Notice
  • SMTP Error! The following recipients failed: teresagriffin@flash.net

    SMTP server error: Outgoing mail from "member@witchesandpagans.com" has been suspended.

  • SMTP Error! The following recipients failed: joseph.ammons82@gmail.com

    SMTP server error: Outgoing mail from "member@witchesandpagans.com" has been suspended.

  • SMTP Error! The following recipients failed: ladymerrickmayfair@hotmail.com

    SMTP server error: Outgoing mail from "member@witchesandpagans.com" has been suspended.

  • SMTP Error! The following recipients failed: scottishlassonabroom@yahoo.com

    SMTP server error: Outgoing mail from "member@witchesandpagans.com" has been suspended.

  • SMTP Error! The following recipients failed: d.r.bartlette@gmail.com

    SMTP server error: Outgoing mail from "member@witchesandpagans.com" has been suspended.

Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

A Pagan Revival in 13th Century France

What happens when you turn loose a bunch of over-educated, under-employed intellectuals on a prosperous society in the throes of social ferment?

Apparently, you get a Pagan Renaissance.

It happened in 20th century America. It also happened in 13th century France, during what—ironically enough—is known as the Age of Cathedrals.

The parallels between the two periods are striking. In both, new agricultural techniques produced a burgeoning population, a thriving mercantile class, and unprecedented prosperity. This, in medieval France and elsewhere, was what financed the building of the great cathedrals such as Notre Dame de Paris. Students from all over Europe flooded to the University of Paris.

There they learned Latin and read the Classics. There they learned about the old paganisms.

Alas, there were no suitable jobs for most of these sons of lesser houses. The system produced far more educated people than it could employ.

So a rising tide of clerici vagrantes, “wandering clerics,” washed across Europe: getting drunk (when they could afford it), getting laid (when they could manage it), and writing rhyming hymns in Latin to the old gods of the pagan world, especially (as one would expect) to Venus and Bacchus.

(Several collections of poetry and hymns from this medieval pagan renaissance have survived to inspire and delight us today, notably the famous Carmina Burana (that's CAR-min-ah, not car-MEE-nah), which in turn inspired German composer Carl Orff's pagan oratorio of the same name, one of the landmarks of 20th century pagan art.)

According to British historian Elliot Rose, these literary New Pagans—whatever the seriousness of their paganism—hooked up with the Old Pagan witch-wives of Europe to create a newly reinvigorated Witch Cult which, a hundred years later, would give rise to, and fall prey to, the horrors of the Great Persecution. Well, maybe.

Eight hundred years later, here we are again.

Appealing though it may be, I've never really been a proponent of Arnold Toynbee's theory of cyclic history. But that's not to deny that history doesn't (apparently) have its arcs.

As historian Sam Webster has observed, for the past 1500 years, paganism has been the shadow side of Western civilization. Practically since the beginning of Christian literature, nominally Christian writers and artists—think of the Renaissance—have been playing at being pagans.

Sooner or later, it was bound to stick.

 

 

 

For more on the marriage of witch-wife and clericus vagus, and the new Witch-Cult Synthesis, see:

Elliot Rose, A Razor for a Goat: Problems in the History of Witchcraft and Diabolism (1962). University of Toronto.

 

For more on Christians pretending to be pagans, see:

Joscelyn Godwin, The Pagan Dream of the Renaissance (2002). Phanes Press.

 

 

 

Last modified on
Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.

Comments

Additional information