Gegaderung

Gegaderung => Anglo-Saxon Discussion => Topic started by: Æscwulf on February 10, 2012, 10:50:35 AM

Title: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Æscwulf on February 10, 2012, 10:50:35 AM
I have been researching (trying to) this topic for weeks and I find it the most interesting because the information at hand is so vague. So I thought I'd make a topic on it to get everyone's opinions. 

Their gods/idols as we all know are pretty much similar to their Viking counterparts but I read somewhere (can't remember where) that basically explains that their gods could of been ordinary people like poets and warriors at some point but after many years they were revered as gods. While looking into them I start getting confused because I'm torn between thinking they are these supernatural people living in a different plane of existence to us, but then at the same point I think that they could of been the same as the Viking counterparts but different name?

On wikia I found an article of a Saxon tradition where basically they appoint a tree or an old stone tower as a place of importance called the Irminsul( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irminsul) but I don't know if this is a real piece of A-S pagan puzzle and if it is what was it really used for ? Maybe a place where the earth and sky meets the pillar creating a gateway to their gods?

But the information is so vague it's unreal but during research there's little hints that like shamanistic (maybe) and "people of Ing" but it seems that everyone outside of the tribes hated it soo much that they sought out destruction on their way of life it's like they feared it like it was a plague. Maybe we could fill in the gaps by looking at the religion of the other tribes that lived along side them?

During my journey of this topic I've got to a point where I'm asking so many questions for my brain resulting in many headaches from over thinking. I hope this is a valid opinion as I'm writing this with a huge cold.
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Linden on February 10, 2012, 01:58:04 PM
I have been researching (trying to) this topic for weeks ...........................................................

 Maybe we could fill in the gaps by looking at the religion of the other tribes that lived along side them? .............................................

I would thoroughly recommend Stephen Pollington's 'The Elder Gods' - the result of Steve having spent may years researching all of this in depth.  He has pulled together virtually every scrap of evidence and has reached some well-argued conclusions.  To do this he has looked at both earlier and parallel cultures and he provides a lengthy and helpful bibliography.  He discusses ancestor gods in a section on Woden (and Seaxnot) and the various symbols such as Irminsul and the World Tree. 

A word of warning - I can more-or-less guarantee that the book will give you yet another 'head-ache from over-thinking' ;D
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Æscwulf on February 10, 2012, 02:14:48 PM
Eala Linden!

Thanks for the information, I'll have a look into the book when I can.


With many thanks
Æscwulf
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Blackdragon on February 10, 2012, 02:33:09 PM
Yes I second that, having just finished reading it today. I will need to read it several more times to fully appreciate the marvellous work that Stephen has put in.
As a modern day heathen (with interest in AS & Norse sources) of many years experience, I can tell you that the headaches never go away!
As a comparison check out my book Heathen Paths - which compares the sources also.
regards
Pete Jennings
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Godwulf on February 10, 2012, 05:01:54 PM
I can certainly recommend both Steve Pollington's "The Elder Gods" and Pete Jennings "Heathen Paths", having read them both.  The Elder Gods certainly needs reading several times if you're to get the best from it and it's a good book to dip in to when you need to refresh your memory. Heathen Paths gives a good insight in to modern-day heathenism, certainly here in Britain.

You'll notice that this appears to be my first contribution to the gegaderung.  I'm afraid the gegaderung elves have been playing games and deleted my account and all my post (all 5 of them)......but I'm back.  :)
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: leofwin on February 11, 2012, 11:43:41 AM
Yep, 'Elder Gods' is what my son calls a 'mindblast'.

Something that intrigues me is that there seems to be some serious continuity in the social place of the druids in Iron Age society, through to Medieval Christian churchmen - I mean not just as the spiritual specialists of the community, but as political players and movers as well, not to mention teachers, scientists, healers, law-makers, poets and musicians etc.
 -  but we seem to know next to nothing about how it all worked in Anglo-Saxon society.



Was a pagan Anglo-Saxon Saxon 'priest' was just a freelancing shaman, a person of local community importance but no more than that,  or part of a larger socio-political tradition. It would be so tempting to construct a pagan Anglo-Saxon priestly class by 'joining the dots' between Iron-Age, Roman, Christian..... but we can't.

Where exactly did someone like 'Coifi' fit in.... ?
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Æscwulf on February 11, 2012, 05:10:39 PM
During my research I was under the impression that the head of the house was the 'priest' for his/her family that tought their children everything and I was beginning to think that maybe the religion was slighty different from family to family interpreting it differently from one another. But I do think that it did change slightly when they colonised Britain and eventually 'settled down' instead of raiding and fighting.

Maybe Leofwin Anglo-Saxon pagan Priests were both? A person of local community importance and freelancing shamans ?

I did a quick read up on Coifi and well I'm not to sure.

It is simply a mystery.
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: leofwin on February 11, 2012, 07:54:56 PM
I think that with a 'natural' belief system you don't need a pantheon of gods, each with  their stories.

