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Germanic Pagan Sources

People new to Germanic Paganism often ask, what are the basic texts? Here is a short list of the most basic books or short texts about Germanic Pagan Sources which you should probably read. These sources are mostly in English and many can be accessed for free online. I even added circles ◯ so you can use this page as a checklist. I wanted to make this easy for people.
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Germanic Pagan Sources

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Norns by C. E. Brock

General Germanic Paganism
Teutonic Mythology, by Jacob Grimm, translated into English by James Stallybrass, published by George Bell & Sons, London, 1883. This is the motherlode of information about Germanic Paganism (not just the myths) and its relation to other Indo-European forms of Paganism. This covers many aspects of Germanic Paganism but it is a Victorian product with some racism and sexism.
◯ Vol. 1: archive.org/details/teutonicmythol01grimuoft
◯ Vol. 2: archive.org/details/teutonicmytholo02grim
◯ Vol. 3: archive.org/details/teutonicmytho03grim
◯ Vol. 4: archive.org/details/teutonicmytholo04grim. The 4th volume is additional information, and is not as important.
There is a Dover paperback edition of this, also out of print, but if you see it, grab it.

Classical Sources
Germania by Tacitus
The Germany and the Agricola of Tacitus, Oxford Translation revised with notes by Edward Brooks, Jr., D. McKay, Philadelphia, 1897. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/7524/7524-h/7524-h.htm
There is a Penguin paperback edition, translated by Harold Mattingly, which is very useful to consult.

Old Norse sources
Younger Edda or Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson.
This is an explanation of Norse mythology and the Gods written by an expert on the topic. Snorri wrote this specifically to help people understand the ancient references and it is one of the most helpful books.
Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson, translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, American-Scandinavian Foundation, New York, 1916. https://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/pre/index.htm

Elder Edda or Poetic Edda
A collection of ancient poems on mythological topics mostly composed in Pagan times. The Poetic Edda, translated by Henry Adams Bellows, Princeton University Press, New York, 1936.
◯ The Havamal (or Hovamol, the words of the High One) is often sold as a separate book but it is included in the Elder Edda.

A Full(a) Roster of Asynjur by Ellis B. Wylie, dissertation for University of Cambridge, 2019, on acad dot edu. This is an excellent scholarly article on most of the Old Norse Goddesses which Grimm overlooked (does not include Frigg or Freya). https://www.academia.edu/43429864/A Full(a) Roster ... .

Old English (Anglo-Saxon) sources
Looking for the Lost Gods of England by Kathleen Herbert, Anglo-Saxon Books, Norfolk, England 1994. (Anglo-Saxon Pantheon)

◯ The Lost Gods of England, by Brian Branston, Thames and Hudson, London, 1974 (Anglo-Saxon Pantheon)

Anglo-Saxon poetry mainly from the Exeter Book
A lot of Anglo-Saxon poetry is Christian and quite morose but these short texts are Pagan, more or less.
◯ Nine Herbs Charm
◯ Æcerbot (ritual)
◯ Maxims I (Gnomic verses, or “proverbs”)
Translations by Louis Rodrigues are recommended but they are not in the public domain. These versions can be read (in modern English translation only) at: Anglo-Saxon Poetry, translated by R. K. Gordon, Everyman’s Library, J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., 1962. https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.150117/page/n9/mode/2up

◯ Bede’s “On the Reckoning of Time,” lists names in Anglo-Saxon of the months and some Goddesses (original in Latin) http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/bede_on_eostre.htm English translation by Faith Wallis (not very accurate).

I did not include Beowulf because there is almost nothing about Paganism in it.

Continental Germanic Sources
◯ The “Paganiarum,” properly the “Indiculus Superstitionum et Paganiarum,” is a convenient list of Pagan rituals and activities that Frankish Christians disapproved of. No proper analysis has been published in English but for convenience, here is a list of the items with English translation (author identified as Torino). Most of these activities are well known as folk customs and continue to the present day. See how many you recognize. https://www.jassa.org/?p=8209 .

◯ Urglaawe is the name in Dietsch for the religion of the Pennsylvania Dutch Pagans in the Americas now. Dietsch is the word for their language, consisting of several continental German dialects. There is a great deal of information about Urglaawe at: http://site.distelfink.org/Resources.html

Old High German
◯ Merseburg Charms
Text and translation on Wikipedia [fuggle26]

Nibelungenlied, a Middle High German romance version of the Old Norse Volsungsaga.
This version is translated by Daniel B. Shumway, Houghton-Mifflin Co., New York, 1909.
You might prefer a more modern translation in book form such as: The Nibelungenlied, translated by Arthur Thomas Hatto, Penguin Classics, 1964.

Just so you know, there is a recipe in Middle High German for Heathen Pies. They are basically like mincemeat pies with beef, pork and apples.

There is a lot of information about runes listed here because many people ask about them. Runes are also called Futhark, the first six letters of the runic alphabet. Runes come in three main versions: Older Futhark; Anglo-Saxon Futhork; and Younger Futhark (used in Scandinavia).
Runic Divination: We do not have information on how Germanic people used runes for divination, only that they did according to Tacitus in Germania. Many modern authors have invented their own systems using rune stones or even runic tarot cards. If you are going to pursue this, at least get a set that gives the correct names of the runes.

◯ These books bring together many scattered examples of runic inscriptions, which is much better than doing it yourself. Either one will do.
R. I. Page, An Introduction to English Runes, Methuen, London, 1973.
Ralph Elliot, Runes, an Introduction, Greenwood Press, Westport, Conn., 1981.

Runic and Heroic Poems of the Old Teutonic People, by Bruce Dickins (dual language edition), Cambridge University Press, 1915. https://archive.org/details/runicandheroicpo00dickuoft/page/n5/mode/2up

◯ Old English Rune Poem (abbreviated OERP). This mentions several Anglo-Saxon Gods. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_English_rune_poem

◯ Franks Casket, a carved ivory box with runic inscriptions and illustrations of mythic themes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franks_Casket

Runes around the North Sea, by Jantina Helena Looijenga, her dissertation for the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, 1997. Early runic inscriptions, including recent finds such as bracteates, coins, and random scratches, dated 150 to 700 CE. This is very advanced, but I included it because I like it so much. It is available as a pdf at: https://research.rug.nl/en/publications/runes-around-the-north-sea

Icelandic Grimoire
This is a very beautiful manuscript from the 1600’s with a mixture of Pagan and Christian elements. It gives specific instructions on how to make magical amulets and charms. The digitized Huld manuscript is available on the internet here: https://handrit.is/en/manuscript/imaging/is/IB04-0383 The first part is mainly alphabets but the part that has amulets in it begins on 22 recto here and runs to 27 verso.

Folklore Collections
There are massive publications and journals devoted to folk tales, customs, folk songs and dances and other material for each area or linguistic group. I list here only one very widely known example in English for Germanic-speaking people.
Northern Mythology by Benjamin Thorpe, published by Edward Lumley, London, 1851, in 3 volumes. These are organized by country and language.
◯ Volume 1: https://archive.org/details/northernmytholog01thor
◯ Volume 2: https://archive.org/details/northernmytholog02thor
◯ Volume 3: https://archive.org/details/northernmytholog03thoruoft

I would have liked to include one of the children’s books, published at the turn of the last century with great illustrations. They usually give charming retellings of the Norse myths, which provide an easy introduction. Unfortunately all the ones I saw were heavily Christianized, so not really usable. The illustration at the top of this page is of the Norns, by C. E. Brock.

I also would have liked to include a How To Pagan book, but all the ones I’ve ever seen are either racist, or New Age hooey, or they are poorly researched and full of made up stuff. I realize now, I stopped reading them years ago. Perhaps there is something published that I just don’t know about. I’ll try to update this website to provide that sort of information from traditional sources, because it certainly exists for most of the Indo-European language groups. In the meantime, good luck!

There are many scattered references not listed here. I also haven’t given a good list of archaeological finds, artwork or folk songs which sometimes describe specific Gods. If you study Germanic Paganism, it would be good to have a map that covers the Black Sea to Iceland and a history text that covers the Period of the Migrations.

Warning: following are some things you can avoid and save yourself a lot of time and grief.

Wiccan hooey: If you see sources with the “eight shabbats” wheel of the year; four candles spells (which always begin, “take four candles . . .”) or any reference to maiden/mother/crone, it is not Paganism. Wicca was originally presented as “traditional” Paganism but it was made up in the 1950’s based mainly on the hostile statements that the Christian church directed at women in the Middle Ages. Wicca has moved on since then and it is a perfectly good religion (especially for women who are excluded from consideration in the monotheistic religions) but it has no connection to actual traditional Paganism.

Racist and sexist nonsense: If you see sources that support racial or genetic purity, the Nine Noble Virtues, or Runic Yoga, this is a form of white supremacy usually with Christian overtones. In the United States, it was developed to foment racism and was spread mainly through the American prison system. There are some bizarre cults in which “oath swearing,” theodish slavery and folkish breeding programs are used to manipulate and control people. Run for the door.

So I hope this page will be helpful in cutting through all the misinformation online and elsewhere, and welcome to Germanic Paganism!

© piereligion.org, 2021, first published here September 20, 2021

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