Paganism

Wow, I’m interested to know where exactly you acquired this information because large portions of it are remarkably false. Firstly, just to establish this, Women across all old Germanic cultures from the Germani of the first century to the Vikings had…
-The right to divorce an abusive or cheating husband
-The right to own and claim land and property, and inherit if they had no living brothers.
-The right to apply (though no garentee of acceptance) in any war band or raiding party.
-The right to bring charges and vote at Thing (local assembly).
-The right to challenge an opponent to trial by combat.

Needless to say these rights quickly disappeared as Christianity rose to prominence. Of the 3 main branches of the old culture (Continental, Anglo-Saxon, and Norse) the Norse women actualy had the most rights, and were undoubtably the most equally treated women of their time.

Furthermore most of your examples presented here are activitys present throughout the whole of human history and which persisted long after the adoption of Christianity. The rape and kidnapping of women durring war continues to this very day, nearly every woman between 8 and 80 in east Germany and west Poland was raped by Slav Orthodox Russians in 1945. And it wasn’t just the Bolsheviks, as the rate of rape in Western Europe was spectacularly high as well, even in liberated allied nations like France. The horrors of war are inherent, and not anything a religion change is going to stop.

Furthermore, the practices of kings taking women as concubines also continued through the Middle Ages, as did arranged marraiges and incestuous marraiges. The betrothal of children hardly even able to walk was common among the Christian aristocracy of Europe.

You somehow seem to equate paganism to Miley Cyrus of all people, and yet Christianity is the champion of women? It was the rise of Christianity which brought an end to democratic practices in Northern Europe, took the right to divorce from women, as well as the right to own property. The progress of women’s rights sense those days has not as some Christians claim been the product of the church (although in certain instances it has been helpful). Instead it has often been against it, as religious authority tends to oppose change in general.

It is gross misrepresentation of the facts and infact little more than wishful thinking to say that the advent of Christianity advanced the status of women in Northern Europe.

I renumbered them for clarity. You’re conflating a number of separate tribes and clans. As I said, women in some pagan cultures had some rights that women in other pagan cultures did not.

(1) True in some pagan cultures, not in others. Viking women could fairly easily divorce, and the threat of this was used in some circumstances to goad their men into carrying out blood feuds, as divorce was financially ruinous for the man. Among the early German tribes (such as the Huns), a man could divorce a woman for adultery, but not the other way around. A woman could divorce her husband if he committed a crime against the tribe, such as unlawful homicide or grave-robbing. Divorce at that time was not advantageous to most women, as it resulted in a loss of status, property, and reduced her prospects to find another provider and protector.
(2) As you say, male primogeniture laws took precedence over female claims. No argument there.
(3) Source? Women did not participate in war parties in Scandinavian cultures, though there are claims in the sagas that some took up arms in self defense, or aided their men in the last resort (whether these are actual occurrences or fictional ones to reinforce societal ideals is up for debate.) Women’s graves have been found with weapons, but that’s far from evidence they fought as warriors, in other than defense of the home (as Samurai women were also expected to do - this was a very limited warrant for use of arms, to prevent the loss of honor to an invading male by rape. That’s quite a ways from the idea that there was a culture full of Red Sonjas.) (Actually, Skadi, it’s hard to generalize about Viking cultures as you have done. They did not have a shared cultural identity, and different Scandinavian pagans had different customs and beliefs. In Iceland, which has one of the better attested legal codes, the Grágás forbade women to carry arms (or from cross-dressing as men, or cutting their hair short.). That might not be true in other countries.
(4) Source? Viking women could not be goði (chieftains), judges, or witnesses. There is no evidence women could speak at Scandinavian pagan þing (assemblies), though some could, under limited circumstances, in some Germanic ones. Women could be witnesses of civil ceremonies (as at a wedding) but not as witnesses against a man in a criminal trial, except in some circumstances.
(5) Good luck with that. It was felt to be unmanly (and very unlucky, as described in the Droplaugarsona saga) among the Vikings to strike a woman from their own tribe, so it is unlikely that a man would fight with a woman in trial by combat. I’d like to hear some textual sources for that. Women may have fought with women, but I don’t know of any sources on that in Viking culture. There was a tradition of settling marital disputes by (often lethal) trial by combat in Germany, which appears to have survived into the Christian era, but it was necessary to so handicap the male to make the battle even close to even that this was more likely to have been a really rough form of village entertainment. The cultural protections in some Viking cultures did not apply to women of other countries, who were subject to rape and enslavement as a cultural other. Although this obviously happened in Christian countries, chattel slavery and sexual trafficking of women was seen as a sin and aberrational by Christian thinkers (per Saints Augustine, Patrick, Paul, John, and Nicholas among many others), we do not see a similar movement against slavery in the pagan cultures…until Christianization (and even then, old ways die hard, as formerly pagan cultures, such as Sweden, returned to the slave trade in later years.)

