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Blutw÷lfin
Monday, October 31st, 2005, 03:20 PM
Anglo-Saxon Heathenry's ancestry rests in the tribal religions of the Germanic peoples on the North and Baltic Sea shores of Europe. The Germanic peoples came from peoples who settled in extreme Northern Europe, and spoke a language that was a fusion of an Indo-European tongue, and the language of the Northern Megalithic culture (a culture related perhaps to the builders of Stonehenge).

These two cultures, the Indo-European, and Northern Megalithic met and fused in Northern Europe sometime around 1200 BCE. The tribes that resulted from this fusion remained in a core area that is modern Denmark, Southern Norway, Southern Sweden, and Northern Germany until about 500 BCE when they started expanding into areas formerly held by the Celts, Balts, and Illyrians.

Rock carvings in the core area dating from 4000 BCE to 500 BCE portray many symbols later connected to the Germanic tribal religions. Ships, sun wheels, wains and other pictures all show some continuality of religious belief. Archaelogical finds dating from 1700 BCE to 500 BCE such as the Sun Chariot from Trundholm also confirm this.

The first mention of a Germanic tribe is crica 230 BCE when the Basternae migrated to the Black Sea, and came to the attention of Greek chroniclers. From 230 BCE, the Germanic tribes would come in increasing conflict with the Celts, Illyrians, and Romans, eventually swallowing up most of the Celtic and Illyrian territories in Central Europe.

This was the beginnings of the Migration Era which lasted from about 375 BCE to 550 CE (although the Viking expeditions should be counted as a part of this as well), an era when nearly every Germanic tribe was actively on the move. Over population and a need for new farm lands sent the Germanic tribes in search of new lands.

The invasion of Great Britain by the Angles, Jutes, Saxons, Frisians, and other Germanic tribes were amongst the last of the Great Migration. In the fifth century, an exodus of tribes took place to Great Britain. The Angles invaded Britain from the area of Schleswig-Holstein, and are mentioned by Tacitus in his writing Germania. The Jutes appear to have come from Jutland and the area near the mouth of the river Rhine. The Saxons, by this time had covered a wide area, but invaded Britain from what is now primarily Northern Germany.

The Saxons were not just one tribe, but a confederation of smaller ones, and are not even mentioned by the Roman chroniclers until the second century when Ptolemy placed them in the area of the Elbe River (an area once held by the Cimbri). What tribes composed the confederation is truly not known, though the Cimbri that remained in the North may have been among them as well as the Cherusci (other tribes that have been suggested as forming the confederation are the Avioni, Nuithoni, Reudigni, Suarini, and some of the Suebi).

The Frisians came from what is now the Netherlands, and the Frisian coast of Germany. Other tribes such as the Varni, neighbors of the Angles, and the Geats of Sweden invaded Britain in smaller numbers.

The religions of these tribes were related to the tribal religion of the Goths, and that of the Norse (whose myths are recorded in the two Eddas). Their Gods and Goddesses were Woden, Ing, Thunor, Frige, Eostre, Seaxnot and others whose names have been forever lost. Their common place of worship was in a grove (Old English hearg) or temple (Old English ealh). They held sacred feasts, and paid homage to their ancestors.

Tacitus, writing in the first century, when the tribes were still on the continent of Europe, covered in some detail the worship of a goddess called Nerthus by the Angles and other tribes near them, and makes brief mention of other practices. Collectively we can refer to the religions of these tribes, once in what is now England, as Anglo-Saxon Heathenry, though in truth, there must have been some minor tribal variations in worship, customs, and beliefs.

The remains of Anglo-Saxon Heathenry are few. Woden is mentioned in the "Nine Worts Galdor" of the Lacnunga, an Anglo-Saxon healer's manual surviving from the 8th century. Ůunor is recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry of 640 CE as killing the brother of the Christian Ermenred, king of Kent and his two sons.

Ing is recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem, and there is the semi-heathen ritual the Ăcer-Bot recorded in the Lacnunga as well. Such small mentions in the AngloSaxon literature as these, place names, and archaeological evidence are all that remains of ancient Anglo-Saxon Heathenry.

The Anglo-Saxon invasion began about 449 CE when Hengest and Horsa landed in what is now Kent. Hired as mercenaries by the Celtic leader Vortigan, they came to take land promised them in return for defending the Celts from the Picts. Thus began the invasion of Great Britain by the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes.

The Jutes came first with Hengest and Horsa, then the Saxons followed, and finally the Angles. Other tribes such as the Frisians would also invade in smaller numbers. By 519 the Saxons had established Wessex, Kent was established not long after the arrival of Hengest and Horse by the Jutes.

