Drawings of Anglo-Saxons


Drawings of objects

Anglo-Saxon Beliefs

What did the Anglo-Saxons believe in?

click on these questions to see find out more

Drawing of urn, bucket and toilet sets

What did the early Anglo-Saxons believe in?

The early Anglo-Saxons were pagans and worshiped many gods. We know some of the names of the gods they worshipped, such as, Woden (the chief god, known as Oden to the Vikings), Tiw, Thunor (known as Thor to the Vikings), Frigg and Eostre (a spring goddess that gave her name to Easter).

When people died they were either

  • cremated and placed in an urn with some of their possessions and then buried in the ground,
  • or the whole body was buried with some of their possessions.
Archaeologists sometimes find both types of burial in the same cemetery - just like today. So people who lived in the same area could prefer different types of burial and have different beliefs - again like today.

Brooch drawn by Lydia age 8

Drawning by Lydia age 8

People were buried with some of their possessions because the Anglo-Saxons appear to have believed they would need them in the afterlife.

We do not know much about what gods the Anglo-Saxons believed in and how they worshiped them since they left no written records. However the decoration on objects, like brooches, can give us some clues. Certain animals, like the boar and raven, were important and appear as decoration on objects.

The pagan Anglo-Saxons believed in some of the same gods as the Vikings. This is another way we know about Anglo-Saxon gods, since some Viking myths were written down. (Find out more about Viking gods)

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When did the Anglo-Saxons become christians?

When the Romans left, just after AD400, there were still some christians in Britain, but when the Anglo-Saxons arrived most people appear to have become pagans. Archaeologists can tell this from the types of burials, since pagans buried people with their possessions but christians did not.

The christian church in Rome sent a monk called Augustine to England in AD597 to convert the Anglo-Saxons to christianity. He arrived in Kent and persuaded the King of Kent to become a christian. Augustine then built a church at Canterbury.

At the same time, in the north of Britiain, christian monks arrived from Ireland and converted the Picts in Scotland and the Anglo-Saxons in Northumbria.

Graduallly more and more Anglo-Saxons became christians until christianity replaced paganism altogether. From the burials, archaeologists know this happened during the seventh and eighth centuries (AD650-AD750).

The christians built churches and founded monasteries all over the country. There are few early Anglo-Saxon churches which are still standing today.

Are there any Anglo-Saxon churches where you live?

Find out more about Anglo-Saxon churches

Ixworth Cross drawn Israel age 10

Drawing by Israel age 10

Holderness Cross drawn by Louis age 8

Drawing by Louis age 8

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