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S_Wodening
April 14th, 2008, 12:49 PM
Wassail All

Well, here it is lesson one. The way I want this to work is I will present the material and then we can discuss it. Much of what I present will be in the form of articles I have already written. Other material I will write fresh for the class. Asking questions is well, required. You do not have to ask questions about every lesson, or even most of them, but I do expect students to ask questions. Questions often point out something I overlooked, or point me to something that needs to be explained in more detail. So they are a great help in helping me teach, and you learn.

Swain

History of Anglo-Saxon Heathenry

by Swain Wodening (http://www.englatheod.org/history.htm#)

The word Heathen comes from Old English hæðen, a word whose origin has been stated by scholars as being a native word related to Greek ethnos, or a gloss for Latin pagan "rural dweller" meaning "dweller on the heath." Regardless of its origin, it is the preferred term when speaking of the ancient pagan religion of the Saxons, Jutes, Angles, Frisians, Varni, and other Germanic invaders of what is now England. Together, these tribes once in England are known as the Anglo-Saxons, although no such unity was known until well after their conversion.


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. Þunor 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 Æcer-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 Winwæd 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 Witanagemót. 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. Néoweanglia at that point decided to go on its own, while Middelfolc and Ærest Mæþel decided to to form the Miercinga Ríce. In July of 2007, Englatheod was formed, while Miercinga Theod formerly dissolved its self effective Eostre, 2008.

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.

Baldwin
April 14th, 2008, 03:37 PM
Thank you. With your permission, I will print this so that I can read it on the bus after work, as I am only able to be online at my workplace.

S_Wodening
April 14th, 2008, 03:53 PM
Feel free to print out anything you need to read later.

Varangian
April 14th, 2008, 05:44 PM
Superb piece Swain,really interesting read :fpraise:
Theres a lot of theories about the Cherusci and Cimbri being Germanicising Belgics,but hey thats another discussion for another time

I was wondering if Heathens every found the name `Heathen` a derogatory term? and if Perhaps Germanici in the service of the Western Roman Empire were allowed to practice there Religion in what was largely now Christian?

LivingTemptation
April 14th, 2008, 09:35 PM
“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.”

When I read this part it reminded me of a part of Northern Mysteries and Magic, by Freya Aswynn, that talked about the the Aesir and the Vanir. She was referring to the war, and eventual peace, between the two, and hypothesized that it was in fact an old “folk memory” about the native inhabitants, and those that invaded the area, and the eventual blending of the two. So am I way off in seeing this correlation between what she speculated and what you've said, or is there some merit in this idea?

Cat
April 15th, 2008, 06:27 AM
What was the cause of the migrations? Do we know?

Varangian
April 15th, 2008, 10:00 AM
Well theres quite a few possible reasons
I think we can wholly discount the one of the Huns pushing every tribe further West as a fiction

the most possible reasons
1/Slavic Expansion-a theory very underrated but quite probable,by the 7th Century Slavic Expansion had moved into Europe and many areas what are now in todays Germany.The Expansion itself was through gradual mass settlement not through warfare

2/Fall of the Western Roman Empire-Britain was easy pickings,especially after 455AD when the would be no chance of ever Rome helping again

3/Re-Routed from Gaul? -an intriguing idea put forward by Frank Stenton that the Saxon dynasties settling on the underbelly of Britain were originally heading for the more sunny and fertile climate of Gaul.Of course by then the Frankish King Clovech had an firm grip on Gaul and any would be land grabbers would have to now look elsewhere.

4/Rising tides-the most popular theory,Flooding of much of the Jutland peninsula,failed crops etc etc


Of course what many books fail to mention is that Britain possibly already had a large Germanic contingent -this went from Federates to Tradesmen to retired Soldiers given land in Britain.Of course the late Roman Army in Britain was 90% Germanic in origin

5/the Outlandish theory-championed by Stephen Oppenheimer is that the migrations never happened per se,the Germans were already here.He does make some interesting arguments,cant say im a fan of them myself but his views are worth consideration,look him up on the web sometime.
hope this helps!

spiral
April 15th, 2008, 11:03 AM
Really interesting post! I'm new to this topic and I hope these aren't stupid questions, but you say that the people we call the Anglo-Saxons were made up of a number of tribes, including the Angles, Jutes, Saxons, Frisians etc. Is there a particular reason we call them Anglo-Saxons rather than something else? Were the Angles and Saxons particularly powerful or widespread?

