Traces lead to Scandinavia
   The name of the war god
   Vendic and Germanic
   Latobius of Noricum
   In Carantania
   St. Michael
Odin/Vodin was very probably the Carantanian God of War
His figure associated with St. Michael

St. Michael statue in the crypt of Stara gora (Castelmonte, 618 m) above the Friuli plains. There, the present-day St. Mary's pilgrim church was once consecrated to Archangel Michael.

Dr. Jožko Šavli

The pagan God of War has certainly earned his place in the pre-Christian pantheon of ancient Carantania. Once again, as in other similar cases, there are no documents to support this fact. Nowhere either do we find his traces in the Slovenian people's tradition. Is it possible to find his name at all? - Yes it is, provided that one recognizes the Carantanians (Slovenians) as an autochthon people of Venetic origin. In the pre-Roman period they established a proper kingdom in the Eastern Alps which they called Noricum. In 16 BC the kingdom associated with the Roman Empire and formed a province inside the empire. After the decline of the Roman Empire its social structure continued to survive in Carantania (mentioned for the first time in 595 AD), the former ancient Noricum.
Traces lead to Scandinavia

Records, which mention the pantheon of the Vendic peoples, refer above all to the Polabian and Pomeranian people, and begin in a relatively late period with the history of their Christianisation in the 11th/12th century AD. Among the deities in their pantheon one describes Jarovit in the role of a god of war. Anyway, there is no reliable evidence. I think, in order to individuate his original name it is necessary to go back into the early period of the Vends. This is the period of migration from their original homeland in Lusatia (after 1200 BC).

Their migration currents arrived in several parts of Europe, where they, together with the older inhabitants, formed new civilizations. One of their currents also reached Scandinavia during the so-called Nordic Bronze Age (ca. 1700 - 500 BC). This period was characterized by a warm climate (comparable to that of the Mediterranean) which permitted a rich agriculture and consequently a relatively dense population. In this type of environment the Vendic arrivals with their spiritual message and culture wholly prevailed. Scandinavia became a Vendic territory.

But the flourishing Vendic Age of Scandinavia ended with a climate change consisting of deteriorating, wetter and colder climate. The great catastrophe came in the 8th century BC (klimasturz, Velikovsky 1956), which has resulted in a gradual decline of harvest, an increasing death toll of children because of the much colder climate, and finally a decrease of population. In the following Iron Age (after ca. 500 AD) archaeological finds show a continuity of cremating corpses and placing their remains into urns. But during the last centuries BC, influences from Central Europe spread to Scandinavia from the north-western part of Germany. Evidently, several Germanic peoples arrived and settled in Scandinavia, and the Germanic language gradually prevailed.

Until now, because of the German language, scholars take it for granted that in Scandinavia an acculturation of the Germanic and the older indigenous inhabitants occurred. Scandinavia was perhaps seen as the cradle of Germanism. Therefore, the original Vendic inhabitants were not mentioned by name. However, the historical realty shows that a process of amalgamation between the Germans and Vends took place, which allowed a mixed civilization to develop. In Scandinavia, apart of the Germanic language, the Vendic part seems to be prevailing in the social and ethnological tradition. In this connection I want to mention that the Swedish king still today bears not in vain the title "King of the Vends and Goths".
The name of the god of war  

In such a mixed civilization the very rich Scandinavian mythology certainly cannot be of pure Germanic descent, as it is generally believed. It is not by chance that several Slav enthusiasts identify »Slav« (in fact Vendic) gods among the pagan deities. Such is also the case of Odin, the chief god of the Scandinavian and ancient German pantheon. He bears a Vendic name. In this connection it is said:

Old Norse Odinn goes back to an earlier Vodin, consistent with the initial consonant of the West Germanic form of the name. Adam von Bremen etymologizes the god worshipped by the 11th century Scandinavian pagans as "Wodan id est furor" ("Wodan, which means ire"), a possibility still commonly assumed today, connecting the name with Old English wôd, Gothic wôds, Old Norse *odr, Old High German wuot, all meaning "possessed, insane, raging". It has been noted, however, that the Anglo-Saxon Woden is not in exact correspondence with the German Wotan, suggesting that the latter has been transformed by popular etymology to conform with the meaning "the raging one", particularly after Christianisation, when Wotan was seen as a demon, while the Nordic and the Anglo-Saxon forms preserved the original form of the name (cf. www.arthistoryclub.com/art_history/Odin).

