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Roman Gods – The Deities Worshipped by a Great Empire

The Roman Empire has left behind a legacy that is not only great, but timeless, with the introduction of the 365 day calendar and the building of major roads to connect different cities and towns. The Romans credited their great achievements to the goodwill of their gods, and goddesses.  Worshipping them was a part of everyday life and gifts and offerings were
regularly presented in the temples. As the people loved their gods so their gods loved and blessed the people.

shutterstock_352914287The Romans divided the ruling of the earth into three major parts: the heavens, the seas and the underworld. Each section was governed by one of three brothers:

Jupiter – Both the king of the gods and the god of the skies, Jupiter was the most powerful of the deities. He wielded a thunder bolt, which he used to control the weather as well as indicate his displeasure with god and man alike. As the major god of Law and Order it fell to him to also be the divine witness to man’s oaths.

Neptune – While Jupiter controlled the skies with his thunder bolt, Neptune harnessed the power of the seas with his trident (a three pronged spear). As the patron god of sailors he protected ships during their voyage. Likewise, he was able to bring destruction down through the waves on those that angered him. He was also the god of horses, hurricanes and earthquakes and is often depicted riding a chariot pulled by animals with the heads of horses and the tails of fishes.

Pluto – Along with his wife Persephone, Pluto was given the task of taking care of the Romans that had died.

In ancient Rome there were many of these souls to tend to as their civilisation was well-known for its great army. The legions were supported by the deities associated with war:

Mars – The god of war was also the god of justice and made sure that every man got what he deserved.

Bellona – The goddess of war was rarely seen without her military helmet, her sword, shield and spear. Always prepared for battle, enemies quaked at the sight of her riding down on them in her horse drawn chariot.

In Roman society love always seemed to go hand in hand with war and in this way Venus, the goddess of love, beauty, prosperity, desire and sex had a long-standing relationship with Mars. Their union produced a child by the name of Cupid, who is better known as the god of love. Most often pictured as a cherub, this troublemaker would shoot his arrows at shutterstock_422329522unsuspecting targets making them fall in love so deeply that they were no longer in control of their own desires.
In Rome, all was fair in love and war and with both there are regular celebrations. Bacchus, the god of wine and fertility, facilitated the endless parties that were kept to honour the Roman gods, lovers and warriors alike. The Romans believed that a nation was only as great as the love it had for its gods, and they proved this over and over in the way that they worshipped and respected every one of them.

Pagan Gods – The Deities of Powerful Ancient Civilizations

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.

shutterstock_271785635Life 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.

shutterstock_143941363Thursday – 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.

Coming back from the after-life – An insight into the land of the dead

The only thing that is set in stone about any of our lives is the fact that we are going to pass on. For this reason, and probably many others, our resulting death and the after-life have always been of great importance in the way that we live. Ancient civilisations have had many conditions to ensure the safe passage into the after-life, and modern religions continue to follow this path declaring that your ultimate resting place will be determined by your actions in this life.

51K8hp-Pr5L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_As a neurosurgeon, Dr. Eben Alexander was very sceptical about his patients’ after-life experiences, believing that they were hallucinations caused by the stress of being seriously ill. His beliefs were shattered, however, after he found himself in a week-long coma due to contracting bacterial meningitis of the brain.

His book ‘Proof of Heaven’ details how Dr. Alexander entered a world of complete peace, in which he was unaware of his previous life. He believed that his family’s vigil and prayers were what brought him back and, surpassing everything else, the fact that his 10 year old son still needed his guidance.

Another person who has written a detailed account of her time away from this life is Anita Moorjani. The book entitled ‘Dying to Be Me’ tells about how she fell into a coma due to having a very serious case of lymphoma, with cancer tumours over a significant percentage of her body. Her recovery seemed impossible and she welcomed passing on, because of the immediate loss of the pain she had been experiencing for so long.

