Help finding something on traditional germanic beliefs


:smiley: :wink:

Like I said, I think I’ll start a blog about it. I’ve got plenty of material from a journal I’ve devoted to this topic, but I don’t think this was the place for it and I apologize for taking up unnecessary space. I’ll let you all know when I put it up.


Have you ever heard of the Bloody Verdict of Verden (search Massacre of Verden on Wikipedia)? It’s cited as the single most important event in stamping out traditional Germanic paganism / shamanism. Thousands of spiritual leaders were executed by the Christian emperor Charlemagne backed by the bloody Holy Roman Empire. It’s really tragic.

Another interesting source could be the book “Dreamtime : Regarding the Boundary Between Wilderness and Civilization” by Hans Peter Duerr. Maybe I’m just imagining things because the author’s name is German, but I believe he talks a lot about traditional German (or if not specifically German than European in general) healers and spiritual practitioners. It’s a fantastic, utterly astounding and intelligent treatise on natural spirituality vs. civilized culture. Reading it will definitely give you some perspective on the lost traditions lying beneath the concrete and corn rows.

Any sagas would be a good place to look too.

The Sacred Texts archive has these two things. First, a long first-hand description of the ancient German people written in the first century by Tacitus, a Roman scribe, which will give you a good view of their traditions though it’s from an imperial source and he substitutes Roman deities for indigenous ones (though you can infer the universal characteristics being worshiped). That’s here:

Secondly, a list w/ descriptions of the festivals of West Germany, laying out how they worshiped the cycles of the year and other special events, highlighting pagan roots and mystic symbolism (as you could with American holidays such as Christmas, a mockery of the pagan Yule, the Darkness Before the Dawn–the Christmas Tree a modern version of “bringing in the greens”, another Euro-pagan tradition–see “The Golden Bough” for an exhaustive exploration of holidays and their traditional roots). That article, Festivals of Western Germany, is here:

Hope that helps! Dig those roots!


It seems that your previous beliefs/ interpretations of the Norse stories closely parallel what I think now, except that I see Odin and Thor as traitors to their indigenous ancestry and thus, I do not recognize them as authorities or trust them. I am against all “gods” and for the Ents (norse - Jotnar) and Elves - the oppressed. Spiritual beings from other cosmologies, I respect upon a review of what is said about them. Santa Muerte (Nahuatl: Mictecacihuatl), who is a close parallel to Hel, gets my trust. In theory, I could trust many beings who I have not personally met.


I’ve recently started looking through The Germania by Tacitus. It’s hard to gauge how much is shitty propaganda and how much is genuine, since Tacitus was a bloody Roman. But I found this last night and thought it was relevant:

"The Germans do not think it in keeping with the divine majesty to confine gods within walls or to portray them in the likeness of any human countenance. Their holy places are woods and groves, and they apply the names of deities to that hidden presence which is seen only by the eye of reverence." - Tacitus, The Germania


Beautiful quote, Peter. It absolutely supports what I have been finding as I dig deeper into Germanic Heathenism, and explore where it’s beliefs meet my own.

P.S. Does anyone have a link for “Thunder Thighs’” blog?


In the book When They Severed the Earth from the Sky, Linguist/anthropologist Elizabeth Wayland Barber, and her folklorist husband Paul T. Barber offer the following idea:

“In Norse Mythology, gods basically do good deeds, while giants do evil ones. The gods bring fertility and life, whereas the giants–many of whom are “frost giants” (quite understandable in the Far North)–bring harm and devastation to both gods and men. This differentiation can get quite specific. Thus Thor is the valiant storm god who brings life-giving rainstorms while his lightning smites your enemies (evildoers all) and destroys their crops. On the other hand, Thiassi is the evil storm giant who blasts you with lighting and destroys your crops with floods. In short, Thor and Thiassi here represent the positive and negative aspects of the same phenomenon.” pg. 55-56.

Any thoughts? Personally, I feel their explanation is too simple. For example, I can easily think of Mt Hood as a giant (or giantess) with both a “negative” side (possible volcanic eruption endangering nearby communities, cities and infrastructure) and a “positive” side (rivers, bull run, beauty, water supply, etc). But I consider both the “good” and the “bad” to be very much aspects of one “entity”. And I also realize how human-centic that list of aspects is.

I think “giants” transcend human notions–they were here before us, and will be here after us. Whereas gods seem more of a human construct.


I don’t know enough about Norse mythology yet to speak with any confidence, but when I was listening to an audio reading of some of the stories, I was struck by how the city-language used to describe Asgard and such, resonated much less with me than the rugged, wild forests and mountains where the giants live.


I agree with your observation, Jessie.

I haven’t read a whole lot of Germanic/Norse material yet either, but I’m working on it. And I was very happy to come across an Asatru book recently that mentioned the validity of a Heathern path that honors/works with the giants and land wights specifically–instead of the gods. (This brings Heathernism into Animistic territory!)