I am quoting once more: while the Nordic and the Anglo-Saxon forms preserved the original form of the name (i.e., Odin/Vodin and Wodan). However, these forms can only be referred to the Vendic root *vod, and the corresponding verb "voditi" (to lead). Thus, the name of god Vodin (abbr. Odin) literally means "the leader" (in war). It has to be kept in mind that Odin/Vodin, the ancient Vendic god of war, associated with his Germanic counterpart.
Vendic and Germanic

In the sense of the above presented survey it is evident, that Scandinavia cannot be considered the homeland of the German people (Germanen). The after-effects of the climatic catastrophe enfeebled the Vendic people, but it did not destroy them. They associated with numerous German newcomers, which arrived after the amelioration of climate and life conditions. The German language gradually prevailed and a new "Germanic" people appeared. Until now it has not been investigated which material and spiritual traditions are of Germanic and which ones are of Vendic root.

God Odin was a Vendic god in his origin. Anyway, the mythology developed a life of its own. In the new myths god Odin had the role of the central figure. The additional characteristics are considered to be of Germanic culture. In this connection it is said: Wotan (Wodan, Odin) was originally a storm and death-demon (Sturm- und Totendämon). At first he appeared in the shape of a horse, then as a rider - the unique (Germanic) riding god. Through social regrouping he rose to a high god, and he took the place of Tyr, the already paled god of heaven (Lurker, 1988).

Evidently, such interpretation is given in the sense of the Germanic ideology. In my opinion, the above mentioned "social regrouping" can only be referred to the aforesaid amalgamation of Vends and ancient Germans in Scandinavia. It is not clear if the original "death-demon" was a Germanic mythology or a peculiarity of the (Vendic) Odin/Vodin. It could have been either. The fact is, that in later times this component was one of the most far-reaching in Odin's character.

A Viking stone, around 600 AD, from Gotland Sweden: Odin-Vodin is riding his eight-legged horse

Thus, when the Viking Age began (ca. 800 - 1060 AD), Odin/Vodin in capacity of the god of war and "death-demon" continues to be the chief deity of the pantheon of Vikings. He is depicted as a figure bearing a spear and riding on the eight-legged horse called Sleipnir, which also carries the dead in the beyond (Rosenfeld, at Lurker 1988, 813).

With regards to the ethnic roots of the Vikings, their "Scandinavian origin" has to be considered of Vendic - Germanic ancestry. Today, it is taken for granted that they spoke a pure Germanic language. But there are no records to prove this. In fact, a great number of Vendic words must have been part of their vocabulary. The same applies to other groups of people, like Goths, Vandals,… who arrived in Scandinavia in the time of the so-called Völkerwanderung.
Latobius of Noricum

While the Germanic language and tradition spread in Scandinavia, in the same period a Vendic kingdom called Noricum was formed in the Eastern Alps (Caesar, De bello Gallico I, 5, 4 - ca. 50 BC). In 16 BC the kingdom voluntarily associated with the Roman Empire. The Noricans enjoyed the status of a nation. In this way, they preserved their state and social structure. Their pantheon, even though the divinities bear Romanized names, is relatively well attested in the records. Among the gods we find the god of war called Latobius. His characteristics coincide with Odin/Vodin.   

