Aldsidu & The Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum

The Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum (Small index of superstitions and paganism) was written in Latin in the eight century and is a collection of capitularies identifying and condemning pagan practices and beliefs. The manuscript is in the Vatican Library, in Codex Palatinus Latinus 577. Preceding the text of The Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum is a Baptismal Vow in Old Low Franconian, a vow that was probably used in baptisms of converts. What is known for sure is that an Anglo-Saxon monk wrote down a Baptismal Vow, followed by The Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum in one manuscript in the late 8th century in Fulda (well south of Old Saxony), and the manuscript traveled to Mainz in 1479. From Mainz it went to the Bibliotheca Palatina in Heidelberg and arrived in Rome no later than 1623.

I am going to discuss scholars’ opinion of both the Baptismal Vow (which has converts deny Thor, Odin, and Sahsnoth) and the Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum. My opinion (my arguments are below) is that the Baptismal Vow was written in Old Low Franconian by an Anglo-Saxon monk. I also believe that the Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum is from Boniface’s time (the 740s AD). This means these sources are more than 470 years OLDER than the Eddas and Sagas. I also believe that the Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum is not specific to the Old Saxons at all, despite the Baptismal Vow put in front of it in Codex Palatinus Latinus 577. I follow the views of scholars Alain Dierkens and Bernadette Filotas that the Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum was born by Carloman’s Missionary Council, the Concilium Germanicum on the 21st of April in the year 742/743, which was presided over by Boniface.

Carloman was the eldest son of Charles Martel (grandfather of Charlemagne.) Carloman retired to monastic life and left public life forever, hence Pepin, his younger brother, inherited Charles Martel’s crown. Pepin was Charlemagne's father, and Carloman was Charlemagne's uncle. Carloman was responsible for the Massacre of Cannstatt, which I believe was the real inspiration for the Massacre of Verden, where 4,500 Saxons were beheaded by Charlemagne after denying their former forced conversion and fighting for their Heathen freedom. Carloman massacred several thousand Alamanni nobles at Cannstatt who did not submit to Frankish over-lordship, and most likely Christianity as well. Carloman called a council, in which Bonifice presided, and the Concilium Germanicum was born.

The letters of Boniface tie linguistically to the Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum, which means this was before the conversion of the Saxons and most likely had more to do with England (Celtic and Germanic), Roman Gaul (Celtic), Frisian, and Frankish Heathenry. (Frisian and Frankish Heathenry were Germanic. While the Franks conquered France and gave France her name, the Franks came from central Germany and Belgium, and were not Celtic Peoples, unlike Roman Gaul, i.e. France.) The Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum never claims that it is specific to one tribe, but implies many peoples, without giving names. It doesn’t claim to be a capitulary against the Heathenry of the Saxons anywhere, and it seems to contradict the Old Saxon Heliand (which is Saxon specific and written without doubt in Old Saxon). It also stands in stark contrast to the Lex Saxonum and the Capitularies placed over the Saxons by Charlemagne. The Lex Saxonum and the Saxon Capitularies of the late 8th century would be contemporary to the Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum, in the sense that they are at least in the same century, but probably half a century apart in age. The Lex Saxonum and the Saxon Capitularies are law codes that go into detail in condemning specific Heathen practices of the Saxons, and these sources name the Saxons in them.

I will discuss the two camps on the dates and origins of the Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum. The first are the people who tie it to Boniface (740s AD), and the second group ties it to Charlemagne’s subjugation of the Saxons in the Saxon Wars of 772-804 AD. I follow Dierkens and Filotas, two scholars who argue convincingly (in my view) for the Boniface camp.

Dierkens, Alain (1984). "Superstitions, christianisme et paganisma à la fin de l'epoque mérovingienne: A propos de l'Indiculus superstitionem et paganiarum". In Hervé Hasquin (ed.). Magie, sorcellerie, parapsychologie. Brussels: Éditions de l'Université de Bruxelles. pp. 9–26.

Filotas, Bernadette (2005). Pagan survivals, superstitions and popular cultures in early medieval pastoral literature. Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. Studies and texts. 151. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. ISBN 978-0-88844-151-5.

