In this entry I would like to take the time to get into detail concerning some of my theories on the cosmology of the early Franks. Firstly it is important to pin down what the modern definition of ‘cosmology’ is. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, cosmology may be defined as:
‘A theory or doctrine describing the natural order of the universe’
To put this in terms that better reflects the Frankish werldenskouwunga, we could say that their cosmology reflected the accepted traditions regarding the makeup and social order of their tribal lands. Where we can find clues to the order of their world is within the Pactus Legis Salicae of the 6th century which is held to have been the collected laws of the Franks under Hludwīg I.
The preamble to the law code reads as such (Drew):
‘I. With the aid of God, it was decided and agreed among the Franks and their notables in order that peace be established among themselves, that all increase of litigation be curtailed so that just as the Franks stand out from other peoples living around them by the strength of their arms so also will they excel them in the authority of their laws. Thus they [Franks] will provide an end to criminal actions according to the nature of the cause.
II. Therefore from among the men four were chosen who were named as follows: Wisogast, Arogast (Bodogast), Salegast and Widogast from places beyond the
Rhine named Bodeheim, Saleheim, and Widoheim. These men meeting together in three different courts and discussing the cause of all disputes, gave judgement in each case in the following fashion.
Before I go on and dissect this preamble, I would like to note that based upon my observations, the cosmology as provided by Snorri Sturlason does not reflect an accurate view of the world of the Frank nor do I think it does the world of the Norsemen. So as such, the worlds of Helheim, Alfheim, Svartsalfheim, Asgard, Vanaheim, Jotunheim, Midgard, Muspelheim and Niflheim (as well as many more) do not sit well with the werldenskouwunga of the early Frank.
What we have here as laid out by the scribes is a world that has been ordered by four men (beings) of three realms. They are demonstrated as being the wisest of all men and hail from across the
Rhine. The Franks are known to have crossed the Rhine in the 3rd and 4th centuries and may well have gone back and forth as well as absorbing newer tribes who may have crossed latter. So the explicit mention of these men having lived across the Rhine demonstrates to me that the Salic law may have originated at least three hundred years before Hludwīg I. It is mot unusual for peoples to try and ascribe their laws to an earlier time, but unlike some of the tribes that codified their laws after the Franks,
They wanted to explicitly demonstrate that their laws were from a Germanic past.
The names of these men reveal the very social structure of the Frankish confederacy and with the added –gast final, these men are made out to be the ‘spirit’ or ‘embodiment’ of these social strata. Kern in his Lex Salica makes the observation that linguistically these four men mark a specific ‘realm’ of man and his affairs. He gives the translations as such: Wisogast ‘Feeder of cows’ as wiso can be read as meadow; Bodogast ‘Cottager, Peasant’ as bodo can denote a sty; Arogast, an alternative form of Bodogast in some of the manuscripts means ‘Tiller of the land’ as per the definition of aro being to plough; Salegast ‘Noble or hall-dweller’ as sale may be taken for hall and finally we have Widugast ‘woodsman’ for wido means wood.
One interpretation according to Kern is that each of these men represents a social class as the similarity of their names all given together does not point to a historicity of the men. So we may see each of them as the representative or ‘embodiment’ of the Farmer (animal husbandry), the Harvester (as per Arogast), the Noble and the Woodsman. He may not have been too far off as the titles of the Lex Salica seem to fit quite well into each of these categories.
Now what of their homelands? As you can see there is but three homes for four men. This is something that Kern found quite odd, yet in each manuscript only for are shown. My own interpretation of this phenomenon is that Wisogast and Bodogast/Arogast, i.e. the Framer and the Harvester both fit within the same social strata as both must be tenants within the þurp. In turn they pay their rents to the nobles of the hall who fit into the highest order, headed by the king. The woodsman may be the frontiersman as he must live within the wilds of an un-ordered land rife with dangerous animals, men and other wihte.
Given this description I find it quite fitting that the world of the Frank, his cosmology would be composed of three well attested ‘heims’ or ‘realms’, the higher noble order, the þiuw (slave) and litus (half-free) and other non-nobles of the lower order and then the wild frontier. It is important to note that what I am saying here isn’t that the common Frank saw the world as divided into three mythological places, Salihaim (Koebler spelling), Bodohaim and Widuhaim rather that they recognized a three tier social fabric that may have been entrenched in oral tradition which featured legends treating the subject.
Concerning the so called Salihaim, we can see that this ‘place’ constituted not only the nobility itself but possibly even the hall where society’s wheels do turn. It is also not too much of a stretch to see the famous Salian contained within the title of this place and may even be their namesake. It is in Salihaim that men are made heroes, are gifted arms and elevated to a higher station maybe even rising from the trappings of Bodohaim. This may well have been the ‘place’ that the cult of Christ first passed through the nobility down to the lower class, for it may have been in Salihaim that the old heiðān priests did once gift the gods.
In Bodohaim we find the farmer, the peasant, the everyday man. He cultivates the lands of his þurp (farm) and paid his taxes. He depended upon that which was provided to him by the druht such as protection from outsiders. There is also that curious place known as the alah. Kern and Grimm have each defined it as either a farm or a temple. But is it not possible that the alah was both a farm and a temple or a parcel of land set apart from the rest of the þurp as a place of sacrifice? We know from the Lex Salica that Franks raised pigs for dedication or offering. Therefore it could be that Bodohaim was the place where the sacrifices were raised and at the alah, the realms of Salihaim and Bodohaim came together, i.e. farm and temple. This could be the place where providence bestowed from the rachine flowed through the king/druht and upon his subjects of the lower class. It is also in this place, peasant-home, that particular wihte caused strife for the farmer such as the nuton.
In Widohaim, the rule of law would have been looser as any man who leaves the confines of the community faces trouble from thieves and murderers in the thick forests. This does not mean though that all woods were outside the community, but even within it the threats were greater. Within the wood-home, a man could hunt to provide for his kin though this was usually relegated to the nobles and as such when the hunting party roamed Widohaim, a little piece of Salihaim moved about as the company of the king or druht. It is also in these forests that malicious wihte are found. In later ages these could be elves, fairies, dracs, werewolves, white women, witches, etc. For it is in the forests that the order of outsiders can flourish at the expense of the order of man.
This is but one interpretation of the three homes of the four traditional arrangers of the Lex Salica. Others may see things differently. It may even be that the preamble was nothing more than a halfassed attempt to justify the Salian rule of law by creating these embodiments of the classes. It could also be that it was pure invention and nothing more or nothing less. Whatever the true nature of these places and men something tells me that there are indeed some kernels of truth found within their legend and that if we wish to better understand the werldenskouwunga and Aldsido of the Franks, we best be taking a closer look and probing deeper into the subject.