Anglo-Saxon Religion Essay

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Anglo-Saxon Religion Historically, religion has played a huge role in every major civilization. The Anglo-Saxons are no different. Their religious history is an interesting one because they were both pagan and Christian. It can be clearly seen in the course of England’s history just how important religion was to the stability and unification of the many scattered kingdoms in Britain. Eric John, the author of Reassessing Anglo-Saxon England, tells us that the Anglo-Saxons were pagans for the first two centuries that they were in England. Bede tells us that the names of the months were significant (Hred-monath: March- the celebration of the goddess Hretha), as well as the significance of hills and mounds, such as the Harrow on the Hill. This, in Old English, translates to “hearn” which means sanctuary. These sanctuaries usually housed cults to gods/goddesses and later on many were consecrated to become Christian churches. Anglo-Saxon Paganism is obviously based on Germanic paganism which they carried over with them during the Anglo-Saxon invasion of the British Isles. This type of religion precedes Christianity and is polytheistic, as opposed to the monotheistic beliefs of most modern religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Two of the more important deities in Anglo-Saxon paganism were Odin (Old English-Woden) and Thor (Old English þunor). The Anglo-Saxons also believed in something called “Wyrd” which can be roughly translated as fate. They also believed in supernatural creatures such as elves, dwarves, and giants. The influence of this religion can still be seen today in the names for the days of the week. From the Tiw, the god of warfare and battle, we get Tiwe’s Day or Tuesday. Woden’s wife, Frige is the namesake for Friday (Frige’s Day), and þunor, the god of thunder and the common people gives us Thursday or þunor’s Day.
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