The ancient world was home to a huge variety of religions and belief systems. Most have faded away, their temples and statues vanished or half-sunk in the desert sand, their gods barely remembered. The oldest forms of worship in the world are ancestor worship, shamanism, and animism, which are thought to date back to at least around 300,000 BCE. The oldest religions that are still widely practiced are Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Jainism. Hinduism originated in India, Jainism and Buddhism in Nepal, Judaism in Israel and Taoism in China. Shintoism, a Japanese spiritual practice that is still practiced today, dates back further, but is not strictly speaking a religion. Other very old forms of worship include pantheism, Zoroastrianism, and Confucianism.
Early Forms of Worship
Ancestor worship also played a major role in pre-organized worship, and was found throughout the world. Shamanism, the practice of a selected person going into an altered state of consciousness to communicate with spirits or animals, was also widely practiced, and is thought to be evidenced by cave paintings dating back to 320,000 BCE. This was closely connected to animism, the belief that all things have a soul or spirit.
What is the oldest religion in the world according to the experts?
The world’s oldest religion still being practiced today is Hinduism (know to adherents as ‘Sanatan Dharma’, Eternal Order) but, in what is considered ‘the west’, the first records of religious practice come from Egypt around 4000 BCE. The Egyptian Creation Myth tells us that, at first, there was only Ocean.
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A polytheistic religion without a name, Finnish paganism was the indigenous religion of Finland until it was Christianized. Evolving from shamanism, it shared a number of features, including ancestor veneration, with neighboring religions. The Finns also put great stock in the power of words and thought that both animate and inanimate objects had souls. Finnish pagans were intertwined with nature and they thought the world was created from the egg of a diving duck.
The main god of the religion was Ukko, the sky and thunder god, and his feast day, held on April 4, was one of the most important dates in their calendar. He shared a few common traits with the Norse god Thor, namely a magic hammer, and thunderstorms were said to be caused when Ukko slept with his wife Akka. In a weird twist for such a manly god, Ukko’s sacred animal was said to be the ladybug, and it was known as “Ukko’s cow.”
Native American Religions
Like all other cultures, the Indian societies of North America hoped to enlist the aid of the supernatural in controlling the natural and social world, and each tribe had its own set of religious observances devoted to that aim. Individuals tried to woo or appease powerful spiritual entities with private prayers or sacrifices of valuable items (e.g., furs, tobacco, food), but when entire communities sought divine assistance to ensure a successful hunt, a good harvest, or victory in warfare, they called upon shamans, priests, and, in fewer tribes, priestesses, whom they believed to have acquired supernatural powers through visions. These uncommon abilities included predicting the future and influencing the weather—matters of vital interest to whole tribes—but shamans might also assist individuals by interpreting dreams and curing or causing outbreaks of witchcraft.
The earliest kings of Egypt became their gods. They were called Isis and Osiris. The worship of these two deities spread throughout the world as the Mother and Child story. Osiris is believed to be Nimrod, the mighty hunter, in the Bible. He was killed and his body was thrown in the Red Sea. His wife, Isis, told the people he would return every year on December 24th. This became the famous Winter Solstice festival that all societies celebrated after the flood.
The names of the first four Egyptian rulers of Dynasty I according to Manetho are listed below. He is credited for the listing of the Egyptians Kings.
Athothis, Egypt’s second king, was Osiris. The tomb of Athothis is at Abydos was worshipped as a god.
The Sumerians were the authors of many “firsts.” They were the first to engage in large-scale irrigation agriculture; the first to live in populous urban settings that we call city-states; the first to develop stratified societies with specialized occupations; the first to organize and maintain standing armies; the first to develop mathematics and writing; the first to propagate laws and formulate the concept of property. They were also the first to engage in systematic and organized spiritual practices that fit the definition of what we today call “religion.”
One can, in other words, find much of Sumerian religion in all near eastern religions that followed: Akkadian, Babylonian, Judaic, Greek, Roman, Christian, and Muslim. None of these religions sprouted sui generis from new revelations or prophets — all simply built upon and revised the Sumerians’ original formulations.
Sumerian theologians and priests developed several concepts that became key components of these later religions. First, they conceived of the gods in anthropomorphic terms — the gods were like humans but divine. Second, the cosmological or heavenly order was modeled on the earthly order
Also unnamed, this was the religion of the Canaanites, natives of the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. For thousands of years, the only evidence we had of their religion was from the Torah and the Bible, where they are a constant enemy of the Israelites. However, between 1927 and 1937, a number of Canaanite tablets were discovered on the northern coast of Syria. It was a polytheistic religion with a number of deities, the most prominent among them being El, the supreme deity, and Baal, his son and the god of thunder and rain.
