The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity by James C. Russel
Posted on February 5, 2023
I have read The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity – A Sociohistorical Approach to Religious Transformation by James C. Russel. It is a scholarly work full of references and valuable historical insights. The book contains seven chapters:
- Transformations of Christianity
- Conversion, Christianization, and Germanization
- Sociohistorical Aspects of Religious Transformation
- Sociopsychological Aspects of Religious Transformation
- Germanic Religiosity and Social Structure
- Germanization and Christianization 376-678
- Germanization and Christianization 678-754
Note: In this case, Germanisation refers to Germanic and not German (as I discussed in Podcast Episode 29. Fehu, Uruz, the Primordial Beast).
Indo-European Religion vs Christianity
In the introduction of the book, the author discusses the different worldviews of the Indo-European religions (Greek, Roman, Germanic etc.) and Christianity. He notes (with the risk of over-generalising) that the former is folk-centred and world-accepting, and the latter is soteriological (relating to salvation) and eschatological (relating to death and judgement) – hence world-rejecting. I agree with this assessment – I have discussed the life-affirming nature of Paganism many times before. Another interesting difference that he points out is the following: the Germanic peoples at the time of their encounter with Christianity had a high level of group solidarity – this stood in sharp contrast to the urban and rootless social environment that Christianity flourished in (i.e. an environment in which alienation and normlessness prevailed).
The Power of the Christian God
The author notes that Anglo-Saxon missionaries did not emphasise the soteriological and eschatological aspects of Christianity. Rather, they sought to emphasise the power and omnipotence of the Christian God, as well as the temporal rewards he could bestow upon those who accepted him through baptism. In a similar manner, Christ was often depicted as a warrior to appeal to the Germanic peoples. Moreover, the Germanic peoples had a magicoreligious view of religion:
‘According to this “magicoreligious character” it was expected that Christ would intervene in the affairs of individuals and groups in direct response to specific prayers or rituals.’James C. Russel – The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity. Page 191.
Thus, Jesus was remodelled into a God that could help his worshippers here and now, as opposed to being presented as someone who would safeguard the soul after death. This makes perfect sense when taking the life-affirming weltanschauung of the Germanic peoples into consideration.
The Christian Pantheon
The author notes that the Germanic view of the divine survived into the Christian era, albeit in a transformed manner:
‘The worldly, magicoreligious, heroic, folk religiosity of the pre-Christian Germanic peoples was transferred from Odin, Tiwaz, Thor, and Freyja, and the shrines and amulets dedicated to them, to Christus Victor, his loyal saints, and their shrines and relics.’James C. Russel – The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity. Page 188.
Pictured below: a humble poet at Heliga Birgittas bönegrotta (roughly translated from Swedish to: the prayer grotto of St. Bridget of Sweden) – i.e. a shrine dedicated to a saint.
The Germanisation of Christianity
The following quote summarises the Germanisation of Christianity in a great way:
‘The early medieval Germanization of Christianity, in most cases, then, was not the result of organized Germanic resistance to Christianity, or of an attempt by the Germanic peoples to transform Christianity into an acceptable form. Rather, it was primarily a consequence of the deliberate inculturation of Germanic religiocultural attitudes within Christianity by Christian missionaries. This process of accommodation resulted in the essential transformation of Christianity from a universal salvation religion to a Germanic, and eventually European, folk religion.’James C. Russel – The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity. Page 39.
This basically means that Christianity was presented in such a way that it would fit seamlessly into the Germanic societies. Since it was presented in a manner attractive to the Germanic peoples, Christianity also stayed heavily Pagan for a long time.
‘The sociopsychological response of the Germanic peoples to this inculturated form of Christianity included the acceptance of those traditionally Christian elements which coincided with Germanic religiosity and the resolution of dissonant elements by reinterpreting them in accordance with the Germanic ethos and world-view.James C. Russel – The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity. Page 39.
The Christianity of the Middle Ages
The author refers to John Van Engen who, in his article The Christian Middle Ages, makes the case that mediaeval folk were only superficially Christianised, and that Christian faith and practice first took hold among the European masses during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation movements. This supports the popular argument often seen that Catholicism is a particularly Pagan form of Christianity. This is, of course, a contested topic, but it is worth keeping in mind when formulating a spiritual path for the future.
