View Full Version : The Prehistory of Germanic Europe: Moor Spirits

Thursday, January 12th, 2006, 05:05 PM
Ideally suited for crossing soggy terrain, the method of construction [of moor roads] offered only a precarious crossing over moving water, or over terrain affected by varying water levels, where the beams could not be secured against hooves, wheels and currents. It has been found that such danger spots were protected by 'gods'.

On [the Wittemoor road] near the crossing over a brook, cult sites had been established on either side of the road, each site having been placed under the protection of a divinity, on one side of a goddess, on the other of a god. The divine pair had been carved with an axe from oaken planks, simplified in outline but quite stylized in execution. Between the gods, and spanning the roadway, a gate of squared beams and a transverse board terminating in 'horns' had been erected.

Further north, four additional wooden figures have been located along the road, each near a short decayed section where some peril existed for those using the road. These four figures had been knocked over so that the broken tips were still stuck in the ground, indicating their original positions. All six had been removed, placed beside the road and deliberately covered with peat. This had probably been done when the road was abandoned. No longer needed, the protective spirits had been returned to their realm.

Of interest is the abstract appearance of these 'divinities'. A basic anthropomorphic shape characterizes them all. While the male representation has a clearly defined head and squared neck, the body is treated more symbolically and perhaps magically, having four 'ribs' carved beneath the 'shoulder' on its left side and six 'ribs' beneath the 'shoulder' on its right side. It had only one centered and squared-off leg. The overall impression is rectangular.

The female representation on the other hand is more curvaceous. Still very stylized, the head, torso and hips, although cut in a zigzag, flow more continuously into pointed legs. The genital area is clearly indicated on the female form, but not apparent on the male. Of the other four images one was a board with a figure roughed in with a few blows of an axe, two others were no more than poles provided with facial features, and the fourth had the shape of a hammer. In front of the female figure sharpened stakes had been driven into the ground on which to place offerings. Neither fur nor bones have been found, however.

from: The Prehistory of Germanic Europe by Herbert Schutz; ISBN 0300028636