Some are moved by the risk to see France, or same Europe, to become again pagan.
Risk either rather chance?
Who was, who is persecutor? who was, who is victims of their persecutions : the intolerant defenders of the unique thought (erected it to them in dogma), or the respectful tenants of the right to the difference, and of all identity?
Read what follows before all precipitate answer therefore…
« Celtic heathenism lies again powerful and deep under the fleeting contributions of Christianity and the civilization, as the deep sea under alleys and arrivals of the tides »
It will hardly be necessary that one half-century of work of the Gallic countries so that, arrived in vans of Caesar's armies, merchants, peddlers, Greek traffickers and Levantines install on the Celtic earths ravaged by a war of usury, with the exotic trumpery, rituals and gods of the most faraway Mediterranean beaches.
Among the numerous oriental cults: Phrygian, Egyptian, Syrian or Judaic imported to this opportunity in the empire as in Gauls, and arguing fashions of the snobbery of the time, the Mithraism enjoyed a particular favour close to the Roman legions that had adopted mysteries of it, when its military chiefs reigned in the west of Persia. To the contact of these war phalanxes, Mithra, supreme god of the sun, god of the love and the friendship, will turn quickly into a god of the military strength and in brother of the Roman soldiery.
Christianity was not whereas one of these numerous rival religions that raged in Rome, as in Gauls, and that in its struggle of influence, won't have another choice that to propagate its demagogic doctrine close to slaves and to oppose, sometimes with violence, against the inimical faction, while desecrating and wrecking its temples placed under imperial protection.
Since the beginning of the second century, one will find two perfectly antagonistic and foreign idea currents going up the great together discerning of the valley of the Rhone thus, sustained by the authority of the empire and its captains, the other animate by its proselytism and its wild fanaticism. These two ideologies staying all as blind and indifferent otherwise as for the fate and to the religious values of the autochthonous populations, captivated at a time by the strength of weapons and by the tumultuous competitive philosophical doctrine wave.
During the time of the reign of Marcus Aurèlius, the cult and mysteries of the ancient Persia will be installed well in cultural edifice and politics of Roman, as well as in the main cities of Gauls. In the same time, the Christ's sectaries, regrouping their adepts, will begin to form in the " Provincia Romana " small communities having to their head religious chief.
These « Christians », in almost-totality strangers, Oriental and Greeks, will swarm progressively in Celtic Gaul, and to the end of the IIIe century, the new religion will have established its bridge-head in Dijon, Autun, Langres and Besançon. Fought first by the power in place for refusal to venerate the emperor as representative of the divinity - that mithraïc cult made with good grace (among others), Christianity was accused of not recognizing laws of the empire, to throw trouble in the mind of citizens by its subversive ideas touch to the social classes, then of profanation of sanctuaries of the state religion; the Roman strength feeling menaced in its authority, will pursue and will persecute as one knows it, tenants of the Christian doctrine. Suddenly to the IVe century, wind turns in favour of the new mystic, helped extensively by the sudden conversion and somewhat appropriate of Constantinus 1st the Great (1).
In 313, the edict of Milan will almost mark the official recognition of Christianity as religion of empire. From then on, encouraged by favours of the power, troops of shock of the new faith will attack themselves with a redoubled goodwill, after the conversion of cities, to the evangelism of country sides that had hardly been until then started by the exotic grace, the foreign cults hardly overflowing with cities or the immediate neighbourhood of camps and Roman stopping, in the shelter of which argued interests and the political and commercial dominations.
It is Martin, ex-officer of Roman cavalry, formed in the mobile legions of Pannonia (present Hungary), of which he was original (is Born to Sabaria toward 316, dies in 397), then insider to the apostolate in Orient and elevated to the episcopate of the Turons, that will undertake a real holy war to eradicate in the farthest of country sides, with the mind of resistance and permanent frond that sat on there, the even menacing shade of a druidism refugee in the shelter of thickets, sustained by the constant and faithful devotion of the farming populations.
Everywhere will pass the legionary Martin, the pagan temples will be destroyed, their confiscated incomes, axes and fire destroying the protective forest to reach these « idols » that the popular devotion of men hid there.
The small people of country-sides will undergo the fanatic harangues of the Roman, whose divine " mission " will consist, by will or by force, to subtract the faithful hearts and the limited heads of pagani" (peasants), superstitions impiouss» and the expired faith of Ancestors.
