In the Polytheist world, the Dead are not ectoplasms or phantoms. They have form and substance and physically interact with the living. People make sacrifices to the Dead for protection, guidance, and favors. As Ancestors, They stay and guide the family. They can also become Spirits of Place, Home, the Unquiet Dead or the Harmful Dead. Since the Dead link the living with the Gods, They are feared, honored and placated.
The Christian Church actively made war on the Polytheistic veneration of the Dead. Moreover, the Church redefined who the Dead were and the relationship of the living to Them. In the dichotomy set up by Christianity, the Dead who were saved went to Heaven, those who were not went to Hell. To explain Revenants, the Church invented Purgatory. Instead of Heaven or Hell, some Dead ended up in limbo, which is Purgatory.
Under Christianity, the Dead became souls undergoing punishment for their sins. They were now dependent on the living, who said Masses for them, gave alms in their name, and prayed for Them. The relationship between the living and the Dead was now reversed.
In its war, the Church successfully desacralized the Dead. Attacking Polytheistic beliefs, Augustine and Gregory the Great said that the Dead were only dreams. Other theologians reasoned that They were animated by angels or demons. Lacking substance, The Dead turned into ghosts, which only exist in people’s minds.
Furthermore, the Church redefined the concept of “soul.” In Polytheism, people have multiple souls. One soul dies with the body, and another one survives to form its own body. The Romans have the genius, renamed by Christians as the Guardian Angel. Meanwhile, the animus, which is the dynamic force of personality, exists outside of the body. Merging all the souls into one entity, Christianity said when the body dies, the soul merges with God, thereby dismissing the existence of Revenants.
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