Baduhenna - what do we know about her?
Baduhenna is a Frisian Goddess. What we know about her comes from the famous senator, and historian of the Roman Empire, Tacitus.
The Roman writer Tacitus is the only one who gives us any information on this Goddess. Tacitus writes of ‘the Battle of Baduhenna’, an attack by the Frisians on the Romans who had invaded their lands. For a long time the Frisians didn’t mind the Roman presence, they worked with them and lived alongside them. This changed, however, when Ollenius took control of the area. Ollenius demanded taxes of the Frisians, to be paid in aurochs and skins, something that the Frisians did not have. According to Tacitus the Frisians sold all they could to make the payments, including some who sold their wives and daughters into slavery.
Baduhenna is solely attested in book 4, chapter 73 of Tacitus's Annals. In chapters 73 and 74 of Annals, Tacitus describes the defeat of the Roman army in ancient Frisia:
Original Latin (1st century CE): mox compertum a transfugis nongentos Romanorum apud lucum quem Baduhennae vocant pugna in posterum extracta confectos, et aliam quadringentorum manum occupata Cruptoricis quondam stipendiarî villa, postquam proditio metuebatur, mutuis ictibus procubuisse.
74. Clarum inde inter Germanos Frisium nomen, dissimultane Tiberio damna, ne cui bella permitteret.
Church and Brodribb translation (1876):
Soon afterwards it was ascertained from deserters that nine hundred Romans had been cut to pieces in a wood called Baduhenna, after prolonging the fight to the next day, and that another body of four hundred, which had taken possession of the house of one Cruptorix, once a soldier in our pay, fearing betrayal, had perished by mutual slaughter.
74. The Frisian name thus became famous in Germany, and Tiberius kept our losses a secret, not wishing to entrust any one with the war.
In the year 28 C. E. the Frisians formed their own small army and attacked a Roman fortress called Castellum Flevum, where Ollenius was hiding. The Romans of course fought back and requested reinforcements from a place called Nijmegen today. In response to this, the Frisians withdrew into the Forest of Baduhenna (The Baduhennawald), an inaccessible area they knew intimately. This, as well as the use of small weapons such as hand-axes, gave the Frisians the upper hand in the continued battle. The Frisians killed 900 Roman soldiers that day! Tacitus writes that the Romans had become so paranoid, and so afraid of betrayal that, in the confusion and battle frenzy they even killed 400 of their own soldiers.
In his classical text “Germanica” (De Origine et situ Germanorum, a text I remember reading in class, and translating passages from, as part of my A Level course in Latin, in high school in The Netherlands!) Tacitus explains that the Germanic peoples commonly named their forests for a deity. The forest concerned was then considered sacred to this deity. It enjoyed the protection of this patron deity and also acted as a sacred place, or outdoor sanctuary where this goddess was worshipped. (For more information about tree lore from Old Europe please watch my Rune Drum video)
This is one reason why scholars believe that Baduhenna was a goddess (and not just the name of a place or wood). They have analysed the name of this goddess and some link her to the Germanic figures of the Matres or Matronae (more about that in my book #4! For now see this link: https://brewminate.com/goddesses-in-celtic-religion-the-matres-and-matronae/)
What most scholars appear to agree on is that the name Baduhenna can be split into two parts. Badu or Badw means battle and the suffix -henna is feminine, it indicates a female deity. This is how Baduhenna came to be described as “The Frisian Goddess of War and Battle”
Rudolph Simek, author of A Dictionary of Northern Mythology says that the etymology of the name of this goddess is associated with war. He also points out that sacred groves were a common feature in the life of Germanic people
The Dutch author quoted (Marjolijn) finds herself wondering whether Badunenna might be related to another well-known goddess of battle and “madness”. Personally speaking (as a teacher of Seidr and Northern Tradition material) I think that that madness is a slight mistranslation. I believe that the correct word here is (battle) frenzy, and that would place Baduhenna in good company, such as the Celtic goddess called The Morrigan but also Norse goddess Freyja (as the Picker of the Slain) and her troop of Valkyries.
The formidable Celtic goddess Badb, said to represent one face or facet of The Morrigan, reportedly flies over battlefields in the shape of a crow. This is how she can bring panic, confusion and paranoia to the enemy forces. If Badb and Baduhenna are related, author Marjolijn Makes says, this would explain why the Romans might have ended up killing 400 of their own men.
Today we refer to this event as The Battle of Baduhenna Wood. The location is believed to have been near Heiloo in The Netherlands, but this has not been proven. It took place between the Frisii (Latin for Frisians) and a Roman army led by the Roman general Apronius.
