chapter  5
13 Pages

Paganism and Popular Religion

Margaret Murray equated witchcraft neither with magic nor heresy but with a pre-Christian fertility cult which originated among the hunting and pastoral peoples of Western Europe. She traced the worship of the horned god from its palaeolithic origins to its confusion with the two-faced Janus or Dianus. In medieval England the great mass of the people and many of their monarchs, she alleged, followed this god and it was not until the Reformation that Christianity dominated. Michael Harrison recently reframed the Murray thesis. He described how religious beliefs developed through animism and shamanism to that of a phallic cult in which the tumescent phallus was identified with divine revelation. This concept was modified when the role of female fertility was recognised. The newly recognised dual origins of life found their logical compromise in a hermaphrodite deity DianaIDianus. This phallic-fertility cult acknowledged a supreme deity, believed in the immortality and transmigration of the soul, and practised magic with especial emphasis on the prediction of the future. With the coming of Christianity the cult absorbed Christ, the rural shepherd, into its orbit.