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The majority of scholars believe that the Anglii lived on the coasts of the Baltic Sea, probably in the southern part of the Jutish peninsula. the Angles, who, together with Saxons and Jutes, left their home to migrate to Britain in the 5th and 6th centuries. For the years 449-455, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, written around 890, describes how King Vortigern (a British tribal king) invited the Angles to come and receive land in return for helping him defend against marauding Picts. Those successful Angles sent word back that good land was available and that the British were 'worthless'. A wholesale emigration of Angles and kindred German peoples followed.
The East Angles were initially ruled by the pagan Wuffingas dynasty, apparently named after an early king, Wuffa, although his name could have been an invention to explain the dynastic name, which means 'descendants of the wolf'. Nothing is known of the earliest kings of East Anglia, or how the kingdom was organised, although a possible indication of the original center of royal power is the concentration of ship-burials at Snape and Sutton Hoo in eastern Suffolk. The 'North Folk' and 'South Folk' may have existed before the arrival of the first East Anglian kings.
But why did the Angles & Co choose to emigrate to the western islands?
It seems to have to do with the very warlike tribe of Danes!
During the mid-fifth century AD, the Zealand Danes appear to have invaded the southern parts of Jutland, a successful invasion that actually caused the mass-migrations of Jutes(Vanir), Angles and Saxons to Britannia, no longer protected by the Roman Empire that had simply “left” the country in 407 AD.
he Danes finally occupied the entire realm of present day Denmark as well as some parts of North Germany by the year 500 AD, when “Denmark” for the first time became a kingdom, possible led by one powerful seat at Lejre in Zealand and probably also from important towns such as Ribe and Hedeby. Just south of Hedeby was built the famous border post and “Chinese Wall” called Danevirke, which is probably based on an older Anglian border to the south.
The Anglo-Saxons settled in small groups covering a handful of widely dispersed local communities that can be called “tribal”, with a political leadership that was simple, informal, and having a military relevance. There was a peasant element to the Anglo-Saxon influx that contributed to the relatively flat social structure that would still be visible in the 6th century. The earliest settlements show no obvious signs of a stable elite.
Despite their wide distribution in small settlements and a social structure that was only slightly hierarchical, the Angles were quite capable of organizing and executing large-scale military operations in the fifth century, a fact confirmed by historical sources. For example, there were raids along the Frankish Continental coast made by large fleets of Saxon ships as far south as the Garonne.
Life in Britain was rural. Angles tended to settle as a group in farms consisting of anywhere from 4 to 20 people, in contrast to the British custom of a single farmstead containing a single family. Angle society was hierarchical but not strongly so, and probably less than is implied by legal theories, with the bulk of the population either peasants or slaves. The hierarchical structure was characteristic of their ancestral homelands, and was also reflected in Britain in the grave goods of their early cemeteries, where the wealthy can be distinguished from the poor. Early Continental Angles had powerful local families and a dominant military leaders, generally chiefdoms” rather than “states”.
Religion Paganism Edit
they worshiped Nerthus, or Mother Earth. Interestingly, the first source to describe the Angels, mention their worship of Mother Earth. More than 700 years later, Bede writes that the still heathen Angels in England celebrates the New Year as Modraniht – “The Night of the Mothers.” Ancestral Mother worship seems to have been an important part of the Iron Age Germanic (and Celtic) tribal religion. We know from later Norse sources that even Mother Earth was considered the original, first Ancestral Mother. Apart from Mother Earth, the Angles worshipped much the same gods as the Saxons, their most important gods are well-known to all of us who study Norse myths: Wodan, Thonar and Tiwaz – Óðinn, Thor and Týr.
To the extent that sources are available, they depict a pre-Christian Iron Age Celtic social structure based formally on class and kingship, although this may only have been a particular late phase of organization in Celtic societies. Patron-client relationships similar to those of Roman society are also described by Caesar and others in the Gaul of the 1st century BC.
