In the municipality of Belm near Osnabrück in Germany, around the village of Vehrte, the devil was very active in ancient times. It’s not just that his dough bin and his oven can be found here…it is known that he wanted to crush the first church in Venne with the mighty Süntelstein. He got these from the Steinernes Meer. He also once tried to get butter in this place in a cunning way. And a little further on, at Haltern, the devil is said to have lived in a dolmen.
In 2017 I visited this area for the first time. After having seen almost all the Dutch dolmen, I had not yet seen the dolmen placed in the museum in Delfzijl, my eye fell on a sign with a dolmen on my way back from a Christmas market in Germany. After some online research I discovered that there are a huge number of dolmens in Germany and that there is a beautiful car route along the most special megaliths; the Straße der Megalithkultur. Several megaliths around Vehrte are part of this tourist route. In February 2022 I went back to the area that changed during the Christianization. The association of the megaliths with the devil shows that they were important places for the local population in pre-Christian times.
The two dolmens near Vehrte are also called the Teufels Backofen (the devil’s oven, Vehrte Grab I) and Teufels Backtrog or Teufels Teigtrog (the devil’s dough bin, Vehrte Grab II). The dolmens were built between 3500 and 2800 BC. founded and are attributed to the Funnel Beaker culture. On the smaller one, along which the “Kriebeke” flows, the devil kneaded his bread; the other was his oven. They are about 200 meters apart and they are close to the Wittekindsweg. Wittekind (or Widukind) was already mentioned in the article about Charlemangne and the (destruction of) dolmens.
The Teufels Backofen was described as follows for the year 1920: on a wooded slope with a wide view to the south. The supporting stones are covered with earth on the outside and together with the upper capstones form a cavity that is open to the east and bears some resemblance to an oven.
At the same time, the Teufels Teigtrog was described as: 200 paces south of the previous one (the oven), past a single cottage, in farmland. The tomb is poorly preserved. Two entrance stones on the south side, together with a corresponding, fallen capstone, are special. There is a lot of rubble on the west side of the monument, including three larger blocks in the position of ringstones.”
The dolmens are not only linked to the devil, but also to a story about giants:
In the past two giants lived in the Osnabrücker Land, one in the Haldem Mountains and the other in the Venner Mountains. They baked their bread together. The giant on the mountains of Haldem had the oven. When the giant from Venner pushed forward mountains of dough, he knocked out his clogs at Bohmte. From this arose a large sand mound that was called Heemannshügel, because the giant was called Heemann. The giants had only a scraper of dough; they always threw these at each other. But once the throw failed and the scraper fell on Krons Kampe, on a piece of land that has since been called the Hünenstürk.
One of the giant sons entered the service of Herr von der Horst zu Haldem. His first job was mucking out the stables. When he got the fork in his hand, he said, “That’s a fork you use to eat large beans.” So he went to the smithy and had a bigger fork made for himself, then he got to work. Because he always mucked the stable with the big fork, the stable was soon clean. That pleased the lord. Then the giant also had to plow. But he always pushed the plow on the horses’ heels. Then the gentleman said, “It is not necessary, the horses are tense to pull the plow.” The giant replied. “The horses are only there to show off, it’s best to push the plow with one hand.” Soon he had plowed the field in this way. That pleased the gentleman very much.
But when the giant went to eat, the master was annoyed; for the giant did not eat for two, three, or four…but as much as the rest of the house needed. Then the master wanted to get rid of the giant again and said to his servants: “Tomorrow morning you must fetch wood from the mountain, for each of you his tribes have been appointed, and whoever of you is last on the spot must go! But the giant was quite sleepy, so the others thought they could trick him in his sleep. They drove to the forest early in the morning.
Een paar uur later werd de reus wakker en zag dat de andere bedienden al weg waren. Dus spande hij snel zijn paarden in en reed weg. Toen hij bij de berg kwam, hadden de andere bedienden hun hout al uitgehouwen en waren het aan het laden. In een opwelling greep hij een paar bomen, trok ze omhoog en gooide ze met hun wortels en aarde op de wagen. Hij was de eerste die zijn lading vulde. Maar toen ze van de berg naar beneden kwamen, konden de paarden het niet trekken. De anderen waren blij en wilden hem voorbij gaan. De reus bond echter de voeten van de paarden aan elkaar, legde ze over de wagen, stak zijn pink in het schachtgat en reed de wagen snel weg.
