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Author Topic: Anglo-Saxon Paganism  (Read 41710 times)

Wulfric

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Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
« Reply #30 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.

ubique

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Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
« Reply #31 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.

ubique

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Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
« Reply #32 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.

dacecain

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Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
« Reply #33 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.

Horsa

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Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
« Reply #34 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.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2012, 04:53:26 PM by Horsa »

Wulfric

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Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
« Reply #35 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.

Wulfric

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Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
« Reply #36 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".

Blackdragon

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Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
« Reply #37 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

dacecain

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Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
« Reply #38 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


dacecain

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Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
« Reply #39 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

Wulfric

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Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
« Reply #40 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.

Wulfric

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Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
« Reply #41 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.

harryamphlett

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Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
« Reply #42 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/ 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

cheers
Harry A

Linden

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Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
« Reply #43 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.
Cræft biþ betere ðonne æhta

harryamphlett

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Re: Anglo-Saxon Paganism
« Reply #44 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.