Dutch Myths: Baduhenna

MMemeBaduhenna

Welcome to the second piece in the series on Dutch mythology! This time I wanted to share a favourite of mine: Baduhenna. Not a lot is known of this Frisian Goddess, which makes her all the more intriguing.

What we know.

The Roman writer Tacitus is the only one who gives us any information on this Goddess. Tacitus writes of ‘the Battle of Baduhenna’, an attack by the Frisians on the Romans who had invaded their lands. For a long time the Frisians didn’t mind the Roman presence, they worked with them and lived alongside them. This changed, however, when Ollenius took control of the area. Ollenius demanded taxes of the Frisians, to be paid in aurochs and skins, something that the Frisians did not have. According to Tacitus the Frisians sold all they could to make the payments, including some who sold their wives and daughters into slavery.

It all came to a head in the year 28 A.D. when the Frisians formed a small army and decided

Baduhennaforest
Artist unknown

to attack the Roman fortress Castellum Flevum, where Ollenius was hiding. The Romans fought back and got reinforcements from what is now Nijmegen. In response, the Frisians pulled back into ‘the Forest of Baduhenna’, a well known terrain for the Frisians. This, and the use of light weaponry like handaxes, gave the Frisians the upperhand in the battle. They killed 900 Roman soldiers that day. Tacitus writes that the Romans were so paranoid, so afraid of betrayal, that they killed another 400 of their own soldiers.

In his work ‘Germanica’ Tacitus states that it’s very common for the Germanics to name their forests after a deity, which was then considered sacred to this deity and was seen as a place of worship. This is the reason why scholars believe Baduhenna to be a Goddess. The name Baduhenna can be split into two parts; the suffix -henna is more often used to denote the deity is female, while the prefix Badu or Badw means battle. Which is why Baduhenna is seen as the Frisian Goddess of Battle and War.

What I think.

With what we know of this Goddess one can’t help but wonder if another Goddess of madness and battle, the Morrigan, is perhaps related. One of the faces of the Morrigan, named Badb {see the similarity there?}, can fly over the battlefield in the shape of a crow and bring panic, confusion and paranoia to the enemy. If Badb and Baduhenna are related, this might explain the paranoia in the Roman soldiers, the reasons why they killed 400 of their own men.

baduhennacrow
Artist unknown

It paints quite a striking image, the underdog, the small Frisian army creeping through the dark forest as the crows circle above. A crow flying through the forest, Her forest, crying out to claim victory for those who worship her, and instill fear into the hearts of those who oppose Her people. A cry for blood and vengeance. This the only sound piercing through the quiet just before the battle. The crow has chosen, the fight begins.

To me, Baduhenna is the battlecrow. She is both a Goddess of the forest and of war and madness. She is the Goddess who chooses the victors in battle and brings fear and paranoia to those on the other side of the field. She might even be related to the Morrigan, the Goddess Badb brought to the Frisians by the people of England. I like to see them as connected, sort of as a Dutch version of this Great Queen of War.

Correspondences:

Rituals: standing up for yourself, battle, bringing madness. {you shouldn’t, but you could…}
Colours: black and dark green or black and dark red.
Symbols: crows, handaxe, black feathers.
Stones: garnet, hematite, onyx, git, black obsidian.
Metals: steel and any dark metal.

Sources:

Book – Over de beoefening der Nederlandse mythologie, naar aanleiding der jongste tot dat onderwerp betrekkelijke geschriften – Johan van der Wal
Book – Nederlandsche volksoverleveringen en Godenleer – L. Ph. C. van den Bergh
Article (PDF): Baduhenna – Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (no longer available)
Website: Forgotten Gods – Reginheim
Website: Good Ol’ Wikipedia

So that’s it for the second installment of the Dutch Mythology series! Let me know what you think, or if you have a request for the next bit of mythology information. ‘Til next time!

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