Column: Animism and the Eternal Recurrence of Myth

The fourth century C.E. Neoplatonist Sallustius, a friend of the Roman Emperor Julian (who revoked Christianity’s status as state religion and attempted to revive polytheist worship), wrote in On the Gods and the Cosmos that the myths told in religious initiations “never happened, but always are,” and that “as the myth is in accord with the cosmos, we for that reason keep a festival imitating the cosmos, for how could we attain higher order?” (section 4) Sallustius wrote that myths which mix both psychic and material interpretations particularly “suit religious initiations, since every initiation aims at uniting us with the world and the gods.” As an example of a “mixed” psychic and material myth, he cites the story of Kybele and Attis, putting forth the interpretation that Kybele “is the principle that generates life,” that Attis “is the creator of all things which are born and die,” and that “the creator who makes these things casts away his generative powers into the creation and is joined to the gods again.” Kybele’s priests, the Galli or Gallai (the latter term, of feminine linguistic gender, found in a fragment of Callimachus), were known for re-enacting Attis’ self-castration in their own ecstatic rituals. There is also a cave in at Hierapolis in Phrygia, of which Daniel Ogden writes in Greek and Roman Necromancy: “The …

Uncovering the Past: Cave Rings, Phoenician DNA, Egyptian Spellcraft and more!

As some Pagans attempt to revive ancient or indigenous religions they often rely on the work of historians, primary texts and archaeologists. For this reason, when something new pops up that challenges long held academic ideas on cultural or religious practice, we pay attention. Here are some of the new(er) finds making waves in archaeological circles. Cave rings in Southern France Hint at Neanderthal religious rites

Archaeologists have reported on an “extraordinary discovery” in France after finding several man-made circular structures, or rings, that date back 170,000 years to the time Neanderthals lived in the area. The rings were constructed out of stalagmites from the Bruniquel Cave in France’s southern region, and excavators believe that they might have been used for some sort of ritual at the time of their creation.

Honoring the Sacred Spirit from Ancient to Modern at the Carlos Museum

When people think of anthropological museums, they might recall the famous British Museum in London, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the Smithsonian in WDC, or New York City’s American Museum of Natural History. Very few people would consider Atlanta, Georgia home to a place that cradles any of the treasures of ancient civilizations. But it is. Emory University’s Michael C. Carlos Museum is one of the country’s top small anthropological museums. Its area of focus has captivated local Pagans and Heathens for years. Founded in 1919, the Carlos Museum has been growing its collection of art and cultural artifacts for nearly a century.

Uncovering the Past: Nero’s Revolving Restaurant and more

As some Pagans attempt to revive ancient or indigenous religions they often rely on the work of historians, primary texts and archaeologists. For this reason, when something new pops up that challenges long held academic ideas on cultural or religious practice, we pay attention. Here are some of the new(er) finds making waves in archaeological circles. Previously unknown ancient culture found in Peru
Archaeologists working in the Atacama Desert in Peru discovered more than 150 burials belonging to a previously unknown farming culture dating to between the 4th-7th century CE. The graves didn’t have any stone structures or other ways to mark them, and experts think this may be why they were not looted by grave robbers or found by earlier explorers.