>Two years ago I wrote a post about the local tale of Judenstein, or the “Jews’ Stone”, a tale which had been picked up by the Brothers Grimm and made known the world over. Last month I read a very interesting book about pre-Christian finds in Austria (cult stones, altars, that kind of thing) and came across this, which I also have posted as an update to my original post (translated here by me):
The “Judenstein” was without a doubt once an altar, where people had been once ritually sacrificed… According to the legend, after the murder, the Jews hung the boy from a birch tree. “That is a purely heathen story, nothing Christian nor Jewish in it”, writes Norbert Mantl in his 1967 book about pre-Christian cult relics in the Upper Inn Valley. “The saga deals with the memory of a ages-old fertility sacrifice, whose ritual is still recognizable. Blood was spilled over the stone and the birch, representing the all plant life necessary to humans, received the corpse as an offering. It had to do with fertility and a good harvest, but also for the welfare and prosperity of humans and their animals.”
If true, it fits in well with the general idea that the church sometimes twisted older stories to their advantage (just think of all those saints and martyrs!) and may even have felt in necessary as a war tactic at the time, refitting the story around the more current “enemy”, having dealt sufficiently with the heathens centuries earlier.