The work of which I here offer an English translation has excited, among the Dutch and German literary societies, a keen controversy in regard to its authenticity—a controversy not yet brought to a conclusion, some affirming that it contains internal evidence of truth, while others declare it to be a forgery. But even the latter do not insist on its being the work of a modern fabricator. They allow it to be one hundred, or perhaps one hundred and fifty, years old. If they admit that, I do not see why they refuse it a greater antiquity; and as to the improbability of the stories related in it, I refer the reader to the exhaustive inquiry in Dr Ottema’s Preface.
Is it more difficult to believe that the early Frisians, being hardy and intrepid marine adventurers, sailed to the Mediterranean, and even proceeded farther, than that the Phœnicians sailed to England for tin, and to the Baltic for amber? or that a clever woman became a lawgiver at Athens, than that a goddess sprang, full grown and armed, from the cleft skull of Jupiter?
There is nothing in the narratives of this book inconsistent with probability, however they may vary from some of our preconceived ideas.; but whether it is really what it pretends to be—a very ancient manuscript, or a more modern fiction—it is not the less a most curious and interesting work, and as such I offer it to the British public.
In order to give an idea of the manuscript, I have procured photographs of two of its pages, which are bound with this volume.
I have also followed Dr Ottema’s plan of printing the original Frisian opposite to the translation, so that any reader possessing a knowledge of the language may verify the correctness of the translation.
In addition to the Preface which I have translated, Dr Ottema has written two pamphlets on the subject of the Oera Linda Book (1. Historical Notes and Explanations; 2. The Royal Academy and Het Oera Linda Bok), both of which would be very valuable to any one who wished to study the controversy respecting the authenticity of the work, but which I have not thought it necessary to translate for the present publication.
There has also appeared in the “Deventer Courant” a series of twelve letters on the same subject. Though written anonymously, I believe they are from the pen of Professor Vitringa. They have been translated into German by Mr Otto.
The writer evidently entered upon his task of criticism with a feeling of disbelief in the authenticity of the book; but in his last letter he admits that, after a minute examination, he is unable to pronounce a positive conviction either for or against it.
His concluding remarks are to the following effect:—
“If the book is a romance, then I must admit that it has been written with a good object, and by a clever man, because the sentiments expressed in it are of a highly moral tendency; and the facts related, so far as they can be controlled by regular history, are not untruthful; and where they deal with events of which we have no historical records, they do not offend our ideas of possibility or even probability.”
WM. R. SANDBACH.
All that was known was that a tradition contained in it had from generation to generation been recommended to careful preservation. It appeared that the tradition rests upon the contents of two letters, with which the manuscript begins, from Hiddo oera Linda, anno 1256, and from Liko oera Linda, anno 803. It came to C. over de Linden by the directions of his grandfather, Den Heer Andries over de Linden, who lived at Enkhuizen, and died there on the 15th of April 1820, aged sixty-one. As the grandson was at that time barely ten years old, the manuscript was taken care of for him by his aunt, Aafje Meylhoff, born Over de Linden, living at Enkhuizen, who in August 1848 delivered it to the present possessor.
Dr E. Verwijs having heard of this, requested permission to examine the manuscript, and immediately recognised it as very ancient Fries. He obtained at the same time permission to make a copy of it for the benefit of the Friesland Society, and was of opinion that it might be of great importance, provided it was not supposititious, and invented for some deceptive object, which he feared. The manuscript being placed in my hands, I also felt very doubtful, though I could not understand what object any one could have in inventing a false composition only to keep it a secret. This doubt remained until I had examined carefully-executed facsimiles of two fragments, and afterwards of the whole manuscript—the first sight of which convinced me of the great age of the document.Immediately occurred to me Cæsar’s remark upon the writing of the Gauls and the Helvetians in his “Bello Gallico” (i. 29, and vi. 14), “Græcis utuntur literis,” though it appears in v. 48 that they were not entirely Greek letters. Cæsar thus points out only a resemblance—and a very true one—as the writing, which does not altogether correspond with any known form of letters, resembles the most, on a cursory view, the Greek writing, such as is found on monuments and the oldest manuscripts, and belongs to the form which is called lapidary. Besides, I formed the opinion afterwards that the writer of the latter part of the book had been a contemporary of Cæsar.
