Richard Wandel & Marian Tortorella
Examining the History of Christmas and Paganism
Monday, December 28th, 2015 at 9 pm EST, EPIC Voyages Radio’s most consummate documentarian Alan B. Smith invited Richard Wandel and Marian Tortorella to discuss the history of Christmas and Paganism.
Paganism is a term that developed among the Christian community of southern Europe during late antiquity to describe religions other than their own, Judaism, or Islam–the three Abrahamic religions. Throughout Christendom, it continued to be used, typically in a derogatory sense. In the 19th century, it was re-adopted as a self-descriptor by members of various artistic groups inspired by the ancient world. In the 20th century, it came to be applied as a self-description by practitioners of contemporary pagan, or neo-pagan, religious movements.
There has been much scholarly argument as to the origin of the term paganism. Paganism has also been understood by some to include any non-Abrahamic religions, but this is generally seen as insulting by adherents of those religions. While paganism is often considered to exclude monotheism and to express a worldview that is pantheistic, polytheistic, or animistic, there are some monotheistic pagans. Once monotheistic religions, such as Christianity and Islam, started to become more prominent (in processes known as Christianization and Islamization), names to encompass polytheistic worshipers started to develop; some of these include Hellene, pagan, and heathen, and at times these names were used as slurs.
Modern knowledge of old pagan religions comes from several sources, including: anthropological field research records, the evidence of archaeological artifacts, and the historical accounts of ancient writers regarding cultures known to the classical world. Before the rise of monotheistic religions, most people practiced some type of polytheism. Many of these religions started to die out, and eventually they became extinct. In some cases, elements of polytheistic belief systems continued to exist in folklore. Paganism would later be studied during the Renaissance and Romantic era. Forms of these religions, influenced by various historical pagan beliefs of pre-modern Europe, exist today and are known as contemporary or modern paganism, also referred to as Neo-paganism.