Religiocultural View of War
The author shares a quote by J. M. Wallace-Hadrill, in which the latter states that the Germanic Pagans viewed war as a religious undertaking in which the Gods were interested. Ragnarök is perhaps the most notable example of this. As we noted in our review of Julius Evola’s Revolt Against the Modern World (review), this view was present during the Middle Ages as well. The following quote by Saint Bernard illustrates this quite well:
‘Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. What a glory it is for you to emerge from the battle crowned with victory! But what a greater glory it is to win on the battlefield an immortal crown… What a truly blessed condition, when one can wait for death without any fear, yearning for it and welcoming it with a strong spirit!’Saint Bernard – De laude novae militiae
The Crusades were, one could argue, more of a Pagan (i.e. an expression of the Indo-European spirit) than a Christian undertaking. The Crusades could actually be a good example to emphasise the extent to which Christianity had been transformed in Europe.
The Situation in Greece and Rome
The author notes that Christianity had already been thoroughly Indo-Europeanised prior to its contact with the Germanic peoples. After all, Christianity grew in an environment dominated by Graeco-Roman culture.
‘Both Greek and Roman influences contributed toward some degree of an Indo-Europeanization of Christianity, not by actively seeking to do so, but as the passive result of the rapid expansion of Christianity to include people in whom the traditional world-accepting Indo-European world-view remained alive and meaningful.
This prior Indo-Europeanization of Christianity may have eased its acceptance within a Germanic society which retained the traditional Indo-European world-view long after it was supplanted in the classical world.’James C. Russel – The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity. Page 133.
Therefore, the Christianity that the Germanic peoples encountered was not only presented as something quite different than what it was in its beginning (a salvific religion for the lower, urban masses), but it was also already transformed due to its encounter with other Indo-European cultures.
Another aspect that is important to keep in mind when discussing Rome and Christianity is that Christianity gained popularity in a Rome that was no longer very Roman. The author shares the following quote by Ramsay MacMullen:
‘There was little “Roman” left in the Roman empire. Rather, the “un-Roman” elements had come to the fore, and now controlled the world in which they lived.’Ramsay MacMullen – Enemies of the Roman Order.
As I have mentioned many times before, the Rome that fell to Alaric in 410 was not the same entity (bioculturally) as the Rome that conquered the world in previous centuries. In regard to Hellenic influence on Christianity, it must be noted that Neoplatonism had a strong impact on Christian metaphysics.
The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity is, in my humble opinion, a must-read for any European Pagan or Christian. It is of utmost importance to understand just how Pagan Christianity has been historically. It is also important to emphasise the fact that the Christianity that has been in Europe during the last millenium is not the same as the Christianity one encounters today. I will elaborate at length on this topic in my upcoming book (which is coming mid-2023).
The book is 214 pages and is academic in its style (i.e. heavily footnoted and with plenty of references). This makes it both a concise read as well as giving plenty of suggestions for further research on one’s own. Good stuff!
The Mysteries of Mithras by Payam Nabarz
Posted on January 29, 2023 2 Comments
I have read The Mysteries of Mithras: The Pagan Belief That Shaped the Christian World by Payam Nabarz. I can straight away say that it is a great book full of valuable insights. As loyal readers of my book reviews will know, I have been interested in the Mithraic mysteries for quite some time now, and we have encountered Mithraism in many other book reviews. Thus, reading this book was a natural next step.
A note on terminology: Mithra is the Persian God; Mithras is the Roman God. One could, of course, say that they are the same God. Iran (land of the Aryans) and Rome share Indo-European (Aryan) roots, so it is to be expected that they have similar Gods. However, for the sake of academic precision, the difference is worth keeping in mind.
Love, Sun, Friend
In the introductory chapter, the author shares the following interesting insight; namely, that the name Mithra has three meanings in Farsi – love, sun, and friend. In the Roman Cult, Mithras wrestles with Sol and thereafter becomes his friend – in certain depictions they appear side by side. In the same chapter the following is said regarding the friendship aspect of Mithra:
‘Mithra is the beloved, with whom the Magi seek union. He is seen as the protector of the Aryan nations, giving victory to “those who lie not unto Mithra.” He is the warrior deity carrying the “hundred knotted mace,” from whom all demons flee in fear.’Payam Nabarz – The Mysteries of Mithras. Page 5.
This is similar to Thor, who is also a friend and protector of mankind. Moreover, the author notes that Zoroastrian priests, to this day, carry the mace of Mithra as a symbol of fighting evil (this is a powerful image!). He also notes that when Zoroastrianism ascended to become the dominant religion of Persia, Mithra made the transition from the old religion to the new due to his popularity with the people. Some good old syncretism at work!
The Tauroctony – Mithras and Perseus
The Tauroctony (pictured above) is a familiar picture. The author shares the following wisdom in regard to interpreting the symbolism.
