Kempinski Blog Article
Today Europe is full of modern cities, cosmopolitan culture and wonderful cuisine and arts – but below this exterior still remains old Europe and its pagan beliefs.
Across the continent you can still experience how life was when forests covered huge areas, wild beasts prowled and superstition ruled across Europe, all through the many pagan festivals that take place throughout the year.
The longest day of the year is one of the biggest pagan festivals, and across Europe lots of events take place to mark the occasion of light overcoming darkness.
The most well-known of these celebrations takes place at the famous Stonehenge in Wiltshire, UK, where large numbers of people come together to watch the midsummer sun rise perfectly between the gigantic stones.
In Austria's mountainous Tyrol region, locals gather together in villages, towns and on hilltops, enjoying the amazing panoramas and lighting pyres – a tradition that dates back to the medieval age. Even if you stay at the bottom of the mountain valleys, you will be treated to the mythic sight of thousands of fires dotted along the mountainsides.
The death of the goddess Marzanna
In countries such as Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, the end of winter is still celebrated in the traditional pagan manner.
A custom dating back thousands of years, the changing of the seasons is marked by the drowning of an effigy of the ancient goddess Marzanna, a goddess associated with rebirth, dreams and the spring thaw. After throwing the effigies into nearby ponds and rivers, revellers parade back to town, where the festivities concluding in a feast.
Sardinia is usually associated with beautiful coastal holidays and delicious food, but there is a pagan heart to the Italian island that shouldn't be missed. One of the best expressions of this ritualistic tradition is the festival of Mamuthones, a carnival in the village of Mamoiada that dates back 2000 years.
During the festival, local men wear one of two costumes and play the part of either the Isshadores or the Mamuthones. The former includes a white mask, black cap and red jacket, while the latter features a grotesque black mask, sheepskins and a large number of cowbells worn on their backs.
The Issahadores guide the Mamuthones through the streets in a herd-like manner, the latter making a huge noise with their cowbells, and the former gently lassoing women in the crowd, bestowing good luck and fertility upon them.
It is an interesting festival, and one that is accompanied by lots of local performances and all kinds of delicious dishes.
Taking place on the winter solstice, Yule is the pagan equivalent of Christmas, and the basis for a range of traditions that we now associate with the Christian holiday period. Evergreen trees are decorated; gifts are exchanged; and red, white and green shades feature heavily – indeed, the two celebrations aren't all that different!
Yule is observed in Ireland at the prehistoric tomb at Newgrange, when pagans come together to meditate, chant and enjoy traditional dancing and music, while in Scandinavia, neighbours visit and drink with one another in a tradition known as Tofitrus.
The whole continent of Europe is home to all kinds of ancient rituals and festivities. If you are interested in finding out whether your chosen destination is host to any interesting pagan events, contact us for more information here.