Paris, 1900)

This was translated into Polish by Luc. M. (?) in the XVIth volume (1902) of the excellent ethnographic magazine Wisła:

Thereafter followed an English translation of most of Zaborowski’s themes in the 61st “Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution” for the year ending  June 30, 1906:

So what were Zaborowski’s main themes?

Zaborowski did not specify who the Slavs “were” before the Bronze Age.  But he did say how, in his view, they came about became and, so to speak, where they “came from”.  Specifically, Zaborowski claimed that all the Illyrian, Moesian and other Danubian people were Slavs.  But they became Slavs as a result of a “historic” event: the movement of the Veneti up the Danube and northwards.  These Veneti brought with them:

  • eastern culture and customs, most specifically, cremation burials, and
  • brachycephaly

As to the latter, this is questionable as no data as far as I know exist for pre-Bronze age Central European populations but the former claim is attractive.

As to the former, the appearance of cremation burials and the worship of the Sun and fire among the Slavs and, earlier, among the Suevi and some Celts may have indeed originated with a Late Bronze Age invasion by the Veneti – originally under Antenor or Jason – escaping the remains of Troy.

Zaborowski’s theories were known at the time and were mentioned, for example, by Edward Boguslawski:

One might add to it that with the Veneti there may have come – to Greece and then northwards – the worship of Iasion who had been identified with the Sun (and who later, among the nomads of the steppe may have been “reinterpreted” into, for example, Svarog).

There is also this curious fact that the metal found at Tollense includes tin.  Tin is relatively rare in Europe.  It is found in northwest Spain, Bretagne, Cornwall and in the Erzgebirge.  When the below map was put together (showing the various suffixes with an “-in”) I did not see anything in Cornwall.  I don’t want to stretch this but there are some names that could be read as “-in” even if they are not spelled that way: Treen, Pendeen… And then you have Trescowe or Morvah or Boyewyan. Most probably have nothing to do with the Veneti or Slavs.  On the other hand maybe a Truro has something to do with Truso?  There is Ludgvan and maybe Botallack does have something to do with Ballack? (Michael Ballack’s name is of Slavic origin).

Note that the Cornwall-Bretagne tin trade has been a matter of interest for a long time and the role played in it by the Veneti, a topic much speculated about as here by the Reverend Saunders:

Note too that the reason Bretagne is called Bretagne is also because the people who fled to it came from Britain once the Anglo-Saxons and others invaded the latter.  So the connections across the water seem to have been present even half a millennium after Caesar. What to read into those connections is another matter altogether, of course.

Tin is cín in Czech and cyna in Polish. Brueckner thinks that came from the German Zinn but this is not necessary as similar names appear already in Greek (for example, cinnabar κιννάβαρι).  The word cena (Polish) comes from “meal” (Latin, cena) and yet it is tempting to connect price (cyna?) with the tin trade.

Whether the Veneti had something to do with the Phoenicians is yet another question.

So was Tollense the end of Central European peoples?  A victory by the Veneti?  A day after which the word Windisch came to be born and the children of these people named Wends?  Did the word Wende signify “change” from that day on?  And were the Suevi another Venetic tribe?  This is all speculation, of course.  But as the Avars were said (by Fredegar) to have slept withe Wendish women, did the Veneti do the same to the women of… who exactly?

More on this topic here.

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October 29, 2017

Lengthy Thoughts

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Incidentally, dług means “debt” in Polish and corresponds to the Russian долг.

There is a supposed connection between that word and the word długi (Polish) and до́лгий (Russian).

As Saskia Pronk-Tiethoff says “[t]he semantic connection between the Proto Slavic ‘long’ and ‘debt’ is explained by describing ‘debt’ as something that a creditor is being kept waiting for [presumably for a long time].”

Or maybe you have to “work off” your debt for a long time…

Or maybe the Russian (and indeed East and South Slavic) form is derived from the word for “hole” from  dół > dołek (diminutive)dolg that is долг.  

In other words you are in debt when you are “in the hole” and the word “long” does not come into it at all.

Whatever you may think of those explanations, what is noticeable about both of those words – debt and long – is that the East and South Slavic (and Upper Sorbian) languages have the vowel before the “l”:

  • so that you have долг (dolg) and до́лгий (dolgij)

whereas in Polish, Czech, Slovak and Lower Sorbian, the vowel follows the “l” or “ł”:

  • so that you have dług and długi

In other words, you have:

  • о́лг (olg) in the East and ług in the West.

