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Heathen Gods in Old English Literature
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  • Page extent: 392 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.72 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 829/.0938291211
  • Dewey version: 21
  • LC Classification: PR179.G63 N67 1997
  • LC Subject headings:
    • English literature--Old English, ca. 450-1100--History and criticism
    • Gods in literature
    • Civilization, Anglo-Saxon, in literature
    • Paganism--England--History
    • Religion and literature--England--History--To 1500

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521551830 | ISBN-10: 0521551838)

Heathen gods are hard to find in Old English literature. Most Anglo-Saxon writers had no interest in them, and scholars today prefer to concentrate on the Christian civilization for which the Anglo-Saxons were so famous. Richard North offers an interesting view of Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian paganism and mythology in the pre-Viking and Viking age. He discusses the pre-Christian gods of Bede's history of the Anglo-Saxon conversion with reference to an orgiastic figure known as Ingui, whom Bede called 'god of this age'. Using expert knowledge of comparative literary material from Old Norse-Icelandic and other Old Germanic languages, North reconstructs the slender Old English evidence in a highly imaginative treatment of poems such as Deor and The Dream of the Rood. Other gods such as Woden are considered with reference to Odin and his family in Old Norse-Icelandic mythology. In conclusion, it is argued that the cult of Ingui was defeated only when the ideology of the god Woden was sponsored by the Anglo-Saxon church. The book will interest students interested in Old English, Old Norse-Icelandic and Germanic literatures, Anglo-Saxon history and archaeology.

• Offers different interpretations of well-known Old English poems • Links with Germanic and Scandinavian literatures • Revision of the prevailing view of Woden as the leading Anglo-Saxon god


Preface; List of abbreviations; 1. Nerthus and Terra Mater: Anglian religion in the first century; 2. Ingui of Bernicia; 3. Ingui's cult remembered: Ing and the ingefolc; 4. Woden's witchcraft; 5. 'Uoden de cuius stirpe': the role of Woden in royal genealogy; 6. Aspects of Ingui: -geot and Geat; 7. The cult of Ingui in Beowulf; 8. Ingui's marriage: natural phenomena; 9. Ingui's death: the world-tree sacrifice; 10. Paulinus and the stultus error: the Anglo-Saxon conversion; Bibliography; Index.


'… Richard North has produced an ambitious, learned, and timely contribution to a field understandably neglected …' Medium Ævum

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