The earliest physical evidence for a Germanic presence in Britain is found in 1st century AD inscriptions from the area of Hadrian’s Wall. From at least that time until the conversion of the Anglo-Saxon kings in the late 600s Britain had a heathen Germanic culture. The beliefs and superstitions that were part of that broad culture varied from place to place and from time to time but most sprang from a common origin.
After a presence of six centuries a new wave of heathens arrived in Britain. Scandinavians brought with them beliefs, attitudes and a world view that were much like those promoted by Anglo-Saxon heathenry. Although their outlooks shared the same roots and were very similar, they had evolved differently. This Scandinavian addition extended the heathen period to almost a thousand years during which heathen beliefs developed in line with social and ideological change, which included competition with Christianity. The latter had the great advantage of being promoted by a powerful centralised organisation which heathens did not have.
The purpose of the work is to bring together a range of evidence for pre-Christian beliefs and attitudes to the Otherworld drawn from archaeology, linguistics, literary studies and comparative mythology. The English tradition was rich and varied, and influenced the worldview of the later mediaeval and Norse societies. Aspects of this tradition are with us still in the 21st century.
Stephen Pollington has been writing books on Anglo-Saxon England for two decades. His many published titles include works on the Old English language, military culture, healing and herblore, runes and feasting in the ‘meadhall’.
The earliest physical evidence for a Germanic presence in Britain is found in 1st century AD inscriptions from the area of Hadrian’s Wall. From at least that time until the conversion of the Anglo-Saxon kings in the late 600s Britain had a heathen Germanic culture.