The Warrior Christ and His Gallows Tree: The Dream of the Rood as an Example of Religious Syncretism
The Dream of the Rood is an Old English poem that contains both pagan and Christian elements. This mix has given rise to much debate on the nature of the pagan-Christian relationship in the Dream’s religiosity. The argument here is that Anglo-Saxon Christianity should be understood as a syncretic religion: a unique blend of different cultural and religious traditions that have merged into a seamless whole. Syncretism and inculturation are often used as blanket terms for interreligious phenomena, but Baer’s framework describes syncretism as a specific stage in the conversion process. Using syncretism as a framework, we see that the pagan elements in the Dream are projected onto Christian concepts and even used to strengthen Christian narratives. This is Christianity as experienced through a pagan heritage. There is no exhaustive theoretical framework of syncretism, but the Dream’s religiosity may serve as a case study to expand existing theories.
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