‘The bull that Mithras kills is his ego, the aim of all followers of Mithras. Mithras always looks away from the bull while stabbing him, just as Perseus looked away from the Gorgon when he decapitated her. One who looked upon the Gorgon would turn to stone; that is, the ego would turn the heart and the soul to stone. In order to overcome this ego (nafs in Sufism), one must turn the head (the intellect) away, because the intellect is unable to overcome the ego.’Payam Nabarz – The Mysteries of Mithras. Page 41.
My own interpretation of Perseus and Medusa is simply the overcoming of one’s weaknesses. The garment pictured below is available here: LegioGloria.com
Mithraic Influence on Christianity
In the chapter titled thus, the author lists some similarities between Mithraism and Christianity – the most notable one being the birthday of Mithras and Jesus, the 25th of December. In this chapter, two epic quotes are included, from the Great Magical Papyri and Revelation respectively. As I have noted before, quotes like these are always a pleasure to read. Moreover, regarding the description of Mithras: the mystery cult was heavily influenced by astrology (hence the astrological references).
‘Mithras having a bright appearance, youthful, golden-haired, with a white tunic and a golden crown and trousers, and holding in his right hand a golden shoulder of a young bull: (seven stars of the Plough) this is the Bear which moves and turns heaven around, moving upward and downward in accordance with the hour. Then you will see lightning-bolts leaping from his eyes and stars from his body.’– The Mithraic Liturgy from the Great Magical Papyri
‘And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.Revelation
14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow;
and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.’
Aside from their shared birthday, the author also notes that (among other things) both were born of a virgin and that both had worshippers who were baptized, called themselves ‘brothers,’ and held Sundays sacred. Another interesting thing to note is the following: in Icelandic Magic (review), Stephen E. Flowers mentions that the Our Father prayer may have been used by the Cult of Mithras as well.
The Beautiful Goddess
Speaking of epic quotes, the following beautiful passage appears in the chapter Meditations and Initiations:
‘On the throne sits a Lady in silver and gold garments, proud and tall, an awe-inspiring warrior woman, as terrifying as she is beautiful. Tall and statuesque she sits, her noble origins evident in her appearance, her haughty authority made clear and commanding through a pair of flashing eyes. A crown of shining gold rings her royal temples, bejeweled with eight sunrays and one hundred stars; it holds her lustrous hair back from her beautiful face.’Payam Nabarz – The Mysteries of Mithras. Page 128.
The Zoroastrian Primordial Bull
As I noted in Podcast Episode 29. Fehu, Uruz, the Primordial Beast, bulls and cows have a special place in the Indo-European heart. In Germanic cosmology, Audhumbla is the primordial cow that gives nourishment to Ymir, the primordial giant. The author notes that in Zoroastrian tradition, the first animal in the world was a white bull as bright as the moon. The bull is, of course, central to the Mithraic mysteries as well.
The Phrygian Cap
The author shares the following quote illuminating quote in regard to the iconic Phrygian cap (as seen in the Tauroctony):
‘Mithra’s Phrygian cap originated from Phrygia, a centre of Mithraism in Anatolia, the capital of which was Konya. It was worn there by manumitted slaves, and Mithra’s wearing of the cap denotes his freedom from slavery of the lower self.’Massoud Homayouni – The Origins of Persian Gnosis
On a personal note, I have contemplated whether or not to release a red Phrygian cap for Legio Gloria. There are two aspects to the matter; I do not want to wear anything associated with the destruction and evil of the French Revolution, but I do want to wear a cap associated with the glorious Mithraic mysteries. I am inclined to release such an item because of the following reason: the Mithraic mysteries came before the French Revolution. Furthermore, wearing it as a statement that one has overcome one’s lower self is indeed a good thing. We will return to the topic at a later time!
As already noted, The Mysteries of Mithras is an interesting book that I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone interested in the Mithraic mysteries, or indeed esoteric matters in general. It is 164 pages and written in accessible language. It also contains some beautiful poetry in addition to practical instructions for rituals.
Nietzsche – Der Zeitgemässe by Julien Rochedy
Posted on December 12, 2022 1 Comment
The author, Julien Rochedy, introduces the teachings of Nietzsche and puts them into the context of our current struggle. Interestingly, Nietzsche himself said that his work should be appreciated 100 years after his death – which is now, and this turned out to be a good prediction.
Rochedy also discusses Nietzsche’s life (i.e. when and under which circumstances he wrote his most important works) as well as clearing out some misconceptions about the man:
- Nietzsche was indeed sickly later in his life, but was in good physical and athletic condition in his youth (he also spent time in the Prussian army).
