Nowadays the term pagan had become
almost synonymous with devil worship - a gross misconception. The
word's roots actually reached back to the Latin paganus, meaning
country-dwellers. "Pagans" were literally the unindoctrinated
country-folk who clung to the old, rural religions of Nature worship.
In fact, so strong was the Church's fear of those who lived in the
rural villes that the once innocuous word for "villager"
- villain - came to mean a wicked soul.
(Chapter Six, p.36)
It is true that
the word 'pagan' comes from the Latin paganus, meaning a
rustic or country-dweller. The etymology Brown gives here is also
commonly held, but not exclusive.
It may be that
non-Christians became known as pagani because the country-dwellers
stuck to the older religious traditions longer than city folk. New
religions often spread via trade routes and are taken up more quickly
in urban centres along those routes than in more remote areas. The
alternative etymology, however, is that the term came from Roman
military slang, with the word originally meaning 'country bumpkin,
civilian or incompetent soldier'. According to this theory, it became
part of the terminology of early Christianity in much the same way
other military imagery did, with believers calling themselves milites,
or soldiers of Christ.
of wording here is also interesting - the pagani of the countryside
were 'unindoctrinated', implying that the Christians of the towns
were therefore 'indoctrinated'. The implication here is that, somehow,
Christianity was foisted on people like a form of mind-control.
The 'unindoctrinated' pagani on the other hand, practiced
'Nature worship', which sounds much more pleasant and bucolic than
a religion which requires 'indoctrination'.
is further underlined by his talk of 'the Church's fear' of the
unconverted pagans. He says that 'villain' became a word meaning
a criminal or miscreant because of the Church's fear of paganism.
In fact, the word simply means 'farmhand', from the Old French villain
and the Latin villanus, related to the Latin villa,
'country house'. It is a pure piece of snobbery aimed at country
people and one that arose in a period in medieval English history
where there was migration of country folk to the towns. It has no
more connection to 'paganism' than any other such word with similar
origins and meaning - eg 'churl' - and first appears almost one
thousand years after country people were likely to be pagans in
any sense of the word.
Langdon decided not to share the pentacle's most
astonishing property - the graphic origin of its ties to Venus.
As a young astronomy student, Langdon had been stunned to learn
the planet Venus traced a perfect pentacle across the elliptic sky
every eight years. So astonished were the ancients to observe this
phenomenon, that Venus and her pentacle became symbols of perfection,
beauty and the cyclic qualities of sexual love.
(Chapter Six, p.36)
should have paid more attention 'as a young astronomy student.'
While the planet Venus traces a synodic path over 2925 days (ie
roughly eight years and five days) before returning to the same
position relative to an earth-bound observer, this path does not
trace 'a perfect pentacle across the
sky'. The pattern it
traces could be best described as a lop-sided,
crooked, or truncated semi-pentacle.
As a tribute to the magic of Venus, the Greeks
used her eight-year cycle to organize their Olympic games. Nowadays,
few people realized that the four-year schedule of the modern Olympics
still followed the half-cycles of Venus. Even fewer people knew
that the five pointed star had almost become the official Olympic
seal but was modified at the last moment - its five points exchanged
for five intersecting rings to better reflect the games' spirit
of inclusion and harmony.
(Chapter Six, pp. 36-37)
Few people 'realise'
these things because they are not actually true. The Greeks held
the Olympics in honour of Zeus, not their equivalent of Venus, the
love goddess Aphrodite. His claim that the four year Olympic
cycle is somehow connected with the planet Venus' synodic eight
year cycle because it's a 'half-cycle' (why?) is ingenious, if rather
As is his claim
about the Olympic rings. There is no evidence to back the assertion
that 'a five pointed star' was to become the original modern Olympic
symbol or that it was 'modified at the last moment'. The five linked
rings were first used at the Athens in 1906 for the 'Intercalated
Games', or games between Olympiads, of that year. In 1913 the founder
of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, designed a flag for
the 1914 Paris Congress of the Olympic Movement, using the five
interlinked ring design.
It is commonly
said that he found this design on an ancient Greek monument at Delphi,
but Olympic historian Robert Knight Barney has revealed that this
is not the case. In his article 'This Great Symbol: The Tricks of
History', (Olympic Review, No. 301, 1992, pp.627-31), Barney
shows that the stones in question were manufactured in 1936 for
the torch relay from Greece to Germany. He details that the origins
of the symbol actually lie in the interlinked circles of the French
Union des Sociétés Françaises des Sports Athlétiques
or USFSA in the late Nineteenth Century.
de Coubertin chose the interlinked circles as the Olympic symbol
because it represented the five inhabited continents of the world
and commemorated the first five modern Olympiads. There is no evidence
that any five pointed star was ever considered and no evidence that
Venus or pentacles had anything to do with the modern Olympic symbols.
to Chapters | Back to Home | Back