Wednesday, February 04, 2015
A Decree of Burchard, Bishop of Worms
In continental Europe, the decrees promulgated by Burchard, bishop of Worms (d. 1025), called upon his clergy several times to do everything in their power to eradicate the obnoxious worship of trees: "The bishops and their assistants ought to exert their utmost efforts to cut down to the roots and consume in flames the trees consecrated to evil spirits, trees which the common people worship and hold in such high veneration that they do not dare to cut off a branch or even a twig."44This decree did not originate with Burchard. He copied it from the Council of Nantes (7th or 9th century?), c. 18, found in Jacques Sirmond, ed. Concilia Antiqua Galliae (Paris, 1629; rpt. Aalen: Scientia, 1970), vol. 3, p. 607. See Bernadette Filotas, Pagan Survivals, Superstitions and Popular Cultures in Early Medieval Pastoral Literature (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2005 = Studies and Texts, 151), p. 147 with footnote 135. For bibliography on the disputed existence and date of the Council of Nantes, see Filotas p. 367.
44 Burchardi decretorum libri XX, PL 140:834: "Summo studio decertare debent episcopi, et eorum ministri, ut arbores daemonibus consecratae quas vulgus colit, et in tanta veneratione habet, ut nec ramum vel surculum inde audeat amputare, radicitus excidantur, atque comburantur." The unlawful worship of trees is denounced by Burchard in other chapters: 10.2, De cultoribus arborum; 10.21, De illis qui ad arbores vel ad fontes faculas incenderint; 10.32, De illis qui ad arbores vel ad fontes aliqua vota voverint.