You just wonder at the sun and moon and stars, you feel there's something special about high places, deep pools, dark forests. You wonder what all the different plants and animals are there for, you're baffled by the mysteries of birth and sex and death, you fear the dark and the winter, and you give thanks for warmth and light and summer.

You feel that you don't understand much of what happens in the world around you, and you try to form relationships with the invisible forces that control it by making sacrifices to those forces and asking favours of them. you respected the knowledge and wisdom of the old, and you remembered the ancestors, who gradually grew into legendary and semi-divine beings.

It didn't matter that such basic beliefs didn't hang together philosophically particularly well: you just had an unreflecting acceptance that most of what happened was a bit of a mystery. But you trusted those people in the community who appeared to understand the mysteries of life better than you - the shamans.

I think these shamans genuinely believed that strong drink, drugs, dreams and various meditation techniques put them in touch with the 'Otherworld'. I also think that since they got a reasonably good living from this, and didn't have to work like other people, they used a few cheap tricks to fool the people (like stage magicians do today, for example, in order to convince everyone that were not to be messed with.

The big question, I think, is whether natural pagan Anglo-Saxon beliefs were ever formalised into some kind of system - were pagan priests trained, elected, appointed, as were druids before them, or Christian priests after them? And if so, by whom? Was there ever a canon of dogma which was familiar to every pagan priest north, south, west and east? Did they have a particular way of speaking, or dressing, and was there (literally) a hierarchy?

I'm beginning to suspect that such a formal hierarchy DID begin to evolve before the coming of Christianity, and that it was inspired by the Roman system. By what mechanism, for example, was the pagan seven-day week introduced? It may also have been helped along by a 'folk memory' of druidry. Perhaps the Celtic Christian 'back-and-front' tonsure was a continuation of previous druidic practice.

all just idle speculation, of course, but what do folks think?
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: John Nicholas Cross on February 11, 2012, 08:14:07 PM
I totally agree with what you say, Leofwin.  I don't feel competent to say anymore, at present.    John.
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: ubique on February 12, 2012, 08:58:32 PM
Our native religion would have looked diffrent from village to village region to region at diffrent times,There is no evidence for any uniform AS religion in England.We dont even know if Bedes descriptions of dietys like Estore for example is/are local dietys bede has gained information about from other monastic locations in England (Like Kent as may be the case for Estore) or that the Gods as we know them were worshiped England wide and then at local and family level worship was at a more local dietys.
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Horsa on February 12, 2012, 11:09:30 PM
One thing that seems to crop up quite regularly in most shamanic traditions is the axis mundi - the pillar of the world or world tree. Which is either a tree or a pillar right in the centre of the otherworld which holds the thing up or acts as some kind of anchoring point for the world.

I used to have a book called something along the lines of "Introduction to Shamanism". It was a thing volume and it  had various meditation exercises each with its own specific purpose. One was to help the budding shaman find his or her spirit helper and another was to contact the spirit guide which translates into guardian angel or daemon. I lent it to a friend of mine, who if I were forced to assign a particular belief system to him would call him an atheist, but he didn't really think about matters theological much. The reason, however, that I leant him the book was that he used to have the most vivid dreams which when he related them would have me in fits of laughter. It seemed he'd get more out of the shaman book than I.

Anyway, the book doesn't mention the axis mundi at all. But he told me that after he'd found his spirit helper and spirit guide he went on a flight around the otherworld and, in the centre of this world there was an enormous pillar. He flew up to the top of it and sat crosslegged on it and had a great view.

This suggests one of three things. 1. The otherworld has a pillar (or a tree) in it and that has been discovered by shamans of all cultures. 2. There's something built into the human consciousness that when he or she goes into an altered state of consciousness he or she will perceive a pillar or a tree in the centre of that internal geography. 3. he'd heard of the axis mundi at some point, forgot about it, and it resurfaced in his altered state of consciousness.

Another interesting thing about the shamans comes from Inuit practices. There they do pretty much the same things as most shamans do, but they have to make do without the mind altering substances, they've got to go there under their own steam. As Leofwin said, anthropologists from the 50's reported that they used to use sleight of hand and conjuring tricks. The lay folk were always deeply impressed by this and the anthropologists thought that they were a credulous gullible folk until they noticed that for fun, in their spare time, laypeople would use similar conjuring tricks for entertainment purposes.

The shaman sessions were therefore a psychodrama which involved a willing suspension of disbelief by the participants.
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: leofwin on February 13, 2012, 09:17:32 AM
food for thought, chaps!

the 'willing suspension of disbelief' is intriguing!

re the 'pillar of the earth' idea, I read somewhere that the hallucinations brought on by ergotised bread very frequently bring visions of the 'evil old hag' - not a cultural thing, but a universal thing wired into our brains.

I agree with horsa that the most important 'otherworld beings' in pagan AS communities would almost certainly have been the spirits of local streams, trees, hills etc, and the clan ancestors.

