The story of how the Byzantine Empire borrowed from pagan mythology to develop the iconography for new the religion, Christianity, of the new republic, Byzantium. This story starts in the year 360, just a few years after the Roman Empire accepted Christianity. (52 min)
Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion. Popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. December 25–Christmas Day–has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870. This program celebrates the history and evolution of Christmas. Segment 1: (9:36 min)
Is paganism a living tradition with roots deep in prehistory or just a collection of superstitions, magic tricks and witches’ spells? This episode explores the origins, history and spiritual beliefs of ancient Europe. (48 min)
Sexy Beasts looks back to a time before sex was taboo, when humans saw themselves as an integral part of the natural world. Through history and prehistory, the representations of the ancient gods and traditions followed by pagans have been marred by propaganda from other religious groups eager to rein in those they defined as ‘wild barbarians’. In truth, the word pagan is a Roman term meaning ‘country folk’, and the general concept of paganism is of oneness with nature and a quest to fully understand the world around us.
Though historical accounts lead us to images of stone dildo-wielding women flashing their genitals at cattle, chieftains having sex with horses before slaughtering them and whipping sessions in mixed saunas, the underlying theme is of human similarity with animals and nature. Where modern religion aims to emphasise the difference between humans and the world around us, portraying sexuality as taboo, the ancient pagan perspective blurs these boundaries and explores all the elements of the world on equal terms. (48 min)
As Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, theologian Robert Beckford investigates remarkable parallels to the Christ story in other faiths, some of them predating Christianity by thousands of years, to reinforce a more universal message.