CREDOS : Early religions — I

Early religions, such as those practiced in ancient Egypt, ancient Greece or by the Aztecs, are a source of fascination and wonder for our modern world. We hear stories of sacrifice — even human sacrifice; we see depictions of complex and colourful gods’ we read the stories of gods rich lives.

With our own eyes we wonder at the pyramids at Giza in Egypt, the Parthenon in Athens, or the ruins of the Mayan temples at Chiche Itza in Central America. We probably feel that these religions were very different from our own, just as the cultures from which they sprang are very far removed from ours. It can be difficult to obtain a complete picture, using the limited sources which are often all that are available to us.

Much guesswork, based on careful archaeology, but nevertheless open to interpretation. Even in cases where sources are more abundant, a forgotten belief system can be difficult to analyse. it is rather like a jigsaw with some of the pieces missing and no picture to work from.

Between 30,000 and 10,000 year before the birth of Christ, in the very earliest days of agriculture, fertility cults may have sprung up — phallic statuettes and what seem to be fertility figurines have been found all across Europe. Animal cults evolved alongside, with the worship of such powerful symbols as snakes and bulls, and so did a priesthood, complete with temples.

During the Neolithic era, megaliths and stone circles were erected all over Europe — from the Maltese temples of Tarxien and Hagar Qim to Carnac in France. Stonehenge in England dates from the early Bronze Age, and is thought by some to have astrological meaning. — Religions of the World