In the main, the evidence is of tribes being led by kings, although some argue that there is also evidence of oligarchical republican forms of government eventually emerging in areas which had close contact with Rome. Most descriptions of Celtic societies portray them as being divided into three groups: a warrior aristocracy; an intellectual class including professions such as druid, poet, and jurist; and everyone else. In historical times, the offices of high and low kings in Ireland and Scotland were filled by election under the system of tanistry, which eventually came into conflict with the feudal principle of primogeniture in which succession goes to the first-born son.
Little is known of family structure among the Celts. Patterns of settlement varied from decentralized to urban. The popular stereotype of non-urbanized societies settled in hillforts and duns, drawn from Britain and Ireland (there are about 3,000 hill forts known in Britain)
Slavery, as practiced by the Celts, was very likely similar to the better documented practice in ancient Greece and Rome. Slaves were acquired from war, raids, and penal and debt servitude. Slavery was hereditary though manumission was possible. The Old Irish word for slave, cacht, and the Welsh term caeth are likely derived from the Latin captus, captive, suggesting that slave trade was an early venue of contact between Latin and Celtic societies.
The myth that the Celtic monetary system consisted of wholly barter is a common one, but is in part false. The monetary system was complex and is still not understood (much like the late Roman coinages), and due to the absence of large numbers of coin items, it is assumed that "proto-money" was used. This included bronze items made from the early La Tène period and onward, which were often in the shape of axeheads, rings, or bells. Due to the large number of these present in some burials, it is thought they had a relatively high monetary value, and could be used for "day to day" purchases. Low-value coinages of potin, a bronze alloy with high tin content, were minted in most Celtic areas of the continent and in South-East Britain prior to the Roman conquest of these lands. Higher-value coinages, suitable for use in trade, were minted in gold, silver, and high-quality bronze. Gold coinage was much more common than silver coinage, despite being worth substantially more, as while there were around 100 mines in Southern Britain and Central France, silver was more rarely mined. This was due partly to the relative sparsity of mines and the amount of effort needed for extraction compared to the profit gained. As the Roman civilization grew in importance and expanded its trade with the Celtic world, silver and bronze coinage became more common. This coincided with a major increase in gold production in Celtic areas to meet the Roman demand, due to the high value Romans put on the metal. The large number of gold mines in France is thought to be a major reason why Caesar invaded.
There are instances recorded where women participated both in warfare and in kingship, although they were in the minority in these areas. Plutarch reports that Celtic women acted as ambassadors to avoid a war among Celts chiefdoms in the Po valley during the 4th century BC.
Very few reliable sources exist regarding Celtic views towards gender divisions and societal status, though some archaeological evidence does suggest that their views towards gender roles may differ from contemporary and less egalitarian classical counterparts of the Roman era.
Among the insular Celts, there is a greater amount of historic documentation to suggest warrior roles for women. In addition to commentary by Tacitus about Boudica, there are indications from later period histories that also suggest a more substantial role for "women as warriors", in symbolic if not actual roles. Posidonius and Strabo described an island of women where men could not venture for fear of death, and where the women ripped each other apart.Other writers, such as Ammianus Marcellinus and Tacitus, mentioned Celtic women inciting, participating in, and leading battles. Poseidonius' anthropological comments on the Celts had common themes, primarily primitivism, extreme ferocity, cruel sacrificial practices, and the strength and courage of their women.
Under Brehon Law, which was written down in early Medieval Ireland after conversion to Christianity, a woman had the right to divorce her husband and gain his property if he was unable to perform his marital duties due to impotence, obesity, homosexual inclination or preference for other women
Religion Polytheism Edit
Like other European Iron Age tribal societies, the Celts practiced a polytheistic religion. Many Celtic gods are known from texts and inscriptions from the Roman period. Rites and sacrifices were carried out by priests known as druids. The Celts did not see their gods as having human shapes until late in the Iron Age. Celtic shrines were situated in remote areas such as hilltops, groves, and lakes.
