Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Toufrere... the Magician

Toufer is the reconstructed Old Frankish word for magic. It finds its cognates in other Germanic languages such as zoubar in OHG, taufr in ON, tâverie in OFris., tovenarij Mdu. and zauber in Mgr. which may all stem from the Pgr. *tawjan ‘to make’, ‘prepare’ or ‘have power’.

What is important to grasp when speaking of magic in a germanic sense is that in no way is it something which can be considered ‘ethereal’ or ‘otherworldly’. It is a craft that is wielded by some who have been deemed by their community or have effectively proven themselves to have such a craft. It is a rather practical skill that was used in everyday life to make man’s life easier. This is no different than someone skilled at using a plow or brewing beer. In other words it can be deemed a technology and as such it abides by Clarke’s third law that ‘all technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic’. An example I use for our modern world is that of the computer. I can use my computer, but I know nothing of the technology to repair it. When I need any repairs I trust someone who has demonstrable skills in doing so. In older times, this was the toufrere.

So what proof do we have of the Franks having used this toufer? Because they made laws against it. Kern had identified in his translation of the Lex Salica (LS) the word toufer in the Pactus XIX where a law is present concerning the poisoning and subsequent death of someone by way of herbal potion or magic spell. This was known as touerbus where Kern isolated the two roots words being, toufer ‘magic’ and (gi)busgifo or gift’, literally ‘something magical given to another’ which in this case was a ‘potion’. The fine for killing a man by touferōn was 200 solidi while the fine for causing a man to bleed and never heal by way more physical means was liable to pay 71 solidi total (fine plus medical expenses). This goes to show how frightened the Christians were of such ungodly magics.

Part of the same law was the word for this administered ‘poison’ which was called urtifugiam. It contained the two elements of urtwurt or wort’ meaning a plant and the second fu(l)gium which he took for folgān meaning to ‘emulate’ or ‘inflict upon’ depending upon context. In short it meant ‘herbs to make one do (as)…’ and when coupled with the toufer we get ‘administering an herbal potion to cause one to…’ in this case it was to die. Form my own readings it seems to me that the problem with the toufrere (magician) wasn’t that he was giving potions but that if he cause one to die he had to face the consequences just as anyone else who kills another by more determinable means. The high penalty does seem to infer that this was a greatly feared method of dying.

If we look at modern Dutch, Flemish or even French-Canadian (many of whom emigrated from the North of France which was highly influenced by Germanic culture) views on magic we can see a discerning thread which comes down to us from this earlier heathen time when Aldsido was still observed. Many charms are employed in healings that have a striking similarity to the Mersberg Charm, they ascribe magical properties to objects and are inclined to use folk medicine (herbs) as well as reading cards. Now some of these practices such as reading cards were greatly influenced by 16th century occultist practices but the attitude of the people, namely the rural folk, towards this toufer is one of acceptance in daily life. Even my own family who for some hold no religious beliefs, folk remedies such as herbs, charms and card reading are tangible and practical tools for living. They don’t bat an eye when one calls such things ridicules or unscientific because they most likely will respond ‘well it always work for my mother and my old man, so it works for me’. It is this acceptance of the folk custom, the Aldsido, which proves the link to a Frankish time when laws against ‘touerbus urtifugium’ were enacted.

Regular playing cards were (are) read

Drawing lots was a common practice for the rural Belgian folks of the last two centuries who considered certain days of the year to be fit for auguries (ORD, Cormans). These days they called in their dialect lotdagen ‘lot days’ where they would, presumably the head of the household, draw lots to determine the prospects of the harvest, fates of beasts and even fates of men. This is no way should be taken as meaning that they ‘cast runes’ as, such as with Tacitus, these lots were notæ ‘markings’ and in now way definitively point to runes.  This practice could also be reflected in the New Year’s Eve ritual of tirer les planètes ‘pulling (reading) your stars (planets)’ which was performed by young talented women who went door to door and offered their services. Old women would also read cards on this day which was considered one of the most ‘magical’ of the year. I would not be surprised if in the old Frankish days the druhtin would pull lots for the good of his folk and then make the appropriate sacrifices and that old kwena would read men’s fates.

There is still more to discover…


No comments:

Post a Comment