One of the most popular myths was of a fight between Baal and Mot, the god of death. Baal challenges Mot and is easily overpowered, leading to a drought. All of the other gods, led by El, band together to free Baal. Anat, the virgin goddess of war, ends up going to the Underworld, slaying Mot, and freeing Baal. Influenced by a number of neighboring sects, it was slowly eroded by Israelite conquests and religious pressure, until it vanished altogether.
Taoism is thought to have been founded around the 3rd or 4th century BCE, which is when the primary text of Taoism, the Daodejing, dates back to. The author of the Daodejing, Laozi, may have lived around the same time as Confucius, the founder of Confucianism. Those who practice taoism try to live in accordance with the “way” or dao, which is the completely indescribable source and flow of everything. Main concepts in Taoism are wu wei, which is the process of doing things effortlessly or non-intentionally, and the “Three Treasures,” which are compassion, moderation, and humility. This religion is connected with many physical practices, like qigong and tai chi, as well as the concept of yin yang, which is the belief that opposites are actually completely interconnected.
The national cult of the Assyrian people, Ashurism was nearly identical to the older Babylonian religion but with one major difference: Instead of worshiping Marduk as the supreme deity, the Assyrians chose to honor Ashur. A polytheistic religion with thousands of gods, Ashurism contained about 20 important deities, including Ishtar and Marduk. Since it is so similar to the Babylonian religion, Ashurism shares a number of common stories with Judaism and Christianity, namely the creation myth, the “Great Flood,” and the Tower of Babel. They also shared the apocryphal tale of Lilith, the woman-demon hybrid who was said to be Adam’s first wife.
The New Year’s Festival, known as Akitu, was the most revered date in Ashurism, lasting 11 days, and Ashur was worshiped greatly during it. The religion was founded sometime in the 18th century B.C. and lasted until the fifth century B.C., when the country of Assyria was destroyed, though it may have continued in secret for a while.
Roman Religious Practices & Beliefs
Roman religion was followed from municipal to the individual family. Festival and Ritual were commonly practice and were taken as the occasion of great merriment. Roman had the religion of their own. The general celebration of different festivals were on the farms of the ancient Rome, which is also known as the Farmers year. Every Roman house contains the sacred file, with a belief that the lit fire will protect their family. However, when the fire went out, it was believed that something terrible will happen in the family. Romans had their own gods; Jupiter (Zeus), Juno (Hera), and Minerva (Athena) and many others. During the first century of AD, Romans profoundly copied their from the Greek gods, changing their name and attribute. There was a high religious move after the origin of Christianity. However in this article I am illustrating the major 10 religious practices in Ancient Rome mainly focusing before Christianity.
- The sex of the animal should be same as the sex of the God.
- The white animals was sacrificed to the god of upper world, whereas black animals was sacrificed to the God of underworld.
- Before any animal sacrificed the innards was removed, to ensure the purity sacrificed was offered to God.
- During the second Punic war, there was a promised made to Jupiter that every animal born from that period will rendered five years of more protection from Hannibal and his allies.
- The most common animal sacrifice were suovetaurilia, or solitaurilia, which consist of a pig, a sheep, and an oxx.
- Human sacrifice was a rare practice to please the God. Gladiatorial contests were first introduced in Rome in 264 BCE in the honor of dead. First, contests were volunteer. Enacting a mythical struggle was practice and the death was rare. Later the slaves and criminal were used in the contests and sacrifice to the Manes behalf of the deceased.
- The two rebellion solders who attempted an insurrection at Rome were sacrificed to Mars in the Campus Martius by the pontifices and the flamen Martialis. Their head was hung up at the regia.
The several festivals were celebrated in Rome in the honor of God. Festival was celebrated throughout the Rome, the citizens were required to shut down their business in the religious ceremonies. The sacrificial meat was offered to the Romans in most of the festival. The most common roman festival celebrated in Rome were
The female member would climb on the roof of the house and plant the “Garden of Adonis” which mostly contains fast growing plants. The female take care of the plant for the 8 month and abandoned it. The women would mourn for the plant after they died. They also play the sacred play showing the wedding of Venus and Adnois, which was based on Greek Tradition.
Romans gives figs,dates, honey sealed to the white jars to the god Janus. The gift of money to the family members was quite popular in this festival.
Roman believed that every thing in the World was controlled by Numina
Some of the popular Gods of Rome
Jupiter(Male): The main and master God of the Rome.
Juno(Female): Wife of Jupiter and Goddess of Women and fertility
Mars(Male): War of God.
Venus(Female): Goddess of Love and beauty
Minerva(Female): Goddess of Wisdom, art crafts, learning and industry
Neptune(Male): God of the sea
Ceres(Female): Goddess of harvest
Vulcan(Male): God of underworld
Diana(Female): God of Hunting
Bacchus(Male) :God of wine
Mercury(Male): God of messenger of Gods.
Vesta(Female: Goddess of the hearth and home.