Widukind's Saga: The Saga of the Saxons
Once there were a people known as the Saxons. They lived in an area that is now in Northwestern Germany. Saxony’s government was a republic. Saxony was divided into around 100 gau (counties). Each year, the whole nation would meet for a national assembly, with 36 representatives in attendance from each of the gau. Each gau would send 12 nobles, 12 free men, and 12 peasants, for the Saxons believed that all classes of people should have an equal voice in government. Over 3,600 Saxon representatives would meet for the national assembly (called “Thing”), held at Marklo on the Weser River, an outdoor Sacred Grove. Here the nation would call upon their Gods and Goddesses for guidance for how the nation would be led in the coming year. The nobles would draw lots to determine whom the Gods wanted to be Theodan of the tribe if there was war. When the year was over, that Theodan would return to his normal status and a new Theodan would be chosen for the following year to lead the nation if there would be war. Two historical quotes to prove the above: Lebuini Antiqua 4, THE LIFE OF ST. LEBUIN, 9th Century AD “In olden times the Saxons had no king but appointed rulers over each village; and their custom was to hold a general meeting once a year in the center of Saxony near the river Weser at a place called Marklo. There all the leaders used to gather together, and they were joined by twelve noblemen from each village with as many freedmen and serfs. There they confirmed the laws, gave judgment on outstanding cases and by common consent drew up plans for the coming year on which they could act either in peace or war.” Bede - Ecclesiastical History of the English People (731 AD) “For these Old Saxons have no king, but several lords who are set over the nation. Whenever war is imminent, these cast lots impartially, and the one on whom the lot falls is followed and obeyed by all for the duration of the war; but as soon as the war ends, the lords revert to equality of status.”
The Saxons were used to being different from the other Germanic tribes around them. All other tribes had a king, a position of authority the Saxon people deemed to be dangerous, too much power for one person. The goal of the Saxon government was to give all people an equal voice. While the Saxons were used to being different from other tribes, the Franks became different from the other tribes in the North as well when they accepted christianity, the religion of Rome. Rome taught that the Northern Europeans were barbarians, who worshiped demons. Rome had an ideal of Kaiser (Caesar), which sounded all too much like dictatorship to the Saxons, who did not think there was a difference between an emperor (kaiser) and a king. Rome also taught that the world should be under one country/empire (Reich), and under one religion (christianity) and language (Latin) guided by the pope, the christian dictator of spiritual affairs. The mindset of Rome and their religion made the Franks different from the Saxons. Religion was the greatest difference between the Saxons and Franks. Christianity was a monotheistic religion, whereas Saxon Heathenry was polytheistic. Polytheism’s first reaction to missionizing was to simply ignore it and to continue to worship their native and Ancestral Gods. (Polytheists do not and did not evangelize.)
However, Frankish monotheism turned to violence to convert. The Franks invaded Saxony and burnt down their sacred groves. They announced “See, your gods don’t exist at all. We burnt down your sacred groves and your gods did nothing!” The following season, the Saxons would retaliate, burning down churches, announcing “Your god must not exist either, as we burnt down his churches and he did nothing to stop us!” One year there was great excitement as the Saxons were assembling in Marklo. They paid homage to their Gods and Goddesses and cast lots for their Theodan. However, this year was different. The Frankish king summoned missionaries from England, and one was sent to the Saxon assembly at Marklo. The Franks spoke High German, a different language than the Saxons who spoke Old Saxon. The Anglo-Saxons in England were strong christians and they spoke Old English, similar to Old Saxon. The Anglish bishop named Lebuin came to the Saxons dressed in Roman monk garb, making the usual monotheistic announcement: "I am a Christian bishop," he said, "and I come to tell you of my God. Your gods and goddesses which you worship are not gods at all, but demons, and it is wrong to worship them. Mine is the only true god. He is stronger than all others, and all who do not bow down before him are Heathen. Give up your religion and take mine. If you do not, a powerful king will come against you, whom God shall send to punish you. He will conquer your nation and wipe it out from existence. To avoid this, you must become Christians and stop celebrating your holy days, change all your customs, and worship the one true God on the Christian holidays.” The historical source for this passage is The Royal Frankish Annals, written in the 8th century about events in the eighth century: “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)
"What has he said to us? Our Gods are not Gods at all? That we must give up who we are and all that we know and take this foreign god, or this king will come upon us to destroy us? Away with this man!” According to the Frankish writing about ‘Saint’ Lebuin, he left the Saxon assembly unharmed (though by a “miracle of God.”) The polytheists let an intolerant religious idea go on deaf ears. (The Lebuini Antiqua, written in the 9th century, records this story in detail.) The monk went back to Charlemagne and reported that the Saxons were a stubborn people, refusing to accept Christ. Charlemagne was angry and called together a great council both men of the church and of the fighting men of the kingdom. They agreed that they would fight the rebellious Saxons and force them to become christians. Charlemagne’s own records of his rule, the Royal Frankish Annals, record Charlemagne’s reaction: “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.” With a great army he crossed over into Saxony. In the western part of Saxony, near the Frankish border, there was a Sacred Grove where the Saxons came together to worship. The Saxons believed that the universe was shaped like a great pillar or tree. So, they worshiped at an image of this all-sustaining world tree. They called their sacred tree “Irminsul” which means “strong pillar” in Old Saxon. They called the earth “Middilgard” or “Middle Yard.” The Irminsul was the center of Saxon religion. During the sacred seasons of the year they met there at the Sacred Grove, at the Irminsul and its Temple, paying homage to their Gods and Goddesses.
