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Thread: Your Relationship With the Christian Church?

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    Pagans and Christians

    Pagans and Christians

    by M. Magee

    When the Church formed, the Roman Empire had a practical unity about it but nonetheless consisted of many nations and ethnic groups. The church grew in this mixed milieu and its response in those days was never uniform. Even within the Church there were battles against various heretics. Indeed one of the factors which gave rise to its regional varieties and theological squabbles was the extent to which different areas and theologians had been influenced by their local Paganism. This extends right back to the founder of Christianity, Paul, the apostle to the gentiles.

    Christianity entered the Empire as “sheep among wolves”. The popular religions were mystery cults, and mainly they were well established, only Mithraism looking a little youthful. Christianity was merely a babe. It had no philosophy. It had little ritual, only baptism and the holy repast, and particularly had no unequivocal burial customs. It made peculiar and difficult demands upon its converts, not so hard as the demands of Judaism but still hard demands for Pagans. How were these first Christian missionaries to “persuade the heathen?”

    Christianity used Paganism like a teenager building his hot rod—it was a great source of spare parts. The large holes in Christianity were filled with adaptations from Paganism. The ancient philosophers, whose schools the Christians shut, gave it philosophy. Christianity often cynically adopted Pagan rites and ideas. They were “received” into the Church. Every important church festival coincides with an ancient solar or Pagan festival. The roles of Pagan gods were given to saints. It is a curious god this Christian one, that refuses to allow any other gods but cannot think of any new dates for his own festivals. Instead, He choses ones used for countless millennia by the gods he does not like and renames those old gods as Christian saints and lets them carry on with their old jobs!

    Many Christian fundamentalists deny that any compromise was made by the first Christian missionaries. The same people try to argue that the Pagan converts instantly forgot all their Pagan habits of a lifetime and took to the new Christian ones unerringly. So, when the converts themselves, like the born-again clappies of today, earnestly went out enthusiastically evangelising, they only told the perfect, unblemished Christianity given to them by the Holy Ghost. Not a Pagan word fell from their lips or a Pagan thought entered their heads. Though Christians were a tiny minority with an inchoate and incomplete religion in a world of well-developed and well-loved Pagan religions, it was not influenced by them in the minutest detail. It offends all reason.

    A very simple proof is that Christians are summoned to communion by the ringing of bells. That was the way the Pagan Romans were called to meetings. Bells or “tintinabula” summoned Romans to the forum for public meetings, and also announced that the hot bath house was open. Christianity adopted the Pagan practice.

    The conversion of northern Europe is conditioned in modern thought by Christian stereotypes, spread by Christians in the intervening periods. The problem is Christian truth. What Christians call truth is not often true. It is whatever suits Christians. The popular view of the conversion of Europe is that a king, or more often, a queen, converted then their family and the nobility followed together with the whole of the people gladly and gratefully taking up the sovereign’s new religion. The whole process was done and dusted easily and seamlessly, the people joyfully converting en masse and thenceforth denoted as Christian.

    In fact, “the conversion was neither sudden, nor complete”, according to Sundkher (The World of Mission). “Only gradually did pagan beliefs, customs and ceremonies fall into abeyance”, particularly as the traditional religion was ancient and popular, and the church was, out of necessity, much more tolerant of tradition than it subsequently made out. In Sweden, for instance:

    Well over 300 years had elapsed since the time when the gospel was first proclaimed by the shores of Lake Mölar before its victory was completely secured, and even then heathenism lingered for some time in the more remote districts.
    C J A Opperman, The English Missionaries in Sweden and Finland

    The Christian propagandist view has ignored the person in favour of some official declaration. There were known people who admitted to being of mixed faith. An Icelander, Helgi inn Megri, named his house after Christ, but when he was in danger at sea, he prayed to Thor. Many teutonic charms and spells made the transition unaltered into the Christian era. The Anglo-Saxon Land Remedy was recorded in poetry in the Christian age. Obvious referring to the fertility and fruitfulness of Mother earth in the arms of Father God, it is a spell said when the first furrow was cut:

    Hail to thee, earth, Mother of Men.
    Be fruitful in God’s embrace,
    Filled with food for the use of men.


    Missionary zeal, as most modern Christians will appreciate, comes from the newly converted and, in the Dark Ages, the main source of new missionaries was most often the last country converted. At the highest level there will always have been previous contact through travel, trade and diplomacy, unknown to the poorer people. In many instances, the kings, for diplomatic reasons or, more often their queens because of the appeal of Christianity to women, had already converted.

    Often the king would invite some dependants or relatives to convert first, just in case! These would be likely to be his children. If no terrible calamities ensued through the anger of their traditional gods, he would invite others of his family to join him in baptism and his nobles also. To history another country had converted but it would take generations if not centuries for the peasants to convert in their hearts.

    In any event, the missionary needed permission to preach and guarantees of safety, so, if the king was not already sympathetic, he was the first one to persuade. Augustine of Canterbury arrived in Kent from Italy seeking King Ethelbert to convert first. In less than two hundred years England was sending missions to convert the Germans, and the Devononian monk, Wynfrith, otherwise S Boniface, admitted that without the protection of the Frankish princes, he could not defend his clerics or stop the worship of idols in Germany. In his case, the protection was insufficient anyway—the Pagans got him.

    The king might have announced that his country had joined Christendom, and Christian ritual might have been adopted at the top level, but his individual subjects had their own beliefs and saw no reason to change them. Kings come and go, after all. Clergy may have been ordained, but not all of them, by any means were willing to forego their old beliefs:

    The lesser clergy remained incurably superstitious (althouh, in fact, the ecclesiastical historians are not fond of dwelling on this side of things).
    Eric J Sharpe

    A superstition to a Christian is a belief in anything other than Christianity, just as Christianity was itself a superstition to pagan Romans.

    European kings were not stupid. They saw that Christianity was a powerful instrument for them to strengthen their own rule. The help for the missionaries was not without conditions. Their condition for supporting the Church was the support of the Church. The church had to help keep their subjects subject. The church which had refused to recognise Roman Emperors as divine, declared that kings had a divine right to rule. Direct intervention was also part of the deal. King Niels of Denmark (1104-1134 AD) had enraged his subjects and was fearful for his position. He demanded that the Archbishop of Lund, a respected churchman, should appeal to the mob on his behalf. It seems the bishop succeeded in calming them. Furthermore, while keeping a close eye on the mortal dangers to the souls of the subject people, the wise church man turned away from commenting on potential dangers to souls of their benefactors. Christian missionaries they might have been but they were not that keen to get to heaven.

    After the kings, the missionaries always concentrated on the young. They realised that it was they who would be running the country in future years and they had not been as indoctrinated with Paganism as their parents. They were impressionable. Today evangelicals are no different and Christians have alerted many other loony sects to the psychology of capturing young minds.

    The method they used is that the Churches and Christian parents have used ever since. First, the young ones were horribly decried as sinners, wicked, creatures of the devil and unworthy of anything, least of all the love of God. When it is considered that the subjects are sufficiently contrite and concerned, they are told that a continuation of their wicked, wicked ways can only lead to one conclusion—eternal torture, burning in hell with no further possibility of repentance. When the little ones are sobbing in anguish and fear for their eternal being, they are told that God had personally arranged that they could, if they had sufficient faith, escape this gruesome and everlasting torture. There was one way only, reject their previous life and put themselves in the hands of the Almighty through His son Jesus Christ whom he had sent to atone for all the sins of humanity. That alone would save them. The Pagan youth were being addressed by a man who was the emissary of God himself, so it must have been true. Applied, as it is today by churches of many different inclinations, to young children, this can only be seen as a psychological crime. And so it was to the people of the Middle Ages, many of whom were mentally children, though adults.

    Heaven, according to Irish Pagan traditions, was in the Fairy Hills with everlasting feasting with no work. The gods of Olympus had a similar idyllic existence, eating, making love and sleeping, eternally but with the occasional adventure thrown in. Mortals could only hope for elevation to an existence like this if they had behaved as gods on earth. A few did and were raised up. Eventually, though, every toiling and anxious human aspired to this wonderful life— everyone wanted to be a god, to have immortality and live in eternal boredom. Christianity fulfilled their wish. Plainly, it is a racial memory of the lost golden age of hunting and gathering, the Garden of Eden of the Jewish scriptures, where food was simply picked from the trees and the sexes did what came naturally. Christianity made the forbidden fruit specifically the key to carnal knowledge and then they had to try to persuade Pagans that their ideas of heavenly bliss should be replaced for the Scottish Presbyterian version—an austere place with a severe father making sure you were never naughty.

    Finally, the practice of confession, quite unknown to the northern Europeans was introduced so that the Church had knowledge and therefore direct control of every act of the Pagan converts. The origin of private confession was in the early medieval hermits and monks of Ireland and Wales. The Irish kings were above the law. How then could they be controlled? It all depended upon the king’s honour, an important Pagan concept, and the moral pressure people could apply to their sovereign—fasting. When Christianity arrived, the same method was used to get the attention of the King of Kings in the sky. God was being forced against his will, a magical concept rejected by Christianity but here it was allowed to prove that he was honourable!

    In this ascetic atmosphere, the hermits and monks introduced personal private confession, a listing of personal sins and promises to atone. The Irish and Welsh missionaries took the idea with them to their European missions and the Church eventually adopted the practice universally for its own totalitarian reasons. The church had substituted the Hebrew God for all the old gods and spirits, then obliged people to “voluntarily” confess their sins so that their soul was transparent to the priest. God became truly omnipresent. Through Him, the prelates knew everything the faithful were doing and even thinking. At the Reformation, Protestantism rejected the confession on the grounds of Jeremiah 17:8 which effectively declareds that, since everyone is wicked anyway, there is no point in expecting them to confess honestly. The deceitful heart can never be known.

    From the fiftth to the twelfth centuries, the Church gave out lists of sins with suitable penances. As time went on the variety of sins and penances multiplied. In the sixth century two cases of adultery were distinguished in an Irish list of penances. By the ninth century the German list of penances distinguished 35 cases of adultery, even distinguishing the sexual positions used. By then, the penances were not trivial, a few Hail Marys or Our Fathers as they might be today. Masturbation by a pubescent boy was punished by 30 days on bread and water. Committing a lewd act might get three years of fasting.

