Pagan and Christian Rituals in Beowulf

Pagan and Christian Rituals in Beowulf

Length: 922 words (2.6 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
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

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Pagan and Christian Rituals in Beowulf." 18 Jan 2019

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Pagan Burial Rites in the Epic of Beowulf Essay

- Pagan Burial Rites in the Epic of Beowulf Scores of essays are written about the Christian influence on the Beowulf poet. Most notable Beowulf scholars such as Kl‘ber, Robinson and Whitelock do not fail to address the matter. Given the complexity of the issue and the proliferation of evidence within the poem, we can understand the universal appeal of this topic. The poet transposes his Christian convictions onto a story which formed in a culture devoid of Christianity. In many instances, however, the poem's pagan basis shines through....   [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essay]

Research Papers
1715 words (4.9 pages)

Essay on the medieval The Chivalrous Epic Beowulf

- INTRODUCTION This proposition manages the Anglo-Saxon custom practice as portrayed in the medieval chivalrous epic Beowulf. The practices are examined in association with the Anglo-Saxon culture,religion and conventions. The ceremonies of a social order are impacted by the religion since religious convictions of the Anglo-Saxons were quite conflicting, the customs differed consistent with time and put, and frequently there were different ceremonies honed at one spot in one time. It investigates how the pagan practices are supported by archaeological or scholarly confirmation and how they were impacted by the Christian author....   [tags: burial rituals, inhumation]

Research Papers
986 words (2.8 pages)

Essay on Epic of Beowulf

- Beowulf Beowulf is the main character in the poem, Beowulf. He is a member of the Geat tribe, a follower of Higylac, and the son of Edgtheo. In the poem, the author attempts to reconcile the human and the heroic sides of his personality. Beowulf's deeds and actions toward others reflect his heroic personality. He is described as "…greater/And stronger than anyone anywhere in this world," although there is no information as to how he has received this reputation. We learn about the main character more through the eyes of the Danish soldier patrolling the cliffs....   [tags: Poem Poet Beowulf Essays]

Research Papers
895 words (2.6 pages)

Beowulf Essay

- In the heroic epic Beowulf, there are various examples of religious beliefs, both Christian and pagan. These examples play a major role in the tale, and include things such as God’s love (Christian) and making sacrifices to several gods (pagan). Explanations of these beliefs are necessary to understand this epic and here six of these beliefs will be discussed, three Christian and three pagan. One of the many Christian beliefs is expressed at the beginning of the tale, when the creation of the earth is explained....   [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essays]

Free Essays
515 words (1.5 pages)

Beowulf : Salvation Vs. Temptation Essay

- Beowulf: Salvation vs. Temptation Although proper credit cannot be given to an unknown author, the extraordinary poem, Beowulf, does give proper credit to the typical binary hero system. Beowulf illustrates an impossibly perfect hero, Beowulf, with only the best of intentions who takes on not only the destructive Grendel, but Grendel’s vengeful mother as well only to end in his own impressive demise. Two thematic elements are discussed in Beowulf: that it is altogether improper to fall to the temptation of the devil and that one can survive solely under the protection of God who sends all earthly gifts and blessings....   [tags: God, Religion, Devil, Christianity]

Research Papers
1226 words (3.5 pages)

Essay about Good vs. Evil in "Beowulf"

- In the epic poem Beowulf, the struggle between good and evil reveals its omnipresence in even the oldest of tales. The many allusions and symbols throughout the story relate to Christianity and other Pagan beliefs. By looking at them, it becomes apparent that the author of Beowulf believed that the constant war between good and evil is not only fought by the common man but also in the ranks of their highest esteemed rulers and warriors, and even in their dreaded nightmares where monsters lurk and wait for the death of man....   [tags: Epic Poems, Grendel, Anglo-Saxon]

Research Papers
924 words (2.6 pages)

Essay on Mix of Pagan and Christian Ideas in Beowulf

- The Mix of Pagan and Christian Ideas in Beowulf Beowulf was written in England around 1000 AD. "This provides us with an idea of a poem that was written during a time when the society had converted from paganism to christianity"(Cohen 138). "We know that paganism did exist alongside Christianity during the approximate era that Beowulf was composed"(Hall 61). "The Christian influences were combined with early folklore and heroic legends of dramatic tribes, early Beowulf scholars began to investigate whether or not Christian and biblical influences were added later to originally pagan influences"(Hall 61)....   [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essay]

Free Essays
1651 words (4.7 pages)

Beowulf - Pagan or Christian Epic? Essay

- Beowulf Pagan or Christian Epic Beowulf: Pagan or Christian Epic. Although the story of Beowulf is filled with references to religion and faith, many discrepancies occur throughout the story that suggest that Beowulf is not a Christian epic. The character of Beowulf frequently speaks to God and obviously believes in His existence. However, pagan practices are mentioned in several places. Beowulf often refers to another being rather than the Christian God. Pagan practices of cremation and blood-drinking are included in the epic....   [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essays]

Research Papers
1060 words (3 pages)

Christian And Pagan Ideals In Beowulf Essay

- Before the invention of the printing press or written history, oral history, especially in early Germanic culture, became the foremost means of transcribing values, and past events. Written down in approximately 1,000 A.D. by an unknown author, Beowulf, originally a pagan fable, became a Christian allegory upon its transcription by Christian monks. However, as scholars have debated over the religious context in Beowulf, the attempts by the monks to turn the epic poem into a Christian parable ended merged, including both original and Christian aspects....   [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essays]

Research Papers
1328 words (3.8 pages)

Pagan and Christian Elements in Beowulf Essay

- Pagan and Christian Elements in Beowulf                 The praised epic poem, Beowulf, is the first great heroic poem in English literature. The epic follows a courageous warrior named Beowulf throughout his young, adult life and into his old age. As a young man, Beowulf becomes a legendary hero when he saves the land of the Danes from the hellish creatures, Grendel and his mother. Later, after fifty years pass, Beowulf is an old man and a great king of the Geats. A monstrous dragon soon invades his peaceful kingdom and he defends his people courageously, dying in the process....   [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essay]

Research Papers
2163 words (6.2 pages)

Related Searches

soldiers know this but are too scared to keep faith.


      During the telling of the origins of Grendel, there is mention that

Grendel is a product of Cain, a Christian character.  This is a way that the

characters of the book justify their belief in monsters.  If they can say that

the monster comes from a biblical character, then they can't hold themselves as

blasphemers for believing in the Pagan idea of monsters.  The characters are

both scared of the monster that is taking their lives and of what will happen if

they show a lack of faith, as is shown in the above quote.


      This fearful rationalization is made again when Beowulf is bragging

about all his victories and stops to say that he is not boastful but that he is

truthful.  Having too much pride had been the downfall of many Biblical

characters and is the first deadly sin in Christianity.  Beowulf proceeds to

tell his story but only after he has put on a facade of humility, demonstrating

that, at heart, he certainly isn't an orthodox Christian but only needs to

appear to be one.


      In the reflections of Shild's burial at sea which was reminiscent of a

Norse ceremony, in which they sent their great warriors across the River Stix to

Valhalla, we see the obvious Pagan tradition.  At the end of the book, Beowulf

is cremated which is far from a proper Christian burial. It is also said that

the smoke from the fire is swallowed up by the Heavens which is very similar to

the Egyptian idea that the light which hits the top of a pyramid carries the

spirit into the afterlife. Both events were times of great sadness where one

might question one's faith.  In fact, throughout the story, all but Shild's

death ceremonies are conducted by cremation, a non-Christian burial. Indeed in

times of question the people of Beowulf's England were not the devout Christians

they would have liked to be.  From the beginning of the novel to the end, there

is this ever present return to the old Pagan ways.  There is little transition

because even after the monsters are defeated  there is still the greatest fear

of all in death.  It shows that it will take time for these people to fully

accept their new faith and they are fragile.


      However, when making glorious speeches and trying to impress one another,

the Christian beliefs are expressed.  When the story tells of the times before

Herot fell to Grendel, one of the images used to paint them as a beautiful time

in history is the poets of Herot singing the Creation Song.  When more closely

examined, the song is very similar, if not the same as, the Christian myth of



      Throughout the entire poem there are numerous examples of both Pagan and

Christian rituals.  The people of the times were Christians.  As is seen when

the threat of Grendel is looming, when Beowulf is bragging about his

accomplishments, and when Beowulf is dead, these people are weak and susceptible

to the ideals that other religions offer them.  All the examples can be used to

focus on the conclusion that, in this text, the Christians are weak and often

revert back to their Pagan ways when they are most frightened.

Work Cited

Heaney, Seamus, trans. Beowulf . New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2000.
Return to