The form and the origin of the writing is so minutely and fully described in the first part of the book, as it could not be in any other language. It is very complete, and consists of thirty-four letters, among which are three separate forms of a and u, and two of e, i, y, and o, besides four pairs of double consonants ng, th, hs, and gs. The ng, which as a nasal sound has no particular mark in any other Western language, is an indivisible conjunction; the th is soft, as in English, and is sometimes replaced by d; the gs is seldom met with—I believe only in the word segse, to say, in modern Fries sidse, pronounced sisze.
The paper, of large quarto size, is made of cotton, not very thick, without water-mark or maker’s mark, made upon a frame or wire-web, with not very broad perpendicular lines.
An introductory letter gives the year 1256 as that in which this manuscript was written by Hiddo overa Linda on foreign paper. Consequently it must have come from Spain, where the Arabs brought into the market paper manufactured from cotton.
On this subject, W. Wattenbach writes in his “Das Schriftwesen im Mittelalter” (Leipzig, 1871), s. 93:—
“The manufacture of paper from cotton must have been in use among the Chinese from very remote times, and must have become known to the Arabs by the conquest of Samarcand about the year 704. In Damascus this manufacture was an important branch of industry, for which reason it was called Charta Damascena. By the Arabians this art was brought to the Greeks. It is asserted that Greek manuscripts of the tenth century written upon cotton paper exist, and that in the thirteenth century it was much more used than parchment. To distinguish it from Egyptian paper it was called Charta bombicina, gossypina, cuttunea, xylina. A distinction from linen paper was not yet necessary. In the manufacture of the cotton paper raw cotton was originally used. We first find paper from rags mentioned by Petrus Clusiacensis (1122-50).
“The Spaniards and the Italians learned the manufacture of this paper from the Arabians. The most celebrated factories were at Jativa, Valencia, Toledo, besides Fabriano in the March of Ancona.”*
In Germany the use of this material did not become very extended, whether it came from Italy or Spain. Therefore the further this preparation spread from the East and the adjoining countries, the more necessity there was that linen should take the place of cotton. A document of Kaufbeuren on linen paper of the year 1318 is of very doubtful genuineness. Bodman considers the oldest pure linen paper to be of the year 1324, but up to 1350 much mixed paper was used. All carefully-written manuscripts of great antiquity show by the regularity of their lines that they must have been ruled, even though no traces of the ruled lines can be distinguished. To make the lines they used a thin piece of lead, a ruler, and a pair of compasses to mark the distances.
In old writings the ink is very black or brown; but while there has been more writing since the thirteenth century, the colour of the ink is often grey or yellowish, and sometimes quite pale, showing that it contains iron. All this affords convincing proof that the manuscript before us belongs to the middle of the thirteenth century, written with clear black letters between fine lines carefully traced with lead. The colour of the ink shows decidedly that it does not contain iron. By these evidences the date given, 1256, is satisfactorily proved, and it is impossible to assign any later date. Therefore all suspicion of modern deception vanishes.
The language is very old Fries, still older and purer than the Fries Rjuchtboek or old Fries laws, differing from that both in form and spelling, so that it appears to be an entirely distinct dialect, and shows that the locality of the language must have been (as it was spoken) between the Vlie and the Scheldt.
The style is extremely simple, concise, and unembarrassed, resembling that of ordinary conversation, and free in the choice of the words. The spelling is also simple and easy, so that the reading of it does not involve the least difficulty, and yet with all its regularity, so unrestricted, that each of the separate writers who have worked at the book has his own peculiarities, arising from the changes in pronunciation in a long course of years, which naturally must have happened, as the last part of the work is written five centuries after the first.
As a specimen of antiquity in language and writing, I believe I may venture to say that this book is unique of its kind.
The writing suggests an observation which may be of great importance.
The Greeks know and acknowledge that their writing was not their own invention. They attribute the introduction of it to Kadmus, a Phenician. The names of their oldest letters, from Alpha to Tau, agree so exactly with the names of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet, with which the Phenician will have been nearly connected, that we cannot doubt that the Hebrew was the origin of the Phenician. But the form of their letters differs so entirely from that of the Phenician and Hebrew writing, that in that particular no connection can be thought of between them. Whence, then, have the Greeks derived the form of their letters?