The best candidates for 'universal' deities would logically have been the sun, moon and stars
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Wulfric on March 01, 2012, 11:58:37 AM
Quote
We dont even know if Bedes descriptions of dietys like Estore for example is/are local dietys bede has gained information about from other monastic locations in England (Like Kent as may be the case for Estore) or that the Gods as we know them were worshiped England wide and then at local and family level worship was at a more local dietys.

Doing some basic reading about Estore I'm inclined to follow the Grimm school of thought. Girmm apparently reckoned that there was a widely followed germanic cult of Estore or similar related deities under related names. He also counters the argument put forward by some that Bede made up Estore. Why he would is a mystery to me. Grimm seems to have been of the opinon that Bede left a lot of pagan beliefs and practices of which he was aware unmentioned, happy to let them fade into obscurity, sugesting that whatever else was going on in AS England the feast of Estore was one that wasn't so easy to sweep under the rug.

This rings bells for me of the frequent discussion about Yule. What then becomes interesting is when did the term Christmas take over from Yule and how did Easter keep it's pagan title rather than being converted to some form of "Pascha". Was it because it was more important to the people than Yule or does the opposite argument hold that Yule was more important and needed a more thorough makeover or from the other direction. Was Christmas just that much more important to the Church? However I’m rambling now and am dangerously under qualified and under read to answer these questions.
Wulfric
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: ubique on March 01, 2012, 03:37:20 PM
Perhaps.I have no doubt Ēostre was understood on both sides of the continentbut was she worshipped by every tribe in every village in AS England? im going to say yes probably was she worshiped the same way in evry tribe or village probably not.

Even though I concur with Grimms idea I doubt the understanding and worship of Ēostre was Pan Germanic and this Pan Germanicness is something we have to be carefull with,Take Nerthus for example Tacticus makes her out to be a Pan Germanic Goddess of extreme worship and she might be and may have been at that time and place but she is not a figure in AS Paganism,why who knows.
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: leofwin on March 01, 2012, 06:13:11 PM
I'm puzzled about the easter thing as well: Easter is even more important to Christians than Christmas, and yet the pagan name hasn't been christianized.   ???
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: dacecain on March 11, 2012, 04:53:21 PM
Hello All,

This is my first post so please be gentle  :o

In Green’s Language and History in the early Germanic world, he discusses different aspects that may explain the Easter/paschal anomaly:

One is the Edict of Toleration, before which saw Christian translators trying to stay clear of heavily pagan-related words within their own vocab; one is obviously the need to borrow words to explain the concept; Rolling on from that is the later use of terms which had pagan meanings but could be appropriated, or expanded, by Christianity to explain the new meanings making them more accessible to the newly converted; one is the lateness of the conversion of England in relation to the Christian vocabulary; and a final thing may have been the new approach in England of converting from the top down.

The celebration of the Pagan Goddess, the name of which is possibly related to the dawn, during a time that is probably related to the Spring, or more likely the beginning of Summer (or even both:  the dawning of the summer!), most likely transferred well to the idea of the resurrection, rebirth, etc. Despite the use of the pagan term, the festival itself does appear to have been fully Christianised making any name change moot; although such things as the Easter bunny and Easter eggs would seem to be Spring-related, they easily mesh with the end of fasting for lent (everyone ate their eggs on pancake day and a tasty rabbit would have been a relief from all the fish!)

Of course, there may not be an Easter anomaly, there are countries that use terms different to both Easter and Paschal, suggesting that they too may have had relatable words within their vocabularies already that could be appropriated. Maybe the anomaly only looks like one because of the spread of the English!

Apologies if none of that makes sense - but it did in my head ;D

Best wishes,
Ashley
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: dacecain on March 11, 2012, 05:08:59 PM
Take Nerthus for example Tacticus makes her out to be a Pan Germanic Goddess of extreme worship and she might be and may have been at that time and place but she is not a figure in AS Paganism,why who knows.

Unless Pollington's footnote in Elder Gods pp. 259 is correct; which has Herthus, if it was the correct reading of the 4 variants ...by metathesis, re-assignment of decelensional class and/or umlaut, the OE form HreÞe mentioned by Bede might result.

Although to be fair to Tacitus, he doesn't make her out to be Pan-germanic. At best, possibly Pan-Seubi but as the Anglii were one of the seven? tribes mentioned, some sign of her within AS should be expected.

Best wishes,
Ashley
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Wulfric on March 13, 2012, 08:46:29 AM
Hi Dacecain,

Welcome to the site and thanks for your contributions, may you make many more.
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Horsa on March 13, 2012, 02:23:53 PM
a tasty rabbit would have been a relief from all the fish!

Could the Easter bunny have anything to do with March hares?
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: dacecain on March 13, 2012, 10:54:01 PM
a tasty rabbit would have been a relief from all the fish!

Could the Easter bunny have anything to do with March hares?

