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Thread: A new blog on European tradition and religion

  1. #21

    Re: A new blog on European tradition and religion

    There is no reincarnation in European paganism, explicitly in heathenry? What? It is mentioned explicitly many times.

    Ok, firstly reincarnation is prominently discussed in Greek religious dialogues that we know of and likely many that are not extant. Orpheus, Socrates, Plato, Xenophon, Pythagoras and many others were advocates of reincarnation and we know from their works that this was not an unconventional belief at least among notary people, and there is no reason to suggest that lay people would have thought any differently.

    The reason it is not as heavily mentioned in Roman thought is because the Roman empire had taken in numerous immigrants from across the globe including North Africa, Anatolia and most importantly Jews. Judaism had a tremendous influence over the Roman empire. In fact, one of the main reasons Rome conquered so much of Europe was that the emperor was being threatened because of the debt he owed to money lenders. Feel free to disagree but Roman paganism and to a lesse extent Greek paganism (especially that of Athens) really cannot be used accurately to determine what traditional European religion was like because of just how diluted their religion became. In the Homeric era (Circa 800BC), the religion of Greece can be thought of as PIE but as the era we call the Ancient Era ensued thought changed significantly. Now on to the big topic: Germanic paganism. The Norwegian king Olaf Geirstad was said to have returned from the grave in a dream to request his barrow be opened:

    Later, the spirit of Olaf appears in a dream to a man named Hrani, who is instructed to break into the howe, salvage the ring, with the sword named Besing (Bęsingr) and a belt which are to be presented to Queen Įsta for her future son. The man was also bidden to sever the head of the drow though making sure the head was set straight on its neck in the beheading process. The man does as instructed, and the queen gives birth to the future Olaf the Saint.

    The Scandinavians also, as well as most of Europe, had a custom whereby the first born son was named after his grandfather if his grandfather was deceased so that his soul could return.

    Celts, as you said in Britain, Ireland, Gaul and Iberia also believed in reincarnation:

    Alexander Cornelius Polyhistor wrote that the Gauls teach “that the souls of men are immortal, and that after a fixed number of years they will enter into another body.”

    and to further prove my point:

    Julius Caesar wrote of the Celts in his ‘De Bello Gallico’ that “the principal point of their doctrine is that the soul does not die and that after death it passes from one body into another ... a firm belief in the indestructibility of the human soul, which, merely passes at death from one tenement to another; for by such doctrine alone, they say, which robs death of all its terrors, can the highest form of human courage be developed.”

    If you're not going to acknowledge the role of reincarnation in our ancestor's religion, there's really not any point at all because its such a central tenet of the religion. It would be like a Christian saying that Jesus didn't exist.

    Finally, the only extant branch of PIE religion that has an unbroken continuation back at least 6000 years is Hinduism. You of course cannot argue that reincarnation is not a central tenet of Hinduism.
    Last edited by Knowledge Goblin; 12 May 2018 at 04:10.

  2. #22
    Apprentice of Doom Shahaku's Avatar
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    Re: A new blog on European tradition and religion

    I'll start with the reincarnation bit. Reincarnation is a particularly complex topic, even if it looks simple at the surface. There are many different levels, if you will, of the human soul, many different ways of defining it, even within a single religions example. Often the conscious and the spirit/shade are distinguished as different aspects. In many cultures the conscious part of a person is extinguished at the same time their life is, and what moves on is this manifestation of energy, the shade, spirit, what have you.

    But that's not always the case. African traditions have a strong belief in ancestor worship, though it is varied from culture to culture, it's a common belief. Africans believe that they can always access their ancestors ghost, back for generation upon generation, and it's usually attached to a statue of some kind. While some of these cultural beliefs incorporate reincarnation, they are few. It's much more likely that the ghost is attached to the family until forgotten or no longer needed, at which time they move into the realm of the Ancestors. Or that they immediately move into the realm of the Ancestors, but are forever attached to their family and can assist from there. There are some African religions that believe in earthly reincarnation, but they also believe that their ancestors can help them, even very distant ancestors, which means that some part of the soul couldn't have been reincarnated, it must remain ethereal to offer assistance. And if you want to get down to it, ancient Africa is the source of all religion, for it's the source of all mankind.

    The pagan beliefs of the East in regard to reincarnation are even more confusing and complex, while looking simple at a first glance. They don’t believe that a person’s consciousness is reborn, only the energy of that person, but that energy carries a karmic balance. This is where a lot of the modern day pagan beliefs in reincarnation come from, not Europe. It is perhaps the single greatest thing that pagans have drawn from Eastern traditions, along with the focus on meditation techniques, since the techniques of our ancestors were lost or hard to decipher.

    While reincarnation may be mentioned in some European contexts, it’s important to realize that there was a definite afterlife world in most of these traditions. Hades, Valhalla, the Delightful Plain, Tir no Nog (sp?). Many names, but ultimately the place where people go when they die. And generally, people accepted that they wouldn’t be coming back. That was the consensus.