Brueckner thought that the West Slavic version is derivable from the East Slavic and that this was attested in an early 12th century document.

But how the nobility of Poland spoke and how its people spoke are, as we know from among others this, two different things.Maybe he was right.  Maybe not.

Note that the Lithuanian version iłgas does not have the “d” in the beginning.

Note too that this is the same word as the Greek dolichocephalic (long-headed) and, indeed, this is the same word as the English word “long”.

In fact, the Polish historian Jan Długosz is sometimes Latinized as Johannes Dlugossius but at other times as Johannes Longinus – a fact mentioned by Brueckner above.

Which raises another question.

There is a tribe of the Langiones.  It is mentioned by

  • Julius Honorius
  • Aethicus (not Ister)

So what you say?  After all, Aethicus may have adapted what Julius Honorius put together (plus Orosius) so really only Honorius mentions these Langiones, right?

But not so. Earlier, as we discussed previously, we also have Longiones.  These are mentioned by:

  • Zosimus

who says:

“Probus also brought other wars to a successful conclusion without much trouble.  He fought a fierce battle first with the German tribe of the Longiones whom he defeated, taking prisoner their leader Semno and his son, but after receiving suppliants, in return for the confiscation of all their prisoners and booty, he freed those he had captured, including Semno and his son, on fixed terms.”

The Polish scholar Aleksander Bursche writes:

“The identification of the Longiones in Zosimos with the Lugii seems almost certain.”

Even such meek doubts as expressed by Bursche, are happily ignored by the manly Thomas Gerhardt and Udo Hartmann who declare with disarming certainty that:

“When it comes to the “Longiones” (or Logiones) we’re talking about the cultic community of the Lugii.”

They then go on to describe more Vandals = Lugii wishful nonsense straight out of that prince of bull fables – Wolfram (and others) without any citations, of course. (Certitude never needs be slown down by pesky proofs and footnotes).

(And earlier, in Gall, we have the Lingones and the Leuci (not to mention the Lexovii)).

So could the Lugii be the “tall/lank/long ones”?  That would explain why the same people could be called by some Longiones and by others Lugii.  Of course, you have to explain that falling off “d” but Lithuanian also dropped it.  

More mysteries or is the solution really simple?

And, regarding the Tollensee battle, someone just forwarded from a published dissertation by Christian Sell a statement that – based on “f3 values”:

The most similar modern populations [to the Tollensee combatants] are the Polish, Austrians and the Scottish.”

I have no idea what f3 values are but “Scottish”, really!?

Well, of course:

Hey now!


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October 26, 2017

You Owe Us a Better Explanation

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That even decent books are not immune to dumb reasoning (or lack of reasoning really) is proven by Saskia Pronk-Tiethoff’s “The Germanic loanwords in Proto-Slavic.”  The book, as I said before, is not half bad but it proves that knowledge of arcane linguistic reconstruction techniques is no cure for an occasional lack of perspective and immunity to basic logic.

Here is an example regarding the word dług (meaning “debt”):

“From a semantic viewpoint, it is much more attractive to regard the word as a loanword from Gothic because the meanings of the Slavic and Germanic words are identical and there are a large number of Germanic loanwords in Proto-Slavic relating to money, trade, etc… Because of the exact formal and semantic correspondence between the Germanic and Slavic forms, PSl. version is likely to be a Germanic loanword… Origin: Gothic; this is the only Germanic language in which the word is attested.”

To break this down:

  • “From a semantic viewpoint, it is much more attractive to regard the word as a loanword from Gothic because the meanings of the Slavic and Germanic words are identical”

It is not the “Slavic” and “Germanic” words that are identical.  It is the Slavic and Gothic words that are identical.  In other words, the word appears in all Slavic languages but appears (as admitted by Prosk-Tiethoff a sentence later) only in Gothic and not in any other Germanic language.

  • “…there are a large number of Germanic loanwords in Proto-Slavic relating to money, trade, etc.”

This is only partly true.  For example, the word targ (marketplace) is actually a borrowing into some Germanic language from Slavic.

But even if that were true (and it is not), so what? Does the  fact that some Germanic words related to commerce are borrowed into Slavic mean that every word with a Germanic correspondence must be too?

If that were the case, would we be automatically assuming that were a Slav to invent a word and (through an exchange in the marketplace) the same word was then used by one German, the word would become Germanic?

