Germanic paganism, commonly known as Norse paganism, was the predominant religion in the northern part of what we now know as Germany from about 200 CE through 1000 CE. It revolved around two major gods: Woden and Donar, or Odin and Thor, who were the chief deities in what we think of as Norse mythology today. The German pagans believed that the god Odin hung from a branch of Yggdrasil, the world tree, in order to learn his magic spells and was killed by a spear that pierced his side when he tried to remove an enchanted apple from the tree for his own purposes.
The most famous of all Germanic gods is, of course, Odin. Hes very similar to Zeus in his powers and abilities. Hes half-human, half-god. The main difference between these two mythological figures is that Zeus is immortal and Odin is not. Other important gods include Thor, Freya and Frigg. All three are deities with great power who influence human lives. Thor rules over thunderstorms and rainbows; he also protects humans from evil spirits. His hammer, Mjolnir (or that which smashes through mountains), is an object of both fascination and fear among humanssince it gives him great power but can never be lifted by anyone except those he chooses as his friends or family. Freya rules over love, fertility and beautyall things that are considered desirable by humans. Like other Norse goddesses, she can cause both harm and blessing to those who earn her favor or disfavorthough unlike them she does so with a particularly feminine touch, being known for her charms more than her fury. Frigg helps people ensure healthy marriages and safe childbirth. She has powers of prophecy and justice, knowing what happens to everyone around her even though she doesnt interfere directly with their lives. Another interesting figure from early Germanic myths is Baldr, whose name means shining one. Although Baldr was technically only worshipped until Christianity took hold in Europethat time period is called Viking Agesome modern pagans still refer to themselves as Baldrs today out of respect for their ancestors’ traditions.
A harvest festival called Tag der Deutschen Einheit is celebrated on October 3rd. The name means German Unity Day. A huge parade with floats, bands and dancers is held in Berlin. It’s a day of remembering ancient Germanic sacrifices. Another holiday celebrated by modern pagans is Winterfest or Winter Solstice which usually occurs on December 21st every year. This holiday marks an ancient pagan celebration of an end to winter and can be compared with Christmas, as it is very heavily influenced by Christian traditions and rituals. People often make oak wreaths or candles, decorate fir trees with lights, have parties where they give presents. Offerings are also given on Winter Solstice to their gods for another successful year passed. Pagans tend to celebrate their holidays on either full moon days or days between full moons because they believe that they gain power from them. Each month they celebrate one of their gods so that they have no specific time for celebrating all together since there are many different religions within one religion. A few months that are specifically dedicated to some festivals include July for Zorns Tanz (the Dance of Zorn), September for Wotan-Recht (oath swearing) and finally June for various solstices celebrations due primarily to summer approaching these months.
A common misconception of German paganism is that it is atheistic. While some sects are indeed non-theistic, others worship deities such as Odin and Frigg. These gods and goddesses vary in their personalities and characteristics across different tribes, however all of them maintain three main things: strength, wisdom, and responsibility. The gods of pagan Germany teach their worshippers how to strive for excellence in their lives, how to think critically and logically, and how important it is to take care of your community. In modern days, followers often celebrate holidays associated with these themes. Some examples include Walpurgisnacht (celebrating fertility), Allerheiligen (day devoted to remembering ancestors), and Wintersonnenwende (an autumnal holiday which marks the end of summer).
Modern Germany is perhaps one of Europes most secular countries. As of 2012, only 34% of Germans identify as Christian (Kantar Emnid). The majority of these identify as Catholics (22%) or Protestants (13%). A growing minority in Germany are adherents to non-Christian religions, including Islam and Judaism. Just 3% in Germany call themselves other when describing their religious affiliation; most in this category describe themselves as atheist.
5) Modern Paganism in Germany
Like most other aspects of their culture, modern paganism in Germany is informed by traditions that date back centuries. Unlike much of Europe, much of Germany was never conquered by Rome. For that reason, paganism persisted much longer in Germany than it did in much of Western Europe. Christianity eventually swept through northern and eastern regions of present-day Germany, largely replacing paganism with Christianity over a millennium ago. However, pockets remained throughout much of southern and western areas.