The sexual assault and sexual enslavement of captured women (thralls) by Vikings was hardly just an occasional battlefield aberration, as you imply The sale of women stolen from Europe in slave markets was a source of continuing profits for the Viking men. The Laxdæla saga. described how Melkorka, daughter of an Irish king, was captured when she was 15 years old, then purchased by Höskuldur in Norway, she became the mother of Ólafur Höskuldsson (Olaf the Peacock). The medieval law book *Grágás * sets the purchase price for a concubine, a debt slave used for sexual purposes, indicating that this was not aberrational, but an intrinsic part of pagan Viking society. It wasn’t made illegal until the Christianization of Scandinavian countries.

Thanks! While I don’t necessarily agree with all point of your definition (though there are bits that I DO agree with, vis a vis Hinduism, etc.) it creates a starting point for discussion.

I have to admit that I look at Wicca as invented – and recently invented – and having no more claim to ancient paganism than L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology has to either science or religion.

About your second point, that leaders of the early church refused to mix pagan worship with Christian worship, can you link me to something about that ?

Also couldn’t some argue the legend that they ate Dionysus’s body be similar to our belief in the Eucharist ?

Faith,

Perhaps it would help if you turned the discussion around. For example, there are numerous examples on other religions regarding a dying god who returns to life bringing new life. In Christianity, that actually happened. So who is “copying” whom? Or, in fact, do the non-Christian religions actually have a glimpse of the truth of which Christianity is its fullness?

I was wondering about the very last part you wrote, even before you wrote it. :slight_smile:

I think that this is something that Lewis was trying to convey . . .

So, in other words , you’re saying that Christianity didn’t inspire the pagans to steal it’s ideas but that the longing for God resulted in some similarities between the two?

Something like that . . .

For example, in “The Abolition of Man” Lewis compiled quite an astonishing number of examples of similarities in moral codes throughout the centuries, all over the world, and in many, many different religions and philosophies.

I’m simply talking about the Roman and Greek gods, and their followers .

:frowning: I thought I was making some progress here.

You are . . . see my next post.

I did, Faith. See post #15, that you quoted. I don’t mind writing long (or long-winded) responses in response to a sincere question, but you are actually reading the responses, I hope. :confused:

You can also Google some of the writings of the early Church fathers on this subject, such as the sermon of Bishop Gregory Nazianzen, On the Theophany, or St. Athansius’s On the Heathen. There’s a good book collecting the writings of the ECFs that you would probably enjoy, and it’s available on the store website of this website - *The Fathers Know Best *by Jimmy Akins.

St. Justin Martyr wrote for the ECF majority in his First Apology:

[W]e do not reverence the same gods as you do, nor offer to the dead libations and the savour of fat, and crowns for their statues, and sacrifices. For you very well know that the same animals are with some esteemed gods, with others wild beasts, and with others sacrificial victims. And, secondly, because we— who, out of every race of men, used to worship Bacchus** [Bacchus is another name for Dionysus - AZM]** the son of Semele, and Apollo the son of Latona…or some one or other of those who are called gods— have now, through Jesus Christ, learned to despise these, though we be threatened with death for it, and have dedicated ourselves to the unbegotten and impossible God; of whom we are persuaded that never was he goaded by lust of Antiope, or such other women, or of Ganymede, nor was rescued by that hundred-handed giant whose aid was obtained through Thetis, nor was anxious on this account that her son Achilles should destroy many of the Greeks because of his concubine Briseis. Those who believe these things we pity, and those who invented them we know to be devils.

