Post-Pascha Reminder: Easter Is Not a Pagan Holiday | Patheos.com

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“No, Easter isn’t derived from the name of the Babylonian fertility goddess, Ishtar, nor any pagan festival. But even if it were, so what?”

Source: Post-Pascha Reminder: Easter Is Not a Pagan Holiday | Patheos.com

It is rare for Christians on the Puritan / fundamentalist side of the spectrum, Neopagans, and atheists to agree on anything, but one thing many (though not all) do agree on is that Easter, like Christmas, was originally a Pagan holiday that was wrongfully adopted / borrowed / swiped from the Pagans.

“You stole our holiday(s)!” complain the neo-Pagans. “You shouldn’t celebrate Easter / Christmas, it’s a Pagan holiday!” complain the neo-Puritans. “Ha, ha! Christians are so dumb they celebrate Pagan holidays and think they’re theirs,” chortle (some of the less-knowledgeable and less-charitable) atheists.

Well, they may be in rare agreement, but they’re all wrong… Continue reading “Post-Pascha Reminder: Easter Is Not a Pagan Holiday | Patheos.com”

The Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christmas | Intellectual Takeout

The Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christmas
The man who calls himself “Arthur Pendragon,” one of the more visible proponents of neopaganism in Britain, leads a Winter Solstice ceremony near Stonehenge.

Professor William Tighe argues that, actually, the pagans co-opted it from the Christians.

Source: The Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christmas | Intellectual Takeout

As we approach the Feast of the Nativity – “Christes Messe,” or Christmas – we begin to hear once again the complaints that Christians “stole” Christmas from Pagans, replacing an ancient pre-Christian celebration of the Solstice with the celebration of the Messiah’s birth.

It is unquestionable that many of the symbols and trappings we have adopted for our secular celebrations, from cut greenery to Christmas trees, have pre-Christian roots. And why should they not? In purely secular terms, every culture that moves into a new area adopts elements of what already existed.

And from a theological perspective, as I have mentioned on more than one occasion, the religious impulse comes from God and leads toward God; by that understanding, pre-Christian religions and spiritual traditions were reaching imperfectly toward the truth that Christianity expresses perfectly.

Why, then, should not aspects of those traditions which aren’t intrinsically opposed to the Christian message – and which, as in the case of light born amidst darkness, may even help to explicate it – be “baptized” into it? The answer is obvious: of course they should. Continue reading “The Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christmas | Intellectual Takeout”

The Drama of Hallowmas | Sally Thomas | First Things

https://d2ipgh48lxx565.cloudfront.net/uploads/article_58138e8c37f90.jpg?Expires=1543442491&Signature=can6YNqHLakX6wtAbtEsOo6uWQTyRRkepAQILSfrWq6aeGrfjozD9o~~zpAFbIH1qfnarHqk~7keZHP60PKw5irwDgUbalpIJVSze2~ohVxd5eSHYyVXE-p~6Ry-cWrbrV70WXOc2dumLfFLyk6bdODwwgpx2DbxTxpvNHJkQv-D~N3MEH9htkcg65AJ~j4VisljonEU6raDIzQDcfe0IT715pi2Cx4S4grlZS7MbFYsPNgwhyLzYehzsXaRN9mMQVtGeebuLW6Yw~2BmUc5XL4wQ-OfEa9kLj~7W-5983PKcI5n9NXx7iFi-Dsxxr~Lshf2ujOZNdApkfU6HMMfzg__&Key-Pair-Id=APKAIN7SVXNLPAOVDKZQ

“As a friend of mine observed recently, there is something medieval about Halloween…”

Source: The Drama of Hallowmas | Sally Thomas | First Things

A very interesting “take” on Halloween, and the larger Hallowmas season (Eve of All Hallows, All Hallows / All Saints Day, and All Souls Day) of which it is a part. Sally Thomas writes, in this “web exclusive” for the excellent journal First Things,

“As a friend of mine observed recently, there is something medieval about Halloween. The masks, the running around in the dark, the flicker of candles in pumpkins, the smell of leaves and cold air — all of it feels ancient, even primal, somehow. Despite the now-inevitable preponderance of media-inspired costumes, Halloween seems, in execution, far closer to a Last Judgment scene above a medieval church door, or to a mystery play, than it does to Wal-Mart.

