Wisowast, The Feud-Keeper and God-King of the Franks

{In this essay I make some assumptions about the readers’ understanding about some common word usages however it is recommended that if my brief explanation of the word Wald is insufficient, please check the article linked in the references on Fredus, Frithu and Wald}

In the legendary material at the beginning of the Pactus Legis Salicae (Henceforth LS), I posit that the second section, being the original and heathen call to order of the Malloberg “The sitting mound”, presents evidence of the rumored first godly Kuning (TFA King) of the Franks to lay down the Salic law as evidenced by numerous titles present in the LS, analysis of the naming structure of the four chiefs who are comparable to the office of Sagibaron and that he can be conflated with the deities Mercury and Woden.

Wisowast (The spelling used in the earlier manuscripts, but also edited to Wisogast in association with the other figures in the introduction), possibly reconstructed to *WisAwAest (The components comprised of reconstructed OLF may be *Wisso meaning Surely, Ewa* is thought to have devolved into ow and means Law or eternity, and the final part can be seen as a shortened OLF version of the old English Aerest meaning earliest which is attested as being shortened to Aest) meaning “The first of the Wise law”, initially stands out among the other three lords due to an inability to readily associate him with one of the areas that the lords came from. Saligast, speculated to mean “Spirit of the Hall” is clearly associated with Home of the Hall of Salihêm as the spirit of that place, while Widogast, the “woodland spirit”, is of Widohêm , “The woodland home”. Arogast is the “spirit of the harvest” and can be associated with Bodahêm the “Farmland home”. As the first of the law, it’s possible that Wisowast was the leader of the group and thus oversaw the speaking of the law that was decided upon by the group and possibly reserved last judgment, as we will discuss later. Saligast, possibly the tribal god of the Salians seems in a position to take precedence over the others and being placed second in the list would indicate that, however I believe that due to the similarity of naming, this deity is comparable in rank to the other two and listed first only due to affection by the Franks. Rather than as physical places, the three Hêms are interpreted to be of a cosmological nature and as such punctuate the divine creation of the law. The difficulty in pinpointing historical personages and places for the list is complicated and not undeserving of discussion but is beyond the scope of this paper and as such I will be operating under the presumption that the second half of the intro is purely legendary, or mythical in content.

Wisowast, being the first of the law, can be considered a spirit of kingship as well as of the Feud and wielded power (TFA Wald). In Title-CXIII of the LS, a perpetrator who is unable to pay for his compensation is required to bring himself to three courts where the Rachimburgi will hear that his relative will redeem him of their own property or not. If unable to be redeemed, the perpetrator is brought before the fourth court where “We” order the perpetrator to be given over to his accuser to be done with what he wishes, thus allowing the very feud structure that the law sought to prevent. The previous titles in the LS, being the capitularies of King Chilperic, utilize the first person language to refer to the King and his subordinate court. Therefore the fourth, and final, court of the Salians was that of the Kuning, the one who can allow the feud structure to be reinstated. Additionally, in Title-XLVI the number three features predominantly where three men state a case three times in court. Whether this refers to three separate courts or one sitting is unknown. Either way, following a time period after the statement of transfer of property, the original owner and the person receiving the property arrive before the Kuning and state the case one last time and complete the transfer. Stipulations follow regarding if there is a contest but essentially more groups of three witnesses are required. The requirement of groups of three witnesses in many titles of the LS further reinforce this. With the emphasis in early Germanic culture on the oath system, both among frithful families and fictive kinship, a grouping of witnesses represent a truth forged in blood (I am reminded of the Germanic words Troth, and Thew which in addition to truth, implies law) on the part of the defendant and as such a challenge to that truth is an aggressive denial of the lives of those attached to it. This is seen in the instances where refusal to bear witness to someone automatically denotes guilt on the part of the defendant as refusal to bear witness means to refuse to be blood-bound to the guilty party and the associated feud system that can result. In a Frankish context, the three witnesses are oathbound to the fate of the defendant and they plead the rightness of his cause before the “impartial” 4th party of the Rachimburgi at the Malloberg just as the three lords of the Hêms were oathbound to present the law in its rightness to the judgement of the First of Law. More instances of the importance of three courts appear throughout the LS and I will not discuss them here but is most, a final 4th court, before the Kuning, renders final judgment. In this aspect of Kuning, Feud-keeper and bearer of Wald, Wisowast is the clear leader of the three courts of Bodahêm, Salihêm and Widohêm with his ability to reinstate the feud system upon his decision, and thus his Wald, and to speak finally on the law. The cosmological importance of the three Hêms overseen by Wisowast mirrored the importance of tripartite presentations of legal cases with the fourth court of the Kuning having final judgement and was so instilled in Frankish consciousness that it survived the conversion to Christianity.

