Stephen Flowers - Archaic Germanic Psychology

July 31, 2017 | Author: WF1900 | Category: Soul, Spirit, Mind, Concept, Semantics
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Stephen Flowers - Archaic Germanic Psychology...


TOWARD AN ARCHAIC GERMANIC PSYCHOLOGY STEPHEN E. FLOWERS University of Texas, Austin Depm·tment of Germanic Languages This article is concerned with the structure of ancient Germanic soul conceptions and represents an attempt to establish semantic fields for the terms involved, as well as a tentative effort to determine their structural relationship. It is concluded that at least the core elements of the common Germanic psyche were probably conceived of as a three-fold structure of 1) a breath concept, 2) an emotive faculty and 3) a cognitive faculty.

I. Contexts

Any attempt to determine the nature of the psychological conceptions held by the ancient Germanic peoples and to formulate a structure in which these conceptions might have functioned ( 1) is beset with a variety of difficulties due to the disparate nature of the textural evidence and general discontinuity of the pre-Christian contexts for the lexical items involved. Since documentation of the old Germanic dialects only began after Lhc Christianization process had commenced, most of the texts yield either ecclesiastical contexts, or secular ones which must be understood within an at least partially Christianized cultural matrix .. (2) Only Old Norse preserves the preChristian terminology within an indigenous ideological frame(1) Most of the handbooks have dealt with this problem to some extent, e.g. Grimm 1875, II, 689-99; II, 728-30, Rydberg 1886, 545-58, Meyer 1891, 61-75; 1903, 68-91, de Ia Saussaye 1902, 289-303, Herrmann 1903, 35-37; 1906, 3-44, de Vries 1937, II, 348-58, Helm 1913, 132-47; 1937, II, 10-21; 1953, II, 13-35, de Vries 1956, I, 217-41, Turville-Petrc 1964, 221-35. A number of studies of ON soul conceptions have appeared, but most deal only with limited, usually magical, aspects, cf. Ellis (Davidson) 1943, 121-69, Falk 1926, Gronbech 1931, I, 105-227, Mundal 1974, Strombiick 1935, 160-90; 1975. Polome 1969 presents a study of the more dynamistic ON conceptions (qnd 6/lr, etc.), but no comprehensive studies in a Ger· manic framework have appeared. (2) This article examines material from Gothic (Go.), Old High German (OHG), Old English (OE), Old Saxon (OS), Old Frisian (OFris.), and Old Norse (ON). The principal sources for Go. are: Strcitberg 1919 and Felst 1923; for OHG: Sievers repr. 1966, Piper 1882, Sehrt-Starck 1933-34, von Steinmeyer 1916, Zipper 1960; for OE: Krapp-Dobbie 1931-53, Holthauscn 1974, Bosworth-Toller 1898; for OS: Sievers 1878, Bcrr 1971: for OFris. Richthofen 1840; and for ON: Neckel-Kuhn 1962, Finnur Jonsson 1931, Gu~ni Jonsson 1946-49; 1950, Cleasby-Vigfusson 1957, Johannesson 1951, and de Vries 1961. (3) The main ON sources are the Codex Regius (Neckel-Kuhn 1962), the Edda Snorra Stltrlusonar (Finnur Jonsson 1931), and the saga literature, especially the Jslrmdinga sl:lgur (Gullni Jomson 1946-49), and the Fornaldarsogur (Gu5ni J6nsson 1950). Cleasby-Vigfusson 1957 is a convenient ON glossary, while de Vries 1961 is perhaps the best etymological dictionary for ON.



work.(3) Archeological evidence, especially with regard to grave finds and burial customs,(4) is also important for an overall understanding of this topic; as is the investigation of certain other religious practices and bdicl's, e.g. the pagan 'baptism' (ON ve'l'pa vatn£ a, or vatni ausa), shape-shifting, the peculiarly (;crmanic type or 'metempsychosis,' ctc.(5} However, due to COil· sidcrations of space we must here confine



