The concepts lying behind the words “witch” and “magician” have undergone a significant change in the past 60 years. While keeping much of the traditional connotations, the labels have attained new meanings in the new context of contemporary pagan and magical practice, which correspond with the actual needs, lifestyles and lifeviews of their contemporary bearers. The goal of the paper is first to describe the traditional concepts lying behind the terms “witch” and “magician” and second, to trace, capture and describe the transformation of these concepts in the last half of a century. The fieldwork data used in the paper come from my long-term research of neo-paganism and magical practice in the Czech Republic.
The allegorical interpretations of pagan gods flourished in late Antiquity. They were the work of the pagans, who thus sought to spiritualize their religion, but also of some Christians, who thought that the pagan fables were hiding truths they needed to discover.
The goddess Hera-Juno has not escaped the phenomenon. Here we consider, taking as one basis the works of Fabius Planciades Fulgentius, African writer of the fifth-sixth century, what these interpretations are and what they tell us both about this goddess and the mentality of late Antiquity.
The conflict between the pagans and the Christian authorities of the Eastern Roman Empire has given birth to numerous polemical discussions among modern commentators, which is due to the fact that our sources on the subject were often biased. The closing of the Neo-Platonic Academy in Athens in 529 has nevertheless been cited as the end of pagan philosophy, even though its last leader, Damascius, would continue his philosophical activity around the Persian border. My paper deals with the persistent reception of one subject that was at odds with the Christian dogma, the cosmogony.
Damascius is also known for his De principiis, a lengthy treaty about the One and the Ineffable that precedes it. Although the work itself is first and foremost an answer to previous Neoplatonists, it is also an extremely valuable source for other lost Pre-Socratic cosmogonies, namely the Orphic ones, which are interpreted alongside other non-Greek creation myths in the final pages of the treatise.
On the other hand, John Lydus provides an intriguing adaptation of such creation myths in De magistratibus reipublicae Romanae, where he combines Platonic and Aristotelian ideas in order to build an explanatory model for the contemporary decline in offices of state. His choice of sources shows, however, that he was likely a pagan himself and that he had professed the official religion in order to avoid persecution. Thus, he bases his argumentation on a pagan cosmogony as a form of resistance against recent changes in Byzantine bureaucracy.
Was there a goddess Slava in Slavic pagan antiquity? Though there have been voices that it was possible, the analysis of Slavic folklore texts proved the issue to be more complex.
The present paper shows that Ukrainian folklore as well as the folklore of other Slavic peoples may have preserved stable compositional clichés that can be traced back to Indo-European prototypes. In their turn, these clichés may be explained as the verbal reflections of ritual practices and sacred etiquette. It is stated that the final parts of Ukrainian dumas, Russian bylinas, and Serbian heroic songs that contain praise (slava) of natural forces can be regarded as remnants of pagan beliefs with strongly proved Indo-European background. The common motives of slava in different Slavic epic traditions give us important insights into the Slavic pagan religion.
At the end of dumas, bylinas, and South Slavic heroic songs, there is a distinct part in which the singer, apart from the main story, blesses the audience and the universe. This part had preserved the composition scheme comparable to that of Old Indian stuti hymns, Pindaric, and Vedic poetry: 1) an invocation to the deity or a person with higher social rank; 2) a recounting of the previous (semi)mythological precedent; 3) a request.
The obligatory lexical element of the final part of Slavic eposes is slava. As it is mentioned in the context of mourning over the dead or calming the natural forces, it is very likely that the concept was connected to the cult of ancestors and natural forces - one of the most archaic forms of religion. It is proved by two non-neighbouring cognate folklore sources. In Hutsul funerals up to the beginning of the 20th century, slava used to serve as a taboo name of the soul of the deceased. Meanwhile, at least up to 19th century, the Serbs preserved the holiday of slava that is interwoven with the cult of the dead (e.g., kolyvo was eaten during the rite).
Thus, though we cannot claim the existence of the personified goddess named Slava, we have strong evidence about the notion of slava (praise, fame) that could have been current in Common Slavic religion. It is even more likely due to the underlying Indo-European tradition, in which the notion of fame was not personified though crucial for the ideology of warring elites (like in Pindar's lyric).
Such evasive notion of slava that was not always personified though praised comforts very well to the picture of ancient Slavic religion handed down to us by Procopius of Caesarea. He claimed that ancient Slavs praised natural forces, rivers, and forests. Likewise, in the fragments preserved in some of Ukrainian dumas and songs from Kirsha Danilov's collection, the praise (slava) was sung not only to the heroes but also to rivers and fields.
