by Michael Behrend

Wilhelm Teudt

Photo of Wilhelm TeudtW. Teudt Wilhelm Teudt was born on 7 December 1860 at Bergkirchen in Lower Saxony.  After studying theology and philosophy at several German universities he became, like his father, a minister in the Evangelical church.  In 1907 he was a founder member of the Keplerbund, an association formed to attack Darwinism from a religious angle.  However, his views were moving away from Christianity and soon afterwards he renounced the title and rights of a clergyman.  In the First World War he served as a volunteer, though he was by then in his mid-50s. 

In 1920 he moved to Detmold (Lower Saxony), where he lived for the rest of his life.  There he founded the Cheruskerbund, a division of the paramilitary Organisation Escherich.  Its name referred to the Cherusci, a Germanic people whose leader Arminius (“Hermann der Cherusker”) destroyed three Roman legions in the battle of the Teutoburg Forest, not far from Detmold; this victory was an inspiration for Teudt and other writers who wanted to prove that ancient Germanic culture was fully equal to the Roman.  Teudt also joined the anti-Semitic Deutschbund, and in the mid-1930s joined the Nazi party.  In 1928 he founded the Society of Friends of German Prehistory, which was incorporated into Himmler’s SS-Ahnenerbe (Ancestral Heritage) in 1936.  Its journal Germanien was published from 1929 to 1943 and, despite its Nazi background, includes many articles that are still of interest. 

Germanische Heiligtümer (Germanic Sanctuaries) was first published in 1929.  The book proved very popular, and Teudt’s theories on the Externsteine rocks even found support among a few professional archaeologists.  A facsimile of the 4th and last edition (1936) was published in 1982. 

In his last years Teudt received several official awards: in 1935 Hitler granted him the title of Professor, in 1936 he was made an honorary citizen of Detmold, and in 1940 he received the Goethe Medal for Art and Science.  He died on 5 January 1942. 

Teudt was in the news again in 2010, when the Detmold town council, after a public debate in the town hall, decided to “symbolically” revoke his honorary citizenship.  It was argued that long residence in the town and a single book were not enough to justify the award, which had been given partly because he was in favour with leading Nazis. 

Teudt and Watkins

It may be interesting to compare the “holy lines” of Wilhelm Teudt (1860–1942) with the “leys” of Alfred Watkins (1855–1935).  These near-contemporaries formed similar theories late in life at almost the same time.  Strange to say, there seems to be no evidence that either was aware of the other’s work.  Anyone who reads both will find a wide difference in their styles.  As John Michell puts it without much exaggeration: “Watkins was an old-fashioned liberal, an unassuming, quietly religious English provincial gentleman with a natural and educated sense of proportion.  There is not a polemical sentence in The Old Straight Track.  Teudt was a fanatic, devoid of humour or self-doubt, a violently argumentative evangelist, a tireless propagandist for the superiority in historical culture and innate talents of the north European people above all others.” (Michell, p. 64.)

As regards the purpose of the lines, Teudt (a former clergyman) sees their origin in religion; Watkins (a businessman) sees them as traders’ trackways.  Another important difference is that Teudt’s lines nearly all run north–south or west–east; he does in theory allow astronomical lines in other directions, but gives very few examples.  This means that for Teudt a line with only two points can be significant, i.e. it is significant that one site is placed due north or west of another.  Watkins’s leys can have any direction, and he requires a ley to have at least four points.  (In his last book, Archaic Tracks Round Cambridge, Watkins does have a chapter on “cardinal point alinements”). 

The markpoints that Watkins and Teudt use are very similar.  Lines are defined by natural features, while churches, castles, crosses and beacons fall on the lines and are supposed to be on ancient sites.  Both writers say that churches should only be used as confirmation points, but in practice seem to use them as primary points.  Besides these Watkins-type sites, Teudt makes heavy use of lookout towers, which are rare in Britain but common on high spots in Germany and central Europe. 

The objection that the alignments might be due to chance was met by Watkins and Teudt in different ways.  Watkins did an experiment (reported in The Old Straight Track) with crosses drawn at random on a sheet of paper, and later wrote an article attempting a mathematical treatment.  Teudt set up a prize competition, as he describes at the end of the chapter republished here. 


Note: The sources sometimes disagree about exact dates.