Pagan and Christian Rituals in Beowulf

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Pagan and Christian Rituals in Beowulf

Beowulf was written in a time when Christianity was a newly budding

religion in England. Throughout the book there are obvious references to both

Christian and Pagan rituals. The characters in the epic are newly found

Christians who are trying to remain true to their new faith but are weak and

hence, in times of great trouble, they resort back to their Pagan traditions and

gods out of fear. Pagan rituals in the book are usually present only as

reflections of the past or in times of the characters's greatest turmoil.

Otherwise, in times of happiness and rejoicing, they worship their one, almighty,

Christian God.

When Grendel is attacking Herot, and its people think they are in their

greatest danger, the people of Herot "sacrificed to the old stone gods / Made

heathen vows / hoping for Hell's Support, the Devil's guidance in driving their

affliction off." (175-178). With the use of the word "old" in this section, it

can be inferred that the stone gods are things of the past. The rest of the

passage shows that it was because of the doubt and fear, instilled in the people

by Grendel, that the people of Herot regressed back to their old gods. The use

of the word "heathen" shows that the soldiers were already Christian and

reverted back to their old ways.

Soon after this statement, the poem reads:

Beware, those who are thrust into danger,

Clutched at by trouble, yet can carry no solace

In their hearts, cannot hope to be better! Hail

To those who will rise to God, drop off

Their dead bodies and seek our Father's peace!

This says that the people whose fear consumes them to the point that

they lose faith that, after death, their souls will not be granted eternal peace

by the Father, God. This illustrates that the soldiers who have fallen from

faith in their worship are doing so only because of great fear, but that they

are looked down upon by God and good Christians. It says that only those who

will sacrifice themselves and trust in God will be let into Heaven. These
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