: свети Трифон и българските народни представи [On the Borderline between Paganism and Christianity: Saint Trifon in Bulgarian Folk Notions]. Българскифолклор [Bulgarian Folklore] , 2 , 15–25.
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Based on the evidence of the pagan philosophical and rhetorical tradition, this study investigates the changes of the spiritual background of the Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages. The central concern of the present paper is to examine how Neoplatonic religious thoughts are formulated in the mirrors for princes as a principal idea to the image of a Christian ruler, and which elements of the ruler’s canon are emphasized in some sources of Antiquity.
Recent research has increasingly questioned the “grand dichotomy” between “Paganism” and Christianity and brings into light the prominence of spaces with shared meanings in diverse cults related to mystic beliefs and practices. An excellent example is Vibia's tomb within Praetextatus' catacomb, on the Via Appia. Dated to the 4th century AD, this place combines epigraphy and a fascinating iconography pointing to a mystic initiation of the deceased within a syncretic context.
In his discussion about the Biblical paraphrases written by the two
Apolinarii Socrates Scholasticus claims that the study of pagan literature is
necessary for the Christians. He starts by proving the harmlessness of studying
Greek philosophy and comes to the conclusion that far from being harmful it is
actually desirable, since familiarity with Greek philosophy (especially with
logic) enables the Christians to argue against the pagans more effectively.
Socrates, a lawyer from Constantinople is not averse to a little prevarication,
neither is he accurate when he is writing about the purpose and contents of
Julian's edict (362), which throws a bad light on the reliability of the church
historian. The fact that Socrates' argument for Greek paideia was timely at the
beginning of the fifth century proves the vitality of paganism and Greek
philosophy on the one hand, and the antipathy of certain groups of Christians
(especially monks) towards pagan culture on the other.
The paper examines a highly interesting workQirim Qarai Türkleri,published in Istanbul in 1928 by Seraya Sapsaloglu (Seraja Szapszal in Polish sources), the renowned Karaite communal leader, one of the leading Russian Turkologists of his time, a former Czarist diplomat and a Jewish Pan-Turkist. This popular and quasi-scientific work was typical of the Romantic Period of the “nation-building”stage in the history of many Eastern European minorities. It was, however, essential in the presentation of the Türkic-speaking Eastern European and Crimean Karaite Jews as remnants of some imagined ancient Türkic race, clandestinely preserving Altaic paganism. Written in an appealing style, this work made a deep impression on the Early Republican intellectuals. In the present paper some of Szapszal's assertions made in this work are analysed against their historical and linguistic background. The paper touches on intellectual trends current during the Early Republican period, the state of the European, Russian and Turkish Turkology of the age, and the metamorphoses of the secularised communal consciousness.
Through their formal conversion to Christianity the German tribes belonged to the community of Christian civilization. In the consciousness of the ‘new people’, however, Christian beliefs existed in combination with pagan myths, thus forming a specific ethos, a kind of pagan and Christian syncretism, which can distinctly be traced in various fields of their culture. Great masses of people retained their magical-mythological view of the world for centuries, although it was gradually extended to include Christian elements. Pagan-Christian syncretism had developed among the Anglo-Saxons earlier and it was transplanted, together with the well-tried methods of conversion, to the Germans. In their healing activities Christian priests and monks had to rival with pagan magicians as a heritage of the past. For a time in the beginning (for centuries!), the newly baptized people regarded their priests and monks as magicians. The magic spells of paganism were turned Christian by clerical leaders of the new religion, who substituted such important figures of Christian religion as Jesus, Maria and a variety of saints for pagan gods and goddesses. The Second Merseburg Incantation was reworded in a Christian spirit and had the Lord’s Prayer as well as Ave Maria attached to it. Thus these prayers lost their original functions and became part of a series of magic texts. Knowing the Lord’s Prayer was an essential condition of conversion to Christianity. Formal representatives of the Christian Church inculcated it in people’s memory by attaching it to earlier incantations, for example the Second Merseburg Incantation. All this took place within the framework of the flexible mission strategy. The pagan-Christian text variations of this incantation existed not only in oral form among the people all over Europe, but were also included in medieval codices and therefore can be collected even today. The present article discusses the pagan-Christian, Hungarian text variations of the Second Merseburg Incantation in their widest context of German culture.