• Dr. habil. P. Leszek Słupecki




But what seems to be characteristic of the groves is fear: such places striketerror into the hearts of native worshippers (and even foreigners), a kind ofmisterium tremendum, as described by Rudolf Otto. According to Tacitus (Ger-mania, 39), the grove of Semnons was silva (...) prisca formidine sacra. In thegrove of Nerthus there was arcanus hinc terror sanctanque ignorantia quid sit illud,quod tantum perituri vident (Germania, 40). Adam of Bremen (Adam of Bremen,IV, 27) describes the grove in Uppsala in the following way: Is enim lucus tamsacer est gentilibus, ut singule arbores eius ex morte vel tabo immolatorum divinecredantur.The holy grove appears frequently in written sources as existing since timeimmemorial and never touched by human hands. The Nerthus grove was castum nemus (Germania, 40). The temple in Riedegost undique silva ab incolisintacta et venerabilis circumdat magna(Thietmar, VI, 23: Kronika Thietmara, 1953,245). The holy grove Zutibure, which at the end of the 10th century was cutdown by Wigbert, predecessor of Thietmar of Merseburg on the episcopal seat,is described in his Chronicle as ab accolis ut Deum in omnibus honoratum et ab evoantique nunquam violatum(Thietmar, VI, 38: Kronika Thietmara, 1953, 369).Thus, Zutibure had existed ab evo antiquo, Semnonenhein was so holy be-cause of augura patrumand prisca formido, and the grove of Alcis was a place ofantiquae religionis.A grove is also a place of ritual lasting from time immemorial and giving riseto great fear. The gods are, of course, present in groves. However, they appearthere in a terrifying form, different from the domesticated anthropomorphicform as supernatural companions of humans that they have in temples locatedin the middle of human settlements. In groves they really are supernatural. As Tacitus says, the Germans deorum nominibus appellant secretum illud quosola reverentia videt.


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