Celtic religious patterns were regionally variable; however, some patterns of deity forms, and ways of worshiping these deities, appeared over a wide geographical and temporal range. The Celts worshiped both gods and goddesses. In general, Celtic gods were deities of particular skills, such as the many-skilled Lugh and Dagda, while goddesses were associated with natural features, particularly rivers (such as Boann, goddess of the River Boyne). This was not universal, however, as goddesses such as Brighid and The Morrígan were associated with both natural features (holy wells and the River Unius) and skills such as blacksmithing and healing.
Triplicity is a common theme in Celtic cosmology, and a number of deities were seen as threefold. This trait is exhibited by The Three Mothers, a group of goddesses worshiped by many Celtic tribes (with regional variations).
The Celts had literally hundreds of deities, some of which were unknown outside a single family or tribe, while others were popular enough to have a following that crossed lingual and cultural barriers. For instance, the Irish god Lugh, associated with storms, lightning, and culture, is seen in similar forms as Lugos in Gaul and Lleu in Wales. Similar patterns are also seen with the continental Celtic horse goddess Epona and what may well be her Irish and Welsh counterparts, Macha and Rhiannon, respectively.
The Celts held important ceremonies at key points in the farming year. These included Imbolc (Feb. 1st.), Beltaine (May 1st.), Lughnasad (August 1st.), Samhain (October 31st). These however would be in line with similar ceremonies based around the early megalithic structures. They also inherited the traditions of their megalithic forbears in their fascination with the moon and its relationship in its movements with those of the sun.
To the Celts the head was sacred. This feature appears often in Celtic art. Warriors collected heads of distinguished foes. (Other cultures throughout the world have done so until comparatively recent times). The number 3 was also sacred. High importance was attached to water sites - bogs, lakes, rivers, springs - and to trees and plants. Animals too were sacred - such as stags, bulls, etc. What this tells us is that we are looking at a culture which had not yet become "urbanised" and where the wonder inspired by Nature in the early farmers was still present.
There would also seem to have been a practice of making depositions of high quality weapons and other metalwork in specially excavated holes in the earth and in water sources as offerings to the gods. This would seem to be the only logical reason for the finds which keep turning up. Such items appear to have been ritually broken - "killed" - before deposition. In Central America the Maya for example deposited such objects in sacred wells (cenotes). Near early Christian churches in the British Isles - often in Ireland - such deposits of valuables are found.
Arising from the Celtic interest in astronomy there arose a complex working calendar. There was a continuous chain of knowledge shared by the early farmers whether in megalithic Western Europe, Egypt, Mesopotamia etc. The Druids were heirs to this body of knowledge which crossed barriers of time and location. A part of Celtic religion was perhaps a preoccupation with the "dark side". Night preceded day. The "Otherworld" was very real to them - so much so that we have evidence of i.o.u.'s being issued for payment in the next world. To the Celts there was a next world. On the death of the physical body the soul passed on into another body.
Sacrifice played a big part in religious rites. All important activities were preceded by ceremonies and sacrifices. It was also essential to take the auspices before a planned event or activity. The appearance of the organs of a sacrifice, the flight of birds, were all regarded as omens. In this Celts, Greeks, Romans, Etruscans, Babylonians were little different. Caesar commented on the Celts being particularly superstitious - but perhaps he himself was, for a Roman, unusually lacking in "superstition" if the story of his disregard for the "Ides of March" is valid!
Roman reports of the druids mention ceremonies being held in sacred groves. La Tène Celts built temples of varying size and shape, though they also maintained shrines at sacred trees and votive pools.
Druids fulfilled a variety of roles in Celtic religion, serving as priests and religious officiants, but also as judges, sacrificers, teachers, and lore-keepers. Druids organised and ran religious ceremonies, and they memorized and taught the calendar. Other classes of druids performed ceremonial sacrifices of crops and animals for the perceived benefit of the community.
