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Tony Grist

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Following On From Yesterday [Feb. 3rd, 2005|09:15 am]
Tony Grist
No-one called him/herself Pagan until the Christians came along.

It's a derogatory, slang term which means one of two things.

Meaning #1 is "hick" or "hillbilly". By the time of Constantine Christianity was the religion of the urban elite and the only people who hadn't converted were those who lived out in the boondocks.

Meaning #2 is "civilian"- that is to say, someone who hasn't enlisted in the army of Christ.

Modern Pagans tend to define Paganism as a Nature religion. Well, yes, up to a point. But Paganism isn't one single thing. Everything that happened in Western religion before the advent of Christianity is covered by the term. The builders of Stonehenge were Pagans but so were Plato and Aristotle.

Athena is not a Nature Goddess.

The Wiccan myth (based on the writings of Margaret Murray) insists that Paganism flourished as an underground movement (stigmatized as Witchcraft) all through the Middle Ages. The most one can say about this is that there is hardly any evidence for it.

What did happen was that the Church assimilated Pagan practise and belief. The Winter Solstice turned into Christmas. Gods and Goddesses- like Brigit- were rebranded as Christian saints.

Medieval Catholicism- especially away from the cities- was a continuation of Paganism by other means.

The Renaissance saw a passionate revival of interest in Pagan antiquity. Shakespeare- a typical Renaissance author- is steeped in Pagan mythology (which he mainly got from Ovid.)

Modern neo-paganism is a child of the romantic movement. Its attitudes- a hatred of rationalism and industrial civilisation and an idealisation of Nature- exist, almost fully formed, in the work of early 20th century authors like Kenneth Graham and Algernon Blackwood.

This essentially literary movement came together with the Magical revival (also a product of romanticism) to give birth to Wicca- the first (or at least the first successful) neo-pagan religion- in the middle of the 20th century.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: ibid
2005-02-03 03:44 am (UTC)
What do you think of theories held by Graves et al who believed in a religion based on the worship of the feminine (the Goddess) before being taken over by more patriarchal religions - especially Christianity but also the Greek and Roman traditions? It is an interesting hypothesis, and certainly studying Hinduism there seems to have been an awe of female power but I suspect it was feared rather than reveared.

I must confess I tend to agree with whoever it was who claimed it was to a large extent 'Jesus with '
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-03 06:26 am (UTC)
It was a popular theory (and close to being scientific orthodoxy) round about the middle of the 20th century.

These days scholars are more cautious in their interpretation of the evidence and the current concensus seems to be that we just don't know.

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[User Picture]From: jenny_evergreen
2005-02-03 05:17 am (UTC)
Yep, that's how I understand it...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-03 06:30 am (UTC)
It's pretty much a digest of "orthodox" scholarly opinion.

There's always the chance that new discoveries will overturn it.
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[User Picture]From: jenny_evergreen
2005-02-03 06:46 am (UTC)
Possible, but, I think, unlikely on the whole.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-03 07:02 am (UTC)
I don't know.

A few decades back no-one had any very clear idea what Stonehenge and New Grange and those other great prehistoric temples were for. Now, thanks to
recent discoveries in archaeology, we are able to form fairly robust theories about how precisely they served the worship of Moon and Sun.
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[User Picture]From: jenny_evergreen
2005-02-03 07:40 am (UTC)
While I think it can be fleshed out, what you addressed here is, on the whole, quite well supported by a healthy amount of evidence and unlikely to become invalid. I would consider the original understandings of "pagan" to be simple fact, for example. The evidence of Christian adaptation of non-Christian religious practices is simply too overwhelmingly obvious, as well.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-02-03 06:29 am (UTC)
Modern neo-paganism is a child of the romantic movement. Its attitudes- a hatred of rationalism and industrial civilisation and an idealisation of Nature- exist, almost fully formed, in the work of early 20th century authors like Kenneth Graham and Algernon Blackwood.


These attitudes are the same as those of the hippie movement of the 60s and 70s. Odd--I never thought about it before, but that movement had all the earmarks of a new religion.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-03 06:34 am (UTC)
Yes, indeed.

I find it fun to make these connections. I guess the truth is that there's nothing new under the sun and everything derives from something else
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-02-03 06:42 am (UTC)
I was, peripherally, a part of the hippie movement, and there was a sense of excitement about what we believed, that the world could be a beautiful and loving place where everyone understood each other and shared and shook free of the need for wealth and hoarding.

Drugs, I think, killed the dream, and paranoia.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-03 07:30 am (UTC)
"there was a sense of excitement about what we believed, that the world could be a beautiful and loving place where everyone understood each other and shared and shook free of the need for wealth and hoarding."

Yes, I believed that too. Still do believe it somewhere deep inside. In spite of all appearances to the contrary I remain an optimist about our human future.

I'm like one of those people in Chekhov. One day we- or old children, or our children's children- will get to go to Moscow.
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[User Picture]From: ibid
2005-02-04 02:42 am (UTC)
I'd love to believe it but I'm too cynical about human nature.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-04 02:53 am (UTC)
Maybe human nature itself will change......
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[User Picture]From: ibid
2005-02-04 03:05 am (UTC)
I long for the day!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-03 07:31 am (UTC)
I meant to write "our children"
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[User Picture]From: barbarakitten_t
2005-02-03 06:44 am (UTC)
I find it fun to make these connections. I guess the truth is that there's nothing new under the sun and everything derives from something else

this is a truism, is it not?

it's a good thing that people in general don't take this to heart...otherwise i think the whole race would be really depressed (see spider robinson's story melancholy elephants for an example of this...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-03 06:56 am (UTC)

Truism? Well yes, the "nothing new under the sun" tag is out of the Bible.

I don't find it depressing. I even find it comforting. I like it that ideas have a traceable ancestry. It makes me feel connected to earlier generations.
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[User Picture]From: barbarakitten_t
2005-02-03 07:12 am (UTC)
maybe..."what goes around comes around" and all that...

...but it could lead people who want to do something new to say "why bother" if everything that can be done has already been done before...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-03 07:25 am (UTC)
There's always an increment. Ideas grow down the centuries- like coral.
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[User Picture]From: barbarakitten_t
2005-02-03 08:13 am (UTC)
what a beautiful image!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-03 08:35 am (UTC)
I've always inclined towards the Graeco-Roman pantheon. I'm a city boy and I require citified Gods.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-03 08:53 am (UTC)
Robin Lane Fox writes in Pagans And Christians-

(The word pagani) "first appears in Christian inscriptions of the early fourth century and remained colloquial, never entering the Latin translations of the Bible. In everyday use it meant either a civilian or a rustic. Since the sixteenth century, the origin of the early Christians' usage has been disputed, but of the two meanings, the former is the likelier. Pagani were civilians who had not enlisted through baptism as soldiers of Christ against the powers of Satan. By its word for non-believers, Christian slang bore witness to the heavenly battle which coloured Christians' view of life."
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-03 09:38 am (UTC)
Excellent.

I did six years of Latin at school, but I'm afraid I've forgotten most of it.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-02-03 02:15 pm (UTC)
Oh, dear, I meant:

Puella est magna.

Silvum est parvum.

Endings. Sorry!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-03 03:07 pm (UTC)
She's a big girl.

The wood is little.

Does silva mean wood?
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-02-03 01:39 pm (UTC)
Silva est parva.

Puella est magnum.

Amo, amos, amant.

That's it for my two years.

hic, huius, hunc...something.



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