Old Saxon Baptismal Vow

The Old Saxon Baptismal Vow, also called the Old Saxon Catechism, Utrecht Baptismal Vow and Abrenuntiatio Diaboli, is a baptismal vow that was found in a ninth-century manuscript 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]

An 1895 facsimile of the baptismal vow.

Not withstanding the conventional name of the text, there is a dispute as to how the language of the text should be categorised, as it shows features of Old English, Old Low Franconian (Old Dutch) and Old Saxon (Old Low German).

The VowEdit

The text (with Latin italicised) runs as follows:[1]

1. Forsachistu diobolae? 1. Do you forsake the Devil?
& respondeat. ec forsacho diabolae. and (s)he should reply: I forsake [the] devil.
2. end allum diobolgelde? 2. And all idolatry?
respondeat. end ec forsacho allum diobolgeldae. (S)he should reply: And I forsake all idolatry.
3. end allum dioboles uuercum? 3. And all the devil's works?
respondeat. end ec forsacho allum dioboles uuercum and uuordum, (S)he should reply: And I forsake all the Devil's works and promises,
Thunaer ende Uoden ende Saxnote ende allum them unholdum, the hira genotas sint. Thunaer and Woden and Seaxnot and all those devils who are their followers.
4. gelobistu in got alamehtigan fadaer 4. Do you believe/trust in God the Almighty Father?
ec gelobo in got alamehtigan fadaer I believe/trust in God the Almighty Father.
5. gelobistu in crist godes suno 5. Do you believe/trust in Christ, God's son?
ec gelobo in crist gotes suno. I believe/trust in Christ, God's son.
6. Gelobistu in halogan gast. 6. Do you believe/trust in the Holy Spirit?
Ec gelobo in halogan gast. I believe/trust in the Holy Spirit.

Language disputeEdit

While the manuscript of the vow is ninth-century, its language seems to be from the eighth. It is undoubtedly written in a mix of different West Germanic dialects, including features that could belong to Old High German, Old Low German, Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Old Dutch (also known as Old Low Franconian), and Old English. This has led to extensive debate about where the text originated, not least because the text would stand as an important early monument to the language and traditions of whatever modern country can claim it — yet it is possible that none of these distinctions seemed very important to the people who copied and adapted the text.[2][3][4][5] Key layers seem to be:

Comparison to present-day Dutch and Low GermanEdit

In the glossary below, the spelling has been normalised:

  • ⟨u⟩ is replaced with ⟨w⟩ when a consonant
  • ⟨c⟩ is replaced with ⟨k⟩ and ⟨ch⟩ with ⟨kh⟩
Original word Modern Dutch Modern Low Saxon Modern English
End En Un And
e[k] ik ik I
forsa[kh]o verzaak versak forsake
allum alle all all
dioboles duivelse Düvels devil's
[w]ercum werken Warken works
and en un and
[w]ordum woorden Woorden words
Thunær Donar Donar Thunor
ende en un and
[W]ôden Wodan Wodan/Woden Woden
ende en un and
Saxnôte Saxnot Saxnot Saxnot
ende en un and
allum allen all all
thêm (van) deze dissen those
unholdum ontrouwen Unmannen unfaithful
thê die de who
hira hun ehr
hör (East Frisian)
genôtas (bond)genoten Genoten companions
sint zijn sünd are


  Media related to Sächsisches Taufgelöbnis at Wikimedia Commons

  • Capitularia Regum Francorum I, ed. by A. Boretius, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Legum sectio 11 (Hanover, 1883), p. 22 (no. 107)
  • 'Abrenuntiatio diaboli et prefessio fidei', ed. by E. Wadstein, Kleinere altsächsische Sprachdenkmäler, Niederdeutsche Denkmäler, 6 (Norden: Soltau, 1899), pp. 119–21
  • Hodgkin, R. H., A History of the Anglo-Saxons, 3rd edn., 2 vols (Oxford, 1952), I, 302 [facsimile]

See alsoEdit

  • 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 Simek, p. 276.
  2. ^ D. H. Green, Language and history in the early Germanic world (Cambridge, 1998), pp. 344–45.
  3. ^ N. van der Sijs, Calendarium van de Nederlandse Taal (2006).
  4. ^ Marco Mostert, 'Utrecht zwischen York und Fulda: Anfänge niederländischer Schriftlichkeit im Frühmittelalter Archived 20 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine', in »Wider den Müßiggang ...« Niederländisches Mittelalterim Spiegel von Kunst, Kult und Politik, ed. by Ulrike Zellmann, Angelika Lehmann-Benz and Urban Küsters (Düsseldorf: Grupello, 2004), pp. 21–37 ISBN 3-89978-018-3
  5. ^ Marco Mostert, 'Communicating the Faith: The Circle of Boniface, Germanic Vernaculars, Frisian and Saxon Converts', Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik, 70 (2013), 87–130.