“To step outside on Halloween dressed as someone—or some thing—other than yourself is to step into a narrative that acknowledges that the membrane between our workaday, material world and the unseen realm of spirits is far thinner and more permeable than many of us like to think. This narrative disturbs a lot of people, as the proliferation of church-sponsored ‘autumn festivals’ and ‘trunk-or-treat’ parties suggests. To some of those who worry about it, Halloween is either a thoroughly secular or a thoroughly pagan observance, to be avoided by serious Christians…

“Halloween’s emphasis on darkness makes many Christians squeamish, but, to my mind, what my friend observed about the medieval feel of Halloween is more on the money. There is a drama to be played out, like a mystery play in three scenes, and it makes sense only if you observe all three days of Hallowmas — not only Halloween but All Saints’ and All Souls’ days as well. In this context, the very secularity and even the roots-level paganism of Halloween become crucial elements in a larger Christian story.”

She adds,

“What their costumes are is less important than the fact that, for a night, my children will be people other than themselves: each of them will be someone who, regardless of real-life fears about the dark, is not afraid to step out into the night. Armored inside their personae, they can laugh at the shadows, as well they should. On the one hand, the powers of darkness are no joke; on the other hand, although Christians have no traffic with these powers, we do not fear them.”

This is an important lesson to learn, and one of the reasons I get a bit impatient at those Christians – usually on the Evangelical / Fundamentalist Protestant side of the Christian spectrum – who get into conniptions over Halloween, and often refuse to celebrate it at all. They are missing the point. They are also surrendering to the demonic far too much power: as Ms Thomas points out, we have no traffic with these powers, but neither need we fear them: Christ has already won the victory over them.

[These are some of the same folks – doubtless good and well-meaning people – who act as if, even if they may not formally believe, that the Devil is God’s “opposite number,” so to speak. In fact, the counterpart to Satan (Lucifer, the fallen “angel of light,” who became the demon of darkness) is St. Michael the Archangel (see Revelation 12:7–10): God is utterly supreme, omnipotent and ineffable, and has no opponent! That the Devil thinks he is anything close to equivalent with God is but a conceit on his part (hubris: overweening pride), and a heretical error to any human who believes it.]

Halloween is (or should be; admittedly, there are some who use it to celebrate darkness to a psychologically and spiritually unhealthy degree, but Christians should know better) about mocking the forces of darkness, not embracing them. It is, in a sense, a victory parade for the battle that was won for us on the Cross of Calvary – a celebration in which some may choose to wear the uniforms of the defeated enemy.

Pyramid of captured German helmets, New York, 1918 (2)
Pyramid of pickelhauben (captured WW I German helmets), Grand Central Terminal, New York, 1919. While I do not necessarily applaud this sort of display, it does speak to the point of emphasizing the defeat of one’s enemy by displaying his “stuff.”

And it is also, of course, a harvest festival, celebrating the turning-point between the season of warmth and light, and that of cold and dark… between, that is to say, the seasons of life and of death, or seeming death. And this, too, is a Christian mystery!

For just as the myths of the “dying gods” recorded by Frasier in The Golden Bough, and others, were reflections of the seeming “death” (actually dormancy) of the natural world in the Winter, only to be “reborn” in the Spring, so that very seasonal cycle is a reminder of what C.S. Lewis called the “true myth” of Christ’s death and resurrection:

“Now what Dyson and Tolkien showed me was this: that if I met the idea of sacrifice in a Pagan story I didn’t mind it at all: again, that if I met the idea of a god sacrificing himself to himself . . . I liked it very much and was mysteriously moved by it: again, that the idea of the dying and reviving god (Balder, Adonis, Bacchus) similarly moved me provided I met it anywhere except in the Gospels. The reason was that in Pagan stories I was prepared to feel the myth as profound and suggestive of meanings beyond my grasp even tho’ I could not say in cold prose ‘what it meant.’

“Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference — that it really happened.”

Thanks be to God! Just don’t forget that All Saints and All Souls are yet to come – the drama is not yet complete:

“On All Saints’ Day, our parish holds a children’s festival, hugely attended, at which children and adults alike dress as their favorite saints… The party is such fun that we could almost dispense with Halloween, whose festivities, as we observe them, are minimal by comparison. But the cumulative iconography of being, first, a secular character confronting darkness, and then a saint in light, is imaginatively powerful and valuable.