The Baptismal Vow

Before discussing the two camps, I would like to address an important issue: The Baptismal Vow. This vow was originally called “The Old Saxon Baptismal Vow.” However, now it is almost universally accepted that this vow is not in the Old Saxon language. Since I am fluent at reading Old Saxon, I can also attest to that. About all scholars now think that there are elements of Old English, Old Dutch, and Old High German inside the vow. The Old English stems from Northumbria to the Continent (i.e. St Boniface.) The Old Dutch is consistent with the monastery at Utrecht (in modern Netherlands), and the Old High German elements stem from the Hersfeld Abbey. See Garden Stone’s write-up in his book “The Mercury Woden Complex.” See also R. Fletcher, The Conversion of Europe: from paganism to Christianity 371-1386 (Cambridge, 1996), p. 235 and 277: On the baptismal vow as being created in an Anglo-Saxon circle on the continent, also containing Old High German influences. And the Indiculus as containing influences by Caesarius of Arles and ‘being available to the missionary preacher by 800’.

The name “Saxnote” in the Baptismal Vow is THE reason that both the vow and the Indiculus is understood to be pointed at the Continental Saxons. Scholars agree that the Baptismal Vow and the Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum are two separate writings copied into one Latin Codex. I certainly agree with this. The Baptismal Vow is in a mixture of Germanic languages, but the Indiculus is written in Latin, and has a completely different feel, not just because of the language difference either. The Indiculus is basically thirty short sentences of thirty condemned behaviors. This list is much briefer than the Lex Saxonum. I shall place both the Lex Saxonum and the Indiculus below. Germanic words recorded in the Latin Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum shows that the Indiculus is not consistent with Old Saxon territory, and Old Saxon Heathenry. The Indiculus has Celtic words as well, along with the consistent language elements of the Anglo-Frisian languages (Old English and Old Frisian) that are not consistent with Old Saxon. Therefore, the dating to St. Boniface before the Saxon Wars, vs. the dating to Charlemagne during the Saxon Wars, is an important one for Saxon Heathenry. I believe that the linguistic and historical evidence ties the Indiculus (and maybe even the Baptismal Vow) to Frisia in particular, where Boniface preached his religious terrorism, and where he was “martyred” for his brutal attacks on Heathenry (like the destruction of Thor’s Oak of the Germanic Chatti tribe.)

PS- I have argued at times, that Sahsnoth (or Saxnote, or Seaxneat) is a Saxon specific deity. I probably should start to call this into question. Proving that other tribes like the Angles and Frisians did not venerate Sahsnoth is problematic, since Seaxneat is attested in the Genealogy of Essex in England. The Saxnote spelling from the Baptismal Vow is a very Latinized spelling, typical of England, and in researching this article, I have stumbled upon some scholars who argue that Sahsnoth may not have been known to the Saxons, but that Northumbrian Missionaries took Seaxneat from Essex and put it in their continental manuscripts. This was even argued this week by a member of my own Facebook Group “Saxon Heathenry.” The argument does have merit and should be given some consideration. I do believe that the Saxons knew Sahsnoth, but I now believe he may have had a wider sphere than what I did in the past.

The Two Camps: Boniface’s Time vs. Charlemagne’s Time

Since the seventeenth century, historians have been trying to figure out the purpose and date of the the Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum. The Indiculus was copied into Pal. Lat. 577 without a title, preface or any indication of its purpose. Due to this, historians have debated much and now generally their consensus falls into two camps. The Indiculus was first discovered in the mid seventeenth century. Bishop Ferdinand von Fürstenberg of Paderborn, with help of a librarian, found the Cod. Pal. Lat. 577 in the Vatican library and printed a short piece of research on the Indiculus and the Baptismal Vow he found with it. He stated that the list would have affinity with the Concilium Germanicum and the synod of L’Estinnes, where it seemed obvious that it would have been compiled during the Bonifatian era. [Fürstenberg printed his CAROLI MAGNI CAPITVLATIO DE PARTIBUS SAXONIAE originally in Rome (1652), where he also put texts 1-8 from Cod. Pal. Lat. 289, the Capitulare Saxonicum from the same codex and the Baptismal Vow plus Indiculus from Cod. Pal. Lat. 577 in this edition. He mainly argues for the relation of canon V of the Concilium Germanicum with the contents of the Indiculus. Also, the connection with the council of ‘Liftinnes’, canon VI argues for a connection with the Indiculus. A reprint of the text can be found in: Ferdinand von Fürstenberg ed., Monumenta Paderbornensia (Amsterdam, 1672), pp. 329-337.]

