In the absence of contemporary, or near contemporary, written evidence we have no direct source for the study of ‘pagan Anglo-Saxon beliefs. Even the details of early Christian worship are obscure (Owen 1981). The mainte-nance of the secular structure of society is aided by ritual and the symbolic content of material aspects of ritual certainly fall within the scope of archae-ological research. Within one symbolic form may be condensed numerous aspects or meanings of the world, such as the unity and continuity of social groups, primary and associational, domestic and political. There is a strong symbolic content in the grave-goods buried with the deceased that reflect a hierarchy of identities on either side of the boundary between life and death. It is more difficult to distinguish between social custom and religion, espe-cially when considering burial. This is because a funeral is largely the response of grieving friends and relatives rather than a religious ceremony despite the fact that religious beliefs may impinge on aspects of the procedure. Detailed studies of aspects of burials regularly find an association between the choice of the burial form and a social factor. Inevitably the most detailed studies of ‘paganism’ (Wilson 1992) draw much of their data from burial rites but there is a danger in ascribing anything we do not understand to ritual and of imposing on the early Anglo-Saxons a pattern of belief that is ultimately based on our, predominantly, Christian models. The ways in which indi-viduals and communities perceived, explained and constructed their worlds will have impinged on all aspects of everyday life and any attempt to separate ‘ritual’ as a distinct set of symbolic actions may, in this context, be inap-propriate. However, there may be certain ways in which religious beliefs can be isolated.