Austrian and German scholars, who ignorantly identify the Noricans as Celts, consider Latobius a Celtic god. Such a point of view is conditioned by Celtic and Germanic ideology. In this regard, objections have been raised to challenge this explanation. (Glaser 1997, 122). Several Roman sources do not differentiate between Gauls (Celts) and Vends, because the Vendic and (continental) Celtic languages were nearly identical. It is true, however, that archaeological finds in Noricum show some Celtic influences (La Téne). But that is about it. In fact, in this area the ancient Hallstatt culture carried out by the Vends, continued until the arrival of the Romans.

Model of Latobius temple of St. Margarethen (Šmarjeta) in Carinthia, carried out by Dr. Franz Glaser. The halls on both sides have been added following the example of the temple in Kempten - Cambodunum (suggestion by R. Egger). Courtesy of Dr. Franz Glaser.

Notwithstanding this, the Celticity of Noricum is taken for granted. Consequently, the Norican god of war Latobius is generally considered a Celtic deity. In the Celtic mythology, however, we do not find a parallel to him. Actually, the Roman sources identify him as Mars. In the corresponding materials (in German language), the problem of his Celtic origin is generally surmounted by the word "wohl" (surely), because documents and other proofs are lacking. For example, it is quoted: In origin, Latobius surely (wohl) was the indigenous god of the (Celtic) tribe of Latobici settled in Upper Pannonia, and he was worshipped in southern Noricum also; there, in the interpretatio Romana, he was understood as Mars, the god of war (Piccottini, Schatzhaus 1991, 39).

Aedis Navalis - In Noricum, the chief temple of Latobius was found on the present-day site of St. Margarethen (Šmarjeta) near Labot (Lavamünd), in eastern Carinthia. The temple was surrounded by a porticus (colonnade). Its inside was a cella erected on a quadrate ground plan. The temple cult basin was found in front. The unearthed inscription fragment Latobius Avgustus bears witness of the appurtenance of the sanctuary. (The quadrate inside room is also found in temples of pre-Christian Carantania, where it was called hram.)

A rather long inscription from this finding place is characteristic. It spells as follows: Latobius sacr(um) C(aius) Speratius Vibus et Valeria Avita pro incolumitate filior(um) suor(um) voto suscepto navale(m) ( aedem) vetustate conlapsum restituer(unt) v(otum) s(olventes) l(ibentes) m(erito). - Translation: To god Latobius consecrated. Caius Speratius Vibus and Valeria Avita, in the sense of a vow, taken over for the growth of their children, let renew this ship sanctuary decayed by age, in order the vow cheerful and by merit of god fulfils. The temple was renewed in the 2nd and was ruined at the end of the 4th century AD.  

Picture of Latobius - Mars, reconstructed on base of the remainder of his statue found in St. Margarethen (Šmarjeta) in the Labot Valley, Carinthia.

The expression "aedis navalis" (ship sanctuary) appears also in another inscription in Carinthia, but nowhere else. It probably was connected to the god's ship idol inside of the temple (Piccottini Schatzhaus 1991, 38). This shows a further characteristic of god Latobius: accompanier of the deceased. Later, in the early Christendom, this role belonged to Archangel Michael.

Other finds from the site include the remains of a Latobius-Mars statue. A corresponding reconstruction drawing was carried out using the example of the statue of the so-called Magdalensberg lad (Praschniker 1946, in Schatzhaus Kärntens 1991, 37). The reconstructed figure of the god appears nude, with a mantle over his left shoulder, bearing in the right a helmet, and in the left a pedum (battle staff), on his left leg leans a shield. The shield and the helmet are already attributes of Mars; the pedum seems to be a special attribute of Latobius.

He very probably was the chief god of the Latobici tribe, one of the four Norican tribes, which settled in the Lavant Valley. In Slovenian, it is called Labot Valley, which only could be a metathesis of Latob(ius).

A further Latobius sanctuary was found on the summit of the well-known Magdalensberg - Štalen (10 m), on place of the present-day church. This one also had a great cult basin. An unearthed relief represents a figure with a helmet, sword, shield, and lance. The figure is attributed to Latobius-Mars, which also confirms the single M(arti) found on the shield.  Moreover, a miniature clay statue was also found, showing a boat driver. This statuette confirms the imagination of the "aedis navalis" referred to the Latobius' temples and his role as accompanier of the deceased.

