The ancient world was home to a wide variety of religions and belief systems. Most have vanished, their temples and statues gone or half sunk in the desert sands, their gods barely remembered. All of the religions on this list were founded before most of today's major religions (Christianity, Hinduism, Islam) and most of them are completely extinct, although some are being revived by new practitioners.
Finnish paganism, an unnamed polytheistic religion, was the native religion of Finland until it was Christianized. Arising from shamanism, he shared ita number of functions, including ancestor worship, with neighboring religions. The Finns also placed great value on the power of words and believed that there are animate and inanimate objects.had souls. Finnish pagans were closely connected with nature and believed that the world originated from the egg of a diving duck.
The main god of the religion was Ukko, the god of the sky and thunder, and his festival, which occurred on April 4, was one of the most important dates in their calendar. He shared some common traits with the Norse god Thor, namely a magical hammer, and was said to cause thunderstorms when Ukko slept with his wife Akka. In an odd twist for such a masculine god, Ukko's sacred animal was said to be the ladybug, and she was known as 'Ukko's cow'.
Also unnamed, this was the religion of the Canaanites, native to the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. For thousands of years the only evidence we had of their religion was the Torah and the Bible of where they are.constant enemyof the Israelites. However, between 1927 and 1937, several Canaanite tablets were discovered on the northern coast of Syria. It wasa polytheistic religionwith a number of deities, the most prominent being El, the supreme deity, and Baal, his son and god of thunder and rain.
One of the most famous myths was a fight between Baal and Mot, the god of death. Baal challenges Mot and is easily beaten, resulting in a drought. All the other gods, led by El, join forces to free Baal. Anat, the virgin goddess of war, eventually goes to the underworld, kills Mot, and frees Baal. Influenced by various neighboring sects, it was slowly eroded by Israelite conquests and religious pressures until it disappeared entirely.
Introduced from Egypt by Pharaoh Akhenaten (also known as Amenhotep IV), Atenism was a monotheistic religion known as theofficial religion of egyptduring his reign (after his death, the old beliefs were gradually restored). Aten was an obscure Egyptian god and the traditional name ofthe sun disk itself. Athenism initially accepted the other Egyptian deities, but over time they were all rejected.
Due to its restrictive nature (only Akhenaten could speak to the Aten), ordinary Egyptians retained most of their ancient beliefs, making the transition much easier after they died. Tablets found in the early 20th century claim that Akhenaten became increasingly obsessed with his new religion, particularly after the death of his beloved wife, Queen Nefertiti. He was also the father of Tutankhamen, who changed his name from Tutankhamen after pressure from the priests. Several hymns were produced during Akhenaten's reign, one of which bears a slight resemblance to Psalm 104.
Another nameless polytheistic religion, this was the religion of the Minoan inhabitants of Crete. I was very much in touch with nature, likebull horns and masksthey were found during several excavations. There is even evidence that the ancient Minoans had contests similar to our rodeos today where they tried to chase and ride a bull. As with many ancient religions, there was no centralized text and much of the information we have comes from cave paintings and various archeological discoveries on the island.
The main Minoan deity was actually afemale nature goddess, making this one of the few matriarchal religions (there were some male deities, but they were usually smaller than the female deities, and possibly no god at all). In addition to the bull, snakes and two-headed axes played a fundamental role in the rites. Recent excavations have uncovered evidence suggesting that they participated in human sacrifice, possibly giving rise to the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.
Mithraism was brought to Europe from its Persian roots after the conquests of Alexander the Great. extremely well knownamong the roman soldiers, became one of the ancient Roman mystery cults, religious sects restricted to initiates and generally quite secretive. Mithras, as the Romans called him, was the Persian god of the sun, or at least the aerial light between heaven and earth. There is not much surviving text on Mithraism, let alone a central holy book that could bethey have never existed. Most of what we know about religion comes from the ruins of its temples. These were usually underground and cheap to build, as devotees preferred to build a new temple when the old one was worn out.
One detail that distinguishes the Roman cult of Mithras from the Persian god is that he is often shown killing a bull, which has caused much confusion among archaeologists. One of the most important dates in his calendar was December 25, which was recognized as Mithras's birthday. For this reason and a few other details, some people believe that parts of Christianity may have evolved from this religion, although it is very difficult to prove.