Also, was the movement of these people always an actual invasion or at times a more peaceful migration? They seem to have become powerful very quickly.

Thanks :)

Varangian
April 15th, 2008, 01:28 PM
No there not stupid questions at all

Theres a bit of debate whether the Anglo-Saxon migrations were peaceful involving assimilation of the Briton populace or through mass ethnic cleansing for better use of the term.
Certainly it took the Anglo-Saxons far longer to assimilate or conquer the Britons than it did the Franks to subdue Gaul.
I think from written sources both Briton and Anglo-Saxon , its fair to say the early years of Anglo-Saxon migration were very much along the lines of Genocide.Now if that maybe sounds a trifle harsh then consider the Romans and Celts and later the Normans probably did very much the same thing on landing on these shores.

Yes the Anglo-Saxons as a race were probably made up of Jutes,Frisians,Saxons ,Angles possibly quite a few more maybe Suevi,Franks and Alemanni also.
Obviously the name England comes from Angle Land,the country appears roughly to have been the Saxons in the south and the Angles in the Middle and North.Anglo-Saxons is just a term to mean both races or English as a whole,even after the Danish Invasions people are still referred to as Anglo-Saxon more than Anglo-Dane or Anglo-Viking.
Were they widespread? well one source has them as conquering the Orkneys at the top of Scotland! One Early Christian King Edwin of Northumbria was supposed to have all the southerly English Kings,the Welsh,the Scots and Picts in the North and the Isle of Man in his domains all under tribute to him according to Bede.

Kern
April 15th, 2008, 03:00 PM
Great read, cant wait to read more. Sorry I really dont have a question for this lesson at the time.

DaceCain
April 15th, 2008, 03:16 PM
Superb piece Swain,really interesting read :fpraise:
Theres a lot of theories about the Cherusci and Cimbri being Germanicising Belgics,but hey thats another discussion for another time

I was wondering if Heathens every found the name `Heathen` a derogatory term? and if Perhaps Germanici in the service of the Western Roman Empire were allowed to practice there Religion in what was largely now Christian?

They may well have been allowed to purely for the novelty!

Great post, Swain!

DaceCain
April 15th, 2008, 03:25 PM
Really interesting post! I'm new to this topic and I hope these aren't stupid questions, but you say that the people we call the Anglo-Saxons were made up of a number of tribes, including the Angles, Jutes, Saxons, Frisians etc. Is there a particular reason we call them Anglo-Saxons rather than something else?

I don' t think I can add anything to Varangian's post but I reckon the namers of the Anglo-Saxons probably tried every other combination of names before deciding that Anglo-Saxon sounded best.:hehehehe: I suppose we should just be thankful that they didn't try to create an anagram from the initial letters of all the tribes!
We could have ended up as JAFFAS!! LOL

Baldwin
April 15th, 2008, 03:35 PM
I dunno. With 3 of the counties (then kingdoms) named after the Saxons - Weesex in the west, Essex in the east, and Sussex in the south - it seems to me to be probable that the Angles and the Saxons were the largest single groups. If so, naming the whole lot after them simply makes sense, no?

DaceCain
April 16th, 2008, 04:31 AM
Probably true Keith, but nowhere near as much fun! LOL

MonSno_LeeDra
April 16th, 2008, 08:06 AM
I realize i'm not part of this class but was wondering if you've used any of the psuedo history contained in "HISTORY OF THE KINGS OF BRITIAN" by Geoffrey of Monmouth?

This work does a lot to support the influence of the Germanic people into early Britain.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/gem/index.htm

S_Wodening
April 16th, 2008, 09:41 AM
I think most of the questions have been answered by members of the class, but as regards the term Anglo-Saxons, I am not sure why scholars settled on that. They could have called them any number of things. The Welsh for example referred to all of them as Saxons regardless. Or they could have chosen another term. I suspect they used Anglo-Saxon as it combined the names of the two tribes that covered most of England. The Jutes were pretty much limited to the Isle of Wight and Kent. The other tribes never made any major impact on the nation. That left the Angles and Saxons.

