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Hohensyburg: A Saxon Holy Place of Thunar (Thor)

Updated: Feb 25, 2022

On August 15, 2019, I had the pleasure meeting (for the second time) German archaeologist and Saxon Heathen Sven Schild. Sven is someone I support with monthly donations, and his blog on Saxon Heathen archaeology is a must read for anyone interested in North German Historical Heathenry. Meeting a Heathen archaeologist on site, and having that expertise of a tour, provides a lot more context to visiting a site. Without Sven, I would not have learned that Syburg contained a sacred grove and temple-hof sacred to Thunar, the Old Saxon name for "Donar" or "Thor." The fact that Syburg was a Saxon holy place to Thunar (Thor) is not mentioned in books I have read about Syburg (now called "Hohensyburg") nor websites about it. What is fascinating to me, as a student of twenty years of the Old Saxon language, the Old Saxon Heliand poem contains a passage that proves the sacredness of Thunar (Thor) in Saxon thought, and proves that christian missionaries chose to attempt to replace Thunar with the apostle, Saint Peter. The fact that the Christians felt the first pope, and the most important disciple in their gospels, was the one to use to "hide Thunar" speaks volumes of the importance of Thunar/Thor to the Old Saxons in Saxony. Archaeological excavations reveal that Syburg (now Hohensyburg) was first occupied in the Neolithic era. Syburg was on the border of Saxony, and the Saxons built Hohensyburg to protect their homeland, from the expanding Christian Reich of the Franks around 700 CE/AD. The Franks attacked this hill fort in 772 CE. Once this was defeated, the way to the Irminsul was clear, as the Franks also destroyed the Old Saxon Irminsul in 772 CE. The Franks' mission at the outset of the Saxon Wars was clear: The first sites they attacked were sites holy to Thunar (Thor) at Hohensyburg, and the Irminsul, a site where Uuoden (Odin) and Sahsnod were venerated. This is strong evidence that the Saxon Wars were a holy crusade to not just expand Charlemagne's Reich/Empire (known as the First Reich in Germany), but as a holy war to force Christianity on the Heathen Saxons. The baptismal vow, dated to 795 CE, forced the Saxons to renounce Thunar, Uuoden, and Sahsnod (in that order.) Alluding to the Saxons, the contemporary poet of the Paderborn Epic (circa 800 CE) praises terror as a means of conversion: "What the contrary mind and perverse soul refuse to do with persuasion, let them leap to accomplish when compelled by fear." (Mary Garrison, "The Emergence of Carolingian Latin Literature and the Court of Charlemagne (780–814)," Carolingian Culture: Emulation and Innovation, ed. Rosamond McKitterick (Cambridge, 1994), 133.: Quod mens laeva vetat suadendo animusque sinister, / Hoc saltim cupiant implere timore coacti.) And for the most poignant quote of all the Frankish writings showing their deep murderous hatred towards Saxon Heathenry, is the entry in the Royal Frankish Annals (Charlemagne's annual court records) that states the following written for the year 775 CE: “While the king (Charlemagne) spent the winter at the villa of Quierzy, he decided to attack the treacherous and treaty-breaking tribe of the Saxons and to persist in this war until they were either defeated and forced to accept the Christian religion or be entirely exterminated." (See The Royal Frankish Annals published by Ann Arbor Paperbacks, translated by Bernhard Walter Scholz, p.51) For more on the Saxon Irminsul and Thunar's Oak, please read this article: For more about the Saxon Wars, please read this article: Hohensyburg is a hill-fort that towers 100m above the Ruhr River. The natural hill that ends at the base of the Ruhr river makes this a very difficult hill-fort to take. A Saxon traitor was the reason for the fort's capture. The hillfort consists of two parts, that were fortified with ramparts and ditches. The ramparts had a palisade and later a dry stone wall. The Donarbrunnen (“Thor's Well“), today`s Petersbrunnen (Peter's Well), ensured the supply with water. The site of the well was also used as sanctuary to Thunar/Thor. The Oldest Thunar necklace (Mjolnir pendant) ever found was found in Old Saxon lands, and Sven Schild, Saxon Heathen archaeologist, has written about it:

The Ruhr River is on the far left. The hill was filled with tall trees.