paratus was never lost, for example, if the hamr of an individual was injured, the 'normal' physical body would receive the same wound. ( 12) The hamz'ngja carries a three-pronged de finiLion: 1) 'shape-changing forcc,'(l3) 2) 'luck' or 'fortune,' and 3) 'guardian spirit' (Cleasby-Vigfusson 1957, 2%). All of these arc in om· way or another linked with the notion of hamr (de Vries 1!l5!i, I, 224:; Mnndal 1974, SG), but each indicates its dynamic and magical function. Another concept similar to the hamingja is the fv {f{ja: 'guardian spirit' (Clcasby- Vigfusson 195 7, 179). Etymologically il is probably derived from the verb Jylgja: 'to follow' ·)'following spirit' (de Vries 1961, 14·7-4:8 and 1956, I, 124-25). The 'guardian' aspect is cmphash:cd by the v9rZ>r: 'guardian,' a personification of a sing!{! aspect of the ltam£ngja.f'ylgja complex. ( 14) The Old English wcard is used in a similar sense, but in a Christian context. ( 15) These terms occupy an important position within the Norse psychophysical structure, but it is significant that none of them t·ncroachecl upon the semantic fields of the other soul conceptions, allhough hugr increasingly Look over seman lie quali tics contaim:c.l in the hamz'ngja-fylgja cornplcx. ( 1 G) There can be lilllt~ doubt that these terms rcflccl an archaic, pre-Christian ickology in the North. Any (\~rlhcr discussion would lead us astray of our central purpose, but it is nccessa1·y to note the distinction between these concepts ..... magical in function, quasiphysical in origin, and capable of anthropomorphic or L:o(hnor· phk ( J 7) conceptualiimtion; and the mcm~ dynamistic 'spiritual' qtmlitks necessary Lo psychic life considered below. Tht'rc is a widely represented group of terms which seems to have originally indicat OIIG gedanh: 'thought, OE ~ank: 'thought, feeling, OS than/e:'thanks, ON )'{JMt:'thanks,' Go.}Janlt (ace. sg.):'thanks,' ancl *(ga-)panh-tt'- > *(ga-)]Jiihtz'- > OS gz'thaht:'thnugbt,' OE gc:)Jeaht: 'thought;' and Go. anda]Jlihts: 'temperate, reasonable.' Allhough this root is well represented in the psychological field, with pervasive cognitive qualities, it seems to be a late development as a true psychological category under the influence of Lat. cogito and cog£tatus in OI:IG, OE, and OS. As with others or this type, *)'anh- encroached upon the semantic field of *hug-, and to some degree replaced it in certain aspects (Becker 19G4·, 164~-65).

*witPIE *uel-:'to wish, will' > PGmc. *wil(-1-)jan,...*wil-jon. Skt. varas:'choice, desire,' Lat. volo :'to be willing, wish,' voluptas: ·~)lcasurc,' Lith. viltiJ·:'hope,' OCS veljr,r.:'to command,' Gk. bMoJ.taL:'io long (for something).' This word also became a 'soul conception' in post-Christian times, although its wide distribution and rich content indicate iL was a vigorous root in more archaic times. It is found in all (30) The term sofa occurs 14 times in Beowulf, many times in ambiguous pas· sageK; however, it is clearly in the reflective category, often combined with adjectives such as goomor (Sx), hreoh (lx), and grim (2x), or verbs such as greotan (lx), or sweorcan (lx). Only once does it have volitive force in the phrase).>in sefa hwetto (Beow. 490), cf. also Becker 1964, 161-62.



Germanic dialects, Go. wilja, OHG willio "' w£llo, OE willa, OFris. willa, OS willio, ON vil£ - all with the general meaning 'will, desire, wish, etc.', but nuances of pleasure, activity, and the results of activity are strongly present. This was most certainly a 'sacred' concept to the ~ncient Gernumic peoples as witnessed by the ON divine triad Ooinn, Viii, V (originally an alliterative formula: *Wo5anaz, *Wz'ljan, *Wihaz) from at least before ca 600 C.E.


*wa5PIE *uiit-:'to be of excited mental state'> PGmc. *wo()., Lat. vates:'soothsayer,' Olr. faith:'seer, prophet,' MWel. gwawd: 'song, peotry.' In Germanic this root is also of sacred importance (cf. the divine nam ON Q'{)inn, OE Wodan, OHG Wuotan, OLG WBdan, but it only occurs as a psychic term in ON obr:'(scat of[?]) inspired numinous activity.' It has often been misinterpreted as a term for mind, wit, reason, understanding, etc., but at least in the original sense this is hardly possible. (31) Adjectival forms in other Germanic dialects show a less religious context, Go. wo}Js: 'angry, possessed' (cf. Ulf. Mark 5:15, 18), OE wocl:'mad, raging, furious' (cf. also the noun wocl:'madness'), OHG wuot(f(: 'raging, mad, furious.' Originally, *wo5- seems to have belonged to the same semantic field as *gaist- and *molJ-, and denoted an emotive state of ecstatic intensity. III. Structures An analysis of this PGmc. psychological lexicon seems to reveal a definite functional structure on the most archaic level. Terms of late formation or re-definition, i.e. *sz'njJ- and *hert-, must be eliminated from our considerations before we proceed to classify the remaining items according to their most archaic meanings. Certain classifications emerge from the analysis of the PGmc. root forms discussed above. The principal criteria for these classifications must remain the apparent primary function of the term, while secondary dialectal functions should also be (31) This mistake is noted by Polome 1969, 269, and that this error had often been made earlier is evidenced in Rydberg 1886, 551-52. Also cf. ON oe(Ji:'rage, fury'
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