Heidens Nederland * Judith Schuyf (ISBN: 9053450637 * 1995)

“Heathen Netherlands, visible remains of a not-Christian past” is a nice little book that was ten years ago. The second printing of 1997 is available here and there, but it seems that you can’t just order this book anywhere. I have seen second hand copies a few times, but bought a new copy last week at a museum.

As the (sub)title suggest, the writer will take you on a tour through the Netherlands looking for pre-Christian sites or symbols. When I first heard about the book, I expected some kind of catalogue which lists such sites by area with a short explanation. When I ran into a copy I couldn’t see what could be found where and I put the book back disappointed. So for start: don’t expect a catalogue with pagan remains!

What the writer probably did is make such a catalogue for herself, but she put it in the form of a book. She starts explaining what it is that she investigated, giving the religion and cults of what is now the Netherlands, saying something about this religion and cults and in the meantime noting a few places where things can still be seen.
Part II may be called “catalogue”, but it is not the catalogue that I hoped for. It is a catalogue by subject, but then in an ongoing ‘story’ and not systematically given. Schuyf tells about heathen mountains, so called ‘table mountains’, sacred trees, offering stones, devil stones, wells and pits and also a range of folkloristic (even Christian) habbits that have a pre-Christian source, such as the offering of nails, the ligate (?) of illnesses, healing trees and wells, protective crosses, tribunal places (-stones, -trees), etc. etc.

All this is -like I said- explained and the examples of (possible) remaining places all throughout the country are mentioned in the text. Sometimes there is a photo with a discription how to get there. But if you want to know what can be found in the area where you live, you will have to scan the book for place names that sound familiar or you know where they are.

All in all there are not too many, but quite a few nice things to be found in my country beside the famous burial mounds and hunebeds. These are often places of which the name suggests that in pre-Christian times they had a special significance, but here and there there are some nice (mostly folkloristic) remains that are worth checking out.

So for those interested in these kinds of things either living in or visiting the Netherlands may have to look around a bit to find this book, but it is not too expensive and a nice read with good suggestions for being/becoming tourist in the Netherlands.

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