A History of Pagan Europe by Prudence J. Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Nigel Pennick and Prudence Jones have done exhaustive research and reading to bring the readership this volume. A survey of Pagan religion ideas starting off first with the Greeks and the Cretan then going into Roman Paganism and then giving full survey of Celtic and Norse Paganism, finally ending up with Baltic and Slavic Paganism.
The idea of the Goddess and her consort come to life in the discussion of Minoan Crete. THE Minoans were an agrarian people who were very peaceful and lived in unwalled cities. This all changed with the Mycenaean’s who tended to be more war like and less pastoralists. They changed things to walled cities which were like fortresses and built them on top of hills. This continued into Greece mainland. Later came the Dacians and with their military conquests came the Olympian Gods we all know and sometimes love. Of course what this book lays out it that ancient paganism was not so simple an monolithic. Sometimes different regions each had their own gods.
The Etruscans of Northern Italy may have come from the Middle East or Anatolia. They were an advanced civilization that built elaborate temples, water ways and roads. The Romans would later learn from them. In fact the Romans were once governed by them and this contact influenced how they dressed and behaved. The Etruscans had a form of divination that was very similar to the Mesopotamian way of dong things and their skills were in demand even after they came under the control of the Roman. They used to have three deities Tinia (God of boundaries), Uni (nighttime goddess) and Minerva (War and Wisdom). The Etruscans also believed in fate and destination.
The Romans were Latins who established Rome on three hills. They learned from the Greek colonies in the south and the Etruscans in the North. There original deities became Grecianized and melded to the Greek deities. Using what they learned they became bent on conquest. They also allowed for any religion to be practiced, especially private ones in the place of your own home. Some cults that came from abroad were the cults of Isis and Serapis and Mithraism from Persia. As the Romans pressed forward they would leave behind documentation of the cultures they conquered and they would spread Roman ideas and religion as well.
The Romans conquered many people but the first spoken of were the Celts. Much like the Romans the Celts had different spirits who were connected to the land, well of tree. They did not worship in temples or buildings but rather in groves. Triple goddesses like the Miorrigan were prevalent of course this could have been a borrowing from the Greco Roman civilizations with who they came into contact with. The Celts were reported to engage in human sacrifice and using the sacrificial victims for divination purposes. The women also fought and some famous warrior queen were female. The deities were also male and female. But the priesthood by and large was male with a few exceptions where all the Druids were females.
What we would call the Norse or Germanic Tribes was something more complex then what we thing. They had many deities and many different religions in their areas.
Christianity became the continental religion. Sometimes via agreement like in Celtic Lands sometimes by a mixture of persuasion and force like in the German lands. Finally in the Baltics they held out until the bitter end. The authors finish off with touchng in the resurgence of modern paganism. Europe seems to have been ridden with massacreds and holocaust especially after the advent of European Christianity. There is no paganism in the Muslim world as they made no concession to previous pagan customs. Would be interesting to learn more about Middle Eastern Paganism and how it was impacted by Islam.
As a finishing note I would like to add that the Middle East especially thorough the Phoenicians had a major impact of European ideas and Paganism. A further review would encompass this subject matter.
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