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The introduction articulates the problem of the origins of Britain’s folkloric beings and traces the various ways in which scholars have tackled (or sidestepped) the problem, from John Aubrey to the present day. The introduction seeks to explain why scholars became wary of engaging with folkloric origins as a historical question, critiques previous approaches to the history of folkloric beings, and presents the book’s new approach in the context of current methodologies in the study of the history of popular religion. The introduction then outlines the structure of the book
Having previously investigated the political and religious milieux of the north and the south of the Arabian Peninsula, this chapter sheds some light on the history of the Ḥijāz at the time of the rise of Islam. It aims to answer the following questions: what factors made the Ḥijāz a favourable environment for the emergence of a third scriptural monotheism? What was the religious context of sixth- and seventh-century Ḥijāz? What picture emerges from a comparative reading of the epigraphical and literary sources? The chapter discusses the polytheistic milieu of pre-Islamic Arabia immediately after the introduction. This discussion includes an analysis of the Qurʾānic passages which mention pagan idols, and argues the case for the existence of a henotheist Ḥijāz at the end of the sixth century. In the third section, an overview of the scriptural communities documented in the Ḥijāz is given. These scriptural groups heavily influenced and shaped the rise of Islam, as evident from even a superficial reading of the Qur’ān. Finally, section four analyses Muḥammad’s prophetic career.
Pagan revivalism is a growing trend in the contemporary religious landscape. Is it possible to be a neopagan without disregarding the demands of reason? While outright belief in the old gods seems out of the question, I argue that polytheism represents a live epistemic possibility, and that non-doxastic paganism is therefore a viable option. However, the rational, non-doxastic neopagan should only commit to general polytheism, rather than a detailed, specific pagan pantheon (such as the Greek or Old Norse). I also suggest that the ancient pagan conception of the divine as radically immanent must be rejected.
Focusing on the Christian concept of sin, this chapter explores the way in which Anti-Climacus in Part Two of The Sickness unto Death analyzes the concepts of despair, selfhood, spirit, sin, offense, faith, paradox, and God from the standpoint of a Christian understanding of these concepts in contrast to that of classical paganism and Christendom, especially the way in which these concepts are rooted scripturally in Christianity in not willing or doing what is right rather than not knowing or understanding what one should do, as in paganism. It focuses in particular on the Christian doctrine of hereditary sin and the paradox that sin is not a negation but a position before God that cannot be comprehended but must be believed through a revelation from and relation to God, thereby creating the possibility of offense.
The chapters in this book are all readings, or interpretations, of key characters and episodes in the Divine Comedy where it can be shown that what is at stake is a kind of faith. What has been argued is that reading itself is an act of faith, a willingness to trust not only in the individual human author or narrator, but in the larger story in which all truthful, good faith narratives somehow fit. A different faith, like a superseded hypothesis in science, is another way of approaching a single truth and it can be read, charitably, as such.
Witchcraft and paganism exert an insistent pressure from the margins of midcentury British detective fiction. This Element investigates the appearance of witchcraft and paganism in the novels of four of the most popular female detective authors of the era: Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh and Gladys Mitchell. The author approaches the theme of witchcraft and paganism not simply as a matter of content but as an influence which shapes the narrative and its possibilities. The 'witchy' detective novel, as the author calls it, brings together the conventions of Golden Age fiction with the images and enchantments of witchcraft and paganism to produce a hitherto unstudied mode of detective fiction in the midcentury.
This focus on the senators and the clergy is important because, in my view, too much of the discussion of Rome in late antiquity has focused on either the catastrophic impact of barbarian invasions or the baleful influence of weak emperors and strident generals. Although I am not the first to recognize the vital role played by senatorial aristocrats nor to show the limited influence of the bishops in Rome, new information about the city in late antiquity, new scholarly work on its history, and a new appreciation of the role of the bishops of the city require a new perspective on the very old topic of the “Fall of Rome.”
The reorganization of the empire and administrative reforms of the emperor Diocletian at the end of the third century brought changes to Egypt, particularly in taxation and coinage, now more similar to those elsewhere in the empire. Alexandria suffered yet more damage in the revolt of Domitius Domitianus, and rebuilding took many years. The civic elite reached its peak of influence in this period, but by the fifth century its lower and middle ranks were losing ground to the wealthiest, and new fortunes were being founded on salaried careers in the imperial administration. The Christian church became a major institutional power after the end of persecutions, developing a large network of churches, clergy, monasteries, and then charitable institutions such as hospitals. A Christian educational culture and Coptic literary culture began to develop, as well. At the same time, there were signs of a rebirth of a visible Jewish community in Egypt.
