Updated: Feb 14, 2020
Aldsidu is an Old Saxon word meaning "Old Customs." This word occurs in 8th through 12th century Old Saxon poetry. Aldsidu is a word the Saxons used to describe their faith. Another word that they used was "landuuise" meaning "traditions of the land." However, the Saxons also used this word to describe foreign peoples' customs aside from their own. The Old Saxons also had the word "thau" meaning "traditions." Old Saxon did not have a word for "religion." Who were the Saxons? The Saxons lived in Saxony, what is now the Northwestern section of modern Germany, and the eastern section of modern Netherlands. Please see the map at the bottom of this page. The Saxons venerated the Ese, who were a family of Gods that the Norse Heathens called the "Aesir." In historical sources, there are four Gods either mentioned by name or alluded to symbolically. These four are: Thunaer (Norse Thor), Uuoden (Norse Odin), Sahsnoth (no Norse equivalent), and Fri (Norse Frigg.) Fri is alluded to in the Heliand, the other three are mentioned by name. The famous "Saxon Baptismal Vow" dated to 795 AD forced the Saxons to renounce: Thunar, Uuoden, and Sahsnoth. Baldag (Norse Baldr) is called a "Westphalian Saxon" in the prologue to the Prose Edda by Snorri.
The Old Saxon Heliand Poem, the Royal Frankish Annals, Einhard, Rudolf of Fulda, Adam of Bremen, and several other monastic writings are the most famous historical sources for the Heathenry of the Saxons. The most famous Saxon Heathen was Widukind, leader of the Saxons in the Saxon Wars against the Franks. For a quick synopsis of the Saxon Wars, a 33 year long war, please check this website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saxon_Wars In a nutshell, Charlemagne and the Franks fought a 33 year war of conquest, to forcefully convert the Saxons from Heathenry to Christianity. Charlemagne was one of the most brutal oppressors of Heathenry Middilyard (earth) has ever witnessed. The Westphalian Saxon Irminsul The Westphalian Saxons had a holy place called the "Iriminsul." The Westphalians were one of the four subdivisions of historical Saxony. The Irminsul is described in the Royal Frankish Annals as being near Eresburg (now Obermarsburg). The Royal Frankish Annals (Latin: Annales Regni Francorum) are annals written for the early Frankish kings, covering the years 741 to 829 AD. They are among the most important sources for the political and military history of the reign of Charlemagne. They are continued by the Annales Fuldenses and Annales Bertiniani. The Royal Frankish Annals state the following regarding the year 772 AD: “The most gracious lord king Charles (Charlemagne) then held an assembly at Worms. From Worms he marched into Saxony. Capturing the castle at Eresburg, he proceeded as far as the Irminsul, destroyed this idol and carried away the gold and silver he found. A great drought occurred so that there was no water in the place where the Irminsul stood. The glorious king wished to remain there two or three days in order to destroy the temple completely, but they had no water.”
This is the first attestation of the Irminsul in historical records. From this we learn the following:
1. The Irminsul is only attested amongst the Saxons in Westphalia, near Eresburg. 2. There was a hill-fort (in Latin Castellum, or "castle") at Eresberg. 3. He proceeded "as far as" the Irminsul, which means the Irminsul was close to Eresberg. 4.There was gold and silver at the Irminsul, i.e. votive offerings. 5. There was a temple at the Irminusl, so it was not just a giant Godpole, but a whole religious complex… 6 ... that took two or three days to destroy... i.e. implies it was a place of immense size considering it took Charlemagne's army two to three days to destroy it. 7. It was not near a body of water. The Old Saxon Heliand implies that all major Saxon places of veneration were at rivers in sacred groves. It appears that for the Irminsul temple-hof, this most likely was not the case. (Please note, the Extersteine has a modern man-made lake today, but had a small river in Heathen times.) Please note: There was a Thunarbrun (Thor's Well) in Hohensyburg, a Westphalian Saxon well. I have been to the site, please see my Hohensyburg blog article. https://www.aldsidu.com/post/hohensyburg-a-saxon-holy-place-of-thunar-thor
The Translation of Saint Alexander of Rome (c.855 AD). Rudolf of Fulda. "They (the Saxons) also worshiped in the open air a vertically upright trunk of no small size, [called] in their mother tongue, Irminsul, or in Latin ‘columna universalis‘… in the sense that it carries everything."