Hello Horsa,

I would have to say no, only because I do believe that the only reason Easter managed to retain its pagan name was due to its full Christianisation. Many pagans today do imagine a spring-like fertility hidden within the symbolism of Easter, but the problem from the Heathen perspective is that Bede clearly states that the Anglo-Saxons only had two seasons; winter and summer. Any such fertility symbolism would be better suited to the previous month, celebrating the end of winter and the awakening of the earth. I’m sticking with my rabbit omelette LOL

This rings bells for me of the frequent discussion about Yule. What then becomes interesting is when did the term Christmas take over from Yule and how did Easter keep it's pagan title rather than being converted to some form of "Pascha".
I use the same reasoning for yule as I do for Easter (which should worry all LOL). Yule is stated by Bede as being the midwinter solstice (or in his words something about the sun turning back). He also mentions Mothers’ Night, which he sets as the evening of the 24th December and the beginning of the year. Some people join the two, but I don’t see the link as clearly if only because by Bede’s time the solstice would be somewhere between the 19th and 22nd December, but not as late as the 24th/25th. I would put Mothers’ Night as occurring on the first full moon after the event. (I’m sure it is only a huge coincidence that according to NASA’s moon phase calculator a full moon occurred on the 24th December 725; the year in which Bede wrote his work: On the reckoning of Time!) For me, the Yule period simply became overshadowed by the festival within it: Christ Mass. As to the festival that signified yule, I believe that survived too, and was simply moved to the date where it still retained its pagan significance: 31st December – probably the biggest non-Christian festival there is - and helped by the fact that if mothers' night was already fixed to the full moon after yule then it was always a 'movable' celebration.

With Yule too though, like the bunnies at Easter, we see a pagan desire to ‘reclaim’ that which Christianity has taken, and many will speak of the 12 days of Yule, yet simple research will reveal that the 12 days of Christmas is a Christian creation, set in AD 567, at the second council of Tours, in an attempt to bridge the gap between the birth of Jesus on the 25th December in the west and the baptism (and birth) of Jesus on the 6th January in the east.

Again, apologies if I’ve rambled and thank you for the welcome, Wulfric :D

Best wishes,
Ashley
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: ubique on March 14, 2012, 05:20:02 PM
Take Nerthus for example Tacticus makes her out to be a Pan Germanic Goddess of extreme worship and she might be and may have been at that time and place but she is not a figure in AS Paganism,why who knows.

Unless Pollington's footnote in Elder Gods pp. 259 is correct; which has Herthus, if it was the correct reading of the 4 variants ...by metathesis, re-assignment of decelensional class and/or umlaut, the OE form HreÞe mentioned by Bede might result.

Although to be fair to Tacitus, he doesn't make her out to be Pan-germanic. At best, possibly Pan-Seubi but as the Anglii were one of the seven? tribes mentioned, some sign of her within AS should be expected.

Best wishes,
Ashley

Right not sure im following but

I see where your comeing from but to be honest I dont really get to wrapped up in the spelling game ive seen it used for lots of ideas ranging from drawing exact parrels between NW eupropean paganism to Buddism and all sorts of mad ideas.

My feeling is even if Hreðe is linked directly to Nerthus they cannot be the same as they are not prt of the same landscape and the change in time and location led to Nerthus being leaft behind on the continent and Hreðe and Erce (who may have originally been a Brythonic diety) takeing the fore (with Eostre) as the godesses of the landscape and fertility.

This of course is my opinion.
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Horsa on March 14, 2012, 06:10:20 PM
a tasty rabbit would have been a relief from all the fish!

Could the Easter bunny have anything to do with March hares?

Hello Horsa,

I would have to say no, only because I do believe that the only reason Easter managed to retain its pagan name was due to its full Christianisation. Many pagans today do imagine a spring-like fertility hidden within the symbolism of Easter, but the problem from the Heathen perspective is that Bede clearly states that the Anglo-Saxons only had two seasons; winter and summer. Any such fertility symbolism would be better suited to the previous month, celebrating the end of winter and the awakening of the earth. I’m sticking with my rabbit omelette LOL

Yes, but the problem with that is you'd be waiting a long time for the rabbit - well into the Norman period. It's generally accepted that there were no rabbits in England during the anglo-saxon period. There's a rabbit thread on here somewhere.

You should substitute hare for rabbit while you're waiting for the Normans to arrive with their conies.

The other reason why I mention the hare is not as some sort of fertility symbol, but as a seasonal marker as in "look at the hares going at it. It'll be easter soon." A thousand years later we've got an easter bunny that delivers chocolate eggs with a bag of smarties inside them. Those things are more secular than they are pagan.

