It is not unfair to assert almost everything good in Christianity and its reign came from paganism. The pageantry picked up by the Church in the Middle Ages and which served as the cultural glue holding together most communities over its glory days were variously pagan or indigenous festivals, devices, and customs which persisted even after conversion, and, as those customs go, they were largely “practical,” i.e. they made sense of, and were derived from, the relevant world that is the local environment, local circumstances, local history. Thus comes the rich tapestry of various local cultures, cults, and customs throughout the Middle Ages — remnants or the legacy of those who lived by the “heath” and, as such, its biodiversity, which demands different cultures to live amongst it and utilise it. The Church merely inserted some of its cosmopolitan detritus into it all, enough to draw authority and tribute unto itself while generally not provoking the locals too much to protest the mythical redactions and the extra or redirected tier of taxation.
We get an implication of as much in Ireland, in which the mediaeval Brehon Laws state that the law before Christianity, of the pagans, was that of the “law of nature” and of the poets, which was already “perfected” aside from its unfortunate abstention or lack of knowledge of an imported cult about a man who was nailed to a post. Nature and its interplay with and crafting of human society and custom, by this admission, was largely already as it should be, something the Christian “mission” should then not seek to change besides doing enough to insure its successful infiltration and parasitism of the extant order (or, to introduce the “law of the letter,” the New Testament, as the Brehon Laws called it — the triumph of the abstracted Word). Ireland, however, is one of those exceptional regions of Europe that, as far as may be told, had a less-violent or traumatic conversion to Christianity, and this may explain some of the generous treatments/portrayals of pagans and preservation of the lore as found in the mediaeval literature. Whether the infiltration was exceptionally benign, or commonly violent, this parasite eventually did like many a parasite does — it renders its host weakened, bloodless, even soon enough dead and rotting, depending on the parasite and the severity of the infection. One could give a million stories about when, how, where the symptoms markedly manifested or worsened. What matters is that one sees the end result of the prolonged parasitism today, after centuries of its creeping, waxing bureaucracy and its meaningless maxims to justify its existence lacing their way throughout the social and psychological fabric, accelerating and diversifying in its malignancy upon the upheaval that was Protestantism and its pet project of liberalism — much like a tumour may turn even more aggressive and damaging when any attempt is made to remove it.
The result is the genesis of a very particular and sad kind of creature. Creatures who no longer have any sense of people nor place — not since the Malleus Maleficarum, the “Witch’s Hammer,” beat down or spilled the final remnants of “sacred lakes,” “stones of fortune,” and converse with the “crafty spirits” that animate them, with deadly accusations of “blasphemy,” “heresy,” “idol worship,” and its latter, progressive incarnate of “superstition” and “backwardness.” These creatures inhabit a level plain, as such, its defining features largely abolished, holding no shelter, no thing to generate warmth — and certainly it fosters no inspiration, not in the featureless barrens of cultural and environmental homogeneity.
Only a monolithic altar stands high upon that plain. It may be variously devoted to the raggedy, childish image of the Christian “God the Father,” or the image of the state itself, or the generic ideals of liberalism. Any idol or name will do, just so long as the creatures of this plain worship it, offering it what little fruits can be scrounged up in that place, standing in awe at its prognostications of the fleeting abundances and long-lasting scarcities it has engineered, and, at the last or as needed, breaking their bodies in sacrifice or in self-mortification upon its rocks to appease the parasitic attendants, be they called priests or political leaders.
Men don’t dwell on this plain of adoration, paralysed by religious fervour and inculcated powerlessness before the idol of the day. Men are made by their deeds and feats, witnessed by peers, but on that monotonous plain, there is neither stimulus for deeds nor peers scarcely fit for judging said-deeds, not when all judgement and deeds are demanded on behalf of or in exaltation to the god’s seat of power. It is what the likes of La Boétie described as the love of, adoration for, and expectation of rule by the “prince” — a political leader or the state in general — in which all real friendship is no longer possible, is obstructed and polluted, due to these creatures’ constantly sizing one another up for symptoms of non-conformity and deviance from the prince’s cherished law. When such an unorthodoxy is discovered, then it is appropriately ostracised or faithfully reported to the prince and his ministers, out of terror of association with the heretic or in righteously that the duty to the prince is not neglected, as it would be should the unorthodoxy go unreported or unchallenged. That in itself — negligence of duty, failure to uphold the state’s law — can inspire a bit of dread, given it could incur the prince’s wrath and resulting punishment.
Not men are such things — they are vassals for another’s law, another’s end, that is, the state’s law and the elites’ ends. They are sheep, cattle — and was that not the ideal of the Christian mission? A “flock” with one shepherd to lead them, herd them, dispense with as needed, for his own end or gain? It becomes a much-less charming metaphor when one remembers the shepherd is only herding the dumb beasts to make of their fleeces, milk, and meat something useful to him and his own.
Men are not sheep, and as such, men are not Christian — you find men only where there is danger, or uncertainty to be had, beyond the level, fenced-in pastures of the babbling, bawling sheep awaiting for their turn to be sacrificed to their god. You find them where there are still dragons to be slain and friends to be made, where there is still glory to be gotten in one’s own name, proclaimed and preserved by one’s equals. It was creators that made men, shaped a people, and set their laws — the “law of nature” — over them (to paraphrase Nietzsche), to each according to circumstances of the land he must make his way in. As there are many lands, with different life — sustenance — dwelling and burgeoning therein, so there are a multitude of laws, multiple facets to the law of nature, and a multitude of peoples.
Men, in a word, are “pagan” — those nourished by the Heath and its ways, in all of its wild diversity, in its harbourages of mysteries to be instructed in, and adventures to be had at its margins or in its deep places. In living by the law of nature, men live by their own law, and command their own destiny, as to live by the law of nature is to live by one’s own nature. For all that bounds unhampered over the mould and courses freely through the waters is an image of nature and its law — and so, too, is the man. They are not the bitter, punitive, anaemic sheep known as “Christians,” creatures by and for the state, sick of mind and body in their atrophying domestication, bleating out the prince’s law in a bid to curry favour with the potentate(s), demanding all follow it as they, regardless of its inappropriateness to circumstances. To these creatures are all chances of daring and glory closed, fenced beyond the enclosure of that well-groomed and unvarying plain; and from them the mastery of their own evolutionary fortune has been sheared. Unlike a man, the sheep does not have a choice in the matter of whether or not he is to be wethered, nor does he get to choose whether or not he is to be slaughtered for a nice, warm pot of stew. Those choices are all made for the sheep, by the keeper and designer of his enclosure — his prince, his “Heavenly Father,” his “good Shepherd.”