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!

7 thoughts on “Dutch Myths: Baduhenna

  1. Hello, I was hoping that you may be able to help. I have been looking trying to find the gods that the Dutch worshiped before Christianity. Most of the names I have found are all over the place your writing has helped. The only god that I knew of was that of Donda (thor). What I am planning on doing is to find out more about the Dutch mythology, and tips or pointers? I am working on some Viking style armour and I want to have the Dutch gods names in there. Plus I get to learn more about my people. Thank you for any help. Thank you for your time. Take care, stay safe and healthy.

    – M. R. Borg

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    1. Hi Marten, I had to step back from this site for a little while, so I don’t know if this reply has any use anymore or if it’s too late. Most information I have on the Gods is in Dutch, am I right I’m assuming you don’t speak that? Here in the Netherlands we worshipped the Germanic Gods, which are, indeed, the Norse Gods with different names. Odin became Wodan or insome regions Woens, Thor became Donar or Thunar, Freya is Freija, and so forth. Google should help you out on that one. Now, we also had local Gods. I wrote a bit of a short list here in the post about Dutch Gods for D&D that might help. Should you need more info or have more questions, feel free to reach out. I promise to keep a bit of a closer eye on the site from now on 😉

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      1. Hello,
        Thank you for getting back to me. Yeah I knew about the Germanic gods also being Dutch gods. But I have also read that some Celtic gods were also Dutch gods but that is harder to get ahold of. And my ancestors came from the Netherlands, so I would like to know more. I am putting Dutch gods and goddess names in rune in my lamellar armour. Thank you again for getting back to me. You have been a great help, thank you. Take care and have a great rest of the week.

        – M. R. Borg

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      2. Hi Marten, I’m not a historian, so I know nothing for sure, but this is what I have found in my research. The “problem” with the Celtic Gods is two parted. First the Netherlands were close to the border of the continental celtic tribe lands. We were traders, so a lot of those border cultures mixed and matched to where we don’t really from some of the Gods if they were Celtic or Germanic. Secondly, we were one of the most important trade routes, sea faring wise. So some of “our” deities were taken overseas to Britannia and incorporated there. So you have a melting pot of deities which we often know nothing about except for the name and two or three stone inscriptions. This makes it more difficult.
        I’d be very curious to see the armor when it is finished, and to which runic alphabet you will be using!
        Greetings and have a great night!

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      3. Yeah am no historian as well. I just find this stuff interesting. And as for the rune set. From what I have seen, they said that the Friesians used the Anglo Saxon rune set. And most of those letters can be found in the metal stamp set of the elder futhark. So that is the one am going with. Thanks again for your time and help.

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