    Childebert I of the Merovingians (511-558 AD) decreed that all images of “false gods and demons” (the Pagan gods) had to be removed on pain of 100 lashes, practically a death penalty. A Saxon decree was less generous—baptism or death. With such inducement, the Christian fonts were splashing liberally but the converts were hardly sincere. Nor was any instruction required. Charlemagne, the warrior king, insisted that no one should be baptised without two or three weeks’ instruction! Why should it have been necessary? Most kings introduced new decrees offering the death penalty for anyone not following Christian practice. Pagans had to appear in every outward sign to be Christians.

    In some times and places the transition from Paganism to Christianity was apparently seamless. At others, there was conflict. Christians often accused Pagans of violence. The Pagan side of the story rarely exists, except in the form the Christians were ready to publish it. It is not hard to discern, though, that much of the Pagan violence was a response to the arrogance and disrespect of Christians who felt justified in emulating their god in turning over, not only the tables in the temple but the temples themselves and the images of the gods they contained. They then felt aggrieved when the Pagan worshippers assaulted them.

    The missionaries killed sacred animals, they split sacred trees, they sang loud Christian hymns in the holy silence of Pagan sacred groves. Then they thought it spiteful that anyone should protest. Most often, the Pagan worshippers could only look on in sorrow for their already converted ruler permitted the sacrilege. Nevertheless, the protests continued. From 1021 to 1120 AD, anti-Christian riots occurred almost every nine years in Sweden, matching the nine yearly cycle of Pagan festivals at Uppsala.

    Burial was one of the main areas where Christianity had no well-established customs, and so Pagan burial customs often continued well into the Christian era. Not until the seventh and eighth centuries did Christian traditions establish themselves through the severe condemnation of such as S Boniface. Richly endowed graves have been found underneath Cologne Cathedral and the Abbey Church of S Denis (the renamed and sanctified God, Dionysus) in Paris. Did early Christians think they could take their wordly goods with them? Were they perpetuating Pagan ideas?

    In the rich graves of Cologne, even meals were provided for the dead nobles, as if they were Pharaohs. Did these people think that “Jesus would be here soon” and they would be resurrected bodily in earth—soon! If so, it is a persistent thought, and agrees with church dogma that cremation destroyed the body that was to be resurrected and so was forbidden. Any signs of cremation in a grave is taken to be a sign of Paganism.

    In Merovingian graves, evidence of fire is common, but was it cremation? The bodies often showed no trace of cremation or signs of only partial incineration. Perhaps fires were built in the bottom of graves and when they were burning vigorously, or perhaps when they had reduced to hot glowing embers, the bodies were placed in. Was this a partial extension of Pagan crematory ritual into Christianity? Did the early Christians justify this Pagan holy fire as a baptism by fire at death to bracket the baptism by water when the Pagan was born-again into Christianity? Folklore speaks of ritual fires called “nodfyr” or “needfire”.

    Rich Merovingians buried people fully dressed and surrounded by utensils and provisions, the custom lasting until the seventh century. The later Carolingians buried people naked or dressed in a simple smock with no possessions. It seems no church taboo against rich burials ever had full effect because well into the high Middles Ages, senior prelates as well as nobles were often buried in full regalia, chalice and crozier and all. When burials are found with little else but simple pendular crosses of base metal—iron or lead—they are taken to be Christian burials. The little crosses are obviously not valuables but merely tokens, perhaps meant as Christian amulets, charms otherwise being forbidden, purely for grave-wear.

    Shield bosses and buckles are found with Christian images. Christian warriors, like Constantine himself, evidently saw the Christian god as the same as the Pagan gods, in the sense that he returned a favour such as success in battle or good fortune in exchange for worship. The lack of ethical content to such simple ideas shows that Christianity for these converts had no more moral, or little more moral meaning, than the older gods had had to them.

    A practice strongly forbidden by Christians was the honouring or venerating of animals, yet nobles were buried with their animals right into the Christian era. Christians will say it had no religious significance. It was purely a gross example of conspicuous consumption by the wealthy classes. Yet it is hard to accept such a simple explanation when the taboo was so often iterated. At the least the prelates were using double standards, turning away from the practices of the kings and nobles, their patrons and protectors. No one who was familiar with the sacrifice of animals for religious reasons could have dissociated this from the old practice despite the declaration by the bishop that it was merely to honour a great man. The Merovingian king, Childeric, was buried in amazing grandeur leaning on his horse’s head in 481 AD. Later excavations revealed other graves containing whole horses, dated to the same time.

    The church had to keep issuing edicts repeatedly forbidding these and other practices right into the Middle Ages. They could not have been necessary unless someone was doing whatever was forbidden. The Capitula of Archbishop Hincmar of Reims (832 AD) urges:

    ...that no one of our priests when they assemble for the anniversary celebration of any dead person, or for that of the thirtieth, seventh and third day after death, on any account make free to get intoxicated, nor propose drinking for the love of the saints, or for that of the soul of the deceased, nor constrain others to drink, nor yield to the persuasion to ingugitate licquor himself, nor join in wild cheering and laughter, nor relate frivolous anecdotes or sing ballads, nor allow biffoneries with men racing and girls dancing to go on in his presence, nor permit those demon masks which they call talamascos to be used before him, for this is devilry.

    These burial celebrations on the third day, a week and a month after a death were an ancient Pagan custom, but Christians were determined that they should not be joyous ones. S Eloi and S Boniface of the seventh and eighth centuries were forbidding people to call upon “demons”—Neptune, Orcus, Minerva and Diana, or local spirits. Christians were warned not to visit stones, springs, trees, crossroads, or temples to burn candles or make offerings, or to believe in the magical power of plants. Honouring Pagan festivals, sacrilegious practices at the side of graves, using amulets or magical spells, prophesying or soothsayng were all banned by the bishops.

    At this stage of Christianity, Catholic Christians, particularly, might be surprised to know that even venerating saints and the virgin Mary were banned. The reason is plainly because the saints and the Christian Holy Virgin could be venerated as the gods and goddess they used to be! Only later when the Church was confident that Paganism was finished did these practices get re-instated and such customs as carrying bizarre images around the towns and fields at festival times get accepted again.

    What is the Christian of today to make of Christian burials containing additional disembodied skulls? They were Pagan? Often, only one extra skull is found alongside the skull of the dead man, but as many as eight arranged in a semi-circle around the dead man’s own head have been found, more than once. Other graves, not surprisingly, have no skulls in them, just a headless body, yet the graves have not been robbed or disturbed, so that is evidently how the deceased was buried. All of the vertebrae and even the lower jaw are often present, showing that the man had not been beheaded before death. Christians were known to break a dead person’s legs to prevent them from walking again after death! Sometimes they were buried face down or even nailed down for the same reason. Was this why they removed heads?

    Elsewhere though, there are medieval ossuaries filled with nothing but skulls! It is suggestive of the continuation of a pre-christian skull cult. It was perhaps a form of ancestor worship, in which the skull was removed to be honoured as the vessel of the dead person’s personality. The skulls might have been kept in the ancestral home or a private chapel in church and at some stage they were collected and put into an ossuary.

    Proof of the veneration of ancestors is the resources the nobility gave over to it. Ancestors were laid to rest in a family chapel, either in the ancestral home or in a nearby chrch. The family chaplain and the local priest held regular services for the family and abbeys were often necropolises for ruling houses, most notably S Denis in Paris for the kings of France. The order of Cluny in Burgundy was dedicated considerably to the cult of the dead.

    Monks of orders like this, or the monks and chaplains of lesser haouses, wrote romanticised chronicles of the deeds of the family, to gild its image and justify the status of the cult of the lineage. The noble home was the benefactor of the monks so that they would devote their liturgies to the house and daily comemmorate the dead in the obituarium, the list of those who had died on that date. Part of the ritual was the issuing of pittances to the poor, the custom introduced to substitute for the food given to the dead earlier in the Middle Ages and in Pagan times. In around 1150 AD, Cluny issued about 18,000 pittances a year.

    A specific medieval form of venerating the dead was the cult of relics. The remains of notably holy people, or even famous benefactors of the Church, were displayed at their death. They were regarded as saints and the people wanted to touch them to tap their dynamis or power of healing or for good fortune. Churches or abbeys commonly made themselves the centre of some relic cult, writing vitae or lives listing the wonders of the saint and his or her bits, alive and dead, as brochures to impress the pilgrims so that more would come again next year. Pilgrimages were the equivalent of seaside or foreign holidays in the Middle Ages and churches and abbeys made themselves very rich trading on the gullible travellers who came to venerate the relic.

    When the cult began to wane, the monks exhumed the remains of the saint, exhibited them, then in translatio they transferred it in solemn ceremonies to a newly built shrine in the hopes of renewing interest, which it usually did.

    Classical Pagan religions taught that the soul remained with the body for three days before departing. The miracle of Lazarus in John’s gospel is that Lazarus had been dead for three days and his soul had departed but Jesus was able to recall it—an astonishing miracle for people with those beliefs. Medieval people retained the idea that death was not instantaneous. They thought it was a slow process accompanying the corruption of the body, which actually began before death with the symptoms of aging. The soul of the dead remained with the body until it was fully decomposed, when it would leave it for pastures new, and the dead person was indeed dead. Before then, there was a danger of haunting. This accounted for some medieval funerary customs.

    In the uncertain period while the soul is preparing to leave the body for good, a dead man’s wife thought it wise to remain faithful to her dead husband as if he were alive, lest jealousy should persist beyond the grave. A dead person’s possessions had also to be retained as if he were alive, in case he should haunt anyone who tried to dispose of them.

    Fragments of these beliefs are used regularly in the Hollywood vampire cult of today. The undead remain fresh in their graves, so their souls are still with their bodies and they can emerge to haunt the living. It is a medieval idea. Until the body had decomposed, it might be re-animated to knock on your door late at night like the midnight caller in the play, The Monkey’s Paw. One way of ensuring that such horrors never happened was to make sure the proper liturgy was said to appease the spirit of the deceased. Vampires in films always hate the Christian cross, but the legend of the vampire also had Pagan roots, which describe the vampire's dislike of the sun, their hatred of water and their death by a wooden stake. Dead people in the intermediate stage still needed feeding and, if food was not offered, again the mouldering corpse might come to get it, further roots of the vampire myth.
    (I will post future material on how the vampire is considered by many to be a jew)

    Putting food in a grave is distinctly non-Christian, as is commemorating a dead man by consuming a meal on his grave, a common practice in Pagan religions. Bowls and dishes containing prepared foods, wine glasses and pots are all found in medieval graves like those in Cologne cathedral, the pots and vessels still containing the bones of the animals constituting the food. Bones of pigs, hare, birds, cows, and deer, as well as walnuts, hazelnuts, grain, snails and mussels, and traces of honey, and various brews and decoctions have all been found. The Priests had declared funerary gifts of food as taboo, so what were these? It seems a Pagan custom that even the frequent declarations of the priesthood could not stop.

