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Friday, February 8, 2013

Pagan Blog Project: Week 6: Christianity IS Pagan

I've talked in the past about Christian Witches or Christo-Pagans and often heard the ol' "You can't be Christian AND a Witch/Pagan."  Well, obviously, I, and the many Christo-Pagans I've been in contact with over the years - would disagree. I am not Christian, nor do, or have I, ever used a term such as Christo to describe my path. That said, I see NO conflict between the two paths IF that's what works for you, if that's where YOUR path leads. I think for me, it all comes down to the fact (what I see as fact anyways) that Christianity has deep Pagan roots!

I suppose to understand what I mean we first have to explore what "Pagan" is. At it's broadest form, Pagan is defined as "Any path which is not included in the Abrahamic lineage." So basically, that means anything that's NOT a form of Judaism, Islam or Christianity. The second definition that is popular is simply "Earth Based Spirituality."  But to me, both of these definitions are generally inaccurate and lacking.

I do think that many modern day Pagan beliefs are generally Earth based. However, there are those, like Asatru or African Paths that are more culturally based. These belief systems are without a doubt purely Pagan, but they are based on traditions, practices, myths and/or lifestyles of "native," "old world" or "ancient" cultures.  These paths DO fit the "non-Abrahamic" definition, but they are certainly not "Earth based." Then there are those paths such as Santeria or Voodoo, which are often included under the Pagan umbrella - and rightly so - but are partly evolved around Abrahamic, in these cases Catholic, traditions and myths. They are based in Ancient and Native beliefs, myths and traditions, but they also encompass the Christian faith which they became enmeshed with.

So apparently, simply being an Abrahamic decedent does NOT exclude a path from the Pagan family tree. And neither does a lack of Earth Based Spirituality.  So what does? Well, personally, I can't think of anything which automatically excludes something from being Pagan. Paganism, to me, is about embracing one's own path and becoming your true self. Yes, there tend to be some basics that the vast majority embrace, but as I see it, one doesn't HAVE to believe in anything specific in order to be considered Pagan. For me, I'm Pagan, I am a Hard Poly-theist, I believe in Reincarnation, I am a proud Witch, I am a firm believer in Nature and Holistics... But not being those things, not believing that way, doesn't make someone a Non-Pagan. I know more than a few who are Mono-theists, don't believe in Reincarnation, aren't practicing Witches and are perfectly happy to rely on conventional medicine and lifestyles - but who are still Pagan.

So if one can be Pagan and be all the things that I - a Pagan - am not, how is it that anyone could attempt to place a strict definition on it or attempt to exclude one path or another simply because it doesn't fit THEIR path?

Alright, now, lets get back to the point...  Paganism is NOT limited by definitions when it comes to paths which are commonly defined as Pagan.  But here's the thing... IF there were a path - hypothetically - that were based on the traditions, myths and practices of an Ancient culture, would it generally be accepted as inspiration for a modern Pagan path? If we look at the common paths we have readily accepted by the Pagan community - Kemitic, Druid, Asatru, Hindu, etc. - the answer seems to be a clear YES. So why is it that the Abrahamic paths are often excluded? Are they not based on the traditions, myths and practices of the Ancient Israelites? Yes, yes they are!

Now, don't get me wrong, I completely understand the urge to separate Abrahamic paths from Pagan ones. I catch myself doing it from time to time. And I think this comes out of the fact that the separation has been beat into my head from the time I was wee little that there was in fact a difference. Christians are often extremely loud about the idea that the two paths are very separate - generally out of fear and misunderstandings about what modern Paganism is and out of the belief that anything but their path is wrong.

Here's the thing though. Not only is Christianity (and other Abrahamic paths) based on the myths and beliefs of an Ancient Culture, but the vast majority of their beliefs are far from original. In fact the myths surrounding Jesus himself are easily linked to cultures dating back thousands of years before Jesus was meant to have lived.

Lets say for example that I said I honor a God (or Demi-God) who's birth is celebrated on December 25, who was born of Virgin, who's birth was accompanied by a bright star in the East and who was celebrated by 3 Kings. Would you assume I meant Jesus? Most would. But in fact, I'm talking about Horus, who predates Jesus by 3000 or more years. He WAS, however, being actively worshiped in Egypt while the Israelites are said to have stayed there. In a world where most people worshiped or practiced in accordance with the culture they were living with or around, it makes sense that these aspects could have - and would have - been absorbed by the Israelites while they were in Egypt.

In fact, Horus is only ONE of the Gods/DemiGods which Jesus is extremely similar to! Mithras of Persia, Attis & Dionysus both of Greece, Krishna of India, Bali of Afganastan and many many others from around the world, and more importantly local to the tribes of Israel, which are EXTREMELY similar to the Christian Jesus, right down to crucifixion and being raised from the dead after 3 days. 

What does all that really mean towards the subject at hand? It means that not only are today's Abrahamic paths based on an Ancient Culture BUT, they're based on an Ancient Culture which shared traditions, beliefs and practices with MANY of their neighboring cultures which ARE included within the modern Pagan umbrella. To me, if you happily accept a Kametic path as Pagan because it's based on the Ancient beliefs, myths and traditions of Egypt, it only makes sense that someone believing in the beliefs, myths and traditions of Ancient Israel would also be accepted in the same way!

