Avian Warnings

Incidentally, if we are on the topic of Germanorum genera quinque: Vandilici quorum pars Burgodiones, Varini, Charini, Gutones, it behooves to ask whether the Varini could have been a Slavic tribe.  They are mentioned by Tacitus (Varini), Pliny (as above though there are variations here too), Ptolemy (Ούίρουνοι /Virunoi) as well as later in Procopius (Varni or Οὐάρνων)  Widsith (Wernum that is Werne) and the Lex Anglorum et Werinorum Hoc set Thuringorum  (Warni/Werni).  Similar names appear in other places such as the name of the town Varna (in Bulgaria) or on the Notitia Dignitatum (town of Varina in Datia Ripensis).

But then we have a tribe that is attested in the same region and has the same name but is Slavic. Here German Annals speak of the tribe of Warnabi, Warnavi, Warnahi, Wranovi, Wranefzi, Wrani, Varnes, or Warnower,  These are attested in several place names in Mecklenburg, on Wolin and in Pomerania and perhaps have something to do with the Ranii.  We know that they were part of the Obodrite confederation of Slavic tribes.

Moreover, while there is a town named Warnow in East Germany, there was also a town name Varnow/Warnow near Basel

So what is the etymology of this tribe name?  Well, no one knows and it all depends on whether you are talking about the allegedly Germanic tribe or the Slavic tribe… Of course, there are hypotheses aplenty.

One is that the Germanic Varini refers to those who you should be forewarned of, as in “warning“…

For the Slavic tribe, a reasonable suggestion would be that the name derives from the Slavic or Baltic word for “crow” which is represented as follows:

  • wrona (Polish)
  • warna (Kaszubian)
  • wran (OCS)
  • wran/wrana (Czech)
  • woron/worona (Russian)
  • warnas (Lithuanian)
  • warnis/warne (Prussian)
  • also:
    • sko-wronek, diminutive of the larch, literally, it supposedly means “what a little worn” – yet see below various version of kowron without the “s” and in Baltic and even Latin).
    • gawron
    • kuowarna (Latvian for a jackdaw)
    • kowran (Slovenian)
    • kaworon (Belarussian)
    • karwona (Lusatian)
    • Corvidae/corvin (but also note raven)

And in English you have the “wren”:

wren (n.) small, migratory singing bird, Old English wrenna, metathesis variation of earlier werna, a Germanic word of uncertain origin. Compare Icelandic rindill, Old High German wrendo, wrendilo “wren.” 

It is interesting that in the Baltic languages and in Kaszubian this name is essentially as the name of the tribe.

I should also say that it quite possible that the very word “warning” might have to do with the flight of birds whose sudden fleeing might be the first sign of danger.  In this fashion, the etymology of this bird would remain Baltic or possibly Slavic with the meaning of the word “warning” ultimately traced to this word.   Further, depending on where a given tribe lived, they might have been warned in this fashion of the approach of enemies by the type of bird common to a particular habitation – explaining why different types of birds might nevertheless share the same root.  Thus, the English would have “originally” lived where there were a lot of wrens and so forth.  (In Polish and Czech the wren is called strzyżyk/střízlík which is not likely to have anything to do with straz meaning “to guard”). 

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November 22, 2017

One thought on “Avian Warnings

  1. Astrologer

    I am sure that Tacitus’ Regnator omnium deus of Semnoni (= slavic Ploni) is Svarog (who is not sun) also known as Vran (identical to Varuna, Ouranos), and not Teiwaz who is god of death and not Tyr who is god-bull (yes these two are completely different gods, and have nothing to do with omnipotent god). Can you dig on that?

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