Manichaeism was founded in the 3rd century AD by a Persian man named Mani and was originally known as aheretical christian sect, but has since been recognized as a separate religion. Its founder claimed to bring together all the world's religions, including Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and Christianity. In fact, many apocryphal Christian writingswould have been lostif it hadn't been for the Manichaeans. Manichaeism focused on the difference between good and evil and was characterized by having knowledge as a path to salvation. The highest adherents of the religion were known as the "chosen" or "perfect" and resembled Buddhist monks, although they had to be nomads.
His followers were great missionaries who spread Mani's influence throughout the world until it lost popularity in the Middle Ages. Much of their downfall was related to the many persecutions they suffered at the hands of the Chinese government, the ancient Roman government, or the Catholic Church. Perhaps the greatest myth of Manichaeism is its creation myth, which describes a battle fought between the world of light and the world of darkness, which began as two separate kingdoms. It is said that Adam and Eve were created by the evil beings, while Jesus and Mani were created by the good beings to reveal true spirituality to humanity. Many of Mani's writings have been lost, but parts have recently been discovered.
Tengriism is considered the origin of one of the oldest religions in the worldSometime in the Bronze Age(between 3600 and 1200 BC). Developed by the people of the Altai Mountains in Central Asia, it is a monotheistic religion with strong elements of ancestor worship. There is no holy book like other religions and much of the primitive belief system has been shed from our collective knowledge. However, it is believed that the Huns of the North Caucasus may have worshiped a god named Tengri, whom they are said to have worshipped.slaughtered horses.
There are a number of close similarities to Christian traditions (as are many "pagan" religions). The most important holiday is known as the Tengrian Epiphany and takes place on December 23. Most of this tradition dates back to the fifth century AD. C. and involves bringing home a Christmas tree and decorating it. While its popularity waned during the Mongol era, Tengriism is still practiced to this day; there are even politicians in Kyrgyzstan trying to make it the official state religion.
The national cult of the Assyrian people, Ashurism, was almost identical to the ancient Babylonian religion, but with one major difference: instead of worshiping Marduk as the supreme deity, the Assyrians worshipedchose to honor Ashur. A polytheistic religion with thousands of gods, Ashurism contained around 20 major deities, including Ishtar and Marduk. Being so similar to the Babylonian religion, Ashurism shares a number of common stories with Judaism and Christianity, namely the creation myth, the "Great Flood" andBabel's tower. They also shared the apocryphal story of Lilith, the woman-demon hybrid said to be Adam's first wife.
The New Year festival known as Akitu was the most revered date in Ashurism and it lasted for 11 days and Ashur was highly revered during it. The religion became popular sometime in the 18th century B.C. and lasted until the 5th century B.C. when the land of Assyria was destroyed, though it may have continued in secret for a while.
Vedism is the religion ofthe ancient indoariansand it was from 1500 B.C. to 500 B.C. It can also be seen as the origin of the modern Hindu belief system, as they share the same sacred texts, the four Vedas, but there are differences between the two. It was polytheistic in nature, with gods falling into two categories: devas, gods of nature, and asuras, gods of moral concepts. Oral hymns were extremely important to the followers of Vedism and the priests playeda great rolein the various ceremonies intended to improve the lives of devotees by pleasing the gods. Although Vedism practiced animal sacrifice, it was not very common. Milk and cereals were used much more frequently.
Indra was the supreme god of Vedism, and one of the most popular myths was that of Indra and the sons of Diti, the mother of demons. After Indra killed most of his children, Diti began using magic to help her last unborn child become more powerful than Indra. When she found out, Indra hurled lightning into her body and destroyed it, the impact transforming the unborn child into 49 smaller demons.
The religion of the Mesoamerican Olmecs dates back to 1400 B.C. until its destruction in 400 BC. (There is no confirmed reason for their decline, but volcanic activity or other environmental changes are considered the most likely causes.) Since there is no direct evidence of their religion, archaeologists have had to compare the relics with the Mayan and Aztec religions and look for similarities. Closely related to shamanism, the most popular god for the Olmecs wasa jaguar godof rain and fertility (although some theories hold that there was no main god, but rather eight separate gods of equal importance).
Various sacrifices were made to the gods, such as blood and jade figures, as well as a series of ritual dances and masks. Olmec priests are believed to have inhaled some form ofmind-blowing drugto help them communicate with the spirits. So far, archaeologists have only identified 10 of the Olmec deities. Due to its early origins, the Olmec religion is considered a kind of "mother" to later Mesoamerican religions, as they share a number of common elements.
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fact verified byJaime Frater