Key word: Syncretism
For those who need summarising, this week’s main article is about the cultural blend in religious worship between the Roman god Mercury and the Celtic goddess Rosmerta in which the two deities are connected in a sort of union in a probable marriage like quality. This of course is nothing new in the Western sphere of the Empire where colonial expansion meant a shift in the power of discourse led by the new Roman rulers that undermined practices viewed as ‘barbaric’ or otherwise ‘non-Roman’ in nature. In order for local worship and/or traditional living practices to survive in an increasing ‘Romanising’ world, an opt-in approach was adopted so that pre-Roman cultural norms and social structures may survive by flexing core designs to fit a model that is Roman but still has local traditions at heart. (Webster. 1997: 325-326)
A good example the author pointed to is the Aztec, through a process of mestizaje (mixing) indigenous customs blended with Catholicism. Using Christian iconography, the worship of the virgin Guadalupe (with reference to Tonantzin, the central mother deity of the Aztec world) was preserved by adapting to doctrines of the Marian cult. (Webster. 1997: 327)
Some might see this as a deep penetration of native structural beliefs and consequently as a loss in authenticity with respect. However, while certain elements may change over time (this happens weather or not a supposed dominant colonial power is present) the core principles do preserve and continue on, albeit in a malleable format. thus, it should not be viewed as a conquest but a form of resistance. Instead of submitting to a new form of cultural constructs, people take those new elements given to them and re-transform them as their own. Since pre-Christian religious worship and ritual-like activities in the Roman state were diverse and flexible, it was subsequently much easier for local deities to run with Roman parallels (Webster. 1997: 328) like Jupiter and Zeus. As a matter of fact, many Romans would transfer from worshipping one deity to another when one needed leverage.
Since this article runs in the fashion of cultural anthropology, I thought it would be fitting to add a documentary about cricket in the Trobriand islands of Papua New Guinea. In this documentary there is a depiction of a similar situation happening in post-colonial environments where the islanders of the Trobriand continue to resist against the British system which has tried to undermine local traditions and values in an attempt to reinforce European ones through legal systems and religious conversion. The goal of the colonial administration was to halt subsequent fighting among different kin groups and their respective villages. The wars fought were minor and usually limited the violence through ritualisation of the battles. In the end, bloodshed did cease, but not in the manner the British colonials had intended. The Trobrianders managed to re-empower their long standing cultural heritage.
Webster, Jane. 1997. Necessary Comparisons: A Post-Colonial Approach to Religious Syncretism in the Roman Provinces World Archaeology , 28. 3: 324-338
TC1, TC2, TC3. Youtube. March 2009. web. November 4th 2013.