How Anglo-Saxons in Britain Understood their World 1,500 Years Ago
When Anglo-Saxon tribes first settled in Britain in the mid fifth century CE, their beliefs, though varied and developing over time, were essentially pagan and polytheistic. The history of the ways in which the early English understood their world is told here in terms of both the character of specific deities they followed, and the broader nature of their pre-Christian culture. Key themes include the ways in which Anglo-Saxon paganism differed from Scandinavian (Viking) spirituality, and how early English deities compared to those of other early polytheistic cultures, such as the Greek and Sumerian.
In order to better comprehend the pagan Anglo-Saxon mind-set, basic Germanic materialist philosophy is contrasted with aspects of ancient Greek idealist philosophy, in particular neoplatonism, and related changing perceptions of the goddess Hecate. Loki's role as an agent of cultural dissent and gender diversity is analysed, and differing views of life after death reviewed. Particular attention is paid to what the Old English Beowulf poem might tell us about English tribal foundation myths, and chapters on the uses of runes and the place of trees in pagan culture are also included.
The author seeks to make a case that the early English revered the divine feminine to a degree not found in either Scandinavian paganism or Roman Christianity. As part of this analysis eight north European myths are adapted, retold in short story formats, and evaluated in terms of what they can tell us about important features of early English pagan belief.
Early Anglo-Saxon ways of looking at and understanding the world were complex, sophisticated, diverse and pluralistic, and very different from 21st century belief systems. This book seeks to help us comprehend the thought processes of the early English living in Britain one and a half thousand years ago.
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