    Pagan burial practices like these were deeply rooted in the customs of the people and lasted on into Christian times. Many of them are concerned with the belief that the soul of the deceased continued to live in or about the tomb. The practice of eating meals on graves in memory of a dead person became the fashion in the late Empire, about the time that Christianity was victorious. Depictions of it occur in the catacombs. Archaeological discoveries offer evidence of such practices. Excavations made in a Christian cemetery of the fourth or fifth century at Tarragona show signs of these Pagan banquets for the dead.

    It is attested by six tables, semi-circular in shape and with a depression in the center. Two are covered with red stucco, red being the Pagan color of the dead. Near one of the tombs were found fragments of glass, some coins, ashes, and bones, remains presumably of a banquet held there. In two instances tubes were found leading down into the tomb where the body reposed. A vial in one grave contained the remains of milk. A coin was discovered resting on the head of a corpse. This is presumably to be traced to the common Pagan practice of placing money with the deceased person so that he might be able to pay Charon. One sealed tomb contained no body, reflecting the Pagan belief that the spirit of a deceased person whose body could not be found still needed a tomb.

    Four hundred years later S Boniface was still warning about it, and ducts for the passing of food to the dead were even built into graves from the fourth to the sixth centuries. Though prelates constantly decried it, the serving of a meal to the dead persisted even in monasteries into the high Middle Ages. A Pagan fashion of the late Empire continued well into the Christian era. Feasting with the dead could not easily be stamped out.

    Jacobus of Serugh, who died in 521 AD, advised Christians to prepare a banquet for the dead by all means, but in the church, not by the graveside. Thus it became the love feast or agape which originally accompanied the feeding of the spirit via the Eucharist, but, by the early middle ages, became an annual commemoration of the dead person—a “deathday” party akin to our birthday parties. It was held by the side of the grave and the dead person was believed to be there in spirit, and so a place was set for them at the table. Guests addressed the empty chair as if the dead person occupied it. They were offered food and drink with the blessing; “MayGod refresh (refrigeret) you.” Food was then handed out to the poor as pittances.

    This refrigerium sometimes was preceded by the Eucharist but often was not and the clergy showed their disapproval by staying away. It would quite often degenerate into drunkenness and gluttony, as it had already done as the messianic meal in the time of Paul the Apostle, impelling him to lay down the rules which became the Eucharist. The first Christians apparently saw it as akin to Dionysian festivities, but despite Paul’s instructions, evidently the agape kept its separate existence, which only declined towards the end of the first millennium.

    It even extended into the professionals of the Church. The rules of Eynsham Abbey near Oxford, instructed monks to commemorate the anniversary of the death of its abbots each year by setting a place for him and offering him food, “like a living monk”, A pittance of old beer was also given to the poor. The funerary feast never disappeared entirely. Wakes are still held in Ireland. Friends and relatives of the deceased gather by the open coffin to eat and drink, and address the dead person as if alive. Even in Christian society at large, it is usual to serve a meal or buffet and a drink to the mourners at a funeral. Though Christians might think it simply politeness, they might be surprised to know it is the remnants of an ancient Pagan practice.

    In England under the Saxons, despite the prominence of some Saxon kings and churchmen, Christianity had barely scratched the surface. The sacred groves of the Druids remained, and many remained sacred. Glastonbury Tor had on it a sacred grove until the Christians chopped it down and built S Michael’s church, only the tower of which remains. King Edgar (943-975 AD) had to order his priests to promote Christianity. Some must have felt their calling was more general:

    We enjoin that every priest zealously promote Christianity, and totally extinguish all heathenism, and forbid well worshippings and necromancies, and divinations, and enchantments and man worshippings, and the vain practices which are carried on with various spells, and tree worshippings and stone worshippings, and that devil’s craft whereby children are drawn through the earth, and the vain practices which are carried on at the night of the year.

    Then, in the time of the Danish king of England, Cnut (995-1035 AD), the king had to defend Christianity with a decree that showed what the people were still worshipping:

    We earnestly forbid every heathenism—heathenism is that man worships idols, that is, they worship heathen gods, and the sun or the moon, fire or rivers, water springs or stones or forest trees of any kind, or love witchcraft or encourage death dealing in any wise.

    Cnut’s Saxon subjects sounded much like the description Herodotus gives of the Persians. William Bonser, cited by Phillips, writes:

    There is little doubt that there has been a continuous though unrecorded sequence of magical practices from the earliest Indo-European stratum, through the Germans to modern times.

    Bonser seems to have pointedly chosen his word “magical” hinting at the magi! The Danes had sacked many Saxon churches, and they had never been rebuilt, such was the indifference of the Saxons to the religion Augustine told them to believe. William the Conqueror promised the pope the reformation of the English church for his help and approval in invading the country. Among the theses of Guy R Phillips is that the Normans reformed the church by building churches on the site of Pagan sacred enclosures, but did not, as Christians like to imagine, make them exclusive at all! The Normans were still sufficiently Pagan themselves not to sweat at the idea of building a church as a communal facility, dedicated to Christian saints, yes, but accessible to the Pagans for whom some cult objects were deliberately provided. They built churches with a door for the saints and a door for the devils, and decorated the chancel and tympanums with images that made the Pagans feel comfortable.

    Willam the Conqueror is also called William the Bastard, and his father was called Robert the Devil, where Devil, as ever, signified not Christian—a Pagan or a heretic. Margaret Murray thought the accidental shooting of William Rufus in the New Forest was no accident, but the ancient ritual murder of the king—a sacrifice!

    Rollo and his northmen founded the Duchy of Normandy in 911 AD. These Vikings must have worshipped teutonic gods. The Normans then used Normandy as a base for excursions further south ad into the Mediterranean sea.. In 1046 AD, they took Italy, from the fading power of Byzantium, led by Robert Guiscard, and in 1060 AD they captured Sicily from the Arabs.

    In 1070 AD, William the Conquerer made archbishop of Canterbury an Italian, Lanfranc, born in Pavia in Lombardy in 1005 AD. Working together for the next fifteen years, they reformed the church in England. Italy seems like a sensible place to get a bishop, and doubtless it was, but it was not as burningly Christian as Christians, particularly Catholics would like to think. Italy at the time of Gregory the Great was still essentially Pagan. Jeffrey Richards wrote that “the groves and pools and mountain tops… magicians and soothsayers who prophesied and healed and exorcised according to arcane law and unchiristian ritual flourished”. Over a millennium later in the nineteenth century, C G Leland (Gypsy Sorcery) declared that “there was in the country of Tuscany ten times as much heathenism as Christianity”. So, Lanfranc around 1050 AD, though a Christian, had grown up in a markedly Pagan society, a society that was quite chaotic and did not unite for hundreds more years, part of which had been ruled from Byzantium, and most of which was subject to influences from its own Pagan roots, and heresies from the east beyond the Adriatic. Among them already by this time there were the Bogomiles and the Cathars.

    The north door of Christian churches, a feature of Norman ones, is commonly called the Devil’s door, and is often blocked off. The north, sunless, side of churches was thought of as evil, and was reserved for the burial of murderers and suicides. Christians invented the myth that the Devil’s door ws there for him to leave by, but then blocking them off does not seem sensible! It is hardly a convincing explanation, especially as some Norman churches only had a Devil’s door! Bearing in mind that Pagan gods and believers in Paganism were called Devils by the Christians, the Devil’s door must have been the door that Pagans used to enter the church, a communal temple, apparently, as far as the Normans were concerned. Really there is nothing too surprising about it, considering that Christianity was a proselytising religion intent on converting everyone. What better place to get them for conversion than in the church?

    The church of Saintbury in Gloucestershire, dedicated to S Nicholas, is full of Pagan symbols, and has one door only, the Devil’s door. Over it, almost hidden—when Phillips described it in the 1980s—by a porch that has been added, is a carving of a devilish figure, a horned god. Phillips said it looked like the Dorset Oozer. The church tower is not set centrally but is over the south transept, and below it is a stone altar of octagonal shape. What seems to have been the original stone altar is set in the floor of the north transept with a wooden altar standing on it. Stone altars were called “mensae”, “tables”, but the Puritans ordered all stone “mensae” to be destroyed during the Commonwealth. It is why some of them are now set in the floor as flagstones, and others are in crypts.

    In the morals of sexuality, the Christian were not willing to compromise openly. The church blindly carried over, with total lack of understanding, the Essenic scruples about chastity and celibacy propagated by S Paul. In ritual, though, Christianity was fairly indifferent other than in the administration of the Eucharist and baptism. And why not? They had taken them all, other than these two, from other religions, anyway. The reminder of the sin of sex was apparently the sheela-na-gig, the eponymous “Witch on the Wall” of Jorgen Anderson’s book, (The Witch on the Wall). There is a sheela-na-gig at S Michael’s and All Angels at Copgrove in the North Riding of Yorkshire, originally in the chancel. It was a Templar church that passed to the Hospitallers, but supposedly in 1216 AD not when the Templars were disbanded by pope Clement V.

    The sheela-na-gig is a symbolism apparently brought into Britain and Ireland from south west France, via Brittany and Normandy apparently after the conquest. Sheela-na-gigs are not ancient. The sheela-na-gig at Clonmacnois dated with the church to about 1160 AD is remarkably similar to one at Montbron in Charente, and other French examples probably came from the south. Under the Plantagenets, the English kings like Henry II ruled from Scotland to the Pyrenees, and it is in this period the sheela-na-gigs spread to the British Isles. Were these grotesque erotica meant to be witches? Were they Catholic propaganda aimed at the Cathars, supposed to be licentious? A church at Kilpeck in Herefordshire was built by Oliver de Merlemond, a seneschal of Hugh de Mortimer, after he had returned from pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The pilgrim’s route led by ship to the Charente-Maritime, then by horse or foot by way of the Basque country to Santiago. Anderson found that in the Basque lands there were about a hundred “exhibitionist motifs” in churches.