(emphases are mine)

If you don’t accept that as evidence that the early Christian Church utterly rejected any affinity between Christ and Dionysus, Grace, I’m not sure what will convince you.

Interestingly, St. Justin’s writings are used by some to try to argue that he admitted to similarities in some pagan beliefs to Christianity. That’s a complete misunderstanding of his point. His point, like that of David Zampino and C.S. Lewis, was that pagan philosophy contained some dim apprehension of the truth that is found fully only in Christian revelation. He wrote this in an attempt to persuade the pagan authorities to stop the persecution of the Christian Church, and used some pretty far-reaching and inaccurate parallels (but then, he was trying to use his persuasive powers to save innocent lives).

Also couldn’t some argue the legend that they ate Dionysus’s body be similar to our belief in the Eucharist ?

If they were ninnies, yes.

I know you are smarter than that, and understand that a legendary event (Dionysus did not really exist) is not the same as an historical event (Jesus did, as the vast majority of all reputable historians agree.) We have sufficient textual evidence from multiple sources for the historicity of Jesus. We have none for Dionysus. The Transubstantiation of the Eucharist is quite a different order of event than a mythical figure supposedly being torn apart and consumed by giant Titans, and then having his heart patched into another mythical god’s thigh…

Sorry. I forgot about your post. :blush:

That article is way over my head. :o

So, just read the quote from St. Justin the Martyr that I posted.

The Early Church Fathers (ECF) did NOT use Dionysus/Bacchus as a model for Jesus, as it says.

There is no textual evidence the Jews, the Apostles, or the ECF used Dionysus as a model - no letters, epistles, etc., saying “let’s do this. it will make us more popular.”

The mythological stories are widely different from the historical evidence for the life of Jesus.

Because there are a couple of vaguely similar elements in both stories doesn’t mean one is the source for another. If I know my grandfather was a foundling who was adopted by farmers in Kansas, and grew up to be big and strong, it doesn’t mean that he didn’t exist and that my parents made him up using Superman’s life as a model.

I can’t find that quote. :o. Will you please repost it?

It’s block-quoted in post #51, above. It was written sometime around 155 to 157 A.D., is addressed to the Emperor and the Roman Senate, and also provides an early attestation to Catholic belief, especially the celebration of the Eucharist and the doctrine of Transubstantiation.

“[W]e do not reverence the same gods as you do, nor offer to the dead libations and the savour of fat, and crowns for their statues, and sacrifices. For you very well know that the same animals are with some esteemed gods, with others wild beasts, and with others sacrificial victims. And, secondly, because we— who, out of every race of men, used to worship Bacchus Bacchus is another name for Dionysus - AZM] the son of Semele, and Apollo the son of Latona…or some one or other of those who are called gods— have now, through Jesus Christ, learned to despise these, though we be threatened with death for it, and have dedicated ourselves to the unbegotten and impossible God; of whom we are persuaded that never was he goaded by lust of Antiope, or such other women, or of Ganymede, nor was rescued by that hundred-handed giant whose aid was obtained through Thetis, nor was anxious on this account that her son Achilles should destroy many of the Greeks because of his concubine Briseis. Those who believe these things we pity, and those who invented them we know to be devils.”

Thanks!

Re: earlier comments by Skadi et al about pre-Christian Norse women’s rights –

There was one circumstance in which a Norse woman could legally become an avenger, fight duels, etc. She had to declare herself legally a man, dress like a man, live like a man, and give up all rights as a woman (including the right to marry a man, hold land, etc. if I remember correctly). This was different from being a shieldmaiden, btw. I don’t remember whether this custom went away when Christianity came in.