Baduhenna – a personal encounter
At this time (In Snorre Sturlasons Edda) the Kælling (ælle) of the jätte-people , the old, indigenous people, will bring Thor to his knees. Later when the former population had subdued to Aesirs Thor, Odin and other warriors will hound the Kællings (Dk: the “flabby tits”)( and any Jätter (Giants)) on horse backs and kill them for pastime amusement. It is a well-known theme “Hags fighting Heroes” – spiritual woman Shaman Shapeshifters dealing with brute force of young war-men. The theme found also in the Finnish National Epic, Kalevala: Mother Louhi defending her daughters from the warrior Väinemoinen and his companions.
A personal encounter with Baduhenna
The information above provides a fair account of what is known (and not known) about Baduhenna. My preferred way of connecting with any deity is through personal relationship and revelation. (See my blog from Summer 2019 about creating a temple to three indigenous goddesses from The Netherlands)
I am on a solitary silent retreat in Sweden. I am in the Forest, close to trees, animals and mushrooms, far from human beings.
I started my work with Baduhenna on the day that the clocks went back, which also happened to fall in the period of Dark Moon, meaning that it gets dark a full hour earlier and they only light at night is provided by the stars.
I started by creating an altar to Baduhenna, intuitively choosing items that might please her. They included feathers and a raven mask.
When Darkness cloaked the house completely, I lit the candles and spoke my prayers. I danced by the altar to invoke her. It soon felt like I was dancing inside her. That she was a great corvid who had feasted on me. Strangely, this was not scary, instead it was deeply reassuring because it connected me to the great cycle of Life-Death-Rebirth.
For one week I keep part of my attention on Baduhenna all the time. As I went to bed that night, a bird kept me awake. It was busy rustling under the roof over my bedroom. This brought the sensation of sleeping in the nest of a great Corvid, a great Predator Mother, who won’t hesitate to kill in order to feed me. The price for this tender care is knowing that one day I too, or least my corpse, will be eaten, will become food for hungry beings other than myself. This is the deal for children of the Mother Goddess who is by necessity also a Death Goddess.
The next day I went for a hike in the forest, foraging for mushrooms. I found a bright blue mushroom that I decided to offer to her. I also collected some bright red berries from a rowan tree, to represent drops of blood on her altar.
The following morning I was up before sunrise and made my way to the lake. Two ravens kept me company. One sat in the top of a pine tree, calling directions and the other one circled the lake a few times, flying right over my head. When Sunna (the sun, personified as a female giantess in Norse cosmology) rose over the lake, they shrieked loudly and flew off. Their job was done. Until sunset anyway, one assumes.
Back home I started painting her. I felt a desire to carve her name into rock, using the runes of the Frisian Futhark, so she would not slide into oblivion (but I didn’t ). I don’t think she would handle oblivion well – she might shape shift into an even more ferocious bird (perhaps a sea eagle?) and come for us, if she does not receive her portion, her allocated share of the dead.
Birds linked to the Winter Crone are consequently be birds of darkness and birds of prey – the owl and the eagle, raven, crow, seagull, heron, and cormorant. According to Marija Gimbutas´ theories of death and regeneration, based on her archeological excavation from Old-European sites, the birds of prey are a central part of the excarnation (de-fleshing) practice of that time, associated with ideas of transformation and regeneration. Equally wild animals associated to Her would be: wolves, boars, the sow etc.
In a dream just before waking up this morning, I saw the face of an old woman, - very close up, she was looking straight at me - who had raven feathers instead of hair. Half of her face was blue, half a moon, a waning Blue Moon. She had only one eye, but that eye was glistening with ferocious intelligence, the alert eye of a Raven. Looking into that eye I saw the night sky and the stars, just as they had appeared over the Forest last night. In the dream I understood that the stars were the souls of the dead, shining brightly in a reversed world where humans have blue-black wings and birds walk the earth as dinosaurs. I woke up and felt that Baduhenna had responded to my invitation. She is definitely keeping me company this week!
Imelda Almqvist, Sweden, 29 October 2019
Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of sacred art, Seiðr and the ancestral wisdom teachings of Northern Europe. Her first book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books in 2016 and her second book Sacred Art: A Hollow Bone for Spirit (Where Art Meets Shamanism) was published in March 2019. Imelda has presented her work on the Shamanism Global Summit and as a presenter on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True.
Imelda divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. Her third book “Medicine of the Imagination: Dwelling in Possibility” will be published in 2020. Imelda is currently working on her fourth book, about the pre-Christian spirituality of The Netherlands. She recently appeared on a Mystic Britain TV programme filmed for The Smithsonian Channel, talking about Mesolithic site Star Carr and arctic deer shamanism, (and modelling a Stone Age antlered headdress!)
Imelda dreams of being a full-time forest witch!