Historical Heathen Baby-Naming
Updated: Jun 14, 2019
I am always happy to take requests for a blog. Here is one by request: Heathen baby dedication ceremonies. Let me state off the bat that these ceremonies are done in monotheistic faiths, i.e. the naming of a boy child on the 8th day with his circumcision, in Catholicism with infant baptism, etc. However, we do have some historical glimpses into what Heathens did with pregnancies, birthing, and baby naming, and even a Historical Heathen water rite having nothing to do with baptism.
Water Ritual (Post Birth): The evidence from the Sagas: Njal's Saga Chapter 14: So the maiden was sprinkled with water, and had this name given her, and there she grew up, and got like her mother in looks and feature. Glum and Hallgerda agreed well together, and so it went on for a while. Eyrbyggja Saga, Chapter 11: Thorstein Codbiter had a son who was called Bork the Thick. But on a summer when Thorstein was five-and-twenty winters old, Thora bore him a man-child who was called Grim, and sprinkled with water. That lad Thorstein gave to Thor, and said that he should be a gothi, and called him Thorgrim. Saga Skallagrímssonar, chapter 35: Thora bare a child in the summer; it was a girl. She was sprinkled with water, and named Asgerdr. Saga Skallagrímssonar, chapter 31: Skallagrím and Bera had many children but all the older ones died in infancy. Then they had a son. They sprinkled him with water and called him Þórólfr. Eyrbyggja saga 11: Þórsteinn Cod-Biter had a son called Börkr the Stout. Then in the summer when Þórsteinn was twenty-five years old, Þóra gave birth to another son, who was sprinkled with water and given the name Grímr. Þórsteinn dedicated this boy to Þórr, calling him Þórgrímr, and said he should become a temple priest. I can give more examples, but these passages should suffice. Sample ritual: 1. Saxon Yiherodo, Old English Weofodthegn, Norse Gythia or Gothi calls forward the family, woth the mother holding the baby. 2. The folk are called to stand around the happy couple. 3. Short Bede (prayer) by Saxon Yiherodo, Old English Weofodthegn, Norse Gythia or Gothi. 4. Mother is directed to hand the baby to the father. 5. The Yiherodo, Weofodthegn, or Gothi/Gythia will then take the water bowl and say the following (I use Old English in this example): Ic weorpe wæter on bearne, ond giefe hine naman XXXXX XXXXX (æftre his Ealdfæder XXXXXX). “I sprinkle water on the child, and give him the name XXXXX XXXXX, after his Elder-father/Grandfather/Great-grandfather, uncle, etc. XXXXX XXXXX. Water is sprinkled on the child's forehead. Then the Yiherodo, Weofodthegn, or Gothi/Gythia will state: “I now present you XXXXX XXXXX!" PS- The father (or mother) could act as priest here if this is a family ceremony only. Also, Mother and Father can switch places in the ceremony. This is a MODERN ceremony, with no historical basis outside of the water passages cited above. Please note that Germanic babies were named after a deceased family member, possibly to carry on that family member's uurd in his/her life, or possibly to honor that ancestor. It was socially taboo in Heathen times not to name a child after a deceased member of the family. Here is an example from Old Saxon poetry: (translation mine from my published book); Fitt 3 of the Old Saxon Heliand Poem, circa 830 AD:
There was such a thing as "birth runes." It also seems that during the pregnancy or birth, requests (or Bedes) were made to the Gods/wights as these two passages (and others indicate) Sigrdrífumál verse 9: "Birth-runes you should know, if you birthing will help And lose the child from women On her palms shall rist them and round her joints And bid the Disir assist..” Óddrúnargrátr verses 7-8: "Then to speak the woman so weak began, Nor said she much until this she spoke: "So help you the holy wights, Frigga and Freyja and favoring gods, As you have saved me from sorrow now."" Please join us in the Facebook group "Saxon Heathenry"