    Another Templar church with a sheela-na-gig in its chancel is at Halse in Somerset Comment, and this was supposed to have passed from them to the Hospitallers in 1220 AD. Halse church has capitals capped with images of Demiurgos—Satan—but possibly the Green Man. Other capitals have a supposed serpent, perhaps the dragon defeated by S Michael or S George. Perhaps the Baphomet of the Templars was the sun god depicted as the Green Man. Interestingly, one of the capitals of Halse church is said, by Phillips, to have the Qabalistic sign of the Ain Soph, the high spiritual god as conceived by the Qabalists, and perhaps the Cathars as the contrast with the god of material things called Satan. Halse church is dedicated to S James the Less, whose feast day is Beltane, May Day. Nunburnholme in Yorkshire is dedicated to the same saint and has Green Man decorations and a sheela-na-gig.

    The Green Man is also Jack Straw, and Jack Straw’s Castle, associated with Hampstead Heath, is a sacrificial bonfire. Bob Stewart (Where is St George?) associates the Green Man as Green George with S George who is S Michael, Apollo, the sun god. Green George is the northern sun god manifest as the growth of shoots in the spring, the fertility power of the sun that returns the land to “leaf and life” when the dragon of winter is defeated at the vernal equinox.

    Some medieval women got away with practising Paganism or perhaps heresy—being witches—within the Church. They were described as mystics or visionaries.

    The heyday of Christian mysticism was from the 1100s to the end of the 1300s, when the medieval mystic was seen rather like the Jewish prophet. They saw visions presented to them by God and so they were God’s mothpieces. Among them were several remarkable women who were not afraid to cross words with the clergy who could be seen to be flagrantly neglecting their supposed God-given duties. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179 AD) was the first.

    She tells us she saw visions even before she could talk and when she began to speak she told about them. Perhaps that is why she was confined to an abbey at the age of eight. Like mystics in general, she considered that she had been chosen by God. S Birgitta of Sweden (1303-1373 AD) who was made a saint only eighteen years after her death wrote that God had chosen her as his “bride and conduit” to hear and see “heavenly secrets”, sounding remarkably Essene but doubtless taking her cue from Paul the Apostle. Hildegard was not directly called until she was 43. Female mystics seem reluctant to accept their calling and often only do so when they have fallen ill—God’s wrath—whereupon they accept the call and they recover.

    Devout cults, like the Essenes, tend to think in Biblical clichés and, with nothing but the Bible to read, medieval monks and nuns were the same. Hildegard’s visions are identifiably taken from the Bible, particularly the apocalyptic works, Daniel and Revelation. Twice she speaks of a huge giant with a golden girdle, an image from Revelation. The visions often occur when the visionary is in ecstasy—a trance—though, by her own testimony, Hildegard never was. Fasting was an important way of inducing visions and medieval nuns often fasted to the limit. The visions were really hallucinations induced by neglect of the body. Hildegard, who fasted as rigorously as any, however, counselled against excess, urging that it was the devil whispering into the ears of ascetics urging them to destroy their bodies through their piety.

    John Gerson would not accept stories of visions and revelations by the then modern mystics like Bridget of Sweden and Catherine of Siena. He considered them too common, in those times, to be true revelations. He decried what he called ignorant devotion, warning that religious life could make people depressed or even mad. Gerson wrote:

    People do not know how to steer a middle course between unbelief and the foolish credulity of which the clergy themselves set an example. They give credence to all revelations and prophecies, which are often but fancies of diseased people or lunatics.

    He also knew that severe fasting was the cause of hallucination, and many of these mystics considered it saintly to starve themselves. Sleep deprivation was another aspect of medieval ascetism that led to hallucinations. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380 AD) restricted her sleep to 46 minutes a night. The sleeping conditions were harsh too. They slept on stone floors or on sticks with a stone pillow. If they slept on a mattress they would fill it with holly leaves. Self-flagellation probably had an effect. Beating themselves with holly branches was popular. Wearing girdles studded with sharp studs which dug into their flesh was also popular. Often they abused themselves by making the marks of the stigmata in their flesh. They used meditation too. They chanted some holy phrase to themselves repetitively while breathing rhytmically.

    Though some abbots and bishops kept nuns as a private seroglio, we can take it for granted that these nuns were sexually deprived, though some had lived an ordinary life before their call and had left husband and children to follow it. They must have felt a great sense of loss, socially. The Pythia of the Delphic Oracle used drugs to induce a trance but there is no certain evidence that any medieval sibyls did. Hildegard, however, wrote a treatise on the use of herbs and must have known of hallucinogenic plants and mushrooms. Everyone, however, depended on beer or wine to drink because the water was often diseased. With their self-inflicted corporal neglect, these women probably had a low tolerance to alcohol and their visions might have been alcoholic.

    Because of the dangers of unorthodoxy, the sibyls had a priest as a guide and amanuensis, their Latin not being up to the standard of the men because of the restrictions on their education. Hildegard of Bingen sought official approval to publish her visions but the clergymen were all too busy watching their tails in case they were accused of unorthodoxy. None would venture an individual opinion about her visions. Only when an important synod was held at Trier did the collective of Cardinals and Archbishops, with the approval of the Pope, consider it safe to sanction Hildegard’s dreams.

    Pope Innocent III, in the early 1200s, forbade lay preaching. Women were therefore unable to preach since they were not allowed into the priesthood. In fact this merely confirmed earlier papal decisions declaring that women were forbidden to give instruction, however learned they might have been. A major factor in the Cathar heresy was that Cathar women retained the right to give instruction, yet in her apostolic journey to Cologne, Hildegard of Bingen made alarmist declarations against “these people”, the Cathars. They “befouled the whole earth”, gave themselves over to “drunkenness and debauchery” and would “totally destroy the Church” because “the devil dwelt among them”. The Catholics destroyed them, yet the most likely explanation of them is that they were a primitive dualistic solar Christianity, with many Pagan attributes, ignored by the State religion until it became too numerous in the twelfth century.

    The times were decadent enough in the Roman church, even if not elsewhere and Hildegard also accused the clergy themselves of “sins peculiar to their station”—lewdness, fornication covetousness and simony. She was worldly enough, even as an abbess, because she recieved many visitors, corresponded extensively and undertook several apostolic journeys. She even castigated the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa, though he doesn’t seem to have taken any notice.

    Perhaps her attacks on the Cathars were to protect herself for she was able to do many uncatholic things, though she often had to couch her recommendations in abstruse language. She obviously did not want to outrage the clergymen but the real purpose was perhaps to leave the real answer to the intuition of the reader. This is a standard magic technique, still used today by sensible clairvoyants. In seeking to interpret an opaque answer, the questioner has to solve the problem themselves. Magic is mainly the use of psychological techniques to satisfy problems. Other times, she seems more open. An incantation was the cure she gives for a girl with the flux—to be used in God’s name, of course, but otherwise requiring no moral effort on the girl’s part, as Christianity normally demanded for God’s attention in these matters. Often she was both obscure and quite open, offering an obscure parabolic answer followed by a simpler explanation.

    The Pagan religions and the heresies were always at a disadvantage. They were never centralised and could not fight back adequately against a Catholic Church strongly centralised despite its regional variations and arguments over practice and doctrine. The very polytheism of Paganism left it open to one-sided attack by Christianity. Pagans were ready to accept the Christian god as one of their Pantheon. They were always respectful to gods in case they got angry. The Christians however were not ready to accept the gods that were already there.

    Once Christianity became the state religion, it was in a position to steamroller its Pagan and heretical rivals, but even a steamroller does not crush the hardcore to nothing—just to finer particles. The official adoption of Catholic Christianity was not its final victory. Like the African slaves, many Europeans did not accept it, and many of those who did, did so only because Christianity took the important parts of their own beliefs into its body.

    The intolerance of Christianity eventually drove the Pagan religions and then the heretical ones underground. For a long time after the Christian victory, and necessarily mainly passively, Pagan religions resisted the steamroller might of the multiform but centralised Church. But, they were harassed and hounded until they spallated into mere atoms of the old beliefs with no structural content—superstitions. So, despite its best efforts, the medieval church could not suppress Pagan thoughts absolutely.

    The new religion took over a millennium to enter the hearts of the people, and then it was only done by inhuman tortures and by the Church accepting in Christianised form Pagan customs within the religion or tolerating Paganism outside it as folk-lore and superstition. After all, what more than magic is consuming a blessed wafer and what is its purpose other than stave off misfortune, even if the misfortune is putatively after death? Even in the midst of the Dark Ages, the Church found it impossible to stop people thinking and even practising in an enfeebled way, the Paganism it had aimed to destroy.

    Though Pagan wisdom and practices were marginalised and made socially damaging because people could be severely punished for them, some survived throughout the medieval millennium. Only latterly have they more or less vanished as old wives’ tales or foolish superstitions, killed, not by the Church but by science and scientific method. A few even still survive and even thrive despite the Church and science. Soothsaying is banned in the Old Testament and the casting of horoscopes was banned by the Church in 1310 AD yet a Christian US president with a finger on the nuclear button decided world wide policy based on the advice of astrologers! Reagan, before Bush, was the favourite of the Evangelical Right.

    In truth, the Middle Ages were largely Pagan even though Christianity officially dominated. Aspects of Paganism which the Church rejected were categorised as manifestations of evil. Old gods and goddesses became demons, incubi and succubi. Those who continued to revere them, and many who did not, were called heretics and witches. Anyone who met in groups outside church were covens, anyone who made medicines out of roots and berries were sorcerers, witches or warlocks. The Old Testament states that witches should be killed. Before long the Church was saving us all from the devil by burning old women who talked to their cats. So much for the good Lord and the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

    Some modern witches say the Old Gods never died altogether and they continue the Pagan legacy. If there is any truth in this—that Pagan ideas have survived underground and unloved by officialdom for 1700 years—they must have had some merit. Curiously, though, the witch hunts were Christians hunting primitive Christians, rather than Pagans, although the primitive form of Christianity believed by the heretics was Pagan enough, in that it was much closer to the original solar beliefs of the Gnostics than the form that evolved under state patronage.