From “thet bok thêra Adele folstar” (“The Book of Adela’s Followers”) we learn that in the time when Kadmus is said to have lived, about sixteen centuries. before Christ, a brisk trade existed between the Frisians and the Phenicians, whom they named Kadhemar, or dwellers on the coast.
The name Kadmus comes too near the word Kadhemar for us not to believe that Kadmus simply meant a Phenician.
Further on we learn that about the same time a priestess of the castle in the island of Walcheren, Min-erva, also called Nyhellenia, had settled in Attica at the head of a Frisian colony, and had founded a castle at Athens. Also, from the accounts written on the walls of Waraburch, that the Finns likewise had a writing of their own—a very troublesome and difficult one to read—and that, therefore, the Tyrians and the Greeks had learned the writing of Frya. By this representation the whole thing explains itself, and it becomes clear whence comes the exterior resemblance between the Greek and the old Fries writing, which Cæsar also remarked among the Gauls; as likewise in what manner the Greeks acquired and retained the names of the Finn and the forms of the Fries writing.
Equally remarkable are the forms of their figures. We usually call our figures Arabian, although they have not the least resemblance to those used by the Arabs. The Arabians did not bring their ciphers from the East, because the Semitic nations used the whole alphabet in writing numbers. The manner of expressing all numbers by ten signs the Arabs learned in the West, though the form was in some measure corresponding with their writing, and was written from left to right, after the Western fashion. Our ciphers seem here to have sprung from the Fries ciphers (siffar), which form had the same origin as the handwriting, and is derived from the lines of the Juul?
The book as it lies before us consists of two parts, differing widely from each other, and of dates very far apart. The writer of the first part calls herself Adela, wife of Apol, chief man of the Linda country. This is continued by her son Adelbrost, and her daughter Apollonia. The first book, running from page 1 to 88, is written by Adele. The following part, from 88 to 94, is begun by Adelbrost and continued by Apollonia. The second book, running from page 94 to 114, is written by Apollonia. Much later, perhaps two hundred and fifty years, a third book is written, from page 114 to 134, by Frethorik; then follows from page 134 to 143, written by his widow, Wiljow; after that from page 144 to 169 by their son, Konereed; and then from page 169 to 192 by their grandson, Beeden. Pages 193 and 194, with which the last part must have begun, are wanting, therefore the writer is unknown. He may probably have been a son of Beeden.
On page 134, Wiljow makes mention of another writing of Adela. These she names “thet bok thêra sanga (thet boek), thêra tellinga,” and “thet Hellênia bok;” and afterwards “tha skrifta fon Adela jeftha Hellênia.”
To fix the date we must start from the year 1256 of our era, when Hiddo overa Linda made the copy, in which he says that it was 3449 years after Atland was sunk. This disappearance of the old land (âldland, âtland) was known by the Greeks, for Plato mentions in his “Timæus,” 24, the disappearance of Atlantis, the position of which was only known as somewhere far beyond the Pillars of Hercules. From this writing it appears that it was land stretching far out to the west of Jutland, of which Heligoland and the islands of North Friesland are the last barren remnants. This event, which occasioned a great dispersion of the Frisian race, became the commencement of a chronological reckoning corresponding with 2193 before Christ, and is known by geologists as the Cimbrian flood.
On page 80 begins an account in the year 1602, after the disappearance of Atland, and thus in the year 591 before Christ; and on page 82 is the account of the murder of Frâna, “Eeremoeder,” of Teerland two years later—that is, in 589. When, therefore, Adela commences her writing with her own coming forward in an assembly of the people thirty years after the murder of the Eeremoeder, that must have been in the year 559 before Christ. In the part written by her daughter Apollonia, we find that fifteen months after the assembly Adela was killed by the Finns in an attack by surprise of Texland. This must accordingly have happened 557 years before Christ. Hence it follows that the first book, written by Adela, was of the year 558 before Christ. The second book, by Apollonia, we may assign to about the year 530 before Christ. The latter part contains the history of the known kings of Friesland, Friso, Adel (Ubbo), and Asega Askar, called Black Adel. Of the third king, Ubbo, nothing is said, or rather that part is lost, as the pages 169 to 188 are missing. Frethorik, the first writer, who appears now, was a contemporary of the occurrences which he relates, namely, the arrival of Friso. He was a friend of Liudgert den Geertman, who, as rear-admiral of the fleet of Wichhirte, the sea-king, had come with Friso in the year 303 before Christ, 1890 years after the disappearance of Atland. He has borrowed most of his information from the log-book of Liudgert.