The Franks first attacked Hohensyburg, on the border of Southwestern Westphalia, Saxony, and then attacked Eresburg, where the Irminsul was, which was situated on the south-central border of Westphalia, Saxony. After losing both Hohensyburg and Eresburg in 772, the Saxons retook Eresburg (where the Irminsul was) in 773, and also tried to take the site of the Chatti's Thunar's Oak. In 774, the Saxons took back Hohensyburg, their Thunar sanctuary. The Frankish counter attack in 775 saw the Saxons lose both Eresburg and Hohensyburg. Hohensyburg remained in Frankish hands for the last thirty years of the Saxon Wars. Most believe that the Saxon hero Widukind was responsible for the Saxon victory at Hohensyburg in 774. It was amazing to know that I walked the footsteps of one of the greatest Heathen heroes ever, and the greatest Saxon Heathen hero ever. Here is the quote from the Royal Frankish Annals (Charlemagne's court annals) for the year 775: “The poius and noble Lord king Charles (Charlemagne) held an assembly at the village of Duren. From here he launched a campaign into Saxony and captured the castle of Syburg, restored the castle of Eresburg, and came as far as the Weser at Braunsberg.” (See The Royal Frankish Annals published by Ann Arbor Paperbacks, translated by Bernhard Walter Scholz, p.51)

Most of the ramparts and ditches of the hillfort are still present today. Here is an artist rendition of what the walls of the hill fort looked like in Saxon Heathen times, followed by pictures of these walls today:

Artist Rendition

Thunar's Well, a Saxon Well sacred to Thunar (Thor)

When the Frankish King Charlemagne approached Syburg, he quickly realized he could not overthrow the fort with conventional strength, due to its high walls, especially on the south side along the Ruhr. The entrance to the fort had an angle where Saxon archers could fire upon the oncoming Franks in two directions. A local Saxon traitor accepted Charlemagne's bribes, and became the "Dux of Syburg" when it fell. He showed Charlemagne that a well at a low point of the hill-fort, sacred to Thunar, was the Saxon water supply for the hill fort. By taking the well, the Saxons were forced to surrender, as they lost their water supply to sustain a long siege. The well, called the Thunarsbrunnen (Thor's Well), was changed to "Petersbrunnen" by the Franks. The well is easily seen today, both pictures below are mine taken on location:

Thunarsbrunnen today, with a description on the top left

Close up of the description stone on the top left of the well's gate

To quote Wikipedia's article on Hohensyburg: "The Petersbrunnen well and the Syberg Cross Stone can also be visited. Some of the archaeological finds as well as a model of the hillfort can be seen in the Ruhrtalmuseum in Schwerte." In terms of the well, the site of the Thunaer spring was later (in christian medieval times) overbuild with a stone well structure. Also there is an old Fachwerkhaus right next to it, so there is little to no chance that anything of Old Saxon well survived there. No one knows what was originally in the Saxon Sanctuary for Thunar. What is known for sure, is that in 775 CE, when Charlemagne retook Hohensyburg, he build a church at Hohensyburg, possibly on the site of a Saxon sanctuary, to desecrate the place to the Saxon Heathens. The church today is a rebuilt version of the original. The tomb stones outside the church go back to the 1500s. There is a sign on the wall behind me (in the picture below) bragging on Charlemagne's defeat of the Saxons and the building of the church in 775 CE.

A Heathen friend, myself, (wearing a Thor's shirt) and Sven Ne, outside of the church

Hail Thunar, the mighty god of strength, famed for his great strength!

Peters Well, as Thunar's Well? The Old Saxon Heliand is a gospel written around 830 AD in Old Saxon. The Heliand makes drastic changes to the gospel story, showing Crist (Christ) as a Heathen hero, one whom the Saxons could (supposedly) accept. In the Old Saxon Heliand Poem, it is the Apostle Peter, who is famed for his great strength, not Thor. Please see my own translation of the Old Saxon Heliand (the English below the runes) and my notes, showing that the Frankish christian portrayal of Peter is of a man of strength, when there is no such comparison in the Biblical Gospels!

Sven Ne was kind enough to bring his map to our meeting. Here are some more pictures of maps, thanks to Sven! Please join us in the Facebook group "Aldsidu: Saxon Heathenry." My sincere thanks to Sven for being amazing as a teacher, and sharing a love for our Saxon Gods, and our Saxon Ancestors. Uuas thu Hel! Also, please note, the Old Saxon language has a word for "arm-ring giver." (Bagevo) Sven is wearing a new arm-ring, one that I gave him. It was a gift well earned.

Here is a map at Hohensyburg of the whole complex, as naturally the Third Reich built a monument to Kaiser Wilhelm the first there, the Kaiser who founded the modern German nation (the Second Reich) in 1871. The sign gives the full map of the park.

Myself on the top of Hohensyburg, overlooking the Ruhr river, with a Thor t-shirt.

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