Moorjani describes her experience as ‘like being in a really unlimited time and space.’ She was met by her deceased father who encouraged her to return, because of the amount of things that she still had left to do in this life. She came back knowing that she would recover quickly and completely, and did, much to the astonishment of her doctors. 

shutterstock_136198580People who have had these brief, or extended, after-life experiences often report a very similar sequence of events. It normally starts with a bright light that they feel compelled to approach. Many of them are also aware of floating above their bodies, and looking down at themselves and the other people that are in the same room as them. During this time they are also able to hear and see everything around, even if it is happening some distance away. 

Other people have the experience of their lives literally flashing before their eyes, especially the incidents that affected them significantly, both good and bad. Most of those that temporarily pass away are greeted by their loved ones who went before them. As a part of the welcoming committee they are surrounded by their angels, or guardians.

Perhaps the most vivid recollection that everybody has is the immense feeling of peace and unconditional love. This makes them very reluctant to return but those that have unfinished business are either pulled or sent back, normally by their loved ones.

All of these experiences are directly related to our concept of what heaven is supposed to be. Where then is the hell that many of us are so afraid of? I guess we all have to decide the answer to that question for ourselves.  

White Witches – The Mystical World of Modern Magic

The term ‘white witch’ was coined so that the general population could begin to appreciate witches, who throughout history have been persecuted because of their association with being evil. A white witch is one who performs spells that will not bring about any harm to anybody else, and the majority of witches in society are good, if not a tiny bit eccentric.

Most modern witches actually practice witchcraft as a religion, and the most common of these in our society is Wicca. The origin of the word Wicca comes from the Anglo-Saxon ‘wicce’ meaning to have the wisdom to bend and shape. The religion recognises both gods and goddesses, and focuses on a love of nature, using the elements to power their spells. The way in which each witch practices is different and spells can be performed individually or with a close-knit group called a coven. Within the coven male witches are known as wiccas and females are wicces.

shutterstock_327743912In the 1950s after the British government repealed anti-witchcraft laws, Gerald Gardner was the main influence in the revival of Wicca. There had always been the public misconception that most witches were worshipping the devil and performing evil spells. With the religion gaining in popularity this impression has been changed and the public is beginning to respect and embrace its followers.

The Wiccan Rede states ‘As it harm none, do as thou wilt’ meaning that a true witch will do nothing to hurt themselves or others. Apart from this decree the religion has no bible or rules. Its followers are free to do whatever they like and happiness is what they focus on obtaining. The majority of Wiccan witches always do good, because of a deeply embedded belief in the Law of Three, which that whatever you do will always be returned to you threefold.

The witches focus on tuning into the love of nature and its elements, earth, fire, air, water and all the celestial bodies. Spells are performed based on the moon phases, and the full moon is normally when the energy needed to conduct spells is at its most powerful. There is an air of shutterstock_246475582mystery that surrounds spells and many are kept secret, only being passed on amongst the coven. The Mother goddess plays a major role in all rituals as she is perceived as incredibly powerful, because of how close her relationship is with nature.

Those that are expecting witches to actually ride around on broomsticks, with pointed hats handing out curses will be terribly disappointed, as there is nothing that really differentiates one from the rest of society. The only thing that might be a bit distinguishing is that many witches wear a pentacle or pentagon with 5 sides, each representing one the 5 elements of nature: earth, water, air, fire and spirit.

Modern Instances of Witchcraft – Has the Persecution Stopped?

Witches are able to use supernatural means to influence the physical realm, and the practice of witchcraft is considered to be evil and undertaken with the intention of hurting people or gaining power. The fear of witches and their spells is still as widespread as ancient times and people who have being accused of witchcraft are actively persecuted by those that are afraid of them.  The number of witch trials being performed is increasing and ‘witch hunters’ have started taking justice into their own hands, in many countries around the world.

shutterstock_244388734India

In India, there are women, mainly widows, who own a significant amount of land. As a result of this wealth, they are accused of being witches and their neighbours put together a pile of logs in front of their house to burn them. This scares the women into staying inside and their accusers take control of their land while they have isolated themselves.

Papua New Guinea

These citizens are still using traditional methods of getting rid of modern day witches, because of their overwhelming fear of them. In January 2009, a young girl was accused of being a witch and affecting men with Aids in this way. Her punishment was to be burnt alive. About a month later a father and son were also accused of practicing witchcraft together and burned.

