Dominus Ingui: titles and aspects

In Roman polytheism, epithets express different roles of the same god, sometimes in reference to an event, but often by virtue of the godly function itself. For instance, there’s Juno Moneta (she who warns), Juno Lucina (the giver of light/birth), and Juno Sopista (the Saviour). It can also serve the purpose of syncretizing a Roman deity with a non-Roman one, like Jupiter Dolichenus, Mars Caturix, and Silvanus Callirius. In the past, this was a useful political tool, but in strictly religious terms, the greatest importance of epithets lies perhaps in the degree of precision they introduce. In a contractual and ritualistic religion like Roman polytheism, you need to be precise when wording prayers, vows, and curses. Otherwise, you risk being amiss when it’s time to pay your debt, even if unintentionally. As such, one calls on the most efficient deity for a particular purpose, to which a further level of precision can be added by calling on the correct aspect of the correct god or goddess.

This post presents several Latin titles and epithets of a Romanized Ingvi-Frey, further enlightening His nature and roles. As with everything I say, this is not dogma, but my personal take on the subject and partly out of my personal experience. There’s no reason why others shouldn’t change the list or scrap it altogether.

This is the Latin translation of Old Norse Freyr and the most obvious of His titles. In ancient Rome, dominus was a form of deference, used for both emperors (as lord and master) and common people (like modern “mister” and medieval “Dom/Don”). But the word is obviously derived from domus, which means home and, in a wider sense, can also be one’s country or homeland. As such, a dominus was originally a master of the house and later a ruler of the land. The title is therefore well suited for a god with a tradition of being a divine ancestor: as Lord at home, He’s a forefather and a protector of the family, a role further enhanced by His link with friðr or sacred inviolability, applied both to kinship and the physical limits of the house; as Lord in a community, He is a divine father and protector.

Ingui’s role as dominus at home resembles that of Silvanus, whose domestic cult places Him as a warden of boundaries of the family property and a protector of all that lies in it. Ingui’s phallic nature is also relevant, not only as an expression of the ability to generate offspring, but also because a penis was a popular apotropaic symbol, protecting both people and houses.

Deus Aureus
Among modern polytheists, Ingui is often called the Golden God, the Latin translation being Deus Aureus. It express multiple aspects of the god, but which may be summed up in the following sentence: sweet as honey, rich as gold, warm as the sun, and bountiful as a field of grain. All things that are gold-like and define Ingui’s most generous and nurturing side. A tender of wounds, a breaker of ice, a comforting friend, and a granter of abundance. I’ve met people who got out of a low point in their lives after having dreams where Freyr melted the ice around them. And there are others to whom He’s a guide, a giver of strength, and a nurturer.

Deus Mundi
A translation of the Old Norse veraldargoð, which means God of the World, it expresses Ingui’s concern for worldly well-being. People’s health, wealth, food, pleasures, and happiness, linking this epithet to that of Deus Aureus.

According to John Scheid, in ancient Rome, holy “was a term applied to anything which it was a religious offense to violate” and could be applied to “city boundaries, certain laws, treaties, tribunes of the people, and official Roman ambassadors.” It was also used for deities – Silvanus, for instance – and in Ingui’s case it expresses His role as a god of friðr or sacred inviolability.

The phallic side of Ingui. A giver of sexual potency and pleasure, a generator of offspring (both human and animal), and a protector by virtue of the apotropaic value of the erect penis.

He of the wagon, as an obvious reference to sacred processions where Ingui’s image is carried on a wheeled vehicle.

Ingui, the Liberator, as a god who “looses each man from captivity”, to use the words of the eddic poem Lokasenna, but also from woes and pain. Close to being a saviour, perhaps in the same sense as the Dioskouri, but Ingui also has a darker side.

The Ingui who renews is the god who takes part in death as a necessary element of life. It expresses the need for the nurturing sacrifice, from the killing of plants to that of livestock for human consumption. It also includes people, whose bodies have a limited time-span and will inevitably die as part of the cycle of life. Among modern polytheists, there are those who believe Ingui is Himself a sacrificial god, dying every year at the end of the crops’ season to renew the land with His blood, before coming back to life in mid or late winter. At the very least, He’s a deity who understands the importance of death and will take part in it if necessary.

He of the field, as beffits an agricultural god, also expressing His relationship with the giantess Gerð, who’s Ingui’s wife in Norse mythology. The name of the goddess comes from Old Norse garð, which means (fenced) land, as in Asgarð, Útgarð, and Miðgarð or Land of the Gods, Outer Land, and Middle Land. Freyr’s relationship with Gerð is therefore one of sacred marriage.

While the hazel is virtually absent from Norse mythological tales, it features in the sagas in the form of höslur or hazel poles, which are used in the tales to mark hallowed ground. The sources may be late, but they may also preserve the memory of older tradidions. In Egil’s Saga, for instance, a court session takes place within an area marked by a circle of hazel poles connected by a rope, and in Kormáks saga they’re used to establish the limits of a duelling area. This may seem a contradiction with the notion of friðr, but it refers to a form of judgement by divine will: the result of the duel was a verdict sanctioned by the gods, so it had to take place on especially prepared hallowed ground (more on that here).

In Norse lore, the hazel is therefore a granter of sacred inviolability, which makes it an appropriate plant for Ingui, who may be called Avellanae: From the Hazel Tree.

Ingui’s connection with pine is more of a UPG of mine than an actual historical element. Being an evergreen, it has the potential to represent ultimate life, but it also has a sexual connection in the upwards shape of its branches or the phallic symbolism of the pine cone. There’s also the link with midwinter celebrations, when pine takes on a main role. Freyr may not a sun god proper, but He has solar qualities, which is why I celebrate His birthday around winter solstice. He’s therefore born under the shade of that tree, so to speak, and may be called Pini or From the Pine.

Deus Vitae
If I had to sum up Ingui’s aspects and qualities into one, I’d say Deus Vitae or God of Life, in the broadest sense of the word. Good life for plants, animals, and humans alike; at home, in your community, on the farming fields, and in the wild. But also of death in that it’s part of the circle of life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s