Charlemagne was not just a zealous christian. He was a Kaiser (emperor), bent on Reich (empire.) Charlemagne today is known as “the Father of Europe” as he would eventually conquer almost all of Europe, spreading christianity with the sword, and uniting Europe under Frankish rule and the rule of the church. Pope Leo crowned Charlemagne Kaiser (Caesar/Emperor) on December 25th, 800 AD. Christianity and its call for crusade was a convenient way to build his empire and to be a good christian monarch.
Charlemagne knew of the Saxon Irminsul. Charlemagne felt that by destroying the Irminsul, and taking the treasures (Saxon offerings) there, he could finance his army, and send a strong message, that not only will the tribe of Saxony fall, but their Heathenry and way of life would fall as well.
Frankish soldiers stormed the Irminsul and stepped within the sacred area where only the priests of the Saxons might stand. They found there a hoard of gold and silver and many ornaments, deposited before the Irminsul as offerings by generations of Saxons. They carried away the offerings and cut the pillar in pieces. In three days the destruction was finished, the sacred grove and temple had been cut down and a Frankish church and fort rose in its place. How would catholics react today if the vatican was stormed by a muslim army and destroyed?
The Saxon reaction was not different from the way catholics or Americans would react. The Saxons would stand and fight for 33 years to protect their freedom, their homeland, their way of life, from foreign invaders, from an ambitious king, Charles Magnes (Charlemagne), which meant “Charles the great.” They wanted their freedom, and to live their Ancestral religion. The Historical Passage discussing this, written in 772 AD about the events in 772 AD, is the Royal Frankish Annals: “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...” After the Irminsul was destroyed, Charlemagne thought that he had defeated the Saxons. He had the nobles of Saxony come together and offer him allegiance. However, Charlemagne’s Royal Frankish Annals recorded one small sentence: “Widukind, drohtin of the Westphalians, was not there.” Charlemagne did not know who Widukind was, or how powerful a leader Widukind would become. While other Saxon nobles went to Charlemagne, to offer allegiance, Widukind did not, and he had urged the other nobles not to go. In the heart of this Saxon drohtin burned a passion for independence which was like a torch shining out in these days of gloom, giving forth its light and heat until all Saxony caught fire and was aglow with the passion for freedom and their faith, their ancestral ways.
“The Franks think they have conquered us. The king has gone away and left his men to rule over us. He has burned down the sacred places of our Ancestors. He has banned our democratic republic and councils at Marklo, where we forbid kingships as dictatorships, but allow all, noble, free, and servile equal representation and voice in affairs. Shall we let any man, however strong, place us under the rule of foreigners and take away our Gods, giving us a foreign god in their place?” So, spoke Widukind, and so men began to speak all through the land. The Saxons rose, with Widukind as their leader, and threw off the hated yoke of the Franks and tore down the forts and churches which had been built.
Charlemagne had several advantages on his side. The size of his empire was growing, and the numbers of the christians in Europe were growing. The church in Rome blessed and sanctioned armed attacks and forced conversion of the Heathens. Charlemagne marched back into Saxony with a large army. Again, he conquered and summoned the nobles of Saxony to offer allegiance. Charlemagne supervised mass baptisms, and by giving bribes to Saxon nobles and positions of power in his new administration over Saxony, he enticed Saxon nobles to push christianity down to the masses of people in the lower two classes of Saxon society. However, once again, there is a sentence in Charlemagne’s Royal Annals: “Widukind, drohtin of the Westphalians, was not there.” Widukind had fled to another Heathen nation just north of Saxony, Nordmannia (Denmark.) Widukind had married Geva of Westfold, daughter of the Danish king Sigfred and sister of the Danish kings Ragnar and Gudfred. Widukind found refuge with the Danes and planned another counter-attack in defense of his faith and homeland. Now however, Charlemagne knew that it mattered Widukind was not there, that Widukind had won the allegiance of the Saxon people, the numerous two lower classes, who wished to remain Saxon, who lost trust with Saxon nobles who converted to christianity through Frankish bribes, betraying their government at Marklo, betraying the Saxon republic, replacing it with the feudalism of the rest of Europe, where serfs were property of the nobles with no rights. This is precisely what Saxon society was set up to avoid, dictatorship by the few.
