history

Sixty-Five Anglo-Saxon Riddles * Louis Jerome Rodrigues (1998)

Initially this was the first publications in Rodrigues’ series of Anglo-Saxon texts rendered into modern English. He completely reworked the booklet in 1998. As the title says, this booklet is filled with the famous Anglo-Saxon riddles, many of which come from the Exeter Book. I find this one of the least interesting books in the series. The texts are short, most of them not too interesting and worst of all, I do not understand the larger part of the riddles, not even with the proposed answers that Rodrigues found among different authors (up to 10 for one riddle). There is some nice word-play to be found here and there and it is amusing that one author gives the sollution “phallus” for almost every riddle. Perhaps a funny book to annoy people. I will quote one riddle that I like to give you an idea. There are 64 more of these, shorter and longer.

A moth devoured words. That seemed to me
a curious fate, when I heard of that wonder,
that the worm swallowed up a certain man’s song,
a thief in the darkness filched the fine saying
and strong man’s support. The thievish guest was
no whit | the wiser, though he swallowed words.

1998 Llanarch, isbn 1861430620

Anglo-Saxon Religious Verse Allegories * Louis Jerome Rodrigues (1996)

Next in the series of Rodrigues booklets is one with four poems, together forming an Anglo-Saxon Physiologus or Bestiary. First there is a long and very nice poem about the Phoenix with a thick religious undertone. The other poems are about the lovely panther, the dreadfull whale and two halve lines about the partridge. In the introduction Rodrigues says that the poems are very much alike more southern Physiologi so the appendices this time are Lactanius’ Carmen de ave phoenice, Ambrose’s Hexameron (the part about the Phoenix), another Anglo-Saxon text about the Phoenix (Vespasian) and two Latin Physiologi of Carmody. All texts, so also the Latin ones, are printed on the left pages in the original language and on the right in modern English. Because of the Exeter Book version of the Phoenix, this is one of the more enjoyable compilation of Anglo-Saxon texts.
1996 Llanerch, isbn 1861430223

Anglo-Saxon Elegiac Verse * Louis Jerome Rodrigues (1994)

The term ‘elegy’ used to describe a group of fairly short poems in the Exeter Book and certain other passages from longer works, was a nineteenth-century invention, since the poems and passages it collectively describes are neither ‘elegies’ nor ‘elegiac’ in the classical sense of composition in the elegiac metre nor in the tradition of later English pastoral elegy.

Rodrigues apparantly did not just try to publish the wealth of Anglo-Saxon texts, but rather present them thematically. There is an overlap in texts between this title and the earlier reviewed Anglo-Saxon Verse Charms, Maxims & Heroic Legends. After saying why the texts presented can still be called “elegiac” Rodrigues names the texts that he presents in this little (123 p.) book: The Wanderer, The Seafearer, The Riming Poem, Wulf and Eadwacer, The Wife’s Lament, Resignation, The Husband’s Message, and The Ruin. A few other texts are added and the appendix gives “some modern English verse rendering of The Ruin” in which Rodrigues writes about the difficulties of translating (ancient) poetry and the different sollutions that ‘translators’ come up with. This time the book is filled with some longer poetical texts of which I only enjoyed Resignation which is a call to God of a person who seems resently deceased and looks back at his life. The texts are obviously laments. Of course there is a lengthy introduction again and at the end a gigantic bibliography.
1994 Llanarch, isbn 1897853319

Anglo-Saxon Verse Runes * Louis Jerome Rodrigues (1992)

In July last year I reviewed another little book of Rodrigues. Already then I planned to get me some more of these books, so a while ago I found five of them from the same bookshop. The text looks like it is made with an electrical typewriter and the only ‘luxery’ is plastic around the simple, soft cover. Rodrigues made a whole range of these Anglo-Saxon textbooks. The booklets have a large variety in price, so look around well when you want to get them. They read rapidly. The current title has a lengthy and slightly too scholarly introduction, too detailed to be really interesting for a layman. The texts themselves are again printed in the original language of the left and in translation on the right. What we have here are runic verse inscriptions (the most famous that from the “Franks casket” and the Ruthwell cross), poems that contain runes, riddles, “the husband’s message”, “the first dialogue of Solomon and Saturn” and the Anglo-Saxon rune poem. For convenience sake Rodrigues also included the Norse and Icelandic rune poems. At the end there are quite a few illustrations of a photocopy quality.
Again a nice little book and an easy way to get some Anglo-Saxon material in your collection. When the other booklets read as quickly as this one, you can expect some more similar reviews soon.
1992 Llanerch, isbn 0947992944

