The Roles Of Paganism In Christianity Essay
, Research Paper
Centuries ago, before the division of the land and the domestication of wild beasts, man believed not in just one Divine Power, but in many powerful spirits of the world. These spirits were both male and female and were believed to dwell in the lush earth that surrounded him. Today, in a Christian-based patriarchal society, we have come to know just one single Divinity known as God. With the evolution of man’s values at the dawning of the Bronze age came drastic changes in spirituality. This resulted in the transformation of God from a male superhuman force and the renitence of the Pagan religions which were usurped by the early Judeo-Christian theological systems. These religions can be described as sects which were not Christianity, Judaism, or Islam and embodied the worship of more than one God or Deity. Among the most prevalent forms of Paganism is Wicca, which was the pre-Christian spirituality of the British Celt and was thought to have originated over 35,000 years ago. Like all Pagan religions, Wicca’s main concentration was the respect, worship and consciousness of nature or mother earth. Before the Bronze age, nature’s changing cycles and the harvest that she provided had been imperative in the lives of the Celts as they depended greatly upon her for survival. Although the adoption of Judaic, Islam, and Christian religions centuries ago replaced the spiritualities practiced by the Pagans in ancient times, many of the Pagan symbols, beliefs and practices were emulated within the new patriarchal, monotheist religions. For the Wiccans, Spirits were found in literally everything in nature including their own beings. They believed in many Gods and Goddesses which were all held in equal appreciation. There were also Wiccan beliefs which envisioned the male and female Gods and Goddesses as part of each other and together they made one complete whole. As in Wiccan belief, the dual trinities are translated to the trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in Christian religion. In the Wiccan religion, the trinities of the spirits are of Youth, Father and Sage and Maiden, Mother and Crone. Although the Pagan Deities took on many different faces to the Wiccans, the main Gods were seen as The Horned Father-Lord of the Forest and The Powerful Lady Mother . The role of the horned God was to hunt and be hunted and he was believed to eternally pass through the gates of death that new life may go on writes Maryam Povey in her essay, What is Wicca?. In Wiccan tradition, we see that the Horned God was depicted as an immortal who brought death so that life could be renewed in the form of birth. To the Wiccans, the Mother Goddess was seen as the birthgiver who brought all existence into life. The Goddess in the Wiccan religion was not thought to rule the world, but she was thought of as the earth herself. Unlike Christian belief, the Wiccan Deities were not semi-abstract, superhuman figures but they were, as stated by Maryam Povey, embodied in earth and sky, women and men, and even plants and animals . In the Wiccan religion, each God was beneficent and had something different to contribute to the people much like the Gods in Greek and Roman mythology. Contrary to popular belief, it was not until the entry of the Judeo-Christian religions that the Horned God of the Pagan religions, the comforter and Solace of all, was embittered and appropriated into the new religion as Satan, the most reviled Christian Demon. In Christian tradition, believers worshipped one God alone; this was the Lord or God almighty. As expressed in Deutronomy 6:4 of the Bible, The Lord is our God, the Lord alone . Although the Pagan practices of the worshipping of multiple gods was strictly condemned by the Judeo-Christians, many of the Wiccan Deities were adopted as Saints or other prominent characters in the Bible. The Christian, Judaic and Islam God was thought of as an almighty, powerful and superhuman figure with total control of the universe and the lives of every being. As seen in the Bible in Genesis 17:1, I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless . In the form of the scripture, the Christian God communicates to his people the Christian way of life and declares His power. In the Bible, He was described to mercilessly conjure tempests destroying nations. None theless, He was also described as a gentle provider who loved all things. god was also portrayed as the creator of life and everything in the universe, as illustrated in the book of Genesis, In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (1:1). Christians also believed that God predestined the future for every individual and decided whether or not after death, a person would go to heaven or be condemned to Hell.
Albeit the fact that the Wiccan views vary notably from the Christian conceptions of God, there is tangible evidence which proves the incorporation of some Pagan-rooted deities into the scripture. After the takeover of the Pagan religions by Judeo-Christian doctrines, many of the Wiccan Deities were transformed into saints or magisterial figures in the new religions. The most obvious examples are the reformation of the Horned God into the Devil and the Mother Goddess into the Christian Lord’s mother or Saint Mary. At the time of the Christian appropriation, the Christian clergy believed that by perverting one of the Pagan’s most sacred and important Gods into the epitome of evil they would facilitate their job to convert the British Celts from their original Pagan religion to Christianity. The Goddess remained in Christian tradition as a Saint and symbol of fertility keeping Pagans grasped to a faith which allowed the admiration of their Lady Mother. Other notable figures which are said to have originated from early Pagan Deities include Saint Patrick, Saint Kevin and Saint Columba. As described in the Wiccan Rede, the Wiccan religion is an individual faith which emphasizes the respect of nature, of self and of others. Wiccans advocated peace and pleasure and communicated this through dancing, feasts and love. We see this in the Wiccan Rede taken from The Gardnerian Book of Shadows, True in love ye must ever be, lest thy love be false to thee. In these eight words the Wicca Rede fulfill, And ye harm none, do what ye will . These words make up the only steadfast rule in the Wiccan religion and are of extreme pertinence to all Wiccans. It is believed by many witches that according to the rule of threes as described in Wiccan from Icarus Webb, (Metro Interlink) that anything you do that is in harmful intention, you will suffer the consequence in return three times as bad as the damage you did – living out the punishment while you are alive, even after you are dead if necessary . By these definitions of Wicca, we see that Pagan religions are not, in fact, evil or Satanic as they are often labeled by Orthodox Christian clergymen. In Christianity, the religious philosophy can be found in the form of the ten commandments. The ten cammandments encompass the same basic theory which is found in the Pagan and Wiccan traditions except that the commandments were orders given by God instead of adopted by the individual as in Paganism. Divergent from the Wiccan law, the first and foremost commandment in the Bible, found in Matthew, 22:37 is Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind . This rule takes precedence over the equivalent to the single Pagan commandment Love your neighbor like yourself (Matthew, 22:39). Although the praise and love of God in the Judeo-Christian religions are of highest importance, the respect of neighbors as embraced from the Wiccan traditions also was extremely significant. The other world view adapted by the Christians from the Wiccans is described by Maryam Povey. In her essay, she states that, The Christian Bible says that one has only to look to nature to see evidence of God. The Celts having discovered this long before Christ, took this literally and found Spirit in every rock, tree, in every living beast and in themselves. . . . We see through this element how the early Christians adapted the Wiccan’s literal worship of nature into an indication of the existence of God, the creator. In the Wiccan religion, there are eight holidays, based on the Pagan Wheel of the Year, which celebrate the changing of the seasons and mid-seasons. While solemn reverence is paid in ritual to these celebrations, the focus of these festivals is to honor life, happiness and freedom. The ancient holiday Samhain was an important holiday marking the end of harvest season f or the British Celts. Says Riane Eisler in The Chalice and the Blade, [at the end of the harvest s eason,] the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead are at their thinnest . This notion is very close to the modern day Christianity-based celebration of Halloween, a time for paying respects to dead family and friends. In ancient tradition, the Pagans believed that on Samhain, the spirits of the dead would come and knock on doors. If you treated them by being kind, they would not harm you, but, if you ignored or irritated them they would trick you. Henc