Is paganism a living tradition with roots deep in prehistory or just a collection of superstitions, magic tricks and witches' spells? Pagans explores the origins, history and beliefs of Europe's ancient religions. We see pagan tradition through the prism of generations of modern religious thought. Through history and prehistory, the representations of the ancient gods and traditions followed by pagans have been marred by propaganda from other religious groups eager to rein in those they defined as `wild barbarians`. In truth, the word pagan is a Roman term meaning `country folk`, and the general concept of paganism is of oneness with nature and a quest to fully understand the world around us. Though historical accounts lead us to images of stone dildo-wielding women flashing their genitals at cattle, chieftains having sex with horses before slaughtering them and whipping sessions in mixed saunas, the underlying theme is of human similarity with animals and nature. Where modern religion aims to emphasise the difference between humans and the world around us, the ancient pagan perspective is that human beings are interdependent with the world they inhabit and that sexuality is a powerful and natural element in the success of a people.
According to Roman records, the Iron Age Celtic peoples of Britain consisted of war-like tribes - but this could well be propaganda of the age. In 43 AD, as now, invaders found ways of justifying their subjugation of the native people whose country they colonised and whose land they took. Whatever the reality, the image of rough, heavy-drinking hooligans and evil barbarians is what we have been left with. Pagan society in the Iron Age was certainly based on a strong system of tribal groups controlling different parts of the country, each with its own warrior class. However the accusations of barbarism could equally be a stereotyped reaction against these 'uncivilised' cultures. The truth is that, though bands of fighting men may well have dominated much of society, the basis of a proto-democracy was also in action. Community leaders had to demonstrate that they were worthy of the role, and some needed to canvass support from surrounding groups to hold power. The economy relied heavily on well-established trade routes and, for the pagan Britons of the time, the system worked fine before the Empire stepped in. Source: Channel 4