There’s a similar custom in the backcountry of Albania today, in which women can trade the restrictions of being a woman and support their families as the heir, by means of becoming legally a man, working men’s jobs, and dressing like a man. There are some older ladies still alive who still practice this.

Irish tradition does remember women slaves in pagan times being drafted into their lords’ war service as well as men, but of course this usually didn’t end well for a woman with less upper body strength and reach than the man on the opposite side; and peasant slave girls didn’t have any more war training than the slave men (ie, none) to compensate for this by speed and cleverness. So the story goes that one of the Irish saints’ mothers, coming upon a particularly gory battlefield full of dead women, demanded that women be legally forbidden to fight in wars, and to be given legal protection from being slaughtered in war along with other noncombatants.

Moving along… the sad truth is that, if you examine most cultures that worshipped goddesses, they usually worshipped goddesses aplenty but continued treating normal women like crud.

Romans were kind of an interesting case. Roman matrons could have a fair amount of power (and they wielded it), but it was usually unofficial power backed by strength of character and generations of hot Italian temper and cool Roman stares. A lot of their power depended on their fathers’ and husbands’ goodwill, their slaves and children’s fear of them, and a lot of experience of being powerless. If you were widowed or divorced, your kids belonged to your husbands’ families, not to you or yours. You saw or raised your kids solely by the other clan’s sufferance.

Roman girls didn’t have diddly. If their dad let them survive to get a name, and if their mom and dad loved them, and if they were freewomen, their lives might be pleasant enough. They weren’t kept kenneled up like classical Greek women, though they weren’t as free as Hellenic women in places like Alexandria. They were usually pretty uneducated by Roman standards, although many learned to read at home, and some women picked up a fair amount from reading or from talking to their brothers and relations. But although it didn’t usually come up if you were a freewoman or a citizen, you were essentially your dad’s property the whole time. Yay.

People like St. Paula, St. Fabiola, and their friends saw Christianity (at least partly) as a road to dignity. They were mostly pretty educated (except maybe Fabiola) and reasonably wealthy, but they had nowhere to go. Most of them were widows, and their lack of control of their lives, as well as their lack of certainty about what would happen to their kids, was apparently a big issue for them. Christianity told them that there was neither man nor woman, slave nor free, Jew nor Greek, and they did their best to bend their minds to the other strange concepts, for the sake of the God who promised a world safe for women to have families in.

Roman women, even after all the “new women” and their sexual exploits in Imperial times, still had a deep cultural belief that no Roman woman should ever allow herself to live if she had been raped, and that therefore any threat of rape should be answered by suicide. We can see that Roman men and women in St. Ambrose’s family still believed this, from his “On Virginity” treatise for his sister which praises Christian ladies who drowned themselves to escape capture and rape. It was the next generation of people more Christian in culture who rejected this – people like St. Augustine, who declared that rape was a crime by the rapist, not a shame for the victim; and that a raped woman should be regarded as no less chaste than she’d been before.

Re: Tertullian…

Well, yeppers, you have to watch what part of his career his writings come from. Was it from when he was still married, and telling people that the greatest joy in life was to sing psalms with your wife in the bosom of your home? Was it after she died, when he got all weird and bitter in a lawyer way, and started talking about the joy of heaven was to see all persecutors of Christians in Hell? (Nobody seems to know what happened to Tertullian’s wife, but it seems that she died, and it might have been in the persecution of his time.) Was it after he joined the holier-than-thou Donatists who said that nobody who took the easy way out of persecution could ever be forgiven by God and the Church? Was it after he joined the weird Montanist group that was simultaneously Donatist and worshipped a couple of rural prophet ladies as the Holy Spirit incarnate? Or was it one of the treatises written by those who admired him and wrote as him to make their allegiance clear?

Back when Tertullian was sane-ish and just a bit stern, he wrote a fair number of treatises telling men how to dress and behave, including that no decent Christian man would go out on the street without a good Roman pallium around his shoulders. So it’s no surprise that he wrote at least one treatise about women’s dress and behavior.

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