Montesquieu assesses Roman politics, philosophy, and religion. He explains in his Dissertation on Roman Politics in Religion (1716) that the Roman republic was designed by Romulus and the early kings of Rome as a theocracy. The goal of Roman paganism was “to inspire fear of the gods in a people who feared nothing, and to make use of that fear to lead them in any way they wished.” In his Discourse on Cicero (1717) Montesquieu expresses unstinting admiration for Cicero both as a statesman and a philosopher, asserting that Cicero’s De Officiis teaches us “what is honorable and beneficial, what we owe to society, what we owe to ourselves, and what we should do as heads of families or as citizens.” In his Dialogue between Sulla and Eucrates (1724) he assesses the conduct of the Roman general and dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla, observing that he had shown how deadly heroism can be, even when based on sound principle, such as Sulla’s desire to restore the powers of the Roman senate. “For one man to be above humanity,” Montesquieu concludes, all the others pay too dear a price.” Sulla marked out a path toward tyranny that Caesar would surely follow.
A number of Montesquieu's lesser-known discourses, dissertations and dialogues are made available to a wider audience, for the first time fully translated and annotated in English. The views they incorporate on politics, economics, science, and religion shed light on the overall development of his political and moral thought. They enable us better to understand not just Montesquieu's importance as a political philosopher studying forms of government, but also his stature as a moral philosopher, seeking to remind us of our duties while injecting deeper moral concerns into politics and international relations. They reveal that Montesquieu's vision for the future was remarkably clear: more science and less superstition; greater understanding of our moral duties; enhanced concern for justice, increased emphasis on moral principles in the conduct of domestic and international politics; toleration of conflicting religious viewpoints; commerce over war, and liberty over despotism as the proper goals for mankind.
A now conventional model, developed by Robert Markus, sees late Roman cities as fundamentally secular landscapes. Focusing on Augustine's sermon against a feast of the genius of Carthage (Sermo 62), this article argues that narratives of ‘secularity’ have neglected pagans’ own attitudes and the circumstances that drove ordinary Christians’ participation in civic rites. Behind Augustine's charges of ‘idolatry’ lay the religious convictions of the feast's non-Christian sponsors and behind their expectations of Christian attendance lay the recent destruction of a pagan shrine on church property. For Augustine's listeners to construe the feast as religiously irrelevant was an expression not of routine social solidarity, but of fear before powerful patrons. What was ‘secular’ was open to doubt and negotiation, both here and in empire-wide celebrations such as the Kalends of January; the boundary between the ‘pagan’ and the ‘secular’ can be located only with careful attention to the diversity of opinions about each particular rite.
Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy was one of the philosophical works best known to Jean de Meun, and later in life, after he had written his part of the Roman de la Rose, he would translate it into French. The Consolation is not, however, a straightforward philosophical treatise, but a work that uses a variety of literary forms (dialogue; the alternation of prose and verse; personification) in order, arguably, to convey a much more complex position than the ostensible conclusion of the argument made by Lady Philosophy. This complexity is due especially to Boethius’s reaction to what I call ‘the Problem of Paganism’. Although the Consolation was widely read, closely studied and imitated or used in a whole variety of ways from the ninth century onwards, most of its medieval readers were not sensitive to these complexities. This contribution will investigate whether the Roman de la Rose shows that Jean de Meun is an exception to the rule. It will do so by looking at the relation between his part of the poem, the Consolation and the Problem of Paganism.
Ted Hughes is one of the most important twentieth-century British poets. This book provides a radical reassessment of his relationship to the Christian faith, revealing his critically-endorsed paganism as profoundly and productively engaged with all the essentials of Christian thought. Hughes's intense criticism of the Reformation, his interest in restoring the Virgin Mary to her pre-Christian status as divine mother-goddess, his attempts to marry evolutionary science and scripture with a biological interpretation of the fall, his endorsement of the cross as the central symbol of the human condition, and the role of Christ in his myth of Sylvia Plath are among the many topics explored. Along the way, Troupes establishes strong thematic and intertextual links between Hughes and the American Transcendentalist tradition - a tradition which offers moments of vital illumination of Hughes's religious themes while encouraging a more generous trans-Atlantic appreciation of Hughes's literary affiliations.
This article looks at the ways in which the legal system of a modern European jurisdiction has engaged with a counter-cultural minority religious movement. The jurisdiction in question is England and Wales, and the religious movement is revived modern Paganism. The article seeks to cast light on the question of what a post-Christian secular state does in practice when its commitment to pluralistic values encounters a group whose self-understanding challenges the norms of both Christianity and secularity. In more general terms, it allows us to look at how the law of England and Wales has attempted to move beyond its historic confessional Protestant premises; and how this attempt has not been without its anomalies and shortcomings.
