Christianity: The Origins of a Pagan Religion

Excerpts & Samples

By Philippe Walter

Publisher : Inner Traditions/Bear & Company

ABOUT Philippe Walter

Philippe Walter
Philippe Walter is a professor of medieval French literature at the University of Grenoble III. He has published numerous books on the Middle Ages and oversaw the editing and translation of the Grail romances for the prestigious Bibliothèque de la Pléiade (Gallimard). He lives in France.



Reveals how Christian mythology of the Middle Ages had more to do with paganism than the Bible

• Identifies pagan deities that were incorporated into each of the saints

• Shows how all the major holidays on the Christian calendar are modeled on long-standing pagan traditions

This extensive study of the Christian mythology that animated medieval Europe shows that this mythology is primarily of pagan inspiration and that very little of it comes from the Bible. The fact that Christianity grafted itself onto earlier pagan worship was no mystery to the Church Fathers, Philippe Walter explains. Pagan elements were incorporated into the Christian faith on the advice of Pope Gregory the Great, who told Saint Augustine of Canterbury that rather than tear down the pagan temples in Britain, he should instead add the pagan rituals into the mix of Christian practices, thus providing an easy transition to the new religion. It was simply a matter of convincing the populace to slightly redirect their focus to include Jesus.

In this highly documented work Walter shows which major calendar days of the Christian year are founded on pagan rituals and myths, including the high holidays of Easter and Christmas, a time when many pagans prepared for the coming of spirits who would leave gifts for those who honored their coming. Indeed, the identities of saints and pagan figures were so intermingled that some saints were even transformed into pagan incarnations. Mary Magdalene, for instance, became one of the ladies of the lake of Celtic legend. He also explores how the hagiographic accounts of the saints in the scriptures reveal the origin of these symbolic figures to be the deities worshiped in pagan Europe for centuries.
". . . Walter marries the pagan and Christian calendars in great detail by examining ancient myths, saints and celebrations. . . . this volume makes a strong scholarly contribution to understanding the evolution of belief."
Publisher's Weekly, Aug 2006

"Those seriously interested in the survival of pagan beliefs under the cloak of Christianity will find in these pages the most comprehensive and scholarly work on the subject to date."
Patricia Monaghan, Booklist, Aug 2006

"This amazing little book is a must for any serious student of paganism, witchcraft, and the more mystical strains of Christianity. . . . There is simply too much to say about this excellent work and its truly well-researched basis. This book should be in your library and be read with interest and delight."
Cauldron Brasil, May 2007

"Anyone with an open, curious mind will cherish this book."
Galina Pembroke, publisher of New View