Toen hij op het erf kwam, kon de poort het rijtuig niet doorlaten. Dus hij stapte uit en brak de hele poort uit elkaar. Nu kwam de heer weer in de problemen, omdat zijn plan niet was gelukt. Dus hij wilde de dat reus zo vriendelijk zou zijn om de dienst op te geven. De reus zei toen: “Ik zal je een klap geven; als je het kunt verdragen, dan zal ik gaan.” Toen beefde de heer. Maar hij dacht dat hij anders niet van de reus af zou komen, en stemde toe. Toen sloeg de reus hem zo hard van achteren dat hij over het huis vloog. Maar de wind blies in zijn mantel, zodat hij langzaam naar beneden kwam zonder gewond te raken. En hij was gelukkig verlost van de reus.
Known far beyond the borders of the Osnabrück region, the Süntelstein (also called Teufelsstein or Sonnenstein) is an upright granite block that served cult purposes in the early Stone Age. The stone is also referred to as Suentelstein, a sacred stone or sunstone. It is a four meter high menhir.
On the north side one can see a face of the devil. This has been marked with paint for ages. There may have been a stone circle around the Süntelstein; a historical source from 1848 mentions a wreath of smaller stones that surrounded the Süntelstein. The story told about this special stone goes like this:
When the first church in Venne was built, the devil still lived in the Vehrter Bruche on the other side of the mountain where the dough trough and oven can be seen to this day. He was very dissatisfied with the sacred work of church building. At midnight he took a large block of granite to block the door of the church. He tied a thick chain crosswise around it, then began to drag it up on his back. But the stone was so heavy that, despite its enormous strength, it got very hot. Sometimes he stopped to catch his breath.
Time, meanwhile, passed until dawn. Just as he had just reached the top of the mountain, the first ray of the rising sun from the east shot over him and a watchful rooster crowed his morning greetings from the Venner valley. Then came an end to the night reign of the devil. Angry, he grabbed the rock by the head and pushed it with all his might into the hard ground of the mountain.
Since then, the devil has left the area. The stone still stands in the same place where it was stamped into the earth; but the violent blow left him with two continuous cracks in the middle and top to bottom where the chain encircled him. Also the traces of the chain are still visible on the outer edges of these cracks, and on the side of the stone opposite Venne one can clearly see the impressions of the body of the devil; for the infernal heat of his body has melted the granite where he touched it.
Since that time, the stone has been turned on its axis three times every morning at the first ray of the rising sun. In eternal memory of the salvation of the Venner Church by the sun, which destroyed the nocturnal reign of evil, the stone is still called the Süntelstein.
In another version of the story, the devil lived in the Wiehen Mountains between Venne and Vehrte. The devil did not like that the Christian god was given more and more dominion and even had a church built in Venne. To block the church door in revenge, he rushed to the Gattberg one night and went in search of the mightiest rock in the “Steinernes Meer”.
Charlemagne set up so-called mission cells in Saxony; one of them later developed into the city of Osnabrück with an episcopal see. From here priests traveled through the Osnabrück region to convert. The “chapel in the east” of Osnabrück was built in the ninth century: Ostercappeln. The area of Wittlager Land belonged to this original parish church district.
In the 13th century, before 1273 Venne split off from Ostercappeln and canon law became independent. Shortly afterwards, the Venners started building a church, so that from that moment on they no longer had to go all the way to Ostercappeln for church services. Although there was already a village-like settlement in their area with Darpvenne, the municipality erected their church further north (on a site that belonged to the Meyerhof zu Venne). The church was dedicated to St. Walburga.
De Süntelstein found its way into literature through the Brothers Grimm, as number 200 in the collection of Deutsche Sagen:
“Near Osnabrück there is an ancient stone, rising thirteen feet above the ground,
which the peasants say the devil led through the sky and dropped.
They also show where the chain was, where he was holding it.”
The Steinernes Meer is an area on the predominantly wooded northeast slope of the Gattberg. There is a large accumulation of large boulders, up to 3.80 meters high, that came to Central Europe during the Saale glaciation.
In the middle of the burial mound on the Gattberg lies a red-grey, roof-shaped granite boulder 1.65 meters long, 1.20 meters wide and 0.75 meters high. It is called the Butterstein (butter stone). On the slope on the south side there is a bowl-shaped notch with a depth of 1.5 centimeters and a diameter of 5 centimeters, in the northwest the stone has a sole-like carving of about 7-10 centimeters wide and 23 centimeters long.
During archaeological investigations, it was discovered that the stone is surrounded by an artificial pavement, made of boulders the size of a fist. Judging by the traces of processing and their location, position and size, the function of these and similar stones is probably cultic. The exact chronological classification is usually impossible, but a Neolithic or Bronze Age is believed.
