The Belchen is one of the most visited peaks in southern Germany, and the fourth largest in the Black Forest. It’s name comes from the Celtic people who once populated the region, and left behind an illuminating legacy which connects France, Germany and Switzerland.
One of the things you immediately notice in Baden-Württemberg is the number of Christian artefacts visible in every field, forest and town. This custom is not as present in secular countries such as Australia. However, Baden-Württemberg wasn’t always Christian. One of its earlier residents was the Celts, who left behind burial mounds (the Magdalenenberg, near Villingen) and cities (Breisach-Hochstetten). Later the Alamanni, a branch of the Hermunduri tribe from Thüringen, arrived and settled in the surrounding Alsace, Schwarzwald and Swiss Aare valley regions. They were also of heathen origin, being devotees of Frau Holle and Frau Venus.
Even though Christian churches may have replaced Celtic settlements, there is still evidence of the pre-Christian folk that once existed and thrived in the region. In places such as Britain, there are the standing stones at Stonehenge. In Australia, there is rock art and nature’s own monoliths, such as Uluru. In Baden-Württemberg, there are similar ‘monoliths’ too.
Located south of the university city of Freiburg, is a 1414-metre high peak called the Badischer Belchen. The Badischer Belchen has the special honour of being one of many Belchens located in the Dreiländereck (three country triangle) region. It’s part of a Belchen network that links France, Switzerland and Germany together. These three countries are symbolically connected by the German Belchen (in the Schwarzwald), the Swiss Belchen (in the Jura), and several French Belchen (in the Vosges). What connects them is not only the common name – although it is an ‘illuminating’ starting point – but also the origins of the name. Belchen comes from Belenus or Bel, the name of the Celtic sun god. Bel was known as the “shining one”.
The Belchen network was used as a place of solar worship. It has been proven that the Celts once used this network, but who exactly were the first peoples to establish it, nobody knows. Interestingly today, Freiburg im Breisgau, is called the ‘sunny’ corner of Germany, and is known for its solar energy production and manufacturing of solar technology. That Freiburg is positioned within a pre-Christian solar worship area, may suggest that ancient practices have influenced modern business thinking today.
Gerhard Jung, a poet from the local Markgräfler area, called the Badischer Belchen “the Cathedral of the Sun God” and Johann Peter Hebel, another German poet, referred to it as a “point on the road between the earth and heaven”. Could these references mean that the Badischer Belchen is not only geographically, but also celestially and spiritually significance?
The location of the Badischer Belchen has an interesting story attached to it. The mountain lies between the “solar capital” of Schönau (a reference to its ‘green’ energy use) and the Münstertal. It can be reached by following the autobahn south of Freiburg to Bad Krozingen, and then taking a left towards Staufen. As you drive through Bad Krozingen you’ll see one of the most fittingly designed coat of arms, reminding us of the solar worship that once existed in the region.
The coat of arms is known as the ‘Eye of Providence’ or the ‘all-seeing eye of god’. It is commonly associated with Freemasonry. But the design is much older than the Christian religion or Freemasonry. Freemasonry sourced the all-seeing eye from Horus, the ancient Egyptian ‘solar’ god. As the story goes, Horus lost an eye in his battle against his brother Seth. However, in exchange, he gained other worldly sight or ”enlightenment”. (A story which shares many similarities with other nature-based gods).
Staufen’s most recent claim to fame has been due to an unfortunate experiment that went wrong. The goal of the experiment was to harness geothermal energy, a type of ‘green power’, similar to solar, wind or hydro energy. The idea was to drill into the earth and tap into the natural underground reservoir of geothermal heat. However, problems were encountered during the project, and a series of earthquakes were triggered throughout the region, reaching even nearby Basel, Switzerland.
At first all of the houses and buildings in Staufen sank into the ground, then later they started to rise. According to the local people, the town has risen approximately one metre. Could this experiment have something to do with the Belchen network? Let’s consider for a moment, one of Staufen’s better known former residents, the notorious Dr. Faustus, who was the main character in Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust. Dr. Faustus was a scholar, who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge of the ‘true essence of life’. Many people and organisations have tried to find the key to never-ending life and power. Many have tried to do so at the location of old cult sites… the imagination certainly can run wild.
If this region has special significance, then what role does the Badischer Belchen play in it? If you take a map of the region and link every Belchen mountain, what you are left with is a triangle that links the Badischer Belchen, the Jura Belchen, the Grand and Petit Ballon (Große and Kleine Belchen), and the Elsässer Belchen in the Vosges (Vogesen). In total five Belchen peaks. You’ll also notice many other places sharing the name ‘Bel’, such as Belfort, Montbeliard, and even Bâle (pronounced Basel in German and Basle in French – the ‘s’ is silent and the ‘a’ is long – as in Ba’al).
