"Imagination is more important than knowledge."
Germanic religion was very different compared to the established monotheistic religions we have today, their religion was polytheistic and everything had its own god; there were gods of thunder, death, war, fertility, justice, the sea, etc.
This type of religion was very common among ancient peoples; everything they valued or were afraid of was believed to be controlled by a divine power, their religion was also very close to nature; the earth was seen as something holy and every impressive-looking rock, tree, river, waterfall, etc. was believed to be inhabited by spirits called Alfen and Landwights, this type of religion is called animism.
Unlike popular belief the Germanic religion was not focused on the gods alone and most offerings were actually made to spirits, who played a very important role in the lives of our ancestors because of the positive things they could do when they were satisfied with offerings.
Ancient peoples are often depicted as tree-hugging hippies by New Age groups, this was certainly not the case but nature was still very important to them; almost everything was taken from nature and they were dependant on it for their food, their clothes, their houses, etc., this caused the people to treat mother nature with great respect.
Nowadays almost everybody lives in cities, the only "nature" we see every day are the flowers in our gardens, the weed between the pavement, and the trees on the side of the road; in ancient times, northern Europe was an area with rivers, swamps, and dense forests, there were wolves, bears, and aurochses (prehistoric oxen that are now extinct) and the people lived in harmony with nature and often tried to adapt themselves to their surroundings instead of vice versa like we do these days.
The core of Germanic religion was the belief in spirits, most of these were neutral but others were believed to be friendly (white Alfen) or hostile (black Alfen) towards humans.
The honouring of ancestors also played an important role as well as heroes (like Siegfried and Beowulf), who served as an example to the people, in contradiction to current dominant religions like Christianity the gods were only one of the many forces in the heathen religion instead of being the center of all worship.
There were also certain values within the heathen tradition; the most important ones were loyalty, family and kin, honour, revenge, and the belief in fate, which may have later resulted in a personification in the form of the three Nornes.
The belief in fate also resulted in a special way of looking at life; if your fate is fixed and you have to die anyway you might as well live great and die great, because life does not end after death.
Wurdiz and Urulaga:
The belief in a predefined fate was very strong in Germanic culture, this fate is called Wurdiz ("the Becoming") in Proto-Germanic (German;"wurden", Dutch;"worden"), though the Saxons called it "Wurd", the Scandinavians "Urdr", and the Anglo-Saxons "Wyrd", this word still survives in the Scottish proverb "To dree one's weird", which means something like "accepting your destiny".
Wurdiz is a synchronous force that controls the big events that take place in the universe, all major events that have happened, currently happen, and will happen, are caused by Wurdiz and can not be changed or averted, only postphoned.
Wurdiz is not a living, self-consciouss force but rather a force of nature; it does not deliberately benefit or harm us nor does it affect anything intentionally, just like most forces of nature it performs its actions without consideration.
Wurdiz does not affect everything but only the main events that occur, it can be compared to the storyline of a book or movie; lots of different events take place but the main plot remains the same.
The small dynamical events that take place during the big statical events of Wurdiz are controlled by another force that was connected to Wurdiz; this force is called Urulagam or Urulaga ("Ancient Law") in Proto-Germanic ("Örlög" in Old Norse, "Urgebot" in modern German, or "Oergebod" in modern Dutch), as an interesting side note: the Dutch word for war is "Oorlog", though I'm not sure whether there is a connection to Örlög/Urulaga.
The Germanic peoples imagined the system of Wurdiz as a spider's web, the Anglo-Saxons called it "the web of Wyrd", this web was woven by the Nornes; the three sisters of destiny.
This web can move and bend in the wind but it can not break, the main threads form the basic structure of the web that can not be changed because it will destabilize the web but the infill between those threads can be adjusted to one's personal needs, this infill symbolizes the aspects in life that can be changed by actions that are the result of personal choice.
