Definition of Pagan: Middle English, from Late Latin
p~ag~anus, from Latin, country-dweller, civilian, from
p~agus, country, rural district. This term came to be
all those who were not of a faith which was Christian, Jewish or
Muslim; similiar words
were: heathen, gentile, infidel.
Near the end of the Roman Empire, Christianity began to take hold and spread throughout what was called the modern world at that time. It spread into the British Isles, home of the Celts and Druids, it spread into Northern Europe, home to the Norse. The Greeks, whom had already been conquered by the Romans, were now being converted to the new Christian way.
As you'll read in the article I've copied below, there were beliefs that were widespread that had nothing to do with Christianity; what many of us refer to as "The Olde Ways". Reconstructionists today are able to once again bring these beliefs to the surface by the finding of ancients texts.
Reference: Paganism and Pagan Paths http://ladywinterwolf.fcpages.com/paganism.html
The belief in many deities did NOT begin after Christianity took hold, it was already in place, and many of the beliefs and rituals were incorporated by the Church to make the transition easier for the people. What we refer to as Paganism was a coin termed by the Church, not the people themselves.
New Age refers to those pagan paths, starting with Gerald Gardner's Wicca, which developed from the 1950's to today. There have also developed many offshoots from Wicca itself. To make one thing perfectly clear: NOT all Pagans are Wiccans, Not all Wiccans are Witches, Not all Witches are Wiccan.
Those who sincerely believe that Wicca is the one and true Pagan Path are seriously mistaken. They need to become educated, via research and study, about the ancient religions that came before Christianity, and are verifiable through documented texts.
Witches, now they are not exclusive to any one path, some do not believe in any one path, and they are most certainly NOT all Wiccan.
The reference links I have posted above are to pages on my website loaded with researched information, and references to reading material and other informational websites.
Now to the article giving more details regarding the history of paganism.
History of Paganism 101: The Roots of Nature Spirituality
©1997 Celtic Traditionalist Order of Druids
http://paganwiccan.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?zi=1/ XJ&sdn=paganwiccan&zu=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.angelfire.com%2Foh3%2 FMoonMaiden%2FHistory.html
Long before recorded history, humans lived (out of necessity) much closer to the natural cycles. It is out of this affinity with nature that humans first began to personify the inherent energies of the land as individual Gods and Goddesses. In this manner, the ancients attempted to make sense of what must often have been a very illogical universe. The earliest peoples would have practiced a lifestyle very closely tied to the cycles of hunting and gathering (for obvious reasons, anthropologists refer to them as "hunter-gatherers").
Some research supports the theory that the most ancient formalized religion was one of ancestor worship. During those periods just after the beginnings of recorded history, we see evidence, which points towards this conclusion. The earliest evidence of pre-Christian Roman culture indicates that the Romans practiced some forms of ancestor worship. Early Roman culture borrowed extensively from the Etruscans; in fact many scholars accept that the Etruscan culture had an enormous impact on the civilizations of their time. Etruscan pottery has been found in excavations throughout the "Roman Empire", even as distant as Britain.
In addition to the reverence placed on the ancestors of a tribe or clan, the role of women appears to have remained significant. Long before the advent of patriarchal societies, an individual's family ties were determined by the line of descent from the mother's side. Some cultures still determine descent in this manner, however they are now greatly in the minority. The patriarchal lineage appears to have its strongest foothold in warrior societies or their offshoots. As the Celts had strong warrior women, it is decidedly unclear if patriarchy is the cause or result of such societies.
Eventually, the hunter-gatherer societies changed. Their pastoral culture slowly transformed either by natural evolution of by force, into an agrarian one. This culture was delineated less by the cycles of the hunat, and more by the ability to sow and reap the corps of the field. Several clans may have settled in a single area, and by developing more specialized functions became a small village. Gods and Goddesses of the forest and the wild places slowly began to be passed by and occasionally forgotten: their places userped by those of field or cattle and flocks. As these areas grew from village to towns and larger urban areas, so the Gods and Goddesses changed. "New" deities appear on the scene and new aspects of the Older Gods emerge: smithcraft, milling, and the like needed patrons to oversee them. In the East, and in other lands, many bands still clung to nomadic ways. Others still, spent some or all of their energies on the process of war. The divine spirits of these warrior bands appear to be almost exclusively male. Within those societies, it became the physiological strength of the male, which is of prime importance. As these bands grew and conquered others, so their patriarchal views of the order of things began to spread.
History is written by the conquerors, and re-written by the next one. So too, is religion. As the patriarchal bands, and later, patriarchal cultures, conquered and expanded their territories, so they re-wrote the histories and practices of the peoples they conquered. Several fine examples of this have much later dates in history:
-The subjugation of the Native American civilizations by the invading European cultures.
-The oppression of culture and religious beliefs in India and Pakistan under the British Raj
-The oppression of the Tibetan Budhists by the Chinese.
-The totalitarian regimes of many different eras and countries
-The ongoing "troubles" in Northern Ireland.
Sometimes, a culture or people will resist. This resistance may be covert or overt in nature. Many traditional Celtic ways were once forbidden, such as bagpipes and the Celtic languages themselves. In more modern times, these pieces of culture are appreciated and treasured. Truly, one small battle won.
Historically, the Celts themselves were conquerors of the lands we now see as "Celtic">. In truth, there is not a surviving culture that wasn't at least partly warlike in its history. The Celts that we are so familiar with, those of the islands of Britain, are said by some to be descended from a cultural entity known as the Indo-Europeans. These people may have originated in the areas of the Northern Indian sub-continent. Their migrations north and westward contributed to the cultures we are now familiar with in India, the Iberian Peninsula, and the British Isles. It is probable that the contributions to these cultures were actually userptions by way of conquering other tribes along the way, however there is little hard evidence to prove any single theory. What we do have are many cultural similarities ranging from the Brahmin of India to the Druids of Northern Europe; from the intricate Knotwork patterns of the insular Celts to the key designs of the Greeks and the Minoans.