  2. #22
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    Why do people assume that the Church only existed in Rome or Europe. The fact that the entire Church from Spain to Rome to Turkey, to Jerusalem to Syria, to Ethiopia shared and still shares the same faith. This in itself shows how an accusation of paganism infiltrating Christianity can only be made out of historical ignorance. One can read Church Fathers from Rome, and Fathers from Ethiopia and we see the same faith expressed, in 33 AD or in 233 AD. Also, the forbidding of images came from a group called the Iconoclasts. They were condemned in the 7th Ecumenical council, recognizing that the Jews and the Christians always used images. Only after the Protestants gained power in Europe was iconoclasm a factor again.

    The thing I have most been struck by in my studies in Christianity is how wrong the 'popular' history of Christianity is.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pilgrim View Post
    Why do people assume that the Church only existed in Rome or Europe. The fact that the entire Church from Spain to Rome to Turkey, to Jerusalem to Syria, to Ethiopia shared and still shares the same faith. This in itself shows how an accusation of paganism infiltrating Christianity can only be made out of historical ignorance. One can read Church Fathers from Rome, and Fathers from Ethiopia and we see the same faith expressed, in 33 AD or in 233 AD.
    Paganism did not infiltrate x-tianity, it was the other way around. Pagan beliefs and rituals were borrowed by the x-tian conspirators to assimilate inch-by-inch into the psyche of the Pagans. If they had tried to use force they would have been immediately defeated. To avoid immediate detection of their ultimate goal, x-tians beliefs were gradually interwoven into those of the Pagan. As time passed more and moere of the old Pagan rituals were removed and replaced with more overt x-tian ones. But, as the article explains, there are still quite a few of these old Pagan rituals that simply could not be extinguished. So the church, in order to cover it's tracks, simply made everyone believe these old ways had been x-tian all along.

    X-tian indocrination adapted to whatever situation. It was vastly outnumbered in Pagan Europe, and could only be spread very slowly through every form of trickery, deceit and compromise possible. Later on as its power grew and it needed to expand there was no longer the need to infiltrate/assimilate as it had with the Pagans, it basically just strode in to whatever country it wanted to acquire and took posession of it under the guise of "spreading the word". The hatred throughout the world today that is shown towards "White people" has its roots in x-tianity spreading its gospel through terror and not benevolence.

    By the time it had reached beyond the borders of Europe, to "...Turkey, to Jerusalem to Syria, to Ethiopia...", there was no longer the need to maintain the facade that had been used to fool the heathens. Once the conversion of the Pagans was complete it was just as easy for the x-tian leaders to assemble the former Pagan countries under the banner of jesu to invade and appropriate foriegn countries, whereas before this expansion, Paganism had been perfectly content to stay where it was at.

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    I can see this thread going over a cliff.....I've said it before, neo-paganism is not my enemy, the spreaders of Islam are!

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    Heh.....Christian indoctrination. I might remind you that the Christians were underground...persecuted and killed for their beliefs in Rome for over 300 years. What makes people think that the Bishops (many of whom had undergone torture for their beliefs) would change them as soon as Christianity became legalized?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pilgrim
    Why do people assume that the Church only existed in Rome or Europe. The fact that the entire Church from Spain to Rome to Turkey, to Jerusalem to Syria, to Ethiopia shared and still shares the same faith.
    Ehm, your historical ignorance obviously has overseen the little detail that the Roman Empire included Syria, Ethopia (basically northern Africa) and reached from Spain to today's Middle East.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pilgrim
    This in itself shows how an accusation of paganism infiltrating Christianity can only be made out of historical ignorance. One can read Church Fathers from Rome, and Fathers from Ethiopia and we see the same faith expressed, in 33 AD or in 233 AD.
    In 33 AD there certainly were no 'church fathers', to that time the 'faith' didnt even really exist, and the Judaic sect it was was a persued belief until the late third century in the entire Roman Empire.
    Historic ignorance once again.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pilgrim
    Also, the forbidding of images came from a group called the Iconoclasts. They were condemned in the 7th Ecumenical council, recognizing that the Jews and the Christians always used images. Only after the Protestants gained power in Europe was iconoclasm a factor again.
    You like your fairy tales, eh, sorry pious lies, do you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pilgrim
    The thing I have most been struck by in my studies in Christianity is how wrong the 'popular' history of Christianity is.
    People like you will believe their beloved pious lies despite whatever striking proof is brought against them. Read on your funny books filled with pious lies, it is anyway the only thing the church ever has been good with.
    Ein Leben ist nichts, deine Sprosse sind alles
    Aller Sturm nimmt nichts, weil dein Wurzelgriff zu stark ist
    und endet meine Frist, weiss ich dass du noch da bist
    Gefürchtet von der Zeit, mein Baum, mein Stamm in Ewigkeit

    my signature

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    My apologies. Here is the final segment of the article:

    Burchard, Bishop of Worms, attempted to draw together Christian law in his book, Decretum, at the turn of the last millennium. A chapter on penances is particularly interesting because it is the most complete list written until then of Christian taboos, and the punishments for not observing them. Curiously, it is remarkably reminiscent of the penitential parts of the rules of the Dead Sea sectarians. The penance for attending a wake, singing and dancing and getting drunk to send off the dead was 30 days on bread and water. The same punishment was prescribed for eating offerings by the side of graves or stones, springs, trees and crossroads. Five hundred years after Jacobus of Serugh, the Church was still warning its flocks about the same Pagan habits.

    The list of penances was taken by the father confessor and he went through each misdemeanor saying, “Have you…?” then reading out each successive sin from the book. Proceeding through the list, the priest must have given some innocents ideas they would never have thought of. The punishments, though, were lenient—the tabloids today would be much more outraged. As the Church got progressively more frustrated at the persistence of Paganism and more oppressive, confession was made compulsory. By then the confession manual of Petrus of Poitiers urged priests not to suggest to the innocent anything they had not already thought of. Eventually, the Church really lost its temper and turned western Europe into an inferno not exceeded until this century.

    Burchard’s book confirms the persistence of Pagan ideas in the popular imagination. It is epitomised with the penance of two years’ fasting on feastdays for anyone who “follows in the tradition of the heathen, which even to this day fathers still pass on to their sons” namely to worship “the elements of nature, the moon, the sun or the motions of the stars”.

    Despite the increasing oppression of the Church, 600 years after Christianity took control of the Roman empire, it had still not destroyed the spirit of Europe’s Pagans. The ultimate victory of Christianity did not begin until the thirteenth century and it took wholesale slaughter and terror through the Inquisition and the Witch Trials to blot out Paganism. I doubt that anyone today can conceive how oppressive it was for ordinary people to live under this devilish regime they called Christianity. Though it began reasonably tolerant of the northern people, it got progressively more oppressive for a thousand years! How can modern Christians ignore this?

    Since Christianity had every power available to impose its beliefs, the persistence of Pagan practices was because the practice of this ersatz religion failed to fulfil many spiritual needs. Pagans had accepted the Hebrew God in place of Jupiter or Thor because they were ready to accept a god touted as superior to their familiar ones, but there was no goddess in this new religion and no place for magic—the psychological benefits of personal ritual. This new god was too powerful. He knew everything and could do everything. There was nothing left that the people could do to help themselves spiritually.

    People expecting to be liberated by a hugely powerful god at their side found themselves slaves. God had His will and all people could do was appeal to Him through prayer. Believers came humbly in supplication, praying for mercy. God was not listening. His mind was made up and prayer was fruitless. They had to bear it and look forward to their reward in the next world. Many Christians have the same experience today, but few have the courage to say so. It betrays a lack of “faith” and they cannot lose “faith”. They are stuck in an awful psychological dilemma that their stern beliefs will not allow them to escape, except of course by having even more “faith”.

    What of witchcraft and magic(I.E. Folk Medicine) With Christianity there were only sterile blessings and and prayers. The use of herbs, stones and roots was forbidden. What was the Christian to do with feelings of hate? Simply suppress them. Hatred was nominally not allowed, so it could not be expressed. Yet we sometimes hate, it is a natural emotion like fear or sadness and ought to be expressed in some way if it is not to fester and become morbid. No one suggests that hatred should be acted upon by murder or burning down someone’s house, but is simple suppression enough? When strong feelings are repressed, people get bitter and neurotic and might even crack and do the very deeds that suppression was intended to stop—but even more violently. The psychology of witchcraft had something to offer here that the Church had not. The plaintiff could issue a curse knowing that if it was unjust it would rebound upon themselves—a harmless release of the tension.

    The Hebrew God had the reputation of being so powerful, he could not be coerced into doing anything against his will. The childless woman had to endure God’s will. Amulets were forbidden for this reason, apparently implying that they had some effect on God but only as an annoyance. If they had no effect at all, why should they have been forbidden? The truth is, of course, that amulets have an effect—it is the same as the effect of prayer, or belief in God, a psychological effect. The church was concerned that all such effects should come only from official sources. Many people took no notice. The denuciations of Pagan practices for hundreds of years proves that the “vulgus” preferred them.

    The Hebrew God was too remote and too arrogant, which is the very reason that He had a saviour, closer to humankind, who had once been human and therefore knew what it was like! The saviour was the intermediary or mediator between mankind and God. Sadly, once the saviour had returned to the right hand of God on his throne in heaven, he was seen to be too remote, so other intermediaries were invented. The Virgin Mary and the saints were appointed as intermediaries to get the attention of Jesus so that he could pass the message on to God. The church then saw it was silly to ban amulets and talismans as the work of the devil and invited people to wear Christian ones and to give gifts to the saints. Of course, they were only symbolic but, if the peasants wanted to believe they worked, fine!

    The Merovingian legal code, the Lex Salica, declares a fine of 62½ pence for anyone who administers herbs to a woman to stop her conceiving children. The church, which hated knowledge as the devil’s work, would not admit officially the use of herbal medicine.

    Medieval herbals used the stoicheia of Aristotle to classify plants as hot or cold and moist or dry, reflecting the four humours and the four elements. The cosmos was supposed made of four elements: water—cold and wet; earth—cold and dry; air—warm and wet; fire—warm and dry. Parallelling this, mankind was constituted of four humours: phlegm—cold and moist; black bile—cold and dry; blood— warm and moist; yellow bile— warm and dry. If one humour dominated the others then that person was chracterised by it as respectively, phlegmatic, melancholic, sanguine or choleric. Medicine was in principle simply the restoring of the balance of the humours. A phlegmatic person needed warm, dry herbs to counter his excessive phlegm. Understanding herbs therefore ment identifying their characteristic degrees of warmness and dryness.