Edit: Yep - bunny thread (http://www.tha-engliscan-gesithas.org.uk/gegaderung/index.php?topic=453.msg1508#msg1508)
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: ubique on March 14, 2012, 06:25:58 PM
I was under the impression that the symbology of this time of year was from Hares as opposed to rabbits who some may have belived layed eggs.

also Archeolgy suggests the Romans brought rabbits to Britian.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1487787/Romans-introduced-the-rabbit.html
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Horsa on March 14, 2012, 08:43:04 PM


also Archeolgy suggests the Romans brought rabbits to Britian.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1487787/Romans-introduced-the-rabbit.html

Check out the bunny thread (http://www.tha-engliscan-gesithas.org.uk/gegaderung/index.php?topic=453.msg1508#msg1508). It's a discussion prompted by an article that suggests that rabbit burrows played a role in the fire of an anglo-saxon hall. We know that rabbits were in England at the time of the Roman occupation, but did they stay? That's why I said 'generally accepted'.
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: ubique on March 14, 2012, 08:51:56 PM
I concur hence my point about Hares being associated with easter symbology and something to do with hares shareing the landscape with a ground laying bird.
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: dacecain on March 14, 2012, 09:48:01 PM
My feeling is even if Hreðe is linked directly to Nerthus they cannot be the same as they are not prt of the same landscape and the change in time and location led to Nerthus being leaft behind on the continent and Hreðe and Erce (who may have originally been a Brythonic diety) takeing the fore (with Eostre) as the godesses of the landscape and fertility.

This of course is my opinion.

I think I understand what you mean, but feel differently, only in that I feel they would have brought her with them.  ;D
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: dacecain on March 14, 2012, 10:06:25 PM
Yes, but the problem with that is you'd be waiting a long time for the rabbit - well into the Norman period. It's generally accepted that there were no rabbits in England during the anglo-saxon period. There's a rabbit thread on here somewhere.

You should substitute hare for rabbit while you're waiting for the Normans to arrive with their conies.

I hadn't thought of that (and thanks for the rabbit thread link btw), but that could strengthen the argument that the whole easter bunny thing didn't kick in until sometime after the norman invasion and had no bearing on AS Paganism (although I think I recall mention of Easter Hares :o!)

The other reason why I mention the hare is not as some sort of fertility symbol, but as a seasonal marker as in "look at the hares going at it. It'll be easter soon." A thousand years later we've got an easter bunny that delivers chocolate eggs with a bag of smarties inside them. Those things are more secular than they are pagan.

I hadn't thought of this either, but only because traditionally the date of easter each year was given to the flock on the 6th January, no doubt due to the variable calculations involved. And of course, where pagans are concerned, secularity is difficult to define.
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Blackdragon on March 14, 2012, 10:36:11 PM
Far be it for me as a modern day Pagan / Heathen to start quoting the Bible, but I seem to remember it says that hares chews the cud!

Leviticus 11.6 "And the hare, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you."

I think somewhere else it refers to them laying eggs, but I cannot find it offhand. Anyone know?
Pete
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: dacecain on March 15, 2012, 08:31:55 AM
I hadn't thought of this either, but only because traditionally the date of easter each year was given to the flock on the 6th January, no doubt due to the variable calculations involved. And of course, where pagans are concerned, secularity is difficult to define.

Having written this answer I realised that I may be putting too much thought into it. The simplest answer as to why Easter retained its pagan name could be because of the calculations involved to date the exact period of the resurrection each year. For the newly-converted pagan asking when the celebration was, the easiest answer to give would have been; “sometime in Easter” – and they simply became synonymous. :-\
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Wulfric on March 15, 2012, 11:38:52 AM
Hello all,

Quote
I concur hence my point about Hares being associated with easter symbology and something to do with hares shareing the landscape with a ground laying bird.

As hares would prefer pasture or wild meadow possibly lowland heath habitats they may well have been going through March Madness at the same time and in the same areas as the native (now extinct but being reintroduced) Great Bustard would have been going through their lekking. Great bustard are magnificent birds they look a bit like a metre tall turkey. As great bustards make their nests in small depressions out in the open they may well have competed for optimal nesting sites with hares...

Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Wulfric on March 15, 2012, 11:59:59 AM
Now back to paganism generally,

I recently asked some of my Hindu colleagues about their attitude to their faith. Thought I'd take a peek into a thriving polytheist religion.

General consensus from the people I asked seems to be that it is the job of priests to know lots about religion, who al the gods are, what they did/do etc... Everybody else just tends to make their own prayers to their preferred, often family inherited, god or gods as art of their routine. Frequency seems to depend largely on personal faith. Besides the daily routine, ceremonies to specific gods are observed on relevant feast days, or to ask for particular help for unusual tasks. E.g prayers/offerings made to god of wisdom/knowledge in lead up to exams etc…

I also have all of Bruce Parry’s Tribe on DVD which provides a few glimpses into shamanic and tribal pagan practices. Most seem to have a shaman or priest figure of some sort. In some they live in amongst the village and are in effect an elder with specific knowledge, in others they are partially segregated living a little outside the settlement. (Sounds like the cliché healer / witch who lives out in the woods.) Even in tribes where priests/priestesses are segregated normal villagers can still say their own prayers and leave offerings to local spirits without the priests help/supervision. E.g Before a hunting trip.