Other kingdoms would be established later. For almost 50 years, the Germanic tribes in what is now England went unmolested by Christianity. They kept to the religion of their ancestors, and practiced rites as they had for eons. Then in 593 CE, Pope Gregory dispatched Augustine as a missionary to the Germanic tribes in England. He arrived in 597 CE on the Isle of Thanet, and started preaching to the Heathens. By 601 CE he convinced Ethelbert to destroy the Heathen temples and idols and repress Heathen worship.

Missionaries were sent to the West Saxons. Kings would convert their kingdoms to Christianity, then their successors covert the kingdoms back to Heathenry, and folks would lapse back to the old religion when the Church was not looking. But this was the beginning of the end for Anglo-Saxon Heathenry.

By 633 CE, the last great stand of Anglo-Saxon Heathenry was to begin. King Penda, Heathen king of Mercia sought to conquer the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Over the next 22 years Penda, the last great Heathen king in England killed the Christian kings Edwin, Oswald, Oswin, Ecgric, and Sigebert before he himself died at the battle of WinwŠd in 655 CE.

In 685 CE, Cadwalla took the throne of Wessex to become the last Heathen king. In 686, the Isle of Wight, the last truly Heathen stronghold was converted to Christianity, and King Cadwalla of Wessex converted to Christianity in 688 CE, baptized by the Pope in Rome. Thus was the end of ancient Anglo-Saxon Heathenry in England amongst the kings

While the kings and ealdormen of the Anglo-Saxons were converted to Christianity, it was not quite the same Christianity as was practiced in Rome. Christ was portrayed as a Germanic hero. Heathen charms were converted to Christian uses. Heathen rites were converted to Christianity. Symbel, ritualized drinking rounds continued to be practiced, with the toasts being Christianized. And the sacred feasts continued almost unchanged. Temples were converted to churches.

"When Almighty God shall bring you to the most reverend Bishop Augustine, our brother, tell him what I have, after mature deliberation on the affairs of the English, determined upon, namely, that the temples of the idols in that nation ought not to be destroyed, but let the idols that are in them be destroyed; let holy water be made and sprinkled in the said temples - let altars be erected, and relics placed.

For if those temples are well built, it is requisite that the be converted from the worship of devils to the service of the true God; that the nation, seeing that their temples are not destroyed, may remove error from their hearts and, knowing and adoring the true God, may the more familiarly resort to the places to which they have been accustomed.......

And because they have been used to slaughter many oxen in the sacrifices to devils, some solemnity must be substituted for them on this account, as, for instance, that on the day of the dedication, or of the nativities of the holy martyrs whose relics are there deposited, they may build themselves huts of the boughs of trees about those churches which have been turned to that use from temples, and celebrate the solemnity with religious feasting, no more offering beasts to the devil, but killing cattle to the praise of God in their eating, and returning thanks to the Giver of all things for their sustenance; to the end that, whilst some outward gratifications are permitted them, they may the more easily consent to thee inward consolations of the grace of God." (translation of The Letter to Mellitus of 601 taken from J. H. Robinson, Readings in European History, Boston, 1905)

For the common folk merely the names of the Gods changed. They continued to practice Heathenry in their homes, and throughout their lives. A long period of mixed faith continued long after the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons. Perhaps until as late as the time of Cromwell, Heathen tradition, although not worship survived in many areas. Plows which had been blessed in the fields in Heathen times were brought into the Churches to be blessed in the spring.

Christian festivals were celebrated with Heathen customs such as Maypole dancing, and the dead honored in funeral feasts as they had prior to the conversion. Even the Heathen gods were still being invoked in charms for healing as late as the 10th century. As late as the reign of King Canute in the 11th century, laws had to be enacted against Heathen practices.


Modern Anglo-Saxon Heathenry can trace its history back to 1976, when Garman Lord of the Winland Rice of Theodish Belief first struck upon the idea of reconstructing the ancient Anglo-Saxon pagan religion. Shortly thereafter he formed a group known as the Witan Theod. Its intention was to bring back the worship of Woden. The Witan Theod survived until 1983, when after a period of inactivity, it ceased to exist.

In 1989, Garman and former members of the Witan Theod formed the Winland Rice of Theodish Belief. It is now the oldest surviving Anglo-Saxon pagan organization in existence. On June 21, 1996, the Angelseaxisce Ealdriht was formed by Swain Wodening, a member of the Winland Rice and Winifred Hodge a former member of the Rice. The Ealdriht's intention was to be a more democratic alternative to the Rice.

