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Thread: Appropriate Name for pre-Christian English Religion

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    New Member Eternal Anglo's Avatar
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    Appropriate Name for pre-Christian English Religion

    Hello everyone, I'm sorry if this has been asked before, but using the search function, I couldn't find any threads specifically on this topic, and this is my first post on the forum. I have a few questions really, but I suppose the main, pressing one on my mind is, is there a traditional name for pre-Christian English/Anglo-Saxon/and I suppose general Germanic spirituality? I know most people use pagan or heathen, but considering those have derogatory origins, for an uneducated person, or essentially a "hillbilly," I prefer not to use them.

    I can't say for certain what I am, spiritually. I enjoy the work of Varg Vikernes, I like his YouTube channel, and I've read Paganism Explained, and I like his approach to the whole thing, but having said that, he's coming at it from Norwegian/Norse culture, and because I'm not of Norse background myself, it feels a little disingenuous of me to identify with that. But given they all come from the same proto-Germanic source, I reckon pre-Christian English religion isn't terribly different.

    I suppose I have three questions, really: 1. Was there a pre-Christian English religion, or did the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes become Christian separately without the three of them having formed any shared spirituality, 2. is there a more dignified term than "pagan" to describe that spirituality, and 3. Are there any primers, YouTube channels, etc. that you might suggest for one to become familiar with it?

    Thanks very much in advance, and again, I apologize if this has been answered somewhere in some other thread if I had done more digging, but the initial search didn't yield anything this specific.

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    Mein Glaube ist die Liebe zu meinem Volk. Juthunge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eternal Anglo View Post
    I know most people use pagan or heathen, but considering those have derogatory origins, for an uneducated person, or essentially a "hillbilly," I prefer not to use them.
    I'm personally not an actually believing heathen and more interested in the subject for historic reasons but is that correlation really obvious in modern English? If you were to call someone "Heide" in German I don't think people would mentally connect it to being a hillbilly(people might think one a larper, though). So I don't see the problem with the heathen term.

    I enjoy the work of Varg Vikernes, I like his YouTube channel, and I've read Paganism Explained, and I like his approach to the whole thing, but having said that, he's coming at it from Norwegian/Norse culture, and because I'm not of Norse background myself, it feels a little disingenuous of me to identify with that. But given they all come from the same proto-Germanic source, I reckon pre-Christian English religion isn't terribly different.
    I don't really know much about Vikernes' ideas on heathenism but if it's anything like his knowledge about genetics and anthropology, I'd take anything he says with more than just a grain of salt.

    I think we actually know very little specific details about Anglo-Saxon heathenism, just like with the continental Germanic believes(perhaps even less than about the latter). So the Edda and generally Norse believes might not be entirely accurate and almost certainly contains aspects not relevant for either our Anglo-Saxon or continental Germanic ancestors but it's still the best we've got.

    1. Was there a pre-Christian English religion, or did the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes become Christian separately without the three of them having formed any shared spirituality,
    The core structure of all Germanic tribes in general was certainly very similar because they expanded rather rapidly within a short time from a relatively small area with limited population sizes. Since Angles, Saxons and Jutes, in the traditional view, are supposed to have been immediate neighbours in their old lands on the continent and then, obviously, later also in England, I'd say it's highly likely that they shared even more of their believes.
    But there certainly were differences, too, not only between different tribes but specific local customs probably varied even from village to village. You have to remember, that this wasn't a belief that was written down, after all and so couldn't be spread all over a large area in a consistent way. Add to that local customs that might have been passed onto the incoming Germanics from the Romano-Briton substrate.

    2. is there a more dignified term than "pagan" to describe that spirituality
    English heathens usually refer to their belief as Fyrn Sidu, literally meaning "old custom", I think, if they refer to it otherwise than simply calling it Asatru. Related terms for Norse and continental Germanic believes would be Forn Siðr and Firno Situ, respectively.
    For me personally, referring to it as "the old way" suffices entirely, though. I don't think our ancestors actually had a specific term for their believes since to them it was simply the normal way of life and they didn't have to contrast it with other believes before their contact with Christianity. In which case they might simply have called their (former) heathen believes, "the old way/custom" as well.

    3. Are there any primers, YouTube channels, etc. that you might suggest for one to become familiar with it?
    Survive the Jive, whom you might know already, especially since you follow Vikernes, comes to mind:

    Blog | Youtube | Facebook | Twitter

    For example his Youtube playlist on paganism:




    If I may ask you a personal question out of curiosity(and especially because I'm Swabian myself) the way you have put Württemberg and Hessen before your English side in your profile ancestry information, suggests to me, that you are primarily of German descent. Why that username, flag and specific interest in Anglo-Saxon religion(of course it is fine to be interested in all sides of ones' ancestry) then?
    "Stürzten wir wohl im Dunkel – wir starben nicht! Immer war Sehnsucht die Straße und Ziel das Licht.
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    Tausend Jahre war Deutschland der Hölle nah – Tausend Jahre sprach Gott zu Deutschland: Ja!"

