• Imagining History

The Anglo-Saxon Pagan Gods - A Handy Guide for Kids

Updated: Nov 16

Before they became Christians, the Anglo-Saxons worshipped a variety of pagan gods. Each god was responsible for doing different things, for example: bringing victory in battle, protecting mothers or helping crops grow big and strong.


To encourage a god to do this, the Saxons would have to worship them in the correct way. These gods were a grumpy bunch and it was often difficult to impress them - sometimes the only way to their hearts was by sacrificing (killing) lots and lots of animals or by offering them mountains of gifts.





So, who were these gods? Here's an introduction to the top four.


Woden


Woden was the king of the gods. He's a German version of the Viking god Odin. The Anglo-Saxons worshipped a Germanic god because that's where they used to live before coming to England.


Woden was a shapeshifter - so he could transform into the form of any animal. Yes, even a penguin. Though Woden never did transform into a penguin, because penguins are far too cute and cuddly for a mean and angry sky god.


Woden was very wise and had magical powers over both life and death. He had two pet wolves and rode a horse with eight legs - buying new horse shoes for this animal would have cost a fortune!


A day of the week was named after him - Wodensday. Or, as we call it today, Wednesday.



Thunor


Everyone who loves Marvel knows about Thunor - or, to call him by his more well-known name, Thor.


Thunor was the god of weather. So, if you're were going on a long voyage you'd best hope Thunor would be in a good mood, otherwise he might send lighting and thunder to ruin your day!


Thunor was also a god of blacksmiths. Anglo-Saxons believed that the sound of thunder was made by Thunor using his incredible strength to strike his hammer against his anvil.


Thunor was probably the most famous of all the gods - archaeologists have found loads of pendants devoted to him in Anglo-Saxon graves.


In fact, he was so popular that Thursday was named after him!



Frige


Frige was not the god of chilling food. That's a fridge and something entirely different - though my stomach is known for worshipping at the fridge door when I'm really hungry.


Frige was responsible for loads of different things, love, marriage, home, and children. She was worshipped a lot. Anglo-Saxons offered her many gifts, as it was believed she would help them grow a healthy harvest.


We still talk about Frige today, as Friday is Frige's day.



Tiw


Every culture has one - a god of War. Tiw is the god of war for the Saxons. If you want to win a battle, Tiw is the fella you'd best offer some sacrifices to.


He was a formidable warrior and considered the greatest fighter of all the gods. Why? That's because he had the skills to beat anyone in a fight, despite having only one hand. His other hand was bitten off by a giant wolf called Fenris.


Can you guess what day of the week was named after Tiw? That's right, Tuesday!



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