Essay on paganbeo Pagan Aspect of Beowulf

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The Pagan Aspect of Beowulf

In Beowulf the pagan aspect is revealed through many passages and many heathen rites or customs in which the form of expression or the thought suggests pagan usage or beliefs.

“The poet’s heroic age is full of men both ‘emphatically pagan and exceptionally good,’ men who believe in a God whom they thank at every imaginable opportunity. Yet they perform all the pagan rites known to Tacitua, and are not Christian” (Frank 52). Certainly the pagan element seems to be too deeply interwoven in the text for us to suppose that it is due to additions made by scribes at a time when the poem had come to be written down. The pagan element had to be included by the original poet. Another
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For example, Hel was at one time the goddess of the world of the dead; Catholic missionaries used Hell to indicate the place of the dead, later of the damned. Likewise with words such as Yule, Easter, God, haelend, nergend, drihten, metod, frea; the latter ones have fallen from usage. We see these words used in Beowulf as well as other Anglo-Saxon poetry.

The theology which appears in the poem is very vague and indefinete: there is no mention of Christ, the saints, miracles, Mary His Mother, specific doctrines of the church, martyrs of the church, the New Testament (there may be one possible brief exception), rites or ceremonies of the church, the cross or the Crucifixion, the Holy Ghost, angels, or Saviour. E. Talbot Donaldson says: “Yet there is no reference to the New Testament – to Christ and His Sacrifice which are the real bases of Christianity in any intelligible sense of the term.” (Bloom 1). So the poem Beowulf might seem to be basically non-Christian from this standpoint.

The customs and ceremonies encountered in the poem are almost entirely heathen/pagan (Chadwick 29): At the beginning of the poem, there is the account of the pagan funeral rites of Scyld Scefing, and at the close of the poem we see the heathen rites of burial for Beowulf himself, including cremation, deposition of treasures and armor, etc. with the corpse in the burial mound overlooking the sea. And the twelve princes riding around the hero’s barrow,

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