Old Saxon Baptismal Vow

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The Old Saxon Baptismal Vow, also called the Utrecht Baptismal Vow, is a 9th-century baptismal vow that was found in a monastery library in Mainz, Germany. The vow mentions three Germanic pagan gods of the early Saxons which the reader is to forsake: Uuôden ("Woden"), Thunaer and Saxnōt. Scholar Rudolf Simek comments that the vow is of particular interest because it is the sole instance of the god Saxnōt mentioned in a religious context. One of many baptismal vows, it is now archived in the Vatican Codex pal. 577.[1]

The language is disputed due to the strong similarities between Old Low Franconian and Old Low German.

The Vow[edit]

This is only a part of the vow:

  • Old Saxon/Old Dutch
    End ec forsacho allum dioboles uuercum and uuordum, Thunær ende Uuôden ende Saxnôte ende allum thêm unholdum thê hira genôtas sint.[1]
  • Translation
    And I renounce all the deeds and words of the devil, Thunear, Wōden and Saxnōt, and all those fiends that are their companions.[1]

Language dispute[edit]

A number of Dutch and German scholars, including German History Professor Marco Mostert who specializes in Medieval writing, have concluded the Baptismal Vow was actually written in the 8th century in Old Low Franconian — commonly known as Old Dutch. It is therefore considered by some to be the oldest text written in (a version of) the Dutch language.[2][3] The difficulty in establishing whether the text was written in Old Saxon or Old Franconian is that these languages were very much alike; and were in fact considered one and the same in the past.

Comparison to present-day Dutch[edit]

To help understand the pronunciation better:

  • the archaic double [u] is replaced with the [w] (AKA "double-u")
  • the [c] and [ch] are replaced with the [k] (c) or [kh] (ch) to avoid confusion (Germanic languages never pronounced "c" as "s" or "ch" as "sh")
  • the [th] is replaced with the [d] to show distinction with [t]; same case can be found in the English "they"
Original word Modern Dutch
End En
e[k] ik
forsa[kh]o verzaak
allum alle
dioboles duivelse
[w]ercum werken
and en
[w]ordum woorden
[D]unær Donar
ende en
[W]ôden Wodan
ende en
Saxnôte Saxnot
ende en
allum allen
[d]êm (van) deze
unholdum ontrouwen
[d]ê die
hira hun
genôtas (bond)genoten
sint zijn

See also[edit]

  • Indiculus superstitionum et paganiarum, a Latin collection of capitularies identifying and condemning superstitious and pagan beliefs found in the north of Gaul and among the Saxons during the time of their subjugation and conversion by Charlemagne


  1. ^ a b c Simek, p.276.
  2. ^ N. van der Sijs, Calendarium van de Nederlandse Taal, 2006 (in Dutch)
  3. ^ Utrecht zwischen York und Fulda, (in German) "Aus dem kodikologischen Kontext und aus der Geschichte des mit der Handschrift verbundenen Bonifatiusklosters Fulda ist zu schließen, daß Utrecht – auch wenn die sprachliche Argumentation an sich ungenügend ist, um die Texte dem kleinen Kloster zuzuschreiben – die beste Kandidatur für die Autorschaft besitzt. Die monastische Schriftkultur ist also in den nördlichen Niederlanden im 8. Jahrhundert seßhaft geworden."