It seems the answer is “yes” according to Prosk-Tiethoff.  She goes on to say:

  • “Because of the exact formal and semantic correspondence between the Germanic and Slavic forms, PSl. version is likely to be a Germanic loanword…”

Thus, by default, all that is Slavic is automatically Germanic.  But, of course, it does not go the other way.

The conclusion is charmingly disarming:

  • “Origin: Gothic; this is the only Germanic language in which the word is attested.”

Now, if a word were present in one Slavic language and in all Germanic languages, no one would question the theory that it is a borrowing into Slavic.  It seems, however, that it is enough for a word to appear in one Germanic language to have its origin accepted as Germanic – even if the word appears in all Slavic languages.

Even Alexander Bruckner, the philo-Germanic editor of the Polish etymological dictionary thought this suggestion to be nonsense (Gothic etymology was also rejected by Vasmer):

But, all of this is a sideshow lead in to something even more interesting.

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October 21, 2017

Mit einer banier rôtgevar, daß was mit wîße durch gesniten

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The idea that Zisara or Cisa or Ciza was a Slavic Goddess (see the Ex Gallica Historia post) seemed to make sense except for the location of the Ciza cult which seems to have been around Augsburg – in Swabia – where there should have been no Slavs.  The connection with Dzidzilela also made sense except that it was just a guess.  But then I cross-searched for the two and discovered that I had hardly been the first to have such an idea.  Over 3 centuries ago, August Adolph von Haugwitz (1647 – 1706) wrote an interesting book dealing with the History of his home province of Lusatia – the Prodromus Lusaticus.  (He was born near Bautzen/Budyšin).  Although, by today’s standards, this history book is hardly professional one, von Haugwitz’s effort is quite well-researched and appears well-intentioned – at least in the sense of not obviously pulling things up out of thin air.  In that same book you can find much about Slavic and Germanic pagan history.  Though much of the material may refer to Gods and Goddesses that themselves indeed may have been “made up” in the course of looking for some sort of pre-Christian identity of the German countryside, von Haugwitz provides numerous citations to earlier works and compilations, some of which may be taken seriously.

In the case of Cisa or Ciza he cites, among other things, the Augsburg Chronicle and the Goddesses’ defense of the city.  It does not really matter whether the inhabitants at the time of any invasions really believed that the Goddess helped them.  What matters is that the inhabitants of Augsburg – again, a place where there should have been no Slavs – believed they had earlier worshipped a Goddess whose name seems connected to attested Slavic cults in the East (such as in Poland).  But it gets better. Haugwitz actually claims that the Sorbs (the Cisa chapter appears in the section De Diis Soraborum) also worshipped Cisa or Ciza providing perhaps a bit of a landbridge connection to Poland. 

And, of course, Augsburg was known as Augusta Vindelicorum.  Vindelici were mentioned by Strabo and by Pliny (Pliny’s work has been interpreted to refer to the Vandals – but Pliny’s manuscripts vary and we have Vandilici and Vindili listed as well).

In any event, here is the 1522 edition of Sigismund Meisterlin’s Augsburg Chronicle (Cronographia Augustensium) in the German print (Ein schöne Cronick & Hystoria…) discussing Ciza, the Vindelici and, of course, the River Lech (and Wertach, that is Vertava – compare with Varsava):

Sigismund Meisterlin wrote his chronicle in German in 1457 (the Latin version was written down the next year).  It was a big deal for the city (he also wrote a chronicle for Nuernberg) and they even created a painting to commemorate one oof the first copies of the same being made:

The plant you see in the coat of arms of the city of Augsburg is a fir cone (Zirbelnuss).  Its first attested appearance in the city’s coat of arms is in 1237.  The fir cone may have been also on the Roman shields of the Roman occupiers back in the day when the VIndelici were driven from Lacus Venetus (by later emperor Tiberius & Co).

Now, one may point out that in Polish cis refers to the yew, a coniferous tree (the Eibe).  The eibe is rather poisonous but has, interestingly, also been the subject of Poland’s first environmental statute (of Warka in 1423) which prohibited the cutting of that tree.

Could that fir cone be yew cone?  Well, the problem is that a yew rather does not have cones in the common sense of the word – its “cones” “bloom” into these red “arils”.

This is what Brueckner has to say about the etymology of the same here:

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October 21, 2017

Absolute Apsorus Absolutely

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Jan Dlugosz claimed that the eponymous father of the Lechites, Lech himself originally came from a town of Psary somewhere in Croatia.

