Prophetesses vs. the Roman Empire

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Statue of Veleda, Jardin de Luxembourg. Credit: Chatsam.

Julius Caesar wrote in Gallic War that the Germanic tribes allied under Ariovistus followed the divinations of their matrons when deciding whether or not to fight: “among the Germans it was the custom for their matrons to pronounce from lots and divination, whether it were expedient that the battle should be engaged in or not” (Gallic War 1.50).

Tacitus, writing centuries later, described the role of Germanic women in inciting bravery and the importance of prophetesses:

They also carry with them into battle certain figures and images taken from their sacred groves. And what most stimulates their courage is, that their squadrons or battalions, instead of being formed by chance or by a fortuitous gathering, are composed of families and clans. Close by them, too, are those dearest to them, so that they hear the shrieks of women, the cries of infants. They are to every man the most sacred witnesses of his bravery—they are his most generous applauders. The soldier brings his wounds to mother and wife, who shrink not from counting or even demanding them and who administer both food and encouragement to the combatants.

Tradition says that armies already wavering and giving way have been rallied by women who, with earnest entreaties and bosoms laid bare, have vividly represented the horrors of captivity, which the Germans fear with such extreme dread on behalf of their women […] They even believe that the sex has a certain sanctity and prescience, and they do not despise their counsels, or make light of their answers. In Vespasian’s days we saw Veleda, long regarded by many as a divinity. In former times, too, they venerated Aurinia, and many other women, but not with servile flatteries, or with sham deification. (Tacitus Germania 7-8)

Providing a concrete example for his generalization in Germania, Tacitus reports in Histories that the Batavian warlord Julius Civilis, who led a revolt against the Romans in 69 CE, fought a victorious battle with “his own mother and sisters, and the wives and children of all his men” encouraging him from behind:

Civilis, surrounding himself with the standards of the captured cohorts, to keep their recent honours before the eyes of his own men, and to terrify the enemy by the remembrance of defeat, now directed his own mother and sisters, and the wives and children of all his men, to stand in the rear, where they might encourage to victory, or shame defeat. The war-song of the men, and the shrill cries of the women, rose from the whole line. (Tacitus Histories 4.18)

These types of practices were found not only among the Germanic peoples, but also among the Britons. In Boudica’s revolt of 60 CE, the Britons brought their wives to the battlefield “to witness the victory:”

The army of the Britons, with its masses of infantry and cavalry, was confidently exulting, a vaster host than ever had assembled, and so fierce in spirit that they actually brought with them, to witness the victory, their wives riding in waggons, which they had placed on the extreme border of the plain. (Tacitus Annals 14.34)

Furthermore, Boudica launched her revolt in 60 CE, while the Romans were busy fighting Druids and torch-wielding women on the Isle of Mona (Anglesey):

On the shore stood the opposing army with its dense array of armed warriors, while between the ranks dashed women, in black attire like the Furies, with hair dishevelled, waving brands. All around, the Druids, lifting up their hands to heaven, and pouring forth dreadful imprecations, scared our soldiers by the unfamiliar sight, so that, as if their limbs were paralysed, they stood motionless, and exposed to wounds. (Tacitus Annals 14.30)

Prophetesses

The aforementioned Veleda prophesied the revolt of Julius Civilis, and after his initial victory, Civilis sent her a captured Roman officer as a gift:

Munius Lupercus, legate of one of the legions, was sent along with other gifts to Veleda, a maiden of the tribe of the Bructeri, who possessed extensive dominion; for by ancient usage the Germans attributed to many of their women prophetic powers and, as the superstition grew in strength, even actual divinity. The authority of Veleda was then at its height, because she had foretold the success of the Germans and the destruction of the legions. (Tacitus Histories 4.61)

Veleda is said to have “dwelt in a lofty tower, and one of her relatives chosen for the purpose conveyed, like the messenger of a divinity, the questions and the answers” (ibid 4.65). On another occasion, Germanic rebels gave her a captured praetorian trireme as a present (ibid. 5.22).

Michael Enright, in Lady with a Mead Cup, lists other prophetesses allied with warlords or warbands:

Cassius Dio mentions another warlord/prophetess pair when he says that Ganna, successor to Veleda, accompanied Masyos, king of the Semnones, to Rome […] and Suetonius says that Vitellius kept a woman of the Chatti whom he trusted as an oracle. Another piece of evidence for such pairing has been found in, of all places the island of Elephantine near the southern border of Egypt. Written on an ostrakon in second century Greek occurs the name of Baloubourg (recte Waluburg), a sibyl of the Semnones, who is unlikely to have landed in those climes unless she accompanied a band of auxiliary troops of her people. (64)

Enright’s theory that warlord-prophetesses is an ancient pairing in Germanic (and Gaulish) cultures may provide an additional layer of explanation to Spartacus’s ability to lead a combined army of Thracians, Gauls, and Germans in his revolt of 71 BCE:

It is said that when he was first brought to Rome to be sold, a serpent was seen coiled about his face as he slept, and his wife, who was of the same tribe as Spartacus, a prophetess, and subject to visitations of the Dionysiac frenzy, declared it the sign of a great and formidable power which would attend him to a fortunate issue. This woman shared in his escape and was then living with him. (Plutarch Life of Crassus 8.3)


Whiteness is Dead

filipino-battle-of-mactan-1

Whiteness is a dead egregore. In its death throes, it still has many defenders, but its death opens the way for new loyalties and new kinship structures.


