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The Great Awakenings

The Essence of Contemporary American Religion

Part Ten


By Shlomo Phillips © 1989
(most recent update February 24, 2015)

Other Non-Christian Revivals

Another example of non-Christian revival during the ascendancy of the Church occurred among the Wiccan/Pagan populations (note 7). During the "Burning Times" (i.e. the period of Christian persecution of European Pagans and other non-Christians), Christian rulers in Britain tended to be more tolerant toward the practitioners of the ancient indigenous religions than were the rulers on the Continent. (note 8). Although the British Throne enacted several harsh laws against the Old Religion, they rarely enforced them with much zeal. As a result of this limited tolerance British Wiccans (i.e. Witches) faced considerably less persecution than their Continental kin (such as the Streges). The Pagans and Heathens living under English rule bid their time hoping their Christian monarchs would mellow or be replaced by Pagans. For many years the crowns of the Misty Isles passed between Pagan and Christian royals.

But 'the Church Universal and Triumphant' was relentless and growing ever stronger, and ever more cruel. Eventually it became obvious that the New Religion was here to stay. As a result Pagans across the Continent and the British Isles began seeking ways to resist their Christian occupiers. During this period a significant but little discussed Pagan revival took place. Many of the ancient rites were brought back into the open again. Christian communities began including or at least allowing more of the ancient traditions. Some of these were dressed in Christian garb (such as the Easter sunrise service of goddess Ostera) while others were more blatantly Pagan (such as the Burning Man rites). Resistance leaders such as Helen Philipps of Pembroke, Mrs. Robinson of Kidderminster and Mabel Brigge of York, boldly proclaimed the rebirth of the Old Religion (note 9) in direct defiance of the Church and were martyred. Cadifor Colwen (one of the twelve princes of Wales during this period) established a goddess shrine known as Cadifor's Oven in Pembroke that is still there. Perhaps hedging his bets, he also founded and endowed the Church of Kilrhedyn (Cilrhedyn). Cadifor passed away in 1089 and is buried in the Priory of Carmarthen in Wales. The Church in those times was brutally efficient. While there are many stories like the ones I shared here, most of Europe's population was eventually cowed into submission or exterminated by the Inquisition or during the Burning Times. Once the New World became a viable possible haven many non-Christians, Jews and others, made passaged to the Americas seeking religious freedom.

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