Spain & Paganism


The Spanish conquered many lands, and now the Spanish language is amongst the top three of the most widely spoken. It is spoken from Spain to South America, and as far a field as the Philippines.

There is no one culture of the Spanish-speaking people. Even those from and in Spain differ widely by region. South and Central America are vast areas. Those from the southern areas, such as Uruguay and southern Argentina, are very different in habit and ways to those of the northern parts, such as Bolivia and Peru. Mexico is another vastly different culture. Yet they all share certain Spanish ways, beliefs or traits.

The witchery of the Spanish-speaking people is known as brujeria. This is as varied as the cultures, countries and regions.

In this section, I want to share various information that is of interest to brujos or Spanish-speaking magical workers and pagans. The history of our specific countries is important, especially that of the indigenous peoples. Here I will focus mostly on our Mother Country, Spain. On the land before she was known as Spain, and the peoples that visited and influenced her. Although we now know her as a Roman Catholic country, there was a time when she ran wild with pagan and ancient beliefs and practices.

Paganism in Spain

The predominant peoples that inhabited the area we now know as Spain, were the native tribal groups known collectively as Iberians, then later Celts coming from France, Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Vandals, Visigoths and Moors.

Celtic influenced was most concentrated in the north and centre, whilst the deepest south, was mostly influenced by the Phoenicians and Carthaginians. Yet even the Germanic Visigoths and Vandals made it all the way to the south – modern day Andalucia is derived from the Vandals – Vandalusia.

But the Germanic inhabitants, as well as the Moorish, came much in later history, during Christian times.

So the earliest peoples, in rough order of habitation, are the Iberian tribes, Celts, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans. The Romans established their imperial cult, and the natives took this up easily, as it reflected worship of city-gods.


Christianity is believed to have entered Spain around the 1st Century, but was not widely adopted until the 4th. The belief is that country dwellers openly retained local religions for a few centuries after the first signs of Christianity in the country.

During the national Council of Elvira, before 313A.D., there were 81 canons enacted, of which over 20 were concerning paganism. The penalty for pagan practices, such as idol worship, was the severity of permanent excommunication from the church. Other crimes’ were met with temporary excommunication in the length of years; anything from 3 to 10 years.

It is historically important to realise that the Christians were not antagonising the local pagans. The canons were compiled for the Christians not against the pagans – to ensure that Christians were not influenced by paganism. It is known that Christians might even allow pagan workers to continue their beliefs, and even retain images and statues of gods.

Constantine held on to a principle of religious tolerance, except for the practice of magic and divination, which carried the death penalty. His son and successor, Constantius, though was not so tolerant. In 341 he gave orders that all superstitions and sacrifices should cease. He later added the death penalty to these practices, and ordered the closing of pagan temples.

It is believed that his laws fuelled the pagan revolt of 361. The Gauls acclaimed Julian, cousin of Constantius and apostate from Christianity, emperor. Constantius died on the way to battle, and the empire was left ruled by a pagan.

Julian made no aggressive persecutions on the Christians, but, through various laws and orders, he did attempt to strengthen paganism and weaken Christianity. His reign of a mere 2 years was insufficient to create lasting effect.

Jovian then succeeded Julian. That he was Christian declared to the empire and beyond that Christianity had triumphed. Valentinian I (364-375) succeeded Jovian. Like Constantine, he proclaimed religious tolerance but decried magic and divination.

It wasn’t until the year 392, that paganism was truly condemned. The then emperor, Theodosius, forbade sacrifices, and any pagan rites honouring gods or spirits. Sacrifices were punishable by death, whilst all other practices resulted in the loss of personal property. Naturally, the people either converted or cloaked their ways.

His successors continued the laws against all paganism. Paganism retreated further and further into the rural areas.


It is widely believed that paganism and native beliefs died out throughout the Roman and later Christian reign. But most know that no native culture has ever completely given up the beliefs and ways of their ancestors. They either hid them completely or cloaked them in syncretism (blending of religions). Incidentally, Priscillianism made a nice space for paganism to continue on a wider and more open scale into the 6th century.

As all recorded history, it is often scattered, contains gaps, or is written by the opposition or those unsympathetic to the realities. We have, for example, much archaeological evidence of certain inhabitants, gods or practices, which are unfound in written records, or vice versa. It is only logical that very often both sources are missing.

It is the oral tradition that has preserved the missing pieces, and it is the traditional guarding of the stories that partially lends to the concept of secrecy within esoteric paths, such as brujeria and witchcraft of all lands. Only those outside of the bloodline insist upon ‘evidence’. Those of the line couldn’t care less what is believed by outsiders.

The traditions are thin but strong, and surviving all persecutions, socio-cultural changes, political upheavals and religious trends, including new-age spirituality and Neo-Paganism, and the egocentric psycho-political inclination of the ‘right’ to choose one’s path.


~ by sandra on January 14, 2006.

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