paganism


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.
Related to paganism: Germanic paganism

paganism

  1. forms of religious practices regarded as heathen by Christianity.
  2. (by analogy with l) the practice, advocated by Jean Francois LYOTARD, of judging in the absence of criteria (Just Gaming, 1985). This is anathematical to traditional accounts of knowledge, ethics and art which have striven to delimit stable and coherent criteria. As a theorist of POSTMODERNISM, Lyotard rejects this project which he sees as impossible, primarily due to an increasing lack of faith in science and GRAND NARRATIVES. Though he does not shy from the not inconsiderable problems that arise here (e.g. how to judge between the claims of patriarchy and feminism, or between fascist and socialist) he maintains that paganism, with its emphasis on feelings, offers a viable way to engage with the current myriad of changes (see DIFFEREND and PERFORMATIVITY).

Paganism

 

a term used in Christian literature to designate the non-Christian religions and, broadly speaking, polytheism.

The pagan deities personified the natural elements. For example, the ancient Greeks’ Zeus, the Indian god Indra, the Celtic Taranis, the Scandinavian Thor, the Baltic Perkunas, and the Slavic Perun were all gods of thunder and of the heavens; the ancient Greeks’ Helios, the Egyptians’ Ra, and the Slavic god Dazhbog were sun gods; Neptune and Varuna were gods of the waters, respectively, in Greece and in India. Lesser deities included the lower demons and the spirits of forests and springs, such as nymphs, dryads, leshii (forest demons), and the vodianoi (water spirit).

The essence of pagan cults is the influence of magic over nature. In the pagan view, the cycles of nature’s constant rebirth and the biological and economic life of the group (that is, of the clan or community) are mutually connected. For this reason, agricultural “calendar” holidays also included such “family” celebrations as wedding ceremonies and feasts. The pagan cults (such as those of classical antiquity) were replaced by the “world religions”—Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism.

The clan and tribal cults did not meet the ideological requirements of advanced class societies. In Kievan Rus’, the unsuccessful attempt by Prince Vladimir Sviatoslavich to establish a pagan pantheon for the entire state (A.D. 980) led to the Christianization of Rus’ in 988–89. The cities became the centers of the new religion; in the villages, according to archaeological findings, Christian burial was replacing the pagan ritual of burial under mounds by the 13th century. The pagan gods of folk beliefs were personified by the Christian saints (for example, Perun was identified with the prophet Elijah, and Veles, protector of cattle, with Vlasii), but belief in the household spirits and forest demons persisted.

Official religion pushed paganism into the realm of folk culture; the observance of Christian rituals (including church services and fasts) was combined with the communal exercise of agrarian cults and participation in feasts and games. The clergy fought against such practices, and they also branded as pagan various forms of art and of folk art. On the other hand, the church incorporated the principal pagan holidays into various Christian ones in order to make the communal cults subservient to church influence. This kind of “dual belief” persisted until the early 20th century.

REFERENCES

Anichkov, E. V. Iazychestvo i Drevniaia Rus’. St. Petersburg, 1914.
Propp, V. Ia. Russkie agrarnye prazdniki. [Leningrad] 1963.
Rybakov, B. A. “Iazycheskoe mirovozzrenie russkogo srednevekov’ia.” Voprosy istorii, 1974, no. 1.
Nosova, G. A. lazychestvo v pravoslavii. Moscow, 1975.

V. P.

References in periodicals archive ?
Characters such as Willow in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series give a positive representation of modern paganism, " she added.
Paganism is a way of seeing the world and our place in it; but it's not an easy path, he warns.
The mum of three was drawn to paganism after being forced into a convent when she became pregnant at 18.
The pagan comeback in modern times is less a setback for old-time commonsense perceptions of paganism than a kind of window into the modern mind.
At the age of 11, pupils can begin exploring "modern paganism and its importance for many in Cornwall.
The cameras also follow Kris as he lectures in America, joins Pagan Druids in a ritual and sees his book on Celtic Paganism through the press at Llewellyn Worldwide, a press founded by a Welshman and now the world's largest New Age publisher.
The paganism that he observes waning and, by the century's end, virtually disappearing is the civic paganism of Rome, with its aristocrat-led sacrifices and festivals.
From a 2005 conference in Leuven, the Netherlands, 18 papers cover publications on late antique pagan archaeology, the development of paganism in late antiquity, temples in the west, temples in the east, pagan statues, sacred deposits, and iconography in material culture.
In the village they find a mysterious woman - played by Carice Van Houten, most recently seen as Tom Cruise's missus in Valkyrie - has discarded Christian beliefs and led the community into paganism.
Before going further, some clarification of terms is necessary because the definitions of Paganism and Neo-Paganism are quite nebulous, as Johnston and Aloi note in the introduction to their book (4-5).
New age collections strong in writings on ghosts and paganism will find this discussion of ghosts and their role in indigenous cultures and pagan circles blends history, cultural inspection and spirituality in a satisfying survey.