This personal choice can severely affect the Urulaga of a person but Urulaga is also influenced by Wurdiz and can therefor not always be changed, for instance; I can make a decision that changes my life (Urulaga), but I can not control the main events that take place in this world and the universe (wars, famines, disasters, rise and fall of nations, etc.) because those are unchangable and uncontrollable events of Wurdiz.
Example; my life is subjected to the laws of Urulaga, I have the power to change my life and thus my Urulaga by the choices I make, however, if a war (which is caused by Wurdiz) breaks out in my country it can affect my personal life (Urulaga) because I can die in it, lose friends, have to fight in the army, lose my posessions, etc. so Wurdiz can change Urulaga but not vice versa.
To say it short;
Wurdiz is a static line that can never change, it controls the main events that happen in the universe and everything is subjected to it, the events of Wurdiz can be postphoned but are destined to happen.
Urulaga is a dynamic line that can change every time it is affected, either by personal choice or by bigger uncontrollable events (Wurdiz), the course and end of the line can shift every time it is affected.
I shall now give two more examples to make the system of Wurdiz and Urulaga more clear to you:
A murderer who kills an innocent man affects both his Urulaga and that of his victim, but he does not affect Wurdiz with it.
The murderer made this choice himself and affected the law of Urulaga with it; the murder was not his fate and neither that of his victim so he can not blame it on Wurdiz or Urulaga, the Germans believed that every person had a responsibility for his or her own choices and therefor only the murderer is responsible for the act.
A powerful and influential empire has fallen as the result of the death of its king who was murdered.
The fall of the empire is a major event that influences the Urulaga of many beings at the same time and was thus caused by Wurdiz, however; the death of the king was caused by the murderer, this affected his Urulaga and also caused the fall of the empire.
The fall of the empire itself was already predestined by Wurdiz, so it would have happened anyway, the death of the king only triggered it.
In the Germanic religion Wurdiz was represented by the Nornes, also known as Nornen, Nornir, or Skapanornir.
The Nornes created time and by doing that they also created Wurdiz, in some legends the law of Wurdiz was made by weaving its web or (in other versions of the myth) taking care of its well, this three sisters were called Urd, Verdandi, and Skuld in Northern Germanic, and in Germany their names were Einbet, Barbet, and Wilbet.
During the Middle Ages the people in the German Rhineland worshipped the Nornes as Einbede, Warbede, and Wilbede.
The 11th century "Decretum Collectarium" of bishop Burchard of Worms mentions the Parcae, a triade of goddesses who were worshipped in southern Germany.
Eventually the church managed to replace these three goddesses with Christianized version like three saints, the holy trinity, or faith, hope, and love.
Urd, Verdandi, and Skuld represented Past, Present, and Future, or literally translated; Became (German "wurde"), Becoming (German "werden"), and Will Become (English "should").
The Norns live at the base of the world tree Yggdrasill, which they try to safe from decay by pouring water from the Well of Fate (Wurdiz) of over it, they also assist women at birth.
Just like Christianity the heathen religion also had priests, who were called "gođi" (priest) or "gyđja" (priestess) in Old Norse, these names are derived from Proto-Germanic *gudjo (priest, caller) and *gudinjo (priestess, caller).
Unlike the Christian priests the heathen priests played a much smaller role in religious ceremonies, in Germanic society religion belonged to the people and not to a priest who told everybody what to do.
The heathen priests were highly respected though, and in important ceremonies they often helped the people and made sure everything went as planned, they are also believed to have acted as spiritual advisors, helpers, and teachers.
Heathen priests also had a shamanistic function; they went into a trance and made soul-journeys to visit other worlds to influence the higher powers living there, for this purpose hallucinogenic herbs and mushrooms were used as well as fasting and beating drums.
Ragnarök is the destruction of the universe and the last battle in which the gods will fall, the most famous version of this myth is described in the Edda, which tells that we live in "the Time of Swords", a bloody period in which one has to struggle for life, after the Time of Swords comes Ragnarök.