Duo itaque fillii Iani nepotis Japheth, Lech et Czech, quibus Dalmatia, Serbia, Slavonia, Carvatia et Bosna contigerant, et praesentium et futurarum collisionum, discrimen et pericula vitaturi, pari et concordi voce et deliberatione, originario solo relicto, novas sedes quaerendas populandasque decreverunt, et caeteris quidem fratribus in Pannoniis remanentibus ipsi omnibus coloniis, familiis et substantiis, quae ditionis eorum erant, ex Slavonia, Serbia, Carvatia, Bosna, et ex castro Psari in altissima rupe (quam fluvius Gui Slavoniam et Carvaciam disterminans alluit/abluit) sito, cuius etiam hactenus nonnulli aspiciunt priscam magnificentiam, testante ruina et eius vetustam nuncupationem villaginum Psari, sub loco arcis situm in eadem die retinet, in quo Principum praefatorum Lech et Czech familiarior, peculiariorque habitandi et illic subditis iura reddendi esse usus consueverat.

This location has long eluded the best historians.  Dlugosz mentions the river Gui or Huy near the border between Croatia and Slavonia with Slavonia today being, roughly, the region of Croatia between the Sava and Drava (above the Una).  Another location was the island of Pharos – close to Hvar – far south in the Dalmatian portion of Croatia. Maciej of Miechow threw in the River Crupa as being nearby. You can read all about this in Aleksander Małecki’s “Croatian ‘Psary’ Versus Dalmatian ‘Pharos’ in the Legendary Beginnings of Poland.” Interestingly, even the Danube Schwabians were living in Slavonia.

But let’s stick to Psary.

All you need to do is whip out some old records and you will find a relatively decent candidate.  You don’t even have to go that far back.  Just open Franjo Rački’s Documenta historiae Chroaticae periodum antiiquam illustrantia.  In it you will find numerous references to Apsaros or the like.

In Latin the town goes by Apsorus.  In Greek Byzantine as Opsara.  In Croatian it is Osor.

Now, Osor is not on the border of Slavonia but neither is Pharos, of course.

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October 20, 2017

Sisenna, Honorius and the Suavi

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The very first mention ever of the Suevi comes from Lucius Cornelius Sisenna.  Sisenna  (circa 120 BC – 67 BC) says:

Sparis ac lanceis eminus peterent hostes
Galli materibus, Suevi lanceis configunt

There are three interesting things here.

First, this mention predates even Caesar’s Gallic Wars.

Second, it is curious that “spears” are mentioned here (Sparis).  Although this is Latin and not Greek, recall that Procopius remembers that the Sclavenes used to be called Sporoi.  Was he wrong about the origin of that word and was it a Latin word referring to spearmen?  As we know, the Slavs were known for their javelins (Procopius and Maurice).  Right after that, we see that:

 “The Galls toss [stuff [?] materibus], and the Suevi lances.”

This is actually an interpretation of an otherwise nonsensical sentence that runs like this:

Galli materibus [?] Sani [?] lanceis configunt

which has been rendered as:

Galli materibus Su[e]vi lanceis configunt

Third, about these Suevi.  We know that by the time of Procopius and Jordanes, the Suevi were referred to as Suavi.  That is the “e” was seemingly replaced by the “a”.  But it seems that some manuscripts of Sisenna also could be read as Suavi particularly since the “a” is apparently an “a” and not an “e”.  I mentioned this already here and here but it’s worth reiterating.

Of course, all this Suevi talk causes a problem for some writers who believe that the Germanic/Suevic [?] tribes were not known for their missile weapon skills:

As noted above, however, the Slavs were known for their javelins.  Moreover, it is not exactly true that the Suevi (or at least Suavi) were not known for throwing or launching something.  There is a description in the Jordanes Getica of the Battle of Nedao where he says:

“For then, I think, must have occurred a most remarkable spectacle, where one might see the Goths fighting with pikes, the Gepidae raging with the sword, the Rugi breaking off the spears in their own wounds, the Suavi fighting [“on foot”] [or “fighting with slings”], the Huns with bows, the Alani drawing up a battle-line of heavy-armed and the Heruli of light-armed warriors.“

The word is pede but that seems silly since the other warriors types wield some sort of a weapon (bows, spears, pikes, swords) at least up to the Alani.  Froehner therefore read lapide – meaning that they used stones – presumably with a sling.

Slings, if these were slings, are not javelins or spears.  Nevertheless, the point is worth making.


