Pagans tend to get a bad rap these days. The stereotypical associations with messy animal sacrifices and people dancing around altars in dark woods wearing goat horns don’t help. on their head.
Finisterre was the end of the known world in antiquity
Our pagan forebthe ears were actually a bit more varied – and they had an understanding of vital aspects of human nature. That’s more than you can say for much of what’s coming from certain members of the political class, media pundits, academics and activists these days regarding mind-bending gender identity theories. and transhumanism. You would expect us to know better given hindsight, not to mention our incomparable comfort and ease in making such judgments, compared to what our pagan ancestors faced when trying to process the human condition and all. the challenges that come with it.
I remembered all this recently after leading a motley team of modern Canterbury Tales pilgrims to the city of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. Then I continued walking to the town of Finisterre and its surrounding peninsula on the far western Galician coast. Finisterre is the mysterious pagan-influenced brother lurking in the shadows of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, based on the alleged remains of Saint James lying in the basement of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
Finisterre was considered the end of the known world in antiquity. The name Finisterre is an amalgam of the Latin Finished Terraewhich means “End of the Earth”. The route to this remote promontory was traveled by pagan pilgrims during cwalk inbefore the dawn of Christianity, when church leaders appropriated the pagan route – as well as many pagan festivals – to their its own purposes, including including it in the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.
At the highest point of the Finisterre peninsula is Ara Solis — the Altar of the Sun — with its harvest of Piedras Santas sacred stones. At the time of the Celtic Druids, Ara Solis was a popular place for pagan fertility rites. From the top of Ara Solis you can see another promontory to the north that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean and is known as Nave cable. The name means “Ship’s Headland” and alludes to the ship intended to transport the souls of the dead to the underworld ruled by Hades. Cablo Da Nave’s most advanced rock ledge in the waves is said to look like a novel cwalk inion laid to rest with his helmeted head facing west toward the land of eternal youth.
We have much to learn from these pagan pilgrims who have gone before us. On the one hand, we can only marvel at the tenacity and faith of those who risked their lives to walk all these cwalk inA few years ago, travel was incomparably more dangerous and difficult. Today we seem have lost the capacity for the kind of resolve and faith that motivated those pagans to head to Finisterre.
a lot today are lose too their belief in and respect for the power of ritual. Our pagan ancestors understood ritual to be a way to connect to deeper wisdom that transcends time and place, says John Brierley in Camino Finisterre: a practical and mystical manual for the modern-day pilgrim — to access that mysterious spiritual realm that seems increasingly sidelined by our current obsession with science.
Our pagan ancestors at least recognized a holy order
“Literalism can be an obstacle to a deeper understanding of our lives and our place in the Cosmos“, Brierley said. “Collectively devoid of inner connection and a sense of the sacred, we live in a spiritual vacuum of our own making..”
Grasping the meaning of our temporal and brief lives has been a fundamental human challenge throughout history.walk inthat is, whether they are pagans, Christians, or neither. We may be better at dealing with empirical data these days, but many seem reluctant to address the essential, more metaphysical elements of life. Our pagan ancestors at least attempted to engage and recognize a sacred order. This contrasts sharply with most of today’s cultural elites who do do not “acknowledge gods, God or any type of sacred purpose for creation”, as Imogen Sinclair notes in “Among the labors of deaths”.
“In our cwalk iny, a deified reason and a megalomaniacal technology are the repressive structures to which religious sentiment is sacrificed“, the famous Austrian psychiatrist and author Viktor Frankl, best known for his book Man’s quest for meaningwrote in The Unconscious God.
Frankl’s experiences at Auschwitz, in which he noted that those whose faith was deepened by the terrible experience, outnumbered those who lost their religious belief, led him to stipulate that the spiritual dimension is fundamentally important for man:
The body and the psyche can form a unity – a psychophysical unity – but this unity does not yet represent the totality of man. Without the spiritual as the essential foundation, the totality cannot exist.
Religiosity is in our nature, this is Frankl’s view – even in the nature of pursed-lipped Britons, it seems. The reaction to the Queen’s death and funeral clearly demonstrated that religion is still stronger in ‘secular Britain’ than many of us thought.
That didn’t stop the tables from being turned on the Church, which is kind of living what it did with all these pagan traditions. Today we see more and more Christian notions being appropriated by secularism. There’s the cult of kindness: all those signs that crop up everywhere about “being kind” and treating people with respect and compassion, and the mantra of “self-love.””. All of this is used to justify a moral relativism, as well as a push to challenge the limits of the human body in a quest for the kind of Homo Deus utopia propagated by the writer Yuval Noah Harari.
The sinister machinations and cannibalistic tendencies of postmodern secularism lead to another ironic role reversal. In the past, it was religion that could be oppressive of human nature. John Buchan wrote about it in his novel witch woodin which a group of Scottish villagers turn to paganism in the face of the rigid restrictions of the 17th c.walk iny Scottish Calvinism. A major theme of the book is that if you try to eliminate crucial aspects of human nature, they or they will eventually reassert themselves.
The liberal world order is increasingly detached from Christian fundamentals
“Naturam expel furca, recurring tamen usque“, as Horace said: “You can drive nature away with a pitchfork, but it will always come back.”
In addition there are health and safety extremes, such as the latest Puritan push against meat, booze and other pleasuresand the cult of net zero applied to an increasingly broad spectrum. Let’s not forget that JesussThe first miracle was to turn water into wine. As the youngest brother Alyosha notes in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s book The Karamazov brothers“It was not the sorrow of men, but their joy Christ has visited. He did his first miracle to help man’s joy.”
“Disbelief in God has allowed caustic cynicism and idealists without wetting“, Tueio Laghos writes in “Losing faith in atheism”. “Precious Aspects of Religion have been stripped – community spirit, shared ideals and belief in something beyond oneself – leaving behind a skeletal carcass that progressives feast on.”
In a recent Spectator podcast “Has conservatism been misunderstoodpolitical theorist Yoram Hazony explains how a major political challenge to the current liberal world order is that it is increasingly detached from Christian fundamentals. He cites the work of Irving Kristol, one of the most influential political thinkers of the Reagan years, who argued that the free market is the best engine for wealth creation, but only if it goes hand in hand with religion and nationalism.
Without these “guidances”, explains Hazony, the free market and its “constant discourse on consent and contracts and individual freedoms without reference to religion or nation acts as a solvent”, which threatens to destroy everything around it. This is especially true of these “unchosen communities”s” that we are are born and do not “consent” to be part of it, like the family and the nation. This may partly explain why an increasing number of people seem to behave in ways not unlike the pagans who dance while wearing goat horns.