One South American tribe has every adult male initiated into the shamanic rites of spirit singing which they do frequently all together in an open hut while under the influence of certain plant substances, while women and children get on with daily life.

We can only make inferences but some of this may have fired some imaginations.

Wulfric.
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: ubique on March 15, 2012, 12:15:05 PM
Hello all,

Quote
I concur hence my point about Hares being associated with easter symbology and something to do with hares shareing the landscape with a ground laying bird.

As hares would prefer pasture or wild meadow possibly lowland heath habitats they may well have been going through March Madness at the same time and in the same areas as the native (now extinct but being reintroduced) Great Bustard would have been going through their lekking. Great bustard are magnificent birds they look a bit like a metre tall turkey. As great bustards make their nests in small depressions out in the open they may well have competed for optimal nesting sites with hares...

They have recently been re-introduced on Salisbury Plain and ive seen a couple cutting about and they are apparently doing well.
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: ubique on March 15, 2012, 04:22:33 PM
My feeling is even if Hreðe is linked directly to Nerthus they cannot be the same as they are not prt of the same landscape and the change in time and location led to Nerthus being leaft behind on the continent and Hreðe and Erce (who may have originally been a Brythonic diety) takeing the fore (with Eostre) as the godesses of the landscape and fertility.

This of course is my opinion.

I think I understand what you mean, but feel differently, only in that I feel they would have brought her with them.  ;D

Perhaps but I think your being to literal with Nerthus.If I take an idea and a feeling from SW England circa 2012 and move it to California 50 years later and then somebody asks my great great children about the idea.

Also how are we even sure that Nerthus of tacticus was worshipped/looked the same to the Angles during the migration period.You could argue that Woden is diffrent  to Odin Wotan ect.Diffrent times diffrent landscapes.
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: dacecain on March 15, 2012, 09:34:43 PM
Perhaps but I think your being to literal with Nerthus.If I take an idea and a feeling from SW England circa 2012 and move it to California 50 years later and then somebody asks my great great children about the idea.

Also how are we even sure that Nerthus of tacticus was worshipped/looked the same to the Angles during the migration period.You could argue that Woden is diffrent  to Odin Wotan ect.Diffrent times diffrent landscapes.
I understand, but a counterargument could be said for the Amish (and Thanksgiving?) – That ideas could be retained (and adapted to suit?) by those migrating. Also, it could be that the calendar came to Britain with the migration, which makes sense if they had adopted the Roman week by then, in which case any evolution of Nerthus – Hrethe had already occurred within the original locale (and would presumably continue its evolution there) and was then brought to England, no doubt taking the evolution in a different direction. I totally understand what you are saying, of course, and my aim is not to be literal with Nerthus or to simply transfer her wagon riding trip mentioned by Tacitus in the first century to Anglo-Saxon England in the sixth and then to my own worship today. My aim is more to gain an understanding of the goddess Hrethe in AS England, and if Nerthus is a link in her evolution, then it gives me a better understanding for how she may have been perceived by them – after all, her name isn’t very revealing as to her character.
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Horsa on March 16, 2012, 02:25:28 PM
I feel the moderator looming urging us to stay on topic, but I would like to say a little more about the Easter bunny. I think it's important in a thread on anglo-saxon paganism to identify things that are not strictly pagan, especially things that had been previously erroneously identified as pagan.

A quick scan of the putative origins of the easter bunny all claim that they descended from ancient pagan fertility rites; however, the only real link that can be found is to Aphrodite and to the allegorical figure Luxuria.

It would seem that the early mythographers went through great pains to connect rabbits to germanic ideas of fertility, but the evidence just isn't there.

It would also appear that the easter bunny doesn't crop up until the 1500s, so it could easily actually have developed well after rabbits had been established. However, the easter bunny was brought to America by the germans as ostarhase.

However, I find this to be very compelling.

Hello all,

Quote
I concur hence my point about Hares being associated with easter symbology and something to do with hares shareing the landscape with a ground laying bird.

As hares would prefer pasture or wild meadow possibly lowland heath habitats they may well have been going through March Madness at the same time and in the same areas as the native (now extinct but being reintroduced) Great Bustard would have been going through their lekking. Great bustard are magnificent birds they look a bit like a metre tall turkey. As great bustards make their nests in small depressions out in the open they may well have competed for optimal nesting sites with hares...



If bustards lay their eggs in early spring, we have a possible very credible origin of the whole easter package. Send the kids out on a bustard egg hunt - the littlest ones who can't do any of the heavy farm work. This is a bit of protein and fat to supplement the family's diet of mostly grain. In the fields they find little depressions with bustard eggs. In some depressions they come across leverets, (which they also presumably take home for dinner). There you get the connection between Easter, hares and eggs, possibly the idea that hares lay eggs, and even the easter egg hunt for kids.

So, a perfectly secular (as secular as possible in a worldview shot through with the supernatural) explanation as to the connection between rabbits eggs and easter.