The triangular pattern that the Belchen network forms is one of a massive, natural solar calendar, whose mechanisms are at full power during the summer and winter solstices and the autumn and spring equinoxes. The bridging point for all solar events is the Elsässer Belchen (Ballon d”Alsace). On the 21st of June (Midsummer) the sun rises over the Kleine Belchen (Petit Ballon) and passes over the Elsässer Belchen. During the Spring and Autumn equinoxes the sun rises over the Badischer Belchen and also passes over the Elsässer Belchen. On the 21st of December (Midwinter) the sun rises over the Jura Belchen and once again passes over the Elsässer Belchen.
The first of May is also included in this natural clock. At the highest solar point of the day (midday), the sun is positioned directly above the Grand Ballon (Große Belchen) in France. This day is the heathen celebration of Beltain, meaning ‘bright fire’. It signifies the first day of summer and a kind of midpoint between the spring equinox and summer solstice. In Germany, it is celebrated as Walpurgis Nacht. The real midpoint often falls between the 5th and 6th of May. There are legends of the white lady (weisse Frau) – Bertha, Frigga or Ostara – who plays a role in the solar worship of the region.
The Belchen are not the only mountains within the Dreiländereck that are part of the Belchen network. Another ‘sacred’ or ‘holy’ mountain is the Odilienberg, located in Alsace. It’s named after the holy lady Odilia, also known as Adilia and Othilia. Located on top of the Odilienberg is a chapel dedicated to her. For Christians, she was the nun who became the holy patron saint of Alsace. For heathens, she was a goddess. The name Odilia or Othilia shares common roots with the Norse rune Othil, meaning divine ancestry, material prosperity, sacred enclosure and protection. It’s a modified form of the Greek Omega symbol, which represents the effect, fulfilment or birth. These symbols represent the goal of hermits or truthseekers, who try to pass through the ‘eye of the needle’ (the Omega or Othila ‘keyhole’) by sacrificing their ego or rational reality, in order to be reborn and receive ‘sight’.
The metaphysical power of the Odilienberg also covers a wide area, from Strassburg to Basel, and aligns itself with the Kaiserdom or Aachen Cathedral. This cathedral was built by Charlemagne (Karl der Grosser) and includes a dome in octagonal form. True to its runic namesake Othila, the Odilienberg is ‘enclosed’ by an ancient heathen wall. The origins and builders of this stone wall are unknown but some suggest the Celtic druids may have been behind it. This is not as far-fetched as we may think, when we consider the presence of the Celts in the region. The wall encircles the Odilienberg and covers 10 kilometres of territory. The worship of Othilia was common and widespread throughout the area, with sacred sites in Freiburg (Rosskopf) and as far down as Lörrach, close to the Swiss border.
What we can hold certain is that Baden-Württemberg and the surrounding Dreiländereck hold traces and the secrets of once thriving pre-Christian solar cultures.
- History of Baden-Wurttemberg – The Celts, 2009, http://www.pantel-web.de/bw_mirror/history/bw282_e.htm
- WHKMLA: History of the Alamanni, 6th and 7th Century, 2009, http://www.zum.de/whkmla/region/germany/alamanni.html
- Belenus, Wikipedia, 2009, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belenus
- Der Belchen – King of the Black Forest Hills, 2009, Mythische Orte am Oberrhein, http://www.mythische-orte.com/dn_belchen-schonau-black-forest/
- Belchenland, 2009, Tourismusinformation Todtnauer Ferienland im Schwarzwald, http://www.belchenland.de
- Geothermal probe sinks German city, 2008, Daily Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1583323/Geothermal-probe-sinks-German-city.html
- Conversations with staff from Solon, Solar Info Centre, Freiburg, and inLingua, Freiburg, 2009
- Staufen, Fodor’s, 2009, http://www.fodors.com/world/europe/germany/the-black-forest/staufen/
- Der Belchen – König des Schwarzwalds, Karl Rammstein, Schwarzwald Tourismus GmbH, 2009, http://www.schwarzwald-tourismus-info/reisethemen/regional_original/sagen_mythen/magischer_belchen
- Beltane, Wikipedia, 2009, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beltane
- Myths of the Norsemen: From the Eddas and Sagas, Guerber, H.A., 1992, Dover Publications
- Mosaik in der Tränenkapelle auf dem Mont Ste Odile , Lotusfee, Flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/lotusfee/942332489
- La mur paien du Mont Sainte Odile, 2009, http://www.mur-paien.fr