Anglo-Saxon paganism, sometimes termed Anglo-Saxon heathenism (Old English: hǣþendōm, "heathen practice or belief, heathenism", although not used as a self-denomination by adherents), Anglo-Saxon pre-Christian religion, or Anglo-Saxon traditional religion, refers to the religious beliefs and practices followed by the Anglo-Saxons between the 5th and 8th centuries AD, during the initial ...
Pages in category "Anglo-Saxon paganism" The following 37 pages are in this category, out of 37 total. This list may not reflect recent changes ().
The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group who inhabited England from the 5th century. They comprised people from Germanic tribes who migrated to the island from continental Europe, their descendants, and indigenous British groups who adopted many aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture and language.
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The problem is that if Anglo-Saxon paganism is fragmentarily attested, the situation on the continent is even worse. Anglo-Saxon paganism is a weird mixture of continental and Nordic paganism, reflecting the disparate origin of the "Anglo-Saxon" settlers, and the lack of time sufficient to emerge as a standalone tradition.
Anglo-Saxon paganism, sometimes termed Anglo-Saxon heathenism, Anglo-Saxon pre-Christian religion, or Anglo-Saxon traditional religion, refers to the religious beliefs and practices followed by the Anglo-Saxons between the 5th and 8th centuries AD, during the initial period of Early Medieval England. A variant of the Germanic paganism found across much of north-western Europe, it encompassed a ...
- Cultic Practice
- Pagan Society
The Anglo-Saxon tribes were not united before the 7th century, with seven main kingdoms, known collectively as the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy. Certain deities and religious practices were specific to certain localities. Our literary sources on Anglo-Saxon England set in with Christianization only, leaving the pre-Christian 6th century in the prehistoric "Dark" of Sub-Roman Britain. Our best sources of information on the pre-Christian period are 7th to 8th century testimonies, such as Beowulfand the Franks Casket, which had already seen Christianredaction but nevertheless reflects a living memory of original traditions. The transition of the Anglo-Saxons from the original religion to Christianity took place gradually, over the course of the 7th century, influenced on one side by Celtic Christianity and the Irish mission, on the other by Roman Catholicism introduced to England by Augustine of Canterburyin 597. The Anglo-Saxon nobility were nearly all converted within a century, but the ori...
Currently, very little is known about the pagan cosmology or world view followed by the early Anglo-Saxons. In the Nine Herbs Charm, there is a mention of "seven worlds", which may indicate that the pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons believed in seven realms. The Anglo-Saxons referred to the realm humans live on as Middangeard, (which was cognate to the Old Norse Midgard) and also to a realm called Neorxnawang, corresponding to the Christian idea of Heaven. Whilst these are terms used in a Christian...
Anglo-Saxon paganism was a polytheistic faith, worshipping many deities, who were known as ése.The most popular god appears to have been Woden, as "traces of his cult are scattered more widely over the rolling English countryside than those of any other heathen deity". The importance of Woden can also be seen in the fact that he was euhemerized as an ancestor of the royal houses of Kent, Wessex, East Anglia and Mercia. There are traces of Woden in English folklore and toponymy, where he appea...
Legend and poetry
In pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon England, legends and other stories were transmitted orally instead of being written down - it is for this reason that very few survive to us today. After Christianization however, certain poems were indeed written down, with surviving examples including the Nine Herbs Charm, The Dream of the Rood, Waldere and most notably Beowulf. Whilst these contain many Christianized elements, there were certain mentions of earlier pagan deities and practices contained within t...
As archaeologist Sarah Semple noted, "the rituals [of the early Anglo-Saxons] involved the full pre-Christian repertoire: votive deposits, furnished burial, monumental mounds, sacred natural phenomenon and eventually constructed pillars, shrines and temples", thereby having many commonalities with other pre-Christian religions in Europe.
Germanic pagan society was structured hierarchically, under a tribal chieftain or cyning ("king") who at the same time acted as military leader, high judge and high priest. The tribe was bound together by a code of customary proper behaviour or sidu regulating the contracts (ǽ) and conflicts between the individual families or sibbs within the tribe. The aristocratic society arrayed below the king included the ranks of ealdorman, thegn, heah-gerefa and gerefa. An eorl was a man of rank, as opposed to the ordinary freeman, known as ceorll. Free men were also a part of a hierarchy, with at least three different ranks (reflected in different amounts of weregild due for individuals of different ranks), although all free men had the right to participate in things (folkmoots). Germanic pagan society practiced slavery, and such slaves or unfree serfs were known as esne, and later also as theows. Offices at the court included that of the thyle and the scop. The title of hlaford("lord") denot...