Kern
April 16th, 2008, 02:39 PM
I thought they were called Anglo Saxons,because those were the two largest tribes.

Gemyndig
April 16th, 2008, 03:35 PM
I've read and studied lesson 1 and as usual Swain is right on the mark with with his wonderful, clear and concise writing style! Thankyou!



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.This piece is very interesting - i often wonder what things might have been like now if Christianity hadn't been such an absolutist faith and had tolerated more overt practice of Heathenry. I find it interesting to speculate. Would we have stuff like in modern India where folk still make a pilgrimige to the local temple and there's an electronic info screen up on the wall inside telling folk when worship starts etc?!:smileroll I personally think we'd still have wooden godposts plus a lot of other traditional stuff like Ealhs being laid out in a certain way etc.

spiral
April 17th, 2008, 03:26 AM
Thanks for the answers to my questions everyone :)



This piece is very interesting - i often wonder what things might have been like now if Christianity hadn't been such an absolutist faith and had tolerated more overt practice of Heathenry.

Me too, I wish this was the case!

WulfcwenStar
April 19th, 2008, 04:44 PM
In 449 CE if Hengest and Horsa were offered land promised to them by the Celtic leader Vortigan surely we can hardly call it an invasion. It was a payment for defending the Celts from the Picts. Or am I being naive here?
I don't know if they the right to that in the first place but invasion to me means taking by force.
The fact that they kept to the religion of their ancestors and would not be easily swayed by Christianity shows us how strong their faith was.
So why don't the schools teach us more about the Heathen history as it is an important part of out heritage?

The Temples being turned into Churches was a good way of getting the people to worship there and allowing the festivals to remain in place and giving thanks to the Christian God would have made it easier for the people to convert.
So really all they were doing was changing the name of the Gods and not the traditions.

S_Wodening
April 20th, 2008, 09:10 AM
Wulfcwen, I think you have a good grasp of it. As to why it is called an invasion, I think that it is because the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes began taking land that they were not promised. Though in truth, it was more of a mass migration. In some areas, the British were nearly exterminated, in others they lived peacefully side by side. It is very much a mixed bag.

I do not know why they do not teach it in the schools. They do not do so here in the States either. It is truly sad as the migration to Great Britian is truly the beginning of the English people.

Varangian
April 20th, 2008, 02:13 PM
Never go by 449AD as the beginning of Anglo-Saxon Britain,there has been Germanic influence and possible settlement since before the Romans.
Vortigern settled Jutish Foederati in Kent in exchange for land,nothing new in this, standard practice of what had been happening in the Roman world for over 100 Years.
According to the ASC they served faithfully for six years before revolting against the Britons in 455AD,which does have much to do with events on the continent but scholars have not tended to pick up on it.
Even though Britain at the time did have a fair share of Germanic blood in its populace,i think its fair to say like similar races (for instance the Ostrogoths) in a Romano employment the Saxon Federates were possibly treated as second class citizens.
Sorry to be a Historical bore Swain,you know what im like ,lol

Its a terrible shame Wulfcwen,anything before 1066 is swept under the carpet,the very forming of our nation so to speak,I think you hit the nail on the head with your words.

Susii
August 25th, 2008, 05:39 PM
I think from written sources both Briton and Anglo-Saxon , its fair to say the early years of Anglo-Saxon migration were very much along the lines of Genocide.Now if that maybe sounds a trifle harsh then consider the Romans and Celts and later the Normans probably did very much the same thing on landing on these shores.

I believe that recent archaeology is finding a bit of a difference in this. I'll have to search for the source, however, I'm sure I've read several recent reports referring to the acceptance of AS culture based on AS graves with predominately "native" Briton DNA. Don't quote me, but I'll give a search for the articles. :)

S_Wodening
August 25th, 2008, 09:53 PM
It depends on the area. Some areas have a lot of what they call "invader" DNA. It is called invader DNA because they cannot tell the difference between Anglo-Saxon DNA and Danish. But what I have read indicates some areas are largely invader while other parts of England have substansial British DNA. This reflects history and archaeology which indicates a mixture of invarsion tenchniques ranging from genocide to peacefully interaction.