Raen (raenshadoe) wrote in norse_mythology,

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Definition Question

So, as I'm winding my way through the Havamal with a real intent for understanding what I'm reading, I've run across the phrase 'weapons and weeds', followed by a reference to hangings 'weeds' on wooden men. When I did a web search for 'weapons and weeds', I found a translation of Beowulf that was likewise unhelpful.

My first instinct is to assume that this is some sort of identifying clothing, but I want to make sure I understand the passages correctly.

Help, anyone? Its greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance...

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I'm not a scholar of this poem, and none of my books relate to it, so I can't give much. The following is what I found in my searches online. The middle one is in Russian, except for the part I quoted. If what they say is accurate, I'd say "weeds" just represents clothing in general. So, the first one would be talking about giving weapons and clothing to someone to make them a friend, and the second is about using clothes to make people think wooden men are real.

Untitled Document:
Stanza #41

Lee M. Hollander:

With weapons and weeds should friends be won,
as one can see in themselves;
those who give to each other will ay be friends,
once they meet half way.

Modern Suggestion:

You can make friends
by giving either expensive
or ordinary gifts.
Those who give gifts to each other
will always be friends,
but one should not give more than the other.

(Weapons = weapons, weeds = clothing)


Stanza #49

Lee M. Hollander:

In the fields as I fared (for fun) I hung
my weeds on two wooden men;
they were reckoned folks when rags they wore;
naked a man is naught.

Modern Suggestion:

One day I was walking through a field,
and for fun I hung my clothes on two scarecrows.
They looked like real men in my clothes,
but naked I felt like nobody.

(There is more to this stanza
than what it seems to say)

«If friend thou hast whom faithful thou deemest,
and wishes to win him for thee:
ope thy heart to him nor withhold thy gifts
and fare to find him often...
With weapons and weeds (garments) should friends be won,
as one can see in themselves,
those who give to each other will ay be friends,
once they meet halfway.
With his friend a man should be friends ever,
and pay back gift for gift,
laughter for laughter he lern to give,
and eke lesing (falsehood) for lies...» (stanzas 44, 41-42).

The Troth:
“Carven poles” is intriguing because heathens erected god-posts to honor their gods and goddesses. While very little surviving archeological evidence exists, it seems clear that these were poles or trunks of trees that had been stripped of their branches, carved into the likenesses of various deities, then raised upright and planted into the ground. Bellows’ use of “carven poles,” then, could be an indication of a forgotten heathen practice of “dressing” the god-posts or adorning them with rich cloth and/or jewelry. Hollander’s translation returns us to the phrase “wooden men,” but adds two strange derivations:

In the fields as I fared, (for fun) I hung

My weeds on two wooden men;

They were reckoned folks when the rags they wore:

Naked, a man is naught. (21)

If we take “weeds” to be another word for “clothing,” Hollander’s translation falls into line with the other two. However, he has added the parenthetical “for fun,” which implies a lark rather than a sacred occasion, and says that the wooden men were “reckoned folks” once they were dressed. This has led some to speculate that the wooden men were scarecrows. Regardless, what the stanza definitely points to is not merely the shame involved in being naked, but to the importance of clothing to determine a man’s worth in the world. This harkens directly back to the ell as a standard unit used to measure monetary value, and in turn reveals why Thorir Paunch and his men were so excited by the prospect of Thorfinn’s clothing that they were willing to forego the rape of Thorfinn’s women in order to examine the contents of the storage building.
Hollander was going for an archaism using ‘weeds’ as in garments from the O.E. w'æd (garment, cloth) to match the O.N. cognate vað (cloth, texture) and so retain something of the alliteration found in the original text.

41. Vápnum ok váðum skulu vinir gleðjask;
þat er á sjalfum sýnst;
viðrgefendr ok endrgefendr erusk lengst vinir,
ef þat bíðr at verða vel.

49. Váðir mínar gaf ek velli at
tveim trémönnum;
rekkar þat þóttusk, er þeir rift höfðu;
neiss er nökkviðr halr.
The alliteration makes a lot of sense.

~Muninn's Kiss
I also wonder if perhaps there wasn't some sort of folk tradition that specifically involved using plants to pseudo make fake clothes... something like a scarecrow, or (yeah I know it's hollywood) the Wicker Man :P

I mean, why else use a wooden man??

But that's just what my instinct has me wondering about. ^.^