Salve Malleator?

Yesterday, as I was walking one of my dogs during the night and the weather shifted from the relatively clear skies of the last few days to a more clouded and rainy state, my mind busied itself with a mental listing of my religious life. The catalyst was a question I am sometimes confronted with, namely how do I manage to worship over twenty different deities, plus several heroes and divine groups like the Lares? The answer is obviously by prioritizing – you worship some more often than the others – which caused me to mentally create a diagram where an inner circle stands for domestic and hence daily religion, while an outer circle stood for yearly celebrations. Then I started placing gods in either one or the other and eventually came to the tricky business of Thor.

Romanesque Thor by Thorskegga

Romanesque Thor by ©Thorskegga

Go back five years and, despite already being a Roman polytheist, I still wore the hammer pendant I bought in Sweden in 2005 or 2006. It was a comfortable left-over from my time as a heathen and one of those things that survived the shift from Norse to Latin traditions. Then came Mercury like a gust of wind and for a few years I wore a caduceus. That pendant broke last year and now rests on my domestic shrine to the Swift One, but instead of replacing it with a new one, I found myself drawn back to my old Thor’s hammer. Initially, I just kept it in my pocket, but eventually I started wearing it again. And it feels good! Of course, it meant that I had to acknowledge the Red Thunderer, since I’m wearing His most distinguished symbol, so I started offering Thor a libation of wine on the Ides of every month. The choice of date was motivated not by a belief that He and Jupiter are the same – I do seem them as separate gods – but by a desire to integrate Him in my Latin praxis. It was, after all, something born out of a choice of jewellery and not a shift back to Heathenry. Yet unlike the case of Freyr, whose Romanization I took much further, Thor’s stopped there. No annual celebration or no Latin name and titles, just a libation according to Roman praxis with little or no further thoughts about it. Until last night.

When I started to mentally place the gods in either the inner or outer circle, I realized Thor is in a limbo. He receives a monthly offering like Mercury, Minerva and Jupiter, but lacks a domestic shrine and doesn’t even have a yearly celebration in my religious calendar. And that’s because, by virtue of a pendant, He basically fell into my practices without setting a firm foot on them. He sort of hovers with one stop every month, so I wondered whether I should give Him a solid footing. And that in turn made way for a burst of ideas.

In a modern Latinization, Thor could be called Tonitrus, a Latin word that simply means “thunder”, just like the Proto-Germanic Þunraz, which originated the Old English Þunor, the Old High German Donar and Old Norse Þórr. He could be dubbed Jupiter Borealis, the Northern Jupiter, because He is to northerners what Iovis is to southerners. He would receive tiles like Malleator (Hammerer), Rufus Barbatus (Red Bearded), Hircorum (of the goats), Filius Terrae (Son of the Earth), not to mention the obvious Fortis (Strong) and Invictus (Invincible). This would naturally lead to the question of which rite to use in formal and semi-formal ceremonies to Thor, if fully Roman or a Romanized ritual with a hammer and other elements from Norse lore. And as for a yearly celebration, the Ides of November sound like a good idea, since the date is traditionally associated with Jupiter and I already have a feast to Him on mid-September. It would basically be a use of the same criteria that leads me to offer libations to Thor on the Ides. The only question is whether to go forward with this or not. Again, it feels like I’m “liminaling”: walking between two worlds and translating things from one to the other.

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5 thoughts on “Salve Malleator?

    • Thank you! And yes, it was very appropriate for ideas on a storm god to come with the rainy weather. I will post whatever decisions I make, after I perform some divination to make sure Thor’s on board with whatever I construct.

  1. Salve Helio!
    Your approach to romanise cults to deities from foreign i.e. non-Roman pantheons is really an eye-opener for me! I too have Germanic/Heathen ties which I don’t want to abandon, yet, the Heathen cultus doesn’t appeal to me; bringing my Germanic background into the Roman “fold” sounds like a good solution [for me], (esp. seeing that I grew up in the Romano-Germanic German Rhineland)!
    If Romans in history could do it –i.e. syncretise– so can we modern Romans / cultores! 🙂
    I have to say though, that I myself don’t agree with a direct equation of Iuppiter with Thor, as I regard the Olypmpians/Di Consenti as a higher class of deities than the Aesir and Vanir; although there are connections and imo an As or Van can well be a manifestation or aspect of a higher God (and still be a god in their own right, I might add). (I’m using the male gender in an all-gender-inclusive sense here.)
    Personally I directly equate Thor with Vedic Indra, (and possibly with Heracles and/or Dionysos). In modern Hinduism, Indra is considered as demi-god, which is not a slight, but portraits his important status and role as the in-between stage between human and divine… something vitally important for us as humans.
    I totally love the Romanised epithets!
    Vale in pace deorum!

    • Salve, Dini!

      Historically, Thor or rather Donar appears to have been identified with Hercules, who, according to Tacitus, was popular among the Germanic tribes. We don’t know exactly why, since no ancient myths from the Rhine area have survived, but if Norse mythology bears any resemblance to the stories the old Germans might have told centuries before, then Thor may have been identified with Hercules because of His multiple adventures or “labours”, enormous strength and huge appetite. In terms of personality, Thor is very much a herculean figure, but in terms of function, He has similarities with Jupiter: thunder, rain and fertility, military victory and, via His hammer, the power to hallow things and people.

      So this is the issue I mentioned back at the Roman Revivalist group at Facebook: syncretising, equating or simply identifying different gods from different cultures is always a matter of choice. You choose to highlight similarities and downplay differences. The historical example that always comes to my mind is how ancient Greeks identified the Egyptian Bast with both Artemis and Aphrodite – a virginal and a lustful goddess. It’s a contradiction, but one that arises precisely from the fact that syncretism is never an exact process, but a matter of choice. In this case, you’ve chosen to focus on Thor’s herculean traits, whereas I highlight His “iovian” side. Both are equally valid.

      And I’m glad you liked the epithets 😉

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