The Celtic level of education as it functioned via the Druid system was high. Such areas as science, geography, mathematics, medicine, astronomy, religion, philosophy, and law were studied. Much of this would develop out of a religious respect for Nature. While the complete course of education could last up to 20 years this is little different from the modern system of beginning education at age 5 and finishing post-graduate studies at age 25. There is no indication that all students in the Druid system continued the full course - any more than present-day students.
Much is made of the apparent contradiction in the fact that the Celtic education system was pursued entirely orally - relying on recitation and memory. But less than 50 years ago a lot of our own primary education was conducted on similar lines. Caesar, coming from a "book-dependent" system like our own, thought the system was a good one in that it trained the memory in a way that reference to books never could. It also had the advantage of keeping advanced knowledge out of the hands of those untrained to handle it. (Perhaps there is a lesson there!) That the same oral system was used by the Greeks in Classical times is evidenced by the "dialogue" format of the writings of Plato, Aristotle, and others. On one occasion Alexander the Great took issue with his old tutor Aristotle for publishing his ideas in a book on the grounds that such a publication would result in "the knowledge we have acquired being made the common property of all". The Celts could and did write, using Greek and Roman script, but such writing was reserved for commercial and other less esoteric purposes.
Polytheistic British Celts are generally found in western Britain (wales) and Cornwall.
Polytheistic Irish Celts are generally found anywhere even though St Patrick had already established the Catholic Church, Feis Temro (the feast of Tara, a ceremony intended to celebrate the divine nature of the kingship in Tara often involving a ritual or symbolic mating of a newly installed king with sovereignty as represented by it's female aspect, took place as late as 560 AD.
Religion Celtic Christian Edit
Celtic Christians are Christians who have adopted Celtic ceremonies and rituals into Christian ones. Celtic Christian are generally found in the remains of what was Britannia, as well as throughout Ireland.
The Jutes are believed to have originated from the Jutland Peninsula (called Iutum in Latin) and part of the North Frisian coast. In present times the Jutlandic Peninsula consists of the mainland of Denmark andSouthern Schleswig in Germany. North Frisia is part of Germany as well.
The Jutes invaded and settled in southern Britain in the late 4th century during the Age of Migrations, as part of a larger wave of Germanic settlement in the British Isles.
The Jutes, along with some Angles, Saxons and Frisians, sailed across the North Sea to raid and eventually invade Great Britain from the late 4th century onwards, either displacing, absorbing, or destroying the native Celtic peoples there.
The Jutes (a modern form of the name) are first mentioned by Tacitus (Germania) about AD 98, where they are referred to as the Eudoses. They are also know as Eote, Ytene, Yte, or Iutae in various writings, with Old English particularly responsible for mutating the original form, either into Anglian English, West Saxon English, or Latin. Modern scholars have also produced Uitones and Heutones (both possible mistranscriptions of Nuitones) as reasonable alternatives. In the original form, the name probably means 'giants'. The Jutish name was also sometimes confused by medieval writers with that of the Geats, but while they are almost certainly a separate peoples, there is the possibility that they and the Geats were related, even though the latter are usually though to be a Scandinavian, people (all of whom have roots among the Germanics anyway, albeit with later additions).
The area which the Jutes abandoned in the fifth century continued to be known as Jutland by the Danish peoples who eventually replaced them there. In fact, the region remained distinct and peculiar even after Scandinavianisation, separate from the rest of Denmark for several centuries.
In 400 -500 the Dene, or Danes, migrate from southern Sweden into Jutland and the Cimbric Peninsula. The migration comes at a time when Danish rule is fragmented and new dynasties of rulers are emerging, and the move puts the Jutes under increasing pressure in the competition for living space, forcing them south and westwards where they appear to fall under the overlordship of the Angles. In this period the Jutes are often also closely associated with the Frisians, possibly because many Jutes appear to leave their homeland in this difficult time to seek employment or settlement elsewhere, most notably with the Frisian royal household (where they are present on both sides in the conflict of c.448). Other groups of Jutes appear to enter Danish service, placing the same people on both sides of any Dano-Frisian conflict.
