When and How did Paganism Begin?
The Pagan religions began in a time when humans still lived very close to the land, around 10,000 BC during what’s known as the Paleolithic Age. The people of this time period were still very primitive and nomadic. Hunting food for their survival they were forced to follow the herds of animals. At this point is when the God of Hunt first appeared. Then men of the tribes worshipped the Sun, the stag horned god and the language of the animals. Woman were considered to be very powerful for it was them who took care of the tribe, they were the healers. Women were also the ones to bear children and it was because of this that it wasn’t to long before women discovered their bodies were in tune with the lunar phases, therefore they worshipped the Moon and the Goddess of Deity. The women of the tribes were often the ones to lead the rituals, however there were some men unable to go on the hunts. Some were too old, others too sick or injured. To these men the lunar secrets of the women were shared and because of this knowledge these men usually went on to become Priests of the Lunar Cult.
Time moved on and around 8000-7500BC agriculture was discovered, as the food women stored underground began to grow. Once people realized they could plant and grow their own food, the mystery of fertility came about. Until this point in time men did not understand their role in the cycle of life. They had always presumed the Goddess of Deity had been responsible for new life brought to the tribe. This new discovery however proved men did have a part to play in the creation of life. After these findings men and women no longer had to follow the herds to survive. They were now able to settle down in one place. Everyone worked together to plant, grow and breed animals. The people became “paganized” meaning “country dweller”, and began to explore and discover the mysteries of life, death and rebirth.
As time marched on so did the people and they started to migrate from many places and settle in Rome. Those who came from Greece although they worshipped different Gods and Goddesses they did share many similarities with the Romans. Many others came as well including; the nomadic Etruscans from Asia Minor, who were very well versed in magic and divinations. The next to migrate were the people of the British Isles, they too had discovered agriculture. At the same time the Indo-Europeans known to us now as the Celts had also made their way to Rome. Many others followed one group known as the Mediranian Cult of the Dead also from the island. These people were very spiritual and knowledgeable on theories of death and reincarnation. As they spread across New Europe they shared their secrets with the Celts thus forming a new group of mostly men called the Druids, because of their vast knowledge they were chosen to oversee the rights of the Pagan people.
The times were changing and from approximately 6500-4500BC there were still remnants of the solar/lunar cults, who continued to deal with the secrets of the animals, herbs and the mysteries that intertwined in the Pagan communities. These people were known as the “Wice”also known as the keepers of mysteries. The men and women of this group, mostly women developed the power and understanding of life and the Earth. This became a time of travelling, people moving back and fourth sharing their knowledge and discoveries along the way.
Three major groups developed from all this travelling and learning, every group had a purpose, but all still shared similarities. The first group was made up of mostly men and they were called the “Druids”, this group held the mysteries of men from the Cult of the Dead. The second group was made up of mostly women and they were known as the “Wice”, they held the secrets and teachings of the solar/lunar cults and continued to worship the Goddess. The third group were known as the Pagans or common folk. The Pagans were a balanced and polaric people, who sought out the wisdom of the other two groups.
What Caused Things to Change?
Between the years 0ACE and 650ACE a lot of changes were being made. The people in the Middle East were writing the Old Testament, and a whole new religion was thrown into the mix. After the death of Christ the people of Middle East began to spread across the lands bringing along with them the word and belief in Christianity. Eventually making their way to Rome and the mass conversions began. Starting first with rulers, the Kings and Queens by using money and other bribes. Making it virtually impossible for the poor country dwellers not to convert. Knowing full well the people had no choice but to depend on their rulers for survival. Pagan temples were being destroyed and instead Christian Churches put in their place, standing on what was one Pagan Holy ground. Forced to help Christians put up their churches, the Pagan people would incorporate some of their own symbols into the buildings. Many of which can still be seen today. With Pagans now being made to hide their true religion, the first Pagan scriptures began to emerge as a way to never forget. The Pagan people in trusted these sacred texts into the hands of two Celts.
In the year 1100AC the Dark Ages began and as the name suggests it was indeed a dark time especially for Pagans. All writings ceased and a lot of it just plain disappeared, while the Christian conversions continued to spread thus beginning what is known as the Holy Wars. Eventually Christians grew tired of waiting and decided that the Pagan people were not being converted as swiftly as they had hoped. In order to remedy this the Christian leaders got together and began asserting that Pagans worshipped and consorted with the “Devil” because of these accusations, the inquisitions began.
In 1494 two Dominican monks, Kramer and Springer produced a book called the Malleus Malleficarnum or “the Witches Hammer” this book is what laid the ground work for the reign of terror that swept through Europe well into the 18th Century thus beginning the period in time known as the “Burning Times”. During this terrible period an estimated nine million men, women and children were held prisoner, stripped, starved, deprived of sleep and then horribly tortured all to obtain a confession of “Witchcraft”. after they confessed most were either strangled or worse burned at the stake. Ironically the Malleus was originally rejected by the council for bias and heresy, but was forged so it could be printed. The last accused witch to be executed under these laws was in 1747 in Australia. To be clear Witchcraft is not Paganism but a religion that falls under it’s category, just like a Baptist is a Christian.
When and How Did Things Finally Change for the Better?
After undergoing so much persecution anyone out there who still continued to practice the old Pagan religions for the most part went underground. Living in fear of being found out, until the year 1951 when the last of the anti-witchcraft laws were finally abolished in England.
Things were starting to look brighter for those who practiced Pagan religions. A man named Gerald Gardner emerged and brought with him his first book entitled “High Magick’s Aid” and this sparked interest in the minds of many. Then after receiving positive feed back from the first book He put out a second non-fiction book “Witchcraft Today”, many believe this marked the beginning of the new religion Wicca.
Paganism is not new or unusual in our modern lives, for most people though it does not exist as a religion but as parts of our popular culture. For instance things like Halloween costumes, Christmas trees, Easter bunnies, maypole dances and harvest festivals plus hundreds more all stem from Pagan practices. Pagans today seek to restore the religious context of these practices.
Pagan theologies reflect an awareness of nature with it’s cycles of the seasons, as well as the cycles of human life. This awareness is the common thread among the Pagan religions of today. Very few modern Pagans could ever fully understand or follow how their ancestors worshipped. Therefore they invent and reinvent their religious practices and beliefs to fit into their contemporary lives. Some prefer to use the term “Neo- Paganism” to describe their form of modern Pagan practices.
One way to describe modern Paganism is to say it’s like a tapestry with strand originating in many distinct religious traditions. Contemporary Pagans may embrace all or only part of this tapestry. Some choose to explore their ethnic roots and to discover the indigenous practices of their ancestors, while others choose to use and adopt practices from a variety of cultures and then there are some who only follow newly created practices. What you decide is really up to you. A common strand among all these choices is their ties to nature/ They all have differences ie; some believe in the Goddess and Gods of the old religion while others do not. Some believe in an afterlife, others reincarnation. One of the great things about Paganism is it is a non-creedal religion, therefore such divergent beliefs can exist together under one religious name.
To Summarize Paganism is a religion of nature. Pagans see the divine as immanent in the whole of life and the universe. It’s in every tree, plant, animal and object. It’s in every man, woman and child, it’s in the light side as well as the dark. Pagans live their lives in tune with the cycles of nature, the seasons, in life and in death.
Paganism has developed along side mankind for thousands of years, as cultures have changed so has it, yet always staying grounded to it’s deep roots going back to the beginning of man. Plus Paganism unlike the patriarchal religions (ie; Islam, Christianity & Judaism)believe the divine is both male and female therefore having both Gods and Goddesses. Pagans believe deities are within us, they are us. Pagan Gods and Goddesses are natural symbolizing aspects of nature and/or human nature, not super-natural like the Gods of the Major religions tend to be.