6 Feb 2010

The Pagan Sites of Europe Remembered: (1) Heligoland

Heligoland - a site once sacred to the Frisian god Fosite

The pagan sites of Europe - shrines, temples, and groves - were often destroyed by Christian fanatics and then forgotten, but some of them, like Heligoland, can still be traced in the historical records. It may even be possible one day to reestablish these sites as holy places.

Heligoland is a tiny island, less than a square mile in size and 29 miles off the German coastline in the North Sea. The name means 'Holy Land' because of the island's religious associations with the Frisian god Fosite, the god of justice, peace, and truth, identified with the Norse god Froseti. On the island, there was a well that was once sacred to Fosite and probably provided a focal point for his shrine.

In the 8th century, as the empire of the Franks expanded, Frisia was forced to Christianize. In 785, the Christian missionary St. Ludger came to the island and destroyed the shrine of Fosite, building a church instead. The sacred well was re-dedicated as a baptismal font.

During the 9th century, as Frisia fell under the influence of the pagan Danes, the island probably reverted to its ancient faith. But, with the Christianization of the Danes in the 10th century, paganism was dealt another blow and the worship of Fosite and Frosite was forgotten.

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