Lydia BizzellENG 201
19 October 2018
The Coexistence of Paganism and Christianity in Literature
In British Literature religion plays a big factor in majority of literary works, because it reflects religious and cultural roles during these different time periods. The coexistence of Paganism and Christianity in literature changes throughout the Anglo Norman, Medieval, and Early Renaissance Period. In these different time periods Paganism and Christianity coexist in Anglo Norman and paganism fades closer to Early Renaissance Period.
In Marie De France’s story Lanval, it is a story of a woman fairy saving the knight Lanval from his social isolation. Elements of the supernatural comes into play as Lanval and the fairy have their moment of encounter. Love bound them in secrecy of which Lanval was told to keep, Love,” she said, “I admonish you now, I command and beg you, do not let any man know about this” (France143-145). The relationship between Lanval and his mistress is established through magic, which is an act of paganism. Christian values are expressed throughout Lanval but are hidden. An instance is the conversation between Lanval and the Queen when the Queen accuse him of being a homosexual. The accusation of such sin was severe and necessary to show that no law had been broken, and no threat to the spiritual life of the King. Paganism is more prevalent through acts magic and secret veil. God is mention in reference of not losing one’s faith. Without the relationship of Paganism and Christianity the story couldn’t exist or function.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, was written in the fourteenth century, and was successful in the restoration of chivalry through Sir Gawain. In this story, Sir Gawain’s faith in God primarily to protect the chivalric code. The role of Paganism shows up in the magic of a curse made to challenge Camelot. During the celebration of Christmas, a Christian holiday, the challenger the Green Knight a giant headless talking troll like man that is completely green, enters and challenges the court. Sir Gawain speaks, “I am the weakest, I am aware, and in wit feeblest, and the least loss, if I live not, if one would learn the truth” ( Gawain Poet 354-355). Above all others only Sir Gawain stands to take King Arthur’s place. As he severs the Green Knights’ head, the contract is set to one year they would meet in battle. Historically, one year and one day is known as Wiccan religion, which is a part of paganism nature. The Christian Trinity (God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit) is the big three. I connect this with Sir Gawain because was tested for three nights with three kisses and three gifts. Repeatedly, Sir Gawain shows chivalry in his actions with respect to the Lord of the house. In Christianity, temptation is important and a constant struggle when trying to preserve ones faith. After each of the three tests, Sir Gawain would visit the chapel of which he would inquire on “how his soul should be saved,” (Gawain Poet 1880). The priest, “There he cleanly confessed him and declared his misdeeds, both the more and the less, and for mercy he begged, to absolve him of them all he besought the good man; and he assoiled him and made him as safe and as clean” (Gawain Poet 1881-1884). This is an example of a Catholic ritual, when the priest, a man acknowledges sin. In both Lanval and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, I noticed the authors intentionally integrated Paganism and Christianity into each story. In Lanval, Paganism as seen through magic and is more dominant, whereas Christianity is losing. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Christianity is held high then tested through magic. Having one and not the other would greatly diminish these stories messages.
In Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath’s Prologue, it begins with a lady boasting of her many marriages. The importance of Christianity and the interpretation of the Bible are heavily emphasized throughout this story. The lady was married to five different men and ignored the Christian principle of being fruitful and multiplying. She uses the case of King Solomon having many wives to justify her point. A form paganism is the ugly old women magically becoming beautiful in the morning. The hag was a fairy because she had a normal human appearance but had magically powers and she used those powers to please her husband because he was unhappy.
Spenser’s sonnet sequence, the Amoretti , Spenser wins the heart of Elizabeth and marries her. Marriage is gift from God and declaration of love and commitment. Occasions of Easter, which is Christian holiday. The first sonnet, a traditional dedication to love in poetry.
In conclusion, Paganism and Christianity were the main themes throughout Anglo- Norman and Medieval period. Without Paganism and Christianity these stories couldn’t function and serve their true meaning. Paganism fades in the Renaissance Period because it is known as the period of “rebirth” and the surge of new interest, values, and ideas known as the Intellectual Movement. More Christian worship by the Catholic church began to emerge and pagan theology went away.