The office of Sagibaron is quite comparable to the three lords of the creation of the Malloberg. Sagibaron being “Law speaker” is an office of importance to the Franks as evinced by the wergild being equal to that of the Gravio. Whether they were equal or lesser in status is unknown, but the Title-LIV of the LS implies a couple of facts of the office. Firstly, the office of Sagibaron is appointed vice inherited and as such would be a meritorious position, presumably based on legal knowledge. Secondly, the office was at least equal to that of the Gravio’s in matters of legal dispute in that implicitly the only office the case could be disputed at was the Kuning. Lastly, no more than three could preside over a given court. The facts draw some parallels with the three lords of the introduction. Obviously the office of Sagibaron and the three lords were chosen “From among many men”. Further evidence of the connection of the two is the decree that no more than three may oversee a Mallum (Sitting/Court) and that their word is law before the Gravio, but theoretically it may be brought before the Kuning, fitting nicely with Wisowast’s position as a Kuning. Based on the value placed on these legal experts, I am of the opinion that the institution of the Sagibaron is one of divine providence and special social importance, and second only to the Kuning with respect to the law.

Considering the aforementioned, it’s possible to conflate the deity known as Wisowast with other more commonly known deities to better construct a workable mythos behind it. Firstly, Wisowast is quite possibly related to the Germanic deity known as Woden/Odin due to his connections with Sacral Kingship, and the Feud system. Woden, being typically the divine ancestor of most German kingships, can easily be equated as the god Wisowast. Wisowast serves the legal function of Kuning in the sacred origin of the law and perhaps prior to the conversion of the Franks, and certainly before the documentation provided by Roman Latin Christians, he was considered the divine ancestor, and the so called first Kuning of the Franks who composed the law. Additionally, etymological discussion of the one eyed god, also the first god, has determined that Woden’s capacity as a deity was initially of sacred violence, and therefore lawful, wielded violence, thus power, as that which is holy is right. This lawful violence manifests itself in the feud system which demands revenge, blood and violence for the same and for an early tribal society, this would be nearly inseparable with war. Lawful violence and the threat of it is what maintained the early tribal societies cohesion and prevented the rampant disestablishment of community into anarchy. Therefore the economic sphere was dependent on the existence of Woden and his threat of wielded violence. Tyr, a god typically associated with violence, war and law also, is considered to be a later addition of the Norse and Saxon peoples that was representative of a more advanced civilization that depended less on the threat of violence and more on the threat of legal repercussions, ironically what was established by the construction of the LS and after the creation of it Wisowast may have taken on similar features of Tyr. However as the ultimate and primordial truth, Woden would have represented an older way that was always standing by in the periphery, to be reinstated on the order of his descendants, the Kuning’s. The right of the Kuning’s to allow the blood-feud is equitable to the right of Wisowast to make final determinations of the law and by extension allow or disallow the blood feud. Another deity, explored in more depth by others, Mercurius Frihals is a Germano-Latin deity, on the roman limes, of the economic sphere, specifically the social status of individuals; A deity invoked by Proto-Frankish tribes in the freeing of slaves and half-free individuals. Via the connection of Wisowast to Kingship, it’s possible to argue that due to the Kuning’s right, and wielded power, to release a slave from bondship upon presentation of a denarius per the LS, Mercurius Frihals is another aspect of the Woden-Wisowast-Frihals deity that is the ancestor of the Frankish Kingship. Therefore I posit that Woden, Wisowast, and Frihals could all be bynames of the same primordial god of Sacral violence, Law, and Kingship. Furthermore, with wielded power (TFA Wald) as the basis for Merovingian society and the forging of the Frankish kingdoms, the parallel between the Kuning’s absolute authority in law and evidence of Wald from various Frankish histories (Such as Gregory of Tours or the Liber historie Francorum) lend reinforcement to Wisowast’s status as the progenitor, thus the first, of Wald and the origin its purview of the Kuning. ((Further etymological and thematic connections between Wisowast and Ing-Freyr exist as well, and will be a subject of a future paper as I have not had the time yet to research into it, and honestly I think they will be greater then any connection with Woden, but in the meantime, this is the extent of my current understanding))

Wisowast, the very first of the Law, sat at the head of three legendary spirits of the three hêms and laid down the Salic law, for the benefit and well-being of the ancient Franks. In an attempt to reconstruct and practice Thia Frankisk Aldsido to the best of our abilities, I propose that Wisowast is a deity worthy of invocation and well deserving of worship, especially for those legally inclined as well as all others living under Salic law. His position as the progenitor of law, kingship and possibly of the gods (TFA Goda) marks him as one from the “Beginning” and elevates him to a higher order among them. As a modern person, seeking to live as a Frank, it seems in my best interests to be thankful and give worship to he who spoke the Salic law at the Malloberg.

 

REFERENCES USED:

Drew, K. F. (1991). The laws of the Salian Franks. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Fredus, Frithu and Wald. (2018, January 24). Retrieved April 08, 2018, from https://frankisk-allodium.com/fredus/

Freedom, warriors’ bond, legal book.The Lex Salica between Barbarian custom and Roman law. (n.d.). Retrieved April 08, 2018, from http://www.cliothemis.com/Freedom-warriors-bond-legal-book

Frîhals. (2017, December 29). Retrieved April 08, 2018, from https://frankisk-allodium.com/frihals/

Köbler, G. (n.d.). Altniederfränkisches Wörterbuch. Retrieved April 08, 2018, from http://www.koeblergerhard.de/anfrkwbhinw.html

Lacharity, E. (n.d.). Anfarniman I-V.

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