De Heidenen * Ugo Janssens (2009)

“The Heathens. Rites, cults and religion in the Low Countries. From primeval times to Christianity.” The title and the cover of this Flemish book are quite pretentious. A history of paganism starting in times immemorial. Actually, and of course, the book is mostly about religion and not necessarily of what nowadays usually receives the term “heathenism”. Janssens indeed starts in primeval times. The first 100 pages are about prehistory, Great Mothers, enormous stone formations, etc. Janssens proves himself as a historian, not a historian of religion. He pays a lot of attention to archeological findings, large and small. Around page 100 things become more interesting when the focus shifts to proto-Celtic and proto-Germanic religion, but also here Janssens takes long sidepaths. After this follows a large part about Celts. Being a Belgian and of the opinion that the Belgae were Celts, I think maybe the author has a natural tendency to puts the magnifying glass on the Celts. Only a short chapter is dedicated to the Germanic tribes of the Low Counties and Janssens presents a strange mix of Icelandic and continental Gods and Goddesses. An exceptional number of pages is dedicated to foreign religions that were professed here for a short time: the mysteries of Isis, Mithras and Serapis.
“De Heidenen” is not really a good book. The author mixes his story with long lists of findings and his playfull chapter titles do not always cover the content all that well. The point is that he names so much findings and regardless the current border between The Netherlands and Belgium that he names plenty of new and interesting things to go and see and read more about, which indeed is very nice, but I feel that he might have better split up the story and the listings of findings and give a bit more information about the latter. You probably guessed that the book is written in Dutch and even though the book is not too good, I still recommend it to Dutch pagans or interested people. You might have to distill the valuable information, but there are clues for further investigations here. For the rest, an easy-to-read history of religion.
2009 Lannoo ISBN 97820983210

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