Of subversive previously, rebels to the law, will become legalistic and at their turn, mutilate a people in its beliefs, then in its language, active to strip it of the same name of its homeland.
Since 314, the council of Arles marked the narrow collusion that settled between the civil power of the empire and the Christian church - " The Roman state will lend to the church its administrative settings - every city becomes the seat of a bishop and every capital of city, the place of gathering of supporter principle. Well more, metropolises where reside governors will see their bishop exercising a pre-eminence on bishops of the other cities of the province.
On the other hand, bishops enjoy fiscal privileges; their decisions are constantly confirmed by the emperor who looks after their execution " (2).
1 - Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus, told Constantin the Great " again ", born in Naissus in Mésia toward 280, death in Ancyrona in 337. In spite of his supposed « conversion » in 312 and softening precepts of the new faith, it is under the monogram of the Christ, that to the Bridge Milvius, Constantin will offer to himself the skin (really the skin) of his rival Maxence !
2 Thévenots, les Gallo-Romains (P. U. 1948 ps. 120).
2/Persecutions against “pagans”
To the vigil of great invasions and the downfall of the Roman empire, the only real recipient, spiritual and temporal mistress of the land, is incontestably the church. By a singular fortune, emperors of VI century, while exalting the school and the church, prepared the moral strengths that will survive the disappearance of the Roman authority. Well organized everywhere, the church is ready to assure the relief of the faltering state and the safeguard of the Latin civilization (3). Strong of this prepotency, the new faith will hear each other during the following centuries to refine its triumph, not having forgotten nothing of principles and methods of its spiritual ascendants, born in deserts of the Sinai or under date-palms of Judea:
« You will destroy all places where the foreign nations serve their gods thoroughly, nations that you will have reduced to thank you: their gods on all elevated mountains, to the top of hills and under all green tree you will demolish their altars: you will BREAK THEIR MENHIRS and their COLUMNS OF CONSECRATED WOOD; you will consume them by fire, and statuaries of their gods you will break them and you will wipe out their name of this place there » (Deuteronomy, chap. XII).
The Francs installed, the bishop Grégoire of Tours(3) trumpets the definitive victory of Christianity on the last pagan. Was this triumph as well acquired and as complete as imagines the historian of the Franks ? That was therefore this that this litany continually modulated during centuries and composed of injunctions, of remonstrance, of incitements to vandalisms, to extortions, fulminations and interdictions punished by the various pains of which the excommunication (that rejected the individual aimed out of the society), was not the least
There is no doubt that a deaf resistance was not foreign to the Gallics and their direct successors. It appears necessary to insist on this point. Someone affirms too often that the Roman conquest, then the conversion to a faith and a foreign god, was accepted with enthusiasm and as of kindness.
Pure views of the mind, the numerous insurrections against the civil authority and the religious power, which are brought back accidentally, are it always by the biased and foreign narrators. No Roman writer told us what thought the Gallic people during centuries of domination that followed the Conquest: Equally, the some gleams that we discern the moral and spiritual resistance of the Gallic heathenism, are revealed only in reading " between lines ", of the Latin texts, written by those that were charged to suppress effects of it.
3) Grégoire (death in 539 approx.), was born to Clermont-Ferrand in Auvergne, the November 30, 538 (or 539). He belonged to the old Gallo-Roman nobility, but his family didn't disdain to serve the barbaric kings. His father died young. Grégoire was bring up by his mother, who had gotten settled near Cavaillon, then by his uncle the bishop of Clermont, Gall (death in 551), in short by Avit archidiacre. Of fragile health, Grégoire assigned to saints several recoveries that he appraised miraculous; Neat deacon, he was sent to the Saint-Julian basilica, to Brioude (Auvergne, France). He resided there when he was raised to the bishopric of Tours lasting the summer 573, certainly thanks to the king of Austrasia, Sigebert 1st (561-575), and to the queen Brunehaut. His episcopate was constantly disturbed by quarrels of Merovingian princes. He frequently opposed to the king of Neustria, Chilpéric of which he described with a ferocious humour the unhappy tests in fact of theology, versification or creation of supplementary letters of the alphabet. The king of Burgundy, Gontran (581-592), got the bishop's esteem, that doesn't probably live that the political cleverness of Gontran was not still honest. His relations with the king of Austrasia, Childebert II (591-602), were restful enough. Grégoire died in Tours (France), probably November 17, 594. Later, one venerated it like saint in Tours and Clermont-Ferrand.
