All over the world since metal was first used by humans the figure of a smith as god or demi-god is a widespread archetype.
In the Bronze Age and Iron Age crafters of metal were seen as workers of magic. Mystery and myth surrounded the forging of swords and the creation of precious jewellery. The new technology that allowed rocks to be melted down and transformed into items of use and beauty must have seemed quite amazing. And until very recent times the man who put shoes on horses and sharpened the farm tools would still have been held in high regard. Even today it is hard not to feel a sense of awe when watching a skilled blacksmith at work.
In a new book called Blacksmith Gods: Myths, Magicians and Folklore,Pete Jennings, pagan author and former president of the Pagan Federation, looks at the wealth of legend and lore regarding the smith.
Publisher Moon Books says on its website: ""Blacksmith Gods is a unique compendium of fascinating facts, fantasy and mystery relating to that universal archetype, the blacksmith. Covering many countries and cultures the book explores charming folk tales and customs alongside the often cruel myths of the metal-working gods. Discover the mysterious magic associated with them and their craft, from pre-history to the modern age."
One of the things I like about this book is that it is primarily about gods rather than goddesses. Of course there are smith goddesses, such as the popular Celtic goddess Brighid, but there are far more male smiths among the various pagan pantheons. Famous ones include the Anglo Saxon Wayland Smith and the Greek Hephaestus. There are also blacksmiths who although not deities are legendary, including Tubal Cain from the Christian Bible and Masamune from Japan. Superstitions, customs and folk tales - including many in which blacksmiths trick the Devil - are interspersed with the details of gods and heroes.
Before anyone reading this review writes me a rude comments asking why I am dissing the goddesses, I would point out that there are far more pagan books available about goddesses and this, in my opinion, redresses the balance. I do respect that goddess-centred covens don't feel the need for gods in their rites, but as a Gardnerian Wiccan I like to honour both. And for those in the Tribe of Tubal Cain witchcraft tradition, the blacksmith figure is obviously extremely important.
Although Blacksmith Godsis in Moon Books' Pagan Portals series, which are designed to be easily understood by entry-level pagans, I wouldn't describe the book as being only suitable for beginners. It is absolutely full of fascinating information and is extremely well written. I not only thoroughly enjoyed it, I know that I will use it as a reference book in the future.
At the end of the book is a chapter entitled Working with the Mythology that describes research projects or activities readers might want to try out if they feel inspired. It has made me want to include a blacksmith god in the invocations next time I write a ritual and also reminded me that I would very much like to have a go at forging my own athame, if I can find the blacksmith to teach me.
Links and previous related posts
Pagan Portals - Blacksmith Gods: Myths, Magicians and Folklore