The first comprehensive study of its kind, this fully illustrated book establishes Paganism as a persistent force in European history with a profound influence on modern thinking. From the serpent goddesses of ancient Crete to modern nature-worship and the restoration of the indigenous religions of eastern Europe, this wide-ranging book offers a rewarding new perspective of European history. In this definitive study, Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick draw together the fragmented sources of Europe's native religions and establish the coherence and continuity of the Pagan world vision. Exploring Paganism as it developed from the ancient world through the Celtic and Germanic periods, the authors finally appraise modern Paganism and its apparent causes as well as addressing feminist spirituality, the heritage movement, nature-worship and `deep' ecology This innovative and comprehensive history of European Paganism will provide a stimulating, reliable guide to this popular dimension of religious culture for the academic and the general reader alike.
I wish that I had read this book before Puvhel’s work because it clarified a lot of what he stated and made a more complete picture of European configuration as a whole entity. Not only does it explain how the establishment of the beliefs and deities came about it also shows the foundation of modern cultures and their development thus allowing the reader to comprehend why there are similarities and disparities within small geographic areas.
An area of particular interest to me was how the Roman Empire attempted to influence the Celtic world by adding the names of Roman deities to existing Celtic ones, as if this would bring the local populace into conformity with the will of Rome automatically. This tactic ultimately failed because the peoples overtly feigned obeisance while covertly continued with their own established religious practices, a trend that continued for several centuries. It was of further interest to me in the influence of the Germanic and Norse invaders into the British Isles and how their deities and practices became assimilated. This was perhaps because of the pan-Celtic convictions of earlier times and the recognizing of familial deities.
One area that struck me as vastly different to Puhvel’s was the space dedicated to explaining the festivals and the deities that were worshipped, the associated calendars and the customs that were practiced during these festivals. This all provides a clear and distinct insight into the peoples and their daily lives as well as their beliefs. The continuation of these practices and eventual assimilation by the Christian churches gives indication of the strength of devout belief. A fascinating corollary is the full acceptance of Pagan deities with sainthoods by the Roman church such as St. Bridgit. Jones and Pennick state on page 110 that, “…Pagan ceremonies have continued until the present time. A few of them have continued directly, and others have been amalgamated with Christianity, and yet more have turned into folklore…” which gives the reader a depth of knowledge and understanding of how lives have evolved while retention of Pagan beliefs has morphed into acceptance in one fashion of another.
It is in my nature to retain books that I find myself constantly referring to for information and using as a resource for understanding. A work such as this falls into this category and I have in my own enigmatical manner annotated this book to suit my own purposes and aid in research areas that I find fascinating. I suppose others may not be so analytical and dependent upon resources as myself but for easy to understand and clear comprehensive analysis this book is hard to beat. It has an easy flow with logical sequencing, a broad overview of both insular and continental structures, archeological and geographical references that make the reader instantly immersed in the time and place of the specific culture being examined. I can easily understand why this book is on the suggested reading list and when using it as a companion to Puhvel’s it becomes an invaluable tool for the student of Pagan European studies.