The Earliest Recorded Direct Democracy

…by Dr. Stuart Jeanne Bramhall

 

This is the first of four posts about experiments in direct democracy, where ordinary people assume responsibility for running society. The first, over 4,000 years old, is a recorded account of early Frisian society prior to the Roman conquest of Gaul in 52 BC. Imperial Rome dismissed the Frisians and other Germanic tribes as barbarians for the same reason Europeans dismissed Native Americans as savages: because they owned the land communally and rejected authoritarian governance.

the other atlantis

The Other Atlantis

By Robert Sutton (Neville Spearman Limited 1977)

Book Review

The Other Atlantis concerns an extremely controversial manuscript called the Oera Linda Book (OLB). It concerns the ancient history of the Frisians, a Dutch ethnic group. The OLB was dismissed as a hoax almost immediately after its publication in 1872. During the 1930s, Heinrich Himmler and Nazi occultists heavily promoted the book, believing it support their theories of racial purity and an Aryan master race. This would make the OLB even more controversial. For decades, it was illegal in the Netherlands to even quote from the Oera Linda Book.

The OLB purports to be the history of a lost seafaring island civilization northeast of Scotland. Called Aldland or Atland, it was destroyed by a unknown geological cataclysm in 2092 BC. The writings contained in the OLB were recorded between 559 BC and 803 AD by the descendants of Frisian refugees who settled in Denmark and the Low Countries (Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg). The early chapters of the OLB derive primarily from wall inscriptions preserving the history and religious laws of ancient Atland.

For eleven centuries, successive generations of a Frisian family recopied the manuscript in the original runic* script. In 1256 Hiddo Over de Linda copied it on new cotton paper imported from Spain. It remained the exclusive property of the Over de Linda family until 1867, when shipwright Cornelius Over de Linden allowed a Frisian scholar to translate it into modern Frisian. In 1872, it was published in Dutch and English.

435px-Manuscript_Thet_Oera_Linda_Bok,_pagina_48From p46 of the OLB explaining how runic script derives from the 6 spokes in a wheel

The debate over its authenticity continues to the present day. Most online OLB sites are in Dutch, though I found one in English at Speculative History – Oera Linda Book

Is the Oera Linda Book a Forgery?

If OLB is a forgery, it’s an extremely ingenious one. As yet, no one has identified the presumptive forger or forgers. They would have to have a detailed knowledge, not only of ancient Frisian and runic script, but of ancient paper and ink making, Frisian oral history, ancient maps depicting an ice-free Antarctica and Arctic Circle, and Mediterranean, Indian, and South American pre-history. Additionally they would need to have foreknowledge of archeological finds that wouldn’t occur for another hundred years.

The book was dismissed as a forgery almost immediately after its 1872 publication. I suspect this relates to a bias Europeans inherited from the Romans that non-hierarchical societies are incapable of advanced civilization.

The only substantive evidence against its authenticity was a spurious allegation that the paper dated from the 19th century and was produced by machine. These claims were soundly dismissed in the forward to the second edition by the original translator. He establishes (quite convincingly, in my view) that the paper and ink are handmade and consistent with paper and ink produced prior to the 1300s.

Carbon dating would be the conclusive test of the age of the paper the OLB is printed on. Either this hasn’t happened or the results are being suppressed. As one commenter points out at the Speculative History site, evidence that the paper was produced more recently than 1256 in no way negates the OLB’s authenticity. It seems highly likely that one or members of the Over de Linda family made copies of the 1256 manuscript to ensure its preservation.

How Atland was Governed

Sutton clearly supports the authenticity of the OLB, and provides plentiful archeological and historical data supporting the ancient history it lays out.

In Atland political rule was matriarchical because women “were the informed conscience of more practically and physically inclined men.”** Priestly virgins served under a eeramoeder (earth- mother), who was the overall chief of the Burgtmaagden (bourough-maids). The eeramoeder was democratically chosen by the people she ruled and could be banished or put to death for abusing her power.

All land and forests were owned in common, except for a small plot of land behind each home. Individuals from prohibited from accumulating possession and power that would enable them to control others. Atland was operated as a democratic welfare state where the sick and disabled were looked after. Government was financed by a sales tax charged on merchants at a central marketplace.

Oral Histories Recorded in OLB

Some of the intriguing oral histories laid down in the OLB include those of

• a Frisian explorer named Inka who sailed across the Atlantic and founded the Inca dynasty in Peru (around 2000 BC)
• a Frisian adventurer named, who was later deified as the Norse god Odin or Woden.
• a Frisian sea king named Neef-Teunis (cousin Teunis) who led a colony of Frisians to settle in Phoenicia in 2000 BC. He, too, would be deified as the Greek and Roman god Neptune.
• a Frisian explorer and philosopher named Minno who introduced Frisian civilization to the island of Crete in 1100 BC. He would found a dynasty of kings who took the name Minos.
• a Frisian princess named Min-Erva Nylhellenia who founded the Greek city of Athens in 1250 BC. She, too, would be deified as the Greek and Roman goddess Minerva.
• the banishment of Atland citizens who defied religious laws to a penal colony Westland, the ancient name for the British Isles.
• The use by Alexander the Great of Punjab settlers of Frisian origin to build ships to aid in the conquest of India.

