Ancient Paganism Memorial Day

Ancient Paganism Memorial Day June 26, 2012

Today is the date of the death of Julian the Apostate, the last pagan emperor, in 363 CE.  Like many of the cultural elites of his time, Julian was a philosophical pagan, viewing the pagan gods as allegorical.  He was also a student Neoplatonic theurgy.

Julian encouraged the restoration of paganism as the state religion, at the expense of Christianity, which had been adopted by his uncle Constantine.  He restored pagan temples confiscated by Constantine and withdrew the privileges of Christian clergy and laity.  On Feb 4, 362, he published an edict of religious equality.

Julian authored may texts, including his “Oration to the Mother of the Gods” and his “Oration to the Sovereign Sun”, both of which were translated by Thomas Taylor.

Julian was killed during a battle with the Persians in 363.  He was succeeded by Jovian.  Julian death marks the end of official Paganism.  Beginning in 389, the emperor Theodosius issued a series of decrees that banned paganism, even private pagan worship.  The eternal flame of the Vestal Virgins was extinguished, and Theodosius was responsible (directly and indirectly) for the destruction of many pagan temples.   Paganism survived, however, most conspicuously in a syncretized form with Christianity.

To honor Julian and the ancient Pagans of the classical world, I am going to pour a libation of salt water today at sunset.

The Oracles are dumm,
No voice or [sonorous] humm

Runs through the arched roof in words [believing].

Apollo from his shrine
Can no more divine,
With [terrible] shreik the steep of Delphos leaving.

No nightly trance, or breathed spell,
Inspire’s the pale-ey’d Priest from the prophetic cell.

The lonely mountains o’re,

And the resounding shore,
A voice of weeping heard, and loud lament;
From haunted spring and dale
Edg’d with poplar pale,

The parting Genius is with sighing sent,
With flowre-inwov’n tresses torn
The Nimphs in twilight shade of tangled thickets mourn.

In consecrated Earth,
And on the holy Hearth,
The Lars, and Lemures moan with midnight plaint,
In Urns, and Altars round,
A drear, and dying sound
Affrights the Flamins at their service quaint;

And the chill Marble seems to sweat,

While each peculiar power forgoes his wonted seat.

From John Milton’s “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity” (some of the words are changed to remove the anti-Pagan sentiment).


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