In the simplest nutshell possible, the first camp argues that words in the Indiculus are similar to the Concilium Germanicum, therefore it is equated with Saint Boniface. Another reason is of course that Boniface was the most successful and well known missionary and was instrumental in having English monks all over Germanic tribal lands preaching the gospel. He was “the” missionary to Germanic lands and became a saint for this reason.

The arguments for Charlemagne rests on three things: 1. The mentioning of “Saxnote” in the Baptismal Vow. 2. Charlemagne brought monks from England (as Boniface was martyred in Frisia) to carryout the missionizing of Saxony. Charlemagne wrote Capitularies condemning specific practices of Saxon Heathenry 3. It also rests on assumptions that date back to the end of the nineteenth century, which can be placed in the Zeitgeist of the German unification of 1871. German historians in the nineteenth century lived in an academic climate where Charlemagne was viewed as the founder of the German nation (born in 1871 with the end of the Franko-Prussian War.) The Indiculus as a part of Charlemagne’s influence and reforms seemed obvious for many historians. A certain ‘political mindset’ was present at that time among historians who wanted to reconstruct ‘German history.’

Celtic Words

The Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum has four Celtic words when it lists pagan and superstitious ideals that are “condemned.” Four words in thirty short sentences is a considerable number. The linguistic evidence concerning the origin of the vernacular of these words (nodfyr, dadsisas, nimidas and yrias) would make a VERY strong argument that some, if not all the Indiculus, has nothing to do with Saxony. At one point the presence of a Celtic word and a Germanic word in one sentence indicate that more texts were used to compile the Indiculus, of which the Concilium Germanicum of Boniface makes the most sense. Nimidas is related to nemeton, a Celtic word for a ‘cultic place in the woods.’ Old Saxon has a very specific word for this (uuih) which is related to the Old Norse word “ve.” [Homann, Der Indiculus Superstitionum et paganiarum, pp. 123-126] The Concilium Germanicum condemns a practice that involves ‘a blasphemous fire’ called niedfyr, which is like the description of nodfyr (a Celtic word) in the Indiculus. The Concilium Germanicum canon V says: Deum et suos sanctos ad iracundiam provocantes, sive illos sacrilegos ignes, quos niedfyr vocant. This implies the influence of other texts in the compilation of the Indiculus from various parts of the Frankish empire. Superstitious subcategories we encounter in the Indiculus (doing ‘sacrilegious or wrong’ things near trees, stones, graves, and partaking in pagan festivities) were also noted in texts from Ceasarius of Arles and Isidore of Seville, their texts being authorities on the area of ‘good or bad religion’ throughout the Early Middle Ages. For more information, see the publications by Harmening and Bernadette Filotas: Harmening, Superstitio; Bernadette Filotas, Pagan Survivals, Superstitions and Popular Cultures in Early Medieval Pastoral Literature (Toronto, 2005). See also: The Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum: a controversy reviewed Master Thesis RMA Medieval Studies Floris Kolner.


The Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum has no points where it lines up with the Lex Saxonum and the Saxon Capitularies. As a matter of fact, it disagrees with the Old Saxon Heliand which shows that the Saxons used the moon to denote their months and time telling, as the Indiculus forbids Pagan banquets in February (Indiculus III). The great amount of Saxon Heathenry in the Old Saxon Heliand also seems to be very different from the superstitions condemned in the Lex Saxonum and Saxon Capitularies. The fact that the Latinisms in the Baptismal Vow and the Indiculus point to England and Frisia, as well as the Indiculus doesn’t claim it is condemning Saxon Heathenry, make me think the Indiculus has nothing (or very little at best) to do with Old Saxon Heathenry, or Aldsidu. Below, I will put the Lex Saxonum, the Indiculus (screen shots) and my own translation of the Baptismal Vow in Old Low Franconian. Please join us in the Facebook group "Saxon Heathenry".

Lex Saxonum

This was the law code forced upon the Saxons by Charlemagne in the year 803 AD. I feel it is essential to include for understanding Saxon history. I must comment on number six of the Lex Saxonum below, the claim that the Saxons had soothsayers who ate ashes of the dead to perform divination. It is possible that after the bodies were burnt on the pyres, Saxon soothsayers did engage in this practice.

1. It was pleasing to all that the churches of Christ, which are now being built in Saxony and consecrated to God, should not have less, but greater and more illustrious honor, than the fanes of the idols have had.