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    Senior Member Sigebrond's Avatar
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    It's not disingenuous at all, as you read and watch Varg more you'll see how "pan-European" his views are, I differed from this a while, but I've always found Scandinavian and Baltic culture in particular very attractive, I think this is because we all share common roots in North East Europe ultimately (The Scandinavian and therefore all Germanic tribes as well as Slavic, Iranian (incl. Aryan) tribes all come from this culture in the Eastern European steppes). Regional culture is something special, and some regional pride is fine, bit especially as you're cut off from Europe in America don't get bogged down with it, English pride (the little English pride that actually matters) is worthless if you don't actually grow up here, from your perspective it makes a lot more sense to identify with a broader Northern European/Nordic/"Germanic" heritage.

    Certainly don't shy away from Norse sources or customs. Paganism's all about filling in the blanks by cross-comparing sources, texts, archaeology and folk traditions and festivals across Europe. I think flirting with Asian religion like Hinduism and Buddhism is disingenuous, and utterly unnecessary, but delving into broader European paganism isn't at all.

    Paganism's pretty self explanatory. I'd say I follow folk religion or old gods perhaps, but despite its negative connotations (i.e. left wing degenerate "neo-pagans") most people know what paganism means. I guess you could specify "traditionalist pagan", as I probably would.

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    Hey, thanks very much for all that. I'm not familiar with SJ, but I have heard of him. I think I'll start to follow his channel now. I've been looking on Amazon and saw a few books on English Heathenry that seem interesting, though I suppose quality varies. Do you know of any good books?

    I did enjoy that video, about the May Queen. I think Varg said that's what the concept of nuns grew out of, or rather, is a corruption of. Rather than venerate a girl for a month and let her get back to normal, the Christians kept them off limits from the world for life.

    I thought Vikernes' interpretation of Odin and Valhalla was interesting, and preferable to anything else I've heard about the concepts. I'd say I'm agnostic on whether this is true or not, but I found his idea that Odin the "Allfather" is actually a personification of all our ancestors, and him drinking from Mimir's well is like the fetus feeding from the mother and absorbing an ancestral memory (the one eye being the umbilical cord), and that Valhalla is the womb, inspiring. He says that a lot of our current understanding of pre-Christian Norse religion is through a Christian lens, and reincarnation was a much more common belief than going to a permanent hereafter, that that's the Christians projecting their own idea of Heaven onto it.

    I like that, Fyrn Sidu, is that Old English? I'm sorry, most of my historical knowledge is based in the post-Christian middle ages, and I'm terrible with languages. I'm not a particularly religious person myself, though I do believe in God, and an afterlife, and really just want some sort of framework to put my understanding of the universe into rather than floating aimlessly from concept to concept.

    Ah, does Asatru refer to Germanic paganism in general? I had always thought of it as more of an Icelandic thing. Oh, not to get too larpy, I guess, but what do you think about Irminism? I had heard that thrown around before, but mostly in relation to Karl Maria Wiligut. He's an interesting guy, but also kind of out there, and I'm not sure I'm willing to suspend my disbelief quite that far. But unrelated to him, as I understand it, the Maypole is unique to the English, and to the Saxons in Germany, isn't it? And it's meant to represent the Irminsul that Charlemagne cut down? I had read that Irmin was possibly the chief god of the Saxon pantheon, and also possibly another name for Odin/Woden/Wotan, so I guess that's already covered by Anglo-Saxon heathenry. I just wasn't sure if the Irminsul could be seen as a symbol of Saxon paganism.

    A few years ago I was interested in Dr. Ian Stevenson's work on reincarnation. I didn't stop reading for any particular reason, it's just there's only so much to read about with it, but I had that in mind after reading Varg's understanding of how it all works. I'm not saying that's exactly what I believe, I don't know what I believe, but it resonated with me more than most things I've heard.

    Well, my surname is German, but my last German ancestor came to America in the 1840s and the family started to intermarry with Anglo-Americans from Massachusetts and Connecticut, and I was primarily raised by my mother, who is from England, so my Wurttemberg ancestry is strictly in one paternal line, and quite distant. I've been interested in genealogy since my late teens. A little under a year ago I was able to find a distant cousin who lives in Switzerland, who has done a lot of family tree research, and because we were lucky enough to know my last German ancestor's birth date (from his tombstone here in the US), and the name of his village from family letters, I was finally able to do more research on my German background when my cousin found his baptism record and the names of his parents. But up to that point I knew very little about it, especially compared to my English roots, and growing up always thought of myself as more English than anything else. A handful of family lines can be traced to the Normans, so I guess I could argue that I have some Norse ancestry, though you have to go back to the 1000s to find it, and also, having said that, most of the Norsemen who settled in Normandy were single men who intermarried with French women for a few generations before making their way to England, so even then it's a bit of a stretch.

