Anglo Saxon Religion

Topics: God, Odin, Norse mythology Pages: 2 (587 words) Published: August 28, 2013
Despite the influence of Christianity, the old Anglo-Saxon religion with its warrior gods persisted. A dark, fatalistic religion, it had come with the Anglo-Saxons from Germany and had much in common with what we think of as Norse or Scandinavian mythology. One of the most important Norse gods was Odin, the god of death, poetry, and magic. The Anglo-Saxon name for Odin was Woden (from which we have Wednesday, “Woden’s day”). Woden could help humans communicate with spirits, and he was especially associated with burial rites and with ecstatic trances, important for both poetry and religious mysteries. Not surprisingly, this god of both poetry and death played an important role in the lives of people who produced great poetry and who also maintained a somber, brooding outlook on life. The Anglo-Saxon deity named Thunor was essentially the same as Thor, the Norse god of thunder and lightning. His sign was the hammer and possibly also the twisted cross we call the swastika, which is found on so many Anglo-Saxon gravestones. (Thunor’s name survives in Thursday, “Thor’s day.”) Still another significant figure in Anglo-Saxon mythology is the dragon, which seems always, as in Beowulf, to be the protector of a treasure. Some scholars suggest that the fiery dragon should be seen as both a personification of “death the devourer” and as the guardian of the grave mound, in which a warrior’s ashes and his treasure lay. On the whole, the religion of the Anglo-Saxons seems to have been more concerned with ethics than with mysticism—with the earthly virtues of bravery, loyalty, generosity, and friendship. Despite the growth of Christianity, the Anglo-Saxon religion remained strong. Although it drew many of its deities and rites from Scandinavian mythology, the Anglo-Saxon religion was more concerned with ethics than with mysticism. The Bards: Singing of Gods and Heroes The Anglo-Saxon communal hall, besides offering shelter and a place for holding council meetings, also provided...
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