top of page

Widukind and German Myth-Making

Updated: May 11

Widukind was a Saxon Heathen noble, without a doubt the most famous Saxon Heathen in history. Widukind was known as one of two Saxon nobles who fought Charlemagne and the Frankish forced christianization of the Heathen Saxons in Saxony. Many scholars are unsure if Widukind was captured, killed in battle, or if he surrendered. Frankish christian writings claim that Widukind freely surrendered and was baptized after fourteen years of fighting, with Charlemagne being his "godfather." Scholars debate how "christian" and "propagandized" the Frankish writings are. What is for sure, is the Frankish writings claim Widukind would not give up the fight for Heathen Saxony, he would not surrender (until 785), and always convinced the non-noble Saxons to fight christianization and Frankish rule. After Widukind's "(forced) baptism", Widukind is not mentioned by the Franks again, and for over 500 years he is not mentioned in any historical writing, until legends were born in the 14th century that Widukind had a miraculous vision of christ (a miraculous conversion experience) and Widukind became a builder of churches. One of these much later legends is that Widukind as a Heathen rode a black horse, and after his baptism he rode a white horse. Scholars are very quick to point out, that 9th century Frankish writings about Widukind do not make these miracle claims and church builder claims. Scholars state that if these events actually took place, the Frankish sources would have had a "propaganda miracle" of a changed christian Widukind to share with the Heathen Saxons, who continued to fight the Franks even after Widukind was captured/killed/forcefully baptized for another 19 years. Some scholars believe Widukind was just killed, and his "agreement" to surrender as propaganda to the Heathen Saxon masses, which to me is far more likely a scenario. [Erker, Paul; Fehlhaber, Nils (6 October 2021). 150 Years Continental: The Skill of Transformation. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. p. 272. ISBN 978-3-11-073237-5.] The Saxons rose up again sixty years after Widukind's surrender, with the Stellinga Uprising in 841 CE, an uprising attempting to restore the native Heathenry of the Saxons. The Frankish writings record the intensity of this uprising, and it was such a shocking event in its time, that four sources record it. Charlemagne was crowned Kaiser by the Pope in 800 CE, and this is mentioned by only three sources! That is how intense the Saxon Stellinga was, that four sources discussed it. Nonetheless, the legend (born in the 14th century) of Widukind riding a black horse as a heathen, and a white horse as a christian, is possibly the origin of the Saxon Steed. (Sachsenros.) [James Lloyd (2017). The Saxon Steed and the White Horse of Kent. Archaeologia Cantiana. 138:1.]

