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723 A.D. : Thor's Oak Falls

In the area of Germany currently called Hesse, controlled then by the tribe called the Chatti (a people who later, through various joinings with people speaking other languages, began to be called the Hesse) there occurred an incident still remembered where Christianity met head to head with the worshippers of the false god Thor (also called Donner).

A day would come in the American Revolutionary War when George Washington's small Revolutionary Army would face the feared descendents of these Hessians, brought overseas by Britain as mercenaries to fight them. But that was still about 1,053 years in the future. Yet in 723 A.D. they were already known as a fierce tribe, and had been involved in handing out at least one bloody whipping to the feared army of the ancient Romans. Not many people clobbered the Romans. 

But this incident being described here occurred in a later time.  It happened 723 A.D. about 300 years after the fall of the old Roman Empire, and happened at a great "sacred" oak where sacrifices of animals, and occasionally even humans, were made to the false god Thor. So, it was called Thor's Oak, and to the Chatti it was a holy place and a place where the power of their mighty god Thor was supposed to be especially great and clearly symbolized.

To the south, the related tribes called the Franks already knew Jesus and many were baptized there. But these non-Frankish tribes, such as the Chatti, were by and large still following the old Pagan worship of the Aesgaard pantheon.

On this occasion, in the winter of 723 A.D., there came to the great oak at sometime near the winter solstice the Anglo-Saxon missionary named Winfred, who would one day be called St. Boniface. Winfred had arranged that the believers of this false Aesgaardian faith should meet him and his Christian cohort at Thor's Oak so that Winfred could show them that they followed no god at all, but only a powerless myth.

With faith in Thor and his great hammer and his thunderbolts (for Thor was called the Thunder God) these chief man of the Chatti met Winfred there, and the terms were apparently set roughly as follows.  Winfred held an ax. They, the Chatti, would pray to Thor that if he was a real god and a god of power, he would slay Winfred with a thunderbolt when the ax was swung.

If, however, Winfred and his men could chop down the great oak unharmed, then it must be that Jesus and His Father Yahweh were the true God, since Thor could not do anything to stop them from harming the tree.  If so, the Chatti would acknowledge the superiority of the new God Jesus of Nazareth, and would worship Thor no longer, but switch their faith to Jesus.  It was sort of like Elijah's showdown with the worshippers of Ba'al. 

The events that followed were recorded for history by a contemporary of Winfred named Willibald.

With the great question hanging in the balance, and no doubt a lot of bated breath on the part of all watching, Winfred stepped up to the ancient tree and brought back the ax to swing. He delivered it a chop, and to the amazement of those who watched a mighty wind sprang up suddenly, as if from nowhere - a forceful and terrible wind. This great oak, barely knicked by the ax, was heaved over and felled, in front of all who watched, by this remarkable blast of air.  It is reported top have broken into four pieces of equal length....perfect for use as lumber, really!?! 

What these tough Germans saw convinced them fully, and they stood in awe now of the new God Jesus who's Word and teachings had been brought to their land.  With their own eyes they had witnessed His power.

As for the fallen oak, the wood was used to build a Christian chapel there.  That chapel became the first German Christion Bishopric for that region of Germany which lay beyond the lines of the old Roman Empire's boundaries. Eventually, after several hundreds of years, that church was destroyed by raiders, and in about 1190 A.D. a large Gothic style cathedral was built in it's place, which was called St. Peter's, and this tall beautiful church is still standing today in the town of Fritzlar (once called Geismar), in the German state of North Hesse.

It turns out that Thor's Oak was actually God's Oak.... yet another case of mistaken identity.  A good rule of thumb to go by is this:  if it exists, it was created through and for Jesus, and thus is subject to His will and authority.  The Holy Father granted Him that as a gift.

Winfred himself was violently felled, at a later time, by a people called the Friesians that he tried to introduce Christ to. Winfred was an old man by that time, and an Arch-Bishop. He had already convinced and baptized a good number of the Friesians. But he one day called a group of them together to meet him at a certain spot.  But, before those he had invited had a chance to arrive, robbers arrived first.  These men thought that in a certain  mysterious chest that Winfred was known to travel with there must be money or treasure.  They ambushed Winfred and killed him and his traveling party, only to find that the chests held holy writings.

And so Winfred (St. Boniface) will apparently be numbered among the martyred for Christ. And deservedly, it sounds like.

Of the surviving early writings about this incident, one is by a certain Willibald, who wrote a hagiography about St. Boniface (a hagiography is a word used for a biography of a saint) in about the 760's A.D. 

And more importantly, yet again, for a pagan people, trained since birth to believe in false gods, Jesus went the extra distance to give them a sign that was so remarkable that it was pretty hard to second guess. And another fold of sheep was added.

As the scripture says, His angels are winds, and His servants are flames of fire!

©2017 Daniel Curry & 'Deeds of God' Website