13 June 2016

HARK Earth! Anglo-Saxon "Erce eorþan módor" explained

Hans Dahl "Returning
from the Fields" (cropped)
Summary
1. The Anglo-Saxon charm fragment "erce eorþan módor";
2. the German and Dutch earth-spirit name "Harke" (and varieties); and 
3. the North-German and North-Dutch word for 'rake': 'hark';
can all be explained by the phrase "HARK JRTHA" in the Oera Linda book.
________________________________ 

In this post I will solve a mystery (or two) with the help of the Oera Linda-Book.

Between working on the new translation, I was reading in "Noordeuropese mysteriën en hun sporen tot heden" (North-European mysteries and their traces in the present) by F.E. Farwerck (1970), when something caught my attention.

On page 98, about female leaders of the 'Wild Hunt', It mentioned as leader in parts of Germany "Harke", who would also have been a fertility goddess. The author relates her to an Anglo-Saxon Charm that was referred to by Grimm.

The Charm fragment of interest is "Erce, Erce, Erce, eorþan módor" (the last two words meaning "earth mother"). Farwerck concludes: "... waarbij Erce kennelijk de Angelsaksische vorm voor Harke was." ('Erce' apparently being the Anglo-Saxon version of Harke.)

This immediately reminded me of a phrase in the OLB: "HARK JRTHA" (6th century BCE; see below), and I wondered if "erce" could rather have meant "hark", which is archaic for "hear".

So I searched the original Charm text and what was written about it. Here is what I found, some additional information and my conclusions.

From "The Anglo-Saxon Charms" by Grendon Felix, 1909 (Offprint from "Journal of American Folklore", 22):

"... the gibberish formula, "Erce, erce, erce," with the mention of the goddess Earth ..."


"Probably an incantatory phrase ... the meaning of which, if it ever had any, has been lost."

Felix' translation (p.175):
Erce, erce, erce, mother of Earth,
May the Almighty, the eternal Lord, grant you
Fields flourishing and bountiful.
Fruitful and sustaining,
Abundance of bright millet-harvests,
And of broad barley-harvests.
And of white wheat-harvests.
And all the harvests of the earth!
Grant him, O Eternal Lord,
And his saints in Heaven that be,
That his farm be kept from every foe,
And guarded from each harmful thing
Of witchcrafts sown throughout the land.
So it is not at all clear to Felix what "erce" could have meant and he refers to Grimm considering it to be the name of a feminine divinity.

Here is what Jacob Grimm wrote in 1843 (second edition 1844) "Deutsche Mythologie - Band 1":

Grimm merely considers a link between "erce" and Herke/ Harke.
Translated: In an Anglo-Saxon charm for the recovery of the fertility of fields that had been harmed by witchcraft, two remarkable salutations are used; one of them being: "Erce, Erce, Erce, eorþan módor", and it seems that not earth itself, but its mother is meant, but the expression is a riddle. Would Erce be an obscured name (...)? And can it be related to our lady Erche, Herkja, Herche, Helche from the famous heroic saga? (...)


In Germany and the Netherlands, there indeed seem to have been traditions of a feminine 'divinity' Herke or Harke:

From index in new edition of A. Kuhn (1848) "Norddeutsche Sagen, Märchen und Gebräuche"

From: "Arbeid" third year #1, 1-1-1943 (Weekblad v.h. NL Arbeidersfront)
idem ~ "... we here and there find on the peasant land in Drenthe (North-East NL) Lady Harke or Holle depicted with the spinning wheel, in the midwinter bread of Christmas and New Year."

This name of an earth-spirit may very well have its origin in the way she used to be addressed.

In our time, more than a century after Grimm and Felix, people seem to have become certain that "Erce" was the name of a goddess (similar to how 'Tanfana' is assumed to have been a goddess):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Anglo-Saxon_deities


"Frau Harke, Arke oder Herke erinnert vom Namen her an die altenglische Erdgöttin Erce." (source) (Lady Harke, Arke or Herke reminds by name of the old-English earth-goddess Erce.)

"Erce ist Frau Harke, die Erde, während Eostar als Frühlingsgöttin zwar die Frühlingserde bedeutet, aber wohl eher die Morgenröte bzw. Nacht und Mond."(source) (Erce is Lady Harke, the Earth ...)