    It seems remarkable that these Pagan concepts should hold good 1500 years after the philosopher’s death and in wide areas of western Europe. Is it possible that Aristotle was merely systematising widely held popular beliefs? Even if the system was founded by Aristotle, it preceded Christianity by nearly half a millennium and, if the philosopher was compiling folklore, it was much older still. That philosophic speculation should filter down to village witchdoctors seems less likely than that the philosopher gathered the information from doorsteps. Either way, herbal medicine based on these principles is Pagan.

    Albertus Magnus records that henbane, a poisonous herb, was used by sorcerers to call up demons. The mandrake plant, with its divided root giving it a vaguely human shape, could only be dug up with a fixed ritual. Many other dangerous plants had protective rituals attached to them and eventually many were Christianised, but all of it is magic because such spells limit God’s will.

    Hildegard of Bingen seemed not concerned about coercing God with an incantation for the girl with a flux or a ritual involving mandrake to suppress excessive passion. The root had to be purified by washing in spring water, the Pagan and Essene element of purity, tied to the body for several days, removed and split, tied to the arms for several more days then crushed and eaten—that tied to the left arm for a man and that on the right for a woman. There is no hint of personal moral responsibility in this ritual. Perhaps its aim, that of taking a bromide or having a cold shower, was enough. Otherwise it was a typical spell which again limited the will of God and so could hardly be thought of as Christian. The Christian remedy was self-continence, but this is the plain magic of a Christian witch!

    There are even earlier examples. Isidore, Bishop of Seville, in about 630 AD informs those with the opposite problem that coriander decocted in wine is a love potion—an aphrodisiac. Furthermore, many plants were not eaten but worn—as amulets against various ills. A leek worn on the wrist was recommended for toothache.

    Little of this knowledge was garnered by the objective observations of medieval folk in western Europe. Though naïve monks in monastery gardens doubtless gathered information about their horticulture, they did not often record it. Few books were written by these practical workers. The church did not encourage observation. It detracted from important things like reading the scriptures and uttering pointless liturgies.

    Until the beginning of the second millennium, what fragmentary medical knowledge remained was from classical books used by the Romans. Isidore of Seville’s book, Origines, a compilation of these fragments of knowledge remained state of the art for two centuries unaltered. Charlemagne made a conscious effort to stimulate intelligent thought in his efforts to re-establish the Roman empire and Isidore’s book was “improved” by the insertion of biblical references to harmonise this secular knowledge with the scriptures. It then remained a standard work for centuries longer, now with the authority of the Holy Ghost! Nothing could be a better example of the stultifying influence of Christianity on the world for many centuries.

    Harmonising books like this with the bible obviously does not add one jot to our knowledge or enlighten the book’s readers one tittle. It is as effective as the fundamentalists who run competitions to try to find new proofs of the infallibility of the bible. They are exercises in “explaining away”, a discipline akin to harmonising. Exercises in ingenuity, no matter how ingenious these wacos are, leaves the bible full of inconsistencies and errors, that even the saner varieties of Christian are happy to accept. Fundamentalists do not realise that elevating a human book to the level of the perfection of a god is idolatry, the worst sin in their bible. Fundamentalists violate their own First Commandment and, by their own rules, will burn. Harmonising or explaining away are designed to disguise falsehoods not to reveal truth.

    Isidore says that names are the essence of things, a pre-historic Pagan idea. Knowing someone’s or something’s name was anciently thought to give power over it. It was important not to let enemies have names and particularly the names of your gods, lest they get power over the god and all is lost. That is why the name of the Hebrew God is ineffable. But Isidore gives little of practical use for most of the plants he lists—much less than the classical natural historians, Dioscorides and Pliny, knew.

    What of the other source—folklore? Hildegard of Bingen detailed in her book, Physica, 275 herbs and 81 trees but she gives little indication of written sources and there is little evidence in the book that she copied from any written sources. Unlike her letters which are in good Latin because she had a monk as a secretary, this is written in imperfect and rather immature Latin, the sort she might have been expected to know herself from her inadequate general education as a nun. Most often, she uses the German rather than the Latin name for the plants again showing that she had no written sources.

    Finally, she often gives information which is unparallelled elsewhere. It seems her book is an original work. She claimed all her knowledge came from her visions but there is little doubt that the true source was local folk medicine. Later writers ignored her book showing either that they had no faith in her visions or that her work was known to be Pagan folklore. Since she was in the abbey from eight years old, her knowledge must have been had while she was there, but she will have had some from her many visitors and some from her correspondents. She describes some Mediterranean plants that she could not have known locally.

    The book contains the medicinal and magical properties of the herbs, usage and incantations and rituals to accompany their use. Much of it depends upon the principle of similarity by whcih the plant declares its use by some aspect of its appearance. The leaves of the lungwort are blotched and look like a lung, whence its name and use. Hildegard recognises some plants as good and some as bad. Plants suitable as protective amulets against demaons and sorcerers were bracken, lavender, betony, burnet saxifrage, pine, cypress and hornbeam. Those Christians who put a bag of lavender with their linen or on their windows think it is for the scent. Really, it is an ancient Pagan protective charm.

    Deadly nightshade, mandrake and arnica are the devil’s plants. Mandrake root is always washed in pure spring water before it is used, not to cleanse it of dirt but to immunise it against the devil. Pure water is the Pagan cleanser of choice, suggesting that the ritual is magic. Thus, pure spring water poured through a hole in a piece of freshly cut cypress wood, and caught again before it touched the earth, accompanied by a suitable incantation, cured anyone of demonic possession or sorcery. Admittedly her incantations have often been Christianised, God being supposed the agent of the cure, but the whole procedure is obvious witchcraft. Hildegard also recommended changing the properties of herbs by picking them according to the phases of the moon!

    Pagans were never bigots in the way Christians are. They were happy to accept other gods and godesses because they could never be sure that any one was not more powerful than another, and it seemed wise not to anger them unnecessarily. They therefore had no pronounced missionary instinct to shove their own beliefs down the throats of others. Worship of a popular deity was widespread but not centrally administered, so that each temple was effectively independent. Some religions had no professional priests, running their services rather like the quakers by those who volunteered to lead.

    Once Christianity, with its missionary zeal, its ambition for centralisation, its imperial-style administration and its preference for dogma rather than truth or even instinct, took control of the Empire, Paganism was placed in the situation of ill-disciplined barbarian tribes against well-drilled legions. No contest.

    There is a psychological principle at work here which will be the death of humanity. Those inclined to freedom and creativity reject discipline and authority as stultifying to the individual and society and liable to misuse by a minority. Those inclined to discipline and order, reject freedom and creativity as disorderly and chaotic and inducive of criminality. It is the disciplined army that will succeed against a similar sized undisciplined army. How then can mankind prevent the genuflecters from abetting tyranny again? Freedoms are won only to be lost to those who love self more than others, and love bending their knees to visible and even invisible potentates, rather than questioning bad law.

    The all-conquering church means that today we have no medieval Pagan temples to set against the gothic cathedrals, no illuminated Pagan manuscripts to set against the illuminated bibles of the medieval monasteries. It might seem the will of God to the Christian bigot, but the beauty of the classical era, which most people consider unsurpassed, shows that mankind was no less talented as a builder or artist, as a Pagan and arguably was better. The artistic and architectural treasures of other non-Christian people proves that God has blessed Christians no more than anyone else.

    Objectively, faith and superstition are the same coin. Superstition is belief in what is forbidden by officialdom, faith is belief in what is acceptable. There is nothing to chose between them, then or now. Touching the knuckle bone or foreskin of a dead saint brings good luck to a Catholic Christian. So does touching wood, it seems. The value of it is in the head. There was material sense in beating an apple tree to drive away malicious spirits so that the apple crop would be better, but none in beating drums and tambourines in a happy-clappy hymn to please Jesus, a Jewish malefactor hanged by the authorities, unless it is to warn us we are getting near an evangelist.

    Both faith and superstition are pre-scientific ways of trying to understand and control an uncertain world. Those who stick to them in this scientific age fall into one or more of three categories:

    1.they are too lazy or ignorant to understand science;
    2.they are charlatans seeking gullible dupes to keep them in comfort;
    3.they are gullible dupes conned by one or more charlatans.

    It was ever thus but, unlike the Dark Ages or Biblical Times, today only the insane have an excuse. Chances are, then, the Dark Ages will return.

    Although Christianity began among the poor of the empire, it triumphed by being the religion of the bureaucracy, the upper middle class, we might say today, and nobility. Many of the simple folk, particularly of the western empire, preferred the old gods and mostly they were not converted with ease. In the east, many preferred a simple semi-Pagan primitive Christianity devoid of sacraments. No one should be surprised at this. The Indians of South and Central America, after half a millennium of Catholic preaching have not yet abandoned their native gods. In profoundly Catholic countries, ancient superstitions still persist. Voodoo, which combines Christianity and native African religions in a curious but evidently compelling mixture, is a vigorous and growing religion in the Caribbean and some southern US states, hundreds of years after the slaves were shipped and nominally converted.

    Arianism, founded by Arius, at one brief time had imperial Roman favour. Arius denied that Jesus Christ was divine, so his view in that respect was that of the Ebionites. Christ was therefore a created being—an angel, but not God. The Council of Nicaea, called by Constantine in 325—AD went against Arianism.

    Christians can draw no conclusions from any of this because they are not open to persuasion, or to evidence, unless they have rubber-stamped it. They have the fixed idea that Christianity arrived gift-wrapped by God in bijou form, small but perfectly shaped. All it had to do was spread like the flu until it was large and mutated into hundreds of different forms, all of which their particular adherents think is perfect, still.

    If we knew more about the rival Pagan religions we could tell for ourselves, but the Christians have purged the world of almost everything that might reveal a Pagan blemish on the holy cross. There is a story in Arthur Koestler’s, Act of Creation, explaining what socialist realism is. An artist was commissioned to paint a portrait of an old Communist general grossly scared on the right cheek fighting for the Red Army. The completed picture showed the scared man in left profile looking unblemished. A naïve western diplomat commented to the artist that it failed to show the general’s most characteristic feature, his ugly scar. “That’s socialist realism”, replied the artist.

