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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird) BS: More pagan stuff (118* d) RE: BS: More pagan stuff 03 May 00


to the troll I say, "It is I, the BIGGEST billy-goat Gruff".

JZG, I'll get back to you with titles of books that I've found interesting. Of the works of Ronald Hutton, which have been mentioned several times by myself and others, The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles, is especially relevant to your inquiry.

My hunch is that people who claim that paganism has survived in their family arrive at their claim by something like the following steps:

(1) the individual becomes jaded or disillusioned with Christianity, Judaism, or modern society;

(2) the individual, remembers, invents, or assumes the existence of ancestors who practiced various magical and/or calendar customs or folk rituals;

(3) the individual uncritically accepts the judgement of obsolete scholarship, romantic fantasy, or Christian moralists that these folk customs are "pagan" in origin and/or intent;

(4) the individual concludes that the ancestors were secret pagans, cynical imposters who knowingly pretended to be Christians but weren't;

(5) the individual cobbles together a kit of obsolete scholarly theories, current scholarly theories, wishful thinking, folk customs and other old materials into a religious system;

(6) the individual identifies this newly-minted religious system with the "secret" religion of the ancestors.

This hypothetical process can have been practised at any time in the past 150 years or so. It seems to underly Jules Michelet's Le Sorcière (1862) and Charles Godfrey Leland's Aradia (1899). So it is possible for moderns to have come by their romantic fantasies honestly.

The possible survival of explicit worship of pagan gods can't be ruled out, as I have repeatedly stated. But the systems--the ones based on variants of the Murray thesis--which have been presented in enough detail to be checked have not checked out. They look more like the results of my hypothetical 6-step process than like anything that can reasonably be thought to have been transmitted from the pagan past without change.

As I have also stated, I am on my guard in the presence of neo-pagans who make tendentious historical claims, just as I am on-my guard in the presence of adherents of various schools of political philosophy who make tendentious historical claims. I will be especially on my guard if I ever encounter any (so far I have not encountered any such, but I have heard rumors of them) who start blaming "the Jews" for "patriarchy" (a flexible term which can cover almost all the world's ills.)

T.


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