Also attached to this Butterstein is a story about the devil:
The devil wanted to prepare a great banquet for his assistants and henchmen. But he was missing quite a bit of butter. Knowing that no respectable person would sell him anything with his natural appearance, he changed his form and left.
A poor farmer’s wife lived on the Gattberg. She only had a bare plot of land, so she could only make ends meet with hard work. Yet she managed to generate a milk surplus with her only skinny cow. She had now made a nice piece of butter out of it and wanted to take it to Osnabrück to sell it on the market. As soon as she was on her way, she happened to run into a grocer with a distinctive red feather on his hat. He politely wished her a nice day and continued to address her in a very friendly manner. As they started talking to each other in this way, the woman ended up talking about her butter too.
The grocer was now very interested and asked to try a piece in order to determine a price. In her innocence, the farmer’s wife had failed to recognize that the stranger had something strange about her, namely a goat’s leg that he was trying to hide. She was also much too stunned at the prospect of sparing herself the long journey to Osnabrück. So he cut himself some of the butter and tasted it like a connoisseur. But having a stingy day, he began to talk badly about what he’d tasted in order to better negotiate. The old crook, however, went too far. At last one violent word gave way to another. And before he knew it, the peasant woman, who had lost her honor, swung her walking stick wide and dropped it with a bang on the grocer’s hat.
Then he became so enraged that he roared loudly and dropped his mask. With glowing eyes, the devil yelled at her, “You will pay! You and your butter will turn to stone and lie here on this mountain forever.” The farmer’s wife was terrified, of course. But nothing helped, for the terrible curse was fulfilled in the twinkling of an eye. With that, however, the uncontrolled devil had still hurt himself, because without the butter his banquet turned out to be a rather meager affair.
Over many centuries, the golden yellow butter lost its color and eventually turned gray. But you can still see on one corner of the stone the piece the devil cut off for testing.
At Haltern is the Sloopersteine, here again there is a connection with the devil. It was avoided by people because the devil would dwell in it. The building is also called Sloopsteene and Schloppstäine in Low German. It is located on the Rothen Berg between Wersen and Westerkappeln. The name would come from “Schlopp” (lower hatch). This means access to the burial chamber. Before 1867 it was reported about this dolmen:
On the so-called Halter Daren, on the coniferous slope, there is a stone monument, which the people call the Sluppsteine. The owner is the owner of the Mehrpahlsches Hof in Haltern. The monument has already been explored in some places – as the guide told me: to dig up treasures – but in general it seems to have been looted less than others due to its remoteness, mainly because the large capstones that have fallen are very difficult to find to make. It is also avoided by the people because the devil would dwell in it. However, it has sometimes served as a “slip stone” during storms and rains, as evidenced by the testimony of the guide, who has often fled under it, as well as the traces of wood fire, ash and coal. The monument is about 20 paces long and 8 paces wide. It has 5 capstones, but only one remains, the others have fallen down.
It was later mentioned about this dolmen: The eastern main capstone, a huge stone table, sunk sideways from the beams. In its slanted position to the west, the stone colossus provides a natural protective wall against rain and storms and is often used by hunters and forest workers as a shelter. A second explanation is derived from this for the term ‘slopstones’ (slip stones instead of sleeping stones).
Meyer reports at this point in his book on the supposed site of the Varus battle, in particular the tumulus (burial mound) made under Germanicus and said to contain the bones of the fallen Romans of the Varus battle . The location and shape of this mound, the find and the surroundings seem to indicate that this is Herrmann’s victory field and that is the burial mound of Varus and his legions.
Three dolmens, a (probably) menhir and a large stone on a burial mound are all associated with the devil. The link with butter or fat and (the imprints of) the devil or giant has already been mentioned in the articles about megaliths in the moonlight, the sacrificial stones and the sequel. Also given here were examples of huge stones being thrown on Christian structures (and usually missing the mark) by devils or giants. This also happened in Spain, as described in who built the megaliths on the Iberian Peninsula. And the Süntelstein would rotate on its axis, other megaliths were also turned around (as described in the aforementioned articles).
Photos of the Teufels Backofen can be found in the collection of Willem Donker; the Teufels Backofen from this article, but there is also a Teufelsbackofen at Goldenbow (near the Teufelsbach, devil’s brook) and there is a Teufelsbackofen at the Everstorfer Forst (with stone wreath and cups). Willem Donker also has photos of the Teufels Teigtrog and the Sloopsteine on this site.
This is a translation of a Dutch article, sources can be found in that article: De duivel en hunebedden bij Vehrte