Heidnisches Jahrbuch 2008 (2008)

It took quite a while to read this Heidnisches Jahrbuch. This is because it is the thickest so far (500) pages, but also because there are some very long essays in it which are not all too interesting. Perhaps it is also because of the fact that I read three of these Jahrbücher in line, so perhaps I got a bit Jahrbuch-weary. I am glad that Editon Roter Drache took over the publication of the defunkt publisher (and editor) Daniel Junker, because I missed this third edition. Like the other issues, this third volume is about contemporary heathenry, but mostly contains investigations of contemporary heathens. There are articles about the problems of reviving a broken tradition, the study of paganism (or pagan studies), Slavic poetry, the Wessobrun prayer, ‘the last journey’ and Franz Xaver von Unger. The articles that I remember better are Hermann Ritter’s Von Ausen Gestellte Fragen An Die Edda a perhaps not overly scholarly essay, but a nice personal text of a person who looks at the Eddas and comes up with all kinds of “why”s, “how”s and “what”s. Nicely critical, sometimes slightly provocative, showing that the Eddas are not exactly books that one should take literally. A very long, too long in fact, essay is about honour in Germanic society. I have read a few similar texts in the last year. Christian Brühning does not really come up with anything new and he jumps to sidepaths a bit. Not uninteresting though, since it brings a few things to think about. A text that I already got from the author a few years ago is Holger Kliemannel’s short text about Johannes Bureus (and “gothicism”). Kliemannel is a member of the Roter Drache, just as Thomas Karlsson who wrote several books and articles about Bureus, so Kliemannel naturally refers to texts of Karlsson that I never heard of, but he also knew my article. Kliemannel’s article is but a very rudimentary introduction into Bureus. A nice article is about werewolves (by Peter Hilterhaus) in which he goes from modern (film)versions to Männerbünde and a lot in between. The article is not groundbreaking, but a nice read and he critically refers to Kershaw on a few occasions, which is not entirely unjust. Towards the end of the book there are book-, film- and musicreviews.
The third Heidnisches Jahrbuch is not the best one, but like the other three, it is nice to read something written by ‘fellow heathens’. The fourth volume was announced to be the last one, but when I was looking for the cover of number three, I found out that volume five is also available!
2008 Daniel Junker Verlag / 2010 Edition Roter Drache, isbn 393945947X

Sleutel Tot Licht * Anne Korteweg & Helen Wüstefeld (2009)

The troubled Bibliotheca Philosophia Hermetica has a publishing house called “In de Pelikaan” (‘in the pelican’) through which a nice collection of books saw the light of day. The library contains (or by now perhaps contained) some of the earliest books of hours, 25 of which are the subject of this book. The book is magnificently printed on heavy paper with beautiful images of and from the colourfull books. Both authors are experienced investigators of books of hours and what they describe here is mostly the connection with the originally Dutch movement called “Modern Devotion” of Geert Grote (Geert Great) who died in 1384. Two major aspects of this movement were the fact that they wanted the old devotion to God back which had been lost in the church. This could for example be done by the imitatio Christi that was known from the Geman mystics. The other aspect is that Grote wanted religion closer to the common folk so he preached and wrote not in Latin, but in his native language. Korteweg and Wüstefeld made a fascinating introduction into books of hours which were originally books for laymen guiding them through religions daily life (hense: books of hours). Followers of Grote became fanatic copiers of books, making it a part of their daily duties. Therefor many books of hours came from modern devotic groups and with prayers written by Geert Grote. In short chapters the authors describe different religious movements that followed the footsteps of Grote, different kinds of spirituality and the very personal side of the books of hours with references to family, personal or regional saints, etc. as if the books were written on demand with the possibility for requests. The book reads easily, looks splendid and is highly informative.
2009 In de Pelikaan, isbn 978907608285

De Vikingen Achterna * Johan Nowé (2009)

I saw the author speaking a while ago and decided to get another book about the runes. “Following the Vikings” is not a book giving all kinds of interpretations of rune-signs, but more a purely historical book like that of R.I. Page that I recently reviewed. Nowé uses runestones to get firsthand information about the history of the writers of runes. He gives a history of the runes and their authors and when there is a stone available of shedding light on a part of that history, it is portrayed and translated. Nowé even explains how to translate the texts, giving a word-list, explaining grammar, etc. This way you will get a history of mostly the Vikings (but the runes are both older and more recent than the Vikings) that may be known for the larger part, but since runestones were raised mostly for personal reasons, such as commemorating a dead, telling people whose land the stone is on, etc. you will get quite intimate stories and not so much the larger information. In doing this, Nowé manages to give an overview of the development of the runes and the way the stones look (art historical). The approach is both original and refeshing, besides, I do not think I ever saw a book that actually explains the language of the runes itself. However Nowé shows and explains a large number of stones, also less easy ones such as the Rök stones (including an explanation of the cipher runes), I do have the feeling that the author picked only the stones that contribute to his story. I have not really looked into this, but this probably means that stones without historical information (which might (or might not) be more interesting) are not spoken about. Overall a very nice book about the runes. Currently only available in Dutch. I do not know if there are plans for a translation.
2009 Davidsfonds, isbn 9058265919

Anglo-Saxon Verse Charms, Maxims & Heroic Legends * Louis Jerome Rodrigues (1993)

I stumbled upon this nice little book by Rodrigues which opens with an introduction into Anglo-Saxon literature and then information about the texts featured. The texts themselves are printed in the original language on the left pages and translated on the right. As the title suggests the book contains heroic legends, such as of course Beowulf, but also the Finnesburg fragment, Wolf And Eadwacer, Widsith, Waldere and Deor, complete or a fragment. Some of the “maxims” or “gnomic verses” are printed (from the collections “Maxims I” and “Maxims II”) and a all twelve “metrical charms” (think about “The Nine Herbs Charm”, “Against A Dwarf” or “Against A Wen”). Personally I find the maxims and charms a lot more interesting than the heroic legends, but in both cases it is nice to be able to see the original texts next to a translation. It seems that Rodrigues published more of these little books, as there is a a lot more Anglo-Saxon material available, so I might go and look for these other booklets too. A tip for when you are interested in this one: look around a bit before ordering it. I am sure I did not pay the $ 45,- that Amazon.com has this book listed for. Amazon UK has it for £ 8,-, that is more like it. Other antiquarian websites have it for about € 12,-.
1993 Llanerch, isbn 1861430876

John Dee * Gerard Suster (2003)

The second book in the Western Esoteric Masters series that I review is about John Dee (1527-1608), well known to you if you have followed my website for some years. However I have quite some material of Dee myself, this book by Suster is the thinnest volume of the series. There are only about 100 pages with texts of Dee and Suster put a lot of his own commentary through the texts. Suster wanted to give a good overview about the whole figure of Dee, so the texts not only include small parts of Dee’s massive writings, but also parts of Dee’s diaries, including his personal ones. This makes that Suster’s book more gives an historical view of Dee than that the reader learns a lot about Dee’s ideas. What you can read are parts of Dee which are less well-known and/or not often available not as commentary of another writer: his preface to Euclid, Propaedeumata Aphoristica (an astronomical/astrological text) and his writings on navigation. Besides this, letters, the (spiritual) diaries and of course the Monas Hieroglyphica inspite that being but a short text, only in part. However gives a full-round view of Dee, Suster is genuinely interested in Dee’s best-known and darker side, so much even that the last part of the book gives other people’s ideas of John Dee and information about Aleister Crowley (including two texts of him!), the Golden Dawn and their use of Enochian magic. If I would have made the selection, I think I would have come to another one. If you have an historical interest in Dee, this is a nice addition to what is already available. Personally I hoped to read more of Dee’s “western esoteric” ideas.
2003 North Atlantic Books, isbn 1556434723

The Lombard Laws * Catherine Fisher Drew (1973)

I am looking a bit into non-Scandinavian sources about the prechristian faith and ran into this little book with an introduction to and translations of the 8th century laws of the Lombards, a tribe that more or less took over nowadays Italy. Fischer Drew gives a nice, historical introduction, but also highlights elements of the “barbarian law codes”. The laws concern “Rothair’s edict” which are later completed and adjusted by his followers-up Liutprand, Ratchis and Aistulf. The laws are quite similar to those of more Northern European Germanic tribes, nice in their details and it seems as if any situation is thought of (upto a ferryman that transfers a thief, or what happens to the inheritance of a man without sons). There are compensation tarifs for wounds, regulations around marriage and sums to be paid for almost anything. Especially the later laws are much like what we nowadays call jurisprudence with new situations. Also the tone gets more and more Christian and anti-pagan with high fines for people who consult witches or who worship idols. The laws themselves are not always too great a read, but the book overall is a very nice read.
1973 University Of Pennsylvania Press, isbn 0812210557