What is the European Pagan Memory Day?
The European Pagan Memory Day is an initiative followed up by the Federazione Pagana, in order to fix a day to remember the ancient roots of all those groups who call themselves "pagan", with emphasis on the moment in which an interruption, or an attempt of interruption, of the link between ancient religions and modern world happened. In this day we remember because we donít want to forget the adversities that ancient "pagans" had to face in order to keep their religious feelings (their "fires") alive; we celebrate their efforts and pay them tribute.
We donít confine ourselves to regret: this day must be a starting point for a reconstruction of paganism, a reconstruction that isnít a mere uncritical revival of past, but must start from the understanding of the essence of ancient paganism, from the analysis of its values and from the choice of what we think is applicable in modern days.
Why we donít simply return to tradition and pagan past?
Because ancient paganism wasnít a religion far away from man, contrary to what happens with monotheistic religions: individual dedication had a great relevance, and Cicero defined the word "religion" as the dedication and the attention required by religious practices. Paganism was something strictly connected with society and sensibility of time and space in which it was practised; todayís paganism is just the same: it needs to be lived, so it must fit our sensibility and society. We arenít less pagan than the ancient ones just because our laws or our feelings toward animals prevent us from sacrifice sheep and rams on the public square.
Why shall we use the word "pagan", if it was an insult? And what does the word "paganism" mean?
Today, the word "pagan" is claimed by various groups that, in different ways, recall ancient prechristian religions, especially in Europe and Northamerica. Even though we know that it was first used with a negative meaning, today we claim it with a pride that is relevant also for purposes of this European Pagan Memory Day; the word "paganism" is a generic word related to this return to these ancient religions, and comprehends various "tendencies"; especially in North America, it is also used as a synonym of wicca.
Why a European day?
By this labelling we express a hope for cooperation with various European pagan groups; in all countries, in some extent, ancient pagan religions have been pursued and declared illegal. So those religions have a history in common and todayís practitioner have the same need to recover what remained of them. In other geographical areas, different or similar celebration could be instituted by other pagan groups, according to their own religionsí needs and features. Anyway, our celebration is directed also to groups outside Europe but recalling those same religions.
How could we celebrate this day?
Every group or person who wants to, can celebrate it by its own way, keeping in mind the purposes of spreading knowledge about paganism and of remembering our past. An individual or a collective rite can be celebrate, for example a reigniting of sacred fire, since our day was chosen on the basis of the extinguishing of Vestaís sacred fire in Rome (24th February 391), according to the "tradition" followed. Debates, meetings, conferences, lectures can be organized; any form of spreading knowledge about this day can be done.
Isn't it as we were just complaining?
No, because the European Pagan Memory Day it's not only commemoration of something past, but a symbolic day, celebrating not only a tragic past, in order to always remember it, but also a present in which we rebuild paganism, inside a path, that modern paganism needs, of knowledge and its spreading.
What day did you choose and why?
After a survey made in one of the most frequented pagan mailing lists, we decided to fix this Pagan Memory Day for the 24th of February. In this day, in 391 e.v. (era vulgare, that means a.d.) the eastern emperor Theodosius promulgated one of many laws he made against paganism. At that time, christianity has already been the state religion for 11 years, but the emperor had to go on promulgating laws to stop pagan practices. On this day a very important event occurred: it is believed that in this day Vestaís sacred fire, which burnt in Rome since its foundation and was renewed every year, was set off.
Fire is sacred for all "pagan" religions and the roman one wasnít an exception; the extinguishing of Vestaís sacred fire in a so violent way (in the past, other cults extinguished because of lack of practitioners, but it has been a painless transition and new cults replaced the old ones without denying or despising them) marks the beginning of a more or less forced conversion process across Europe, in which the extinguishing of sacred fires, the felling of sacred trees and stones, the burning of temples and statues are only the most evident aspect of violent repression of these ancient religions. This happened across Europe for about one thousand year, until the extinguishing of Perkunasí fire in Vilnius temple, in 1386, during the conversion of Lithuania, last pagan country in Europe.
For this reason, among many proposals, comprehending the 28th of February, day of Theodosius edict making christianity the state religion, and the day of Hipatiaís martyrdom, we chose the 24th of February, marking the beginning of that process of deleting of paganism (not always successful). Of course, every pagan community could choose one day of memory according to the history of their religion, but one single day for all Europe is also important to made pagan voices stronger.
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