The last writer gives himself out most clearly as a contemporary of Black Adel or Askar, about the middle of his reign, which Furmerius states to have been from 70 before Christ to 11 after the birth of Christ, the same period as Julius Cæsar and Augustus. He therefore wrote in the middle of the last century before Christ, and knew of the conquest of Gaul by the Romans. It is thus evident that there elapsed fully two centuries between the two parts of the work.
Of the Gauls we read on page 84 that they were called the “Missionaries of Sydon.” And on page 124 “that the Gauls are Druids.” The Gauls, then, were Druids, and the name Galli, used for the whole nation, was really only the name of an order of priesthood brought from the East, just as among the Romans the Galli were priests of Cybele.
The whole contents of the book are in all respects new. That is to say, there is nothing in it that we were acquainted with before. What we here read of Friso, Adel, and Askar differs entirely from what is related by our own chroniclers, or rather presents it in quite another light. For instance, they all relate that Friso came from India, and that thus the Frisians were of Indian descent; and yet they add that Friso was a German, and belonged to a Persian race which Herodotus called Germans (Γερμάνιοι). According to the statement in this book, Friso did come from India, and with the fleet of Nearchus; but he is not therefore an Indian. He is of Frisian origin, of Frya’s people. He belongs, in fact, to a Frisian colony which after the death of Nijhellênia, fifteen and a half centuries before Christ, under the guidance of a priestess Geert, settled in the Panjab, and took the name of Geertmen. The Geertmen were known by only one of the Greek writers, Strabo, who mentions them as Γερμᾶνες, differing totally and entirely from the Βραχμᾶνες in manners, language, and religion.
The historians of Alexander’s expeditions do not speak of Frisians or Geertmen, though they mention Indoscythians, thereby describing a people who live in India, bat whose origin is in the distant, unknown North.
In the accounts of Liudgert no names are given of planes where the Frieslanders lived in India. We only know that they first established themselves to the east of the Punjab, and afterwards moved to the west of those rivers. It is mentioned, moreover, as a striking fact, that in the summer the sun at midday was straight above their heads. They therefore lived within the tropics. We find in Ptolemy (see the map of Kiepert), exactly 24° N. on the west side of the Indus, the name Minnagara; and about six degrees east of that, in 22° N., another Minnagara. This name is pure Fries, the same as Walhallagara, Folsgara, and comes from Minna, the name of an Eeremoeder, in whose time the voyages of Teunis and his nephew Inca took place.
The coincidence is too remarkable to be accidental, and not to prove that Minnagara was the headquarters of the Frisian colony. The establishment of the colonists in the Punjab in 1551 before Christ, and their journey thither, we find fully described in Adela’s book; and with the mention of one most remarkable circumstance, namely, that the Frisian mariners sailed through the strait which in those times still ran into the Red Sea.
In Strabo, book i. pages 38 and 50, it appears that Eratosthenes was acquainted with the existence of the strait, of which the later geographers make no mention. It existed still in the time of Moses (Exodus xiv. 2), for he encamped at Pi-ha-chiroht, the “month of the strait.” Moreover, Strabo mentions that Sesostris made an attempt to cut through the isthmus, but that he was not able to accomplish it. That in very remote times the sea really did flow through is proved by the result of the geological investigations on the isthmus made by the Suez Canal Commission, of which M. Renaud presented a report to the Academy of Sciences on the 19th June 1856. In that report, among other things, appears the following: “Une question fort controversée est celle de savoir, si à l’époque où les Hebreux fuyaient de l’Egypte sous la conduite de Moïse, les lacs amers faisaient encore partie de la mer rouge. Cette dernière hypothèse s’accorderait mieux que l’hypothèse contraire avec le texte des livres sacrés, mais alors il faudrait admettre que depuis l’époque de Moïse le seuil de Suez serait sorti des eaux.”