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Recognized by the roman emperor Constantinus in following day of the victory of Milvius Bridge (312), the church opens its first official council to Arles in August 314, this one will mark an important turn in its history, because it constitutes the first repudiation of an evangelical principle (« You never kill ») and the first step, by becoming official, toward the alliance of the spiritual with the temporal power (military and politics); henceforth, the Christian will be able to carry weapons and those that will refuse to serve as military will be excommunicated (Share, p.56, Hatt, p.287).
324 Since before 324, the domestic sacrifices are forbidden. After 330, to sacrifice to gods in official ceremonies is forbidden to public servants, and they must abstain of all public involvement to the pagan cults (Share, p.39).
355 An imperial decree of December 1st, 355, of Constantinus, order the closing of temples and punishes of death demonstrations of pagan cult (Hatt, p.299; Walter, p.28).
Saint Martin is therefore that a voluntary collaborator of the new police of cults instituted by the Roman state (Walter, page 28).
380 In 380, Théodose 1st (379-395) repeats interdiction to sacrifice some animal victims; toward 382, Gratien (367-383) confiscates incomes of pagan temples and priests, and in 392, all pagan practice, whatever it is, is forbidden (Lot, page 45).
410 The pagan aristocracy up dates, to ends of propaganda, the very old habit to offer in gift, the New Year's Day, of old pieces of currency (« contorniates "), notably in 356-359 and in 395-410, these pieces represent some pagan emperors remained popular, or Alexander the Great, the victorious conqueror, by derision against the weak Christian emperor. One finds some until Anthémius (467-472), representing the reigning emperor with the political allusions (Lot, p.509).
Nevertheless, one appraises that, toward the end of the IVe century, the population of cities is converted to Christianity entirely (Thévenot p. 120).
418 In 418, an edict of Honorius (395-423), countersigned by bishops of Rennes and Nantes, order to destroy the pagan emblems and, in 435, a decree of Valentinien III (425-455) reiterates order to put down the pagan temples (Walter, p. 30).
452 The council of Arles in 452 (cannon 23) declares guilty of sacrilege (therefore liable at least of excommunication) the bishop who tolerates, in his diocese, the ignition of torches and the reverence of stones, trees and fountains (Niel, p. 18).
506 The council of Agde in 506 and the 1st council of Orleans in 511 forbid consulting pythoness (Sooth-sayer) (Long, p.110).
515 Toward 515-520, Saint Césaire (470-543), bishop of Arles, thunder in a sermon (N° 129), against customs of New Year’s day: («... some wear only the skin of an animal as clothes, others take the head of it, others disguise themselves in women... ) and against practices of the feast of Deaths of February 22 (« ... they carry dishes and wine on tombs of the defunct ... S») (Walter, p.32; Lelong, p.81).
516 between 516 and 537, saint Vigor, bishop of Bayeux, calls protection of the secular arm to forbid the pagan cult that was celebrated by the Lord of the place on the Mount-Phaunus (Saint-Vigor-le-Grand, Calvados), breaks idols and seizes territory.
520 Toward 520-525, in vicinities of Cologne, subsisted a temple having preserved statuaries of its gods to which inhabitants continued to offer libations; Saint Gall (486-557) burned him (Walter, p. 30).
524 In 524, the council of Arles condemns rituals observed at the time of eclipses of moon, at the time of feasts of Jupiter and or New Year's Day.
533 In 533, the second council of Orleans stigmatises those that return to the “cult of Idols”, and eat the flesh of sacrificed animals to gods (Walter, p.31; Lelong, p. 203).
541 In 541, the fourth council of Orleans reiterates interdiction to vows by gods, lent on heads of animals (Lelong, p. 203). Toward the same time, saint Poterne (dead in 560) attends to a ceremony celebrated to the pagan temple of Chaussey, and reverse caldrons where boiled innards of animals sacrificed.
