In the ancient world, science was just beginning to emerge. That is why religions have gained such influence. After all, they simply and intelligibly explained everything on Earth, even if attributing it to supernatural forces. As a result, in ancient times, there were many belief systems. Most of them disappeared, being buried by sands, time. Many gods of the past have forgotten.
But many religions of antiquity were founded long before the majority of modern basic beliefs (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism) appeared. And although we are remembering less and less often about what our distant ancestors believed, there are enthusiasts who revive past practices. About the most unusual religions of the past, forgotten today, we’ll talk. Many of them existed for centuries and even millennia.
This polytheistic religion does not have a clear definition. This form of paganism was extended to the territory of modern Finland until Christianity came here. Religion has evolved from shamanism and includes several features. So, for example, here special attention is paid to the veneration of ancestors, as in related religions. Finns believed that the word has a very strong meaning and strength. In their opinion, the soul was present not only in living objects, but also in inanimate ones. The Finnish pagans closely communicated with the world of nature, they believed that the whole world was created from the duck-duck egg. And the main god they had was Ukko, the god of thunder, riding in the sky in a chariot and rushing lightning. His holiday was celebrated on April 4, and this was one of the most important dates in the calendar. Ukko had some common features with the Scandinavian god Thor. This is a magic hammer, and a thunderstorm that appears if Ukko sleeps with his wife Akka. In such a brave god his sacred animal looks rather strange – it’s a ladybug, known as the Ukko cow.
This now forgotten country was the prototype of Phenicia and lay between the Euphrates and the Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea. For thousands of years, the only proof of the existence of the ancient people were extracts from the Torah and the Bible. The Canaanites there appear to be constant rivals of the Israelites. But from 1927 to 1937 on the northern coast of Syria, several Canaan plates were found. Of these, it became known about the ancient religion. It was a polytheistic religion in which such characters as the supreme god El, his son Baal, the god of thunder and rain, stood out. One of the most popular legends was the story of the struggle of Baal and Mota, the god of death. He defeated Baal, which resulted in an unprecedented drought. Then all the other gods, led by El, united to liberate Baal. The war was ended by a virgin Anat, a warrior goddess. She penetrated the underworld, killed Mota and freed Baal. In general, in the Canaanite religion, the deities constantly fought each other and copulated. In the affairs of people they intervened simply for the sake of their whims, without thinking about the suffering caused to man. Under the influence of neighboring peoples and the conquests of the Israelites, the Canaanite religion gradually blurred and disappeared.
This religion was introduced by the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten, known as Amenhotep IV. Atonism was a monotheistic religion, which was officially proclaimed official. Pharaoh organized a real cultural and religious revolution in the country, although, after his death, old beliefs were returned. Akhenaten claimed that only he could talk to God atone. This restrictive nature of religion led to the fact that most simple Egyptians retained their old beliefs. This helped the atonism quickly fade away after the death of its chief preacher. Tablets on the existence of such an unusual ancient religion were found only at the beginning of the XX century. They said that Akhenaten was more and more immersed in atonism, especially this became apparent after the death of his beloved wife, Nefertiti.Pharaoh was the father of Tutankhamun, who in childhood under the pressure of priests even named Tutankhaton in honor of the god Aton. During the reign of Akhenaten, several religious hymns were created, one of which is similar to the famous Psalm 104.
The Minoan religion.
This religion originated from the same civilization, which existed on the island of Crete. Here there is a strong contact with nature, the evidence of at least a mask with horns of a bull, found during excavation. There is much evidence that there were even contests, like the modern rodeo. The people of Crete chased the bull and tried to saddle it. As for many other religions, there is no single main source of this belief. Most of the information we received is rock paintings, and various archaeological finds from the island. The main Minoan deity was a woman – the goddess of nature. This makes belief one of the few matriarchal beliefs. In the Minoan religion there were also male deities, but they were less significant or in general were not gods. An important part in the rituals was played not only by bulls, but also by snakes, and also by a two-sided ax. With recent excavations, there were evidences of the presence in culture even of human sacrifices. It is possible that the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur appeared.
This religion was of Persian roots and appeared in Europe thanks to the conquests of Alexander the Great. The cult of Mithras was very popular among Roman soldiers. Especially it spread in the border provinces. Mithraism turned into an ancient Roman secret belief, a kind of sect. In the form, as his Romans knew, Mithra was the Persian god of the sun, heavenly light and justice. Soldiers believed that he brings them luck. Little information remained about Mithraism. There are practically no traces of a single sacred book, and has it ever existed? Almost everything we know about Mithraism was found on the ruins of ancient temples. They were located underground, and the followers of religion preferred to build new ones when old temples were wearing out. The detail that distinguishes the Roman worship of Mithra from the Persian is the killing of a bull, which brought its confusion to the archaeological world. In ancient Iranian mythology, there was no such myth. One of the most important dates in the calendar of the faithful was December 25, the birthday of Mitra. Because of this, as well as some other details, it is believed that Christianity is the heir to Mithraism, adopting its features. But to prove it is very difficult.
