The One-eyed God and the (Indo)-Germanic Männerbünde by Kris Kershaw
I have read The One-eyed God and the (Indo)-Germanic Männerbünde by Kris Kershaw. Written in 1997 as a dissertation, it is 457 pages long and contains plenty of interesting insights. One could liken it to a gold ore that can be mined for said interesting and valuable insights!
A Call to Action
The dissertation truly deserves to be made into a well-structured book. The content is great. However, it is not particularly smooth to read (plenty of text is in the footnotes, for example). It would also benefit from a clear structuring with regard to chapters and headers. Significant parts of the book are in German (when the author is quoting authors writing in German). On a personal note, it gave me an additional opportunity to train my German (which I am now doing, as I mentioned in a recent video) – but those who do not read German will miss out on some references.
I am mentioning this because the excellent work of the author deserves to be reworked into the book it is destined to be. Thus, my hope is that one of our friends with publishing companies can reach out to Kris Kershaw (or her sons) and investigate the possibility of having the document published anew.
The Koryos and Male Initiation
Related to the topic of the book at hand, I highly recommend this video by Dan Davis: The First Berserkers: The Koryos | Bronze Age Warfare, which is a great introduction to one of the most important aspects of Indo-European culture. Understanding the Koryos, the Männerbund, and male initiation, is the key to understanding the Indo-European expansion – and in understanding the Indo-European expansion, one can understand world history itself. Male initiation for many of the Indo-European peoples consisted of the young men leaving the tribe to enter the liminal state – meaning that the young men were no longer part of home nor part of the adult male community. How long this state was varied between cultures and time-periods, but the main point was that the boy leaves the home and tribe, spends time doing arduous activities (raiding, hunting, fighting) in the wild, before (hopefully) returning triumphantly as a man – whereupon he enters the social structure as an adult man of the tribe.
On a personal note, I have contemplated the issue of male initiation in our current time quite a bit. As I detailed in Podcast Episode 21. The Swedish Army, a mandatory year in the army used to be a sort of male initiation in Swedish society during the last century. I count myself fortunate in having had the opportunity to do the military service. However, as I note in this video, the army does not necessarily turn boys into men, but it can help them build the habits and mindset required to become a man. Either way, the topic of male initiation is an important one that we will return to.
Since I shared the following on Telegram, I thought to share it here as well since it is relevant to the topic at hand:
Dan Davis’ excellent book Gods of Bronze – Godborn is a historically accurate description of the Eurasian steppes of the Bronze Age with mythological elements (the Hercules myth) that follows a group of adolescents who are out on their Koryos (their time in the liminal state).
Odin – The Chariot God
As the title The One-eyed God and the (Indo)-Germanic Männerbünde suggests, the role of Odin (the One-eyed God) is, alongside the Koryos and Männerbund, a central theme of the dissertation. The author notes that Odin as the Rider-God is well-known (he is commonly depicted riding Sleipner). Odin is also, the author points out, a Chariot-God:
‘Odin is indeed the Rider-God /…/ But he is also Reiðartýr, Chariot-god, reminding us that IE warriors and their gods were chariot drivers long before they became riders.’Kris Kershaw – The One-eyed God and the (Indo)-Germanic Männerbünde. Page 51.
In its day, the chariot was the gold standard of warfare – its development and use are vital to understanding the Bronze Age. The fact that Odin was known as a Chariot-God is of interest to those who study comparative mythology. For more about comparative mythology, you can read my review of Taliesin’s Map: The Comparative Guide to Celtic Mythology.
Odin’s son Thor is commonly depicted riding his chariot. Pictured below: Thor’s Battle Against the Jötnar (1872) by Mårten Eskil Winge. Jötnar = Giants (in this context, the enemies of the Aesir Gods).
Wolves, Dogs, Berserkers
The importance of the Wolf and Dog for the warrior is emphasised in the book. The author shares the following insight, which demonstrates the role of the Dog in the mythos of the tribe:
‘Ideally, both dog and warrior show a benign face towards their own people as their staunch defenders, while meeting their people’s enemies with hostility and aggression.’Kris Kershaw – The One-eyed God and the (Indo)-Germanic Männerbünde. Page 295.
The author goes on to note that the warrior is dangerous and can also pose a threat to his own people (as a dog out of control can). She also discusses the problematic nature of the infamous berserkers – using Starkad* as an example. This nature can briefly be summarised as follows: good to use against one’s enemies, not as good to have in a civilised setting.
The importance of the wolf in Indo-European mythology is known to most. Odin had two wolves, Geri and Freki, and, as the legend goes, the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, were raised by a she-wolf. The author elaborates on the topic with more examples.
Survive the Jive (with memetic help from The Chad Pastoralist) made a video on Starkad which you can watch here: Starkad, the Sigma Male Viking Indo-European Lone Wolf.
Man–Boy Relationships in Greece
The author correctly points out the following in regard to the very misunderstood man-boy relationships of Ancient Greece:
‘The relationship between the mature warrior and the growing boy is one of nurturing and sponsorship; it has nothing to do with sex. It is, in fact, part of a rite of passage.’Kris Kershaw – The One-eyed God and the (Indo)-Germanic Männerbünde. Page 83.
‘It must be stressed that the relationship was between a man and a beardless boy and ended when the boy became an adult physically; that the man was the affectionate sponsor of the boy, concerned for his development and well-being; that sponsorship was a societal was a social responsibility; and that intercourse, far from being the purpose of the relationship, was rare and governed by ritual form: the nurturing love of the philetor must not devolve into lust, the boy must not be exploited or womanized.’Kris Kershaw – The One-eyed God and the (Indo)-Germanic Männerbünde. Page 83.
The author goes on to note that in the rare cases of intercourse, it was done between the thighs (standing) and not ‘in the body’ – the boy never ‘played the woman’. The importance of this topic is beyond the scope of this book review – suffice to say that nefarious forces are trying to misconstrue European history.
Heroes Greedy For Gold and Honour
The author notes the following:
‘To us, the Viking and Anglo-Saxon heroes seem greedy, but it must be remembered that “rings” were more than golden objects /…/ They [the heroes] were greedy for honor; as great herds of cattle had brought honor to their forebears, gold arm-rings brought honor and respect to them, and of honor and respect one can never have too much.’Kris Kershaw – The One-eyed God and the (Indo)-Germanic Männerbünde. Page 73.
It is common to encounter descriptions of a good Jarl as being ring-giver. A good Jarl should, of course, be a leader who can bring both wealth and glory to his followers. I elaborate on this in Dauntless.
On a personal note, my business ethic is the following: wealth gained from bringing value to my supporters is good. Thus, whatever product I present must bring value to the customer. This is also a good guideline for any content creator. Ask yourself: does this bring value to my subscribers? If the answer is no, then think of ways to add value. Moreover, as a consumer, ask yourself the following: does this content bring value to me? If you are watching a two-hour drama stream, then the answer will perhaps be no. If you are watching the aforementioned video by Dan Davis (or a video by Survive the Jive), the answer will most likely be yes.
What is stated above is not necessarily related to the topic at hand, but I thought to mention it for good measure. To conclude: wealth gained from supplying value is good. If you are in possession of wealth that has been accrued in a way that does not bring value – make sure to use that wealth to support those who do good work (content creators like the ones mentioned above, for example).
I wanted to write this review mainly as a way to encourage whoever has the possibility to do so to craft this work into the diamond it was meant to be. I would not necessarily recommend reading it as it looks right now, but when or if it comes out reworked into a book, then I will most definitely recommend it. If you are interested in these matters, I strongly suggest that you watch the videos of Dan Davis Author on Odysee or YouTube.