Oh, and hares, like rabbits kind of chew the cud, but instead of regurgitating partially digested cellulose up from one of four stomachs, they poop it out and eat it.
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Wulfric on March 25, 2012, 04:17:54 PM
Morality and Anglo-Saxon Paganism…

I was just reading through “The God Issue” of New Scientist. It makes some interesting points about human’s natural propensity for religion, and the role of religions in society. Along the line of the latter one particular article dealt with the development of religions alongside society. I’ll outline some key points I took from the magazine so as to give background to my own points/questions.

The point is made that in cultures where one rarely meets strangers, e.g. small hunter gatherer communities; religion rarely deals with issues of human morality. The “two types of altruism: cooperation among kin and reciprocal altruism” are enough to make the familiar people living cheek by jowl get along “nicely”. As population size increases however religion changes to suit. A range of scientific studies have demonstrated that anonymity allows people to cheat or be nasty to others in ways they could never be with someone they know. This is where religion comes in. In larger populations “Big gods” dominate. They are the invisible overseers that influence people’s sense of fairness.
My first question is: How “big” were Pagan/Heathen Anglo-Saxon communities and how frequent were encounters with strangers? And by inference, what can this tell us about how “big” their gods were.
Secondly is there any evidence for levels of social justice or trust and whether it was largely inspired through faith or good will to friends and family?

One can take this further and ask; to what extent was the introduction of Christianity a driving force or a result of the development of Anglo-Saxon England? Or was it in fact both? These questions of coarse cannot be totally separated from the political and economic benefits that being a Christian would have brought at this time.
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Wulfric on March 25, 2012, 04:32:36 PM
Oaths?

What is the evidence for Anglo-Saxon Pagan oath taking?

Am I right in thinking that oaths were as common and important to Anglo-Saxon Pagans as they were to Christians.

I ask because my concept of an oath in this day and age is a promise made before and witnessed by a god or gods so that the supernatural powers can police the keeping and breaking of such promises.

By the logic of my previous post, a friendly or civil promise would suffice in smaller societies, whereas the binding power of an oath is in the potential retribution of an angry deity if it is broken. Such a deity would probably have to be quite "big".

If oaths were made to strangers before local deities that they had no relationship with, why would the stranger trust the oath? The local god may be more concerned with seeing it's local believers benefit than enforcing a "universal justice".
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Blackdragon on March 25, 2012, 11:09:59 PM
quote: What is the evidence for Anglo-Saxon Pagan oath taking?

Some AS Bishops such as Wulfstan & Aelric edicts specifically denounce making oaths to Heathen Gods or  'devils' which would seem to confirm that Saxon Heathens followed the same well documented practices on oaths as the Norse e.g. Icelandic gothi has to wear oath ring for people to take oaths on - minimum of 2 ounces of silver but up to 20 in some cases. (Landnamabok)

Pete Jennings
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: dacecain on March 26, 2012, 10:22:51 AM
I ask because my concept of an oath in this day and age is a promise made before and witnessed by a god or gods so that the supernatural powers can police the keeping and breaking of such promises.

By the logic of my previous post, a friendly or civil promise would suffice in smaller societies, whereas the binding power of an oath is in the potential retribution of an angry deity if it is broken. Such a deity would probably have to be quite "big".

If oaths were made to strangers before local deities that they had no relationship with, why would the stranger trust the oath? The local god may be more concerned with seeing it's local believers benefit than enforcing a "universal justice".
Hello Wulfric

I wouldn’t have thought the size of the deity would matter in oaths. Presumably both parties would be swearing oaths upon their own deity and would assume that the other person’s deity would be as powerful as their own in helping to keep the person from going against their words. And within the kin-based structure, where everyone has equal responsible for everyone else, the person making the oath would know that their own kin would be as much to blame as themselves with any oathbreaking – which would hopefully help in keeping them honest. Also despite the Gods, big or small, there was always Wyrd.

Best wishes,
Ashley

Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: dacecain on March 26, 2012, 10:24:22 AM
quote: What is the evidence for Anglo-Saxon Pagan oath taking?

Some AS Bishops such as Wulfstan & Aelric edicts specifically denounce making oaths to Heathen Gods or  'devils' which would seem to confirm that Saxon Heathens followed the same well documented practices on oaths as the Norse e.g. Icelandic gothi has to wear oath ring for people to take oaths on - minimum of 2 ounces of silver but up to 20 in some cases. (Landnamabok)

Pete Jennings

Hello Pete,

I’ve often thought that the swearing on the temple oath ring of Iceland was either a formalisation of the age old custom of ring-giving between the lord and his warband to gain loyalty or the actual custom itself merely misunderstood by later writers.

Best wishes,
Ashley
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Wulfric on March 26, 2012, 06:37:48 PM
Quote
I wouldn’t have thought the size of the deity would matter in oaths. Presumably both parties would be swearing oaths upon their own deity and would assume that the other person’s deity would be as powerful as their own in helping to keep the person from going against their words.