554 In 554, King Childebert (511-558) gives again order to destroy idols and megaliths (Walter, p. 31).
567 In 567, the second council of Tours (France) orders to hunt down those honour stones, trees and fountains in wild and hidden places in the bottom of woods. He forbids feasts of the New Year's Day (to which he substitutes a solemn fasting and the feast of the Circumcision !), demand to priests to correct by ecclesiastical censorship (Excommunication) those that, keeping remainders of paganism again, will offer food to deaths, or will eat the flesh of these animals offered in sacrifice or will make again ceremonies unknown of the Church near to the pagan places (Niel, p. 78; Lelong pp. 79, 81, 104 and 203).
573 Against the ancient cult resistance, Grégoire the Great, Pope and Prefect of Rome, recommend to the clergy: « To cut off everything at once in these rough minds is an impossible enterprise. Don’t destroy temples: destroy idols only, replace them by replicas s». ( 5)
5) It permitted to recover cheaply places to make some of the Christian sanctuaries. Note that it let intact traditional druidic sanctuaries, that never had any idols
578 In 578, the council of Auxerre reiterates interdiction to disguise himself in cows and in deer (6) during feasts of the New Year's Day, to light candles before fountains, trees and stones, to consult soothsayers, and to say divination with wood or bread (Walter, p. 33 Lelongs, pp. 81, 181, 190 and 203).
6) the cow is a reference to Bovinda and the deer's to Kernnunos. However, it is always possible to see the symbol of Kernnunos in the dome over the of the great altar of N-D du Puy in Velay (France)
580 Toward 575-580, in the CABALITANUS pagus (present Gévaudan, middle of France), it is said that in Margeride and Aubrac, to sides of a lake, a crowd of peasants met annually, that during three days made libations and offered sacrifice to divinities of this lake by throwing in, laps of materials, pieces of wool, cheeses, cakes of wax and breads. During these days took place feasts and orgies, interrupted by storms. Grégoire of Tours affirms that after many remonstrances, a « saint » priest put end to this superstition.
Strangely, one will note in 1872 (!), on the outskirts of the lake of Saint Andéol, the yearly practice of rituals and strictly identical offerings to those described by Grégoire of Tours, with however for offerings the addition of currency pieces.
581 In 581, the synod of Auxerre (Burgundy, France) forbids laymen to dance in churches, to let girls sing and to give feasts there.
585 In 585, the council of Mâcon (Burgundy, France) punishes with rod those persist to be out of work the thursday. (day of Jupiter and Taranis)
590 Toward 590, saint Walfroid destroys Diana's huge statue (=Arduenna?) to Yvois (= Carigan, Meuse) (Lot, p. 451).
597 In 597, Pope Grégoire the Great (590-604) prescribed to Queen Brunehaut to forbid her subjects to immolate animals, to adore trees and to expose heads of animals sacrificed (Walter, p.31); but towards of emperor, the pope's attitude is deferential, or even very humble. Flatteries that Grégoire the Great wastes to the brutish beast that was Byzantine emperor Phocas (602-610), usurping centurion, pass the measure (Share, p.346).
600 Thirty Three years after the second council of Tours (cf. 567), bishop of this same city notes, on July 7, 600, " that he grants again in his diocese and the neighbouring dioceses, that were number of pagan attached to the impious cult of their false divinities, among others in the country that is in the south of the Loire... and what he found most difficult was to make observe the 22nd cannon (interdiction to offer meats to deaths), especially in of certain villages where pagans had adopted Christianity, keeping a lot of superstitions of the heathenism nevertheless.
611 Saint Valery (562-622), bishop of Rouen in 611, mades bring down an enormous tree that peasants of the valley of the Bresle (French river) adored.
626 The council of Clichy, in 626, remakes Interdictions of the second council of Orleans, of 533 (Walter, p.31).
639 Saint Amand (584-679), bishop of Worms in 626, note that, grants that in his diocese, the pagan temples are always frequented, and gives to King Dagobert I (626-639) an order making obligatory the baptism of all children (Walter, P.30).
640 Saint Omer, bishop of Thérouanne dead in 670, find some intact pagan temples at the time of his arrival in his diocese (Klaiter, p. 30).