With regard to this question, it is certainly of importance to fall in with an account in this Frisian manuscript, from which it seems that in the sixteenth century before Christ the connection between the Bitter Lakes and the Red Sea still existed, and that the strait was still navigable. The manuscript further states that soon after the passage of the Geertmen there was an earthquake; that the land rose so high that all the water ran out, and all the shallows and alluvial lands rose up like a wall. This must have happened after the time of Moses, so that at the date of the Exodus (1564 B.C.) the track between Suez and the Bitter Lakes was still navigable, but could be forded dry-foot at low water.
This point, then, is the commencement of the isthmus, after the forming of which, the northern inlet was certainly soon filled up as far as the Gulf of Pelusium.
The map by Louis Figuier, in the “Année scientifique et industrielle” (première année), Paris, Hachette, 1857, gives a distinct illustration of the formation of this land.
Another statement, which occurs only in Strabo, finds also here a confirmation. Strabo alone of all the Greek writers relates that Nearchus, after he had landed his troops in the Persian Gulf, at the mouth of the Pasitigris, sailed out of the Persian Gulf by Alexander’s command, and steered round Arabia through the Arabian Gulf. As the account stands, it is not clear what Nearchus had to do there, and what the object of the farther voyage was. If, as Strabo seems to think, it was only for geographical discovery, he need not have taken the whole fleet.. One or two ships would have sufficed. We do not read that he returned. Where, then, did he remain with that fleet?
The answer to this question is to be found in the Frisian version of the story. Alexander had bought the ships on the Indus, or had had them built by the descendants of the Frisians who settled there—the Geertmen—and had taken into his service sailors from among them, and at the head of them was Friso. Alexander having accomplished his voyage and the transport of his troops, had no further use for the ships in the Persian Gulf, but wished to employ them in the Mediterranean. He had taken that idea into his head, and it must be carried into effect. He wished to do what no one had done before him. For this purpose Nearchus was to sail up the Red Sea, and on his arrival at Suez was to find 200 elephants, 1000 camels, workmen and materials, timber and ropes, &c., in order to haul the ships by land over the isthmus. This work was carried on and accomplished with so much zeal and energy that after three months’ labour the fleet was launched in the Mediterranean. That the fleet really came to the Mediterranean appears in Plutarch’s “Life of Alexander;” but he makes Nearchus bring the fleet round Africa, and sail through the Pillars of Hercules.
After the defeat at Actium, Cleopatra, in imitation of this example, tried to take her fleet over the isthmus in order to escape to India, but was prevented by the inhabitants of Arabia Petræa, who burnt her ships. (See Plutarch’s “Life of Antony.”) When Alexander shortly afterwards died, Friso remained in the service of Antigonus and Demetrius, until, having been grievously insulted by the latter, he resolved to seek out with his sailors their fatherland, Friesland. To India he could not, indeed, return.
Thus these accounts chime in with and clear up each other, and in that way afford a mutual confirmation of the events.
Such simple narratives and surprising results led me to conclude that we had to do here with more than mere Saga and Legends.
Since the last twenty years attention has been directed to the remains of the dwellings on piles, first observed in the Swiss lakes, and afterwards in other parts of Europe. (See Dr E. Rückert, “Die Pfahlbauten;” Wurzburg, 1869. Dr T. C. Winkler, in the “Volksalmanak,” t. N. v. A. 1867.) When they were found, endeavours were made to discover, by the existing fragments of arms, tools, and household articles, by whom and when these dwellings had been inhabited. There are no accounts of them in historical writers, beyond what Herodotus writes in book v. chapter 18, of the “Paeonen.” The only trace that has been found is in one of the panels of Trajan’s Pillar, in which the destruction of a pile village in Dacia is represented.
Doubly important, therefore, is it to learn from the writing of Apollonia that she, as “Burgtmaagd” (chief of the virgins), about 540 years before Christ, made a journey up the Rhine to Switzerland, and there became acquainted with the Lake Dwellers (Marsaten). She describes their dwellings built upon piles—the people themselves—their manners and customs. She relates that they lived by fishing and hunting, and that they prepared the skins of the animals with the bark of the birch-tree in order to sell the fare to the Rhine boatmen, who brought them into commerce. This account of the pile dwellings in the Swiss lakes can only have been written in the time when these dwellings still existed and were lived in. In the second part of the writing, Konerèd oera Linda relates that Adel, the son of Friso (± 250 years before Christ), visited the pile dwellings in Switzerland with his wife Ifkja.