Zambia

As a result of the prevalence of HIV and Aids in Zambian society, and the ignorance about how it is spread, many people believe that it must be through witchcraft. Self-proclaimed witch hunters, are trying to eradicate the country of this evil by killing those that they have labelled as witches with poisonous teas.

shutterstock_330132788Gambia

The fear of witchcraft is not limited to the public in other countries, however, and the Gambian president, Yahya Jammeh, believes that he is being targeted by witches. As a result, he has had more than 1000 of the country’s citizens arrested and tortured on suspicion, with several of them consequently dying.

Republic of Benin

This government has used witchcraft as the reason for the country’s economic imbalance, claiming that this is why some people are thriving and others are not. There is an old legend that labels babies that are born feet first are witches, and the cause of poor agriculture and disease. Many of them are being killed or abandoned as a result.

United Kingdom

In 21st century London there are still incidents of people being accused of being witches. In 2005, an 8 year old girl was said to be a witch by her family members. They took matters into their own hands by abusing her and rubbing chili peppers in her eyes, in order to remove the influence that the devil had over her. She was removed from her home by the authorities, and three of her family members arrested and charged.

Not all people who claim they are witches are being persecuted, thankfully, and nave even been welcomed and accepted into our society. More than likely they are also a considerable number living among us that the rest of us know nothing about.

Pendle Hill Witches – Persecution in the 17th Century

shutterstock_12231541The year is 1612 and witches are being persecuted widely throughout England. In a small community called Pendle Hill in Lancaster, as with the rest of the country, there are still many people making their living from a combination of witchcraft and begging. This includes Elizabeth Southern, a wise woman in her eighties, known as Old Demdike, and the majority of her family. Another well-known family of witches in the area, sometimes considered the Demdike’s rivals, is led by Anne Whittle known as Old Chattox who is also in her eighties.

On March 18, 1612 Alizon Device, Old Demdike’s granddaughter, is going through her usual begging routine, when she comes upon John Law. He refuses her request for some pins and, as can only be expected from a witch of the time, she reacts by cursing him. Mr. Law collapses immediately, paralysed and unable to speak. What might be recognised as a stroke in modern society is, based on the current population’s prejudices and ignorance, instantly judged to be witchcraft and Alizon is arrested.

Alizon, also confident that she has accessed the spirit world to Mr. Law’s detriment, confesses to the crime. Not stopping there, however, she goes on to implicate other witches in the area, including some of her own family members. These others are all arrested at a witches Sabbat being held at Malkin Tower, Old Demdike’s house. Twelve of them are from the area and become known as the Pendle Hill Witches.

The group is held on suspicion of using witchcraft to commit criminal acts, and put in the dungeons beneath Lancaster castle while further investigation takes place. In July there is a breakthrough in the case when James Device, another of old Demdike’s grandchildren, leads the constable to buried human remains. The prisoners that are being held are now formally charged with murder by means of witchcraft, as well as more minor charges such as causing people to go mad and creating clay images.

Nance_Redferne_&_ChattoxOld Demdike, being blind and lame, cannot withstand the harsh conditions in the dungeons and dies before ever going to trial. The others are not so lucky and are put on trial in August 1612. Her 9 year old granddaughter, Jennet Device, is the key witness in the case and the main evidence presented is hearsay, memories and superstition. Nevertheless, within two days 10 of the accused are found guilty and sentenced to death. Margaret Pearson, who is to become the sole survivor on the Pendle Hill Witches, is sentenced to pillory and subsequently one year’s imprisonment.

Within the same month, Alizon, her mother, Elizabeth, and brother, James, along with Old Chattox and daughter, Anne Redfearne, Katherine Hewitt, Alice Nutter and John and Jane Bulcock, are all executed on the moors above Lancaster. Their death is a slow and painful hanging.

The final resting place of the Pendle Hill Witches is still unknown. It wouldn’t be surprising if they are still roaming the area, begging for pins and handing out curses to unsuspecting travellers.