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Contemporary Practices in Serbia: Early Pagan Belief Influences - Essay Example

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26 April 2012. Contemporary Practices in Serbia: Early Pagan Belief Influences Serbian Christians have long been influenced by paganism, paganism being the faith of their forefathers. Slavic pagan beliefs greatly influence contemporary practices in Serbia in the areas of religion, folklore and culture…
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Contemporary Practices in Serbia: Early Pagan Belief Influences

Download file to see previous pages... Central figures in Christianity took the role of pagan gods and goddesses who Serbian people had worshipped before their conversion to Christianity. The representation of these characters is prominent in the everyday life of people of Serbia. Pagan traditions can be seen in everything from place names to the names of the seasons while Slavic mythology plays a central role in Serbian folklore and greatly influences Serbian epic poetry. Serbs came into contact with Christianity during the reign of emperor Heraclius (610-641) and were later during the rule of Basil I (867-886) baptized by Byzantine missionaries. However, even centuries after the conversion, Christian priests and monks fought against Serbs practicing a 'double faith'. On the one hand, peasants and farmers eagerly accepted baptism, masses and the new Christian holidays. While on the other, they still persisted performing ancient rites and worshiping old pagan cults, even when the ancient deities and myths on which those were based were forgotten. Serbs saw Christianity was not a replacement of old Slavic mythology, but rather an addition to it. Christianity may have offered salvation in the next life, but for survival in this life, the old religious system with its fertility rites, its protective deities, and its household spirits was taken to be necessary. This was a problem the Christian church never really solved. To counter this they offered a Christian saint or martyr to replace the pagan deity of a certain cult, but the cult itself thrived, as did the mythological view of the world through which natural phenomena were explained. There have been a lot of conflicts between the pagans converted into Christians and the pagans that maintained their original faith. “Paganism came to represent the unbelievers, the heathen cults of polytheism and superstition, as well as the various schools of philosophy that proliferated throughout the Empire” (Painter). The sects of pagans were maltreated with such acts as book burnings, dismantling of the pagan temples, and overt criticism upon the different schools of thought of paganism. The pagans were thought of as superstitious and non-religious people, and were associated with satan. Seeing that their social status and identity was at stake, the remaining pagans stood up for their rights, with the fundamental claim that the political and social unrest which the society was suffering from was the outcome of deviation from paganism which was the religion of their polytheistic forefathers. The Christians were left with no choice but to absorb, reform, or transform the rival belief systems. This might have been a potential cause of the acceptability of the Serbian Christians towards the pagan beliefs, rituals, and norms that have thus been carried throughout the history and are still evident in the Serbian culture. Folk beliefs and traditions are the best resource for reconstructing ancient Serbian pagan beliefs. However the folklore is generally vague and festivals and stories tend to vary from region to region. Cults of old deities were mixed with worship of new Christian saints, and old rituals were blended with the new Christian holidays. These beliefs still hold considerable religious significance but the elements of pre-Christian religion are hopelessly mixed into modern Christianity and the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Slavic god of thunder, Perun, was ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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