Under the leadership of the Anglian prince, Hengist great-grandson of Wehta, the Jutes emigrate en masse to south-eastern Britain, where they form the bulk of the Germanic population of the kingdom of Kent. Another colony, called the Meonware, is founded in Hampshire on the south coast of the country. These people come to be integrated into the West Saxon kingdom, while Jutland is apparently left deserted.
Religion Paganism Edit
Little is known of the religious practices of the Jutes except that they were linked with fertility and that they believed in gods and demons. It is probable that springs and wells were sacred. Some place names suggest the location of shrines, such as Wye, 'the house of idols'. The rich grave goods found in early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries illustrate a belief in an after-life and the importance of status within Anglo-Saxon society.There is very little cultural difference between the Angles, Saxons and Jutes (the Jutes mainly from Jutland) and they were obviously pagan but they worshiped the Norse Gods
While many Germanic tribes sustained continued contact with the culture and military presence of the Roman Empire, much of Scandinavia existed on the most extreme periphery of the Latin world. With the exception of the passing references to the Swedes (Suiones) and the Geats (Gautoi), much of Scandinavia remained unrecorded by Roman authors.
In Scandinavia, there was a great import of goods, such as coins (more than 7 000), vessels, bronze images, glass beakers, enameled buckles, weapons, etc. Moreover, the style of metal objects and clay vessels was markedly Roman. For the first time appear objects such as shears and pawns.
There are also many bog bodies from this time in Denmark, Schleswig and southern Sweden. Together with the bodies, there are weapons, household wares and clothes of wool. Great ships made for rowing have been found from the 4th century in Nydam mosse in Schleswig. Many were buried without burning, but the burning tradition later regained its popularity.
Through the 5th century and 6th century, gold and silver became more common. Much of this can be attributed to the ransacking of the Roman Empire by Germanic tribes, from which many Scandinavians returned with gold and silver.
Religion Paganism Edit
In the pre-Viking and Viking age, there is material evidence which seems to indicate a growing sophistication in Norse religion, such as artifacts portraying the gripdjur (gripping-beast) motifs, interlacing art and jewelry, Mjolnirpendants and numerous weapons and bracteates with runic characters scratched or cast into them. The runes seem to have evolved from the earlier helleristninger, since they initially seemed to have a wholly ideographic usage. Runes later evolved into a script which was perhaps derived from a combination of Proto-Germanic language and Etruscan or Gothic writing. However, this origin has not been proven, and many runic origin theories have been advocated.
Many other ideographic and iconographic motifs which may portray the religious beliefs of the Pre-Viking and Viking Norse are depicted on runestones, which were usually erected as markers or memorial stones. These memorial stones usually were not placed in proximity to a body, and many times there is an epitaph written in runes to memorialize a deceased relative. This practice continued well into the process of Christianization.
Like most pre-modern peoples, Norse society was divided into several classes and the early Norse practiced slavery in earnest. The majority of interments from the period of Norse religion seem to derive primarily from the upper classes, however many recent excavations in medieval church yards have given a broader glimpse into the life of the common people.
Centers of worship Edit
Gamla Uppsala, the centre of worship inSweden until the temple was destroyed in the late 11th century.
The Germanic tribes rarely or never had temples in a modern sense. The blót, the form of worship practiced by the ancient Germanic and Scandinavian people, resembled that of the Celts and Balts; it could occur insacred groves. It could also take place at home and/or at a simple altar of piled stones known as a hörgr.
However, there seems to have been a few more important centres, such as Skiringsal, Lejre and Uppsala. Adam of Bremen claims that there was a temple in Uppsala with three wooden statues of Thor, Odin and Freyr, although no archaeological evidence to date has been able to verify this.
Remains of what may be religious buildings have been excavated in Slöinge (Halland), Uppåkra (Skåne), and Borg (Östergötland).
