Monday, June 25, 2012

Sacrifice

At work a few of us were having a discussion. It turned somehow to the Druids of what is today Great Britain. And of how they were eventually suppressed and exterminated by the Romans. I mentioned the fact that Romans used the excuse of their loathing of human sacrifice as a reason to destroy the traditional Druid religion of Britain. This was one of the few instances of which I'm aware of the Pagan Romans expunging a religion. The Christian Romans were notorious for doing so, but not the more philosophically tolerant Pagan Romans.

Popular image of the Druid priest.

Someone else thought that was a strange and hypocritical thing for the Romans to curse another society for human sacrifice since the Romans often sacrificed Christians in the Games. (I didn't mention that the extermination of the Druid cults took place before Christianity was much more than an idea in the head of Saul of Tarsus.)

But I pointed out that such so-called sacrifice is largely just post-Christian propaganda. And even so, if it happened thus, it wasn't the sacrifice of humans to a god, but was instead a punishment.

"In the absence of an electric chair," I said, "I suppose a lion would serve the same purpose." (Plus keep the masses entertained.)

We didn't get into the little details of how the early Christian cults refused to take part in Pagan celebrations which were in turn used as an opportunity for certain governmental proceedings. If you weren't enjoying the polytheistic celebrations, then you were more likely to not pay taxes, take part in a census, etc. Thus, the Christians were becoming something of an irritant and logically became suspected of disloyalty. And, of course, their intolerance of other religions was already of note to those who paid attention to such things.

Early in the cult's growth, priests of the traditional religions were worried what would happen to Rome's society should the Christian death cult take hold in a big way. Of course their worries were well founded when, tables turned, the Christians plundered the temples of Rome's ancient religion, de
stroying utterly what they could, and converting what they could not destroy toward Christian purposes.

The Pantheon, one of the greatest structures of Pagan Rome. The alcoves visible along the walls once held statues of the great Greek/Roman gods. Theodosius and his Imperial heirs recognized the importance of places like the Pantheon, even as they forgot how to build such things and the empire and its society slid into superstitious science-hating ignorance which, eventually, shattered and became a bitter memory in the minds of folk who recalled it at all.

You gotta love the Brits. They wouldn't allow anything like this to be posed in this way on USA television:

Fuck Ayn Rand. Robin Hood would have put an arrow right through that ho'.


6 comments:

MarkGelbart said...

I think you can blame the extermination of the Druids on the Christians too. King Charlemange was the single person most responsible for converting them to Christianity at the point of the sword. He had thousands of tree-worshippers beheaded. Tree-worshippers lasted in Ireland until St. Patrick peacefully converted them, I think, around 500 AD.

HemlockMan said...

What the Pagan Romans pretty much succeeded in doing was getting rid of their high priests, thus denying the religion of the holders of its innermost workings. Druidism lingered on after that, but in a reduced and corrupted state.

One of my favorite parts of CLAUDIUS THE GOD was when Claudius encountered a high Druid priest who scared the crap out of him.

MarkGelbart said...

The Romans never really conquered the Germans. Druids may have been weakened second class citizens within the confines of the Roman Empire, but in Germany and the outer reaches of Britain they remained independent until Christianity was either forced on them (in northern Europe) or accepted (in Ireland).

HemlockMan said...

I was surprised to learn how long various traditional religions lingered in different western nations after Christianity set in. The Saami people had to have their native religion killed out of them very late in the scheme of things. And several areas who followed the Norse religion gave it up only grudgingly and after basically being bribed into taking on Christianity.

MarkGelbart said...

Most of Christianity is actually based on pagan myths.

Many of the famous Catholic saints were minor pagan Gods. The Catholic authorities couldn't stop people from praying to them, so they converted the deities to Christian saints. All Christian holidays, every single one, are based on pagan myths.

The Christmas tree = the Druid tree worship.

The Easter Bunny = pagan fertility worship.

And Halloween is just downright embarrassing to Christians.

HemlockMan said...

Oh, yeah. It goes back to the fact that Christianity was initially competing with the traditional Roman religion. The traditional folk had some great holidays that the masses purely loved. So the Christians co-opted those, twisting their documents so that important dates would conveniently coincide with the Pagan holidays.