Þunor

Meaning of Name:  His name is identical to the Old English word meaning ‘thunder’, which in turn descends from Proto-Germanic *thunraz.

Pronunciation: The “Þ” makes a “th” sound, the ‘u’ is pronounced as the ‘u’ in the word ‘fun’ and the the ‘o’ is pronounced as in the word ‘for’.

Other names: Thunar (Old Saxon), Thuner (Old Frisian), Donar (Old High German), *Ðonar (Old Frankish), Þórr (Old Norse), *Þunraz (Proto-Germanic)

Function: Þunor’s commonality in place-names, the early incidence (supported by later Germanic) of protective talismans, and fylfot symbol found on burial urns (associated with Þunor) all show His pervasive importance to society. His role as cosmic Protector is reinforced in the later Norse Þórr’s conflict with the Midgard Serpent reflects earlier Proto-Indo-European poetics (as in Watkins’ How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics).

Þunor, as God of the People, is also the God of the Thing, like Tiw.  Unlike Tiw, who represents a higher authority in the Thing, Þunor’s will is the people’s will. He is the God of the Commons, the deity that protects them and impacts them directly in His role of Thunderer and Bringer of Rain, with the relevant fertility associations. Given the later depictions of Him as protector of sailors and boatmen, it’s entirely plausible that this was an association He shared.

Iconography: 5th century (long handle) hammer pendants found in Kent are thought to be connected with His cult, and are some of the earliest representations of the hammer with Þunor.  The oak tree is also typically associated with Him, along with the thunderbolt, an axe, goats, and in later (non-AS) lore, ships.

Attested Sources: The 11th century Kentish Royal Legend  refers to a reeve named Þunor being swallowed up in a burial mound called ‘þunores hlæwe’. In Solomon and Saturn, the devil is struck with thunder’s ‘fiery axe’, which may be an indirect reference to Þunor.  Finally, our modern Thursday, which descends from OE ‘Þursdæg’, is also named after the Anglo-Saxon thunder god.

William Chaney claims in The Cult of Kingship in Anglo-Saxon England that Þunor’s name is found in the majority of identifiable place-name accounts associated with a deity – Thundersley (Essex), Thunoreshlæw (Kent), Thunresfled (Wiltshire), Thunreslea (Hampshire), and many others are all indicative of the commonality of this place name.  It should be noted that these places appear exclusively in Saxon and Jutish areas and are typically associated with a “leah”, or a grove or meadow[1].

Interpretatio Romana: Hercules, in Tacitus and the Germania.  Þunor maintains similar qualities as Iuppiter, as a God of Lightning, Thunder, and Rain, and appears as a gloss for Jupiter in later Anglo-Saxon writings, but they derive from different etymological sources.

Contemporary Bīnaman: Corngrowere (Crop-Grower), Gumfrēond (Man-Friend), Feorhhyrde (Life-Protector), Rynegæst (Lightning), Ēotencwellere (Ettin-Queller)

[1] David Wilson, Anglo-Saxon Paganism, (Routledge: London), 1992.