Mudcat Café message #219502 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #20846   Message #219502
Posted By: GUEST,Okiemockbird
28-Apr-00 - 10:13 AM
Thread Name: BS: More pagan stuff
Subject: RE: BS: More pagan stuff
Phil, it was YOU, not I, who wrote "Pagans got really quiet when the church took over", i.e. that there was no active resistance. In fact there was active resistance. Late Roman pagans (Julian, Symmachus) wrote eloquently in defense of their ancestral sacrifices. In some places there was armed resistance at least before the church "took over." In the period roughly 1000-1200 A.D. a well-armed Sorbian paganism resisted an equally well-armed Christendom.

Passive resistance and secret non-conformity are certainly possible. As I mentioned, there are recorded cases of Jews in Spain and North Africa conforming outwardly to Islam when the pressure was on, while remaining Jews in secret. I believe there is a letter of Maimonides on just that subject, in which he approves of the strategy. Christianity survived, so I have heard, in remote parts of Japan, and in at least one seaport, from the 17th to the 19th century despite official disapproval. Lithuania accepted Christianity formally in 1386, but a Lithuanian chatechism published in 1547 suggests that the chatechism's author thought it at least possible that his students might be tempted to serve the old god Perkunas. It is logically possible for paganism to have survived through the means of survival-by-deciet or survival-by-self-effacement. But I have yet to be convinced by any claims that have been made for such survival into my lifetime. When we hear about people practicing rites that might once have been offerings to pagan gods (e.g. throwing coins into fountains and wells, or pouring out ale to "Shoney") the evidence shows that the people who conducted these rites considered themselves Christians, and their ritual a Christian practice--not that they were wink-and-smirk decievers.

The Gardnerian Wicca's historical claims once (and in some places perhaps still) echoed the now-discredited Murray thesis, the now-discredited theory of a neolithic Great Mother, and the now-discredited theory of a mutterrecht period of human development. These claims strike me as transparently false. The demographic facts would seem to confirm this. The adherents of the Gardnerian Wicca aren't, so far as I can tell, the children of rural or mountain or forest people (the sort of places where, according to your proposal, paganism would most likely survive.) They are not concerned with practising ancient rituals in order to ensure a good catch or harvest, increase in their flocks, or ensure the prosperity of their city-state. They are individualistic, mainly middle-class suburbanites whose grandparents were by all evidence Christians. Their religion somewhat resembles the eclectic mystery cults of the ancient Mediterranean world, not anything documented for the British Isles. Yet it was in those islands that the Gardnerian Wicca was invented, and continuity with the ancient religion of those islands that the Gardnerian Wicca originally claimed.

A more plausible claim of historical continuity is made, so I once heard, by some in Iceland who sacrifice to Thor. I frankly don't believe their claims (if in fact they make such claims), but at least they aren't insultingly absurd. They've chosen a ritual and a god that are at least historically credible in their situation.