Past Was Pagan - Understanding the Ancient Pagan Paradigm

Sunrise over calm ocean

How Is Paganism, Past and Present, Different From Today's Dogmatic Religions?

(Updated April 10, 2024)  The people of the past not only had a different religion from today but also thought differently because of it. The Paganism of the past was not just a  polytheistic version of today's Bible based religions but it had a different mental framework or paradigm. 

Facts must be organized so they can be found when needed. . This requires a mental framework or model (that is, a paradigm) for working with acquired facts. If new facts cannot be fitted into a person's existing paradigm they will tend to ignore those facts. Paradigms are difficult to change.  Paradigms are difficult to change because they are heavily influenced by one's culture and one’s deep emotional needs.

Religious and cultural paradigms are characterized by differences in these core dimensions:

Paradigm change cycle
A change in paradigm is a scientific revolution like the one in which plate tectonics replaced the idea of a static earth and land bridges. Changes in paradigm tend to follow the circular pattern above. This cycle was first described in Thomas Kuhn's book called The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962at
Some people have much difficulty in changing one of their paradigms when that paradigm makes them feel superior and secure. This can make them appear completely irrational and willing to perform atrocities. This was noticed by German Christian theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was jailed and eventually killed by the Nazis:
“The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison)

Assumptions About Reality: Ancient Paganism Was Perceptheistic With All Change In the Material Realm Originating in the Spiritual Realm

(Updated April 10, 2024) The four main views of Reality are:

Path through a forest
Your life path has certain inherent assumptions. It is your religion so everyone has one. The dogmatic faith-based religious model common today is not the only possible way to ground spirituality. The other way is the path based model like Paganism. That dogmatic model is why a large number of people claim they are spiritual but not religious. 

Defining a Community Knowledge Source: Nature (Sacred Texts Did Not Exist)

(November 27, 2023)  In the ancient past before the rise of books and institutional authorities, nature was the only source of community knowledge. While gaining a good model of nature is a challenge, nature itself is the only possible source of community knowledge which is internally consistent. If it wasn't self-consistent, the universe would crash like a computer.

 Community knowledge is the facts a community is expected to believe in order to insure their mutual prosperity and survival. Not believing in germ theory and acting upon that knowledge puts many in the community at risk of early death. Humans do not exist in isolation from others so a community has the right to expect its members to care about the truths of the physical world.

Other sources of community knowledge beside nature have been charismatic gurus, cultural tradition, or leaders and sacred texts claiming divine inspiration or secret ancient or alien knowledge. These differing sources never agree with each other which results in endless conflict and drama because truth cannot be agreed upon. The only potentially peaceful religions are nature based religions.

In contrast to community knowledge, personal spiritual knowledge is knowledge about your own emotional reactions. It is knowledge that only you can really know. You cannot expect others to feel the same or to use the same mental model which works for you emotionally. This is why Nature Religion is perceptheistic encouraging any divine conception which works best for each individual. All personal knowledge is equally valid as long as it does not contradict community knowledge.

Map of Persian Achaemenid Empire at its greatest extent(550-330 BCE
Dualism was spread by Zoroastrian religion of the Persian Achaemenid Empire (550-330 BCE). Dualism claimed that because conscious experiences like smells were inherently good and bad that the divine realm was also inherently good and bad. (this assumption of inherent valuation of conscious experiences was only proved false in modern times). 
Zoroastrianism claimed these two realms were at war with each other until the end times when they would be united once again. In the west, idea was inserted into Judaism and from there into Christianity and Islam. In the east it triggered the debates which led to the founding of Buddhism as a dualist religion whose followers seek to escape the material world and the creation of the Hindu Bhagavad Gita.

Goals and Purpose of the Community: To Align with the Divine Powers And Keep Them In Balance

(November 27, 2023) Religions can have these overarching goals:

(September 7, 2023) The  Ancient Pagan Paradigm in stone. This is the entrance stone (labeled as K1) to the Newgrange mound tomb in Ireland dating to 3100 BCE. To the right are the life powers while the triple-spiral (triskelion) on the left represent the magical motion powers. These vortices are emerging out of a background of spiritual powers in general. The life powers consist of 3 layers of masculine and feminine deities. The layers are source powers, connective powers, and manifestation powers. The motion powers merge the genders. The motion connective power is the hermaphrodite deity Thu. The motion source deity/deities are the bright and dark (new) moon. The motion manifestation deity/deities are winds and breath.

The chart summarizing the Three-Layered Ancient Pagan Paradigm was originally constructed from information found in the oldest Near East texts and from recent archaeological findings. These early texts are Sumerian texts (2300-2000 BCE), Alphabetic Akkadian Mediterranean texts (2000-400 BCE), and Egyptian Pyramid texts (2300-2100 BCE). It was later refined as new information became available through runic text translations. The Ancient Pagan Paradigm is divided into two power classes. The life-growth class generates the growth of living things while the motion class generates all translational motion. 

