top of page

Norse Fylgja & Hamingja vs Old Saxon Siola, Ferah, and Gest

Updated: Jan 16, 2023

Old Saxon scholar Dr. Prisca Augustyn of Berkeley states in her book The Semiotics of Fate, Death, and the Soul in Germanic Culture: The Christianization of Old Saxon p.170: "Ferah is a part of a person you cannot see, it makes the person alive, and dies when the person dies." "Gest is a part of a person one cannot see. It doesn't die when the Ferah and person dies. It can leave the body." "Siola is a part of a person one cannot see. It never dies."

The word "Ferah" I translate as "Life Spirit" in Old Saxon. When it dies, the person dies. Uurd and the Shapers cut the chord of the Ferah which ends one's life. (Norse equivalent would by Urthr and the Norns). The Old Saxon Ferah is simply the life force that gives life to the body. The Old English equivalent is "feorh." In this passage below, the Old Saxon word that the Life-Spirit is being protected against is "Metodgiscapou" meaning "the Measuring Shapers." Therefore, the Drohtin here in the Old Saxon Heliand is protecting a person's Ferah against the Measuring Shapers from ending its life.

Here is another passage from the Old Saxon Heliand poem, showing that evil wights can take a person's Ferah. This passage shows the Saxon warrior belief that one should die before their Drohtin or Chieftain in battle. It was a shame to outlive your Drohtin in Saxon Society.

Here is another Heliand passage, showing that when Saxons feared death, they were afraid that their life's spirit or Ferah would die:

Here is another AMAZING passage from the Heliand. I translate the word "ferah" as "spirit" in this passage. You can clearly see that a Ferah dies with the person, but the Siola or soul lives on after the Ferah and body are dead. You can also see Uurd and her Giscapou (Shapers) involved in the hour of death, including wights that take a Siola to an "evil spirit home." Please note, Soul is a Saxon Heathen word. The Christian words are the Hebrew Ru'ach and the Greek Pneumatos, meaning "spirits", or more specifically breath. God breathed life into Adam in the bible. When someone dies, they have a last breath, where their spirit leaves the body. When a Christian sneezes, people said "God bless you" due to the belief a christian just lost some of their pneumatos (spirit.) The word 'pneumonia' comes from the Greek word for spirit/breath. The word Soul is a word borrowed in the Bible from Germanic Heathenry. A Soul is not in Hebrew thought, this word is in Old English and Old Saxon, and comes into modern English from Old English. Of interest in this passage, we have the word "reigning-Shapers" showing the Saxon belief (and Germanic/Norse belief) that all humans and Gods are subject to the Shapers (Norns) weavings. The Gods can't prevent their own fates, nor could they prevent Baldr's fate, his death. The Shapers do reign in Saxon thought.

The Old Saxon Siola is connected to the Old Saxon word for "sea." Boat burials for the trip to Hel or Hellea were common thought in Norse/Germanic Lore. The word for soul "Siola" is often spelled "seola" similar to the Old Saxon word for sea. There is also the Old Saxon word "seolithanderan" meaning "sea-farers." The Old English equivalent of "Siola" is "Sawol."

The Old Saxon word for geist, a ghost, is a spirit that can detach from the body. The Old Saxon word is "gest." There is really only one Old Saxon Heliand Poem passage I could discuss here, about Christ walking on water and the disciples getting scared believing they are seeing a ghost. All other occurrences of the word "gest" in Old Saxon (modern German form is 'geist') is about the Holy Gest, which appears to be God's Ghost. The Old English equivalent would be "gast." Lets discuss the Norse Heathen concepts instead.

Norse Concepts: The fylgja is generally perceived in an animal form by those with second sight, although human fylgjur attested, though less, in Norse lore. The fylgja is an attendant spirit whose well-being is intimately tied to that of its owner – for example, if the fylgja dies, its owner dies, too. Luck, the hamingja, is a personal entity in its own right, is part of the self, and can be split off from the other components of the self in certain circumstances. When a person dies, his or her hamingja is often reincarnated in one of his or her descendants, particularly if the child is given the name of the original owner of the hamingja. (Ellis, Hilda Roderick. 1968. The Road to Hel: A Study of the Conception of the Dead in Old Norse Literature. p. 138-147.) Sometimes, as in Viga-Glum’s Saga, the hamingja bequeaths itself of its own accord to a relative of its original owner, without any special naming having to take place Viga-Glums Saga chapter 9: "The dream is no doubt a very remarkable one, and I interpret it thus--My grandfather, Vigfuss, must be dead, and that woman who was taller than the mountains, must be his fylgja, for he too was far beyond other men in honor and in most things, and his hamingja must have been looking for a place of rest where I am."

Conclusion: Old Saxon concepts appear to be unique to Old Saxon and similar to Old English concepts. Norse concepts either continued to evolve or were different, leaving us different words, as the Norse were largely converted a century and a half after the Old Saxons were converted and two and a half centuries after the Old English were converted. There is no guardian spirit following the Saxon peoples recorded in any of the Old Saxon poems. Both Old Saxon and Old Norse have words like 'hugi' for a person's thoughts, and 'likhamo' for a person's body. There the similarities end. Old Saxon also has a concept of the "mind", i.e. "mod". "Mod" means "mood" or "mind" and our modern word "mood" comes from this word. Crazy people like Charlemagne and King Herod are called "modag" (pronounced moo-day) in Old Saxon, i.e. our modern English word "moody." These words are in Old English as well. Please join us on Aldsidu:Saxon Heathenry, a group on Facebook, where we discuss historical Norse, Saxon, Anglish, and other forms of Germanic Heathenry. Also, see our Facebook page "Germanic Heathenry."

1,226 views0 comments


bottom of page