Thursday, February 23, 2012

How the pagan gods of Germany was cut down, literally

Germany in middle of the eighth century (722-732 AD) had a sundry of gods nearly identical to ancient Rome, though the gods went by different names.  The Christians of this era felt they were charged to convert the pagans, if not by persuasion, then by force.  Thor the Thunderer resembled Zeus and Jupiter, and Thor was symbolized chiefly by a big oak tree.  Not just any big oak tree: one tree in particular.

Thor was not so mighty though.  Thor was subdued by a simple Benedictine Monk.  Well, maybe not simple.  Boniface was an English missionary who traveled about Europe bringing pagans to Jesus, and he now entered the sacred grove of oak trees of Germany with an ax in his hand.  Walking right up to the enormous oak presumed to be the manifestation of Thor's essence, Boniface chopped it down.  To the pagans' surprise, Thor did not retaliate with his trademark bolt of lightning.

This was done in plain sight of Germans.  Why did they let him destroy their holy tree?  No one knows.  Perhaps they assumed Thor would defend itself?  Perhaps Boniface had soldiers with him?  If chroniclers were more reliable, perhaps we would know.  It is said that many conversions were made that day, marking a rare event when empirical observation swayed people's religious affiliation.

If Thor got his revenge, it was belated.  Boniface was eventually murdered by pagans, but not until 754, more than twenty years after he chopped down Thor.  Since Boniface had to die someday, it would be hard to claim he did so at the hand of Thor.  I would think Thor to have a short fuse, and would not wait long for revenge.

Was Boniface sainted?  Of course.  Killing a pagan god does not go unnoticed by the Pope.

Note: Boniface crowned Pepin King of the Franks.  Pepin was the son of Charles "the Hammer" Martel and father of Charlemagne (Charles the Great).  Pepin, Charles "The Hammer", and Charlemagne were the forefathers of the Carolingian Empire, from which, I assume, is where all names (state, people) containing "Carolina" is derived. 

Source: Charlemagne by Richard Winston