Pretty much everything else I have seen written about Heathernism has been very gods-centered, so this was refreshing to read. BTW, I have noticed that both Neo-Celtic paganism and modern Heathernism tend to emphasize anthropomorphisized gods, but that appears to be a more recent approach that came about though Roman/Classical influence. As soon as the Romans started trying to equate their gods with Germanic or Celtic gods, they started building temples and statues throughout Celtic and Germanic lands to represent and/or worship those gods. Heathern and pagan artists have been drawing, painting and/or sculpting humanoid representations of the gods ever since.


What’s the title & author of that book?


“Essential Ásatrú : walking the path”, by Diana L. Paxson. The Multnomah County Library has a copy.

And like I said, it only briefly mentions an animistic-Heathen path, but the book also has some religious history for Germanic and Scandinavian countries that’s worth reading.


I want to cross-link to another forum thread that clicketyclack started: “Topic: Critique of paganism” , at,1886.msg17472.html#msg17472 . The following article is linked there, and definitely has relevance to this discussion.


It is interesting how little hints and details keep appearing once you start paying attention.

I’ve been reading a book about the traditions of household spirits in old Europe. Somewhat scholarly, but lots of things about the “old ways”, such as making peace with the land wights when you build a house, and the rituals associated with the care of household spirits, as well as protecting the house from negative spirits. There were many traditions that invoked protection at the corners of the house, and windows and doors and other openings–especially the chimney.

The fireplace is of course, the hearth, which was central to the lives of ancestors. Daily life revolved around the hearth’s warmth, cooking, heating water, as well as just spending time with family and friends there, maybe listening to and telling stories, or playing music. Or just gazing at the flames. The health and prosperity of the house were tied to the hearth, and the household spirits often resided in this magical place that was essentially a portal between our world and the other world. So it was especially important to have rituals and traditions that protected the hearth from bad spirits, and honored the resident good spirits. Charms, talismans and symbols were frequently used.

Right after reading about this, I started noticing something interesting as I wandered though my Portland neighborhood. Many of the older 1920’s homes have a brick lozenge or diamond symbol on their exterior chimneys. It is crazy that I have been in Portland for over 15 years and only just noticed this. But the more I look around me, the more traces I see of an Old World protection-symbol tradition that is still going all these years later, somehow persevering through Christianization, witch hunts, emigration, and industrialization. Architecture seems to have done a particularly good job of preserving some of the old traditions, even if people no longer remember the original purposes/meanings.

Here is a lozenge shape I found a block from my house…


The lozenge is often said to be a female or fertility symbol, and it is often used in embroidery and tablet woven bands around the neck and sleeves and bottom of traditional European clothing. By protecting the openings of clothing, it protects the wearer. It also protects openings between this world and the other world, such as the chimney, as just described, or say, the opening we all pass though during childbirth, (going back to the female/fertility symbol link).

It is also a rune. The earliest form of the rune “Inguz” is a diamond or lozenge shape. (Later versions of the Runic alphabet changed the Inguz, Ingwaz or Ing rune to have the shoots at the top, and the root shapes at the base). Ingwaz is a Germanic god, commonly linked to the Vanir and agriculture. Ing can also mean hero. But the lozenge symbol is older than agriculture. In “Essential Ásatrú : walking the path”, Diana L. Paxson offers the theory that the Inguz rune represents a seed, and the fertility aspect of the god Freyr, (meaning “Lord”), and which is said to be another name for Ingwaz. But people were planting seeds even before agriculture.

So to summarize, we have the lozenge protection symbol/rune that can either be a female symbol protecting/symbolizing openings, or a male symbol/rune symbolizing the seed or “generative element”.

Break the rune into two parts, and we have a combination of male and female symbols: /\ is similar to the upwards pointing arrow (or spear) rune for Tiw/Tyr/Tiwaz, the sky god. / points to earth and the underworld, or earth mother. And long before Germanic the Germanic/Nordic pantheon that we are familiar with today, out ancestors honored the sky and the earth, and the life that came from their union.

So even though we have fallen from the path of our ancestral culture, look around–there are traces of it everywhere, hidden in plain sight.


P.S. Make note of the “O” rune above, for “inherited land”. Later it came to mean “estate”, (see below for a more modern version of the runic alphabet), but at it’s essence, it appears to be a symbol for life/male+female/man+woman, but with roots. Life rooted in the land.

It is well worth examining the old runic alphabet and meanings to find clues about the things were central to our ancestors’ world.


I’ve been enjoying the Edda and written a little inspired by it:

I’m all about the giants, trolls, jotuns. I’m all in.


Hello Willem,
It is always such a pleasure reading your writing.

I am puzzled about something though… according to the Prose Edda, humankind did not even exist until after Vé and Vili and Odin slew Ymer. Búri and Borr, adopted child and grandchild of the cow, and progenitors of the gods, were not human. “Gods of the Germanic Peoples, Volume 1” calls Búri the first god, but it also suggests the possibility that Búri was male/female, god/goddess, and that was how he/she (ze) gave birth to Borr.

Now Vé and Vili and Odin, although also half-giants, are known to us as gods. But the term “Vé” is Old Norse for Spirit and Sanctuary, and thus, Vé and Vili and Odin took the primordial Ymer-substance to create this sanctuary, the earth and the trees and the sky and the seas that still surround us today, as well as the first humans themselves.