- Nietzsche did not, as some believe, triumphantly proclaim the death of God. Rather, a character of his laments the death of God. Thus, it is more a warning of atheism than a celebration of it.
- Nietzsche also warns about nihilism, and encourages the new aristocracy (that will save European civilisation) to revolt against it.
- The Overman (Übermensch) is not something that you are born as, but rather something you become. ‘Man is something to be overcome.’ A common misconception is to link the concept of the Overman with eugenics.
- Eugenics is good, but Nietzsche’s concept of the Overman does not refer directly to it, but rather to do with the overcoming of oneself. That being said, Nietzsche presented the path of the Overman as a viable option for but a few. This reminds us of Evola’s Aristocrats of the Soul.
- Nietzsche started out as a German Nationalist, but would later come to a more pan-European vision (similar to yours truly).
The book is in German (it is also the first book in German I have read), so I am certain I missed a few insights and nuances, but I found it interesting and understandable enough to recommend it to those who are interested in Nietzsche.
Temple of the Cosmos by Jeremy Naydler
Posted on November 20, 2022
I have had the pleasure of reading Temple of the Cosmos – The Ancient Egyptian Experience of the Sacred by Jeremy Naydler. I read the book per the recommendation of Mer-Rekh on Twitter. I can right away state that the book is highly interesting. Up until now, I had not delved deeper into the religion and metaphysics of the Ancient Egyptians, but their Gods have always had a certain place in my heart – not in the same way as the Indo-European Gods, but a place nonetheless. I had the great fortune of playing Age of Mythology in my younger years (which instilled a love for mythology). I am no stranger to Egyptian history and have always viewed the civilisation with admiration.
Whenever I review books, I note down particularly interesting pages and passages which contain insights that I wish to share. This book contains a spectacular amount of those! Below are but a few.
A Divine Land
The author notes that the Ancient Egyptians were much more connected to the divine (spiritual, metaphysical) than modern man. The two quotes below explains this quite well:
‘The physical universe had a “vertical dimension”; it reached up into, and included within itself, spiritual realities that for the modern consciousness are no longer a living experience.’Jeremy Naydler – Temple of the Cosmos. Page 2.
‘The Egyptians themselves did not experience any gulf separating the spiritual from the physical realm. There was little in nature that could not effectively communicate a divine power. The starts, sun, moon, wind, and earth – all were gods or expressions of gods to them. Animals, plants, trees, serpents – all were capable of mediating a divine presence. For the Egyptians the natural world was full of gods. And the world of physical objects could equally become filled with divine powers.’Jeremy Naydler – Temple of the Cosmos. Page 133.
Statues and Idols
On the same page as the passage above, the author explains that the Egyptians never worshipped idols and that idolatry was not an issue. The reason for this is that the concept of an idol (i.e. a mere physical object) was unconceivable for the Egyptian mind – the physical and metaphysical did not have the clear distinction as they would come to have in later centuries. The concept of an idol was introduced by the Israelites. We encountered a similar discussion regarding idolatry in our review of The Agni and The Ecstasy by Steven J. Rosen. Also interesting to note is that the Egyptians ensouled statues in rituals.
Horus and Seth – The Two Lands
A central conflict in the Egyptian cosmology is that between Horus and Seth. Horus is connected to the life-giving powers of the Nile; Seth is connected to the death of the desert. The conflict is thus between creation and destruction – order and chaos. This conflict was seen in the very landscape itself with the annual rise and decline of the Nile. Just as the Germanic weltanschauung was intertwined with the cycles of the year, so was the Egyptian (although these cycles are, of course, quite different).
‘From the beginning, the Delta was the domain of Horus while Upper Egypt was the province of Seth, the great opponent from whom the imperiled life and fecundity of the Nile valley had annually to be won. Seth ruled the desert; the desert was Seth’s land. And Seth was eternally opposed by Horus; eternally combatted and defeated.’Jeremy Naydler – Temple of the Cosmos. Page 2.
The author goes on to note that Egypt was referred to the Two Lands not only because of the distinction between the North and the South, but also because of the contrast between the fertile Black Lands of the Nile (black = fertile soil) and the Red Lands of the desert. Metaphysically speaking, there was also the distinction between the spiritual realm on the one hand and the world of lifeless matter on the other.
‘Horus rules in opposition to Seth. Horus is the protector of life, the guarantor of order and harmony on earth. Seth is the destroyer of life, the instigator of disorder and chaos.’Jeremy Naydler – Temple of the Cosmos. Page 71.
Horus was associated with the king; Seth with enemies.