The statuette of the so-called boatman, a miniature plastic art found in 1948 on the summit of Magdalensberg (Štalen), Carinthia. It is very probably about a votive offering to Latobius - Mars, the considered accompanier of the souls in the beyond.

Marmogius - In the period after the WW2, the remainder of a temple, very probably consecrated to Latobius, was discovered on Frauenberg near Flavia Solva, the one-time Roman city found in the proximity of present-day Leibnitz (Lipnica), Upper Styria. This temple was once standing besides that of Noreia. The excavations brought to light a figure dressed in full armour with helmet, lance, battle staff, and a shield at his left leg. It can be only the figure of Mars-Latobius.

From the site of Flavia Solva a vow inscription to Latobius has been preserved. It spells as follows: Marti Latobio Marmogio Sinati Toutati Mogetio C(aius) Val(erius) Valerinus ex voto. - Translation: To Mars Latobius Marmogius and to Sinatis Toutatis, Mogetius. Caius Valerius Valerinus in fulfilment of his vow. The epithet Marmogius (in other cases also Maromogius - mighty, tremendous) we find already in an inscription from St. Margarethen. The epithets Mogetius (powerful); Sinatis (judge god) and Toutatis (protector of tribe) are Celtic names for Mars (Mars en a trente-huit,  Dottin, 1904).

Evidently, the Celtic epithets »Sinati« and »Toutati« for Latobius are a witness that several Celts lived in Flavia Solva and in other Norican towns. It is right to consider them  Romanized at an early date. The above-mentioned epithets of Norican gods probably reminded them of their previous deities. Sometimes, as in the case of goddess Epona, Celtic deities were preserved for a long time in Noricum.  

A statuette ascribed to Latobius - Mars, unearthed in 1973 in the ruins of Flavia Solva, the one-time Roman city close to present-day Leibnitz - Lipnica, Upper Styria.

This, however, does not mean that Noricum was a true Celtic province, as Austrian scholars are trying to prove in a scholarly way. Their references about the Celts are certainly not correct. With regards to the Latobius' epithets Maromogius and Mogetius, I quote the following generally recognized interpretation: maro - Celtic great, and the root *mog - to become great, to grow (Piccottini, in Schatzhaus 1991, 49). Anyway, mar- generally means »to sparkle« (luccicare, Pianigiani 1988, 817), this is: shining, splendid, and the root *mog  rather corresponds to the Slovenian mog (ocen) - mighty, powerful, potent.  In the one-time Noricum, Latobius - Mars was one of the chief gods. Further traces of his existence will probably be discovered in future. In the proximity of Spielberg, close to Knittelfeld (Styria), a picture was found which was ascribed to him.

The Roman records that classify the Norican pantheon relate to the leading class, the superstratum, which in a great measure was Romanized and Latinized. After the decline of the Roman Empire, this class gradually left the country for nearby provinces of Istria and Friuli. The rural people, this is the Vendic substratum, remained. Thereafter Noricum, still bound on Italy, was for several decades under strange dominions, mostly under the domain of the Ostrogoths. However, in 568 AD the Lombards occupied Italy and established a new kingdom there, which did not include Noricum. In the Norican territory arose an independent State, which was mentioned for the first time in 595 AD by the name of »provincia Sclaborum« (Paulus Diaconus, in Historia Langobardorum IV, 7), later called Carantania.
In Carantania

Early Carantania was mainly a pagan nation, although some Christians were preserved from the late Roman era. In consideration of the pagan pantheon there are no records available for the time in question. However, we must consider that the deities were called by their indigenous Vendic (Slovenian) names and no more by the Latinized ones. Later, the religious purpose of the pantheon faded away with Christianization, carried out after 750 AD. Anyway, the Church did not suppress the rich customs and traditions preserved and passed on from generation to generation, as long as they were not in conflict with the Christian doctrine. In this way, several pagan gods worshipped by the people were replaced by Saints. This was not only the case in Carantania, but Europe-wide as well.  

