Paganism is the worship of more than one god, and most pagan religions recognise powerful goddesses as well. The stories of ancient pagan deities are still passed down throughout the generations and the ones that we are most familiar with are the Egyptian, Norse, Greek and Roman religions. In addition there are pagan religions that are still practised today, such as Wicca and Hinduism. Movies, books and legends surrounding these gods are regularly updated and our fascination with them continues.
Each god and goddess was responsible for a particular area of life and based on your occupation and desires, offerings were made to the gods for prosperity in that field. Hardships were blamed on being out of favour with the gods and they could be ruthless in their punishments. Gods, and goddesses, had their weaknesses as well and many of them easily succumbed to temptations of the flesh and had relationships with humans that they took a fancy to. The offspring that resulted from these relationships were called demi-gods, and even though they were not as powerful as the gods themselves, they were often immortal and physically superior to the humans they lived amongst.
Each religion had a god that ruled the others and would issue punishments and rewards as they saw fit. The ancient Greeks looked up to Zeus as their all-powerful god, and wielding the power of lightning he was in control of the heavens. His wife was the beautiful goddess Hera, and the Roman equivalent of this couple was Jupiter and Juno.
Life and death go hand in hand, and for every religion there was also a powerful deity that either escorted people into the after-life or ruled the depths of hell. Anubis was the ancient Egyptian dog-headed god of the dead, and would be their escort to the glorious after-life. In ancient Greece, while Zeus ruled both the heavens and earth his brother, Hades, was the ruler of the dead in the dark halls of the Underworld.
In addition to many other things in our lives, the days of the week have been named in honour of pagan gods from different religions.
Sunday – Sun’s day. The sun held great importance to ancient cultures and was seen as a major source of life. Ra, the well-known Egyptian sun god, would carry the sun across the sky each day, so that humans could benefit from its warmth and light.
Monday – Moon’s day. As the feminine energy to the sun’s masculine, the moon has also played a major part in many pagan religions and their rituals. The Anglo-Saxon ‘Monandaeg’ is thought to be where the name of this day originated.
Tuesday – Named for the Germanic god of war ‘Tiu’ (Twia).
Wednesday – Woden’s day. Woden was a shape-shifting Norse god who ruled Asgard, one of the nine cities in Norse religion.
Thursday – Thor’s Day – The Norse god of thunder and lightning. One of the most popular pagan gods in our time, there are many movies and books written about his adventures and achievements.
Friday – Named for the Norse goddess of love Freya.
Saturday – Saturn’s Day. This Roman god of wealth, abundance and time has both a planet and a day named in his honour. This shows that our society hasn’t changed much over the years as wealth and abundance are still considered to be of great importance.