Many place names in England are named after various things to do with Anglo-Saxon paganism. A number of towns and villages, such as Weedon, Wyville and Harrowden have terms like ealh, weoh and hearh incorporated into them, indicating that they were places used for worship by the pagan Anglo-Saxons, and from using this toponymy, sixty sites of pagan worship have been identified across the country. Other sites are named after specific Anglo-Saxon deities, for instance, Frigedene and Freefolk ar...
Days of the week
The Anglo-Saxons, like other Germanic peoples, adapted the Week-day names introduced by their interaction with the Roman Empire but glossed their indigenous gods over the Roman deities (with the exception of Saturday) in a process known as Interpretatio germanica:
Various elements of English folklore from the Mediaeval period onwards have been interpreted as being survivals from Anglo-Saxon paganism. For instance, writing in the 1720s, Henry Bourne stated his belief that the Christmascustom of the Yule log was a leftover from Anglo-Saxon paganism, however this is an idea that has been disputed by some subsequent research by the likes of historian Ronald Hutton, who believe that it was only introduced into England in the seventeenth century by immigrant...
Whilst historical investigation into Germanic paganism and its mythology began in the seventeenth century with Peder Resen's Edda Islandorum (1665), this largely focused only upon Norse mythology, much of which was preserved in Old Icelandic sources. In the eighteenth century, English Romanticism developed a strong enthusiasm for Iceland and Nordic culture, expressed in original English poems extolling Viking virtues, such as Thomas Warton's "Runic Odes" of 1748. In the nineteenth century this developed into two movements within the British educated elite, one of which was composed of Scandophiles and the other of Germanophiles, who associated the English with either the Scandinavians or the Germans, respectively. With nascent nationalism in early nineteenth-century Europe, by the 1830s both Nordic and German philology had produced "national mythologies" in Nikolai Grundtvig's Nordens Mytologi and Jacob Grimm's Deutsche Mythologie, respectively. British Romanticism at the same time...
In the 1930s Alexander Rud Mills established in Australia "The Anglecyn Church of Odin", a thoroughly pagan religion but with rituals influenced by the literary style of Anglicanism. The Anglecyn Church went underground as a result of political persecution in 1942, but was revived in 1972 in Melbourne, Australia. A later reconstructed form of Anglo-Saxon paganism arose in the 1970s as a subset of Germanic neopaganism, in the form of Theodism. It was founded by Garman Lord, who had originally been a Wiccan in the Gardnerian tradition. In 1971, Lord formed a Wiccan coven that emphasized the iconography of Anglo-Saxon paganism, named The Coven Witan of Anglo-Saxon Wicca. However, Lord later abandoned any use of Wiccan teachings, instead focusing entirely upon the resurrection of the pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon religion in 1976 after supposedly having a vision of the deities Woden and Frige. Similarly, the Wiccan who introduced the Gardnerian tradition to the United States, Raymond Buckla...
Books Academic Articles
In modern times, Heathen and Heathenry are increasingly used to refer to those branches of modern paganism inspired by the pre-Christian religions of the Germanic, Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon peoples. In Iceland, the members of Ásatrúarfélagið account for 0.4% of the total population, which is just over a thousand people.
Since Anglo-Saxon religion a subset of Germanic paganism in general, many of its central practices are also shared by other religions such as the religion of the Norse peoples. Blót November in Old English was known as blótmónath , as this passage points out:
The Cult of Kingship in Anglo-Saxon England: The Transition from Paganism to Christianity. California: University of California Press. Ewing, Thor (2008). Gods and Worshippers in the Viking and Germanic World. Tempus. ISBN 0-7524-3590-6. Griffiths, Bill (1996). Aspects of Anglo-Saxon Magic. Anglo-Saxon Books. ISBN 1-898281-33-5. Hutton, Ronald ...
The Angles (Old English: Ængle, Engle; Latin: Angli; German: Angeln) were one of the main Germanic peoples who settled in Great Britain in the post-Roman period. They founded several kingdoms in Anglo-Saxon England, and their name is the root of the name England ("land of Ængle").