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. The epic describes creation by
saying that The Almighty (God) made and shaped the earth. The
explanation given matches that of the first book of the Bible,
Genesis. This belief is used to help introduce Grendel and where he
Christian belief is used when king Hrothgar s throne is described as
being protected by God. Royal possessions, and even royal members
themselves, were ordained, therefore pure, clean, and protected. Such
practices still exist today. However, only royalty and religious
figures are said to be ordained .
One last display
of a Christian belief is shown at the end of the tale, in which the
men are said to have praise to God for the souls of the fallen to be
able to make it to Heaven. Many Christians give praise and prayer to
God at their beloved s funeral to help in their healing and give
assurances that the souls of the dead will be safe and protected on
their journey to Heaven.
Not only are
Christian beliefs displayed in Beowulf, but also pagan practices are
used. A first of these is the ritual of sacrificing to the stone
gods, the making of heathen vows, hoping for Hell s support, and the
Devil s guidance in driving the warriors affliction off. This
affliction was Grendel. Such actions were resorted upon when none of
their prayers to God were seemingly answered.
A second pagan
exercise is done when Grendel attacks the first Geat, and drinks the
Geats blood from his veins, and then snaps his mouth shut, killing
the Geat. Pagan practices such as drinking of another s, or a victim
s blood, are believed to give the drinker all the unfortunate s
powers and knowledge. Even more, some believe this act gives the
drinker the victim s soul. Pagans believe this deadly beverage makes
them stronger, and in some cases godly.
One of the
biggest and final pagan beliefs is given at the end of the epic, when
Beowulf s body is burned. Pagans believe this burning releases the
spirit to travel on to the afterworld. Many believe this also helps
stop enemies from overtaking the body and spirit.
Christian and pagan beliefs are given in Beowulf, and many can be
interpreted as both Christian and pagan. Following both religions
back to their roots in history shows that most Christian beliefs have
pagan parents ; this meaning that those beliefs were adopted and
incorporated into Christian rituals. No one belief can be traced back
to its beginning and said to be strictly Christian or pagan. Many are
intermingled and left to be understood by the practitioner.
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