2. If anyone shall have fled to a church for refuge, let no one presume to expel him from the church by violence, but he shall be left in peace until he shall be brought to the judicial assemblage; and on account of the honor due to God and the saints, and the reverence due to the church itself, let his life and all his members be granted to him. Moreover, let him plead his case as best he can and he shall be judged; and so let him be led to the presence of the lord king, and the latter shall send him where it shall have seemed fitting to his clemency.

3. If anyone shall have entered a church by violence and shall have carried off anything in it by force or theft, or shall have burned the church itself, let him be punished by death.

4. If anyone, out of contempt for Christianity, shall have despised the holy Lenten fast and shall have eaten meat, let him be punished by death. But, nevertheless, let it be taken into consideration by a priest, lest perchance any one from necessity has been led to eat meat.

5. If anyone shall have killed a bishop or priest or deacon, let him likewise be punished capitally.

6. If anyone deceived by the devil shall have believed, after the manner of the Pagans, that a man or woman is a witch and eats men, and shall have burned the person, or shall have given the person's flesh to others to eat, or shall have eaten it himself, let him be punished by a capital sentence.

7. If anyone, in accordance with Pagan rites, shall have caused the body of a dead man to be burned and shall have reduced his bones to ashes, let him be punished capitally.

8. If any one of the race of the Saxons hereafter concealed among them shall have wished to hide himself unbaptized and shall have scorned to come to baptism and shall have wished to remain a Pagan, let him be punished by death.

9. If anyone shall have sacrificed a man to the devil, and after the manner of the Pagans shall have presented him as a victim to the demons, let him be punished by death.

10. If anyone shall have formed a conspiracy with the Pagans against the Christians or shall have wished to join with them in opposition to the Christians, let him be punished by death; and whoever shall have consented to this same fraudulently against the king and the Christian people, let him be punished by death.

11. If anyone shall have shown himself unfaithful to the lord king, let him be punished with a capital sentence.

12. If anyone shall have ravished the daughter of his lord, let him be punished by death.

13. If anyone shall have killed his lord or lady, let him be punished in a like manner.

14. If indeed, for these mortal crimes secretly committed any one shall have fled of his own accord to a priest, and after confession shall have wished to do penance, let him be freed by the testimony of the priest from death.

15. Concerning the lesser chapter all have consented. To each church let the parishioners present a house and two mansi of land, and for each one hundred and twenty men, noble and free, and likewise latos [freedmen], let them give to the same church a man-servant and a maid-servant.

16. And this has been pleasing, Christ being propitious, that whencesoever any receipts shall have come into the treasury, either for a breach of the peace or for any penalty of any kind, and in all income pertaining to the king, a tithe shall be rendered to the churches and priests.

17. Likewise, in accordance with the mandate of God, we command that all shall give a tithe of their property and labor to the churches and priests; let the nobles as well as the freemen, and likewise the liti (serfs), according to that which God shall have given to each Christian, return a part to God.

18. That on the Lord's Day no meetings and public judicial assemblages shall be held, unless perchance in a case of great necessity or when war compels it, but all shall go to the church to hear the word of God, and shall be free for prayers or good works. Likewise, also, on the (christian) festivals they shall devote themselves to God and to the services of the church, and shall refrain from secular assemblies.

19. Likewise, it has been pleasing to insert in these decrees that all infants shall be baptized within a year; and we have decreed this, that if any one shall have despised to bring his infant to baptism within the course of a year, without the advice or permission of the priest, if he is a noble he shall pay 120 solidi to the treasury, if a freeman 60, if a litus 30.

20. If any shall have made a prohibited or illegal marriage, if a noble 60 solidi, if a freeman 30, if a litus 15.

21. If anyone shall have made a vow at springs or trees or groves, or shall have made any offerings after the manner of the Heathen and shall have partaken of a repast in honor of the demons, if he shall be a noble 60 solidi, if a freeman 30, if a litus 15. If, indeed they have not the means of paying at once, they shall be given into the service of the church until the solidi are paid.

22. We command that the bodies of Saxon Christians shall be carried to the church cemeteries and not to the mounds of the Pagans.

23. We have ordered that diviners and soothsayers shall be given to the church and priests.

33. Concerning perjuries, let it be according to the law of the Saxons.

34. We have forbidden that all the Saxons shall hold public assemblies in general, unless perchance our missus shall have caused them to come together in accordance with our command; but each count shall hold judicial assemblies and administer justice in his jurisdiction. And this shall be cared for by the priests, lest it be done otherwise.


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