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The culture of the ancient Germans, which formed on the territories of insular and continental Europe, begins to be mentioned by the Greeks in the 1st century BC.
The ancient Germanic peoples can be conditionally divided into three cultural associations: the northern Germans, who lived in Scandinavia; western, spread across western Germany from the Elbe and Odra; and eastern, entrenched in the territory between the Vistula and the Oder in 600-300 BC. e., who took over part of the culture of their northern counterparts, but did not form an equally solid mythology.
The religious views of the East Germans are described, first of all, by Roman and early Christian researchers.
Totemism is an archaic form of belief. Many ancient Germanic tribes composed myths about the origin of a kind from sacred animals. So, in the east, they were Cherusci (from "heruz" - young deer) or Eburons (from "eber" - boar). There is even a legend about the origin of the Merovingian clan from a water monster. The ancient Germans believed that people descended from trees: men from ash, and women from alder.
The wolf and the raven were associated with Odin (Wodan among the East Germans); a boar with golden bristles is dedicated to the sun god Fro, who, like Helios, riding a chariot drawn by a boar, gave people light. Sister Fro Freye (Frove), the goddess who gives joy, was dedicated to cats, which she, like her brother, harnessed to a chariot.
The magic of the ancient Germans
Tacitus described in his writings numerous rites of healing and protective magic of the East Germans. For example, they believed in the healing properties of trees and herbs. Fire, according to the Germans, was sacred, had both healing and spiritual-cleansing properties. There were also sophisticated methods of treatment - for example, dragging through a hole in the ground.
They felt awe of sorcerers and witches. The gods themselves, in the view of the East Germans, were powerful sorcerers.
Fortune-telling, which became widespread, was more often carried out by women. The soothsayers enjoyed high prestige. They predicted the future by the flight of birds, by the behavior of horses (mostly white, raised in sacred groves). It was popular to divine the outcome of the battle by the insides of the dead soldiers.
The East Germans had a developed matriarchy, women were revered, their advice was not neglected. The gift of divination was considered an integral part of every woman. The sorceresses went to the battlefield, where they not only called for good luck, but also taught children how to perceive war.
“As the story goes, it happened more than once that their already trembling and confused army was not allowed to scatter by women, who relentlessly prayed, striking themselves on their bare breasts, not to condemn them to captivity, the thought of which, no matter how the warriors feared for themselves, for the Germans are even more intolerable when it comes to their wives,”wrote Tacitus.
Many priests of the ancient Germans wore women's robes. In some tribes, they possessed such strong authority that they were not responsible for their actions. At the same time, the leaders could be dismissed for an unsuccessful military campaign, for a poor harvest, or even for trouble in everyday life, for example, when a water source was running out.
War as the basis of social and political life has formed a separate layer of culture with a characteristic type of behavior. They took weapons for any holiday or feast. A warrior who lost his shield was not allowed to attend general meetings, ceased to be considered a man and was doomed to eternal disgrace. After losing the shield, Tacitus writes, the warrior usually committed suicide.
There are ritual practices on the eve of a battle, for example, "bardit". Before the clash, the two troops shouted at each other, trying to determine the outcome of the battle by sound.In this "song of war" it was important not only to shout down the enemy, but to create abrupt increases and decreases in hum as synchronously as possible. For this rite, they even brought shields closer to their mouths so that the voices reflected from them would sound more powerful.
The cult of the ancient Germans
Tribal cults consisted of sacrifices and predictions of the will of the gods. Not only animals were sacrificed, but also people, because the tribe that won the victory was doomed to total extermination. All living things that belonged to the tribe of the enemy were sacrificed, neither the elderly, nor children, nor even pets were spared.
Sacrifices were also arranged in peat bogs, in which prisoners and whole complexes of specially made weapons, armor and other things were drowned. A mass grave dating from the 1st century AD has been found in Denmark. BC e., where there were at least 200 people.
The East Germans did not build special temples, they believed that "the greatness of the celestials does not allow them to be enclosed within the walls," therefore sacred groves were the place for most of the rituals. Every tribe certainly had such a grove. Shrines, images on stones and other occult items were kept there.