Later than this account there is no mention by any writer whatever of the pile dwellings, and the subject has remained for twenty centuries utterly unknown until 1853, when an extraordinary low state of the water led to the discovery of these dwellings. Therefore no one could have invented this account in the intervening period. Although a great portion of the first part of the work—the book of Adela—belongs to the mythological period before the Trojan war, there is a striking difference between it and the Greek myths. The Myths have no dates, much less any chronology, nor any internal coherence of successive events. The untrammelled fancy develops itself in every poem separately and independently. The mythological stories contradict each other on every point. “Les Mythes ne se tiennent pas,” is the only key to the Greek Mythology.
Here, on the contrary, we meet with a regular succession of dates starting from a fixed period—the destruction of Atland, 2193 before Christ. The accounts are natural and simple, often naive, never contradict each other, and are always consistent with each other in time and place. As, for instance, the arrival and sojourn of Ulysses with the Burgtmaagd Kalip at Walhallagara (Walcheren), which is the most mythical portion of all, is here said to be 1005 years after the disappearance of Atland, which coincides with 1188 years before Christ, and thus agrees very nearly with the time at which the Greeks say the Trojan war took place. The story of Ulysses was not brought here for the first time by the Romans. Tacitus found it already in Lower Germany (see “Germania,” cap. 3), and says that at Asciburgium there was an altar on which the names of Ulysses and his father Laërtes were inscribed.
Another remarkable difference consists in this, that the Myths know no origin, do not name either writers or relaters of their stories, and therefore never can bring forward any authority. Whereas in Adela’s book, for every statement is given a notice where it was found or whence it was taken. For instance, “This comes from Minno’s writings—this is written on the walls of Waraburch—this in the town of Frya—this at Stavia—this at Walhallagara.”
There is also this further. Laws, regular legislative enactments, such as are found in great numbers in Adela’s book, are utterly unknown in Mythology, and indeed are irreconcilable with its existence. Even when the Myth attributes to Minos the introduction of lawgiving in Crete, it does not give the least account of what the legislation consisted in. Also among the Gods of Mythology there existed no system of laws. The only law was unchangable Destiny and the will of the supreme Zeus.
With regard to Mythology, this writing, which bears no mythical character, is not less remarkable than with regard to history. Notwithstanding the frequent and various relations with Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, we do not find any traces of acquaintance with the Northern or Scandinavian Mythology. Only Wodin appears in the person of Wodan, a chief of the Frisians, who became the son-in-law of one Magy, King of the Finns, and after his death was deified.
The Frisian religion is extremely simple, and pure Monotheism. Wr-alda or Wr-alda’s spirit is the only eternal, unchangeable, perfect, and almighty being. Wr-alda has created everything. Out of him proceeds everything—first the beginning, then time, and afterwards Irtha, the Earth. Irtha bore three daughters—Lyda, Finda, and Frya—the mothers of the three distinct races, black, yellow, and white—Africa, Asia, and Europe. As such, Frya is the mother of Frya’s people, the Frieslenders. She is the representative of Wr-alda, and is reverenced accordingly. Frya has established her “Tex,” the first law, and has established the religion of the eternal light. The worship consists in the maintenance of a perpetually-burning lamp, foddik, by priestesses, virgins. At the head of the virgins in every town was a Burgtmaagd, and the chief of the Burgtmaagden was the Eeremoeder of the Fryasburgt of Texland. The Eeremoeder governs the whole country. The kings can do nothing, nor can anything happen without her advice and approval. The first Eeremoeder was appointed by Frya herself, and was called Fâsta. In fact, we find here the prototype of the Roman Vestal Virgins.
We are reminded here of Velleda (Welda) and Aurinia in Tacitus (“Germania,” 8. Hist., iv. 61, 65; v. 22, 24. “Annals,” L 54), and of Gauna, the successor of Velleda, in Dio Cassius (Fragments, 49). Tacitus speaks of the town of Velleda as “edita turris,” page 146. It was the town Mannagarda fords (Munster).
In the county of the Marsians he speaks of the temple Tanfane (Tanfanc), so called from the sign of the Juul. (See plate I.)
The last of these towns was Fâstaburgt in Ameland, temple Foste, destroyed, according to Occa Scarlensis, in 806.
