Before many of them converted to Christianity, the Anglo-Saxons were Germanic pagans. This religious view in turn is directly connected to Norse mythology, as well as other pre-Christian religions. The Romans were primarily responsible for replacing the religion of the Saxons during the 9th century.
The Synod of Whitby was the primary event for this process. Much of the traditional religion of the Anglo-Saxons has been lost over the years, and historians today only have knowledge of it due to customs and some documents that have survived to the present day. One document stated that the Kentish King refused to meet St. Augustine in any place that was not in the open air. The reason for this is because he wanted to be under the protection of Woden, the sky god.
The Christians would commonly write documents where they prohibited the pagan religions, and their descriptions have allowed historians to get detailed information on the traditional religious beliefs of the Anglo-Saxons. The traditional religion practiced by the Anglo-Saxons has had a lasting effect on their languages. The days of the week used in the modern English language are derived from Anglo-Saxon gods and goddesses. For example, Tiw, the god of war, is the god that Tuesday is derived from. Woden, who was considered to be the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of Odin, who was the god of storms, had one eye, and Wednesday was taken from his name.
The Anglo-Saxon version of Thor was the thunder god, and represented Thursday. Friday is the last day of the week, and it is the only day to be named after a goddess. This goddess in the traditional Anglo-Saxon religion was Freo, which may also be known as Freyja. She was the goddess of love. There is a strong connection between Anglo-Saxon mythology and Norse mythology. Like many of the people who lived in Scandinavia, the Anglo-Saxon religion was an example of polytheism, which means that they worshipped more than one god. The Anglo-Saxons continued to practice their traditional religion until the 7th century. Since many members of the Anglo-Saxon society were not literate, the tales of their religion were passed via word of mouth.
The Anglo-Saxons were strong believers in what they called Wyrd, or fate. They considered creatures such as dwarves and giants to be real, not just figments of the imagination. The history of the Anglo-Saxon religion is not well known since it was largely erased by the 8th century.
Original Authors: Stephen Palmer
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 15/07/2008