Week 37 – Herstory: Paganism from Pre-historic through Today

February 16, 2011 at 1:57 pm (Uncategorized)

*No new information from Weeks 33-36

Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Italy are origins of pagan stories. Predated Celtic traditions by about 1000 years or so. In Celtic lands, Druids taught traditions (indigenous/foreign). Pagan traditions originated neolithic great Goddess traditions, not Indo-European (old Europe – Greece, East Europe). 7000-3500 BCE ancient matrifocal cult of the great goddess and her consort the horned god. People of this ancient region were referred to as pre-Indo-European culture, matrilineal, peaceful, agricultural, and sedentary. Foundations of ancient mysteries were created here.  Lewis Spence Mysteries of Europe says that Celts got it from native Britain and Early Mediterranean travelers of the Stone and Bronze Age shared the “Cult of the Dead.” Iron Age: Britain becomes isolated resulting in transformed beliefs unique to Celtic people. Old Religion spread West from Southern Europe from 4500 BCE, icons from Spain and France (from Matrifocal cult of Mediterranean region). By 3000 BCE, people from Mediterranean (Spain and Britannia) settled in hills of England carrying with them the religion of Old Europe. The Cult of the Dead or Spirits of the Dead having festivals in October/November still have festivals in Southern Europe. People of Sicily settled in Ireland and created tombs. These are the people in the parthenon Irish Myth.

700-500 BCE Celts invade England. Celts are initially afraid of Sidhe (fairies). Celts had no temples prior to Gallo-Roman period. They performed their ceremonies in forest sanctuaries under the guidance of the Druids who had become their religious leaders. Druid means knowing or finding the Oak tree. Associated with practicing in the woods. After the influence of the Romans, Celt erected pagan temples, which have been unearthed. Celts were the first defined people to form a distinctive culture in the European territories north of the Alps. Prior to the middle of the first millennium, they were completely unknown to the civilized world of the Mediterranean. They were eventually classified among the Greeks as the largest number of barbarian people. Can trace origin of Celts culture to the Bronze Age Tumulus  which reach its peak in 1200BCE. They are not known until 7th, 6th centuries BCE. History of the old religion extends back into the hunter/gather groups. Roots of paganism dates back to Ice Age with paintings on caves. Becomes more recognizable during the agricultural movements. When hunter/gatherers became more agricultural, they brought deities of the forest and those transformed into gods of the pasture, farm, and harvest. Gods of the forest became gods of the harvest.

Early ancestors worshiped a great goddess who personified mysteries of women. To menstruate and give birth was something that was in awe. Women separated from men because of these traits and became the leaders of communities. This was also done to escape from men’s sexual desires as well as to be supportive of each other during birth. They passed on knowledges of herbs for birthing and other life experiences, and men were not exposed to these knowledges. Women created the taboo system, which are eventually co-opted under patriarchal rule. Men recreate that as things they have to avoid, fear, and dread. These times made it so that sexual intercourse was not possible and caused women great pain. Negative images develop and oppress women by describing them as unclean and contaminated.

Men sought an understanding of their own relevance, which was a slow process. Majority of men were elders and lamed hunters, left behind, and were taught by the female shamans. They become the priesthood of paganism and challenge the structure of matrilineal descent and its supremacy of its concepts. Great Mother image remains even in the shift to a patriarchal religion, examples Mother Mary, Mother Church. Mother figure is the strongest and most lasting image of the human experience. Mothers brought humans out and into the agricultural society. Neolithic art 6500 BCE show mother and horned deities. Widespread matrifocal cult among people of Old Europe. Ancient culture contains origins of Wicca/Paganism.

Cultural roots of Old Religion go back to early tribal groups of humanity. Founded upon the laws of nature. Storms and earthquakes rooted in beings or gods greater than themselves. Craft legends are full of stories in which gods interact with humankind. Evidence to support early interactions with some advanced beings with early tribes that could have brought about Old Religion. Stonehenge and Nasga Plains. Lemuria and Atlantis are representative of the fall of the humankind through the first and second ages. Women directed religious practices because men were in awe of birth. When men realized their role in conception, they began to take power in religion. Great Mother Goddess was earliest of deity forms. Goddess centered art with absence of war and male domination reflects a social order in which women as head of clans or queen priestesses played a central part. The great goddess cult of Europe began decline 4300 BCE and ended 2500 BCE. Religion functioned as a blend of matrifocal and Indo-European practices. In S and West Europe, resistance held out much longer, which is why the Streghe of Italy was around after that and is present today. As humans began to construct cities, solar and lunar philosophies grew apart. The controlling rule making aspects of the solar philosophies appeared better able to subdue enemies than intuitive aspects of the lunar philosophies.

Two separate pagan philosophies form (solar = men and lunar = women). Solar eventually wins out causing the lunar to be outlawed. Lunar cults practice away from cities in secrets. Forests become temples for worship. Hearts of people go with Goddess in the Lunar way. Witch cult and other mystery traditions flourish until 4th century CE when early Christians looted pagan temples preventing rites to be performed. 324 CE Emperor Constantine decreed Christianity as official religion of Roman Empire. Pagan temples destroyed or converted into Christian churches. The pagan rituals were absorbed into Christian religion, leaving them in the shadows to perform the seasonal rites. Villagers and town folks still sought out the local witch. Tuscany was a strong center for paganism, but eventually falls. All survivals of pagan belief were condemned as demonic and suppressed. Synod of Roman 743 CE outlawed any offerings to pagan gods or spirits. Synod of Paris 829 CE advocated death of pagans. Earliest trial carrying death penalty 1022 CE in Orleans France. Execution of witches occurred as early as 1100s but became acceptable 1300s. Early example of secular persecution was the Normal King of the Two Sicilies, Roger II. He stated that the concoction of love potions was a crime. Although witchcraft was officially a punishable crime in 13th century, witchcraze didn’t hit until early 15th century. Papal Bulls like the one issued by Innocent VIII in 1484 turned persecution of witches into an epidemic. Numbers of dead total in the millions. In 1951, England repeals last of anti-witch laws. Revival emerges. 1954 and 1959 Gerald Gardner Witchcraft Today and Meaning of Witchcraft which revealed much of the Italian aspects of witchcraft. Aradia appears in the English system with original Italian script with the Charge of the Goddess. Charles Leland and James Frazer influence Gardner. Leland studied Italian witchcraft in late 1800s. Frazer studies magick and religion. Both were published. Leland wrote Aradia: Gospel of the Witches and Etruscan Magic and Occult Remedies. Frazer wrote Golden Bough, which was a standard in the field. Ceremonial practices skyclad and practicing magic/rituals precedes Gardner and is found in Leland’s Aradia. Gardner brought Wicca to the US and made it more prevalent. 1980s saw significant changes. New Age philosophy opened doors for Wicca and book publications. Lots of divergent thinking around Wicca. Many of the older practitioners use “witch” instead of “Wiccan” to describe themselves, where they once referred to themselves as “Wiccans” because of the stigma. Those who considered themselves “true to the path” called themselves “witches” following ancient rituals and practices. They had a mentality and spirituality that they protected including keys and roots. Protecting the Tree of Life.


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