    Two centuries after Constantine, pope Gregory ruled a Christendom in which only the royal courts had converted, and often even that was nominal, the nobility too sticking to much of their old Pagan ways. Among the people, Christianity was a tolerated novelty, a social folly of the upper crust. In Germany, S Boniface was still seeking to make conversions even in 732 AD. The nobles had supposedly converted but had done so to found a lucrative business on the side selling Christian slaves for Pagan sacrifices. Pope Gregory III told Boniface it should be considered as murder, sensible that the trade in sacrificial victims, by Christians so-called, might have an adverse effect on the campaign to get the people Christian.

    “As late as this”, Jeffrey Richards (The Consul of God) says “every aspect of country life was Pagan.” Candles were burnt at sacred springs—the clergy wanted them burnt in the churches before the holy relics. Sacred trees were dressed with offerings, pleas and charms to bring luck and cure sickness. Pagan gods were invoked in common speech, used for the days of the week, never being replaced in this by any Christian improvement. Even as Catholicism succeeded in making an impression at grass roots level, peasants could not comprehend Christian exclusivity. They could not see the wisdom of putting all their eggs in the untested Christian basket. They could see nothing wrong in worshipping their old gods as well as the Christian Trinity. Martin of Braga, in 574 AD, complained that the Celtic rustics of Galicia in Spain could not see why they should not worship “God and the Devil at once”.

    The compromises Christianity made with Paganism were not always hidden or subtle.

    Most village churches stand on sites that have been sacred since long before Christianity arose.
    G R Phillips, The Unpolluted God, 1987

    Fr Hippolyte Delehaye has documented how holy days dedicated to saints replaced those dedicated to gods (The Legends of the Saints). S Lawrwnce was a saint because he patiently taught his torturers Christianity while they roasted him on a gridiron. Roasting people was something Christians were good at themselves, so, Christians were canonized both for roasting and for being roasted, suggesting a perpetual sanctification process. In fact, Valerian’s second edict under which S Lawrence was punished is incompatible with the story, which really seems to be a fiction based on previous atrocities, not involving Christians at all.

    The Venerable Bede tells us that pope Gregory the Great (590-604 AD) directed S Augustine, Archbishop of Canterbury, seeking to convert the English:

    The temples of that nation should not be destroyed but only the idols within them. Let blessed water be prepared, and sprinkled on these temples, and altars constructed, and relics deposited… And since they are wont to kill oxen in sacrifice to demons, they should have some solemnity of this kind in a changed form, so that on the day of dedication, or on the anniversary of the holy martyrs whose relics are deposited there, they may make for themselves tents of the branches of trees around the temples that have been changed into churches, and celebrate the solemnity with religious feasts.
    Bede, A History of the English Church and People

    The pope could not have meant in general that obscure Christian martyrs should be used as the dedicatory saints of these churches, for no one would have a clue who they were and would have no inclination to respect them whoever they were, since they were unknown to the people. Nor could traditional saints have provided any relics handy for use in the church. At the least, this pope is inviting the English to identify the new saints of the churches as the “holy martyrs” with their old gods “whose relics were deposited there”.

    Worse perhaps is that the “holy martyrs” mentioned were voluntary sacrificial victims. Why should the old gods be seen as “holy martyrs”? It is difficult to imagine that the Pagans would have really acceded to their old gods being killed off by Christians, and declared as martyrs as a consequence, but the martyrdom of a Christian monk for the cause could have impressed them! The martyr could then have assumed the old god’s relics as the spoils of victory that marked him out as the successor of the god—his Christian superior now wearing his clothes. A pair of decorated gelding irons were found in the Thames near the site of the temple of Cybele, the Great Mother or Magna Mater, whose priests were all voluntarily castrated, where there was later a church dedicated to S Magnus Martyr!

    To this day in England it is evident. Chapels in high places are often dedicated to S Michael, who took on the role of the sun. High places were where the sun was often worshipped. Really he is the Archangel Michael, who appears in Revelation with the characteristics of the sun.

    This became a general principle. Excavations of European abbeys and churches show a continuity of Pagan and Christian culture. A small private chapel in Namur in Belgium was converted from a Pagan temple of the late empire simply by extending the original temple structure by adding a choir and an altar to its eastern side. It was surrounded by Merovingian graves of the late sixth century. The most well known Pagan temples converted into churches are the Pantheon and the church of Santa Maria della Minerva.

    The late eighth century church S Martin in the Ardennes was built on the ruins of a third century Pagan temple. Such a gap shows no continuity of use but certainly a long continuity of sacred tradition. Remarkably the church is built along the same axis as the old temple—to the north west—not aligned to the east as is usual with Christian churches. A Pagan monument consisting of a statue of a mounted god riding down a snake-legged giant is now the site of a chapel to S Wido, the patron saint of horses and grooms, again showing a remarkable memory of sacred tradition.

    It has been possible to make long lists of churches built on the foundation of heathen temples, or constructed with their material, or established in the old building.
    Fr Hippolyte Delehaye, Legends of the Saint

    Fr Delehaye admitted that Pagan temples were mostly on beautiful and deliberately chosen sites. The Christians generally were accepted into a new country with the conversion of the king, and had the king’s authority to set up in competition with the traditional religions. Pagans were ready to accept Christians as worshippers of another god, similar to some of their own, as it probably was at the grass roots of society. The rulers and the Roman priests, however, had the Roman empire in mind, and refused to accept Paganism on an equal footing, and eventually refused to accept the simple natural Christianity of the peasants either. Like all totalitarian systems, once the Roman Christian clergy sensed serious opposition, the grass roots religion, by then a heretical Christianity, had to be eliminated by any means.

    Roman carvings were even erected in Christian buildings. Pagan gods support Christian altars, fundamentalists will be astonished to know. Plainly, the missionaries were happy to humiliate the old gods by putting them to mundane use in their new churches. In one instance the gods are upside down, a further humiliation. More neutral bits of decoration and plain stones are much more common.

    Much of the alleged vigour of the missionaries in destroying the Pagan temples was the stuff of later Christian hagiography. When Paulinus converted Edwin, king of Northumberland, to Christianity, Coifi, Edwin’s Pagan High Priest mounted a stallion, though Pagan priests could only ride mares, seized a spear, though Pagan priests were not allowed to bear arms, rode to the temple, and hurled the spear into it, thus desecrating it. Desecrated as a Pagan temple, it could be reconsecrated as a Christian church. It is thought to have been where the church of Goodmanham is, near Market Weighton in the East Riding.

    If a Pagan temple was not to be rededicated to a suitable saint, certain damage was done to render it unserviceable. Gradually, as sacred memories faded, the locals themselves would plunder the site for its building materials. Otherwise, churches or chapels were built on the sites of old temples and sacred groves and the missionaries used the materials they could scavenge from the old building for the new. Older Pagans would take comfort from the presence in the church of a sacred log and in a generation, their children would have carved it into a sacred cross. Indeed the cross really emerged in this period of conversion of Europe as the main symbol of Christianity. Earlier, the symbol had been the Chi-Rho symbol or the sign of the fish.

    Many churches have a tradition that its site was chosen by the Devil, and fairy tales were invented to explain them. The tradition really reflects the fact that the situation of the church was that of a pre-existing Pagan temple, though oddly a few could be the precise opposite—it was resistance by Pagans to the siting of a church next to their Pagan sacred places that stopped the Christians from building where they wanted to. In these cases, the tradition is often that the Devil knocked down each day’s work on the church during the night, or even that the materials would not stay on site but were moved nightly to the site that eventually was adopted. The tradition of S Gregory’s Minster at Kirkdale by Kirkbymoorside is that the Devil would not let the church be built at a place called Stony Cross. Still marked by a stone monument marked with a Greek cross (not the Christian cross or even a Chi Rho), the place was a “three lanes end”, a Tri Via, sacred to Hecate, a form of Diana, as the moon in her three phases, and always associated by Christians with witches.

    To burn candles at stones and trees and springs, and where three roads meet, what is it but worship of the Devil?
    Martin of Braga

    The even armed Greek cross was a northern sun symbol, found engraved on stones dating from the bronze age (1500 BC) in Scandinavia, and so Pagan from ancient times. Indeed, the power of the cross for Christianity really only showed when they used it to prove to the Pagans of northern Europe that Christians were essentially like them. The opportunism of the missions in the lands of the Celts and Germans is the reason why today, the Christian symbol is a cross and not a fish. Ancient crosses, often with a solar ring, are very common in the north.

    The Stony Cross at Kirkdale marked a Pagan site they valued to the extent of not wanting it polluted by Christianity, and the Minister dedicated to pope Gregory has always stood a mile off. In fact, the original church plainly built about the time of the canonization of Pope Gregory soon after his death was soon sacked by the Danes and remained derelict for 300 years, being rebuilt in the tenth century, when the same things were repeated, it seems.

    So, there never was a Christian church at Stony Cross, why then is a large field next to the cross called Kirkside, and was so marked in a nineteenth century ordnance survey map? G R Phillips casts doubt on the claim that “kirk” and “church” derive from the Greek “kyriakon”, an adjective not a noun, meaning “of the Lord”. What “of the Lord”? is the obvious question. Why is there no noun to give this perfectly sensible adjective for Christians a subject? The OED cannot justify the explanation from “kyriakon”, but because it has nothing better, it eventually sticks with it. The various Aryan languages have a perfectly good origin for this word, and it is the same origin as that of the Latin “circus”, and our word “circle”. In Celtic, whence it probably comes to us now as kirk and church, it is “ciric” (A Hadrian Allcroft, The Circle and the Cross, 1930). The use of this word to describe Pagan sacred spaces explains why these places were called kirks and remained as kirks after the Christians had built over the Pagan site with the Christian church, which was the same word Latinized according to Catholic pronunciation, but had to be given the non-Pagan meaning that some ingenious Christian scholar invented.

    Nearly all ancient churches stand on a mound like a barrow or in a circular enclosure marking out a burial ground, though, often, extension of the church grounds has hidden this fact, old maps show it is true. The sacred mound would be marked out by a boundary wall of wattle about five feet high, forming the roughly circular or oval space. The “ciric” explanation has the advantage of also explaining the churches that never existed as Christian churches. Ludchurch in Macclesfield, Derbyshire, seems to refer to a church dedicated to the Celtic god, Lugh, but has no history that can link it to anything Christian.

