A religion flowing in the blood and the landscape

Readers of my blog may have realised that I make repeated references to how ancient paganism evolved in situ in Europe and eventually deteriorated under the influence of a ‘globalist’ model of secular power promoted by the Greek and Roman Empires. It was supplanted by a ‘portable’ religion with no bearing whatsoever on the land and ancestry of its indigenous European converts, progressively divorcing them from the traditional and deep ties to the environment from which their bloodlines arose, and which informed all of their skill and wisdom.

In Ireland (unconquered by Roman power) the advent of Christianity was surprisingly enthusiastic, yet paradoxically (when compared to other Romanised regions) it made a particular effort to keep memories in writing and tradition of the important pre-Christian beliefs, so important were these to the identity of the people in their place. In fact, it gave them such confidence that they were able to play a leading role in christianising the rest of northern Europe, still reeling from the confusion of Greco-Roman religious culture!

The Atlantic pagan religion was a poetic and artistic narrative, informed by the seasons and their features, the stars and their mathematically exact processions across the skies in relation to these, and the wisdom of survival in the geo-cultural climes of Atlantic Europe. Its moral philosophy promoted modesty and environmental awareness, based as it was on the principles of reincarnation and a powerful Otherworld that reacted against our actions in this life. This was passed in oral culture from generation to generation, perfected and finessed with each retelling, until it represented a pure spiritual narrative of life in this part of the world! The portable middle-eastern religions had nothing of this, and sought to destroy it, replacing it with an ethos promoting the worship of temporal tribal power and worldly materialism over the natural laws of the land.


Barry Cunliffe

Anyone familiar with the work of respected British archaeologist and author Barry Cunliffe will be familiar with his theory of a historic unifying Atlantic Cultural zone.

If unfamiliar with his books, it is highly recommended to start by reading his 2001 book ‘Facing The Ocean: The Atlantic and Its Peoples 8000 BC-AD 1500’ and discover how he uses archaeological evidence to demonstrate how this culture evolved in situ over a very long period of time, transcending labels such as ‘Celts’, ‘Europeans’, ‘Gaul’, ‘Briton’ and ‘Scandinavian’ etc. He expands and refines the observations in subsequent publications.

Atlantic European (what I call ‘Atlantean’) Culture is a regional culture which, although it evolved from the Mesolithic, through the Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age periods, kept in touch with its roots in the landscape which ultimately formed and informed it: the Atlantic seaboard of Europe.

NOTE: I hope soon (late 2014) to be posting a review of Barry Cunliffe and John T. Koch’s ‘Celtic From the West’ – watch this space…

Atlantis? … or Atlantic?

“…For many generations, as long as the divine nature lasted in them, they were obedient to the laws, and well-affectioned towards the god, whose seed they were; for they possessed true and in every way great spirits, uniting gentleness with wisdom in the various chances of life, and in their intercourse with one another. They despised everything but virtue, caring little for their present state of life, and thinking lightly of the possession of gold and other property, which seemed only a burden to them; neither were they intoxicated by luxury; nor did wealth deprive them of their self-control; but they were sober, and saw clearly that all these goods are increased by virtue and friendship with one another, whereas by too great regard and respect for them, they are lost and friendship with them. By such reflections and by the continuance in them of a divine nature, the qualities which we have described grew and increased among them…”

The above quote is from Plato’s narrator Critias (4thC BCE) on the people of ‘Atlantis’, who the ancient Egyptians claimed were the children and followers of Poseidon and who were supposed to have once lived ‘beyond the Pillars of Herakles’ – an ancient name for the Straights of Gilbraltar. (Translation by Benjamin Jowett.)

Indigenous Religion and Philosophy

An indigenous people are those whose ‘root, branch, leaf and seed’ are deeply connected with the land they inhabit. They are made of the soil and they return to the soil that makes them, connecting them to future and past generations through the land. Their culture reflects this closeness and sympathy with their environment, and through the transmission of traditions, aphorisms, beliefs, stories, songs and art they are connected to a ‘vanishing point’ in the past where the idea of the land and the people are merged as one. From this place they develop their legends and dreams – their philosophies and models of the temporal and spiritual – the physics and metaphysics by which they describe their past, present and future existence. It is the ultimate expression of connectedness. It is their unique art and unique gift – the most precious thing they own, next to their children.

The cultural aspects of indigenous habitation are so deeply linked with the land that indigenous culture and belief has a strong biogeographical component: Land and climate determines plant life, plant life determines invertebrate life, and this in turn determines the patterns of habitations by vertebrates, including humans. Each type of life then negotiates the position of each other form and this in turn ultimately re-shapes the geography. It is the web of life. Here is a map of the patterns of plant life in Europe (credit: Wolfgang Frey and Rainer Lösch – image from Wikimedia Commons). Note how it relates to historic cultural zones of indigenous Europeans:Image

You may notice that the ‘Atlantic’ zone corresponds most strongly with peoples who have maintained a cultural identity of ‘Celtic’ in more recent times, although when considering the eastern part of the biogeographical zone (modern Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark and Norway) it is notable that archaeological evidence of pre-Iron Age material cultures is often very similar to that in the western part of the ‘Atlantic’ zone.

Before the invasion of Northern Europe by middle-eastern literary religious philosophies during the early centuries of the ‘Common Era’ (CE), religion and belief was a matter of interpretation of nature and man’s place in it. It was a system of what might be called ‘Natural Philosophy’ which explained the origins, mechanics and inter-relations of natural phenomena, employing ‘spiritual’ ideas to explain supra-rational and metaphysical concepts. These ideas and concepts were illustrated and transmitted in a deliberately non-didactic manner using story, poetry, aphorism, drama, music, song, dance and other similar types of non-literary transmission. ‘Gods’ and ‘spirits’ were therefore an artistic means of expressing aspects of what we today refer to as ‘Science’,’Knowledge’ and ‘Philosophy’. As with all ‘art’ it was a plastic mode of expression based upon a synthesis of inductive reasoning and empirical knowledge attained through the survival of generations of indigenous peoples with a deep spiritual link to the land of their birth and of their ancestors. It was a self-contained, self-explaining worldview whose authority was written in the landscape and by the forces which controlled and modelled it – something that no book would be able to do.

Pagan religion grows from the land which sustains it. Anciently, it was one with ‘philosophy’, art and the practicalities of daily living.