Sunday, March 02, 2008


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(This is part of a series of investigations reexamining aspects of the relationship between IE and Semitic languages, by considering in detail derivations of areas where inferences were made about words which were common to the homeland of the Indo-European-speaking people before the period of migrations took them to the different localities)
The focus of this investigation is the term "herg / hearg".
Kathleen Herbert (1), in her book "Lost Gods of the English", while discussing the origins of the Anglo–Saxons, alludes to the term "herg and/or hearg". A term mentioned in Beowulf referring to a grove where a god was worshipped. Hence, to the Christian, a wicked place(?): dat. pl. hergum geheaðerod, confined in wicked places (parallel with hell-bendum fæst), Beowulf 3073.
"The Heathen worship of gods and goddesses in pre-Christian England probably took place in sacred groves, and maybe also walled and roofed temples. The Old English words for such places of worship are ealh/alh, heargh/hearh (hearg, herg) and lea/ley. It seems likely that since earliest times open air groves in forests and hill sanctuaries were the main places of worship amongst the Anglo-Saxons, and this is backed up by the writings of Tacitus, who tell us:
"They judge that gods cannot be contained inside walls...they consecrate groves and woodland glades and call by the names of gods that mystery which they only perceive by the same sense of reverence."
(Translation from "Looking for the Lost Gods of England" by Kathleen Herbert)
Herg, hearg: A grove, a heathen place of worship. Icel. hörgr, OHG. harug, haruc, haruch. (2)
Classical Arabic Hrg (Ha' + ra' +djym): a wood or collection of trees so called because of their closeness, or dense tangled trees which the pasturing animals cannot reach. From a trilateral root "Hrg" with a base meaning: became collected together, became close, strait or narrow.
March 1st, 2008
(1) Kathleen Herbert is an expert in the field of pre-Norman-conquest England. Her book is not a "New Age" pagan text, but a serious, academic, and properly sourced study of the pre-Christian beliefs which the very early English peoples brought with them to Britain from their continental Germanic homelands.
(2) Exxon; Th. Codex Exoniensis, Collection of Anglo-Saxon poetry, from a MS. of the Dean and Chapter of Exeter by Benjamin Thrope (1782-1870), London 1842..Exxon 54b: Th.192, 25, Az 130 translated by Grein, in Chr . Grein's Bibliothek der A.S . Poesie (vol. iii. See also:PART part 1, ed . R . Wiilke)

I think here that you have come across the origin of our modern term "church", German Kirche, which has the clearly incorrect current etymology as based in the alleged PIE root keu- "hole, hollow, swell", another etymology by Indo-European scholars that defies intelligence.

It is clear that Old English Herg, Hearg and Arabic Hrg are not wicked places but were rather the ancient temples of worship of the ancients before one built halls of worship of wood or stone, so that *Kerg- (Kirche, Church) is surely a variant of Herg, Hearg and Hrg, i.e. churches as originating in ancient groves of trees. The term is retained in Latvain as kark-ls, kark-lajs "osier, osiery", i.e. a group of willow trees.

The holy willow tree is significant for ancient religious belief. I quote from

"Phoenix. The phoenix or benu bird was initially probably a kind of a wagtail rather than a heron. It was the holy bird of Heliopolis where it lived on a ben-ben stone or a holy willow tree. The phoenix was considered to be the ba bird of Re.
Grant thou to me glory in heaven, and power upon earth, and truth-speaking in the Divine Underworld, and [the power to] sail down the river to Tetu in the form of a living Ba-soul, and [the power to] sail up the river to Abydos in the form of a Benu bird, and [the power to] pass in through and to pass out from, without obstruction, the doors of the lords of the Tuat.

Book of the Dead
Translated by E.A.W.Budge

The Phoenix was the first creature to appear in the world newly emerged from the chaos:
I am the Phoenix, the great heron, the bird of emergence. First creature to appear on the primordial hill that rose from (the waters of) Nun's chaos. I look back over all that was, I recall each detail.
Jacob Rabinovitz: Isle of Fire, Coffin Text 335a, p.96"
The willow tree will take its name from the Latvian root "ker- "to gather together, catch".

The willow will have been the ancient proverbial "shade tree" which was seen as beneficial, even in far-away Japanese legend :

"[The willow] marked the playing-ground of all the village children, who swung on its branches, and climbed on its limbs. It afforded shade to the aged in the heat of summer, and in the evenings, when work was done, many were the village lads and lasses who vowed eternal love under its branches. The tree seemed an influence for good to all."

Willow trees were initially thus just an ancient social gathering place, a gathering place which only in the course of time was given a much more artificial, religious significance.

The word church thus originally had nothing to do etymologically with caves or hollows. Rather, God's world was the outdoors of nature, with the willow providing the shelter that man needed in days before buildings and halls.

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