Written by Dyami Millarson
The Centuries of the Oppression of Paganism or Oppressive Centuries may be an alternative name for the Middle Ages. The transition from the Middle Ages to the post-medieval centuries was one characterised by a renewed interest in paganism. People euphemistically call this a renewed interest in classical culture, but what they really mean by “classical culture” is paganism, particularly in elite circles. After all, the ages that preceded the Middle Ages were thoroughly pagan and the Middle Ages were simply an interlude between centuries of pagan culture among elites.
The old Church elites did their best to suppress paganism as explained in my previous article. Oppressing paganism was a matter of survival for the old elite. It was a precarious situation to be in. There was a widening cultural division – and dissatisfaction – among the populace versus the elite in the Middle Ages. Protestantism tapped into this popular anger and ushered in a new era of paganism. Ironically, the protestants accused the Catholics of paganism, whilst Protestantism as a popular vehicle was actually a vehicle for paganism.
The difference between Catholicism and Protestantism lies not so much in the fact that both embrace paganism, but the fact that Protestantism allows for more open interest in paganism whereas Catholicism delegates this to the realm of secrecy. Protestantism offers paganism a sigh of relief while it gives paganism the freedom it needs to make a comeback after being imprisoned by Catholicism. Catholicism imprisons paganism by synthesising with it whilst also keeping silent about it and condemning it if needed for reasons of maintaining power.
Protestants accused the Catholics of being “pagan” and the opposite side accused the Protestants of being pagan as well. The protestants knew how to play the game of the Catholics, who had been trying to prevent a popular uprising with their propaganda against a pagan revolution. Thus, the pagan revolution came not in the form of an explicitly pagan revolution but cloaked itself in a form that looked Christian and would prove fatal to the old powers. Protestantism acting as a pagan vehicle is not as strange as it may sound at first, because paganism was part of the cultural subconscious of the populace and the ordinary folk, quite inevitably, carried their pagan cultural heritage over from Catholicism to Protestantism.
The Protestant revolution, which was actually a pagan revolution, occurred in Northwestern Europe, where the culture was already different from the rest of Europe and this may be seen as a distinctly Northwestern European phenomenon, as Northwestern Europe started to assert itself culturally. Northwestern Europe broke free from the cultural influence of Rome, and set out to shape its own path; this meant a new interest in pagan heritage. After the fall of essentially Roman influence in Northwestern Europe, the Northwestern European elites became increasingly more open-minded towards exploring paganism.
The renewed interest in paganism meant that the elites were interested in the knowledge of the pagan Roman, Greek and Germanic peoples. The literate elites rediscovered themselves with this old knowledge, and this is what led them in the direction of exploring Germanic paganism. The cultural shift that took place is that the literate elites had grown from being anti-pagan to pagan sympathisers, which can still be felt today. Germanic paganism finds itself today in a sympathetic environment, which is more open to a pagan resurgence than ever.
The end of the Christian era was essentially the 20th century, and this meant the end of the synthesis between Christianity and paganism, as the latter survived whilst the former was increasingly fading into the background. Paganism is seen in all sorts of Northwestern European folk traditions. Paganism has countless ways of manifesting itself, and that is why it has proved so enduring. The 21th-century, if current trends continue, will see a confluence of many European ways of thinking and it will all come together in paganism; it is inevitable that paganism will face obstacles and hurdles along the way, but it has overcome great peril before and it survived the oppressive ages, so it has the power to survive.
Europe and the West as a whole in the 21st and 22nd centuries might look increasingly like the religious landscape of East Asia; there will be pockets of Christianity, but there were will very powerful pagan institutions in the West. The resurgence of East Asia itself might also give further impetus for a grand pagan revival. Japan itself might offer us a glimpse of what any pagan European might look like; it will emphasise family values, folk traditions, and respect for invisible beings. Middle Easterners and Asians are bringing the Islamic strain of monotheism to the West and Islam – with the reality of conversion – is a growing religion among Europeans as well, but this is not likely to affect current trends where Europeans are moving towards paganism and paganism is becoming symbolically more and more recognisable as well as culturally relevant in the European subconscious.
It must, however, be noted that even Islam synthesis with paganism, and many folk religious elements can be found among adherents of Islam. So pure monotheism is, in practice, not a reality among Islamic adherents either – just like with Christianity. Paganism has never since the Christianisation of Northwestern Europe in the Middle Ages been so iconically recognisable as it is today. This is proof of a clear shift in cultural mood among European populations. The stars are aligning in a way that clearly favours the full restoration of paganism to its old cultural relevance. The disappearance of paganism from the European cultural scene is unthinkable now, as the genie is out of the box and the circumstances leading to the widespread acceptance of explicit paganism are unlikely to be altered in the coming centuries, where European paganism might, if the current trends of space travel continue unabated, even be carried to distant planets named after pagan deities.