East and West of the Nile
The author notes that the physical geography of Egypt played a role in their metaphysical conception of the world. The rise of the sun – the daily rebirth of Ra – was in the east. His descent into the realm of the dead was in the west. Therefore, mortuary temples and similar structures had to be on the western side of the Nile (the side of the dead).
A Beautiful Poem and an Epic Quote
As loyal readers will know, I am always on the lookout for beautiful poems and epic quotes. To my great delight, I found several in this book. Below is a hymn to the Sun-God Ra:
‘Splendid you rise, O living sun, eternal Lord!Temple of the Cosmos. Page 2.
You are radiant, beauteous, mighty,
Your love is great, immense.
Your rays light up all faces.
Your bright hue gives life to hearts,
When you fill the Two Lands with your love.’
In the chapter titled The Marriage of Myth and History, the author notes that historical events were often presented as mythological. The Battle of Kadesh was a historical battle between the Egyptians under Ramesses II and the Hittites under Muwatalli II. Below is an epic quote which tells of the battle in a mythological fashion:
‘I was like Ra, when he rises at dawn.Battle of Kadesh Inscription (the quote appears on page 115 in Temple of the Cosmos).
My rays, they burned the rebels’ bodies,
They called out to another:
“Beware, take care, don’t approach him…
Anyone who goes to approach him,
Fire’s breath comes to burn his body.”
Thereupon they stood at a distance,
Kissing the ground before me.’
In the same chapter, the author notes that Egypt’s enemies – Ethiopians to the south, Libyans to the west, Asiatics to the east – became symbols of the archetypal enemy that the king of Egypt had to eternally defeat. In this chapter, he also refers to the teachings of Mircea Eliade, whom we have encountered before – in our review of The Myth of the Eternal Return, for example.
Religion and Magic
The author notes that for the Egyptians, religion and magic were not separated – religion was magical. Moreover, he notes that, generally speaking, it was necessary to be a magician in order to hold office of state. This makes perfect sense with the knowledge of how important spiritual matters were for the people – a ‘separation of church and state’ would have been an absurd proposition! He also elaborates on the importance of Egyptian magic to the later Western Esoteric tradition. He shares the following quote by Jakob Böhme (1575–1624), a German philosopher and mystic:
‘Magic is the best theology, for in it true faith is both grounded and found. And he is a fool that reviles it, for he knows it not, and blasphemes against both God and himself, and is more a juggler than a theologian of understanding.’Jakob Böhme (the quote appears on page 122 in Temple of the Cosmos).
He also shares the following quote by good old Paracelsus (1493–1541):
‘Magic is the greatest wisdom and the knowledge of supernatural powers… acquired by obtaining more spirituality and making oneself capable to feel and to see the things of the spirit.’Paracelsus (the quote appears on page 123 in Temple of the Cosmos).
We encountered both Jakob Böhme and Paracelsus in our review of Evola’s The Hermetic Tradition.
In the chapter titled The Theology of Magic, the author notes that the hieroglyphs were the product of a different mentality than the modern (more profane) one – therefore, it is a misconception to only view the hieroglyphs as symbols without a deeper meaning. In this sense, they remind us of the Runes – which all contain deep mysteries and teachings (I will elaborate at length about the Runes in my upcoming book).
Ka – Ancestral Vital Energy
The book contains many interesting passages about the various metaphysical elements of a person. Elaborating on these lies beyond the scope of this book review; but one metaphysical element of particular interest is the Ka – the source of a persons vital energy. This energy was (for the common people) bestowed by an extraneous source:
‘This was the ancestral group that existed in the spirit world as a source of power at one with ka energy. It was the ancestors who directed this energy toward the physical realm, thereby infusing not only human beings but also animals and crops with vitality.’Jeremy Naydler – Temple of the Cosmos. Page 193.
One could say that the Egyptian dead were not really dead, but influenced the living world in a sense. The author notes that ‘going to the Ka‘ was an experience of becoming absorbed into the ancestral group.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins
In case you encountered Thoth’s War Elephant of Enlightenment on Telegram, Twitter, or Instagram and wondered where he is from, I can reveal that the picture you see is a screenshot from Assassin’s Creed: Origins. AC: Origins is one of the better games in the franchise, and a game I can recommend for those who are into gaming and Ancient Egypt. The game is not set in the Ancient Egypt of the native Egyptian pharaohs, but rather Egypt during the Hellenistic era – in any case, the aesthetics and setting are great!
As noted in the introduction, I thoroughly enjoyed this fine tome of knowledge and can definitely recommend it not only for those interested in Ancient Egypt, but also to those interested in spiritual matters in general. The book is 286 pages and written in accessible language. Great stuff!
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