In February 2015 it was announced that Icelanders will commence construction on the island's first major temple to the Norse gods since the Viking era. At the completion of construction, public worship can begin at the temple dedicated to Thor, Odin and Frigg. The circular temple, to be situated on a hill overlooking Reykjavik, will allow sunlight to enter a dome on top. Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, the high priest of Ásatrúarfélagið, an organization formed in 1972 of over 2,400 members promoting the Norse gods, noted: “We see the stories as poetic metaphors and a manifestation of the forces of nature and human psychology.” The organization expects the temple will host a variety of ceremonies such as weddings, funerals and initiation rites.
Ancestor worship Edit
Devotion to deceased relatives was a mainstay in Norse religion. Ancestors constituted one of the most ancient and widespread types of deity worshipped in the Nordic region. Although most scholarship focuses on the larger community's dedication to more fantastic gods and myths of the Vikings, it is understood that some sort of ancestor worship was probably an element of the private religious practices of the farmstead and village. Often in addition to showing adoration to the standard Nordic gods, warriors would toast to “their kinsmen who lay in barrows”.
It is often said that the Germanic kingship evolved out of a priestly office. This priestly role of the king was in line with the general role of goði, who was the head of a kindred group of families (for this social structure, see Norse clans), and who administered the sacrifices.
Sacrifice could comprise inanimate objects, animals or humans. Among the Norse, there were two types of human sacrifice; that performed for the gods at religious festivals, and retainer sacrifice that was performed at a funeral. An eye-witness account of retainer sacrifice survives in Ibn Fadlan's account of a Rus ship burial, where a slave-girl had volunteered to accompany her lord to the next world. Reports of religious sacrifice are given by Tacitus, Saxo Grammaticus and Adam of Bremen.
The Heimskringla tells of Swedish King Aun who sacrificed nine of his sons in an effort to prolong his life until his subjects stopped him from killing his last son Egil. According to Adam of Bremen, the Swedish kings sacrificed males every ninth year during the Yulesacrifices at the Temple at Uppsala. The Swedes had the right not only to elect kings but also to depose them, and both king Domalde and king Olof Trätälja are said to have been sacrificed after years of famine.
Odin, the chief god of the Norse, was associated with death by hanging, and a possible practice of Odinic sacrifice by strangling has some archeological support in the existence of bodies perfectly preserved by the acid of the Jutland (later taken over by the Danerpeople) peatbogs, into which they were cast after having been strangled. One of the most notable examples of this is the Bronze Age Tollund Man. However, we possess no written accounts that explicitly interpret the cause of these stranglings, which could have other explanations, such as being a form of capital punishment. Odin himself is hanged on the world tree Yggdrasil in the poem Havamal, and in Gautreks saga, king Vikar is hanged with the words, ‘Now I give you to Odin’.
Further evidence of human sacrifice can be preserved for thousands of years in the peat bogs, which were often used in religious ceremonies that included human sacrifice. Another method of human sacrifice was burning to death. The ninth-century Berne Scholia describes how people were burnt in a wooden tub in honor of Taranis, the thunder god (Celtic religion). But the Eyrbyggja saga from the Icelandic Scandinavian influence tradition speak of human sacrifices in honor of the Scandinavian god Thor.
Localized deities Edit
Nordic peoples recognized a range of spirits dwelling in particular objects and places, such as trees, stones, waterfalls, lakes, houses, and small handmade idols. These localized deities would receive offerings from religious leaders through the use of Sami sieidialtars, which were placed among the forests and mountain sides which would be designated and restricted for certain deities. These altars were seen as the only means in which to confirm receptiveness of the offerings by the leaders.
Localized deities played a significant role in religiously themed Nordic poems and sagas. In the poem Austrfararvísur (c.1020), the Christian skald Sigvatr complains of not being able to get into to any of the farms around the area of Sweden where he visits because of the diligent celebration of a sacrifice in honor of the elves.
These localized deities also held the capacity of being a part of an intimate and personal relationship with the worshiper. It was very common for an individual to have their own personal guardian spirits who would receive personal offerings and relate to the individual's own dynamics.
