inhabitants, they do actually resemble a hammer in
shape. But Woden, the special god of the Teutonic
race, had practically usurped the highest place in
their mythology: he is represented as the leader
of the Germans in their exodus from Asia to north-western
Europe, and since all the pedigrees of their chieftains
were traced back to Woden, it is not improbable that
he may have been really a deified ancestor of the
principal Germanic families. The popular creed,
however, was mainly one of lesser gods, such as elves,
ogres, giants, and monsters, inhabitants of the mark
and fen, stories of whom still survive in English villages
as folk-lore or fairy tales. A few legends of
the pagan time are preserved for us in Christian books.
is rich in allusions to these ancient
superstitions. If we may build upon the slender
materials which alone are available, it would seem
that the dead chieftains were buried in barrows, and
ghost-worship was practised at their tombs. The
temples were mere stockades of wood, with rude blocks
or monoliths to represent deities and altars.
Probably their few rites consisted merely of human
or other sacrifices to the gods or the ghosts of departed
chiefs. There was a regular priesthood of the
great gods, but each man was priest for his own household.
As in most other heathen communities, the real worship
of the people was mainly directed to the special family
deities of every hearth. The great gods were appealed
to by the chieftains and by the race in battle:
but the household gods or deified ancestors received
the chief homage of the churls by their own firesides.
Thus the Anglo-Saxons, before the great exodus from
Denmark and North Germany, appear as a race of fierce,
cruel, and barbaric pagans, delighting in the sea,
in slaughter, and in drink. They dwelt in little
isolated communities, bound together internally by
ties of blood, and uniting occasionally with others
only for purposes of rapine. They lived a life
which mainly alternated between grazing, piratical
seafaring, and cattle-lifting; always on the war-trail
against the possessions of others, when they were
not specially engaged in taking care of their own.
Every record and every indication shows them to us
as fiercer heathen prototypes of the Scotch clans
in the most lawless days of the Highlands. Incapable
of union for any peaceful purpose at home, they learned
their earliest lesson of subordination in their piratical
attacks upon the civilised Christian community of Roman
Britain. We first meet with them in history in
the character of destroyers and sea-robbers.
Yet they possessed already in their wild marshy home
the germs of those free institutions which have made
the history of England unique amongst the nations
THE ENGLISH SETTLE IN BRITAIN.