If we find among the Frisians a belief in a Godhead and ideas of religion entirely different from the Mythology of other nations, we are the more surprised to find in some points the closest connection with the Greek and Roman Mythology, and even with the origin of two deities of the highest rank, Min-erva and Neptune. Min-erva (Athénè) was originally a Burgtmaagd, priestess of Frya, at the town Walhallagara, Middelburg, or Domburg, in Walcheren. And this Min-erva is at the same time the mysterious enigmatical goddess of whose worship scarcely any traces remain beyond the votive stones at Domburg, in Walcheren, Nehallenia, of whom no mythology knows anything more than the name, which etymology has used for all sorts of fantastical derivations.*
The other, Neptune, called by the Etrurians Nethunus, the God of the Mediterranean Sea, appears here to have been, when living, a Friesland Viking, or sea-king, whose home was Alderga (Ouddorp, not far from Alkmaar). His name was Teunis, called familiarly by his followers Neef Teunis, or Cousin Teunis, who had chosen the Mediterranean as the destination of his expeditions, and must have been deified by the Tyrians at the time when the Phenician navigators began to extend their voyages so remarkably, sailing to Friesland in order to obtain British tin, northern iron, and amber from the Baltic, about 2000 years before Christ.
Besides these two we meet with a third mythological person—Minos, the lawgiver of Crete, who likewise appears to have been a Friesland sea-king, Minno, born at Lindaoord, between Wieringen and Kreyl, who imparted to the Cretans an “Asagaboek.” He is that Minos who, with his brother Rhadamanthus and Æacus, presided as judges over the fates of the ghosts in Hades, and must not be confounded with the later Minos, the contemporary of Ægeus and Theseus, who appears in the Athenian fables.
The reader may perhaps be inclined to laugh at these statements, and apply to me the words that I myself have lately used, fantastic and improbable. Indeed at first I could not believe my own eyes, and yet after further consideration I arrived at the discovery of extraordinary conformities which render the case much less improbable than the birth of Min-erva from the head of Jupiter by a blow from the axe of Hephaestus, for instance.
In the Greek Mythology all the gods and goddesses have a youthful period. Pallas alone has no youth. She is not otherwise known than adult. Min-erva appears in Attica as high priestess from a foreign country, a country unknown to the Greeks. Pallas is a virgin goddess, Min-erva is a Burgtmaagd. The fair, blue-eyed Pallas, differing thus in type from the rest of the gods and goddesses, evidently belonged to Frya’s people. The character for wisdom and the emblematical attributes, especially the owl, are the same for both. Pallas gives to the new town her own name, Athènai, which has no meaning in Greek. Min-erva gives to the town built by her the name Athene, which has an important meaning in Fries, namely, that they came there as friends—“Âthen.”
Min-erva came to Attica about 1600 years before Christ, the period at which the Grecian Mythology was beginning to be formed. Min-erva landed with the fleet of Jon at the head of a colony in Attica. In later times we find her on the Roman votive stones in Walcheren, under the name of Nehallenia, worshipped as a goddess of navigation; and Pallas is worshipped by the Athenians as the protecting goddess of shipbuilding and navigation.
Time is the carrier who must eternally turn the “Jol” (wheel) and carry the sun along his course through the firmament from winter to winter, thus forming the year, every turn of the wheel being a day. In midwinter the “Jolfeest” is celebrated on Frya’s Day. Then cakes are baked in the form of the sun’s wheel, because with the Jol Frya formed the letters when she wrote her “Tex.” The Jolfeest is therefore also in honour of Frya as inventor of writing.
Just as this Jolfeest has been changed by Christianity into Christmas throughout Denmark and Germany, and into St Nicholas’ Day in Holland; so, certainly, our St Nicholas’ dolls—the lover and his sweetheart—are a memorial of Frya, and the St Nicholas letters a memorial of Frya’s invention of letters formed from the wheel.
I cannot analyse the whole contents of this writing, and must content myself with the remarks that I have made. They will give an idea of the richness and importance of the contents. If some of it is fabulous, even as fabulous it must have an interest for us, since so little of the traditions of our forefathers remains to us.