    The other thing to realize is that there were often separate orders within one faith, and even more so within a greater culture, and those orders could believe drastically different things. There are always outliers, and those individual outlier, when added together, could be greater than the majority. Modern day Evangelical Christians, the extreme right, are particularly vocal, and have tons of published material, but they don't represent the majority. But, in a couple thousand years, when people look back on this time period in America, they are probably going to say, Oh well, all these prominent people (the published ones) believed in XYZ, the greater population must have believed it too. But it's much more complicated than that, isn't it? So saying that because Plato/Socrates/etc believed in XYZ, does not necessarily mean that it was a common belief or that they were representing the populace particularly well.

    Now, on to the topic of monastics and the mysteries. Mysteries are interesting and intriguing. Humanity in general has an interest in anything unseen, or difficult to discover. We’re curious creatures. That meant that by incorporating mysteries, a religion could hold the people’s interest. It’s somewhat manipulative and I don’t like how it’s been incorporated into modern day paganism.

    There is a level of education needed to reach be able to understand higher ideas, but to classify those ideas as mysteries and things that can only be accessed with commitment to one group is a bit underhanded. It’s blackmailing a religious commitment from people. But perhaps that’s a little off topic.

    The monastic order does hold the mysteries sacred. They do interpret the knowledge gained from those mysteries for the general populace. But they are so much more than that. They are the teacher’s and storytellers. They perform the sacred rites. They bring comfort in difficult times. They are the hand that guides. That is their purpose, and they stand between the worlds. So it is much more than just gaining access to the mysteries, but a responsibility as well.

    From what I can find there was no Norse monastic order. Their religion was an integral part of their life. Their rulers were also their religious leaders. And their rulers were determined by popularity, though it stands to reason that the child of one ruler would be in a better position to gain support. So, knowledge of rites, mysteries, etc, was everyone’s responsibility, but especially that of the noble class.

    As far as Hellenic traditions go, there were numerous orders and temples, usually dedicated to a particular deity. There were very obvious levels of the monastic order. But what each of those temple’s believed and dedicated themselves to was at times quite different. Some believed in asceticism and others in indulgence for example. They all served a purpose.

    And finally on Archetypes. I’m a strong believer in archetypes. There is great evidence that archetypes are a thing. After all, in almost every polytheistic religion you can see gods of farming, motherhood, death, and creation. In almost every culture you see the trickster. And I do think, that as we can trace all of humanity back to Africa, we can see the influences of what the most ancient people believed trickling through history. But too much time has passed for us to truly know what the original faith would have looked like. And the religions of today have vast difference and gaps in belief.

    The essential factors of many faiths, outside of deities, can differ greatly though. Many have something that amounts to the Golden Rule. There’s a UU sign that lists them all, it’s pretty cool. But what they held most important outside of that changes. Is death a good thing, a time when you’re moving into a new existence, or an evil thing, a punishment for all the wrong done in life? Is sex good or bad? What values are held highest? What are the taboos? How can one communicate with the divine? These are all things that vary greatly from faith to faith.

    And honestly I don’t think it matters. What’s important is that you be a good person in this life.
    Service to your fellows is the root of peace.

  3. #23
    Sr. Member October's Avatar
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    Re: A new blog on European tradition and religion

    Hi there. Your ideas are interesting and I'm a big believer in archetypes. However, as an archaeologist and a Celtic Reconstructionist, I have to advise you that Rule #1 when dealing with the Celts is to never reference Caesar. Remember that everything he wrote about them was propaganda intended to enrage the people at home so that they would support and fund his wars with the Gauls (because he wanted their gold). So please keep an eye on your sources and where you are getting your information, and make sure it's as unbiased as possible.
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  4. #24

    Re: A new blog on European tradition and religion

    Quote Originally Posted by October View Post
    Hi there. Your ideas are interesting and I'm a big believer in archetypes. However, as an archaeologist and a Celtic Reconstructionist, I have to advise you that Rule #1 when dealing with the Celts is to never reference Caesar. Remember that everything he wrote about them was propaganda intended to enrage the people at home so that they would support and fund his wars with the Gauls (because he wanted their gold). So please keep an eye on your sources and where you are getting your information, and make sure it's as unbiased as possible.

    Hi mate, sorry for the late reply; I've not been paying much attention to this site as unfortunately it doesn't seem to be very active usually. I'm no professional historian, but I can not understand the logic you use in reference to not quoting Caesar, Tacitus, etc. There really is no such thing as an unbiased source. From what I have learned and indeed indeed common sense would it not stand to reason that the Romans would wish to portray the Northern European people as less civilized than they actually were in order to justify invasion? This is why there are random references in Tactitus to Celtic women offering themselves to anyone, and Romans saying that there were homosexual Celts which the other sources indicate is not true. As long as you compare sources it shouldn't matter whether there is bias, as it would soon become obvious which one is the odd one out and is telling lies. Also, there could be no political motivation to saying that Celts believed in reincarnation; that's ridiculous.
    Last edited by Knowledge Goblin; 27 May 2018 at 04:47.

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