This religion was founded in the third century AD by a Persian named Mani. Initially, beliefs were viewed as a heretical Christian sect. But eventually Manichaeism earned the status of an independent religion. The founder claimed that the features of all the leading religions of that time – Christianity, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism – joined in it. In fact, many apocryphal Christian writings would have been lost, were it not for the Manichaeans. The main attention was paid to the difference between evil and good, the way to salvation was seen as knowledge. The most zealous adherents were known as “elected” or “distinctive”, reminiscent of Buddhist monks, only were wandering. Among the followers were many great missionaries who spread Mani’s teachings throughout the world. Its popularity has lost in the Middle Ages. The reason for this was the constant persecution of the Chinese government, the Roman government and the Catholic Church. The greatest myth about Manichaeism is the existence of a story about the battle of the world of Light and Darkness, two separate kingdoms. It was said that Adam and Eve were created by evil beings, but Jesus and Mani were the personification of good. These holy people were called upon to help humanity manifest its true spirituality. And although many of Mani’s works were considered irretrievably lost, their parts were recently found, which made it possible to learn more about the ancient religion.
This religion is one of the oldest in the world. It is said that it appeared around the Bronze Age, even between 3600 and 1200 BC. They invented such a belief system in the Mountainous Altai in Central Asia. This monotheistic religion, strongly focused on the worship of ancestors. In Tengrianism there was no single sacred book, as in other religions. Most of the early beliefs have already fallen out of our knowledge system. It is believed that many of the Huns of the North Caucasus may also have worshiped the god Tengri, who were sacrificed to horses. As in the case of many pagan religions, Tengrianism has much in common with Christian traditions. For example, the most important holiday, the Epiphany, was celebrated on December 23. The main part of this tradition dates back to the V century AD. and includes the introduction into the house of the “Christmas tree” and the decoration of it. And although in the era of Mongol rule Tengrianism has not gained popularity, it is practiced today. Some politicians in Kyrgyzstan even call for making this belief a state religion.
Such a religion became a national cult of the Assyrian people. Ashurism was almost identical to the older Babylonian religion, with only one difference. Here they worshiped not Marduk as a supreme deity. The Assyrians chose Ashur for this role. In this polytheistic religion there were thousands of deities, but the most important were only 20, including Ishtar and Marduk. In view of the similarity with the Babylonian religion, there were many common histories with Judaism and Christianity, for example, the myths about the Flood or the Tower of Babel. It was from here that the apocryphal story of the female demon Lilith, who became Adam’s first wife, went. The most revered date in Ashurism was the New Year festival, Akita. It lasted as long as 11 days, during which special honors paid to the supreme deity. And there was such a religion about 1800 years before the birth of Christ and it existed until the fifth century. Assyria fell, like her religion. True, it is likely that secretly Ashurism for some time confessed.
Ancient Indo-Aryans professed Vedism. Such a religion has been popular for almost two thousand years, from 1500 BC. to 500 AD. We can assume that it was Vedism that became the basis for the emergence of modern Hindu faith. After all, both there and there are used the same sacred texts, the four Vedas. True, there are differences. Vedism included polytheism in nature, these creatures were divided into two categories: the gods of nature, the devas, and the asuras. Gods of moral concepts. For followers of Vedism, oral hymns were very important, priests played an important role in rituals. They told the believers how to improve their lives by pleasing the gods. Vedism practiced animal sacrifice, but it was still a rare practice. Where the gods were bestowed with milk and grain. The supreme god in Vedism was Indra. One of the most famous myths is the story of his struggle with the children of the demoness Diti. After Indra killed almost all of her children, she called on magic so that her unborn son would become more powerful than the supreme god himself. When Indra found out about this, he threw lightning into the devil’s brow, destroying it. The future child has turned into 40 little demons.
Religion of the Olmecs.
This people lived on the territory of Central America, and its religion existed from 1400 BC. before 400 AD. The reason for the disappearance of the Olmecs remained unknown. The most popular version is volcanic activity or other environmental changes. There is not even a direct proof of the existence of the Olmecs. Archaeologists simply compare the found artifacts with those that were present in the religion of the Aztecs and Mayans, looking for similarities. It is believed that the beliefs of the Olmecs were closely related to shamanism, the most popular god there was the god of rain and fertility. He was personified by a jaguar.True, there is an opinion that the main deity of the Olmecs was not at all, its role was fulfilled by eight separate and no less important gods. It is believed that religion was accompanied by various sacrifices, including bloody ones. The gods depicted jade figures, as well as masks during ritual dances. The Olmec priests used hallucinogenic drugs that helped them communicate with spirits. Today, archaeologists have learned only about the ten deities of this people. Due to its early origin, this religion is considered the mother of later Mesoamerican religions, which is determined by a number of common elements.