Kultische Geheimbünde Der Germanen * Otto Höffler (1934)

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Since this is not really a book review, I have put this in the “blog” section.
I had wanted to read this work for a long time. It is a standard work on the subject of Germanic secret men societies and heavily used by later writers. It is not impossible to get, but very expensive (even the 1993 reprint that I just found out that exists), so I eventually had my library get me a copy from another library. I got only the first part and I do not even know if there is one or two other parts and I had three weeks with too little time to work through this book (250 pages). The book starts with a massive and detailed amount of information about the “Wilde Heer” and the “Wilde Jacht”, refering to folklore, sagas, etc. All very interesting, but nothing I had not read before. Since only here and there there is a reference to the “Geheimbünde” (nowadays better known as “Männerbünde” even in the English-speaking world) and a lot about folklore, etc. I started to read faster and faster, since most information I already encountered elsewhere. Mind me, the book is a classic and perhaps the second part is the more interesting piece, but after having read the works of Farwerck, Kershaw (not yet finished), De Vries, etc. this book did not present me much novelties and perhaps it is a bit too much in collecting supportive information. Of course Höffler was (one of) the first to separate “rites de passage” from initiation rites, recognise youth-bonds and cultic bonds in names such as Einherjar or Harii, so this book is much of the basis of all that we know about the subject nowadays and a must-read if you are interested, but you need to have more time than I did.

3 comments

  1. Just to let you know:-).

    There has never been a part two let alone a part three. A part two was in the making but sadly the author died. I believe that the work on part two has been handed over to the university by his widow. But I am not entirely sure.

    After Lily Weiser and her “Altgermanische Jünglingsweihen und Männerbünde. Ein Beitrag zur deutschen und nordischen Altertums- und Volkskunde” (1927) which has only 94 pages, he was the first to make a real extensive studie on the subject of cultic groups of people dedicated to Wodan/Odinn. That is part of the reason this book is a real must have for those interested in this subject.

  2. You don’t realize the value of this work. Really. “You’ve read it elsewhere already”, yeah. But where do you think that “elsewhere” got it’s sources? 🙂
    Despite even being a “geistigen nazi mitlufer”, his work is still recognized today in new literature on this and related subjects. His, Weisers and Wikanders books, are what makes out the basis of our understanding of this whole topic.

    1. Mind me, the book is a classic

      Of course Höffler is the source for De Vries, Farwerck and Kershaw. I was just saying (back then) that after having read the other authors, Höffler’s book does no longer present ‘new information’. The authors authors have already distilled the good parts from the sourcebook of Höffler.

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