Early Anglo-Saxon Religion

Early Anglo-Saxon Religion

­by Hlafdige Arastorm

©  2007

aka Tchipakkan

aka Virginia Fair Richards-Taylor

The Worldview of the Heathen Anglo-Saxons was Tribal. Family and Tribe before In the 6th Century they had been living with the British who were Celtic Christians, Due to the lack of written literature, our knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon pre-Christian religion must be inferred from what we know of related cultures who came before and after them, on the continent, and what little the Christians wrote about them. We use archeology for more hints.

The Anglo-Saxons worshiped Tiw, Frey, Thunor and Woden. They also took into account other beings including Ghosts, Dwarves, Elves, heroes, and other ancestors, especially their female ancestors. The Idisii. We know even less about Goddesses than we know about the Gods, except that two months are named for Eostre and Hretha.

Place names would indicate that they mostly worshipped outside, and that there may have had a central tree or post. At the time of the conversion there are references to temples, although not many. Funeral customs indicate a belief in the afterlife.

At the beginning of the 7th century the Roman Christian church sent missionaries to the King of Kent, who was open to it because of the expansion of Childebert the Frankish King. The Roman and Celtic Christians didn’t get along, but made peace at the Council of Whitby in 664. The Anglo-Saxons accepted Christianity across most of England by the end of the 7th century, enthusiastically donating land and people to the church. At the same time, many practices identified by the Church as pagan continued until the 10th century at least, helped along by the influx of heathens to the Danelaw in the 9th century.

In essence, before Augustine, the Anglo-Saxons were heathen, after Alfred, they were pretty much Christian, and there was a transitional period where individuals combined both.

Feel free to e-mail me with any questions:  Tchipakkan@tds.net

Bibliography

Branston, Brian, Lost Gods of England, Constable 1993

Chadwick, Nora, Celt and Saxon, Studies in the Early British Border, Cambridge U P, 1964

Chaney, W. A., The Cult of Kingship in Anglo-Saxon England, Manchester University Press 1970

Davidson, Hilda Ellis, Lost Beliefs of Northern Europe, Routledge, 1993

Davidson, H.E., Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe, Syracuse University Press, 1988

Dumezil, Georges,  Gods of the Ancient Northmen, University of California Press, 1973

Herbert, Kathleen,  Looking for the Lost Gods of England Anglo-Saxon Books, 1995

Higham, N.J., The Convert Kings, Manchester University, 1997

Jones, Prudence, and Pennick, Nigel, A History of Pagan Europe, Routledge, 1995

Murphy, Ronald, The Heliand: The Saxon Gospel, Oxford, 1992

Murphy, Ronald, The Saxon Savior: The Germanic Transformation of the Gospel in the Ninth-Century, Oxford, 1989

Owen, Gale, Rites and Religions of the Anglo-Saxons, Dorset, 1985

Richards, J.D, “Anglo-Saxon Symbolism”, The Age of Sutton Hoo: The Seventh Century in North-Western Europe, Boydell 1992

Russel, James. C., The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity, Oxford University, 1996

Turville-Petre, E.O.G., Myth and Religion of the North, Greenwood, 1964

Wilson, David, Anglo-Saxon Paganism, Routledge, 1992

Wood, Michael, In Search of the Dark Ages, Facts on File, 1987

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