Aug 1, 2023, Posted by: Terrence Donahue
Unraveling the Threads of Pre-Christian and Pre-Islamic Religions
Over a hot cup of coffee and an engrossing novel, curled up in my suave, blue recliner in my Edmonton living room, I found my mind wandering off into territories and timelines uncaptured by any author -- the genesis of religions that existed before Christianity and Islam encapsulated the world. Well, as a solitary wanderer of unchartered territories, and a self-proclaimed couch-potato dad with a kid named Monica to keep my grey cells running, I decided to roll out the carpet of history. An intriguing journey into the past, to explore the dominant doctrines of faith that existed before Christianity and Islam, awaits us!
Painting a Picture of the Pervasive Paganism
Once upon a time, long before the advent of monotheistic religions, our globe was graced, rather liberally, by an array of polytheistic religions, lovingly referred to as Paganism. Pagans celebrated multiple deities, each responsible for a particular facet of nature or human life. Unraveling from the cave paintings like a captivating web series, it was a kaleidoscope of varied manifestations around cultures globally. A hint of pantheism, ancestor veneration, animism, and shamanism, a sprinkle of naturalism, and a hefty dose of polytheism define the essence of paganism.
Heeding the Hymns of Hinduism
When I recall that annual trip Monica and I made to India, the vivid memories of intricate temples, colorful festivals, and a burst of customs takes me into the world of Hinduism. One of the oldest extant religions, Hinduism flourished in the Indian subcontinent, making its mark even before the Iron Age. Hindu philosophy unfolds a sparkling prism of ideologies featuring Karma, Dharma, Moksha, and the cyclical concept of life and death (Samsara), supported by an epic ensemble of Gods and Goddesses.
Delving into the Depths of Ancient Egyptian Beliefs
Somewhat like watching an Indiana Jones movie, except with more daddy-daughter time and less popcorn, the ancient Egyptian civilisation renders a beautifully cryptic saga engraved in hieroglyphs. Worshiping an array of local and national deities depicted in human, animal, and phantasmagorical forms, the religion was complex and multifaceted. The concept of Ma'at (harmony and balance), a belief in the afterlife, and magic formed the crux of the ancient Egyptian religious sphere.
Glancing through the Grains of Greco-Roman Pantheon
Oh, the Greco-Roman Pantheon! Now we are talking, as we shyly linger around the root behind most of our Marvel superheroes. The religion was fascinating in the way it bridged the mythological cosmos with the human world, each god and goddess donning specific roles. The malevolent Pandora's box, the 12 labors of Hercules, Apollo's musical musings, and Venus' captivating allure aid in sketching the dynamic, dramatic and theatrical panorama of the Greco-Roman beliefs.
Seeping into the Shadows of Shamanism
On one of my sojourns into the unexplored, I came across vast expanses of icy wastelands, inhabited not by penguins, but by the hardy Siberian tribes, practicing an intriguing form of religion -- Shamanism. The Shaman, a healer and a guide, was deemed the bridge between the physical and metaphysical worlds in numerous tribal societies globally, long before the reign of monotheistic religions. It plants its roots into a bed of animism and ancestor worship, birthing a unique spiritual ecosystem.
Zestfully Exploring Zoroastrianism
The last framed sketch in this gallery of ancient religions brings us to the Persian plateau, where Zoroastrianism was painting the religious landscape in its unique hues. One of the oldest monotheistic religions, Zoroastrianism, dwelt on the profound contrast between good and evil, the faith pivoting around Ahura Mazda, the lord of light and wisdom. This religion was quite the celebrity of its time, with several of its elements seeping into Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Thus, my friends, we have weaved through the warp and weft of the great tapestry of ancient religions, each executing an elaborate dance of divinity and humanity conflated into one. The colors and patterns of this tapestry showcase mankind's age-old quest to understand the mysteries of the universe and seek divine intervention. As we continue to delve into the recesses of history, knowledge beckons us with the promise of more hidden treasures waiting to be unveiled!
So, next time your kid (or friends, or even your inquisitive self) throws the question of ancient beliefs at you, be ready to bedazzle them with your newfound knowledge on the myriads of pre-Christianity and pre-Islamic religions.