Wulfstan, Archbishop of York

        De Falsis Deis (circa AD 1000)

 

Now, it was long ago that, because of the Devil, many things went wrong and that mankind disobeyed God too much, and that paganism all too widely inflicted damage—and widely inflicts damage still. We do not read anywhere in books, though, that they set up any idolatry anywhere in the world during all the time which was before Noah's flood. But then it happened that after Noah's flood, Nimrod and the giants wrought the marvelous tower; and as the book tells, it came to pass that there were as many languages as there were workmen. Then afterwards they dispersed into distant lands, and then mankind soon greatly increased. And then at last they were deceived by the old Devil who had long before betrayed Adam, so that they perversely and heretically made pagan gods for themselves and scorned the true God and their own Creator who created and fashioned them as men.

 

Moreover, through the teaching of the Devil, they took it for wisdom to worship the sun and the moon as gods on account of their shining brightness; and then at last, through the teaching of the Devil, offered them sacrifices and forsook their Lord who had created and fashioned them. Some men also said that the shining stars were gods, and began to worship them earnestly; and some believed in fire on account of its sudden heat, some also in water, and some believed in the earth because it nourished all things. But they might have readily discerned, if they had the powered reason, that he is the true God who created all things for the enjoyment and use of us men, which he granted mankind because of his great goodness. Moreover, these created things act entirely as their own Creator ordained for them, and can do nothing except by our Lord's consent, for there is no other Creator but the one true God in whom we believe. And with sure faith we love and worship him alone over all other things, saying with our mouths and with conviction of heart, that he alone is the true God, who has created and fashioned all things.

 

 Yet the heathen would not be satisfied with as few gods as they had previously, but in the end took to worshipping various giants and violent men of the earth who became strong in worldly power and were awe-inspiring while they lived, and foully followed their own lusts. In former days there was a certain man living in the island called Crete who was called Saturn, and who was so savage that he destroyed his own sons --- all but one --- and unlike a father destroyed them early in childhood. Reluctantly he left one alive however, although he had destroyed all the brothers otherwise; and he was called Jove, and he became a malignant enemy. He afterwards drove his own father out of that same aforesaid island called Crete and would readily have killed him if he could. And this Jove was so very lecherous that he took to wife his own sister, who was named Juno; and she became a very important goddess according to pagan reckoning. Their two daughters were Minerva and Venus. These wicked men about whom we speak were reckoned the greatest gods in those days, and through the teaching of the Devil the heathen greatly honoured them. But the son, though, was more worshipped in paganism than the father was, and he is also reckoned the most honourable of all those whom the heathen in their error, took for gods in those days. And he whom the Danish people love most, and in their error most earnestly worship, was called by the other name Thor among certain nations. His son was called Mars, who always brought about strife and contention; and he frequently stirred up conflict and enmity. After his death the heathen also honoured this wretch as an important god. And as often as they went to war or intended to do battle, then they offered their sacrifices beforehand in honour of this false god; and  they believed that he could assist them in battle because he loved battle and conflict when alive. There was also a certain man called Mercury in life, who was very crafty and, although very clever in speech, deceitful in his actions and in trickeries. Him also the heathen made for themselves a great god according to their reckoning, and over and again, through the teaching of the devil, offered him sacrifices at crossroads and often brought him various sacrifices of praise on the high hills. This false god also was venerated among all the heathen in those days, and in the Danish manner he is called by the other name Odin. Now some of those Danish men say in their error that Jove, whom they call Thor, was the son of Mercury, whom they name Odin; but they are not right because we read in books, both pagan and Christian, that the malignant Jove is in fact Saturn's son. And a certain woman called Venus was the daughter of Jove, and she was so foul and so abandoned in lechery that through the teaching of the Devil, her own brother copulated with her so they said. And the heathen also worship that evil creature as an exalted woman.

 

 Many other heathen gods also were devised in various ways, and heathen goddesses likewise held in great honour throughout the world to the ruin of mankind; but these, though, are reckoned the most important in paganism, although they lived foully in the world. And the scheming Devil, who always deceives mankind, brought those heathen men into profound error so that they chose as gods for themselves such vile men who had made their vile lust a law for themselves and for as long as they lived spent all their lives in uncleanness. But blessed is he who completely scorns such affairs and loves and honours the true God who created and fashioned all things. Almighty God is one in three persons, that is Father and Son and Holy Spirit. AlI three names encompass one divine power and one eternal God, ruler and maker of all creation. To him for ever be praise and honour in all worlds, world without end. Amen.