Lost Heathen Languages: The Story of Old Saxon
No one should come to Heathenry out of a disdain towards Christianity. Many history books need to be re-written, showing "both sides" of the story, including the sides of those who lost (which includes our Heathen Ancestors). One thing I love about Heathenry, is that historically, Heathens valued all cultures. The Rus for example, allowed Ibn Fadlan (a Muslim) to witness (but not participate) in their Swedish/Rus rituals, out of respect. However, the Rus were well aware of his disdain towards them, and Ibn Fadlan certainly wrote harshly about the Heathen rituals he witnessed. The Rus did not try to convert Ibn Fadlan. The same is true with Ibrahim al-Tartushi, a Jewish man who converted to Islam, and was allowed to watch (but not participate) in rituals by Danes in Hedeby (Haithabu). Ibrahim's account is far less discussed than Ibn Fadlan's account, but I believe his account is even more important that Ibn Fadlan's account. Unfortunately, often in history, the winner obliterates not just the religion, but the language of their "oppressed." In terms of languages disappearing though, sometimes this process is quick, other times it is a slow death. For those of us who practice Saxon Heathenry, we know that Charlemagne won the Saxon Wars, and forced Christianity on the Saxons using both genocide and deportation, along with strict law-codes and forced baptisms, along with capital punishment to all who did not get baptized or keep the Lenten fast, etc. Many also are aware that the language of the Franks, Old Low Franconian, a High German language, has replaced the Old Saxon language, in Old Saxon lands. And this process was not a happy process either. My own family went through this process, and my grandparents talked about it to my parents a number of times. What is the Old Saxon Language today? It is called "Plattdeutsch " in Germany. In the eastern Netherlands, it is called "Neddersassishe". Here is my favorite website in the world, a Dutch website fighting to keep the Old Saxon language (modern form of it) alive today: http://lowlands-l.net/grammar-new/saxons.php
My last name “Sass” is the Old Saxon word that means “Saxon.” Studying my surname history, and the history of the Sass people, gave me a huge desire to learn the Old Saxon language. The Saxons had their own distinct language (Old Saxon), their own distinct religion (Saxon Heathenry), and their own distinct country (Saxony) before they were conquered by the Frankish King Charlemagne. It took a 33-year war to conquer the Saxons. The Saxon Wars occurred during the years 772-804 AD. After forced conversion, the Saxons fought hard to keep their ancestral ways and lifestyle. The most famous Saxon Heathen revolt was in the 840s and it is called the Stellinga Uprising, during which the Saxons tried to remove christianity, restoring their native Heathenry. The Saxons kept their distinct Old Saxon language for as long as possible, through the Middle Saxon period (Middle Low German) and modern Saxon language period (Plattdeutsch.) Since Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible into German in 1534 AD, the Old Saxon language has undergone a strong decline, even to the point that it has been almost completely replaced in its native lands in modern northern Germany, eastern Netherlands, and southern Denmark.
The Old Sassen (Saxon) language was spoken from as early as the 4th century through the 12th century, when it evolved into Middle Saxon. Middle Saxon was spoken in Old Saxon lands from the 12th through 18th centuries. The most famous writing in Middle Saxon is called “Die Sachsen Spiegel”. This of course is the modern High German name for it. The work in its original Saxon language (Middle Saxon) is called “Sassen Speyghel”, the title in the work itself! “Sassen Speyghel” literally means "Saxon Mirror". In the modern Saxon language (Plattdeutsch) it is called: “Sassenspegel.” Today in Germany, the Middle Saxon language is called “Middle Low German.” In the 19th century, after centuries of French domoination of Germany by people such as Napolean, many "Germanic states" wanted unification, as it would allow a stronger military for the defense against domination from outsiders. This brought about a movement where those peoples in modern Germany would need to speak one language, i.e. a national language. Germany, a very Lutheran country (for the most part), had long been influencing the High German language of Martin Luther's bible, the first bible translated into the vernacular. Old Saxon was then attacked in its own land, as Prussia, the Second Reich, was the ruling power after the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian Wars, both resounding victories for Prussia, that ultimately lead to two world wars in the 20th century. My grandparents' families, both living in Hannover at the time, had High German suddenly pushed on them. And while Hannover originally strongly resisted annexation into Prussia, it eventually became the center that began to push the once "Franconian" High German language onto Northern Germany, which was speaking "Plattdeutche" the descendent of the Old Saxon language. Low German (or better, modern Saxon) is most closely related to Frisian and English, with which it forms the North Sea Germanic group of the West Germanic languages. Therefore, for many in northern Germany, to change their language was not as simple as learning a new dialect, but it was indeed a whole new language.
As of 2004, at the request of Schleswig-Holstein, the German government has declared Low German as a regional language. German offices in Schleswig-Holstein are obliged to accept and handle applications in Low German on the same footing as Standard High German applications. See the following link for the "official" German law: http://www.schleswig-holstein.de/DE/Landesregierung/I/_startseite/Artikel/2016/Material_2016/160609_Sprachencharta_Material/160609_Sprachenchartabericht.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=1
Notice in this picture, that Old English is on a different branch than "Anglo-Frisian" which is the branch of Old English and modern English.