Before I discuss the Saxon Steed in detail, I need to point out the obvious. Widukind is constantly discussed in the Royal Frankish Annals, a year by year account of the Frankish empire, written by the kings of the Franks themselves in the ninth century. Widukind is portrayed over and over as a rebellious Heathen, who caused the church problems, having alliances with the Heathen Danes to the north, and threatening to have Scandinavian armies possibly ally against the Frankish Christian monarchs with the Heathen Saxons (of Saxony). Widukind even married the daughter of a Danish king, hoping to cement these alliances. Then, after Widukind "surrenders" and is baptized, he falls completely out of all historical records for five centuries. Then suddenly in the 15th century, churches are being built in his name, horses are now considered very prominent, and the first historically attested reference to the "Saxon Steed" occurs. [Cronecken der sassen. Mainz 1492.] The Saxon Steed is suddenly being compared with Hengist and Horsa legends in England (and Germany and England were entirely, overwhelmingly christian at this time.) [Palgrave, Sir Francis (1837). History of the Anglo-Saxons. Ward, Lock and Company. p. 30.] And to be frank (pun intended), Widukind and Hengist and Horsa were over 300 years apart and have NOTHING to do with each other. (Many scholars doubt Hengist and Horsa's existence, but there is no doubt of Widukind's existence.) Due to the late nature of these legends about Widukind and his white/black horses, I have found zero scholars who accept that the Saxon Steed was a known symbol before 1492 in northern Germany, and it is very likely, that while 9th century writings like the Old Saxon Heliand show the Saxons having a high opinion of horses and cavalry, the idea that a horse symbol was Widukind's personal symbol or even a Saxon Heathen symbol in the 9th century is extremely unlikely. I have been to the Widukind Church and Museum in Herford, Old Saxony, Germany. My sons and I both were very disappointed by it. Outside of the very first room (the smallest room in the entire museum) that shows archaeological finds of Saxon swords and shields from Widukind's time, 100% of the rest of the entire museum is about Widukind the Christian. The Royal Frankish Annals, a 9th century source, which gives details of Widukind's Heathen uprisings, and un-christlike events such as the Massacre of Verden are not even mentioned in the museum. One can go from room to room and read of the miracles Widukind performed in the name of christ, which we have no contemporary written record of. One can leave the museum, and go to a church next to the museum, and behind the altar, is Widukind's supposed Christian grave, where Widukind is presented as a saint (his saint's day is January 6th, which of course is always overshadowed by Epiphany). There are exhibits one can read in the Widukind museum discussing scholars accepting and denying that there lies the bones of the actual Widukind. (The real debate is whether or not the bones are from the 9th century). The Heathen hero who spent his entire life fighting forced christianization up until his baptism (or more likely, his execution) is barely mentioned in the museum. And, he is celebrated as a saint... Now, many German Asatruar have been absolutely impossible to me, sending hate IMs and swear word loaded messages that my assessment of Walpurgis Night is not accurate. (Walpurga was the niece of St. Boniface, who chopped down Donar's Oak in an act of christian terrorism. Walpurga, like St. Boniface spent her entire life trying to christianize the Germanic tribes, and she was not opposed to forced christianization and the murder of Heathens at the hands of christians due to their lack of acceptance of baptism.) And that is a pretty well footnoted article I might add. But the German 'hysteria' about this Christian Widukind is 100% insane, and not rooted in historical reality. Widukind, a man so Heathen, he was one of two Saxon nobles who refused the riches of Frankia to remain Heathen. All the other Saxon nobles but Abi accepted Frankish bribes, and took up positions of power to run a new christianized Saxony.

Unlike these bribed Saxon nobles who actually did build churches, Widukind did not, and spent his life fighting against the insanity of that practice. Charlemagne's own records show him putting all adversaries like Widukind to death, or lifetime imprisonments in a monastery. Hence, I myself cannot see Charlemagne actually allowing a defeated Widukind to live. Think about it, Charlemagne beheaded 4,500 Saxons at the Massacre of Verden because they followed Widukind's orders to attack the christian army. Why would Charlemagne allow the author of the entire Saxon rebellion to live at all? A similar fate (i.e. beheading) certainly was the fate of the historical Widukind, and his baptism was most likely propaganda. To any neutral non-christian German who reads the Royal Frankish Annals, they could not picture that the Heathen rebel Widukind would become a saint, performing miracles, and becoming a major church builder. Nor, would they be able to picture christian mass being done in front of Widukind's corpse in a christian church. If Martians (aliens) existed from the planet Mars, and they could understand our English and/or German language, if we were to fly them from Mars to the Widukind museum, they would come away from that museum thinking Christianity had a glorious history in Germany, was good to the native Saxons, and Widukind was an amazing Christian. Truthfully, the Franks were not good to the Saxons (by their own records, one out of every sixty Saxons was taken from the free populace to be owned by the church as slaves for one of a great many examples I can quickly give.) I can go on a long exposition here with many footnotes and quotes from the 9th century proving these facts. Several mass genocides, forced deportations, and forced conversions that sound more like Islam (to christians anyways) than the "benevolent church." In conclusion, the lesson I learned from the Widukind Museum, was how easily the masses can be led to believe in rubbish. Many people believed in the rubbish pushed by a later German Fuhrer, and many German nationalist movements also re-wrote history from their point of view. The church was certainly in the business of covering up its dark past and glorifying a false mythical history. It is kind of like the catholic church covering up child rape done by 6 percent of its priests. Making Widukind a saint and fine with the genocides, enslavement, and deportation of his own rebellious Saxon people just seems offensive to any modern person of reason.

