Are there any pagan elements in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight?

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One of the most fascinating elements of this story is its blend of pagan and Christian elements. In some ways, it could be seen as the pagan world taking on its Christian successors, putting its values to the test. Gawain is a Christian figure, going out into the world in the hopes of being a true paragon of chivalry, but the Green Knight is there to see if his actions measure up to his values.

The Green Knight is himself a pagan figure. He is associated with the natural world which still runs free and mysterious outside of King Arthur's Christian court. He is an alluring yet dangerous figure to the knights and ladies of the Arthurian world. His beheading game deals with pagan imagery related to the concepts of death and rebirth, separated from a Christian note of dying to the self and rising again in Christ.

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Although Sir Gawain and there Green Knight possesses very obvious Christian elements (Gawain's shield and his desire to pray/worship), the text contains multiple hidden pagan elements as well.

Many different aspects of Paganism are tied to the waiting period of a year and a day (the time period for which Gawain must meet the Green Knight to receive his own blow). Historically, one must wait for a year and a day in Wiccan religions to move upward in initiation rites and name changes. Also, feudal laws named slaves freed if the were able to stay away from their master for a year and a day. Also, a year and a day is considered the perfect amount of time in regards to magic and magical events.

The Beheading Game (or Ba') is pagan in nature. For Pagans, Ba' represented both death and rebirth. In regards to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, this game helps to insure Gawain's death as one who feels secondary to his rebirth as a hero.

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