View Full Version : The Heathen Temple at Uppsala

Monday, November 7th, 2005, 04:23 PM
Adam of Bremen
Edited by D. L. Ashliman. © 1998.

"The Heathen Temple at Uppsala

The Swedes have a well known temple at Uppsala, not far from Sigtuna and Björkö. It is situated on level ground, surrounded by mountains. A large tree with spreading branches stands near the temple. There is also a spring nearby where the heathens make human sacrifices. A golden chain completely surrounds the temple, and its roof, too, is covered with gold.

The temple houses the statues of three gods:

Thor takes the central position, with Wotan and Frey on either side. Thor, according to their beliefs, governs the air with its thunder, lightning, wind, rain, and fair weather. He is depicted carrying a scepter, much as our people depict Jove.

Wotan (which means "the furious one") governs war and has the ability to protect humans against their enemies. He is depicted with armor and weapons, much as our people depict Mars.

Frey governs peace and pleasure. His statue is fashioned with an immense phallus.

The Swedes also worship their heroes from the past, whom they have endowed with immortality because of their great deeds.

The heathen priests in Sweden offer sacrifices to Thor if the people are threatened with plague or famine; to Wotan for victory at war; and to Frey for happiness in marriage.

Every nine years a great ceremony is held at Uppsala. People bring sacrifices from all the Swedish provinces. The most distressing feature of this festival is that Christians too participate in the sacrifices, thus marking their return to heathenism. Animals and humans alike are sacrificed, and their bodies are hung in the trees of a sacred grove that is adjacent to the temple. The heathens believe that the grove has been made sacred through the death and the putrefaction of the many victims that have hung there. A seventy-two year old Christian reported to me that he had personally witnessed these sacrifices. The heathens chant many different prayers and incantations during these rituals, but they are so vile that I will say nothing further about them.


* Source: Abstracted from Adam of Bremen, Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum , book 4, sections 26-27.

* Adam of Bremen, who died in about 1085, wrote his ecclesiastical history of the Bishopric of Hamburg between 1072 and 1076, using both oral and written sources.

* Old Uppsala was an important cultural, political, and economic center in pre-Christian Scandinavia. Ancient burial mounds are still visible there, and many artifacts from the past have been discovered in the vicinity. However, the exact site of the temple described in this piece (and elsewhere) remains a mystery.

* The importance of trees in Germanic mythology is well documented. A few examples:

o Tacitus, writing in the year 98, mentions "sacred groves" in his Germania.

o Yggdrasil, the world ash tree plays an important role in the Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson.

o Saint Boniface's felling of Donar's Oak was a turning point in the conversion of German heathens to Christianity.

o Inumerable local legends throughout northern Europe celebrate the supernatural powers of individual trees and groves.

o The name "Wodan" (Odin), is thought to be etymologically linked with the English word "wood."

o The superstition that one should "knock on wood" after making certain kinds of reckless statements may be a survival of a religious belief concerning gods or spirits that live in trees.

* Springs and other bodies of water feature prominently in superstitions customs of ancient northern Europe. Especially interesting are the many legends about water spirits.

* Although Tacitus claimed that the ancient Germans had little interest in gold, substantial treasures of gold have been found throughout northern Europe. For examples see the treasures index of the Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm, Sweden.

* See Thor's Home Page for more information about the Norse "Thunder God."

* Wotan is known as Odin in Scandinavia. See Odin's Home Page for more information about the Norse "War God."

* The name "Wotan" is related both to the English word "wood" and the German word "Wut" (fury).

* See Frey's Home Page for more information about the Norse "Pleasure God."

* The immensely obscene statue described by Adam was apparently destroyed in ancient times, but a small statue of Frey, prominently displaying his manhood, has survived. The original is in the National Historical Museum in Stockholm, Sweden.

* Scandinavia's ancient heroes include Sigurd (also known as Siegfried) the dragon slayer and Beowulf."

http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/uppsala.html (http://www.pitt.edu/%7Edash/uppsala.html)

Monday, November 7th, 2005, 04:26 PM
see also here (http://www.forums.skadi.net/showthread.php?t=5962)