In the heroic epic Beowulf, there are various examples of religious beliefs, both Christian and pagan. These examples play a major role in the tale, and include things such as God's love (Christian) and making sacrifices to several gods (pagan). Explanations of these beliefs are necessary to understand this epic and here six of these beliefs will be discussed, three Christian and three pagan. One of the many Christian beliefs is expressed at the beginning of the tale, when the creation of the earth is explained.
The epic describes creation by saying that The Almighty (God) made and shaped the earth. The explanation given matches that of the first book of the Bible, Genesis. This belief is used to help introduce Grendel and where he came from. Another Christian belief is used when king Hrothgar's throne is described as being protected by God. Royal possessions, and even royal members themselves, were ordained, therefore pure, clean, and protected. Such practices still exist today.
However, only royalty and religious figures are said to be "ordained." One last display of a Christian belief is shown at the end of the tale, in which the men are said to have praise to God for the souls of the fallen to be able to make it to Heaven. Many Christians give praise and prayer to God at their beloved's funeral to help in their healing and give assurances that the souls of the dead will be safe and protected on their journey to Heaven. Not only are Christian beliefs displayed in Beowulf, but also pagan practices are used. A first of these is the ritual of sacrificing to the stone gods, the making of heathen vows, hoping for Hell's support, and the Devil's guidance in driving the warriors' affliction off. This affliction was Grendel.
Such actions were resorted upon when none of their prayers to God were seemingly answered. A second pagan exercise is done when Grendel attacks the first Geat, and drinks the Geats' blood from his veins, and then snaps his mouth shut, killing the Geat. Pagan practices such as drinking of another's, or a victim's blood, are believed to give the drinker all the unfortunate's powers and knowledge. Even more, some believe this act gives the drinker the victim's soul. Pagans believe this deadly beverage makes them stronger, and in some cases godly. One of the biggest and final pagan beliefs is given at the end of the epic, when Beowulf's body is burned.
Pagans believe this burning releases the spirit to travel on to the afterworld. Many believe this also helps stop enemies from overtaking the body and spirit. Numerous Christian and pagan beliefs are given in Beowulf, and many can be interpreted as both Christian and pagan. Following both religions back to their roots in history shows that most Christian beliefs have pagan "parents"; this meaning that those beliefs were adopted and incorporated into Christian rituals.
No one belief can be traced back to its beginning and said to be strictly Christian or pagan. Many are intermingled and left to be understood by the practitioner.