The word "Ragnarök" is derived from Old Norse "ragna rök", which means "Doom of the Regin (the gods)", unfortunately the word "rök" (doom) has been mistaken for "rökkr" (twilight, shimmer, dusk), which resulted in many wrong translations like Götterdämmerung (German), Godenschemering (Dutch), and Dusk of the Gods (English).
Ragnarök can not be averted because it is destined by fate, it can be postphoned though, and that is exactly what the god Odin (Wodan) tries; he collects the spirits of brave warriors who have died on the battlefield and forms an army of them (Einherjar) to try and stop the forces of evil during Ragnarök, he knows that destruction will be inevitable, but at least he will have the opportunity to go down fighting.
During Ragnarök most of the gods will die in battle against the Giants and other evil creatures; Odin will die during his fight with the wolf Fenrir, Fenrir was originally the Sunwolf, a creature that symbolized the solar eclipse and can be found in many ancient cultures, after killing Odin Fenrir will devour the sun after which he is killed by Odin's son Vidar as revenge, the other gods will also die in their respective battles with giants and other forces of destruction.
After the victory of the forces of evil the Fire Giant Surt will burn the universe with his torch, the world of the humans will also burn and after all life has been destroyed by the firestorm the land will sink into the sea.
After Ragnarök the universe restores itself and a new world is born that is ruled by Odin's son Vidar (German "wieder" and Dutch "weder" mean something like "again" or "continuation") and the few gods who survived Ragnarök, though other sources say it is the Christian god who will lead the universe after Ragnarök, humanity will also survive because a man and a woman named Lif and Lifthrasir ("Life" and "Eager to Live") have climbed into the world tree Yggdrasill which has saved them from the flood.
The Eddan version of the Ragnarök myth is the most famous one but unfortunately not the most credible one because it was written after the Christianization and contains many Christian influences like a permanent destruction of the world as in the Christian Armageddon, eventually Ragnarök was portrayed as the victory of Christianity over heathenism and in the continental Germanic lands the gods were even degraded to evil spirits and manifestations of Satan who lead the Wild Hunt to revenge themselves on their people for abandoning them, and of course one could only escape their wrath by becoming a true Christian.
The original pre-Christian concept of Ragnarök is believed to have been a cyclical event that repeats itself each year during the change of the seasons; our ancestors divided the year in two seasons (summer and winter) and Ragnarök probably symbolized the transfer of summer to winter in which the gods were defeated by the wintergiants en regained their power in summer.
According to the Edda's the dead wil walk the earth at the beginning of Ragnarök, which has many similarities with the Wild Hunt belief in which the dead start walking the earth after the winter solstice, the beginning of winter, the gods were also regarded as mortal and may have been believed to reďncarnate after Ragnarök.
A Dutch version of the Ragnarök myth tells about a battle that takes place every year in which the gods are defeated by the Wintergiant ("Winterreus") and his army of giants while the Cloud-wolves ("Wolk-wolven") attack the sun and its god Thunar (Thor), who also rules over the clouds, after Thunar's death he is taken by the seagod on a dark ship.
After the battle the Wintergiant rules the earth and everything dies and freezes until the god Froh (Frey) marries Gerda (the Earth) after which the earth blossoms up and the white Elves start their dances to refertilize the earth, similar to Ostara and other spring myths.
With the rebirth of the earth the gods regain their power and the god "Thunar" (Thor) returns to defeat the wintergiants, who will return during the winter solstice to repeat the cycle.
The Germans also believed in a World Tree named Yggdrasil, the Yggdrasil carried nine worlds that are mentioned in Old Norse sagas;
Niflheim: the world of cold, this world was shrouded in fog and consisted mainly of snow and ice.
Muspelheim: the world of fire, this was a very hot place where the Fire Giants lived.
