What the New Pagans and Christians Have in Common | Intellectual Takeout

What the New Pagans and Christians Have in Common

Off the top of my head, I can think of at least three major principles that traditional Christianity and paganism, broadly speaking, share in common…

Source: What the New Pagans and Christians Have in Common | Intellectual Takeout

A very interesting article / essay, which raises (in my opinion) some very good points. Inter alia:

“It has become commonplace among many Christians to quickly denounce these neo-pagan rituals and the people who participate in them. They see the increasing visibility of paganism as a fruit of secularism and a sign that the West is descending further into cultural darkness.

“But sometimes I wonder if this paganism — in some of its manifestations — has more in common with ancient Christianity than with many the whittled-down and demythologized versions of Christianity that are known as ‘mainstream.'”

He goes on to list three points of commonality (please read the article for further explication of these points): 1) recognition of the importance of ritual, 2) a holistic view of life, and 3) a reverence for creation.

I agree; in fact, I have made similar arguments, repeatedly and in a variety of fora, for literally decades.

The failure of what post author Daniel Lattier accurately describes as “whittled-down and demythologized versions of Christianity” – I would add, overly-intellectualized and, indeed, quasi-Gnostic versions of Christianity – to embrace these principles is, I firmly believe, one of the reasons why it is losing ground both to secularism and to other forms of spirituality which do.

Please note that we are not talking about syncretism, here; we are not talking about blending doctrine, or paganizing Christianity. We are talking about basic, underlying principles that are common to both, because they stem from the human religious impulse itself: an impulse which is one of God’s gifts to us, as humans.

In this context, I very much liked one of the comments that followed on Facebook, where I found the link to this post:

Any assertion that changing seasons, folk rituals, astrological observance, herbal remedies, local festivals &c were “pagan” would have been met with bemusement in the Middle Ages.

“Such things were not pagan but human. Who doesn’t notice the seasons and stars? Who doesn’t have local legends and traditions? Only the deracinated postmodern man.”

Just so. And I am quite sure that the likes of Tolkien and Lewis would concur!


 

N.B. “Deracinated” is not a word in common parlance today. Here is its definition:

  1. to pull up by the roots; uproot; extirpate; eradicate.
  2. to isolate or alienate (a person) from a native or customary culture or environment. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/deracinate

An apt term, I think, for the context!

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Glories of the West: Oktoberfest in Bavaria!

Trachten- und Schützenzug (Folk-costume and Riflemen) parade in Munich, Bavaria, 2016.

Oktoberfest began on the 22nd of this month (September). Although originally specific to Bavaria, it has become associated with all things German – at least in American minds! – and is celebrated pretty much worldwide, wherever people live who claim German blood. But Bavaria (Bayern), and Munich (München) in particular, remains the epicenter.

Originally held on the 12th of October, 1810, to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria, later to become King Ludwig I, to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen, it was enjoyed so much that it became an annual event. Before long, it was moved to September, to take advantage of the longer and warmer days, but it kept the name it had picked up: Oktoberfest.

Although the Royal horse-races that were the original highlight of the event are no longer held, and the once-annual agricultural fair is held only every three years, Oktoberfest is still more than just its “beer and boobs” reputation (not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with either…).

The parade of folk-costumes shown in the above clip – held on the first Sunday of Oktoberfest – originated in 1835, and became an “official” and regular part of the celebration in 1950. Since then, it has been expanded to include crossbowmen in medieval clothing, riflemen, folk dancers, flag-throwers, bands, carriages and floats, horses, and even goats, cows and oxen.

Tracht (plural Trachten), or folk-costumes, are the traditional or “national” costume of the region; descending from the working clothes of country folk, they are now proper attire for such festivals as Oktoberfest, and a few other festivals such as the late-summer Viehscheid (cattle drive) that celebrates the ceremonial return of the cattle (and their herders) from the mountain pastures, where they have spent the summer fattening up on the lush Alpine meadows, to the lowland towns where they will spend the winter.

Learn all you need to know (and then some!) about the wearing of this traditional attire at the “Great Big Guide to Bavarian Clothing.” Just be sure to click on the buttons near the bottom, to continue on to the next page. As this site notes,

“In recent years, traditional Bavarian clothing has had something of a revival and is now more popular than ever… It’s not just at the world-famous Wiesn [the “field” or “meadow” on which the Munich Oktoberfest is held] that lederhosen and dirndls are worn… Many towns and villages have local festivals at which locals don traditional outfits, as do they for special occasions such as Christmas or weddings.”

John F. Dausch notes that

“In 1887 the tradition began of opening Oktoberfest with a procession through town of the proprietors and brewers to the fair grounds on the Theresienwiese, (“Queen Theresa’s Meadow”), or Wiesn, for short. A young lady portraying the Münchener Kindl (the child monk, Munich’s symbol) leads off, followed by the mayor’s open carriage, after which, riding in flower-bedecked wagons, the proprietors, brewers, servers, concession workers, and kegs and kegs and kegs of beer.”

Here is a video of this parade of brewers and breweries (note – 35 minutes):

Beer is not sold, however, until the Mayor of Munich has tapped the first keg:

This year, he succeeded with only two blows of the mallet! John Dausch notes,

“In 1950, Munich’s mayor Thomas Wimmer introduced the tradition of officially tapping the first Oktoberfest beer barrel exactly at 12:00 o’clock on the first day of the fair, and then announcing loudly, ‘O’zapft is!’ – Bavarian dialect for ‘It’s tapped!’ From the Schottenhamel tent, where this ceremony occurs, word goes out to a team which fires a cannon twelve times, only after which beer is served at Oktoberfest.”

