Syncretism in Anglo-Saxon Literature

January 23, 2019 by Essay Writer

Syncretism is the combination of elements from many different cultures to make something more extravagant (Loewen, J. W., 2017). Syncretism is be based off of religions, stories, poetry, and a lot more. Not only this, but syncretism is also used for ethnic and racial relations that derives in many cultures and societies that many Americans understood (Loewen, J. W., 2017). Syncretism is used a lot to connect with reality. As told, syncretism is one of those characteristics of any Old English poem that shows what it connects to in terms of religion or cultures. This Old English poem has a lot of syncretism that is connected to Christianity and paganism. Paganism in Old Greco-Roman is an operative antique of “culture wars” (Lincicum, D., 2009). This is where people can make up a god that may not necessarily be an actual god. There are stories where syncretism is placed, where some people cannot find them. Three examples of syncretism are mentioned as Cain’s clan that the Creator outlawed as outcasts for the killing of Abel (Seamus Heaney, 2000, lines 105-110), Beowulf is declared a lord that kills demons and dragons and is looked upon many civilians (Seamus Heaney, 2000, lines 2664-2668), and the time of Beowulf’s death and people were grateful for him to be able to help slain the enemy (Seamus Heaney, 2000, lines 2729-2751). These examples of syncretism were all found in Beowulf, one of the greatest and most complicated old English poetry ever written. This just shows how well it was put together to make Christianity and paganism show in one long poem. This is how epic poems came to be and showed the life of what reality could really be like.

In the first syncretism of Cain’s clam and outlawing them is a meaning towards banishing monsters (Seamus Heaney, 2000, lines 105-110). This justifies the complexity on what outlawing them really means. It shows syncretism because Cain killed his own brother, Abel, which had a cost: the curse of his exile will include ogres, elves, evil phantoms, and giants who decided to strive with God until he gave them a reward (Seamus Heaney, 2000, lines 110-114). This is very close to how Christianity is described and is shown in multiple times in Beowulf. In Beowulf, the demon, Grendel, a part of Cain’s clan, showed no mercy upon the humans who could not protect themselves. Grendel dies, but Beowulf won fairly. Grendel’s mother, who is also a part of Cain’s clan, wanted the revenge of her son’s death, but she also dies. This preference is mainly towards Christianity would be pretty close because of the Bible tale of Abel. In the story, Cain and Abel were brothers up until they had their first sibling rivalry; God had pitted them against each other, making sacrifices that Cain and Abel did not know about (Bazzett, M., 2017). As a result, Abel died in the hands of Cain. There really were not paganism terms in this syncretism, since most of it was about the siblings, Cain and Abel. Also, this shows how Cain came to terms with his punishment, his exile after killing his brother.

On the other hand, this syncretism is a little more complicated. Beowulf is known as a lord that kills demons and dragons and is looked up upon many townfolks (Seamus Heaney, 2000, lines 2664-2668). In this syncretism, many civilians of the towns heard of this legend and think of him as a god. This is more of paganism in this syncretism but can also have Christianity in Beowulf as well. Beowulf is described as an epic hero who has completed so much in his life span, slaying demons and dragons and coming across any evil. In the lines 2664-2668, these civilians describe how Beowulf is declared as their god and lord, who will save them from all sorts of evil. Mainly, paganism is shown in this syncretism because of the way people think of Beowulf. They thought of him as someone who will save them all from curses and evil. Not only this, but it also shows how Beowulf is a savior for killing those of evil. He shows that he is not a god, but he is just regular human being who is fair at fighting.

The third syncretism, the time of Beowulf’s death and people were grateful for him to be able to help slain the enemy (Seamus Heaney, 2000, lines 2729-2751) explains who Beowulf really is. He is not a god, but only savior that helps those in need from curses and evil. In lines 2730 to 2751, Beowulf speaks of what he would like for his funeral: even though he was a king and has done for many people, he wanted his suffering to end and wanted to have peace among himself, but also for his kinsmen (Seamus Heaney, 2000). In a way, this displays a little bit of what Christianity is. He sacrificed everything that he had, and he even wanted people to treasure that as him being a hero. And although he had died in the arms of his kinsmen, many people continued to think of him as a hero, a lord, and a god.

In a way, syncretism is really a reality where the world exists in itself. Although Beowulf was a long poem and displays what reality can really mean to people, it showed morality of how people can act. Even with all of the syncretism inside stories, poetry, and lyrics, it is actually so much more than what we really know. There is also paganism. This is shown throughout Beowulf because of how the people would call him “god: or “lord” when he really is not. So in other words, paganism is used daily in reality. He really is only an epic hero, who wanted his own riches, but to help the other people as well. Beowulf was one who would defeat the darkness, the evil, from the cities and towns; this letting the townsfolk call him god” or “lord”.

Works Cited

Bazzett, M. (2017). Cain and Abel, Revisited. The American Poetry Review, (4), 41. Retrieved January 22, 2019 from https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true &db=edsglr&AN=edsgcl.497611322&site=eds-live&scope=site

Lincicum, D. (2009). The Interpretation of the Old Testament in Greco-Roman Paganism. Review of Biblical Literature, 11, 285–287. Retrieved from https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true &db=lfh&AN=45705898&site=eds-live&scope=site

Loewen, J. W. (2017). Syncretism. Salem Press Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true &db=ers&AN=96397704&site=eds-live&scope=site

Seamus Heaney. (2000). Beowulf. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Ninth Edition. Received January 22, 2019 from https://digital.wwnorton.com/1882/r/goto/cfi/34!/4

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