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Pagan Goddesses in the Early Germanic World

Eostre, Hreda, and the Cult of Matrons

Reviewed by Jennifer Lawrence

Heathens and Pagans of a Germanic bent are fairly familiar with goddesses such as Frigga, Freya, Idunna, Sif, Skadhi, Sigyn, Hela, and the three Norns, who weave the Wyrd of their followers. However, the distaff half of the Norse/Germanic pantheons did not end there; there were strictly Germanic goddesses like Nerthus, lesser-known goddesses such as Var, the Goddess of Oaths, and the handmaidens of Frigga. Even less well known than those, however, are Eostre — known (when She is known at all) only for the Spring holy day that bears Her name — and Hreda, whom I had never heard of before; some heathens consider Her a goddess of speed. Shaw’s book dissects what knowledge we have about these two goddesses — and the Cult of Matrons — with tools from many fields — archaeology and history, of course, but mostly linguistics, etymology, and linguistic history.

Shaw, the Lecturer in English Language and Old English at the University of Leicester in England, starts out by explaining these tools he uses in his work before moving on to a concise (if brief) exploration of the Romano-Germanic religious landscape and the early middle ages. He very briefly discusses the cult of the Matrons (known to the Romans as the “Matrones”) as well. Some of the latter ground was covered by Anne Ross in her work Pagan Celtic Britain, where a certain lack of distinction was made between Germanic tribes and Celtic ones (the Celtic tribes having emigrated from lands now considered Germanic.)

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