The Saxon Rebellion of 841-842 AD: The failed attempt to win back Heathen Saxony

The Saxons lost the "Saxon Wars". The Saxon Wars were a 33 year war which the Franks attacked and conquered Heathen Saxony. The Saxon Wars ended with genocide, a forced exile of 10,000 Saxons from their homeland, and the complete and total enforcement of Christianity as a state religion, crushing Saxon Heathenry. The Saxon Wars ended in 804 AD. Forced conversion was total, or so it seemed.

Stellinga” is the Old Saxon word for "(Heathen) companions.” The Stellinga was a rebellion lead by the two largest castes in Saxon society, the frilingi and lassi. The revolt occurred during the years of 841-842 AD. The goal of the Stellinga was to regain the ancient Saxon society, culture, and Heathenry before forced christianization. Ancient Saxon Heathenry gave rights of representation to the lower two castes. Charlemagne abolished the Heathen Saxon republic by using bribed Saxon nobles and newly appointed Frankish nobles to install the feudalism which the rest of the Frankish lands were ruled by. The Saxon populace felt betrayed by nobles seeking riches and power. The Stellinga rebellion resisted the noble caste in their efforts to keep the bulk of the Saxon populace in submission to a foreign Frankish ruler and Christianity, a foreign religion. The Stellinga wished to live in accordance with ancient Saxon tribal Heathen customs.

There was a civil war from 840-843 AD between Charlemagne’s grandchildren. Charlemagne’s only surviving son at his death, Louis the Pious, inherited Charlemagne’s empire. However, Louis the Pious had three children who survived him, and eventually civil war broke out, as all three of Louis the Pious’ children fought for “their rights” when he died. Lothair I, the eldest child of Louis the Pious, gave his support to the Stellinga. Lothair was not as strong militarily as his two brothers, Charles and Louis the German. Lothair, while christian, was desperate, and he promised the Saxon populace, in return for their loyalty, a return to their ancestral Heathenry .

There are four sources for the Stellinga Rebellion. They are the Annales Xantenses, Annales Bertiniani (written by Prudentius of Troyes), Annales Fuldenses (written by Rudolf of Fulda), and the Historiae of Nithard. The Annales Xantenses states: "Throughout all Saxony the power of the slaves rose up violently against their lords. They usurped for themselves the name Stellinga…

and the nobles of that land were violently persecuted and humiliated by the slaves." Nithard and the Annales Bertiniani indicate that an anti-christian reaction was the prominent voice of the Stellinga.

I shall quote Scholz’ translation of Nithard’s Histories written in the Ninth Century AD. I will only quote relevant sections pertaining to the Saxons, the underlined texts are my additions to the translation:

“Emperor Charles, deservedly called ‘the Great’ by all peoples, converted the Saxons by much effort, as it is known everywhere throughout Europe. He won them over from the adoration of idols to the true Christian religion of God. From the beginning the Saxons have often proved themselves by many examples to be both noble and extremely warlike. This whole tribe is divided into three classes. There are among them those who are called edhilingui in their language; those who are called frilingi, and those who are called lassi; this is in the Latin language ‘nobles’, ‘freemen’, and ‘serfs’. In the conflict between Lothair and his brothers the nobility among the Saxons was divided into two factions, one following Lothair, the other Louis. Since this was how matters stood, and Lothair saw that after his brother’s victory the people who had been with him wished to defect, he was compelled by various needs to turn for help anywhere he could get it. He distributed public property for private use; he gave freedom to some and promised it to others after his victory; he also sent into Saxony to the immense number of frilingi and lassi, promising them, if they should side with him, that he would let them have the same law in the future which their ancestors had observed when they were still worshiping idols. Since they desired this law above all, they adopted a new name, “Stellinga,” rallied to a large host, almost drove their lords from the kingdom, and each lived as their ancestors had done according to the law of his choice. But Lothair had also called in the Norsemen to help him, had put some Christians under their lordship, and permitted them to plunder others. Louis thus feared that the Norsemen (Heathens) and (Pagan) Slavs might unite with the Saxons who called themselves “Stellinga,” because they are neighbors, and they might invade the kingdom to revenge* themselves and root out the Christian religion in the area.” *(I find this word “revenge” to be amazing. A Christian, Nithard, during the time these events occurred, accidentally admitted that the Heathens were wronged. i.e. the Heathens would “revenge themselves” implies that they were wronged along with defeated.) It was especially for this reason that he went to…(word missing from Nithard’s manuscript) and at the same time did all he could to avert other hazards to his kingdom lest this most horrible disaster befall the Holy Church of God.”

“Louis however, distinguished himself by putting down, not without rightful bloodshed, the rebels in Saxony who, as I said before, called themselves ‘Stellinga.’”

“At the same time too the Stellinga in Saxony rebelled again against their lords. But when it came to battle they were put down in a great bloodbath. And so, they who had dared to rise without lawful (Christian) power perished by it.”

Scholz’ footnote to the above: “The Saxons had been especially loyal to Louis the Pious, and a Saxon army had helped in 839 to defeat his rebellious son Louis (the German). Since 840 there was however, a Saxon party which supported the son. Some sources associate the rebellion with a simultaneous relapse into Heathenism and note the spread and ferocity of the revolt. Lothair’s pact with the rebels, who were driving their “legitimate lords,” as one annalist says, out of the country, may indicate that Lothair was not discriminate in the choice of his means. The threat of the Saxon revolt to Louis’ position was particularly serious, since Saxony comprised a territory twice as large as the original Frankish lands east of the Rhine.” Meyer, pp. 59-62, 76.

Scholz’ footnote is odd regarding the “simultaneous relapse into Heathenism.” “Relapse” implies backward movement. I would not call that a “relapse” but moving forward by publicly embracing Heathenry, a Heathenry that the Saxons were already actively observing privately behind closed doors since forced conversion the prior century. Forced conversion was not really conversion at all. Children and grandchildren of forced converts were keeping their Heathenry all along behind closed doors. Scholz’ translation of Nithard above makes clear the Saxons wanted their Heathen ways (government and religion) above all else. Nithard’s writing shows that the Norsemen were not only Heathen but being given lordship over christians. Louis feared a Heathen coalition, which was exactly what Widukind tried to achieve with the Danes in his battle with Charlemagne, Louis the German’s grandfather. This Heathen coalition would be a “most horrible disaster to befall the Holy Church of God” in christian eyes. Was thu Hel to the Saxon Ancestors who fought and died, to regain Saxon Heathenry in the Stellinga Uprising. Please join us on the Facebook Group: "Saxon Heathenry."

Old Saxony, Saxon homeland 804 AD


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