Like most successful war leaders against Frankish or Roman armies, Widukind lead the Saxons in guerrilla style warfare. Once Charlemagne left Saxony with his traveling army to conquer more of Europe, the Saxons renounced their forced baptismal vows and their forced conversion to christianity and attacked a Frankish force at night at the Suntel Mountain. The Saxons inflicted a grave defeat on Charlemagne’s army, wiping out his battalion almost completely. Charlemagne, off in Spain trying to expand his empire, was most upset that he had to again travel to Saxony, putting a halt to his ambition, to again impose his feudalistic government and christianity on the Heathen Saxons. Charlemagne realized that this would now become a long war and decided to commit some acts of terror to bring this war to an end as soon as possible. Charlemagne demanded the “traitor” nobles he bribed to turn over all Saxons responsible for this uprising, while Widukind fled again to Denmark. 4,500 Saxon warriors were rounded up by the traitorous nobles. Charlemagne beheaded 4,500 Saxons for returning to their Heathen ways after forced baptism and defeating a Frankish force in battle. The historical evidence for this, is the entry in the Royal Frankish Annals: “When the king heard of this disaster he decided not to delay, but made haste to gather an army, and marched into Saxony. There he called to his presence the chiefs of the Saxons and inquired who had induced the people to rebel. They all declared that Widukind was the author of the treason but said that they could not produce him because after the deed was done he had fled to Nordmannia (Denmark.) But the others who had carried out his will and committed the crime they delivered up to the king to the number of four thousand and five hundred; and by the king's command they were all beheaded in one day upon the river Aller in the place called Verden.”
Charlemagne then enacted new laws to be enforced by Frankish and traitor Saxon nobles in Saxony. These laws were hated by the Saxon masses, as these laws taxed them one tenth of their income and of their labor to build christian churches from demolished Saxon sacred groves, demanded two out of every 120 Saxons to be given over to the church as slaves, and decreeing that everyone who did not submit to be baptized must be executed. See the "Lex Saxonum", the law code enforced on the Saxons. he Lex Saxonum was the law code that the Franks forced upon the Saxons during the Saxon Wars (of the years 772-804 AD) and post Saxon Wars. Lex Saxonum #4 “If anyone, out of contempt for Christianity, shall have despised the holy Lenten fast and shall have eaten meat, let him be punished by death.” Lex Saxonum #7 “If anyone, in accordance with Pagan rites, shall have caused the body of a dead man to be burned and shall have reduced his bones to ashes, let him be punished capitally.” Lex Saxonum #8: “If any one of the race of the Saxons hereafter concealed among them shall have wished to hide himself unbaptized and shall have scorned to come to baptism and shall have wished to remain a Pagan, let him be punished by death.” Along with these hateful laws Charlemagne showed his power and riches. “For the first time,” says the chronicle, “the needy Saxons learned to know the abundance of wealthy Gaul, for Charlemagne gave to some nobles many lands, and costly vestments, heaps of silver, and rivers of mellow wine.” This was simply an attempt on Charlemagne’s part to destroy the Saxon culture and society through bribes. Charlemagne was replacing Saxon government, where noble, free, and servile had equal representation, with the monarchial feudal system of the rest of Frankish Europe, where the king (Charlemagne himself) was a dictator, ruling through the nobles over the lower classes, which were not free, but serfs.
The outcome of the beheading of 4,500 men was much like the outcome of September 11th in America. The Saxon masses were very angry at the new laws, taxes, and forced tithes, which were tribute and slavery. When Charlemagne went away to Spain to fight the Saracens, the Saxon masses sent for Widukind in Denmark, and once more the Saxon masses rebelled. Most Saxon nobles were traitors and did not rebel. The people were with Widukind; the nobles, who fell for Frankish bribes, were not. No man of the common people could have been bribed or tortured to give Widukind up to the conqueror. After the Massacre of Verden (the beheading of 4,500 warriors), all Saxon Heathens knew that their freedom, their identity as Saxons, and their very lives were all at stake, and Charlemagne was a truly evil man.
Widukind lead the Saxons for fourteen years (772-785 AD). However, Charlemagne’s more numerous forces would eventually prevail. Fourteen years into the thirty-three- year war, Widukind was captured. There on Frankish soil, at the river which separated Saxony from the Frankish kingdom, he was baptized. Legend says that the emperor himself stood sponsor for the Saxon “convert.” Christian legend said Widukind would no longer ride a black horse, but a white horse, a gift from Charlemagne at baptism. Widukind vanished from the history books after baptism. The Saxon masses would continue to fight for their freedom and cultural identity (Saxon Heathenry) for another 19 years (through the year 804 AD).
Charlemagne took away from the Saxons their laws and gave them christian law; he took away their Heathen religion and gave them christianity; he took away their republic for his dictatorship as Kaiser (Caesar); he took away their Saxon culture for Roman culture and its drive for “empire” (Reich). Charlemagne conquered, but he could not take away the spirit of the Saxon people who clung to their Heathenry through the Stellinga Rebellion of 841-842 AD and into the 12th century. Over time, the bulk of the Saxon people would become christians; murdering non-Christian peoples under the banner of the Roman Christ god, forgetting their Ancestral Gods and culture and becoming Romanized murderers. The Saxons would commit the same acts of terror that were wrongfully placed on them.
Hail to the Saxon Heathen Ancestors who fought for the Saxon way of life! Please join us on Facebook in the group "Saxon Heathenry."