One of my most vivid school memories comes from a history lesson I had when I was about seven or eight. From very early on, history had been my favorite subject. The books were always filled to the brim with colorful pictures, and the fact that the topic encompasses just about everything that ever took place regarding mankind drew my attention. That day at school, we were supposed to learn about the Renaissance and the 16th century. As I opened my book, my eyes met with a picture of a crowd laying waste to a church, breaking windows and tearing down statues.
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Back when I was a little kid, something like 20 years ago, my mother took me on a trip to Paris. For about a week, we wandered around the city of lights, visited friends, took the metro, ate crepes, climbed the Eiffel tower and more. On the morning of our last day there, my mother told me we only had time to visit one more place before going home and that I’d have to choose between Disneyland or… the Louvre.
An archaeological dig at the Tintagel heritage site in Cornwall, South West England, has uncovered a complex of well-constructed buildings dating to the 5th or 6th century that could have been a royal palace – fuelling age-old speculation that the area was the seat of King Arthur. In Britain’s first significant find from the Dark Ages, the team unearthed one structure with walls a metre-thick and artefacts that indicate a high and widespread level of trade. Analysis of artefacts shows the inhabitants enjoyed olive oil from the Greek Aegean and wine from Western Turkey. They ate off of plates and bowls that came from what is now Tunisia in North Africa. These details suggest that the inhabitants were of high status. Whoever lived there is thought to have been the ruler of the Dunmonnia tribe, which occupied the entire South West region of England at the time, including Cornwall.
When we tell the story of modern Paganism, we tell a history as we understand it. But all history is only selective memory, a collection of what we choose to remember or what we know to include. The sum total of humanity’s experience cannot be recollected except by the sum total of humanity. History’s an exclusion, as much as it is a narrative, and tells us more what we think about ourselves now than what happened in the past. To recount the tale of myself to you would take my entire life, and that life is not yet over.
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