    All Saints church at Appleton-le-Street in East Yorkshire stands on the site of an ancient temple or an ancient burial ground. It has been used for burials at least back to Roman times. A handful of ancient British churches have obvious signs of being built on a Pagan site. The Norman church of S Mary at Lastingham in Yorkshire is built on a mound that contains a chamber that seems to have been an original Pagan shrine or temple. Another church at Plouaret in Brittany, the Church of the Seven Sleepers, is built on top of a dolmen that is the crypt of the church.

    The denigration of northern European gods by Christian missions is evident today in language. Hel was the Norse Goddess of the underworld where she ruled the dead. She was not evil, and her domain was not like the Hell of the Christians, a place of eternal punishment, but just the land of the dead where everyone who was not a god would end up. The missionaries gave the respected goddess, quite new connotations when they converted the Teutons. Similarly, the Old German word for a god was “god”, and because it meant a god it came to mean “good”. But this old word was a neuter word which remains today in German as the word for an idol! The same word but declined as masculine means God!

    Important archaeological finds at Hallstadt in Austria, Hochdorf in Bavaria, and La Tene in Switzerland, revealed the civilization of the Celts from 800 BC to 100 BC, respectively, with the Celts of Hochdorf flamboyantly burying a Celtic chief in the middle, about 550 BC. Grave goods suggest Celts believed in an after-life. The first Celts went to Ireland from Spain at about the time of the Hallstadt culture. They spoke Goidelic. From Ireland, these Celts invaded Britain from the west. Later, in the age of the La Tene culture, Celts from Gaul speaking Brythonic drove the Goidelic speaking Celts back to Ireland. That was when the British Isles got the name British, though Ireland was Goidelic speaking. Later the Goidelivc speaking Irish invaders took Gaelic to Scotland.

    The pre-Christian Celtic religion was concerned with Nature—that crops should grow, beasts and wives should be fertile, and the universe should remain orderly. No archaeological evidence has shown the Celts made human sacrifices.

    The goddess Brigit or Bride fostered the creative and magical arts, and so she was patron of poets, smiths and healers. Her feast was Imbolc (31 January), when spring showed the first signs of emerging from winter. Then she was imagined as a young maiden in contrast with the old hag of winter, and the mature woman of summer and autumn. She plainly was the earth goddess whose yearly aging was denoted by its fruitfulness.

    The temple of Bride the Goddess was at Kildare under an oak tree. It was surrounded by a brushwood fence within which no man might go—and the tradition is clear that should a man do do so, he forfeited his life. The temple was known as the House of Fire, and in it a fire burned perpetually on the altar, tended by the goddess’s nine priestesses, the Daughters of Fire. No human breath was allowed to fall on the flames. Bride was regarded as the goddess of fire, of knowledge, of poetry, of motherhood, and these realms make it clear that her origin was very ancient indeed.
    Guy Ragland Phillips, The Unpolluted God

    The saint who succeeded the goddess had the same powers and traditions except that priestesses became nuns. Even the sacred flame continued to burn until 1220 AD, when it was officially extinguished. The Church created S Bride of Kildare with her feast day on 1 February. In the Irish Church she became a sort of Irish Virgin Mary—Mary of the Gaels—presented as Christ’s godmother, and the woman who helped Mary find her lost son when he went absent among the temple priesthood.

    Christianity was a Roman religio licita—permitted belief—from 260 AD, and by 314 AD, it was widespread even in Britain, particularly in cities. Annianus, a supplicant of the goddess Sulis Minerva at Bath, wrote on a small piece of lead, as was the custom, a request that the goddess help return some silver coins someone had stolen from him. The offering spoke of the thief “seu gentilis seu cristianus” (whether Pagan or Christian). The writer of this message intended for Sulis sounds like a Christian in using the Christian word for a non-Christian, “gentile”, the Jewish word for a non-Jew—the Jewish roots of Christianity were still obvious—but the plea implies both that the Christians and Pagans were equally common, and that Christians were not specially noted for being good.

    Tertullian, about 204 AD, wrote of certain “districts of the Britons, unreached by the Romans, but subdued to Christ”. Strictly he could have meant only Wales or Scotland, but he might have counted the Irish as Britons. Saint Alban was the first British Martyr. In the reign of one of Septimus Severus (c 209 AD), Decius (c 254 AD) or Diocletian (c 305 AD), a Christian priest was persecuted in Verulamium (now St Albans). No one really knows when, but the dates all correspond to some of the few accepted periods of Christian persecution before Christianity triumphed under Constantine. That Christian priests could be openly practising at any of these times shows that Christianity was not generally persecuted at all. The priest was hidden by a Roman soldier called Albanus, and the priest converted him. To allow the priest to escape, the soldier agreed to distract attention by wearing the priest’s cloak, but he was exposed and executed for his trouble. The cloak is central to the story, and curiously is given the name Amphibalus. Moreover, a Christian priest’s white tunic is called an “alb”, and Britain has been known as albion since Roman times. The whole tale therefore looks composed for its purpose.

    The Roman commander at York, Constantius Chlorus was made emperor in 292 AD. His wife, Helen, was already a Christian, though not baptised. She plainly influenced her son, Constantine, who succeeded as emperor in 306 AD, though he too was not a baptised Christian. Helen was baptised in 312 AD,. In 313 AD, Constantine made Christianity the religion he, as emperor, favoured, effectively making it the state religion of his emperorship.

    The early British church sent Bishops to the Council of Arles in 314 AD—before S Augustine in Canterbury in 597 AD supposedly founded Christianity in Britain. Independent churches existed in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Cornwall, Brittany, and Gaul. There were Celtic Christians in the kingdom of Dal Riata in northwest Scotland, S Columba or Columcille of Iona (521-597 AD) being among them. Some outposts lasted after the Synod of Whitby (664 AD), when Rome was acknowledged as the supreme Christian authority. The Celtic church in Wales finally submitted to Rome in 768 AD. In Scotland, the “Culdees” (Keledei)—clergy and monks who kept to the earlier Celtic ways—appear in legal and ownership documents until the early eleventh century.

    S Martin of Tours, an ex-soldier from the Danube, was bishop of Tours from 372 AD. Until S Martin, Christianity had been urban, but he used monasticism to carry it to the countryside. Magnus Maximus (Maxen Wledig) briefly contested the emperorship from 383 until his defeat in 388 AD. His widow and son fled to Wales, in tradition, taking the monastic approach of S Martin with them. A few years later, monasticism was established in Wales. The prefix “Llan” in Welsh place names means an enclosure, and Christians claim it came from the enclosures made by the monasteries created at the time.

    The head of these monastic communities need not have been a priest, but he might, on the other hand have been a bishop. The jurisdiction of a Welsh bishop was for centuries defined by his congregation not by any district. Mass was said in Latin not Welsh. Clergy not bound by monastic vows were usually married. S David’s (525-589 AD) father, Sant, was king of Cardigan. His mother was a Nun called Non! Only in 1188 AD did the Welsh churches come under the archbishop of Canterbury. Even then, Giraldus Cambriensis, in the diocese of S David’s did not join until 1203 AD.

    The Venerable Bede tells us that pope Gregory replied to a letter from S Augustine of Canterbury asking about sexual matters concerning husband and wife so that he could guide the “uncouth English people”. The pope had said:

    When a man’s mind is attracted to these pleasures by lawless desire, he should not regard himself as fitted to join in Christian worship until these heated sesires cool in the mind, and he has ceased to labour under wrongful passions.

    Remember, it is married couples he is speaking about. They were to unite sexually only to have children and even then must not enjoy it! Admittedly the biblical Jesus spoke of those who renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom, but it was not an obligation on everyone.

    The west of England (Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset) had few signs of Christianity before the sixth century, when evangelic activity spurted. Irish raiders drove emigrants from the west country to Armorica, which they called Brittany. Samson of Dol, with Gildas, a disciple of Illtyd, worked in Cornwall before moving to Brittany. The Christians set themselves up in small communities, later called monsteries, but apparently not communities of celibates. They were mixed sex communities, small hamlets really, and provided the base for evangelising the surrounding countryside.

    The Cathach of S Columba, a Latin psalter of about 600 AD, curiously has a feature in common with Coptic manuscripts—the initial letters are decorated with red dots. What is the link between the Egyptian church and the Celtic? Was it simply a manuscript used as an example, or did some Alexandrine Christians somehow evangelize Britain and Ireland? The monastic emphasis of Celtic Christianity might have been inspired from the early desert Anchorites, and they, of course, were simply following the habit of the Essene saints. Both were strongly ascetic.

    The Essenes withdrew to the desert before Christianity started. Jesus did the same. The first Christian contemplatives did. A desert is a deserted place, it did not mean just a hot, sandy wilderness. The point of it was to get away from crowds to reach God in solitude. The eastern church had no monastic orders each with its own rule and idiosyncrasies. All monks simply took agreed solemn vows of commitment, and therefter lived in monasteries or retreated to the desert, a monastic tradition they kept from their Essene founders. Thus they had no loyalties to their particular order as well as the church. They just had their vows.

    Monastic life was reported in the Church from the second century. Were monasteries necessarily of celibates? The leading Essenes were celibates living a life considered monastic in the modern meaning of it, but village Essenes were not so committed. The Abbots of Dunkald were dynastic for generations. In the eighth and ninth centuries, the solitary monks of Ireland and Scotland came together into groups of thirteen, known as culdees (keledei—companions). Women were not admitted.

    The Council of Elvira in Spain (306) tried to enforce clerical celibacy, but failed. The Council of Nicaea in Asia Minor, rejected a proposal that clergy should stop living with their wives. Pope Leo the Great (440-461 AD) forbade Christians to “put away” (abandon) their wives on ordination. But even though they could remain together, there could be no more sex! They had to live as brother and sister. Councils in the east constantly upheld the right of the clergy to marry. Justinian II at the Council of Trullo (692 AD) settled the matter in favour of marriage, and eastern clergy have always had that right, though the bishops were always chosen from among the ranks of the celibate monks. This follows the Essenic practice in that only the top clergy had to be celibate.

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    I'm going to say...frosty at best.

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    christianity is a universalist religion. odinism is folkish.

    we should keep odinism sacread for the folk.
    i am folkish.

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    I believe people should follow their heart, but I am sick and tired of these people telling me my Gods are false, and I am going to hell. Because of this, I have a very negative opinion of the Christian church.
    The coward believes he will live forever
    If he holds back in the battle,
    But in old age he shall have no peace
    Though spears have spared his limbs

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