4 Important Anglo-Saxon Gods

Craig Bessell

Middle Ages
HISTORYHIT.TV A new online only channel for history lovers

The gods of the Anglo-Saxons are still with us today. We still worship Frige, the mother of the gods and goddess of love, because her day means the start of the weekend. Three other days of the week are also named after some of the most important Anglo-Saxon Gods.

Their gods were similar in many respects to the more recognisable Norse gods – made popular by fiction, in novels and on screen.

In the past few months more than a billion people have been forced to rise to an extraordinary challenge. But it is important to remember that humans have experienced pandemics before. In this documentary Dan Snow explores some of these previous pandemics and what they can teach us about Covid-19.Watch Now

1. Woden

The chief of the Anglo-Saxon gods was the All-Father, Woden. As with many of the male Anglo-Saxon gods Woden was often associated with war.

Anglo-Saxon warriors would offer tribute to him before battle to gain his protection on the field and his favour to strengthen their arms and guide their spears. The spear was Woden’s sacred weapon and he is often depicted wielding it.

Odin the Wanderer by Georg von Rosen (1886).

Woden was not only a god of war, but also a god of wisdom. The Anglo-Saxons believed that the ancient runes – the system their writing was based upon – were invented and passed to man by Woden. The day named after him is, of course, Wednesday, or as it was once known, Woden’s day. Woden’s counterpart in Norse mythology is Odin.

2. Frige

Woden’s wife was the goddess of love, Frige (or Frigg in Norse). She was the god of all things the Anglo-Saxons attributed to love, marriage, home and children. The Anglo-Saxons also offered her tribute to aid the harvest and she is often attributed as the mother of the earth. Her day is Friday: Frige’s day.

A 19th century depiction of Frige and her husband by Danish artist Lorenz Frølich.

3. Thunor

A painting of the Norse god Thor by Emil Doepler.

Frige was not only the mother of the earth, but also of gods. Her most famous and widely worshipped child was Thunor, the Norse god Thor. Thunor was the god of the weather, particularly thunder and lightning. He was also god of the forge, and so was especially important to blacksmiths.

The Anglo-Saxons believed that the sound of thunder was Thunor striking his hammer on his mighty anvil; lightning, meanwhile, was the spark created by the strike. Archaeologists know that Thunor was one of the most popular gods as pendants showing his symbol, the hammer, have been found in many Anglo-Saxon graves.

This may have been because the Anglo-Saxons perceived Thunor as one of the most powerful of all of the gods due to his association with the elements: the most powerful force of nature with which many were aware of. Thunor’s day was the fourth of the week, Thursday.

Historian Luke Pepera looks at how and why the history of Africa was written out of world history. He also explores how and why, as a consequence of this, the history of Africans in Britain was written out of British history.Watch Now

4. Tiw

Tuesday was Tiw’s day. The god Tiw (the Norse Tyr) was another deity of chief importance to the Anglo-Saxons as he was the god of war, swordplay and the sky. Even though the Anglo-Saxons appealed to both Thunor and Woden in matters of warfare, Tiw was the official god of war. He was also reputedly the most skilled in combat of all of the gods – despite having only one hand.

Tiw or Tyr the one handed war god stands over a slain enemy.

He was revered for this fact as he sacrificed his sword hand to the monstrous wolf, Fenris, who prophecy said would one day slay Woden. Tiw did so to protect the All-Father.

The dwarves had made a special invisible chain to hold the beast so that they may stop the prophecy, but the wolf wouldn’t let anyone near unless one of the gods put their hand in his mouth. Tiw selflessly volunteered and Fenris was successfully chained, but in his fury he bit off the god’s sword hand.

Because of this heroic act, and the fact that Tiw was just as skilled with his left hand as he was with his right, Anglo-Saxon warriors widely revered him.

Craig Bessell