In this regard, the figure of the ancient god of war, too, associated with a Saint. I adduce the following quotation taken from literature: In Germany, after its evangelization, St. Michael replaced for the Christians the pagan god Wotan, to whom many mountains were sacred, hence the numerous mountain chapels of St. Michael all over Germany (Catholic Encyclopaedia). But what meaning has the word "Germany" in this connection? For that period in time this term cannot be understood in the sense of modern Germany (Deutschland), but in the then geographical - historical meaning, i.e., in the sense of the present-day Middle Europe.

However, in the period of evangelization, in spite of the predominant role of Germanic languages in the mentioned territory, the Vends still formed the majority of inhabitants. Therefore, one must consider that St. Michael associated also with the Germanic Wotan and the Vendic Vodin. Thus, the basic characteristics of both gods produce evidence of the same divine figure. This, for example, is evident in the Wild Hunt  (in German, Wilde Jagd, in Slovenian Divja jaga), where he plays the main role. In former times this myth was prevalently found in northern Europe, but it also has been discovered in the Eastern Alps (Carantania). Thus, the problem concerning the origin of Wotan - Vodin cannot be solved from the ancient ideological standpoint, this is, either a German or a Slav god. Both characteristics interweave.

Was Vodin his real Vendic and Slovenian name? Neither in the records nor in the people's tradition of Carantania (Slovenia) does this name appear. However, the affinity of the names Wotan (Wodan) and Vodin (Odin) forms a starting-point for further examination. Subsequently, for the Scandinavian - Carantanian name Vodin (Odin) the affinity of many elements in the people's culture of both areas can also be considered a further support. These elements were investigated by Georg Graber, the well-known ethnologist in Carinthia.  

For example, among the Norse elements found in the Carinthian people's tradition, he also adduces several Scandinavian names found in heroic sagas, that were quoted in the records of ca. 820 - 1300 AD. These elements the author ascribed to the »ancient Germans«. They should have been brought from Scandinavia by Germanic tribes (Goths, Lombards...) in the so-called völkerwanderung, which followed the decline of the Roman Empire (Graber 1941).

Another author, who discovered the affinity of the Carantanian (Slovenian) people's tradition, was Franc Jeza. He ascribed it to the Vandals, who, in capacity of the ancestors of the Slovenians, should have arrived from Scandinavia during the völkerwanderung (Jeza 1967). Nevertheless, they could only have been the legacy of the ancient Vends.
St. Michael

In the present-day Slovenian linguistic area over hundreds of churches are consecrated to St. Michael. Also several sites bear his abbreviated name Šmihel. I suppose that some of them were erected on places of the ancient Vodin (Latobius) temples.

In this connection, the case of the ancient church of Šmihel (St. Michael) at Svatne (Zollfeld), north of Klagenfurt - Celovec, is of particular interest. This church was built in the one-time temple district of Virunum, the chief town of Noricum. Here, the transition from Latobius to St. Michael is almost evident.  

St. Michael (Šmihel) on Zollfeld - Svatne, Carinthia. This church very probably replaced the previous temple of Latobius - Mars found in Virunum, the center of ancient Noricum.

A further, very eloquent example represents the ancient pilgrimage of Stara gora (Castelmonte, 618 m). It was erected above the Friuli plain not far from Aquileia, on the edge of the Slovenian ethnic territory. In the Roman period there was a stronghold with a pagan sanctuary. After Christianization, the pagan god was substituted by Archangel Michael. In 568 AD, the Lombards occupied Friuli (and Italy). In the following battles with the nearby pagan Slovenians, the St. Michael sanctuary was destroyed. After the Christianization of Slovenians (after 750 AD) the church on Stara gora was rebuilt and consecrated to St. Mary. In its crypt we still find today a beautiful St. Michael's altar.