Heval Demhat: Şehîd Namirin!

heval demhatAccording to the IRPGF (International Revolutionary People’s Guerrilla Forces), an anarchist militia fighting within the Rojava revolution against Daesh/Islamic State in so-called Syria, an anarchist from the United States, Heval Demhat (nom de guerre) has been martyred during the struggle to liberate Raqqa in Syria from Daesh control.

In an interview he gave with ANF News, Demhat stated that contributing to the Rojava Revolution was an important motivation for him: “It’s also about setting an example. I mean, this is a fire that may have started here but it can, you know, candle elsewhere.”

Şehîd Namirin! Martyrs never die!


TWH: Review of Star.Ships

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My June article for The Wild Hunt was a review of Gordon White’s Star.Ships: A Prehistory of the Spirits.


TWH: Loki and Dionysos

loki and dionysos

My latest article at The Wild Hunt is up. It’s about Loki, Dionysos, Nietzsche, Wagner, and Fate.


To Aphrodite

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Aphrodite, when first I saw You
standing upon your scalloped pedestal,
powdered with rich pinks and dusty reds like sandstone,
ever-smiling, serene but not aloof,
borne reverently in the hands of Your priestess,
followed by a procession
of those who came to give You homage,
in that charged moment, that καιρός,
I became a multi-tradition polytheist,
I realized that ancestry is cultural,
and that relationship is everything.
I knew in that instant that Botticelli
saw a true vision,
that the Gods, and You especially,
are deathless indeed, that the Italian Renaissance
deserved its name and had no better σύμβολον
than Your own famous birth from the waves.

You answered my prayer that very evening,
though the possibility You opened my heart to
took years to realize, and was never inevitable
(for the tapestry woven by the Moirai shifts
by choice and chance and
in ways unknowable to mortals).
I knew Your awesome power at once,
I joyfully gave you and Hestia,
the hearth-tender of Your tribe,
the hospitality of my home,
a place within it that is still Yours,
I purified myself with glistening water,
I burned sweet myrrh and λιβανωτός for You,
and poured out sea-dark wine and prayers.
I learned to de-armor, piece by painful piece,
and open myself to Your blessings,
to cultivate right relationship
with You,
with the woman I love,
in all the realms
of the spirit which is part of the body
and the body which is part of the spirit.

This is not the first poem I’ve written for You,
nor the last, Golden One,
You who are accompanied by the Χάριτες,
Splendor and Joy and Abundance.
The offerings we give to the Gods, and to You especially,
from a simple grain of incense to glittering gemstones,
are objects of Beauty and acts of Love.
To sacrifice is to make sacred,
or perhaps more accurately for an animist,
to make the sacred explicit and exalted and paramount.
Beauty and Love are Yours already,
and reciprocal χάρις too,
but in their gifting and re-gifting,
they gain new stories with each transfer,
like a gold and silver wine bowl,
wrought by a divine smith,
father of the Kabeiroi,
handed from Sidonian host to Danaan guest,
and to another guest-friend in turn,
the great-grandson of the Wolf Himself,
the son of crafty Hermes.
In fulfillment of a vow,
wreathed with rose and ivy,
I gave You a dove
offered by the hands of a King,
witnessed by hopping sparrows,
by Your night-wandering star,
and by persimmon-fiery Helios,
blazing as Nyx baptized Him once again
in the sea whence You emerged
from severance and blood,
a tributary of Okeanos far from pacific.

Ally, as You were named
by both Sappho and the Mantineans,
no stranger to war and warriors,
for You I have fought, and will fight again,
in Your blessings I rejoice and give thanks,
to You I dedicate this poem,
these words that You have inspired,
just as You encourage the rose
to unfurl her crimson banners,
and the apple to ripen upon the branch,
and the clam to bring forth a σφαίρα,
iridescence from irritation,
Love from Strife.
You who set foot first on Cyprus,
where wildflowers sprang from the earth
to celebrate Your arrival,
I hail you now from California,
land of the Black pagan queen of Amazons,
who led man-slaughtering griffins in battle.
Grant to me that I may win this agon,
may my praises of You be acclaimed,
for Your immortal glory and honor.

This poem had the honor of winning first place in Lykeia’s Aphrodite Agon. Hail and thanks, Aphrodite!


TWH: Animism and the Eternal Recurrence of Myth

antifa wolf

Source: God-bird.com

My latest essay at The Wild Hunt is up. Among other topics, I write about Hermes slaying Argos and ARGUS, wolves devouring Milo of Croton and Milo Yiannopoulos, and both Sigurd and Melampous in relation to animism and pipeline resistance.