Concerning Hāma

When it comes to reconstructing the Anglo-Saxon pantheon , I’m ever wary of merely copying and pasting from the Norse sources. It’s not that I don’t think there was overlap, it’s just that I think cultural differences as well as the differences in time period should be carefully considered. The simple fact that Frīge was split into two distinct goddesses during the Viking Age is a good indication that changes DID occur, so it would be wise to approach the Norse subject matter with caution when we reconstruct the earlier Anglo-Saxon religion.

One deity that appears to be venerated by many Anglo-Saxon Heathens in modern times is Hāma. Swain Wodening refers to him in a few of his books as the Anglo-Saxon version of Heimdallr.

For those who are unaware, Hāma is referred to twice in Old English lore. The first reference to him is in Beowulf;

“…since Hama bore off
to the shining city the Brosings’ necklace,
Gem-figured filigree. He gained the hatred
Of Eormanric the Goth, chose eternal reward.”

(trans. by Howell Chickering, 1977)

There certainly are some similarities between the account in Beowulf and Heimdallr’s role regarding the Brosinga Mene in the Prose Edda. Although, it is entirely possible that the story of the necklace’s theft was well known, but the players within the drama changed according to who was doing the telling. Either way, both Heimdallr and Hāma have a connection to this magical piece of Jewellery. In Skáldskaparmál, section 8, Heimdallr is referred to as “Seeker of Freyja’s necklace” by Sturluson.  In the Elder Edda, Heimdallr is the one who decides Þorr should dress as Freyja and marry Thrymir in order to retrieve the necklace from the clutches of Ettins.

“Then said Heimdall, of Æsir brightest —
he well foresaw, like other Vanir —
Let us clothe Thor with bridal raiment,
let him have the famed Brîsinga necklace.
“Let by his side keys jingle,
and woman’s weeds fall around his knees,
but on his breast place precious stones,
and a neat coif set on his head.”

(Benjamin Thorpe Trans.)

The second instance where Hāma is mentioned is in Widsið;

“I visited Raedhere and Rondhere, Rumstan and Gislhere, Withergield and Freotheric, Wudga and Hama. They were by no means the worst of companions, even though I happen to mention them last. Often a whistling spear flew from the army, screaming on its way to the enemy line; there the exiles Wudga and Hama gained twisted gold, men and women”

The two stanzas from Widsið do little to improve our understanding of Hāma. Although the second source supports the fact that Hāma was known to the English well enough to be listed in more than one source, it tells us very little about him. It certainly doesn’t lend any credence to the idea that Hāma was considered as anything more than a warrior-hero.  According to the Nordisk Familjebok (1909), the character of Wudga was most likely based on a Gothic hero named Vidigoia who battled the Huns in the Vistula Forests.  It’s possible that if Wudga was based off of a historical Gothic warrior, so too was Hāma.

The final thing I’d like to touch on is the fact that Old English lore is not the only place that Hāma appears.  Both Hāma and Wudga appear in Þiðrekssaga as Heimir and Viðga respectively. Hāma also appears as Heime in the Middle High German epics where he is connected to the Gothic kings Theordoric the Great and Eormenric, making his connections to the Goths all but certain.

So who is Hāma?

I suppose there is some evidence to suggest he may be the same deity as Heimdallr. The reference to Brosinga mene is certainly noteworthy, although not 100% convincing in my mind. Although I don’t know if Heimdallr and Hāma were one and the same character, it certainly doesn’t mean Hāma wasn’t venerated and shouldn’t be venerated today as a deity in his own right. It was most certainly common practice in elder days to demi-deify long dead, legendary kings and heroes of old, so why should today be any different?

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About Wodgar Inguing

Anglo-Saxon Heathen, half-centaur, epic lover, bon vivant.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized, Wōdgār and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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