Gnosis Diary: Life as a Heathen

My personal experiences, including religious and spiritual experiences, community interaction, general heathenry, and modern life on my heathen path, which is Asatru.

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Lollus, Löhl, and Ursul din Lăloaia

Genealogical research led me to a god of which I'd never heard. My family name, Lale, was originally spelled Löhl. Lale is a phonetic spelling in English of the way Löhl would have been pronounced.

Back in the 90s when I became an initiate of the modern version of the Bersarkrgangr tradition (see my paper Bersarkrgangr: The Viking Martial Art) they told me my name was a Chatti name, and that the Chatti tribe were cat-type bersarkrs who followed Freya, just like me. The Chatti came from the area in Europe that was briefly Alsace-Lorraine, an area of mixed French and German influence. That meant I was from one of the right families, which was one of the two prerequisites to be eligible to join their group.

The internet era has enabled genealogical research with records from all over the world that have been scanned and are now available through this marvelous device right from home, without having to travel to every town and country and examine the records in person or pay someone else to do so. Family legend said the original Lale ancestor in America was kicked out of France for lycanthropy. That would have been in the 1700s, before the American Revolution. Recent genealogical research my brother did on the net turned up a kernel of truth. We did have an ancestor who was banished from a country, but it was Bavaria, not France, it was the late 1500s, and the charge was not being a werewolf but being a Protestant. That's a sobering example of how much oral transmission of information can change the story over time.

That's as far back as an unbroken line of records go, so with anything earlier than that, I'm just speculating about whether it has any connection to my family, but what I found is interesting nonetheless.

There is a river Löhle in today's Germany, near the town of Böblingen in the region of Württemberg. Württemberg is where the Lale ancestor who came to America was actually from (not France as the family legend said.) The river may have been named for Lollus, or the other way around.

Lollus was known as a god of the Franks, a Germanic tribe. There was a Saint Lollus in the 700s. Offerings of grapes and grain were given to Lullus or Lollus at the place called Löhle or Lölle. Whether these gifts were to the god Lollus or to Saint Lollus, or whether the people making the offerings drew any distinction between the two, is unclear. Did the god Lollus walk among the people in the 700s in the form of a human, Christian Saint?

Not much is written about Lollus in English. The book Barbarian Rites: The Spiritual World of the Vikings and the Germanic Tribes by Hans-Peter Hasenfratz, translated by Michael Moynihan, says Lollus was depicted as a naked young man holding his tongue. It suggests he may have been paired with Frija, a combined form of Frigga and Freya.

A name dictionary I consulted as a teenager told me the name Lale meant nothing in French, but meant "one who speaks" in German. This article on entheology.org connects Lollus to speaking in tongues, and states that the opium poppy was sacred to him: http://entheology.org/edoto/anmviewer.asp?a=259

So, are people with the name Lale or Löhl descended from the people who worshipped Lollus, the people from the area bearing his name? I don't know, but I wonder.

The earliest reference my brother uncovered to a name that could be a Lale variant is a Roman soldier named Laleianus. The name is on Trajan's Column in Rome. Supposedly Laleianus helped conquer the Pannonians, a people that lived in what is today Romania and the Danube region. This did not seem to connect with Lollus the 8th century god or saint. There was however another Roman, named Marcus Lollius, a prominent political figure who was the patron of the city of Sagalassos in Turkey.

The story of Laleianus and the Romanians did not seem to connect with bersarkrs, either, until I ran across this video of a Romanian folk dance labeled Urs Laloaia:

Romanian Bear Dance Urs Laloaia:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNm4JaCbSIg

With thanks to translator James Hoscyns: ursul din
Lăloaia means the bear from Lăloaia. Lăloaia is the name of a mountain and a village at its base in Bacău in Romania.

The music has this drum song:

Dum tek dum tek dum
Dum tek dum
Dum tek dum tek dum
Dum tek dum tek dum
Dum tek dum
Dum tek dum
(pause then repeat)

The dancers step on the dums. 

This dance has been preserved as a festival dance in parts of Romania and Moldova. Here are a couple of videos where the camera was closer to the dancers:

Parade through town: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Y_gEfV6hYs

March through a snowy street and then dancing at a house:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTuoQ84b8Jk

More videos of this dance are found by searching the keywords Tot Ursi or Ursul de la Dărmăneşti.

The bear dancers in each of these videos make a strange trilling sound. It is not really a bear-like sound. It is unlikely to be a direct imitation of the sounds that bears make. This trill has some other origin. Could it be connected to the lalling of Lollus?

So far there does not appear to be any evidence beyond similarity of names and the strange trilling sound of the dancers connecting Lollus with bears, or with the bear dance, or bersarkrs, but this is an interesting avenue for further research. Eventually I hope to turn this quest for knowledge about my ancestors into a formal paper on Lollus. I would very much appreciate being directed to more information on Lollus, or the Lale name in any of its variations, or the bear dance.

Image caption:
Ursul de la Dărmăneşti dancer, photo credit Dan Duta via Mediafax Foto.

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Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners. An updated, longer version of her book, Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path, is coming in 2020 from Red Wheel / Weiser. Erin was sworn to Freya as Priestess in 1989, given to Sigyn, and is a Bride of Odin and his brothers (Honir, Lodhur, Loki.). She has been a freelance writer for about 30 years, was the editor and publisher of Berserkrgangr Magazine, is gythia of American Celebration Kindred, and admin/ owner of the Asatru Facebook Forum. In 2010 and 2013, she ran for public office. She is a dyer and fiber artist, was acquisitions editor at a small press for 5 years, created the Heathen Calendar 2017 and 2018, and founded the Heathen Visibility Project.

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