This may well have been the case, yet again the vagueness of details available frustrate us. I suppose the idea of the oath in this sense is less "with God as my witness" and more "on my honour" (and that of my god). I can understand my god punishing me for bringing his name into ill repute.

I may well be getting to "legal" about the hypothetical wording here but I guess it's relevant through my former post. Why would my god care if I betrayed an oath made to someone else if that person doesn't hold any respect in the eyes of my god, i.e. has never prayed or sacrificed to it. Using this odd logic it makes more sense to make an oath before the other guys god cause then you would fear retribution from an unknown who's got someone else's back not yours.

All of this is circumnavigated if there is a common or “big” that both parties recognise and will uphold both ends equally, supposing the god doesn’t have another personal reason to favour one party over the other.

Quote
And within the kin-based structure, where everyone has equal responsible for everyone else, the person making the oath would know that their own kin would be as much to blame as themselves with any oathbreaking.

The system of kin based accountability seems to be a perfect example of society being held together by familial bonds and mutual back scratching. While slightly elevated this may actually serve as evidence for a faith based on “smaller”, more local or less concerned gods.

Curiously, on the matter of people behaving better when they perceive themselves to be under the eyes of deities ; The New Scientist article did highlight that in secular societies with atheist majorities, (given example, parts of Scandinavia) The same effect achieved by religious word dropping to improve behaviour and sense of fairness can be brought about with secular words such as “civic, jury and police”. This combined with Kin group accountability becomes an incredibly effective deterrent to breaking laws/oaths.
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Wulfric on March 26, 2012, 07:06:32 PM
Quote
e.g. Icelandic gothi has to wear oath ring for people to take oaths on

Also IIRC during the Christian conversion of England there was a great deal of idol breaking in sacred places.

From my brief brushes with the evolution of religions and how faith is practised in different cultures, the very fact that there were sacred places, idols, priests and ceremonies tends to indicate a fairly developed religious practice and lore. With that usually goes "big" gods.

I have no personal opinion on this really I'm just exploring possibilities. I was hoping to explore how broadly practised and structured Anglo-Saxon paganism may have been, and to what extent the different peoples of AS England may have shared common gods or not through alternative lines of questioning. So please do bring back any responses.

Quote
Some AS Bishops such as Wulfstan & Aelric edicts specifically denounce making oaths to Heathen Gods

I may be thinking of the wrong Wulfstan and Aelric but as these were both later bishops is it not possible they were actually denouncing Danish pagan practice rather than Anglo-Saxon paganism. I'm not saying it's not relevant, I do feel there probably was quite a lot in common between the style of the religions even if we can say relatively little about the actual gods. It's just we need to keep caution to hand in these kinds of analyses.

Wesath ge eal hal!

Wulfric.
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: harryamphlett on March 30, 2012, 10:26:27 AM
Their gods/idols as we all know are pretty much similar to their Viking counterparts but I read somewhere (can't remember where) that basically explains that their gods could of been ordinary people like poets and warriors at some point but after many years they were revered as gods.

Much of what is written is simply the back projection of 13th cent. icelandic poetry which already shows much Christian influence. Teasing out genuine anglo saxon paganism from our own sources or archaeology is extremely difficult. Wilson's Anglo Saxon Paganism is a very thin book and out of print but you may be interested in Philip Shaw's, The Uses of Wodan. He was a student of Ian Wood's and his PhD thesis is online, http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/393/ (http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/393/) He also has a book published as part of the Studies in Early Medieval History series, 'Pagan Goddesses in the Early Germanic World: Eostre, Hreda and the Cult of Matrons', 

Some of his other work is listed on his web page at Leicester, http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/english/people/drphilipashaw (http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/english/people/drphilipashaw)

cheers
Harry A
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Linden on March 30, 2012, 11:46:43 PM
..............you may be interested in Philip Shaw's, The Uses of Wodan. He was a student of Ian Wood's and his PhD thesis is online, ..............................................

Hello Harry
Good to see you on the Gegaderung.  I have just spent an enjoyable couple of hours reading that thesis - many thanks.  Some highlights? -  the possibly quite late association of Wodan with wolves - the connection with healing - the bit on the Matrones....  Overall quite thought-provoking.
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: harryamphlett on April 01, 2012, 12:54:26 PM
Hi Linden, glad you liked the paper. I don't know if you are aware of this pagan site discovered in Norway, but Afterposten have published an article in English, Unmatched Heathen Shrine Found http://www.norsemyth.org (http://www.norsemyth.org).
Title: Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
Post by: Æðelstān on March 30, 2015, 04:56:38 PM
Hello,
I was reading an article about 'Wyrd' on the Thegns of Mercia website and saw how they said that Urðr is a cognate of Wyrd and thus we could use Weorðend (Verðandi) and Sculd (Skuld). I have thought a about this for a long time. Could we use Norse scripts, look at the language, put it into (as closely as possible) Old English and then see how these are used in AS Culture. This may be completely idiotic, but if we could connect the two similiar cultures via language and thus paint a better picture of AS Paganism.
Æðelstān