The memory of Nefi
as recorded by (and about) his descendants
among the Dutch, French, German, Italian, and Norse peoples
Actual memorial of a Canna-nefate
who served in the Roman cavalry,
One of the tribes encountered and enlisted by Rome included the seafaring Cannanefates, said to be of the same origin as their neighbors the Batavians.
Cannanefates lived in the sandy soil near the coast, a soil well suited for growing leeks and onions, good sources of flavor and vitamin C. Notably, that is precisely what any seafaring people accustomed to long ocean voyages would want to cultivate, to avoid scurvy. Some modern linguists suggest that their name simply means "leek masters."
However, germanic accounts elsewhere in Europe suggest that the "Canninefates" tribal name, like *many* other tribal names, instead references a person, a specific earlier leader.
In the oldest Germanic language that we have extensive record of (Gothic), Canna/Kanna simply means kin, family, descendants. As such, this people were the descendants of the Nefates/Nefites. And the ates/ites ending, used also among such people as the Usipi/Usipites (the very earliest German peoples), simply means "connected with or belonging to" or "deriving from", similar to the modern word Semites for people descending from Shem/Sem. That word ending was especially used by ancient Greeks and Romans "to make such ethnic designations." Notably, they did so when rendering Hebrew names that ended in "-i."
Which brings us to Nefi.
The Norse in Iceland, some of the most meticulous record keepers among the Germanic people, fortunately preserved for us the name of the earliest patriarch of the germanic Burgundians/Nibelung on the continent. They spelled his name "Nefir," just as they spelled Leif Erikson's name "Leifr" and the Nibelung as "Niflungr." The "r" ending was simply an Icelandic conjugation rule for spelling certain nouns.) Just as "Leif" is the correct way to render "Leifr" (of Vinland seafaring fame), Nefi is the correct way to pronounce the patriarch of the germanic heroic account.
In the germanic languages, where the Nibelung/Niflung are said to descend from Nefi, the "lung" ending serves the exact same purpose as the "Canna/Kanna" prefix among Nefi's descendants in the ancient Netherlands. With the Nibelung/Niflung, the -lung ending adds the same meaning as -ling in duckling and gosling, aligning precisely with what the Norse account attests, that they were descendants of Nefi.
Which brings us back to the Canni-nefates. Based on what we learned earlier of the Latin ending -ites/ates, it was used to render tribal names that *had* ended in "-i" (especially Hebrew names). So, based on the germanic prefix Canna/Kanna, the group we have here is accurately parsed the Canna/Kanna (kin or descendants) of Nefi, ethnically rendered by Greeks and Romans as Cana-nef(i)-ites, similar to how the Usipi were rendered by Caesar as the Usipites.
So from three different places and times, (the ancient Netherlands, migration-age Germany, and medieval Iceland) a period spanning two thousand miles and over a thousand years, we have corroborating evidence that early inhabitants of the germanic peoples deemed themselves descendants of this otherwise unknown hero called Nefi.
And who knows what other accounts of him, once circulated among other such nations, have since been lost to the ravages of time. So we should be very grateful for the few accounts which *have* been preserved and passed down to us through the faithful efforts of scops, scribes, and archivists.
The Cananefates in the Netherlands were of the same people as the earliest germans. So were the later Nibelung/Niflung. And coming full circle, the hero of the Nibelung in the 400's AD, Siegreid son of Siegmund, resided in the Netherlands, ancient home of the Cannanefates.
The apparent naming redundancy among ancient writers when retaining both the germanic "Canna" as a prefix and "ates/ites" as an apparent Latin suffix, likely traces to lack of understanding of what the germanic names actually meant. Such misunderstanding and redundancy was somewhat common. For example, we need look no further than the Cannenefates' kinsmen adjacent to them in the Netherlands, the Batavians, and to the name of the island called Batavia at the mouth of the Rhine that they shared as a new home.
Ancient classical writers described that island, germanic Batavia (believed to mean "good island") as "Insula Batavorum." However, "insula" is Latin for "island." Just as "avia" is said to be early Germanic, also meaning island. So the Romans unwitttingly called Batavia "Insula Good Island," meaning "island good island." Which helps us understand how the Romans also rendered the Canni-nefi-ates, as "the people of Nefi's people." In early Europe, they simply didn't understand the peoples they were trying to describe, which was perhaps a good thing.
So we know that these ancient Cannenefates were German, and seafaring. They claimed to be family of this Nefi. And Germans centuries later, and Icelanders centuries after that, also remembered and preserved Nefi's name.
From the German Nibelunlied, we also learn that Nefi's descendants were said to have been entrusted with a precious "arvr" (inheritance) of gold, which they had kept buried. (Many ancient peoples buried their valuables.)