IF, however, that's not enough for Christian Religions to be included in the Pagan family tree, maybe we should look to the progression of Christianity as it grew away from it's Jewish roots. The early Church did it's best to set itself apart from the common religious beliefs of the day, even going so far as to murder and torture those who refuse to accept Christian rule. But even in those most early days of the Church, the Pagan traditions and practices which had been so ingrained in the cultures of the day were generally absorbed rather than punished. Churches developed large altars, many with sacred flames, embraced Mary as "Mother of Heaven" or "Mother of God" names which had previously been reserved for various Mother Goddesses, and even altered popular Gods, Goddesses and Spirits as Saints. Previously "Pagan" practices such as blessings at birth and death were adopted, as were sacred places and days. As Christianity grew it seemed to both engulf and oppress the Pagan faiths that it took the place of. Today's popular Christian holidays continue to be full of clearly Pagan symbolism - I mean, seriously, what does a Rabbit have to do with the death of Jesus? 

All of this is generally common knowledge to most of today's Pagans. Yet, the same people who so readily claim that Christianity "stole" Pagan beliefs and traditions are also those who tend to be quick to draw a THICK line between Christianity and Paganism.  Which to me, seems strange.  How can it really be both ways? Either Christianity is using Paganism as a base for their practices and beliefs, or they aren't. And IF they are, how does that make them any different from clearly Pagan paths - such as Wicca - which are also a mishmash of previously practiced traditions or mythologies?  The ONLY real difference I can see is that Christians generally don't accept that there is any connection, or at least they don't accept that it matters at all. I've heard the "yes these things WERE Pagan, but today they're Christian" line more than I care to count. As if taking something and altering it to make it your own somehow negates it's origins.  If that were the case a stolen car would only need to be painted to be legally owned by the thief.  Really though, that doesn't matter at all here.

What it all comes down to is this - In general Christians deny a connection to their faith's Pagan roots, but Pagans should NOT. There ARE those Pagans who follow a Christian path. Does that make them less Pagan? I would say it does not. Especially if THEY accept a Pagan path as well. How does that work? How can you be Christian AND Pagan at the same time? I would think that step one is accepting that Christianity is no different than any other old world religion, except in the fact that it's still currently popular.


In fact, there are many Christo-Pagan paths. Some are purely Pagan, but follow a Christian Pantheon where the Goddess is represented by Mary and God is represented by YHWH or Jesus. Others follow a Gnostic Christian path, which embraces the idea that we all possess divinity with Jesus and Mary in the roll of God & Goddess. And then there are those who are more Eclectic in their approach using Saints, Jesus, Mary and YHWH as just one pantheon of many that they work with. And I can only assume there are many many others, these are simply the examples I have personally encountered.

So yes, Christianity IS different from many Pagan paths.  But the fact is this - there are MANY Pagan paths readily included in the community which are VERY DIFFERENT from one another. If you looked at Stregheria, Druidism and Haitian Vodou, you may find some similarities, but you'll also see that these are all very clearly different paths! Yet, they are ALL Pagan! So, if these paths are so very clearly different, yet all happily accepted by the Pagan community, why is it that those claiming a Christo-Pagan path are often not accepted by either side? I can't see a reason.

As I see it, Christianity is simply a different branch on the Spirituality Family Tree. Yes, it's different, but it's shares the same roots and core goals (generally) as every other form of Spirituality and/or Religion.  Now, I'm not saying NOT to see differences, because clearly, they are there and culturally they matter. BUT, I am saying it's best accept the similarities and understand that Christianity and Paganism really aren't that different. What causes the great gap between the two tends to be how people, how view the two.

As I said before, it's generally engrained in all of us that there is some HUGE difference. Pagans often feel as if they are Hated or Oppressed by Christianity in our society - and to some degree they aren't wrong. Christians, however, tend to be told from the time they are itty bitty babies that Pagans are evil and dangerous - along with many other crazy stories. These teachings come from that early time when Christianity was striving to separate itself from the common Pagan beliefs of the world it was growing in and then the cultures it was dominating. A positive history? Not in the least, but HISTORY none the less. Which is something that it's important for us to remember!

What all this boils down to is this - Christianity and Paganism are NOT really that different! In fact they have MUCH more in common that not. It's extremely important that in a culture where we are often the "minority" we work towards tolerance with ALL other faiths - including, and somewhat most importantly, Christianity. This means not only understanding the similarities, but not dwelling on the differences. It also means completely - and happily - accepting those on a "mixed path" in to the Pagan community without feeling as if they are only "half" Pagan or "confused." Paganism is about maturing in to your true self - mentally, spiritually and emotionally. So long as someone is walking a path that is enabling them to do that, I don't see how they could be considered anything BUT Pagan - even if they're Christian!


3 comments:

  1. I love this post. I think we need to heal the divisions between all religions and emphasize the similarities. If pagans won't stay open minded then who will?

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! I think it's important to embrace and love our differences. Just like different skin colors, genders, sexualities, interests, talents and what-not are what make us special as individuals, none of these things should be big enough to separate us - and religion/beliefs should be no different. The differences help to keep us "special" and allow us to express our individuality from the group, but in the end, we are all still the same and THAT should be more important than those things that separate us.

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  2. Beautiful post and oh so true. Thank you so much for this. While I do attend a Christian church based on the Disciples faith, including being baptised, I still believe and follow a Pagan belief as well and for once in my life I truly feel whole.

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