At the back end of the history of the Suevi we also have, in addition to Procopius and Jordanes, Julius Honorius (Julius Orator).  Honorius was mentioned by Cassiodorus on whom, supposedly, Jordanes relied. Some of Honorius’ manuscripts also have the form Suavi.

So, it is interesting how it is not so simple and the Suebi may not be Suebi but Suevi and maybe not even that but Suavi while on the Eastern fringes of Europe we have in the 6th century appear the Sclavi (Sclaveni at first but then quickly Sclavi).  Note too that the Sclavi spelling is a Greek spelling that was only later imported into the decapitated post-Roman world.  What would the Sclavi have been called in Rome if the Western Empire had lived to see their arrival?

Suavi > Suevi > Suebi > Suevi > Suavi
? Sclavi ?

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October 16, 2017

Das Gibt’s Doch Gar Nicht

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This is from  Dr. Jochen Rath (of the Stadtarchiv und Landesgeschichtliche Bibliothek Bielefeld) Bielefeld’s city portal:

“Der Name „Bielefeld” wurde jüngst von Birgit Meineke als eine alte Raumbezeichnung für das Gebiet am nördlichen Ausgang des Bielefelder Passes gedeutet.”

“Sie griff damit ältere Erklärungen auf, unterstützte diese mit anderen Namensgebungen und verglich sie sprachwissenschaftlich mit weiteren Deutungen. Demnach wird das Grundwort „feld” durch das Bestimmungswort „Biele” ergänzt, dessen Wurzel in „bīl” (schlagen, spalten) zu finden ist. Gemeinsam bezeichnen sie eine Fläche am „Spalt im Höhenzug des Teutoburger Waldes”. Frühere Deutungen, die auf einen Personennamen „Bili” weisen oder unterschiedlichste Interpretationen des „Biele/Bile/Byle” vorlegten (schön/angenehm – Beil – ansteigender Stein – Jagdplatz – Bühl/Hügel – Grenzpfahl – etc. etc.), sind damit bis zum Vorliegen schlüssiger Neuinterpretationen zurückzuweisen.” 

(the reference is to: Meineke, Birgit, Die Ortsnamen der Stadt Bielefeld (Westfälisches Ortsnamenbuch, Bd. 5), Bielefeld 2013) who lists these as the oldest names (albeit notes that there may be some even older versions which, however, are uncertain):

So Meineke mentions the old ideas and the new idea for the prefix Bel- or Biel.

Old Ideas – Pretty

This old idea involved something like “pretty” or “pleasant”.

Compare this with, for example, Thietmar 6(56):

“The army was to assemble on Margrave Gero’s lands at Belgern, which means [in Slavic] ‘beautiful mountain.”

Here the reference is to Bel-gern is the Germanized versions of Biała Góra (White or Pretty (Bela) Mountain).  Belgora is mentioned earlier already in 973 in one of Otto I’s documents parcelling out Slavic lands.

Bylanuelde, the first mention above seems very similar to the Polish Bielany as this one near Cracow.

New Idea – Beaten

This is almost too easy:

You can reconstruct hypothetical words but why do that when you have ones that are still in use?

Of course, two caveats are in order.  First, you still have to explain the third person singular past tense bił.

Second, the word “field” feld is Germanic – on the other hand, it is related to the Slavic pole.  Other relations include Volkpułkpołk. This last one, some people, say is from Turkic.

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October 9, 2017

Lel, Polel, Lada and the Alcis of the Mother of the Gods

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I have previously discussed the similarities between the “mother of the Gods” mentioned by Tacitus and the Polish Lada as well as the fact that she was made by Polish writers to be the mother of Lel and Polel the alleged Polish dioscuri.  In turn, Tacitus said that the Nahanarvali worshiped Alcis who were their dioscuri.  The Nahanarvali likely lived on the river Narwa – which is today’s Narew. It is possible that the naha refers to -nad meaning “on the”.  It is more likely that it refers to a Germanic term as in nah or “near” such as is found in In der Nähe and so forth (neahneh meaning “nigh”).  That would not establish the language of the Nahnarvali themselves as the writers’ (Tacitus and others)  intermediaries may have been Germanic. In any event, Narwa is in Mazovia andi so too in Mazovia was Lada worshipped as per Dlugosz (perhaps in the village Lady).  I’ve written about all of this previously.

What I had forgotten to mention was that already Jacob Grimm had the same idea.  I attach that here. This passage also discusses the Krainian God Torik which Grimm dismisses as not having anything to do with Thor because it just meant the “second” (vtorik > Torik). Of course, one could also interpret Thor as the “second”.  On that see here.