On November 19, 2004 after operating for nearly eight and a half years, the Angelseaxisce Ealdriht was dissolved by its Witanagemˇt. It had become apparent that the Ealdriht's structure was unwieldy and that many of its concepts were outmoded. It was felt that regional groups centered more on specific tribal affiliations such as the Angles, Saxons, or Jutes would do more good. NÚoweanglia at that point decided to go on its own, while Middelfolc and Ărest MŠ■el decided to to form the Miercinga RÝce.

Modern Anglo-Saxon Heathenry is not and cannot claim to be an authentic reconstruction of the ancient religion. The myths of its Gods it owes in a large part to the Norse Eddas and the Dane Saxo. Other beliefs have been reconstructed from comparison to the Icelandic sagas, and many of its traditions are drawn from later English folklore.

Modern Anglo-Saxon Heathenry is therefore a synthesis of many Germanic traditions and beliefs that have been interpreted using the best scholarship in modern Germanic Heathenry. Despite this, it never can or will be the ancient religion. Still, what survived of the Anglo-Saxon Heathen beliefs is being followed by many in the Americas and Great Britain. And while it is not exactly as the ancient religion of the Jutes, Saxons, and Angles was, it captures the spirit and soul none the less.

Source (http://www.ealdriht.org/history.html)

HIM
Monday, October 31st, 2005, 03:34 PM
Wonderful post, Blutw÷lfin. I am very interested in the Old English language and Anglo-Saxon Heathenry so I really enjoyed this one. The following site is also an excellent source for more information on Anglo-Saxon Heathism. http://www.englishheathenism.homestead.com/

Osmaegen
Wednesday, September 20th, 2006, 09:42 PM
I have often wondered why there are so many Norse Heathens as contrasted with Anglo-Saxon Heathens. My guess is that most are of English origin, and yet they chose the Norse. My question therefore is why Anglo-Saxon paganism does not seem to be a viable alternative?

Moody
Thursday, September 21st, 2006, 02:07 PM
I have often wondered why there are so many Norse Heathens as contrasted with Anglo-Saxon Heathens. My guess is that most are of English origin, and yet they chose the Norse. My question therefore is why Anglo-Saxon paganism does not seem to be a viable alternative?

It may be due to the earlier conversion [than the Norse] of the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity, and that the real-life hero, King Alfred the Great, was a Christian also.

Osmaegen
Thursday, September 21st, 2006, 06:12 PM
I have often wondered if it was because the Eddas are in Old Norse. But are there other reasons? I am not sure the earlier conversion would make a difference, or King Alfred (we have Penda as a hero, the great Heathen king, something the Norse do not). So are there other reasons????

Š■eling
Friday, September 29th, 2006, 12:17 AM
Probably more to do with ease than anything else. The Eddas provide a good source of northern beliefs, and the Icelandic Sagas give us much of the later Germanic world view.

By contrast not much survives of Anglo-Saxon belief, and that is open to interpretation.

I personally follow Anglo-Saxon belief as close to the original faith, or rather what I think would have been the original faith, as possible, but Heathenism, in general, should not be a static religion, it should grow with the Folk.

The Hearth I am a member of use Norse names for the Gods, but it is not a problem for me, it is the essence of the deity that counts, not whichever label a kindred people (Celt or German) chooses to place on it.

Carl
Friday, September 29th, 2006, 11:40 AM
hello.
I too have always assumed that the early conversion led the " AngloSaxons , Jutes etc" to loose their original creeds (- admittedly at varying rates). Saxon England became a jewel in the crown of the Papacy! The fact that Wodan (out of Wodenaz) is recorded in the Chronicles as the root source of the AS Kings was soon pushed out by the newly established and aggressive church. Such an sad irony therefore that when the NormanViks invaded, they did so under a Papal banner (- or so I am told).
(! forward to the Reformation!)

Snorri was , of course, a Xian and his relation of the old myths is a labour of great scholarship and creation. A pity the early Xian monks in AS England did not have the same tolerant attitude to the old Germanic faith - since this would have left us with a much better record of the early folkreligion. Alas! --- but, what little there is must be held in great value.
The Elder Edda is another matter - pointing directly to a much darker age and to what evolved in the north out of the earlier beliefs ( from the south?).

Carl

Torquil
Monday, December 18th, 2006, 01:04 AM
Does anyone know if there exists any Anglo-Saxon groups or organizations who don't practice thralldom, sacral kingship, arungs, etc.? Sort of an A-S heathenry without emphasis on strict tribalism and hierarchy? Or can A-S heathenry even be practiced without those things.

Wodening
Tuesday, January 30th, 2007, 06:47 PM
Does anyone know if there exists any Anglo-Saxon groups or organizations who don't practice thralldom, sacral kingship, arungs, etc.? Sort of an A-S heathenry without emphasis on strict tribalism and hierarchy? Or can A-S heathenry even be practiced without those things.