*Runic scripts were those used by Germanic peoples to record written language prior to their conversion to Christianity, when they adopted Roman script.
**Sounds pretty good to me

People can access an English translation of The Oera Linda Book here

I would like to acknowledge fellow Green Party member Dawn Bowen for making me aware of this fascinating book.

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5 responses to “The Earliest Recorded Direct Democracy

  1. Fascinating, immediate parallels to Hyperborea come immediately to mind.
    The six spoke wheel as template for Runic script is interesting, yet I immediately detect at least one Rune that does not derive from this model. What is interesting is that such a flowing script could only have been painted and/or written, not incised or carved, which is the primary source material for the Proto-Germanic, and Old Norse Rune rows.
    However, it should be mentioned that this Frisian claim of England as penal colony conflicts with the Breton narrative of the isles being founded by the Cymri, with the Picts, and others as later additions.
    Many peoples remember a Golden Age, when life was far better, far more content, and far easier than the struggle for survival that has typified life in most corners of the globe.
    It should also be kept in mind that it was the last of the Germanic people, the Norse, who fought with everything they had to stay non-christian and free. Norse society was the last European egalitarian culture, and it stayed that way for as long as it successfully repelled christianity.
    The church, however, used its old tricks to recruit rulers and would-be rulers, and through them launched several religious wars that greatly depopulated Scandinavia, and forced the people to accept the destructive mind virus of christianity.
    Even so, use of Runes, a thoroughly non-christian discipline, continued well past the 16th century, and the Cistercians who carved the Kensington Rune stone wrote the charter for the Knights Templar, the famous warriors for for the Goddess.

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  2. I intended to write something about the wheel, and the spokes in the previous post, so here it is, in brief. The circular form is the original ideogram for the Sun, and solar symbology has significant feminine connotations in ancient Germanic culture. The use of the spokes also has several significances, including multiple directions of influence.
    So, there are some very interesting correspondences between the above material, and ancient Germanic mysticism.

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  3. The OLB refers to aboriginal peoples living in Westland (Britain) – presumably the Picts. The Frisians made no attempt to settle Britain – they just banished lawbreakers there.

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  4. Dr. B.,
    Apologies, I should have taken the time to edit my thoughts, rather than just add to them. Upon rereading what I wrote, I realize my haste sacrificed clarity.
    I should have written that there is nothing recorded in archaeology or in legend that corroborates the Frisian claims regarding Britain. It is also true that nothing I have encountered exactly refutes it, either.
    One could suppose that if criminals of low character continually appeared on one’s shores, some mention should have been made of dealing with them. However, there are many possible explanations for this silence. In the end, it all remains quite intriguing.
    In terms of the Picts, it is known that the Welsh found in them a worthy foe, and that the Romans, for all their arrogance and claims to the contrary, had their ears pinned back by them. Hadrian’s wall looked impressive, but the Picts were accomplished sailors, and they simply outmaneuvered the fortification.
    Today there is no official history of pre-christian Britain, it is merely a sea of politically correct fashionable theory based on discrediting the legend of Cymryc origin. Today, for no apparent reason, it is fashionable to attempt to ignore both Celtic and Germanic contributions, in favor of some imagined “indigenous” people of which essentially nothing is known.
    Personally, I find no need to artificially define Celtic and Germanic material cultures, or for that matter, Celtic and the unknown “indigenous”.
    I do understand the human need to demand a separate, thoroughly intrinsic origin, but at the moment, Celtic culture reaches far enough back as to be essentially indigenous. Thus, the Cymryc legend of being allies of Troy, and migrating west northwest, to finally find their home in the Isles, is no more implausible than a sophisticated culture of pre-Celts, who were entirely separate from them, but somehow vanished upon Celtic arrival. Until some genuine evidence comes forth that truly alters the picture, vs, a political desire to not be associated with the Continent, or their peoples, legend is all we have.
    Equally, this Frisian tale is also the stuff of legend. Today we are taught that legend is myth, and myth is a lie, but this is far from the truth. Humanity has long used myth as a means for remembering crucial events, for establishing spiritual space, and for conveying mystic truths that defy rational explanation.
    Hypatia of Alexandria instructed us that truth is a matter of perspective, and yet, there is a quality of leading one on to new discoveries that accompanies truth, no matter what one’s perspective. I appreciate this article, the opportunity to comment, and the further discoveries it beckons us to achieve.

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