Saturday, 12 April 2014

Reformation and Paganism?

Witch Cult
I've come to a conclusion, so far at least there appears to be a conclusion. I read that Europe - including Britain - was still pretty pagan up until the period of the Reformation (c1550) but when I say 'pagan' remember that there was no organised pagan system of belief and never had been, you are looking at regional and local variations which can loosely be seen to form patterns of belief - and of decay - we are largely discussing folk memory. After the Reformation began a systematic conversion of almost everyone in the British Isles, and that's when the 'witch cult' comes into sharp focus. The old style RC priests had been fairly tolerant of the old customs whereas the new, professional clergy were encountering pagans for the first time and up went the cry 'witch!', 'warlock!', and so forth, with the tragic results we are all too aware of. But it gets difficult after this point, we can't see through the eyes of 16th century pagans because their words - where they were documented - were molded and shaped by the elite, the judges, the clergy, the high and the mighty. So what comes down to us is mostly elite fantasy grounded in biblical imagery which was - and still largely is - the founding stone of the Establishment

In origin, the 'witch cult' is probably an echo of all the various beliefs from prehistoric Britain, including a large shamanic element.

this Bronze Age woman was probably or possibly a shaman - here is the original which gave rise to the witch panic of the latter Middle Ages, a folk memory of elder deities and ecstatic flights to supernatural regions. Our native shamans are all around us, in barrows & on hill sides, out on the downs, out in the night, restless spirits somewhere out there, between dawn & dusk.

 Woman's Burial from Wessex

... these individuals - their mortal remains - are everywhere. I mean they are everywhere all around us, like 'genii loci'. Many of these ancient north European people were buried in association with deer antler & Natalie Mikhailova thinks that this "looks like features of shaman burials" [Archaeologia Baltica 7, p192 (2005)].

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