Asgard: this was the home of the gods from the Aesir family, Asgard was connected to Midgard by the rainbow Bifröst.
Vanaheim: the home of the gods from the Vanir family.
Jötunheim: the home of the Giants.
Midgard: the home of the Humans.
Alfheim: the home of the Alfar (the light Elfs) and their leader, the god Frey.
Svartalfheim: the world of the Svartalfar (Dark Elves), according to some sources Nidavellir (the home of the Dwarves) was also located in this world.
Helheim: the afterlife where the spirits of the dead live, it is named after its goddess Hel.
The stability of those nine worlds was always threatened by a dragon called Nidhogg, who was gnawing on the Yggdrasil's roots, and various other demonic powers, the three Nornes Urd, Verdandi, and Skuld (who represented Past, Present, and Future) were always busy reparing the Yggdrasil.
The Germanic creation myth is mainly based on local folklore and even differs in every area, the most known version of the creation myth is the one that is mentioned in the Poetic Edda (Völuspá, Vafţrúđnismál, and Grímnismál) and the Prose Edda (Gylfaginning), which is believed to be a combination of various Scandinavian myths about this subject mixed with some Christian influences like the Great Flood (Giants drowning in Ymir's blood) and Adam and Eve (Ask and Embla).
I shall now write down a compilation of this particular creation myth:
In the beginning there were two worlds; one of fire and heat named Muspelheim, and one of ice and cold named Niflheim.
Muspelheim and Niflheim were separated by Ginnungagap ("yawning void"); an endless void with no bottom or substance, in Ginnungagap the forces of Muspelheim (fire, heat, light) and Niflheim (ice, cold, wind, rain) fused together.
The result of this fusion were thawing drops from which an enormous frost giant grew who was called Ymir ("Twin"), Ymir fell asleep and from his perspiration grew a man, woman, and son; the first Frost Giants, after this another creature was formed by the same thawing drops Ymir originated from; a cow named Audhumla, she fed Ymir and kept him alive.
One day, Audhumla was licking salty ice blocks and found a man who had grown into the ice, after 3 days of licking the man was freed; his name was Buri and he was tall, strong, and handsome.
Buri got a son named Bor, it is not certain with whom Buri got this child but it was probably a Frost Giantess.
Bor married Bestla, a Frost Giantess, and they got three sons; first Odin, then Vili, and then Vé.
After some time Odin, Vili, and Vé got into a conflict with Ymir and they killed him, but he was so enormous that his blood created a flood in which most of the Frost Giants drowned; only a Frost Giant named Bergelmir and his wife were able to escape the flood in a small boat and formed a new race of Frost Giants.
Odin, Vili, and Vé then carried Ymir to the middle of Ginnungagap and created the world from his body; his blood became the seas and the rivers, his flesh the earth, his hair the trees, his bones the mountains, and his teeth the rocks.
Maggots appeared in Ymir's flesh whom Odin, Vili, and Vé gifted with human intelligence, the maggots became the Dwarves, but the gods were so disgusted by the little creatures that they told them to live underground.
The gods then made the sky from Ymir's skull, each of its four corners was carried by a Dwarf; their names were Nordi (North), Austri (East), Sudri (South), and Vestri (West).
The gods then made the clouds from Ymir's brains (in other Scandinavian legends they are seen as wool from Frigg's spinning wheel) and they took the sparks of their battle with Ymir and placed them into Ginnungagap as stars.
The gods then gave some coastal lands to the remaining Frost Giants to settle in and from Ymir's eyebrows they created a stronghold to protect themselves from the Frost Giants; this stronghold they named Midgard.
When the three gods were walking on the beach of Midgard they found two trees from which they created two humans; a man named Ask (Ash tree) and a woman named Embla (Elm tree), from them humanity originates.
After some time the gods created a new stronghold called Asgard and left Midgard to the humans, in Asgard Odin sat himself on Hliđskialf; a big throne from which he could oversee the entire universe and see and know everything that happened.
Odin married the earthgoddess Frigg and from them some of the other gods of the Aesir family originate.
All of the Aesir built their palaces in Asgard and its defensive walls were built by Hrimţurs, a Giant who promised Odin to complete the wall within six months if he would get the sun, the moon, and the hand of the goddess Freya, Odin agreed because he knew that it was impossible to finish such a big wall within six months.
However, Hrimţurs used a magical horse named Svadilfari who carried the stones and the task was near completion within 6 months.
Because giving the sun, moon, and Freya to a Frost Giant was no option for the gods Loki changed himself into a mare and seduced Svadilfari so that the task was not completed in time, Loki later gave birth to an eight-legged horse called Sleipnir, which became Odin's favourite horse.
An abbreviated western Germanic version of the creation myth is known from Tacitus' Germania, which is over a thousand years older and does not contain Christian influences:
"In the traditional songs which form their only record of the past the Germans celebrate an earth-born god called Tuisto. His son Mannus is supposed to be the fountain-head of their race and himself to have begotten three sons who gave their names to three groups of tribes - the Ingaevones, nearest the sea; the Herminones, in the interior; and the Istaevones, who comprise all the rest. Some authorities, with the freedom of conjecture permitted by remote antiquity, assert that Tuisto had more numerous descendants and mention more tribal groups such as Marsi, Gambrivii, Suebi, and Vandilii - names which they affirm to be both genuine and ancient."
As you can see the main "storyline" of both creation myths is quite similar and may even point to a common Germanic creation myth that was later divided into multiple local versions, if we supplement the information from both myths with some snippets of information from later sources as well as with verious creation myths surviving as local legends throughout Europe we may be able to get a better understanding of what the original myth may have been like:
It would start with the empty void mentioned as Ginnungagap in the Edda's, Snorri adressed it with the line "Jorđ fannz ćva né upphiminn" (There was neither earth nor sky above), which has much in common with the 9th century OHG Prayer of Wessobrunn that says "Dat ero ni was noh ufhimil" (There was neither earth nor sky above).
In this empty void a primaeval being came into existence from whom the giants originate, in the Edda this being is called Ymir.
Another being is born from the earth (Tacitus) or the ice (Edda), in Tacitus' Germania this being is called Tuisto ("Twin"? or "Second"?) while the Edda calls him Buri ("Born One").
Tuisto/Buri gets a son, probably with a giantess of out of himself, Tacitus calls this son Mannus ("Human" or "Man") and in the Edda he is known as Bor ("Son").
Mannus/Bor gets three sons with a giantess who is not mentioned by Tacitus but is known in the Edda as Bestla.
In Tacitus' work this three sons are called Ingo (the god Frey), Istro (?), and Irmino (a title of the god Wodan/Odin), while the Edda's mention them as Odin ("Raging One"), Vili ("Will"), and Vé ("Holy" or "Consecrated One"), in most sources the creation of earth and humanity is attributed to these three gods, in many cases by killing the primaeval being (Ymir).
Tacitus also mentions that the Germanic people originated from Mannus and consisted of at least three tribal groups that were named after Mannus' three sons.
The belief in different worlds was present in all Germanic lands, some of these worlds may have already existed outside the empty void (Niflheim, Muspelheim, Alfheim) while others were believed to have been created by the gods, like Midgard and Asgard.
In Germanic religion there were many types of holy places, ranging from places in nature to man-made holy sites, in most holy places it was forbidden to fight, kill, take revenge, or perform other deeds of violence and for that purpose all weapons had to be left outside the holy place.
Even the gods knew holy places and Loki actually killed Balder in a holy place, to adhere to the non-violence rule the gods allowed him to leave unharmed but his deed was definitely one of the main reasons for his later punishment.
Man-made holy places were often built on special places in nature and sometimes the location was pointed out by the divine, it is believed that the people used animals for this purpose.
In "Heidens Nederland" (Judith Schuyf) it is mentioned that some legends tell of how the location of a new church was pointed out by animals who played a role in Germanic mythology, like ravens, (white) oxen, and white horses, sometimes pigeons are also mentioned.
In the Dutch city of Elst is the grave of the Christian missionary Werenfried, who was laid on a wagon pulled by two oxen and buried where the animals halted, which can be considered a heathen influence in early Christianity.
I shall now list some of the most used holy places below:
Holy stones: the Germans often worshipped big stones, a good example is the Woddenstone on the Orkney islands; it was built around 3000BC, was 2.5 meters (8 feet) high and 1 meter (3.5 feet) wide and had a hole in it.
It was dedicated to the god Wodan (who was called "Wodden" on the Orkneys) and the stone was believed to posess magical powers, offerings to Wodden were left at the foot of the stone and two people who were in love could swear an oath to Wodden while holding their hands through the hole for good luck.
In December 1814 a fanatical Christian farmer named captain Mackay destroyed the Wodden stone that had stood for 5000 years and made a pig shed out of it, he then tried to do the same thing to other holy stones on the island but was stopped by an angry population who threatened to burn his house if he laid one finger on them.
Another example of holy stones are the Bauta-stones in Scandinavia, these memorial stones are 6 meters (20 feet) tall, unworked and unwritten, and date from the Bronze Age and the Viking Age.
Offerings were also left at stones, which were directed to the god or spirit living in it.
Many of the holy stones were meteorites or other stones that came from another world, even today there are many stones throughout Europe that carry names like "Drudenstein" (Stone of the Drudes = ancestral guardian spirits), "Duivelssteen" (Devil's stone = Christianized heathen stone), or "Heidenstein" (Heathen stone).
Many legends about holy stones include stories about children growing under the stone or the stone being alive, about many stones it is also told that they bleed when you stick a needle in them at full moon.
Many of these stones actually still exist these days and can be found in woods or sometimes in the middle of a city in someone's garden or in a churchyard.
A good example of a stone where children come from is the "Poppestien" (Children-stone) in the Frisian village of Bergum.
The pink granite boulder has a flat top with a ridge in it and measures 2,45 x 1,80 x 0,80 meters (8 x 5.9 x 2.6 feet), it is believed to have originally laid in lake Bergumermeer but has later been moved to a hill and in the 19th century it was moved to its currect position in the Hillamastraat.
A 13th century Frisian saying mentions the following about the Poppestien:
Nou űnder 't beamrik skaed, dat ús nei 't west ta laet
Dęr leit de Poppestien. Dy seit tsjin eltsenien:
'Sa lang as men my hjir yn ręst lit bitsjen
Scil Birgum gjin brek ha oan ljeaflytse bern.
As it ear my draeit, de leaden hoanne kraeit,
Den wip ik efkes op, en memke grypt hjar pop'.
(Translation:) Now under the shade of the realm of trees, that leads us to the west,
There lies the Childrenstone. That says to everyone:
'As long as I am left here in rest
Bergum shall have no shortage of sweet little children.
When the year turns, the leaden rooster crows,
Then I jump up, and mother grabs her child'.
The sentence "When the year turns" is referring to the winter solstice and "the leaden rooster crows" refers to the first sunset after the solstice, in which new life was born.
Altar stones were also used, they were similar to the natural stones mentioned above but these often had man-made shapes and inscriptions.
The most famous altar stones are the ones dedicated to the goddess Nehalennia that were found in the Dutch province of Zeeland, which were probably made under Roman influence.
"Heidens Nederland" also mentions other types of altar stones, which are blocks of stone that contain pits, grooves, or other cavities.
The average size of these blocks is 50 by 50 centimeters (5x5 inches) and they have a flattened top with a key-shaped cavity surrounded by 4 or 5 small basins that are sometimes connected to the cavity in the center by channels.
These altar stones are of heathen origin but in the 5th century their use was adopted by local Christians who placed most of the altar stones in their churches, the church of Ruinen in the Dutch province of Drenthe also contained an altar stones for many centuries that was inscribed with both Germanic runes and a Christian cross, but according to local stories the stone was eventually taken from the church by a preacher and has been lost ever since.
Holy wells: wells were seen as entrances to other worlds, like in Grimm's fairy tales where a girl falls into a well and ends up in the realm of frau Holle.
Wells also provided fertility, cured diseases, and predicted the future.
Especially Thunar and Holda were associated with wells and almost every Christian well is a Christianized heathen well, many churches are built on wells or other holy places and very often a church is standing next to a well or on top of it.
In ancient times people often deposited offerings in holy wells and even today there is a custom of throwing coins in wells and fountains to make a wish come true.
Many legends about wells mention that the water from these wells could cure diseases when it was taken from the well at midnight while remaining silent.
Holy trees: holy trees were used to leave offerings and such, especially in Germany and the Netherlands this type of worship was common but it happened throughout the Germanic lands.
Many villages had trees dedicated to a god (like the dorpslinde or "village-limetree") and folk assemblies (ţings), weddings, and other important events were held under them.
Many trees were believed to be inhabited by spirits like Alfen and Landwights, many researchers like the German historian Mannhardt suggest that he tree was seen as the body of a treespirit.
Leaving an offering for the spirit in the tree brings good luck so many people went there to make offerings when they needed some.
Viereckschanzen: a viereckschanze ("square entrenchment") is a holy place that may have also been used as a fort or refuge.
The entrenchment had four corners ("vier Ecken" in German) and consisted of an earth all, palisades, and sometimes a moat.
Some of the viereckschanze contained one or more shafts that varied from a shallow pit to shafts with a depth of 6 meters (20 feet), 18 meters (59 feet), or even 35 meters (115 feet).
In these shafts offerings of organic material were deposited, because most of the viereckschanze were situated in the vicinity of burial mounds it is believed that the shafts may have been used to bring offerings to the spirits of ancestors who were believed to live deep in the earth.
Viereckschanzen were mainly built during the late Iron Age and were not limited to the Germanic territories; they were built throughout Europe from Greece to southern Germany and France.
Temples: according to Tacitus the Germans did not built many temples; they prayed to their gods in their houses or out in the open, though small temples may have been used locally, to get a good indication of what this possible temples may have looked like we can take a look at the earlier (Pre-Germanic) temples that have been found in northern Europe, like the beautiful little wooden temple that has been found at Bargeroosterveld in the Netherlands, a simple wooden frame with hornlike tips that may have carried a coffin or altar, a very interesting thing to know about this temple is that it was created in the Bronze Age but that the builders used iron nails for it, this shows that the builders were very ahead of their time.
Wihaz: the word wih is connected to Old High German "wihen", modern German "widen", and Dutch "wijden", which all mean "to hallow" or "to consecrate".
The Wihaz (Proto-Germanic), Wih (Saxon) or Vé (Old Norse) was a holy place that was used to honour the gods, this place could be everything; a rock, a holy forest, a big tree, etc.
An example of such a place is the Brocken, which is the highest rock (1142 meters or 1294 yard) of the Harz granite massive in Germany, this rock has always played an important role in Germanic folklegends.
It was believed to be inhabited by a spirit (the Brockengeist), which was seen by many people who visited the place, modern scientists have concluded that this "ghost" is a projection of your own shadow on the mist when the sun is in your back and the mist in front of you, the shadow figure that is created by this effect sometimes has a coloured aura, this effect has been named "Brocken-phenomenon" though it also occurs in other misty places.
In Christian legends from the Middle Ages the Brocken was believed to be the meeting place of witches who flew to its top on broomsticks during Walpurgisnight (coincides with the heathen Ostara celebrations), in the Middle Ages most heathen holy places and their supernatural inhabitants were "demonized" by connecting them to witches and other servants of Satan, when such tales exist about a certain place it often indicates that this places were once associated with heathen gods or spirits.
At the Rhine near the German cities of Kaub and st.Goarshausen is a rock called "Lorelei", which may have also been a wihaz; according to local legends there lives a Nymph on the top of the rock who tries to sink ships by distracting their shippers with her singing, this may have originally been a Rhinemaiden or other spirit, the treasure of the Nibelungen is also believed to be buried there.
Hills were also often used for worshipping the gods, an example are the Venusbergen from German folklore; this hills were connected to the goddess Holda though later she was called Frau Holle, the name Venus was first used in the 15th century and points to a later Classical influence.
A Venusberg was believed to be the entrance to an underground place where beautiful women were holding all kinds of sexual parties, at the entrance of the hill sat Eckhart (see: spirits) who warned the people not to enter the hill (as if any man would listen to that LOL), the German poet Tannhäuser was also believed to have inhabited such a hill as the personal guest of the earthgoddess.
There are also legends about deceased kings and emperors who live on in a mountain, like for instance Frederick Barbarossa who was believed to live in the Kyffhäuser mountains of Germany.
Hufaz: the Hufaz (Proto-Germanic) or "Hof" in most modern Germanic languages was also known as Gođahús ("Godshouse") or Blóthús ("Offeringhouse") in Old Norse, it was a man-made structure where offerings were held, this could be a hall inside a building, an open square in the village center, or something else.
Harugaz: a Harugaz (Proto-Germanic) or Hörg (Old Norse) was a small holy place surrounded by a circle of stones, it was always positioned outside and it was mainly used for offering to the god to whom the Harugaz was dedicated, the soil inside the hörg as well as the stones were often coloured with sacrificial blood as a means to hallow them.
When the Romans visited the site of the battle of the Teutoburg forest they saw that the Germans had placed the heads of high-ranking Roman officers on small shrines to sacrifice them to their wargods (probably Wodan and/or Tiwaz) to thank them for their victory.
Stullon: a Stullon (Proto-Germanic) or Stallr (Old Norse) was a small offering altar the people sometimes had inside their house, it was probably a small wooden table where offerings were laid on and it had the same function as the Harugaz, only then it stood inside and was smaller.
Stavkirke: the Stavkirke, or "standing churches" were built in Scandinavia and were used as Christian churches but some scholars believe that they were of heathen origin and that they were changed into churches in a later period, another fact that supports this theory is that the building style of the Stavkirke is predominantly heathen instead of Christian.
Pillars: a lot of tribes had a holy pillar that they worshipped, one of the most famous ones is the Saxon Irminsul.
A pillar did not only represent the world tree Yggdrasil but could also be a fertility symbol representing a phallus.
Idols: Tacitus mentiones that the Germans did not use idols because they found it inappropriate to depict the gods in their human forms, but in later periods they apparently broke with this custom; some beautiful idols have been found from the Viking age, especially in Scandinavia and Iceland.
In Germany and the Netherlands the people also had small puppets in their houses that represented house spirits.
In his "Germania" Tacitus mentiones a temple where the Semnonians honoured one of their gods; "The oldest and most famous of the Suebi, it is said, are the Semnones, and their antiquity is confirmed by a religious observance. At a set time, deputations from all the tribes of the same stock gather in a grove hallowed by the auguries of their ancestors and by immemorial awe. The sacrifice of a human victim in the name of all marks the grisly opening of their savage ritual. Another observance shows their reverence for this grove. No one may enter it unless he is bound with a cord, by which he acknowledges his own inferiority and the power of the deity. Should he chance to fall, he may not raise himself or get up again, but must roll out over the ground. The grove is the centre of their whole religion. It is regarded as the cradle of the race and the dwelling-place of the supreme god to whom all things are subject and obedient."