It’s interesting to look at the demographics of your nation and use that to predict the growth and decline of some religions. In the west, Christianity is in swift decline, and some smaller religions are growing rapidly. There are some places where Norse Mythology is the fastest growing religion. Religions come and go. There are many ancient religions which have been largely forgotten. In their day they were the dominant force in society when it comes to controlling people. But now they have no influence. I’m sure someone in the distant future will write a similar list featuring the major belief systems of our time. Here are ten ancient religions you may not know about.
Ancient Canaanite Religion
Ancient Canaanite religion emerged from what is now Israel. It’s followers believed in many different gods and goddesses. They also believed that dead people should be given offerings to deter them from coming back to life and haunting people. They would sacrifice animals before construction work began. The animal corpse would then be left under the foundation stone of a new building to bless the land. They believed in an afterlife world ruled over by the god of death. It was said that a person must avoid the god of death, otherwise he’d make you “like a lamb in his mouth” – whatever that means.
Mazdak was a prophet from Persia. He claimed to be in contact with Ahura Mazda, who was the main deity of the region. This made a lot of people believe his teachings. He taught that the universe is ruled by two different energies. The good energy was lightness and the evil energy is darkness. Our entire purpose in life is to be more light than dark, as it would take us closer to god. He taught that murder and killing animals was wrong. He called for some kind of social revolution in what some historians now call communist teachings. The ruling class of Persia didn’t like him calling for this. So he and his followers were buried alive – that’s how the story goes at least.
Before the rise of Islam, the middle east was home to some very different belief systems. When Muhammad came, he denounced and defeated the pagan polytheistic religion which was so common. They would build shrines and dedicate them to the many gods which were worshiped. They also worshiped Allah as their main god, but had many others. Some Arab kingdoms would worship another as their main god, to which their central temple will be dedicated. Spring water was considered to be a sacred and pure link to Allah. The crescent moon symbol of Islam was an important symbol in Arabian polytheism. Arabian Polytheism is really a collection of dozens of Ancient Religions of the middle east.
Blackfoot Religion is traditionally believed in by the Native American ethnic group called Blackfoot. Blackfoot Religion was based on ancient tales passed down through generations. The tales were only ever told by the tribal elders. The tales were secret, only being told to tribe members. But there are some of their tales which were told to white people, who published them after. One of their tales dealt with their own origin. At the beginning of time there was a wise old man at the top of a mountain. He brought all people to the top of that mountain and told them to drink some of his water. The water were all different colors. The people who drank the black water became the Blackfoot people, they instantly learned their own language and culture. People who drank other colored water would be given their own cultures. The old man was the embodiment of mother nature.
Munism is the historic religion of the Lepcha people, who live in Nepal. Their culture and history is unique, with Munism being no different. It teaches that a whole series of myths and fairy-tales. The main belief is that there are two species of spirits who are always trying to influence us. There are good spirits and bad spirits, who cause all illness. They believed that sacrificing animals would convince the good spirits to protect them against the bad. Munist priests would be possessed by good spirits. Through the priest, the spirits would give guidance. Strangely, Munism is usually practiced alongside another religion as they do not conflict with each other. It’s always been common to find Munist-Buddhists.
Ua Dab is another east-Asian ethnic religion. It teaches that some people are born with Shamanic abilities, which were given to them by the oldest god. That god was known as Saud and would be summoned by his shamans whenever Ua Dab followers were in trouble. They believed in several other deities like the god of frogs, the god of babies, and the notorious Dragon King. The Dragon King was in control of the ocean and could command the weather. Ua Dab shaman did not inherited their position. The son of a shaman would only be a shaman if also chosen by the gods. If chosen, they would be responsible for performing healing rituals.
Traditional Berber Religion
The Berber people have lived in North-Africa since ancient times. It was during these times that their belifs were unified into their traditional religion. They believed in the spirits of their ancestors. They would ask their ancestor for guidence, and then sleep at that ancestors tomb until an answer had been given. Traditional Berber religion taught that living and dead Berber kings were also deities, and so people would worship them. There were Berbet tribes who mummified their dead. Some of their mummified corpses are older than any known in Egypt. They built large tombs for dead people, which was to stop wild animals from getting at them. They needed to be in good condition when they reached the afterlife.
Cult of Angels
With possibly the best name of any Ancient Religions, the Cult of Angels is another pre-Islamic religion from the middle-east. It was believed in by Kurdish people largely up until the 10th century, when Islam spread to their societies. They believed in 7 angels who work for their main god Mithra. They make sure the will of Mithra is carried out and they also guard the gateway to his world. The Cult of Angels teach that there are 7 cycles of existence. We are in the 7th cycle and no one knows what will happen when this one ends. It’s said that one of the 7 angels once fell out of gods favor, and into the underworld as punishment. He was there for a while until he cried for long enough to put out all the fires of the underworld. This won god’s favor back for him.
Similar to Mirtha, this religion teaches the worship of Mithras. Mithraism is considered a mystery religion as very little is actually known about it. What we know is that Mithras was the sun god, who was often depicted in the act of killing a bull. It was told that Mithras was born from rock. When a large rock crumbled in half, it was revealed that he was inside. Mithraism became especially popular among Roman soldiers. As those soldiers moved with the empire, we can see temples dedicated to Mithras everywhere from Romania to England. It’s one of many Ancient Religions spread across Europe by Roman expansion.
The Aztec built a brutal society for themselves. They believed that taking psychedelic drugs was a way for them to contact the god of war, who instructed them on what to do. For this privilege they would regularly engage in human sacrifice. They believed that the planets we see in the sky were actually gods looking down on us. The moon, sun, and Venus are the most powerful gods, who sacrifices would often be dedicated to. There were dozens of gods the Aztec believed in, with some being completely insignificant.