The Saxon Steed The Saxon Steed, or in German the Sachsenross, Niedersachsenross, or in Platte, the descendant of the Old Saxon language "Saksische ros/paard" is absolutely one of my favorite symbols. I am a coin collector of Old German coins with the Sachsenross. When I met German archaeologist Sven Knippschild in Germany, at the site of the historical Saxon Irminsul, Sven gave me a flag, the flag of Herford, showing the black horse of Widukind. This flag graces my bedroom wall, with my wife and I falling asleep underneath it every night. So, I must admit, I love the Saxon Steed. However, I look at this as a non-Heathen symbol born long after Heathen times. I enjoy a good christmas tree too (not saying I have one in my home; my wife sets up her tree in our home, and I do not partake - for those of you that do, no condemnation from me will come your way; I do NOT criticize my wife, it is completely secular to her), these practices are simply a family activity, with no historical connection whatsoever to Saxon Heathenry. This is exactly how I view the Saxon Steed. And while parking by the university in Hannover is hard, it is worth it, as there is nothing like having family take pictures by the Sachsenross in Hannover. This being said, almost all scholars agree, the "Sachsen Ross" was born in the late 14th century, and has no ties to the Heathen Saxons. The Saxon Ross, Hannover

My two sons, standing in front of the Saxon Ross in Hannover, Germany

Me, in front of the Sachsen Ross im Hannover, Deutschland

Picture of a Saxon fire pot holder from a 16th century house in Westphalia, Germany. Horse symbols became very popular starting in the 15th century in Germany.

At the site of the Historical Irminsul - Widukind's Black Horse Flag

Sven Knippschild giving me the Black Horse of Widukind flag in Obermarsberg, (Eresburg)

Widukind Museum in Enger (Do NOT waste your money there)

Outside front, by entrance

Outside, the side of the museum from the street

Museum sign

The first room, the only part worth seeing...

Another picture from the small first room, the only room in my opinion worth seeing.

I did visit the Widukind Denkmal (statue) in Enger. Sadly, the statue has not been kept up, and is deteriorating, and has graffiti on it. So much for the glorious Heathen past. Sigh... This is a wall display of the Enger Denkmal statue, one of the few to survive both world wars, as several Widukind statues were taken for the army for armaments.

Side stairwell, when you finish on the top (third?) floor, I cannot remember if there is a fourth floor. At least three stories...

When leaving the museum, if you waste your money and go, enjoy some of the local food owned by Arab residents of Herford.

If you are really asking for punishment, visit Widukinds "false" grave in the church behind the Museum: Widukind's FALSE Grave in the church behind the museum

When you walk into the church, this is what you see. Behind this altar, is Widukind's grave. Think about this, if the actual Widukind is back there, Masses are being done right in front of his grave. Hence, it was time for me to be fed by the Arabs outside. This was very depressing to see for my boys and I. Had the Saxons, during the Saxon Wars, knew this would be a scene in their country in the not too distant future, I think this would have been a very depressing reality for the Heathen Saxons, who much preferred their native Gods to be venerated in nature, in the Sacred Groves. If you look to the left of the altar, you can see one of my sons by Widukind's "fake grave" behind the altar.

153 views2 comments


I really appreciated this post (actually, I love your whole blog!). I agree Widukind is definitely a fascinating folk hero (much like Robin Hood!) and I really enjoyed your insights presented here. I found your hypothesis that he may have been executed rather than baptized an interesting perspective. Have you read Sidney E. Dean's article about the Irminsul and Widukind's resistance?

Replying to

I have not. I will check out Sidney E. Dean's article. Glad you enjoy the entire blog, and I look forward to reading the article!

bottom of page