(Interesting how much that story parallels Coyote cutting apart the Monster of Kamiah and throwing the piece to the different directions to create the different tribes of people–except in that mythology, the monster appears to be an actual evil monster, rather then a deposed giant).

To me it seems that we ran into trouble with Germanic mythology because the humans decided to only honor the gods and forget the giants. But perhaps that was inevitable, as according the the Edda, “the first (Odin) gave [the first man and first woman] spirit and life; the second (Vili), wit and feeling; the third (Vé), form, speech, hearing and sight.” So if the first humans never had the opportunity to see, hear, speak of, or feel anything but the “sanctuary” created by Vé and Vili and Odin, how would they even know to honor the progenitors of those gods and the lost realm of the giants, or to celebrate the primordial-Ymer-substance?


Hey Monica! Thanks for your kind words.

My hobby-horse is always that the farming gods - which the Germanic/Norse gods decidedly were, at least in the farmer’s/post-animist version of the stories - were gods of domestication, as they are our deep-time ancestors, as we embody/tell the story.

For me, and I think you’ll agree, deep-time/myth-time stories are happening right now - they are not historical events.

In that sense, we are dismembering the world to re-create the world - “rolling country-side”/farmland, cities, parks, parking-lots, etc. - as if we were the originators of the world. We, as children of our gods, are basically taking credit for the world and remapping its origination.

The most damning evidence for this is that the Cosmic Cow is there at the beginning of time along with Ymir, when obviously the domestication of cattle is pretty recent. So this beginning of time is the beginning of each moment right now.

The other damning evidence is most or all of the Aesir are all giant or half giant or who knows what. Ymir is the true origination, and when the jersey cow mask is pulled off of Auðumla we see an auroch there and when the auroch’s mask is pulled off we see the glacial milk pouring from mountain peaks which is the female half of Ymir, which scour and lick the landscape from which sprout green and birth bloody the wild beautiful gods that are decidedly nonhuman.

Or something like that.


Hmmm. So once we were the gods, living in a sacred land of (glacial) milk and honey. But we did not control that wondrous, sentient land, so we became full of our own egos and self-importance and became the false gods, determined to kill the the wild animate and replace it with the controllable inanimate.


Actually…let me revise that completely.

Once we were in harmony with all forms of life, living in a sacred land of ice and earth and stone, warmed by sun and fire. As the glaciers of Auðumbla, thawed, her life bestowing, flowing waters danced over the skin of our original sanctuary, Ymer or Ymir, and we and all forms of life emerged from all that which was once frozen, seemingly-lifeless under the ice.

All of us together, two-leggeds, (giants, trolls, humans, birds) four-leggeds (mammals, lizards, amphibians), many-legged (insects and arachnids) and no-leggeds (fish, snakes, worms, plus the whole of the plant, fungal and bacterial kingdoms) stood or wriggled upon or rooted into or swam within Ymer’s primeval soils and waters, all of us equal, and each of our needs and gifts woven together in beautiful, cyclical balance.

But something eventually came to tip that balance, shattering the equality of all forms of life, and setting in motion a terrible unfolding of events.

The first humans to emerge from the mingling of Ymir’s earth and Auðumbla’s waters were the people of Búri. Today we may still remember Búri as the first Germanic god, but also as a hemaphroditic god/goddess who sired his/her son Borr. But as myth changes over time, details are lost and compressed, and in mythic story-telling form, entire people may become identified by their leaders’ names alone. Thus we can attempt to decompress this piece of the mythology, and expand the idea of the hemaphroditic Búri into the tribe of Búri, an ancient group of people who lived with male and female, masculine and feminine principles in balance. But as time passed, the tribe of Búri gave way to the tribe of Borr.

In the form of the myth we know today, the god Borr took Bestla, the daughter of a frost Giant as his wife. Here we see the principles of masculine and feminine become unbalanced. The men of the tribe of Borr were not satisfied by following the old ways, and coveted things outside their natural domain. Borr shattered the original balance by rejecting the feminine element of his own tribe, and choosing instead to seize or possess a feminine element of nature. (So perhaps Willem, the story of “The first Murder” could also be considered as the story of the first abduction or first domestication?) Besta, torn from her native frostlands, became subservient to Borr, and became mother of Vé and Vili and Odin.

These three brothers (and the three tribes that came from their names) decided that having the masculine dominate both the feminine and nature as it existed then was not enough. Instead, man must now embody mastery over nature, and what better way to do that than to remodel wild nature into domesticated nature, and to remodel themselves as gods who would rule over that newly domesticated land.

So Vé and Vili and Odin slew the primeval Ymer, and a vast and terrible flood drowned the world. But because they were credited for the shape of and nature of the world that came after, their surviving tribes-people remembered them as gods.

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Thank you Willem for starting this conversation with your great post, The First Murder at , and thank you to Elizabeth Wayland Barber and Paul T. Barber, authors of When They Severed Earth from Sky: How the Human Mind Shapes Myth, whose pointers on Myth interpretation and decoding were essential to my analysis of the Germanic creation myth as shown above.


Beautiful, intriguing, and fun!