This year, Oktoberfest runs from September 22nd – October 7th, 2018. Some day, I hope to be able to attend!

Ryan Hunter’s speech at the 45th annual Congress of Russian Americans Forum in San Francisco | Orthodox in the District

Ryan Hunter speaking at the Russian Center
Ryan Hunter delivers his speech at the CRA Forum on Saturday, 8 September 2018 at San Francisco’s Russian Center. Photograph by a participant and appearing on his blog.

The increasing public veneration of the Imperial New Martyrs in Russian society is an integral part of the comprehensive, multifaceted vision of a gradual re-Christianisation of Russian society and culture in the wake of the Soviet system’s collapse.

Source: My speech at the 45th annual Congress of Russian Americans’ Forum in San Francisco | Orthodox in the District

Notwithstanding my ambivalence toward the ever-burgeoning influence of information technology – and in particular, social media – within our present society, it has benefited me in a number of respects, over years. One of those benefits has been the fact that it has enabled me to virtually “meet” and interact with quite a number of people I would probably have never come into contact with, otherwise.

One of these is the individual who delivered the speech that is the subject of this blog post, and which is linked above and elsewhere throughout this post. Ryan Hunter is a  brilliant and articulate young scholar. A recent graduate (BA, History, 2016) and current MA candidate (European History) at Stony Brook University, his intelligence, perspicacity, and perspicuity have already garnered him considerable respect and recognition, as his invitation to speak at this conference demonstrates.

Among the numerous points raised by my erudite young friend, that it might behoove some (perhaps many) of our political leaders and media “talking heads” to consider, is this:

“None of the former Soviet states today maintain atheistic, single party communist dictatorships, and — regardless of the exact state of rule of law, due process, or democracy in any former Soviet states — none of the various political leaders in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) can aspire to anything even remotely approaching the totalitarian level of political control or terror held by Lenin and Stalin.”

The idea that the Russian Federation under Vladimir Putin is simply the Soviet Union “lite” does not bear either historical or objective contemporary scrutiny. Yes, the Federation has its own national interests, and no, they are not always congruent with ours.

And yes, political, intelligence, and other operatives of the RF doubtless act, and doubtless under orders from the government, to protect those interests – as do our own, for the same reason. We live in a house with sufficient glass in its makeup, that it ill-behooves us to lob stones at Russia!

But alongside and despite all this, it is incontrovertible that the political and social changes in Russia, in particular, and the former USSR in general, since Soviet days are dramatic and, in the vast majority of cases, positive. As Ryan continues,

“Think of all the progress that has been made in Russian and American commercial relations, developing business ties, and above all the laudable work of so many citizen diplomacy groups in overcoming negative stereotypes, biased news coverage, and misguided ideological prejudices between ordinary Russians and Americans.

“Think, also, of those who, even now, sadly seek to bring to Western countries the murderous communist ideology which inflicted untold suffering on tens of millions in Russia, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and indeed worldwide.”

Sadly, some of these occupy positions of prominence among the political, academic and media “elite” here in the U.S. – and some of those are among the harshest critics of the Russian Federation.

I have commented elsewhere on the irony that the same political party, and indeed some of the same people, who were willing to appease, accommodate, and apologize for the Soviet Union in its attempt to achieve worldwide Communist hegemony now squawk like plucked chickens at the thought that today’s Russia may have legitimate national interests, and the right to pursue them. Interesting, that!

At any rate, as Ryan continues,

“We certainly need a new spirit of mutual respect, rapprochement, and détente today, but I believe that it is vital that we hail what progress our two countries have made in the last five decades.”

Indeed! And perhaps we could even begin to grow away from this foolishness of considering Russia as always and automatically our enemy.

Of course there will be times when our interests are far from congruent! (Imperial Russia played the “Great Game” for a long time before the Communist Revolution.) But that is the case with every nation, even long-time allies: every country has its own interests, and rightfully so; the trick is dealing with those sometimes conflicting interests diplomatically, rather than confrontationally, wherever possible.

It would not hurt us to recognize, for instance, the historic and cultural reality that Russia feels safer when surrounded by buffer nations, balancing those nations’ equally legitimate desire for sovereignty with the Russian need for security, in a way that does not require us to push our sphere of influence right up to the Russian border.

Russia is not quite the superpower the Soviet Union was during the Cold War; but then, we are not quite the superpower we were during that long conflict, either. Both the numerical strength of our military, and our technological edge, have slipped in the years since the 1990s, and so has our political and economic strength in the world. And poking the Russian bear is likely to push it into a closer embrace of the Chinese dragon, which would be very much to our detriment.

Russia may or may not ever be a close friend and ally; but there is no reason to view, or treat, her like an adversary. To conclude with the words with which Ryan concluded his speech,

“May this centenary year [of the murder / martyrdom of the Romanovs] be a Providential source of healing of divisions and wounds between friends, families, neighbours, and nations and peoples, especially Russia and the United States, and Russia and Ukraine. May the witness and prayers of the Imperial New Martyrs, and all their co-sufferers, be with us, in every city and country, and may they bring much-needed healing of the traumas of historical memory, the bitterness of ancient conflicts, and resentment of past wrongs. May we strive to build a world worthy of their legacy as they intercede for us all before the Throne of God!”