Anglo-Saxon paganism refers to the religious beliefs and practices followed by the Anglo-Saxons between the fifth and eighth 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 heterogeneous variety of disparate beliefs and cultic practices. Developing from the earlier Iron Age religion of continental northern Europe, it was introduced to Britain following the Anglo-Saxon migration in the mid fifth century, and remained the dominant religion in England until the Christianization of its kingdoms between the seventh and eighth centuries, with some aspects gradually blending into folklore.
Much of what is supposedly known about Anglo-Saxon paganism is the result of the efforts of literary antiquarians in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; in particular, the notion that Old English poetry contains vestiges of an actual, historical pre-Christian paganism has been queried by Anglo-Saxonists. Anglo-Saxon paganism was a polytheistic belief system, focused around the worship of deities known as the ése (singular ós). The most prominent of these deities was likely Woden, for which reason the religion has also been called Wodenism, although other prominent gods included Thunor and Tiw. There was also a belief in a variety of other supernatural entities who inhabited the landscape, including elves, nicor, and dragons. Cultic practice largely revolved around demonstrations of devotion, including sacrifice of inanimate objects and animals, to these deities, particularly at certain religious festivals during the year. Pagan beliefs also influenced funerary practices, where the dead were either inhumed or cremated, typically with a selection of grave goods. There was also a magical component to the early Anglo-Saxon religion, and some scholars have also theorised that there may have been shamanic aspects as well. These religious beliefs also had a bearing on the structure of Anglo-Saxon society, which was hierarchical, with kings often claiming a direct ancestral lineage from a god, particularly Woden. As such, it also had an influence on law codes during this period.
The deities of this religion provided the basis for the names of the days of the week in the English language. Despite this, there is much that is not known about this religion, and what is currently known about it comes mainly from the available archaeological evidence. What is known about the religion and its accompanying mythology have since influenced both literature and Contemporary Paganism from the 18th century onwards.
Other related articles:
Anglo-Saxon Paganism - Contemporary Paganism
... A later reconstructed form of Anglo-Saxon paganism arose in the 1970s as a subset of Germanic neopaganism, in the form of Theodism ... In 1971, Lord formed a Wiccan coven that emphasized the iconography of Anglo-Saxon paganism, named The Coven Witan of Anglo-Saxon Wicca ... 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 ...
Famous quotes containing the words paganism, anglo-saxon:
“If she belongs to any besides the present, it is to the next world which artists want to see, when paganism will come again and we can give a divinity to every waterfall.”
“The Anglo-Saxon hive have extirpated Paganism from the greater part of the North American continent; but with it they have likewise extirpated the greater portion of the Red race. Civilization is gradually sweeping from the earth the lingering vestiges of Paganism, and at the same time the shrinking forms of its unhappy worshippers.”
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