    Sorry, maybe I'm being a bit autistic and nitpicky for historical accuracy. It's self-consciousness on my part, probably. Being (half) American/raised in America, and Americans usually being mocked as larpers when they get into something like this makes me strive to do it properly if I'm going to identify with a spirituality. I really do appreciate your advice on the subject.

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    @Sigebrond: Oh, thank you too. I am curious about Baltic culture. Their languages (except Estonians) are the closest to proto-Indo-European, right? How similar is their folk religion to Germanic spirituality? Or is it closer to the Slavs?

    I guess it would make sense that we have more information about Scandinavian paganism, with them having been converted to Christianity later. Do we have much knowledge of the pre-Christian English pantheon? Or do all of the English deities have a direct Norse counterpart? Obviously there's Woden/Odin, Thunor/Thor, are there any others?

    I suppose the connection to England is the only cultural connection I have at all, my dad was an only child, so all of my extended family, like my mother's siblings and cousins, live in England. My American roots are in Massachusetts, but that ancestral identity is mostly Puritan, so, really way in the opposite direction, haha. I do like H.P. Lovecraft though. I'd just rather figure out that form of spirituality rather than latching onto some American conglomeration of all sorts of things, all things considered.

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    Eternal Anglo: That's good, I am a huge fan of Lovecraft. You see to be on the right track, if you are already reading Varg and Marie's books that's a great place to start, and still think they are among the best authorities on the subject, if not the best.

    Asatru is more Icelandic, but has been rather taken forward by American neopagans, who are far closer to the essence of paganism than the faggy LGBT-friendly "pagans" of modern Iceland. Stephen McNallen I respect a lot, and he is a good source on paganism. I still need to buy his book "Asatru".

    Treat Survive the Jive with plenty of caution and cynicism. I followed him for a long time, but he doesn't tell you anything you can't find out by yourself, he's the classic alt-right pseudo-intellectual, he has a Masters in history but isn't really qualified to talk about a lot else, yet claims to be a fountain of knowledge regarding genetics by just churning out any studies that relate to hurr durr INDO-EUROPEANS, regardless of the credibility of these studies or whether they have been peer-reviewed. One such case recently involved him mentioning a study that supposedly showed the Moors basically left no genetic legacy in Spain apart from in Northern territories like Gallicia. This figure has predictably far-left views and an agenda, and his "study" wasn't even peer-reviewed. Varg talks a lot with few sources but always makes sense, and is healthily cynical. Survive the Jive just churns out plenty of sources without bothering to verify them, and makes himself look pretty foolish in the process. I also learn next-to-nothing from his videos on paganism. He doesn't really understand anything. And he does fetishise "Indo-European", a completely meaningless term that applies to a family of languages and nothing more.

    I suggest looking into Stephen Pollington and Kathleen Herbet, both of whom have written for "Anglo Saxon Books". Pollington has also written on the Old English language. I have yet to read much but I have their books and they seem pretty decent and well-informed.

    Another crucial book you need to read to grasp European paganism in general is Frazer's Golden Bough. It's especially good to read alongside Varg and Marie and compare, Varg's first book on religion was obviously influenced a lot by Frazer, but he seems to have taken on a different perspective somewhat on a few things since taking on board Marie's theories. I really like her theories in the She Bear, they're a real eye-opener and explain so much. Just bear in mind paganism is to be understood on many levels, as she says in the intro, and just because pregnancy and reincarnation are the core meanings usually, it doesn't mean they are the only meanings, or that nature worship is insignificant in comparison.

    Another essential source is Julius Evola. Like Survive the Jive, or even more so really, he was extremely orientalist, which gets a bit tiresome (there is nothing of value in Asian religion that can't be found in Europe), but Revolt Against the Modern world (a misleading title maybe) is an excellent aid in understanding real paganism, the important of hierarchy and nobility and "aristocracy of the soul" in ancient society.

    On a side note, less about religion and more about English origins, I highly recommend reading Tolkien's Finn and Hengest. The texts themselves are interesting enough, but the commentary by Alan Bliss puts forward some interesting theories regarding Finn, Hengest and the settlement of England that deserve a lot more attention.

    You should look into what religious texts are the most well-preserved and primitive in order to truly understand religion. The Poetic Edda is essential reading but I personally found the Kalevala (despite being relatively modern) and the Egyptian Book of the Dead very intact documentations of ancient, oral traditions and cults.

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