Yes, it can be, and there is such a group The Covenant of Anglo-Saxon Heathenry :: Geleafawaer Fyrn Sida. Their website is at: http://www.fyrnsidu.org/larhus/. Though why anyone would want to practice non-Theodish Anglo-Saxon Heathenry beats me!

:hve­rungur:
Tuesday, January 30th, 2007, 08:11 PM
Yes, it can be, and there is such a group The Covenant of Anglo-Saxon Heathenry :: Geleafawaer Fyrn Sida. Their website is at: http://www.fyrnsidu.org/larhus/. Though why anyone would want to practice non-Theodish Anglo-Saxon Heathenry beats me!

Is this Eric or Swain Wodening? Either way, welcome to the board. I have respect for your family and what you've done for Heathenry even though we might not agree on some aspects.

Wodening
Tuesday, January 30th, 2007, 09:14 PM
It is Swain. Thank you for the welcome!

Chlodovech
Tuesday, March 6th, 2007, 05:56 PM
I don't know if this link has been posted before, but it might be of interest to you all: http://www.homestead.com/englishheathenism

Map of heathen England:

http://www.homestead.com/englishheathenism/files/440___650_Map.JPG

:hve­rungur:
Tuesday, March 6th, 2007, 11:50 PM
I have often wondered why there are so many Norse Heathens as contrasted with Anglo-Saxon Heathens. My guess is that most are of English origin, and yet they chose the Norse. My question therefore is why Anglo-Saxon paganism does not seem to be a viable alternative?

Long story short, some people are just lazy. Instead of taking the time to find more information on their Anglo Saxon Culture and ancient traditions through various archeological studies, local folklore ect ect, they choose the more easilly available option which is the Norse/Scandinavian path I.E. The mythos, Culture and Reading the Saga's to build their worldview on how "their" ancestors lived (Even though they arnt actually THEIR ancestors). Thinking both folkways, while both still "Germanic" were the same is hillarious. Culture is influenced and molded by many things, one major influence is Environment... to think living in Norway or Sweden was the same as living in Germany or England is ludacris and to think Both folkways were similar is just as crazy.

There of course are many similaritys I.E. Gods names or Places and roles within the Pantheon I.E. Odin / Woden, Donnar / Thor but to think various traditions and how they were gone about are the same is, well... ignorant IMHO. There are many cultural Traditions still practiced in Scandinavian countrys, while today given a "Christian spin" still survive Pre Christian Scandinavia and the same goes with countrys like Germany, The Netherlands, England ect ect.

The question you ask is similar to, lets say a Plains Cree native american following the Traditions of the Cherokee or the Souix and using the fact that both Cultures and Traditions are "Native American" in origin that it makes it Okay.

Leofric
Wednesday, March 7th, 2007, 01:19 AM
The question you ask is similar to, lets say a Plains Cree native american following the Traditions of the Cherokee or the Souix and using the fact that both Cultures and Traditions are "Native American" in origin that it makes it Okay.
Not quite.

The Sioux and the Cherokee and the Cree represent three very different major groups of New World peoples. The Sioux are Siouan. The Cree are Algonquian. The Cherokee are Iriquoian. The differences among them are about as great as the differences among the Dutch, the Palestinian Arabs, and the Uyghurs — same basic race and same basic landmass, but three very different cultures.

Keep in mind that during the heathen period, Old Norse and Old English were still two different dialects of the same language. It's not like they're wildly divergent peoples with wildly different traditions. In fact, there are charms written in both languages that are nearly identical to one another in structure and content, even though they were written with centuries between them — same charm, different dialects. Trade between the various people of the North Sea flourished wonderfully, and archaeologists have found Anglo-Saxon wares in eastern Sweden. And when the ON-speaking Danes ruled portions of England, the Anglo-Saxons didn't see it as being ruled by a foreign culture, but rather as being ruled by unbelievers of the same culture (since the Anglo-Saxons had adopted Christianity by that time) — it was nothing like the cultural disruption that William imposed, even though the Normans were also Danes in the beginning.

During the heathen period, the concepts of nationality that we now have (German, English, Norwegian, etc.) did not yet exist. Our people were, at the same time, less divided and more divided than that. They saw themselves as a group of distinct tribes related by language, culture, religion, and so forth. An Angle and a Saxon would have seen one another as foreign in some respects (in a way two Englishmen never would today), but as similar to one another as the either was to a Swede (that is, someone from what is now the Stockholm area). They didn't see the same ethnic boundaries we see today by any means — in part because the ones that exist now didn't exist then.

To heap out this kind of criticism on Englishmen who look to Old Norse sources to help round out their folk religion is splitting hairs far too finely and with too modern a lens, in my opinion.