Agrarian deities Edit
As agriculture developed in the Nordic communities so did the use of agricultural deities. As Norse life depended more and more on the factors that affected their crops, they began to dedicate more time to the deities that they believed had control over the weather, seasonal cycle, crops, and other agricultural aspects. Gods such as Freyr were portrayed as having control over the weather and being a commander of fertility amongst the crops.
"Freyr" (1901) byJohannes Gehrts, The god associated with sacral kingship, virility and prosperity, with sunshine and fair weather, and was pictured as a phallic fertility god.
Although anthropomorphic in many respects, what is unique about these gods is the enhanced aspects of sexuality, reproduction, and fertility. Not only do these gods have reign over the crops but they were also believed to have a profound effect on livestock, as they were often displayed with horns or animal fur.
A mainstay of Agrarian Deities is the use of magic for regeneration, which opens the door for other uses of magic. The Eddaic poem Voluspa portrays Vanir magic as a powerfully potent force used against the Æsir.
Similar to many other societies the Viking religions also took interest in the eventual resting place of the dead. The Norse held so much dedication that went into making sure that the dead were cared for properly so that they could enjoy their resting place after death.
Ghosts and burial Edit
The use of ghost lore (referred to as Draugr) in the sagas is characteristic of the Norse lore and is directly connected to proper burial practices. Stories and references can be found throughout various sagas including the Laxdæla saga,Eirik's saga, and the Eyrbyggja saga. Ghosts are portrayed as menacing physical presences that intend to injure the living and haunt them. The Laxdæla saga portrays how hauntings often take a menacing and ill hearted turn. These accounts of hauntings and menacing ghosts are often solved through proper burial practices. Burial customs are the primary explanation and solution of the problems faced by ghosts. In Eirik's Saga, Posteinn Eiriksson returns from death for a brief time to critique the handling of the dead.
Traces and influences of Norse paganism can still be found in the culture and traditions of the modern Nordic countries; Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland the Faroe Islands, the Åland Islands, and Greenland, as well as in other countries such as Germany, England, Canada and some parts of British North America and New Spain which were settled by migrants from Nordic nations.
According to tradition, the Saxons (and other tribes) first entered Britain en masse as part of an agreement to protect the Britons from the incursions of the Picts, Gaels and others. The story, as reported in such sources as the Historia Brittonum and Gildas, indicates that the British king Vortigern allowed the Germanic warlords, later named as Hengist and Horsa by Bede, to settle their people on the Isle of Thanet in exchange for their service as mercenaries. According to Bede, Hengist manipulated Vortigern into granting more land and allowing for more settlers to come in, paving the way for the Germanic settlement of Britain.
The known account from a native Briton who lived in the mid-5th century AD, Gildas, described events as a forced takeover by armed attack:
"For the fire...spread from sea to sea, fed by the hands of our foes in the east, and did not cease, until, destroying the neighbouring towns and lands, it reached the other side of the island, and dipped its red and savage tongue in the western ocean. In these assaults...all the columns were levelled with the ground by the frequent strokes of the battering-ram, all the husbandmen routed, together with their bishops, priests and people, whilst the sword gleamed, and the flames crackled around them on every side. Lamentable to behold, in the midst of the streets lay the tops of lofty towers, tumbled to the ground, stones of high walls, holy altars, fragments of human bodies, covered with livid clots of coagulated blood, looking as if they had been squeezed together in a press; and with no chance of being buried, save in the ruins of the houses, or in the ravening bellies of wild beasts and birds; with reverence be it spoken for their blessed souls, if, indeed, there were many found who were carried, at that time, into the high heaven by the holy angels... Some, therefore, of the miserable remnant, being taken in the mountains, were murdered in great numbers; others, constrained by famine, came and yielded themselves to be slaves for ever to their foes, running the risk of being instantly slain, which truly was the greatest favour that could be offered them: some others passed beyond the seas with loud lamentations instead of the voice of exhortation...Others, committing the safeguard of their lives, which were in continual jeopardy, to the mountains, precipices, thickly wooded forests and to the rocks of the seas (albeit with trembling hearts), remained still in their country."
