PRE-CHRISTIAN NATURE RELIGION AND PAGANISM IN NEWHAM -
ANCESTOR WORSHIP AND NATURE RELIGION
Ancient faith was influenced by the natural world and the threat posed by the elements. The inhabitants of Britain originally worshipped their ancestors, burying them in long barrows and performing rituals to influence the weather and the harvest. But when Britain's climate changed, the ancestor cult came to an end and Britons looked to nature itself to influence their fortune.
This has its original manifestation of faith in nature religion with attitudes to sun, moon, stars, seasons, etc. Even today we use names associated with these: Sun(day), Moon(day), Tiu the god of war and sky (Tuesday); Woden the chief god of Anglo-Saxon paganism (Wednesday); Thor, god of thunder, rain and farming (Thursday); Freya, goddess of love and fecundity (Friday); Saturn-day after the Roman god of agriculture and harvest. Festivals included Beltane and Hallowe'en.
Modern Newham was probably inhabited from the Early Stone Age, but only on nomadic basis. Bronze Age site has been identified in at Plaistow. Although there is little physical evidence of faith, deductions can be made from London and Essex histories.
Against a haunting and fascinating background of marshland and rivers, forests and silence there remains a hidden-ness about human faith in 'the other.' There are local clues to this:
Roads were essential to good communication throughout the Roman Empire. This diagram is a section through the Roman Road that once lead from London to Colchester, showing how it was constructed. Much of modern-day Romford Road lies above the road.
Roman Stone coffin found during excavations for the Jubilee Line extension at West Ham on 29th June, 1994.
Roman Sarcophagus and Leaden Coffins, in the entrance to East Ham St Mary Magdalene Church, discovered in a nearby field in December 1863. These were at sometime transferred to the British Museum.