In Germanic mythology, Seaxnēat (pronounced [sæɑksnæːɑt]) or Saxnōt is the national god of the Saxons. The Old English form Seaxnēat is recorded in the genealogies of the kings of Essex. The Old Saxon form Saxnōt is attested in the Old Saxon Baptismal Vow along with the gods Uuoden (Woden) and Thunaer (Thor).
The genealogy of the kings of Essex originally placed Seaxnēat at its apex. It was subsequently modified to make Seaxnēat son of Woden, with the first king of Essex seven generations later:
- Woden, Seaxnēat, Gesecg, Andsecg, Swaeppa, Sigefugel, Bedca, Offa, Æscwine (r. c. 527-587)
The name is usually derived from "seax", the eponymous knife which was characteristic of the tribe, and "neat", cognate with German "not", need or help, meaning "help(er) of the Saxons". 19th century etymology using methodology available at the time derived the name from "seax" and (ge)-not, (ge)-nēat as "companion" (cognate with German Genosse "comrade"), resulting in a translation of "sword-companion" (gladii consors, ensifer). This interpretation of the name is due to Jacob Grimm, who identified Saxnot with the god Tiw (Zio). Grimm's view is more recently endorsed by Chaney (1970), but Simek (2007:276) prefers an identification with Fro, following Gabriel Turville-Petre (and invoking Georges Dumézil's trifunctional hypothesis).
The word sax is the Swedish word for scissor. In Danish and Norwegian the spelling is saks and in Icelandic the word is skæri, that also has the meaning "to cut" in all the Scandinavian languages.
- Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie (1935), trans. Stallybrass (1888), chapter 9: "As Zio is identical with Zeus as directors of wars, we see at a glance that Eor, Er, Ear, is one with Ares the son of Zeus; and as the Germans had given the rank of Zeus to their Wuotan, Týr and consequently Eor appears as the son of the highest god. [...] Then again the famous Abrenuntiatio names three heathen gods, Thunar, Wôden, Saxnôt, of whom the third can have been but little inferior to the other two in power and holiness. Sahsnôt is word for word gladii consors, ensifer, who else but Zio or Eor and the Greek Ares? The AS. genealogies preserve the name of Saxneát as the son of Wôden, and it is in perfect accordance with it, that Týr was the son of Oðinn, and Ares the son of Zeus. But further, as the Saxons were so called, either because they wielded the sword of stone (saxum), or placed this god at the head of their race, so I think the Cheruscans of Tacitus, a people synonymous, nay identical with them, were named after Cheru, Heru = Eor, from whom their name can be derived."
- Chaney, William A. (1970). The Cult of Kingship in Anglo-Saxon England: The Transition from Paganism to Christianity. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
- Philippson, E. A.(1929). Germanisches Heidentum bei den Angelsachsen. Leipzig.
- Simek, Rudolf (2007) translated by Angela Hall. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. D.S. Brewer ISBN 0-85991-513-1
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