"the old (that is, the continental) Saxons have no king, but they are governed by several ealdormen (or satrapa) who, during war, cast lots for leadership but who, in time of peace, are equal in power." The regnum Saxonum was divided into three provinces – Westphalia, Eastphalia and Angria – which comprised about one hundred pagi or Gaue. Each Gau had its own satrap with enough military power to level whole villages that opposed him. In Britain, "local and extended kin groups remained...the essential unit of production throughout the Anglo-Saxon period". "Local and extended kin groups" was a key aspect of British Saxon culture. Kinship fueled societal advantages, freedom and the relationships to an elite, that allowed the Saxons' culture and language to flourish.
The ties of loyalty to a lord, were to the person of a lord, not to his station; there was no real concept of patriotism or loyalty to a cause. This explains why dynasties waxed and waned so quickly, a kingdom was only as strong as its leader-king. There was no underlying administration or bureaucracy to maintain any gains beyond the lifetime of a leader. An example of this was the leadership Rædwald of East Anglia and how the East Anglian primacy did not survive his death. Kings could not, except in exceptional circumstances, make new laws. Their role instead was to uphold and clarify previous custom and to assure his subjects that he would uphold their ancient privileges, laws, and customs. Although the person of the king as a leader could be exalted, the office of kingship was not in any sense as powerful or as invested with authority as it was to become.
The ties of kinship meant that the relatives of a murdered person were obliged to exact vengeance for his or her death. This led to bloody and extensive feuds. As a way out of this deadly and futile custom the system of 'wergilds' was instituted. The 'wergild' set a monetary value on each person's life according to their wealth and social status. This value could also be used to set the fine payable if a person was injured or offended against. Robbing a thane called for a higher penalty than robbing a ceorl. On the other hand, a thane who thieved could pay a higher fine than a ceorl who did likewise. Men were willing to die for the lord and to support their 'comitatus'; their warrior band.
This emphasis on social standing affected all parts of the Saxon world. The courts, for example did not attempt to discover the facts in a case; instead, in any dispute it was up to each party to get as many people as possible to swear to the rightness of their case; "oath-swearing". The word of a thane counted for that of six ceorls. It was assumed that any person of good character would be able to find enough people to swear to his innocence that his case would prosper. Anglo-Saxon society was also decidedly patriarchal, but women were in some ways better off than they would be in later times. A woman could own property in her own right. She could and did rule a kingdom if her husband died. She could not be married without her consent and any personal goods, including lands, that she brought into a marriage remained her own property. If she were injured or abused in her marriage her relatives were expected to look after her interests.
Religion Paganism Edit
Saxon religious practices were closely related to their political practices. The annual councils of the entire tribe began with invocations of the gods. The procedure by which dukes were elected in wartime, by drawing lots, is presumed to have had religious significance, i. e. in giving trust to divine providence – it seems – to guide the random decision making. There were also sacred rituals and objects, such as the pillars called Irminsul; these were believed to connect heaven and earth, as with other examples of trees or ladders to heaven in numerous religions.
Early Saxon religious practices in Britain can be gleaned from place names and the Germanic calendar in use at that time. The Germanic gods Woden, Frigg, Tiw and Thunor, who are attested to in every Germanic tradition, were worshiped in Wessex, Sussex and Essex. They are the only ones directly attested to, though the names of the third and fourth months (March and April) of the Old English calendar bear the names Hrethmonath and Eosturmonath, meaning "month of Hretha" and "month of Ēostre." It is presumed that these are the names of two goddesses who were worshiped around that season.The Saxons offered cakes to their gods in February (Solmonath). There was a religious festival associated with the harvest, Halegmonath ("holy month" or "month of offerings", September). The Saxon calendar began on 25 December, and the months of December and January were called Yule (or Giuli). They contained a Modra niht or "night of the mothers", another religious festival of unknown content.