The Nefite's treasure was so coveted (and misunderstood) by others, that the accounts describe people killing each other trying to obtain it. But the misunderstood inheritance they once rumored to keep hidden is today freely shared. Let me explain.
When I was a young boy in New Jersey, I was taught in elementary school a song about a peaceful city on a mountain, that preserved a great treasure "hidden deep beneath a stone." And the people of the valley threatened to march on the city unless the treasure was surrendered to them. The reply from the mountain was, "with our brothers we will share, all the riches of the mountain, all the treasure buried there."
But the valley people weren't satisfied with sharing, marched on the city, and killed everyone. But when they turned the stone over and looked underneath, "'Peace on earth' was all it said.'"
The song then ends with a curt reminder that a judgment day is coming, so we best stop cheating and hating our neighbor. It is an invitation to peace, and a reminder of the brotherhood of man.
It was a plea for peace, during an era of war. But it was something more. The song also embodies the message of the people of Nefi, and their buried golden inheritance. It is a fractal of mankind's history.
On that note, I invite readers to seek out the record preserved of this Nefi (or Nephi), anciently written on golden leaf, and buried on a hill, under a rock, in a land once called Vinland.
The ancient account tells of Nefi, who had to defend the lives of his own people, from his own brothers. It includes an invitation for his descendants to be faithful, wise, and charitable. It describes ships built by a man around 60 BC, and the departure of many from Vinland aboard his boats into the ocean, two years before Julius Caesar marched north into Europe and began encountering them there, as newcomers. And Europe's mention of the shipbuilder, his arrival, his deeds, and his fate, in Europe.
And that ancient record from Nefi and his people sadly describes the eventual demise of the portion of his descendants who stayed behind in Vinland, a tragedy that unfolded when their cousins across the water, the heroes of Nibelung/Niflung, were young boys and girls.
One of the last survivors of Nefi's people in Vinland, who had witnessed the downfall of his people there, closed their account inviting their cousins (us) and our neighbors to be more wise and more faithful and more charitable. He then quietly buried his people's ancient golden record in a hill, to benefit future generations, and walked away. A message which echoes a trumpet call to the millions today who descend from the german (hermano) tribes who later migrated to all of Europe, north and South Africa, the Americas, and Australasia. It would seem that the Swiss were the first modern people among us to adopt a peaceful yet vigilant stance. May the rest of us quickly follow suit.
And as we do that, rather than do so in misplaced ethnic pride, may we, as the ancient people of Nefi once did, remember that at the heart of their ancestral heritage was the duty to benefit all of mankind.
In closing, the reader may wish to know what it cost to bring the record of Nefi, a valuable treasure of peace, to our generation. The man who did that, a descendant of Usipites, Angles, Saxons and others, had the same name as the ancient patriarch of the Usipi. He would end up losing his life, as would his brother, at the hands of angry neighbors who violated a promise of safety. Those two brothers surrendered themselves into the hands of those who hated them, knowing attack was imminent. And minutes before that final storm hit, one of the two brothers read aloud a closing chapter of the record of Nefi's people, an ancient and urgent appeal for kindness and faith. And he quietly folded down the page as a placeholder for each of us.
Just as our heritage serves as a placeholder for us, and for others. To help us look back, appreciate our civilization's roots, and resolve to learn from them, and be wiser, kinder, and more faithful than they and their neighbors had been.
May we seek for and study the treasure that was once buried under the hill, an 11th-hour appeal for peace on earth. It's out there, in circulation, waiting for you. May you seek, find, and treasure it. And may we then share that message (and extend that peace) with our brothers, with all man-kind.
According to Roman historians, before going into battle, our fathers sang of their ancestors, and especially of a visit from heaven. Essentially, battle hymns. That was how they remembered and passed on their heritage to the rising generation. So in a crucial hour, when their leader Hadugoth arose, reached for his people's banner, and reminded them of their honorable heritage and the need to take courage and have faith, he likely did so, at least in part, through song. It is therefore only fitting that the "arvr" (inheritance) of a valuable golden treasure from the earth, called by Germans Nibelunglied, "-lied" means "song" in both German and Dutch, a name in plain English simply meaning song of the Nefites, or as some render it in modern renditions, "We have been born, as Nefi of old..."
May we seek for the promises made to our fathers, the inheritance they faithfully wished to pass down to us, more valuable than money. Peace.
In English and Spanish by Kenya Clark and Alex Melecio, dedicated by them to the people of Latin America who suffer from ongoing injustice, wishing "freedom and peace to those who have fled their homelands in search of a better life."
And a source of pure joy, One Voice Children's Choir singing When You Believe, in English, French, and Hebrew at Omaha Beach. Commemorating that costly June 1944 event, (100 years after another costly June event) establishing a D-Day beachhead landing on the coast of Normandy France. In tribute to the lives given both there and further inland among the Jews.
Copyright John D. Nelson, 2017