A sermon of saint Eloi (588-659), bishop of Noyon and dead in 641, is strong interesting, because it sums up, while stigmatising them, the pagan practices in use of his/her/its time (middle of the VIIe century); will we summarize it because he/it is made allusion to certain rituals knew the British traditions and Gaelic: Interdiction to observe omens and sneezes, to listen to the song of birds, to celebrate the New Year's Day, to prolong feasts during the night and to drink there with excess ; interdiction to make pass herds by a hollow tree or a ditch dug in the earth (1st May?), to rest from work the Thursday during the month of May; interdiction to make fires of joy and to sit down while singing, to observe solstices, to rest from work these days, to dance there and to sing there; interdiction to call « Seigneurs (lords) » that is to say gods, the Sun and the Moon, and to swear by these lights; to light torches in crossroads and to make wows there, to visit stones, sources and trees dedicated to gods; interdiction to suspend amulets to the neck of men and animals, of the amber to the neck of women; interdiction for women to invoke Collar (= Belisama?) before working canvas; interdiction to push clamours when the moon darkens, and to avoid to undertake a work to the new moon, as well as « to make rotating or jumping dances, “ caroles (dance)” or to sing diabolic songs, »
650 The council of Chalon ( Burgundy, France) in 650 reiterates the interdiction of woman chorus in churches.
658 The second council of Nantes in 658, order to dig some deep pits in way to bury in pagan stones so that their worshippers can recover them.
698 The council of Rouen in 698 denounces those make wows before stones and offer them candles (Niel, p. 18).
Specialists appraise that, practically, at the end of the VlI century, it doesn't subsist anymore pagan cult organized in Gaul (Lot, p.452).
742 Nevertheless, a “capitulaire” (Carolingian law) of Carloman (7) in 742 forbids again pagan practice, and Charlemagne, in his turn, will vituperate « les insensés (=foolish) » that light torches and exercise all ways of superstitions near trees and Fountains, in “capitulaire” promulgated March 23, 789 (Niel, p. 18).
769 A other capitulary dated of Aachen (Germany), order: « this one that, sufficiently aware, won't make disappear of his field simulacra that are raised there, is treated sacrilegious and declared as anathema” .
792 The tithe, that was from origin an optional involvement of supporters to contribute for cult, becomes obligatory by the capitulary of 779 and 792. The Roman Church, associated to the political power since 314, be going to become thus a considerable economic and financial strength (Welter, p. 57).
And yet, archaeologists will recover liards (money) of king Louis XIII near megaliths (Niel, p. 61) and folklore of IXXe and the beginning of XXe century will observe the attested customs, and condemned, twelve centuries earlier.
Let's recall to finish words that an anonymous pagan addressed close to Noyon to Saint Eloi :
« Roman that you are, athough you repeat again and again us still the same things, never you won't be able to abolish our customs. We will celebrate our ceremonies, as we have always done here and nobody in the world can forbid us our ancient entertainments, those are to us so dear. » (Welter, p. 32).
Original text of S.S. CATARNOS /I\. (IALON)
Are not evoked here the odious massacres of the Inquisition, armed arm of the Roman church.
More late, they have done, with the other shapes of dogmatic intolerance,
In less than one century in Europe more of 10 millions of deaths,
« heretic » as « pagan» victims
Who is guilty : this one that dies on a stake or his torturer ?
If today someone ask forgiveness for so horrible forfeits,
what concrete propositions he makes to repair the fatal effects of them?
Is not this condition ineluctable to prove their sincerity?
Let's note that the word « pagan » comes as well of the Latin « paganus » that of the Gallic « paganos » that both mean « peasant », says otherwise « country people » . (Pagus in Latin, pagos in Gallic).
Who doesn't belong of no country ?
Jules TOUTAIN : Les cultes païens dans l'Empire romain, III : les cultes de la Gaule romaine (1917).
Emile THEVENOT : Les Gallo-Romains (1948).
Emile MALE : La Fin du paganisme en Gaule et Les premières basiliques chrétiennes, (1950).
Ferdinand LOT : La Fin du monde antique et les débuts du moyen âge (1951).
J.J. HATT : Histoire de la Gaule romaine (1959).
Fernand NIEL : Dolmens et menhirs (1961).
Gérard WALTER : Histoire des paysans de France (1963).
Charles LELONG : La Vie quotidienne en Gaule à l'époque mérovingienne (1963).
Consult the excellent number (35 ff/5.3 € ) (hors série=) special issue n° 6 of: