Megalithic sites of Teutoburger Forest and their folklore
All over Europe we may find the idea of the horseshoe as a lucky charm. It is applied to doors of farmhouses and stables to protect humans and animals.
It is drawn on all kinds of greeting cards, sent for any occasion, when people wish each other luck – birthdays, jubilees, weddings and New Year greetings. Some see the reason for the idea of the horseshoe as a lucky charm in it’s resemblance to the crescent moon.
In the regions around Teutoburger Forest people are a bit fastidious about horseshoes, which are working as a lucky charm or / and amulet to keep off evil. Only the old, completely handmade horseshoes, which may be found in the fields sometimes are viable talismans.
Folklore says, that these horseshoes have been lost by the horse of Woden, when the god was leading the Wild Hunt. The galloping of the horses’s hooves and the barking of the hounds could be heard in the howling of autumnal and winter storms, raging above the trees’ crowns and their rattling on houses’ and stables’ doors.
The folklore of Eastern Westphalia has a lot of tales on Moemkes, the local Little People, on Hulda, on the Wild Hunter and his entourage and even on one or the other of the Wild hunter’s dogs.
The further we go north, we find less tales on the Wild Hunter and more tales on the devil in relation to megalithic stone settings.
In the region around Osnabrueck we may find rests of several megalithic tombs, which folklore relates to the devil, who is said to have put up or lost those giant stones or just sits there, waiting for the unsuspecting wanderer to offer him a Faustian bargain and finally take his soul and life.
But folklore did not present Mr. Satan as the single ruler of the megalithic sites: tales about the “Grinkenschmied” tell about a mighty smith, replete with magical powers.
“Grinken” is the old German word for barrel hoops. Their production required a lot of skill – so the Grinkenschmied is the skilful smith of barrel hoops. Nobody ever had seen the skilful craftsmen, but sometimes hammering noises could be heard near the place.
Although his name points to barrel hoops, his main occupation was to fix rural implement, which the people from the surrounding farms brought to his dwelling place at sunset, and which they found fixed on the next morning, if they had left some copper coins with the tools, which were to be fixed.
But that was not the only service, which the Grinkenschmied offered. According to folklore he owned a huge spit, which the farmers borrowed from him on the occasion of big feasts, when a lot of people came together. His only requirement for this service had been to get some of the festivities ‘ roast together with the spit, when it was returned.
Once a farmer refused that payment, and when leaving the place heard the dark voice of the Grinkenschmied, informing him, that now he himself would choose a fitting roast from the farmer’s life stock.
When the parsimonious farmer arrived at home, he found his best horse being slaughtered and one hindleg being cut off. The Grinkenschmied had acted on his threat and chosen his roast.
That tale is not the only one, linking the mysterious smith to horses. He is also said to shod the horses of the Wild Hunter and his entourage. Here we have another reason for the presumed function of only the old, hand made horseshoes as lucky charms: only these are made by skillful Wayland, the smith of the Norse gods himself.
Archaeological research brought at some of the sites tiny effigies of horseshoes to light.
It had been more than 2500 years after the hunter gatherers of the megalithic age had build their stone cirles and tombs as passages to the Otherworld when the Saxon tribes settled in the region.
For them some of the megalithic stone settings were gates between the worlds, entrances into the subterranean forge of Wayland, who shod the horses of the deities of the land.
Opening our consciousness for the memory of the site, travelling backwards in time, we may hear the sound of rhythmic drumming – and we feel, that this is the heartbeat of the earth.
In the flickering light we see a group of people, some drumming, some humming – perhaps a kind of mantra.
Others are carrying little urns. We know they contain offerings for the gods, and they are walking in a spiral procession around the stones.
Now we see another fire, flickering from inside the hill tomb. Now the procession has come to halt before the entrance of the hilltomb, and we see a figure appearing now from inside the hill.
He is tall, clad in furs and wearing a giant deer´s antlers as a crown. We may see rays of shining light, radiating from his crown and surrounding him.
Now he raises his arms in a gesture of blessing, and the whole scene is dissolving in brilliant and sparkling light. …
Sitting here in a full moon night with no sounds or lights from cities or highways, alone with the forest and it´s inhabitants, we may become silent inside – silent to listen: we may hear at these places the drumming heartbeat of the earth…. Or is it the noise of hammering from the forge of Wayland deep under the ground?
These stone setting have a magic of their own – they may enchant some and may frighten others. And the lonesome medieval wanderer, who may have been forced to spend the night here, his head full of pictures and tales about ghosts, mischievous forest spirits and the inhabitants of hell may well have heard in the heartbeat of the earth, which may be sensed at many of the megalithic sites, the noises of some hellish forges underground. Fortunately those forges of medieval superstition are long cooled down.
But the heartbeat of the earth may still be heard at some of the ancient stone settings. The nurturing energy of Mother Earth and the passages to the Otherworld may still be sensed here. And the Antlered Lord may still be met in dreamtime… Nothing is forgotten.