Unlike Roman Britain, the early Anglo-Saxons were not Christian.T hey were pagans who worshipped lots of different gods and spirits, and who believed in superstitions and lucky charms. After they had settled, the British were able to convert the Anglo-Saxons to the Christian faith. However, there are still signs of their pagan religion in modern-day Britain, including the days of the week, many of which are named after the Anglo-Saxons gods.
Who Are The Anglo-Saxon Gods?
Woden was the king of the Anglo-Saxon gods - and the one that was worshipped throughout all the tribe. Other gods included Thunor, the god of thunder; Fringe, the goddess of love; and Tiw, the god of war. These gods gave their names to the days of the week: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. There are also several place names, like Tuesley, Wodnesfeld, Wednesfield and Thursley, that were Anglo-Saxon settlements.
Frey, Seaxneat, Eostre and Hretha were also Anglo-Saxon Goddesses and Gods - and there was a god for birth, immortality, death, cunning, family, metalworking and the seas.
What Did Anglo-Saxons Believe?
There were lots of gods in Anglo-Saxon life, and each one was in charge of their own topic or theme. For example, the goddess of love or the god of war.
The Anglo-Saxons would pray to each of the gods and goddesses when they wanted something specific, i.e. a successful harvest, or victory in battle.
As well as gods, they also believed in supernatural forces as well as evil creatures such as elves, ettins, dragons and dwarves.
The Anglo-Saxons believed that there were seven 'realms' - the one that humans inhabit was called 'Middangeard' and their version of heaven was called 'Neorxnawang'.
They worshipped at religious sites - which were sometimes timber-framed temples, or otherwise could be a sacred tree or hill.
Animals were often sacrificed as part of religious ceremonies.
Women often wore necklaces called amulets that were made from shells, semi-precious stones, metal and animal teeth.
In Anglo-Saxon religion, people were buried in a grave along with all of their belongings - which they believed would be useful in the next life. Men tended to be buried with spears and knives, whilst women were buried with weaving and sewing tools.
Who Converted The Anglo-Saxons To Christianity?
In 597 AD, the Roman Pope decided to send a monk named Augustine to England to speak with the Anglo-Saxon king. Slowly, over 100 years the Anglo-Saxons converted to Christianity, building lots of new churches and monasteries, which were the only schools during this time in Anglo-Saxon England.
The Anglo-Saxons did not have a system of written language, and so it was useful for them to convert to Christianity, which used the Latin alphabet and written language to communicate and document the religion.
Q & A
Can you work out which day of the week was named after the 4 gods: Tiw, Woden, Thunor and Frige?
Who wanted to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity, and why?
Can you name any of the things that the gods and goddesses were in charge of?
Do some research on all of the amazing things that were found at the burial site of an Anglo-Saxon king, which were discovered at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk in 1939.
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