In Beowulf, what specifically pagan practices are described?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is a very clear reference to pagan beliefs and activity that comes in the author's description of the heathen Anglo-Saxons as they encounter difficult times from which they struggle to see any escape. Note the following reference:

Sometimes at pagan shrines they vowed
offerings to idols, swore oaths
that the killer of souls might come to their aid
and save the people. That was their way,
their heathenish hope; deep in their hearts
they remembered hell.

The author thus describes how they used "pagan shrines" and worshipped idols and swore oaths to "the killer of souls," who can be assumed to be Satan. It is interesting that the author seems to feel the need to apologise for this activity and behaviour. He goes on to explain it away in terms of being the way that these people coped with situations of difficulty, as they only had "heathenish hope" to cling on to because of their lack of knowledge about Christianity. Pagan activity in this text therefore seems to centre on idol worship and the use of pagan shrines. This of course does raise the interesting relationship between the Christian context of the author and the pagain background of the Anglo-Saxons, which does seem to create some conflict in this case.