An internal evidence of the antiquity of these writings may be found in the fact that the name Batavians had not yet been used. The inhabitants of the whole country as far as the Scheldt are Frya’s people—Frieslanders. The Batavians are not a separate people. The name Batavi is of Roman origin. The Romans gave it to the inhabitants of the banks of the Waal, which river bears the name Patabus in the “Tabula Pentingeriana.” The name Batavi does not appear earlier than Tacitus and Pliny, and is interpolated in Cæsar’s “Bello Gallico,” iv. 10. (See my treatise on the course of the rivers through the countries of the Frisians and Batavians, p. 49, in “De Vrije Fries,” 4th vol. 1st part, 1845.)
I will conclude with one more remark regarding the language. Those who have been able to take only a superficialview of the manuscript have been struck by the polish of the language, and its conformity with the present Friesland language and Dutch. In this they seem to find grounds for doubting the antiquity of the manuscript.
But, I ask, is, then, the language of Homer much less polished than that of Plato or Demosthenes? And does not the greatest portion of Homer’s vocabulary exist in the Greek of our day?
It is true that language alters with time, and is continually subject to slight variations, owing to which language is found to be different at different epochs. This change in the language in this manuscript accordingly gives ground for important observations to philologists. It is not only that of the eight writers who have successively worked at the book, each is recognisable by slight peculiarities in style, language, and spelling; but more particularly between the two parts of the book, between which an interval of more than two centuries occurs, a striking difference of the language is visible, which shows what a slowly progressive regulation it has undergone in that period of time. As the result of these considerations, I arrive at the conclusion that I cannot find any reason to doubt the authenticity of these writings. They cannot be forgeries. In the first place, the copy of 1256 cannot be. Who could at that time have forged anything of that kind? Certainly no one. Still less any one at an earlier date. At a later date a forgery is equally impossible, for the simple reason that no one was acquainted with the language. Except Grimm, Richthofen, and Hettema, no one can be named sufficiently versed in that branch of philology, or who had studied the language so as to be able to write in it. And if any one could have done so, there would have been no more extensive vocabulary at his service than that which the East Frisian laws afford. Therefore, in the centuries lately elapsed, the preparation of this writing was quite impossible. Whoever doubts this let him begin by showing where, when, by whom, and with what object such a forgery could be committed, and let him show in modern times the fellow of this paper, this writing, and this language.
Moreover, that the manuscript of 1256 is not original, but is a copy, is proved by the numerous faults in the writing, as well as by some explanations of words which already in the time of the copyist had become obsolete and little known, as, for instance, in page 82 (114), “to thêra flête jefta bedrum;” page 151 (204), “bargum jefta tonnum fon tha bests bjar.”
A still stronger proof is that between pages 157 and 158 one or more pages are missing, which cannot have been lost out of this manuscript, because the pages 157 and 158 are on the front and the back of the same leaf.
Page 157 finishes thus: “Three months afterwards Adel sent messengers to all the friends that he had gained, and requested them to send him intelligent people in the month of May.” When we turn over the leaf, the other side begins, “his wife, he said, who had been Maid of Tex-land,” had got a copy of it.
There is no connection between these two. There is wanting, at least, the arrival of the invited, and an account of what passed at their meeting. It is clear, therefore, that the copyist must have turned over two pages of the original instead of one. There certainly existed then an earlier manuscript, and that was doubtless written by Liko oera Linda in the year 803.
We may thus accept that we possess in this manuscript, of which the first part was composed in the sixth century before our era, the oldest production, after Homer and Hesiod, of European literature. And here we find in our fatherland a very ancient people in possession of development, civilisation, industry, navigation, commerce, literature, and pure elevated ideas of religion, whose existence we had never even conjectured. Hitherto we have believed that the historical records of our people reach no farther back than the arrival of Friso the presumptive founder of the Frisians, whereas here we become aware that these records mount up to more than 2000 years before Christ, surpassing the antiquity of Hellas and equalling that of Israel.
This paper was read at a meeting of the Frisian Society, February 1871.
* Compare G. Meerman, Admonitio de Chartæ nostralis origine. Vad. Letteroef. 1762. P. 630.
J. H. de Stoppelaar, Paper in the Netherlands. Middelburg, 1869. P. 4.
* Min-erva was called Nyhellenia because her counsels were ny and hel, that is, new and clear. In Paul’s epitome of S. Pomponius Festus, de verborum Significatione, we find “Min-erva dicta quod bene moneat.” See Preller, Roman Mythology, p. 258.