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October 8, 2017

Polish Pantheon

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Who were the Polish Gods?  Jan Dlugosz is actually quite clear about this question but it’s worth to summarize again. To call these Names a “pantheon” is in some respects an exaggeration.  They were made a pantheon by Dlugosz but each Name has its own development and history and it is quite possible that some of these Names had a different tradition and came from, at least at some point, different tribes or even peoples (Sarmatian, Venetic/Lusatian, Suevic).

  • Yessa/Yassa/Yesza/Yasza (in Polish spelled with a “J” in lieu of a “Y”) – the head of the Polish pantheon its equivalent being Jupiter; this God is probably the same as the “Germanic” Jecha and Tacitus’ Isidi/Isis; He is also likely the “Greek” Iasion (the Czechs spoke of Chasson sive Jassen) and perhaps the “Greek” Jason; in Aethicus Easter, it seems Yassa as Iasion appears with the Eastern Slavic Paron; Yesha/Yessa or Yesza/Yassa; As the “yasny” or “light” God, He is also probably the “God of Lightning” mentioned by Procopius, the One who comes “first” (Jeden/Odin) and who is followed by thunder (Thor or Wtory, meaning the “second” or Perun/Paron or Baltic Perkunas); He seems to be also the God of Light and of fertility/harvest rites; at war He may be identical with Yarovit/Gerowit; He may also be linked to Ossirus or Odyseus; note that the Slavic “sh” or “sz” is nothing more than a diminutive form (compare it with, for example, Sasha); the original Name must have been Iasion;  later, after introduction of Christianity, a traveller, wanderer – much like Odin but unlike the scheming and bitter Odin, He remained the simple Jaś Wędrowniczek – a young boy who travels the countryside – very much in line with the original Iasion/Jason; 
  • Lada/Ladon – the guardian of Jessa; this deity is Mars or a Goddess; perhaps the best answer to this confusion is that Lada is both Mars and a female Deity; She is an Amazon – the protector of Yassa (Alado gardzyna yesse – which means something like “Oh, Lada, protect Yassa”) interestingly, she was worshipped, as Dlugosz says (without himself making the Amazon connection) in Mazovia; notice too that her name appears already in Luccan as the consort/spouse; She seems to be similar to Leda who was seduced by Zeus (or, in this case,  Iasion which would also make Lada similar to Demeter though Dlugosz makes Marzanna be Ceres (which was the equivalent of Demeter));
  • Niya – the God or Goddess of after life or underworld; the equivalent of Pluto; the God had a temple in Gniezno according to Dlugosz;
  • Dzidzilelia/Didilela/Zizilela – the Goddess of marriage and fertility; also associated with Venus; this Goddess is probably the same as the “Germanic” Ciza, Zizara;
  • Dzievanna/Devanna – the Goddess of the forests and hunts; this Goddess is probably the same as the “Germanic” Taefana; expressly tied to Diana as a forest Deity; interestingly, the name also appears in India (Vindi) and in Ireland (Dublin-Lublin) and parts of Britain (Cheshire with its 20th Legion);
  • Marzana – harvest Goddess associated with Ceres;
  • Pogoda – the Goddess of weather, the “giver of good weather”;
  • Sywie/Ziwie/Zyvie/Ziva – God of Life (Zycie or of the zijn);

Outside of Dlugosz many of the above Names are repeated.  Other Names include:

  • Boda/Bodze;
  • Lel/Heli/Leli – the Polish Castor but perhaps connected with the Germanic Hel;
  • Polel – the Polish Pollux;
  • Pogwizd/Pochwist/Pochwistel/Niepogoda;
  • Pan;
  • Grom;
  • Piorun (probably Ukraine only since, at the time of writing, that was part of Poland);
  • Gwiazda;

Finally, one book mentions a whole league of Deities and demons:


Farel, Diabelus, Orkiusz, Opses, Loheli, Latawiec, Szatan, Chejdasz, Koffel, Rozwod, Smolka, Harab the Hunter, Ileli, Kozyra, Gaja, Ruszaj, Pozar, Strojnat, Biez, Dymek, Rozboj, Bierka, Wicher, Sczebiot, Odmieniec, Wilkolek [werewolf], Wesad, Dyngus or Kiczka, Fugas


Dziewanna, Marzanna, Wenda, Jedza, Ossorya, Chorzyca, Merkana

For other posts on Polish Gods see here (part I), here (part II), here (part III) and here (part IV).

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October 8, 2017