A St. Michael's chapel is also found at Sveta gora (Montesanto, 682 m) above Gorica. It is the remainder of the first church on this hill, where in 1539 St. Mary appeared. Thereafter, this place became a well-known Mary's pilgrimage. - The souls, which Archangel Michael snatched from the devil's power, were brought into the arms of the Church by baptism. Therefore, the parishes in Carantania had characteristic octagonal or round baptism chapels. They were built and consecrated to St. Michael after the 10th century AD, when the Hungarian incursions ceased and parishes began to be established.

In 864 AD, in the territory of Prince Kocel (ad Ortahu… in proprietate Chezilonis) in Lower Pannonia, the Archbishop of Salzburg, Adalvin, consecrated a baptismal church to St. Michael… In Carinthia, from the same century origin St. Michael churches of Blatograd (Moosburg), Rožek (Rosegg) and Šmihel near Pliberk (Bleiburg). In Littoral those of Biljana and Kamnje. In Carniola, very ancient St. Michael's churches are found in Mengeš and in Šmihel near Novo mesto, in Lower Styria that in Pišece…

St. Michael played also another role. He accompanied the souls in the beyond. According to this idea, several St. Michael chapels and churches of Carantania had a twofold role: they were baptismal chapels and at the same time charnel-houses. - Such function, for example, has the one-time baptism church found close to Gospa Sveta (Maria Saal). It is called heathen temple (Heidentempel). After the ancient legend, St. Modestus, the Apostle of Carantania (753 - 767 AD), was baptised there. The basement is now a charnel-house. Another such case is the chapel at the collegiate church of St. Lambrecht (mentioned for the first time in 1148), and so on.

Very probably, this is the most characteristic property, which had been passed from Vodin (Odin, Wodan, Latobius) to Archangel Michael. This role the authors generally connect with the Scriptures, where he is said to have disputed with the devil about the body of Moses (in Jude 9) and to have led the heavenly troops against those of the great dragon (in Revelation 12:7). Not very clear! At least in Middle Europe, the Archangel was preceded in this role by the ancient Vendic and Germanic god of war.

Some Bibliography:
   Franc Jeza: Skandinavski izvor Slovencev /Scandinavian Origin of Slovenians/, Trst 1967
   Immanuel Velikovsky: Earth in Upheaval, London 1956
   Rudolf Klinec: Marija v zgodovini Goriške /St. Mary in the History of Gorica Land/, Gorica 1955
   Niko Kuret: Praznicno leto Slovencev  II /The Festive Year of Slovenians II/,  Ljubljana 1989 (Mihelovo)
   Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia:  (Nordic Bronze Age, Germanic Iron Age, Viking Age)
   New Advent, Catholic Encyclopaedia: (St. Michael the Archangel)
   Schatzhaus Kärntens, Landesaustellung  St. Paul 1991, I Katalog, Klagenfurt 1991
   Camillo Praschniker: Die Skulpturen des Heiligtums des Mars Latobius von St. Margarethen im Lavanttal. In: Jahreshefte des Österreichischen Archäologischen Institutes in Wien (Heft 36, Abb. 21), Wien 1946
   Ottorino Pianigiani: Vocabolario etimologico della lingua italiana, Genova 1988
   Georges Dottin: La Religion des Celtes, Paris 1904
   Franz Glaser: Archäologie und Ideologie, in: Karantanien - Ostarrichi (published by Andreas Moritsch), Klagenfurt/Celovec - Ljubljana - Wien, 1997
   Gernot Piccottini - Hermann Vetters: Führer durch die Ausgrabungen auf dem Magdalensberg, Klagenfurt 1985
   Georg Graber: Volksleben in Kärnten (cap. Ursprünge des Kärntner Volkstums, pp. 1 - 3), Graz 1941
   Hellmut Rosenfeld: Wodan (Odin), in: Manfred Lurker's Wörterbuch der Symbolik, Stuttgart 1988
   Anton Burghardt: Einführung in die allgemeine Soziologie, München 1972