The Harz mountains range of Niedersachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt and Thüringen was an important centre for German heathen religion and the moutains were the Heimat of many Gods which were specific to the continental Germanic peoples and the local Saxon and Thuringian tribes, eg Krodo, Biel, Stuffo, Frau Holla and Ostara. There are also local legends concerning the Thunder God Donar as well as a remembrance of the sacred union of Woden and Freya in the annual gathering of the Hexen upon the moutain peak of the Brocken. The Harz is part of the famous Hercynian Forest referred to in the annals of classical writers. Harz is said to derive from the Middle High German Hardt or Hart (mountain forest).
My Harz-born mother would often tell me nursey tales regarding the Harz and pass onto me tit bits of local lore that have survived down the centuries. My maternal line apparently were local wise women or witches as we call them today. However they had to be very careful in not attracting the attention of the repressive local authorities of the time. Now this aspect of the Harz is celebrated as a part of the local culture, no doubt in order to attact tourists and their Geld.
I have in recent years begun to explore and examine my maternal heathen heritage on this blog and I will continue to do so. Whether we call our religion Wodenism, Wotanism, Odinism, Asatru or Germanic Heathenism the Norse interpretation of our Gods and Goddesses unfortunately tends to dominate everything. I am grateful of course to the existence of the Eddas and Saga literature as without them we would have struggled to resurrect our ancient religion in the 20th century but as English, German and Netherlandic peoples we must explore other and more obscure source material in order that we may encounter a more authentic spiritual experience and not be too dependent on the Icelandic and Scandinavian material.
The work of Grimm is an important starting point for our quest for Jacob Grimm attempted in his 4 (or 3 volume) work Deutsche Mythologie to present a continental Germanic mythology. The English version of this monumental work is Teutonic Mythology which tends to obscure the German emphasis of Grimm's research. A better translation of the title would have been German Mythology. However the work does incorporate Scandinavian material but the emphasis is on German, Dutch, English and Indo-European sources.
The following is an interesting quotation from Maria Elise Turner Lauder's Legends and Tales of the Harz Mountains, North Germany:
"The Harz is the birth-place of the " Wild Hunter," of the " Wild Army " of South Germany, of the Gold Crown, and of the noble Brunhilda. The view from the top of the granite mountain, the Hexentanzplatz, to the distant Brocken in clear weather, and across to that mass of granite, the Rosstrappe, the swift Bode leaping over huge blocks of fallen granite between, and a thousand feet below, is one of the finest in these mountains. This spot is the scene of the legend of Brunhilda.
"On the summit of the Rosstrappe is a giant horse-hoof, hewn in the solid granite, measuring nearly three feet. How this mark came there is a mystery; but it is supposed that it was hewn by the Druid priests. In the Scandinavian mythology Wodan's white steed was worshipped as well as the god himself.
"When Charlemagne, in the eighth century, compelled the people of this district to embrace Christianity (by fire and sword) the wild mountaineers are supposed to have fled before his victorious forces, and to have entrenched themselves on the Ross trappe, where traces of their rude fortifications may still be seen. They had no white steed to worship in this retreat, hence probably, the priests cut this rut of a horse-hoof, and invented the story of Briinhilda and the Giant's White Horse, in order to impress the people with the mighty power of the Thunder-god, and prevent them from entertaining any sympathy for the new religion."