European Paganism: The Realities of Cult from Antiquity to the Middle Ages

European Paganism: The Realities of Cult from Antiquity to the Middle Ages

European Paganism: The Realities of Cult from Antiquity to the Middle Ages

European Paganism: The Realities of Cult from Antiquity to the Middle Ages

Synopsis

European Paganism provides a comprehensive and accessible overview of ancient pagan religions throughout the European continent.Before there where Christians, the peoples of Europe were pagans. Were they bloodthirsty savages hanging human offerings from trees? Were they happy ecologists, valuing the unpolluted rivers and mountains? In European Paganism Ken Dowden outlines and analyses the diverse aspects of pagan ritual and culture from human sacrifice to pilgrimage lunar festivals and tree worship. It includes:* a 'timelines' chart to aid with chronology* many quotations from ancient and modern sources translated from the original language where necessary, to make them accessible* a comprehensive bibliography and guide to further reading.

Excerpt

I was once invited to write forty pages on European paganism to a very tight deadline. This book has grown out of that experience in data-compression. I have always believed that smaller areas were best understood in larger contexts and in many ways the whole question of paganism in Europe requires the largest of views. The largest of views, however, takes more room and more time than one would ever imagine, and what started in the mind’s eye as a short book giving a good representative sample of the range of pagan phenomena has grown into a larger book which still seems to leave so much out. I would like a lifetime to write the real, encyclopaedic version of this book. But it might stretch to a volume or two…

My aim was not to write a history of pagan Europe—that has been done with real commitment by Jones and Pennick (1995)—nor to write a history of the decline and fall of paganism to Christianity, which is just as well as Fletcher has now written a glorious book (1997) on just that subject. Rather, I wanted to show paganism in action, see what it looked and felt like, let the reader see the evidence and listen to the authors, even boring old Caesarius of Arles and grumpy Maximus of Turin.

There are clear problems of evidence and it is truer in this field than in others that it is the privileging of evidence and even its actual existence that drives writing on the subject. I did not want to be evidenced into a corner by treating each European culture separately—Greeks, Romans, Celts, Germans, Slavs, Balts. In few cases does anything like a representative range of evidence exist. The result could so easily be a patchy and inconsequential discussion of routine topics: Druids, ossuaries, lakes and gods of whom only their name is known for Celts; grand Wagnerian mythology for north Germans, with a bow to Tacitus for the south. Rather, I decided that topic by topic was the best way and most illuminating way. There are questions to be asked about springs and groves and time and temples and priests. They are interesting questions which can be illustrated from across the range of cultures, however thin the information from a particular culture.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.