Magical practices, such as various forms of divination, amulets or the use of incantations, were part and parcel of that concept of paganism, and they helped Christianity set up clear-cut boundaries by defining what is permitted from a Christian point of view and what is not. The late seventh and early eighth centuries marked an important turning point in the references made to magic and paganism in Western Europe. When considering the nature of magic and magical practices in the early medieval West, one has to keep in mind that magic was closely intertwined with the Christianised world-view of the post-Roman Barbarian world. No doubt people in the early medieval West possessed amulets and phylacteries, turned to witch doctors in times of illness and distress and attempted to intervene in the course of nature by swallowing potions or reciting incantations. These acts were interpreted by various Christian authors as magical and, more often than not, as pagan and diabolical.
This article begins with a review of the traditional dates for Palladas (c. A.D. 360–450) and the current consensus of most scholars (c. A.D. 319–400). The first of these relies almost exclusively on the dubious manuscript lemmata and the second on an interpretation of Palladas' epigrams pertaining to the rise of Christianity and the weakening of the pagan cults, which are supposed to be Theodosian in date. Both timelines are difficult to reconcile with two external clues, which together suggest that his floruit must have been earlier than the second half of the fourth century. Further analysis reveals that the important pagan-Christian epigrams are full of Constantine's political and religious propaganda post-324. Another line of inquiry establishes a new set of dates: c. A.D. 259–340.
To understand the Christianisation of Egypt as well as the conflicts with native religion that this process entailed, we need to make some tentative distinction between the Christianity of texts and the Christianities assembled locally in villages. If the ancient gods and their shrines were often demonised, the new Christian worldview also depended upon familiar notions of harmful and beneficial power, ritual efficacy, and communication with divine beings. The author calls this inevitable process of mediating new ideologies within traditional schemes of ritual power syncretism, but only to the extent that it involves indigenous local agency and a genuine engagement with the authority of the new worldview, and not in the older sense of pagan survival or native misunderstanding. A growing intolerance among Christian leaders for Egyptian temple cults from the late fourth century probably arose with a revival of martyrological lore. The secret corridors and austere priestly rites once romanticised in Hellenistic literature now became the loci of sorcery.
This chapter deals with the primal, pagan religion of Ireland. As for the position of women, Irish society was strongly patriarchal: women were generally under the authority of their father, husband or son, and had limited scope for independent action. Irish society was hierarchical, and the law tracts list several different ranks, each with its own honour price. The basic structure was that of kings, lords, and ordinary freemen, all of whom were free and had their own legal independence. By ad 500, it is likely that Christianity had been preached throughout Ireland, but far from certain that it had yet been embraced by a majority of the population. In Ireland, paganism was so strongly entrenched that Christianity had to struggle for well over a century before winning formal acceptance. In Irish society, the hereditary principle was so ubiquitous that it was natural for it to apply within the church as well.
Rhetoric was the core of ancient education. Lactantius and Arnobius were both professors of rhetoric; indeed, though neither mentions the other in his surviving works, Arnobius taught Lactantius. Arnobius compares the gods who regulated the practicalities of life in a Roman city to an elevated conception of divinity which owes as much to classical philosophy as it does to Christianity. Romans distinguished between religio, what was done to sustain the relationship between Gods and men, and sapientia, the knowledge of matters human and divine. Lactantius opined that pagan religio lacked any connection with ethics; it subordinated the spiritual to the physical and was concerned merely with matters of ritual. Lactantius lays out the united religio and sapientia of Christianity in seven books: the first three demonstrate the falseness of pagan cult and philosophy, the latter four true wisdom and the religion of the One God, its duties and rewards.
The discoveries at Qumran show that in the first century BC the text of Isaiah, for example, was faithfully transmitted; the widely varying interpretations that might be placed on the text by Jews as well as later by Christians. Christian literature began with the interpretation of the Old Testament in the light of Christian experience. The literature of the earliest Church, from the New Testament, is with two exceptions what might have been predicted from its Jewish origins: the sacred books of Judaism and some interpretations of those books in the light of Christian experience. In Jewish copies of the Greek versions of the scriptures it was usual for the name of God, Yahweh, to be written in Hebrew letters. Christian culture and education were bookish through and through; reliance on the book, initially a legacy from Judaism, was soon a weapon of the Church in its fight against paganism.
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