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Essay/Term paper: Anglo-saxon belief in fate and christianity

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Religion

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The Unity of the Unknown and the Eternal Security: The Anglo-Saxon Belief
in Christianity and Fate Imagine a life in which one is simply a pawn at the
hands of a mysterious higher force stumbling and meandering through life's
tribulations. Until Pope Gregory the Great was sent to spread Christianity
throughout England, the Anglo- Saxons believed solely in this passive,
victimizing philosophy. These pagans still clung to much of their heathen
culture after the wave of Christianity swept through England leaving no one
behind. Literature derived from this period (including Beowulf, "The Seafarer,"
and "The Wanderer") directly reflects the maintaining of Christian ideals, as
well as the belief in fate's unknown and often grim path. For example, the epic
poem, Beowulf , declares, "...Fate will unwind as it must!" (line 284).
Meanwhile, the same work implies God has the authority in this great world
by stating, "And all his glorious band of Geats/Thanked God their leader had
come back unharmed," (598-599) as if God was the deciding factor in the
great protector's health. The joining convincedness in God and fate influences
the culture, outlook on life, and the various independent life paths of Anglo-
Saxons. These early Germanic people believe "fate"- an anonymous power -
controls the present, future and past; yet, they also believe the power of God
is a resolute supremecy not to be denounced. Our earliest warriors put aside
their heroic independence and let wyrd's foreign agency control their views
and their lives' paths time and time again. These pagans even allow destiny to
influence their view of life which was fatalistic and desolate. "The Wanderer"
proves the Anglo-Saxons had little to live for and much to fear as it tells the
tale of an anonymous man stripped from his gold-lord. This literary work
illustrates stoic solitude and grim hopelessness by using phrases like, "...what a
bitter companion/Shoulder to shoulder sorrow can be,"(lines 26-27) and
"Wretchedness fills the realm of earth," (98). Along with their outlook on life
as a whole, fate controls the pagans decisions and lack there of. "The
Seafarer" shows an example of the Anglo-Saxons submissive role by voicing
the story of a sailor suffering through hardships because he was meant to be a
sailor and is drawn to the familiar sea. The sailor explains his painful lifestyle
by stating, "...my soul/Called me eagerly out..." (lines 36-37) implying this
harrowing lifestlye is not a conscious choice, but more of an obligation to
something other than his mind and heart. Even the bravest warrior fell victim to
this unsafe and unpredictable fortress. Beowulf, who is "...-greater/And
stronger than anyone anywhere in this world, " (110-111), explained on his
deathbed that "Fate has swept our race away,/Taken warriors in their strength
and led them/to the death that was waiting. And now I follow them."
(834-836). The destiny pagans face is often sorrowful, beguiling and unfair.
While Anglo-Saxons' lives are consistently at the mercy of destiny, they are
still very influenced by their value of Christian ideals. Although these pagans
believe fate is a force beyond their control deciding life's every turn, they also
believe loving, honoring and obeying God will result in salvation and eternal
happiness. These seemingly 'new' joys of God intrude their views on death,
peace, humility, warfare and life in general. Christianity eases the vicious
warriors' conduct and morale. Religious civility plays a key role in the
softening and decrease of battles. "The Seafarer" reflects the Anglo-Saxon
belief that depending on one's religious actions, heaven is one's reward and
death one's punishment: "Death leaps at the fools who forget their God./He
who lives humbly has angels from Heaven/To carry him courage and strength
and belief." (106-109). "The Wanderer" proves death was once thought of as
a grim and dark ending: "All this earth ages and droops unto death." (57),
while "The Seafarer" conveys that death also became a hope of angelic grace:
"...strewing his coffin/With treasures intended for Heaven..." ( 97-98). Both
fate and Christianity influence the Anglo-Saxon culture, and their forces form a
hybrid of uncertainty and assurance: "Thus the joys of God/ Are fervent with
life, where life itself/ Fades quickly into the earth."(64-66). The Anglo-Saxon
belief in God and fate influence their culture, outlook on life, and their own
independent life paths. It is possible these sometimes contradictory ideals
Pagans hold so sacred are symbols of human beings timeless desire to
separate one's own behavior and the events of one's life. Fate is a disinclined
method of rationalizing why things happen as they do, and a means of blaming
occurances on an unrenowned supremacy. Possibly, the Anglo-Saxons hold
Christianity with such high repute because it is the orthodox set of morals that
these barbaric war-lords and lost souls need in their lifestyle and culture.
Christianity offers an incentive to those who believe and honor the Lord- a
seemingly simple exchange of faith and praise for eternal joy and Heaven. The
unity of fate and Christianity results in an explaination for usually baffling and
sometimes unfair events, as well as an eternal promise and protection from
God . Perhaps one should not invest in a fate that simply happens regardless
of how one acts, but invest in one's actions regardless of how a fate simply
happens.  

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