Saxons Today: Today in Germany there are three bundes (or states) with the name "Saxony" in them, Niedersachsen, which encompasses the lands where the Saxon homeland was. Sachsen, which encompasses lands inhabited by the Thuringians, and Sachsen-Anhalt, which also encompasses lands of the Thuringian tribe. Of course, like many in Europe, Saxons from Northern Germany moved to America.
Weren't the Saxons English? Almost all Saxons did not travel to Britannia. It is possible, only the Anglish, Frisians, and Britons inhabited Britainia: “The island of Britain is inhabited by three very populous nations, each ruled by a king. And the names of these nations are Angiloi, Frisians and, after the island, Britons.” (Procopius History of the Wars, III.2.38. 551 AD) Bede wrote much later than earlier Roman writers. Today, modern archaeologists and scholars like Dr. Francis Pryor, believe there was no "invasion" of England at all by Germanic tribes, as the archaeological evidence disproves it. Here is Dr. Pryor's documentary on the fact that the Anglo-Saxon Invasion of Britain never happened: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKAlJpg_5O0 Linguistic evidence concurs that Old English, not Old Saxon, was the language in England. The Old Saxon language was different from Old English. The Saxons, next to Denmark, have more in common linguistically with the Danes than with the English. Modern linguists put modern English on the Anglo-Frisian language branch, a different branch than the one Old Saxon is on. I read Old Saxon daily, and have for over a decade. About four years ago, I tried to read the Old English Poem Beowulf. I quickly realized, Old English and Old Saxon are so different, you need training in both to read both. For those of you Old English scholars, you can read the Old Saxon Heliand online for free. You will really struggle to read almost all of it, as Old Saxon is quite different than Old English: http://titus.uni-frankfurt.de/texte/etcs/germ/asachs/heliand/helia.htm
How did the English people get associated with the term "Anglo-Saxon"? This term "Anglo-Saxon" came about in the 9th century, long after England was Christian. The English people, despite TV shows claiming the contrary, never called themselves Saxons, but always called themselves Aenglisc. This is why England is named after the Angles, and the English language is named after the Angles, and not the Saxons. England is after all, not Saxony, and Saxony, is not England. The Romans labelled all Germanic peoples "Saxons", whether or not they were Saxon was irrelevant. Just like the Brits themselves, never called Swedes and Norwegians and Geats, anything other than "Danes" whether or not they came from Denmark. Those in Whales and Cornwall did call the English "Saison" or "Sowson" meaning "Saxon." The Saxons in Saxony fought for 33 years wars to remain Heathen, but the English fought Danes to remain Christian. The traditional church story was that Augustine converted a Heathen England to Christianity starting in 597 and the English were fully christian with little force in 655 with the death of King Penda, the Anglish king. The Saxons in Saxony rebelled in 841-82 to once again restore Heathenry in Saxony. This was called the "Stellinga Rebellion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stellinga The Saxons so fervently held to their Heathenry for so long, even Adam of Bremen complained in 1073 that the Saxons were still Heathen in Saxony itself. Adam of Bremen said of the Bishop of Hamburg, Saxony: “He ordered all pagan rites, of which superstition still flourished in this region, to be uprooted in such a manner that he had new churches built throughout the (Hamburg) diocese in place of the Sacred Groves which our lowlanders frequented with foolish reverence.” [Gesta Hammabirgemsos ecclesiae pontificum (c.1073 AD) Adam of Bremen, Deeds of the Bishops of Hamburg, 1073 AD.] Old English Heathenry existed, and it was a great Heathenry. It was similar in many ways to the Saxons in Saxony, but there were differences between the two. I encourage all Old English Heathens to stay strong in their Heathenry, as it is an honorable path. Please join us on the Facebook Group "Saxon Heathenry." For those wanting to know the historical sources and reasons why I believe that the Angles, Jutes, and Saxons were never on the Jutland peninsula, and the origins of the Saxons, both from the history books and in historical reality, read my well researched blog here: https://www.aldsidu.com/post/the-origins-of-the-saxons-in-saxony-england