An accurate account of German
ic religion is difficult to reconstruct because most of the information comes from classical sources. It seems, however, that there were a number of gods, among the most important of which were those connected with war
. It is clear that people practiced human sacrifice
to these deities, and prisoners of war are known to have been ritually slaughtered. Wodan
, identified with the Norse
, was one of the war gods, as well as a deity of storm and wind; but he was also concerned with trade and the protection of traders and played a part in leading the spirits of the dead
to the underworld
Another war god was Tiwaz (also known as Tiw or Tyr), associated with the battlefield and law and order. He, too, was offered human sacrifices, and there seems to have been an annual assembly in a sacred wood that was connected with his ritual. Donar, the predecessor of Thor, was a god of thunder and had strong associations with forest groves and especially oak woods. The youthful twins, the Alcis, were also worshipped, although little is known about them. The fertility goddess Nerthus visited her devotees at special times in a sacred wagon, which only her priest might touch or look inside. Slaves washed her cult image and were later drowned.
The Germans made votive offerings to their gods in the form of deposits, such as the Gundestrup cauldron, in bogs and marshes; these offerings seem to have included humans and animals. They had no temples, but many votive sites found by the bog deposits suggest that clans or families had their own private sacred places. Divination was used, and auspices were taken from the flight of birds and birdsong, from the branches of fruit trees and from the actions of sacred white horses.