Photo from

Three layered spirals/vortices from Minoan Crete

Three Layers of the Ancient Pagan Paradigm Represented by Three Minoan Vortices  (1800 BCE)

This lintel is on display at the Minoan Heraklion Museum in Crete. It shows the three vortex layers of the Ancient Pagan Paradigm going through the sky shell.   (Olmsted personal photo 2019)
2300 BCE Cuneiform sign KEŠ2 meaning "to bind."

Three Layered Sumerian Cuneiform Sign KEŠ2

The Mesopotamian Akkadians adopted cuneiform signs from their southern neighbors known as the Sumerians. This is their cuneiform sign KEŠ2 which means "to bind." It dates to 2300 BCE.
This sign has all three life layers of the Ancient Pagan Paradigm. The cuneiform signs during this early era were still mostly pictographic so they can still be read symbolically.
The top sign is a star which is the sign for the sound AN which as a symbol represents the sky shell or the life source powers which when personified represents the god Anu. The second sign is a storage pot with a toga inside representing “woven fabric” or the “network.” By itself it is the sound GAD. The bottom sign by itself means "earth" and it is the sound KI. It consists of a pot containing a cluster of vertical lines divine powers. Pots represented confined spaces.  
Knowth Ritual Macehead (Scepter) with spiral/vortex and network from Boyne Valley Ireland

Knowth Ritual Macehead (Scepter) from Boyne Valley Ireland Shows Paired and Single Spirals (Vortices)

Spirals or vortices represent a clustering of divine powers into a deity just like how a fluid vortex in a river cluster fluids into one spot.
This polished flint macehead was found on September 1, 1982 in the eastern tomb at Knowth in the Boyne river valley. It was found near the door to the right room under a large shale floor tile. The central main mound in which it was found was dated by carbon 14 to be about 2800 BCE. The smaller eastern mound is assumed to be of a slightly later date of around 3000 BCE.
The paired (also called horned) spirals represent the feminine and masculine paired deities of the life class of powers while the single represents the cross-gender motion class of powers.
Image from British Museum presentation by Alison Sheridan entitled "Exploring the Wider World of Stonehenge: Long Distance Connections and Movements" at 1:03:14.

Quotations from Vero are now found in: The Corpus Scriptorum Latinorum is maintained by David Camden as part of the larger Forum Romanum resource. Online at:

Quote in Roman Author Cicero on Diana and Juno

    ... people regard Diana and the moon as one and the same. ... the moon (luna) is so called from the verb to shine (lucere). Lucina is identified with it, which is why in our country they invoke Juno Lucina in childbirth, just as the Greeks call on Diana the Light-bearer. Diana also has the name Omnivaga ("wandering everywhere"), not because of her hunting but because she is numbered as one of the seven planets; her name Diana derives from the fact that she turns darkness into daylight (dies). She is invoked at childbirth because children are born occasionally after seven, or usually after nine, lunar revolutions ...
(Quintus Lucilius Balbus as recorded by Marcus Tullius Cicero and translated by P.G. Walsh. De Natura Deorum (On the Nature of the Gods), Book II, Part ii, Section c)

Early Roman Historian, Marcus Vero's (116-27 BCE) Deity List Allows Identification of Druid and Indo-European Deities

(May 3, 2024) Marcus Varro (116-27 BCE) has an important deity list in his book entitled Antiquitates rerum humanarum et divinarum (Histories of Human and Divine Things). He was born in or near Reate (now Rieti) in Lazio, Italy into a family thought to be of equestrian rank. He ended up owning a large farm in the Reatine plain which was reported to be near Lago di Ripasottile.

Unfortunately, his book did not survive but it was quoted by many including Saint Augustine (354–430 CE) in his De civitate Dei Contra Paganos (City of God Against the Pagans) which was widely distributed after 426 CE. Additionally his quotes have been found in other surviving texts including Pliny (1st c.), Gellius (2nd c.), Censorinus (3rd c.), Servius (4th/5th c.), Nonius (4th/5th c.), Macrobius (5th c.), Priscian (5th/6th c.) etc.. 

His important passage about early Roman deities is quoted by Augustine in "de ciu. Dei, VII, 2." This is the earliest complete list that we have on the main Roman deities:  

Roman Deities Corresponding To Druid Life/Fertility Deities 



Roman Deities Corresponding To Druid Motion Deities 

Roman Deities From Indo-European Culture - Planetary Motion Powers of Fate

 Planets are ordered from fastest to slowest. Being fate powers they affect life powers.

Roman Deities From Indo-European Culture - Elemental Powers


Verro., Marcus Antiquitates rerum humanarum et divinarum (Histories of Human and Divine Things).Online at: