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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Lollus, Löhl, and Ursul din Lăloaia

Genealogical research led me to a god of which I'd never heard. My family name, Lale, was originally spelled Löhl. Lale is a phonetic spelling in English of the way Löhl would have been pronounced.

Back in the 90s when I became an initiate of the modern version of the Bersarkrgangr tradition (see my paper Bersarkrgangr: The Viking Martial Art) they told me my name was a Chatti name, and that the Chatti tribe were cat-type bersarkrs who followed Freya, just like me. The Chatti came from the area in Europe that was briefly Alsace-Lorraine, an area of mixed French and German influence. That meant I was from one of the right families, which was one of the two prerequisites to be eligible to join their group.

The internet era has enabled genealogical research with records from all over the world that have been scanned and are now available through this marvelous device right from home, without having to travel to every town and country and examine the records in person or pay someone else to do so. Family legend said the original Lale ancestor in America was kicked out of France for lycanthropy. That would have been in the 1700s, before the American Revolution. Recent genealogical research my brother did on the net turned up a kernel of truth. We did have an ancestor who was banished from a country, but it was Bavaria, not France, it was the late 1500s, and the charge was not being a werewolf but being a Protestant. That's a sobering example of how much oral transmission of information can change the story over time.

That's as far back as an unbroken line of records go, so with anything earlier than that, I'm just speculating about whether it has any connection to my family, but what I found is interesting nonetheless.

There is a river Löhle in today's Germany, near the town of Böblingen in the region of Württemberg. Württemberg is where the Lale ancestor who came to America was actually from (not France as the family legend said.) The river may have been named for Lollus, or the other way around.

Lollus was known as a god of the Franks, a Germanic tribe. There was a Saint Lollus in the 700s. Offerings of grapes and grain were given to Lullus or Lollus at the place called Löhle or Lölle. Whether these gifts were to the god Lollus or to Saint Lollus, or whether the people making the offerings drew any distinction between the two, is unclear. Did the god Lollus walk among the people in the 700s in the form of a human, Christian Saint?

Not much is written about Lollus in English. The book Barbarian Rites: The Spiritual World of the Vikings and the Germanic Tribes by Hans-Peter Hasenfratz, translated by Michael Moynihan, says Lollus was depicted as a naked young man holding his tongue. It suggests he may have been paired with Frija, a combined form of Frigga and Freya.

A name dictionary I consulted as a teenager told me the name Lale meant nothing in French, but meant "one who speaks" in German. This article on connects Lollus to speaking in tongues, and states that the opium poppy was sacred to him:

So, are people with the name Lale or Löhl descended from the people who worshipped Lollus, the people from the area bearing his name? I don't know, but I wonder.

The earliest reference my brother uncovered to a name that could be a Lale variant is a Roman soldier named Laleianus. The name is on Trajan's Column in Rome. Supposedly Laleianus helped conquer the Pannonians, a people that lived in what is today Romania and the Danube region. This did not seem to connect with Lollus the 8th century god or saint. There was however another Roman, named Marcus Lollius, a prominent political figure who was the patron of the city of Sagalassos in Turkey.

The story of Laleianus and the Romanians did not seem to connect with bersarkrs, either, until I ran across this video of a Romanian folk dance labeled Urs Laloaia:

Romanian Bear Dance Urs Laloaia:

With thanks to translator James Hoscyns: ursul din
Lăloaia means the bear from Lăloaia. Lăloaia is the name of a mountain and a village at its base in Bacău in Romania.

The music has this drum song:

Dum tek dum tek dum
Dum tek dum
Dum tek dum tek dum
Dum tek dum tek dum
Dum tek dum
Dum tek dum
(pause then repeat)

The dancers step on the dums. 

This dance has been preserved as a festival dance in parts of Romania and Moldova. Here are a couple of videos where the camera was closer to the dancers:

Parade through town:

March through a snowy street and then dancing at a house:

More videos of this dance are found by searching the keywords Tot Ursi or Ursul de la Dărmăneşti.

The bear dancers in each of these videos make a strange trilling sound. It is not really a bear-like sound. It is unlikely to be a direct imitation of the sounds that bears make. This trill has some other origin. Could it be connected to the lalling of Lollus?

So far there does not appear to be any evidence beyond similarity of names and the strange trilling sound of the dancers connecting Lollus with bears, or with the bear dance, or bersarkrs, but this is an interesting avenue for further research. Eventually I hope to turn this quest for knowledge about my ancestors into a formal paper on Lollus. I would very much appreciate being directed to more information on Lollus, or the Lale name in any of its variations, or the bear dance.

Image caption:
Ursul de la Dărmăneşti dancer, photo credit Dan Duta via Mediafax Foto.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
O God

For all its recent history, the English word “god” is a fine old pagan word with a long, long pedigree.

Cognates occur in all Germanic languages (German Gott, Icelandic guð, etc.), and in all Germanic languages, interestingly, it was this word that was chosen by early missionaries to denote the Christian god. How and why this came to be is in itself an interesting question which would well merit further study, but that's not my intent here.

For historical reasons—largely because of its Christian associations—we've come to think of “god” as (connotatively, if not grammatically) masculine. I suspect that among English-speaking pagans this masculinization has been emphasized by the word's implied pairing with “goddess.” English lost its grammatical genders after the Norman invasion, but the other Germanic languages have kept all three of them (masculine, feminine, and neuter), and in all of them (again, for Christian reasons) the word god has become a grammatically masculine noun.

But that's not how the ancestors saw it.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
If God, then why not Goddess? Part 1

(This is the Goddess MayAnne I created from farm junk. She lives in the Sacred Garden. Photograph courtesy of No Worries Farm. All rights Reserved.)

My aunt’s impeccable scrolling penmanship screamed, Julia! Are you out of your mind? I am a bride of Christ. I am married to God. There is no way I married a woman!

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Finding the Gods Through Tarot

When I was a solitary practitioner, I rarely thought of the gods beyond “which one would be right to invoke for this spell?” In hindsight, this was pretty selfish and a ridiculous way for me to treat deity. We don’t make demands of our gods… and when we do, we usually reap a quick and brutal lesson to not do THAT again. Fortunately, the gods that I invoked, summoned, and stirred were kind to me when I was new to the Craft and I didn’t have to learn a harsh lesson.

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  • Luna
    Luna says #
    I should add that I am fairly new to Wicca (been Wiccan for about a year and a half) and this is all very exciting for me. At no t
  • Luna
    Luna says #
    I have recently started using Tarot as a devotional practice, and it has been an amazing experience. I have found it enables me to

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

The Wild Gods I love the word wilderness.  It conjures up images of windswept moors and heathland, dark tangling forests and craggy mountaintops.  That spirit of the untamed, the uncivilised, that spark that humanity cannot touch, much in the same way as deity is traditionally viewed.  For many Druids, that wilderness is deity – it has the power to give or sustain life or the power to kill.  It has not and, in many places, cannot be touched by human hands, existing without any human interference.  I like to think that same dark spark exists within our own human souls as well, offering us the sanctity of the wilderness within.

The concept of the “untouched” wilderness is an interesting one.  I rather wonder if it has anything to do with secular religious views that have crept into our culture predominantly for the last thousand years or so.  The concept of the virgin forest, the virgin wilderness – I have to say, I really dislike the term.  It is nice to think that there are places in the world where humans have never been – but still, it’s the terminology that is rather uncomfortable.  I have been to places where humans have lived with the landscape, and who live there no more – the wilderness has returned.  Where stone buildings once stood, nature has reclaimed it, slowly destroying it until nothing remains but the songs on the wind.  Virginity cannot ever be reclaimed – and in this regard, I find the term does not work within the context of the natural world.  As it works in cycles, what happened once can be undone.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Party of One: Ganesha

Sometimes I like to go to visit Gods and Goddesses from neighboring friendly pantheons. After attending my first Kirtan chant three years ago, I was introduced to the Hindu God Ganesh, the elephant-headed remover of obstacles. I was instantly drawn to him and "Gan Gan Ganapati" quickly became by personal favorite chant. It resonated on a deeper level of my subconscious. After some research, I discovered that Ganesh has his very own ten day festival every year in India, Ganesh Chaturthi. According to Guide, Sharell Cook, it culminates with a huge celebration on the last day called, Anata Chaturdasi day. Cook notes that the festivities are dependant "on the cycle of the moon." The dates fall a little differently annually, but for 2013 "Ganesh Fest" runs September 9 - September 19. The website, had some inspiring suggestions for setting up an altar and honoring Ganesh in your own home.

According to Subhamoy Das, also from the goindia site, Ganesh likes offerings of "coconuts, flowers, and camphor." You could also decorate your altar with figures of Ganesh and the color red.

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