Pagans – James J. O’Donnell

The premise being that Xmas, or that was the start, that Xmas is a pagan rite, co-opted by a later day religion to become the commercial nightmare — and success — it is now. But that’s just the starting point.

But some of the points resonate well with even modern audiences.

“Their purpose was not to help predict the future directly, but to determine what it would take to placate the gods—and thus produce a better future.” Page 46.

That referred to Ancient Greek texts, but the process?


About the Emperor Constantine?

“He was well suited to the new age of big government and went after his rivals for power unsparingly.” Page 204.

Thought this was merely a religious history of ancient rites and practices.

“Conventional piety interpreted with a bit of philosophical education was common enough, as in the case of Marcus Aurelius (161–180).” Page 176.

Yes. Marcus Aurelius, always nice to see a mention.

“When the entrail-reading omen tellers went to read the guts of the sacrificial animals, something was wrong—the normal markings were missing. They said that “profane men” were to blame, and the Christians were hounded away.” Page 181.

Interesting, close to 2,000 years ago, the Christians were the outlaws.


As part of my own, oral history — coming of age rather late in old South Austin — I learned the term “Pagan” derived from the the old Roman term for “country folk,” hence the etymological root for the term.

Then, too, for years I’ve often been considered a “pagan,” as in earth worship, but more along the lines of paying attention to the obvious rhythms of the sun, the moon, and the skies. So, in part the title and purported premise was of interest, but, as it turns out, this owes more to the Neo-Pagan notions of the last few years, farther than any really old religion.

“Outside Christian imaginations, there was no such thing as paganism, only people doing what they were in the habit of doing.” Page 382.

Pertinent note about time. Unrelated, the Temple of Mithras in London was closed about then.

“Will Christianity’s many victories be permanent? It might seem so. Creating paganism in order to have vanquished it let Christianity emerge from antiquity presenting itself as a modern, intellectual, imperial, and highly organized religion with extraordinary resilience.” Page 399.

From the epilogue.


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