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An Irminsul (Old Saxon, probably "great/mighty pillar" or "arising pillar") was a kind of pillar which is attested as playing an important role in the Germanic paganism of the Saxon people. The oldest chronicle describing an Irminsul refers to it as a tree trunk erected in the open air. The purpose of the Irminsuls and the implications thereof have been the subject of considerable scholarly discourse and speculation for hundreds of years.
* 1 Etymology
* 2 Attestations
o 2.1 Royal Frankish Annals
o 2.2 De miraculis sancti Alexandri
o 2.3 Hildesheim
o 2.4 Kaiserchronik
* 3 Theories
o 3.1 Germania
o 3.2 Externsteine relief and site
o 3.3 Jupiter Columns
* 4 Neopaganism
* 5 See also
* 6 Footnotes
* 7 References
A Germanic god Irmin, inferred from the name Irminsul and the tribal name Irminones, is sometimes presumed to have been the national god or demi-god of the Saxons. It has been suggested that Irmin was more probably an aspect, avatar or epithet of some other deity – most likely Wodan (Odin). Irmin might also have been an epithet of the god Ziu (Tyr) in early Germanic times, only later transferred to Odin, as certain scholars ascribe to the idea that Odin replaced Tyr as the chief Germanic deity at the onset of the Migration Period. This was the favored view of early 20th century Nordicist writers, but it is not generally considered likely in modern times.
The Old Norse form of Irmin is Jörmunr, which just like Yggr was one of the names of Odin. Yggdrasil ("Yggr's horse") was the yew or ash tree from which Odin sacrificed himself, and which connected the nine worlds. Jakob Grimm connects the name Irmin with Old Norse terms like iörmungrund ("great ground", i.e. the Earth) or iörmungandr ("great snake", i.e. the Midgard serpent).
It is thus often conjectured that the Irminsul was a World tree, the equivalent of Yggdrasil among the Saxon tribes of Germany. But the few primary sources that attest to it are not clear about whether it was a "world-pillar" or simply the pedestal for a cult image. In the Annales Pettaviani, it is even mentioned as ... locum, qui dicitur Ermensul ... ("... [a] place which they called Irminsul ..."). Likewise, it is unknown whether the Irminsul was made of wood or stone and whether there was one or several. Meanwhile, the "T"-shaped Irminsul representation most often seen today is entirely conjectural; contemporary sources always refer to it as a straightforward pillar or column.
The linguistic connection between Irmin- and iörmun/jörmun- is generally accepted, but the terms simply mean "great/mighty" or "rising high". It is easy to see how "The great one" or "The exalted one" could become a by-name of Odin, but unfortunately this is of little use to determine whether the Saxon term refers to a deity or simply means – as is usually preferred today – "great pillar" instead of "Irmin's pillar" or "Odin's pillar".
 Royal Frankish Annals
According to the Royal Frankish Annals (CE 772), during the Saxon wars, Charlemagne is repeatedly described as ordering the destruction of the chief seat of their religion, an Irminsul. The Irminsul is described as not being far from Heresburg (now Obermarsberg), Germany. Jacob Grimm states that "strong reasons" point to the actual location of the Irminsul as being approximately 15 miles (24 km) away, in the Teutoburg Forest and states that the original name for the region "Osning" may have meant "Holy Wood."
 De miraculis sancti Alexandri
The Benedictine monk Rudolf of Fulda (CE 865) provides a description of an Irminsul in chapter 3 of his Latin work De miraculis sancti Alexandri. Rudolf's description states that the Irminsul was a great wooden pillar erected and worshipped beneath the open sky and that its name, Irminsul, signifies universal all-sustaining pillar.
Under Louis the Pious in the 9th century, a stone column was dug up at Obermarsberg in Westphalia, Germany and relocated to the Hildesheim cathedral in Hildesheim, Lower Saxony, Germany. The column was reportedly then used as a candelabrum until at least the late 19th century. In the 13th century, the destruction of the Irminsul by Charlemagne was recorded as having still been commemorated at Hildesheim on the Saturday after Laetare Sunday.
The commemoration was reportedly done by planting two poles six feet high, each surmounted by a wooden object one foot in height shaped like a pyramid or a cone on the cathedral square. The youth then used sticks and stones in an attempt to knock over the object. This custom is described as existing elsewhere in Germany, particularly in Halberstadt where it was enacted on the day of Laetare Sunday by the Canons themselves.
Awareness of the significance of the concept seems to have persisted well into Christian times. For example, in the twelfth-century Kaiserchronik an Irminsul is mentioned in three instances:
Concerning the origin of the Wednesday:
ûf ainer irmensiule / stuont ain abgot ungehiure, / daz hiezen si ir choufman.
"On an Irminsul / stands an enormous idol / which they call their merchant"
Concerning Julius Caesar:
Rômâre in ungetrûwelîche sluogen / sîn gebaine si ûf ain irmensûl begruoben
"The Romans slew him treacherously / and buried his bones on an Irminsul"
ûf ain irmensûl er staich / daz lantfolch im allez naich.
"He climbed upon an Irminsul / the peasants all bowed before him"
It is notable that the overwhelming majority of Middle Ages sources understand the Irminsul as a pillar, not as a tree-like structure. In that they agree with older authors. In contrast to these, however, the object of worship or significance is understood to be placed on top of the Irminsul rather than being the pillar itself.
A number of theories surround the subject of the Irminsul.
In Tacitus' Germania, the author mentions rumors of what he describes as "Pillars of Hercules" in land inhabited by the Frisii that had yet to be explored. Tacitus adds that these pillars exist either because Hercules actually did go there or because the Romans have agreed to ascribe all marvels anywhere to Hercules' credit. Tacitus states that while Drusus Germanicus was daring in his campaigns against the Germanic tribes, he was unable to reach this region, and that subsequently no one had yet made the attempt. Connections have been proposed between these "Pillars of Hercules" and later accounts of the Irminsuls. Hercules was likely frequently identified with Thor by the Romans due to the practice of interpretatio romana.
 Externsteine relief and site
According to one particularly well-known suggestion, an Irminsul was situated at or near the Externsteine, a famous rock formation near Detmold, Germany. A Christian relief on the Externsteine (see photo above) depicts what has been described as a bent tree-like design at the feet of Nicodemus. This artwork, variously dated to the early ninth to early twelfth century AD, is popularly believed to represent the bent or fallen Irminsul beneath a triumphant Christianity.
While both the artwork and the Irminsul were known to scholars for centuries - Goethe for example discussed the relief in detail -, they were not connected until the 1929 interpretation of lay archaeologist Wilhelm Teudt. In 1934 to 1935, the Ahnenerbe undertook extensive fieldwork in an attempt to uncover material evidence of the use of the Externsteine as a place of Germanic paganism worship, yet no such evidence was found.
Few modern scholars consider it anything but an outright invention of Teudt, who did not provide evidence to back his claims.
Today it is generally accepted by historians that there is no historic attestation connecting the design in the Externsteine relief to the Irminsul. Certainly, the Eresburg was only about 45 kilometers (c.28 miles) from the Externsteine, and insofar there indeed was an Irminsul "near the Externsteine" but extensive archaeological studies of the Externsteine have failed to yield any material evidence for their use as a sacred site between Mesolithic and pre-Christian times. Thermoluminescence dating of firesites suggests that the site was occasionally used as a rock shelter in Saxon times, but apparently not to the extent one would expect from a major place of worship.
 Jupiter Columns
Comparisons have been made between the Irminsul and the Jupiter Columns that were erected along the Rhine in Germania around CE 2 and 3. Scholarly comparisons were once made between the Irminsul and the Jupiter Columns, however, Rudolf Simek states that the columns were of Gallo-Roman religious monuments, and that the reported location of the Irminsul in Eresburg does not fall within the area of the Jupiter Column archaeological finds.
A depiction of an Irminsul based on the Externsteine relief (shaped back into a vertical position) is used in some currents of Germanic Neopaganism.
1. ^ a b c d e f d'Alviella (1891:112).
2. ^ Robinson (1917): p.389
3. ^ E.g. Meyer (1910): p.192
4. ^ E.g. Farwerck (1970): p.33
5. ^ Grimm (1835)
6. ^ a b c d Stallybrass (1882): 116-118).
7. ^ According to the Royal Frankish Annals (Anonymus (): chapter 772):
Et inde perrexit partibus Saxoniae prima vice, Eresburgum castrum coepit, ad Ermensul usque pervenit et ipsum fanum destruxit et aurum vel argentum, quod ibi repperit, abstulit. Et fuit siccitas magna, ita ut aqua deficeret in supradicto loco, ubi Ermensul stabat; et dum voluit ibi duos aut tres praedictus gloriosus rex stare dies fanum ipsum ad perdestruendum et aquam non haberent, tunc subito divina largiente gratia media die cuncto exercitu quiescente in quodam torrente omnibus hominibus ignorantibus aquae effusae sunt largissimae, ita ut cunctus exercitus sufficienter haberet.
8. ^ a b d'Alviella (1891:106-107).
9. ^ Schröder (1892): p.81, lines 129-131
10. ^ Schröder (1892): p.92, lines 601-602
11. ^ Schröder (1892): p.158, lines 4213-4214
12. ^ Tacitus (): chapter 34
13. ^ Birley (1999:55).
14. ^ Rives (1999:160).
15. ^ von Goethe (1824)
16. ^ Teudt (1929): p.27-28
17. ^ Halle (2002)
18. ^ See e.g. Matthes & Speckner (1997) for some who accept Teudt's proposal, but note that their work has several serious flaws. For example, they ignore the lack of archaeological evidence for Iron Age use of the Externsteine as a sacred site. Also, their claim that the figure of Nicodemus standing on the design represents the subjugation of the pagan faith (p.191) has been claimed as being based on a mistranslation of Nikodemos (Νικόδημος, "Victory of the people") as "Victory over the [Saxon] people".
19. ^ Schmidt & Halle (1999)
20. ^ Simek (2007:175-176).
* Adam of Bremen ([1070s]): [Religious beliefs of the Swedes]. In: Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum. [In Latin] HTML fulltext of English translation at Northvegr Foundation
* Anonymus (): Annales regni Francorum [Royal Frankish Annals]. [In Latin] HTML fulltext.
* Birley, Anthony Richard (Trans.) (1999). Agricola and Germany. Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-283300-6
* Farwerck, F.E. (1970): Noord-Europese Mysteriën ["Northern European mystery cults"]. [In Dutch]
* d'Alviella, Eugène Goblet (1891). The Migration of Symbols. A. Constable and Co.
* Halle, Uta (2002): Die Externsteine sind bis auf weiteres germanisch! - Prähistorische Archäologie im Dritten Reich ["Until further notice, the Externsteine are Germanic! - Prehistoric archaeology in the Third Reich"]. [In German] Verlag für Regionalgeschichte, Bielefeld.
* Matthes, Walther & Speckner, Rolf (1997): Das Relief an den Externsteinen. Ein karolingisches Kunstwerk und sein spiritueller Hintergrund ["The Externsteine relief. A Carolingian artwork and its spiritual background"]. [In German] edition tertium, Ostfildern vor Stuttgart.
* Meyer, Richard Moritz (1910): Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte ["Ancient Germanic Religious History"]. [In German]
* Rives, J.B. (Trans.) (1999). Germania: Germania. Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-815050-4
* Robinson, Charles Henry (1917): The Conversion of Europe. Longmans, Green, and Co., London, New York, Bombay and Calcutta.
* Simek, Rudolf (2007) translated by Angela Hall. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. D.S. Brewer 0859915131
* Schmidt, Martin & Halle, Uta (1999): On the folklore of the Externsteine - Or a centre for Germanomaniacs. In: Gazin-Schwartz, Amy & Holtorf, Cornelius: Archaeology and Folklore: 153-169. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-20144-6 Partial text at Google Books
* Schoppe, Karl (1947): Die Irminsul, Forschungen über ihren Standort ["The Irminsul. Research concerning its location"]. [In German] Paderborn.
* Schröder, Edward (1892): Die Kaiserchronik eines Regensburger Geistlichen ["The Kaiserchronik of a Regensburg cleric"]. [In German] Hahnsche Buchhandlung, Hannover. HTML fulltext
* Stallybrass, James Steven (1882). (Trans.) J. Grimm's Teutonic Mythology, volume I.
* Tacitus, Publius Cornelius (): De Origine et situ Germanorum ["About the origin and location of the Germanic peoples"]. [In Latin] HTML fulltext at Wikisource
* Teudt, Wilhelm (1929): Germanische Heiligtümer. Beiträge zur Aufdeckung der Vorgeschichte, ausgehend von den Externsteinen, den Lippequellen und der Teutoburg ["Germanic sacred sites. Contributions to the discovery of prehistory, based upon the Externsteine, the Lippe springs and the Teutoburg"]. [In German] Eugen Diederichs Verlag, Jena.
* von Goethe, Johann Wolfgang (1824): Die Externsteine [The Externsteine]. Kunst und Altertum 5: 130-139 [Article in German].
"The destruction of Irminsul by Charlemagne" (1882) by Heinrich Leutemann.
FONTE IMMAGINE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Zerst%C3%B6rung_der_Irminsaule_durch_Karl_den_Gro%C3%9Fen_by_Heinrich_Leutemann.jpg
Da Wikipedia, l'enciclopedia libera.
Irminsul (in antico sassone grande pilastro) è il pilastro che connette il cielo e la terra, il mondo materiale a quello spirituale. Il suo nome derivava da un antico Dio germanico, Irmin. L'Irminsul era spesso rappresentato come una quercia o un grande palo di legno forse coronato da una immagine sacra, ed era la principale divinità dei Sassoni, similmente all'Yggdrasill dei vichinghi.
Ai tempi di Carlo Magno c'erano probabilmente molti Irminsul, ma nella sua conquista dopo l'800 il rappresentante della Cristianità trionfante li distrusse tutti (anche il più importante, a Externsteine), anche se presumibilmente il loro culto, bollato come pagano e demoniaco, continuò a lungo.
Nella cattedrale di Hildesheim un Irminsul, probabilmente risalente ai tempi degli antichi Romani (quando Irmin era equiparato al dio Mercurio), è stato inglobato come candelabro.
Nel sito di Externsteine si può osservare una incisione del XII secolo, in cui un albero veniva piegato dal peso della Croce da cui veniva deposto il Cristo, incisione da molti interpretata come rappresentazione della vittoria del Cristianesimo sul Paganesimo.
FONTE IMMAGINE: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Irminsul_als_Weltenbaum.jpg