... But "hear, Earth" is known from the Old Testament (Jeremiah 6:19):

"Aerde hoer" ~ Delft Bible 1477
"Ghy aerde hoort toe" ~ Dutch Lutheran translation 1648

King James Bible (1611):
Heare, O earth, behold, I will bring euill vpon this people, euen the fruit of their thoughts, because they haue not hearkened vnto my wordes, nor to my law, but reiected it.
Luther (1545):
du Erde höre zu / Sihe / Jch wil ein vnglück vber dis Volck bringen / nemlich / jren verdienten lohn / Das sie auff meine wort nicht achten / vnd mein Gesetz verwerffen.
This bible verse will have inspired later songs, poetry and prose:

"Hoor aarde! hoor! hoe wy Gods eer en lof verkonden" (Cornelis Wyt, 1781) (Hear earth! hear! etc.)

"Hoor aarde! hoor Hem klagen"

"Hoor! aarde, luister! bij uw snoode pligtverbreking" (G.A.C.W. Marquis de Thouars, 1830) (Hear! earth, listen! etc.)

Hans Dahl, "By the FJord" (cropped)

HARK in the Oera Linda Book (with translations from Sandbach 1876)

[064/18] HARK THEN FRJUNDA TILTHJU I WÉTA MÜGE HWÉRNÉI J BITA.MÉI.
Listen, then, my friends, that you may know on which side to show your teeth.

[079/04] SÁ WARTH THER HROPEN HARK. HARK THÉR SKIL EN SÉ.MOMMA KÉTHA
a cry was raised, Hear, hear! there is a sea-monster going to speak.


[083/21] JES IK SJA.T. HARK JRTHA ÀND WÉS BLÍDE MITH MY.
Yes, I see it. Hear, Irtha [Earth], and rejoice with me.

[096/20] HARK ÁTHE. ADELA IS THET ENGE BERN VSAR GRÉVET.MAN.
Listen, my friend. Adele was the only daughter of our Grevetman.

[190/02] HARK HÍR. SE KVMTH FON VSA LÉTHA.
Listen to me. It comes from our enemies;


Official etymology (source: etymonline.com)

hark (v.) c. 1200, from Old English *heorcian "to hearken, listen," perhaps an intensive form from base of hieran (see hear). Compare talk/tale. Cognate with Old Frisian harkia "listen," Middle Dutch horken, Old High German horechon, German horchen. Used as a hunting cry to call attention. To hark back (1817) originally referred to hounds returning along a track when the scent has been lost, till they find it again (1814). Related: Harked; harking.

hearken (v.) late Old English heorcnian "to give ear, listen" (intransitive); hear with attention" (transitive) [...]


It is plausible that "erce, erce, erce, eorþan módor" means "hark, hark, hark, earth-mother" and that "Hark Earth" was an ancient incantation, that later had a reflection in the bible (Jeremiah 6:19).


Hark(e) = rake (agricultural tool)

by Cornelis Springer, 19th century
In Dutch and (North) German, "hark" and "Harke" respectively, is the word for "rake". In the oldest known sources, the word is still rare, later it appears to have become more common.

Oldest known Dutch source: "Een hiet Fabius ende was Romulus raetsman, de sloech Romus doot myt ener harken" (Hs. K. 17, Noord-Oost Nederland, 1455-1475.)

The etymology is not clear (source):
Hark is oorspr. een Noord-Nederlands woord; hierop wees Kiliaan al, die harcke, hercke “Saksisch, Fries, Rijnlands en Hollands” noemde. Ook in Duitsland is Harke vanuit het Middelnederduits (harke, herke) in de standaardtaal gedrongen. Zuidelijker was het woord onbekend en gebruikte men woorden als rake (zie hierna) en gritsel. Herkomst onzeker, wrsch. oorspr. een klanknabootsende vorming, naar het schrapende geluid dat men met een hark maakt. [...]
(... Origin uncertain, probably initially an onomatopoeic formation, after the scraping sound made with a rake.)

This does not make much sense to me.

I would suppose that it is at least possible (if not plausible), that the ancient incantation (Hark Earth!) that accompanied 'scratching' Earth's skin' has given the rake its name in Northern Germany and the Northern Netherlands. I can imagine that 'scratching' earth with a rake before sowing may have been a ritualistic act that was accompanied by a charm or song.


[137/13-17] (with my translation)
JRTHA SÉIDER SKÀNKATH HJARA JÉVA NÉI MÉTA MÀN HJARA HÛD KLÁWAT.
THÀT MÀN THÉR IN ÁCH TO DELVANE TO ERANE ÀND TO SÉJANE SÁ MÀN THÉR OF SKÉRA WIL.
"Earth", he said, "grants her gifts in proportion as one scratches her skin.
He must dig, plow and sow who wants to shear her."
 


Hans Dahl "An Alpine Landscape with a Shepherdess and Goats" (cropped)

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