“As our Hallowmas ends, the pageantry and excitement of Halloween and All Saints’ Day give way to the comparative quiet of the feast of All Souls. This final solemnity is a day without costumes. Having been denizens of the night and citizens of the household of God, the children step back into themselves to contemplate their own mortality and pray for our beloved dead. In three days they have enacted the story of their own eternal lives: from darkness to the hope of heaven and the joy of the saints who await them in glory. From mystery to mystery, it’s a drama I would not have them miss.”

Amen, and amen!

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!

Refuting the Anti-Christian Animus On The Alt-Right | Council of European Canadians

 

European Identitarians should recognize that Christianity has always recognized the importance of European identity and its own contribution to this identity.

Source: Refuting the Anti-Christian Animus On The Alt-Right

As I have noted previously, I am coming increasingly (if somewhat reluctantly) to view myself as an Identitarian:

not as a political statement, but as a simple and incontrovertible fact, an expression of biological (and in the case of my European identity, cultural and historical) reality. It is the actions and reactions of people on the Left that are gradually forcing me to view this [European] identity in more socio-political terms: my heritage, both genetic and cultural, is under attack, and that unfortunate fact forces me to defend it… Like a lot of folks, I mainly want to be left alone. But I also want my people to be left alone, and not to be subsumed, oppressed, overrun, interbred, or replaced. So I suppose that makes me an Identitarian… and if so, so be it. I did not choose the label, or the fight; both were forced upon me.

But what has been very frustrating to me – both as a Christian, and as a Christian clergyman – is the extent to which many of those who share this approach are sneeringly dismissive of Christianity. Some of these are the sort of militant atheists who dismiss any religion as “fairy stories” – ignoring both the fact that fairy stories often contain encoded within them deeper and more vital truths, and also the wisdom of no less a figure of contemporary atheism than Richard Dawkins, who famously tweeted,

Before we rejoice at the death throes of the relatively benign Christian religion, let’s not forget Hilaire Belloc’s menacing rhyme: “Always keep a-hold of nurse, For fear of finding something worse.”

In other words, even if you don’t believe a word of it, mere enlightened self-interest dictates supporting Christianity as a bulwark against more menacing alternatives – such as, for example, militant Islam.

But the even more central truth that European Identitarians – particularly those who consider themselves some species of European Pagan – tend, sadly, to forget is that much of what has made Europe recognizably Europe over the last two centuries results precisely from the fusion of the Classical (Greco-Roman) and Germano-Celtic branches of pre-Christian (Pagan) Europe with the (then-) new faith of Christianity.

It was a particularly advantageous fusion, and one which led to considerable mutual enrichment, and a great fluorescence of culture on the European continent. I am generally quite sympathetic to European Paganism, having particular respect and appreciation for the Celtic and Norse/Germanic branches. But if we would revert Europe to its pre-Christian state, the simple truth is that we would revert it (at least, as regards Northern Europe, whose proponents are generally the most vocal in attacking Christianity) to an age of mud huts and blood-feuds.

I do not forget the impressive accomplishments of the pre-Christian world of Hellenistic (Greco-Roman) antiquity. But it was nonetheless the Age of Faith that raised the great cathedrals and uncounted other architectural marvels; that inspired great art and magnificent music, from Gregorian chant to Baroque; that gave even the oft-warring kingdoms of Europe a larger identity as part of Christendom; and which defended that European Christendom against Muslim invasions, from the 8th through the 17th centuries.

For Europeans to reject Christianity is, as my late mother would have put it, “cutting off your nose to spite your face.” So I am very glad to see someone from the European Identity camp mount a spirited defense of the faith, as Richard Storey has done in this essay.

He addresses three allegedly (according to its critics) unique and damaging traits of Christianity, which those opponents claim to be “the great mutations” of the allegedly pure Europeanism that predated Christianity – mutations “that gave birth to the secular ideologies of [modernism]”: individualism, egalitarianism and progressivism.

That these ideas – at least in the extreme and unbalanced form in which they are found today – are indeed “mutant” ideologies, and as such are dangerous and ultimately destructive of human life and flourishing, is a viewpoint with which I cannot disagree. But that that they are unique to Christianity, or that the Christian faith is responsible for promoting them to an inappropriate degree, is the idea that needs challenging, and challenge it Storey does.

He also points out that

“Other claims in need of addressing are the revival of the defunct Nietzschean idea that Christianity is a slave ethic, produced by Jews to weaken the Roman Empire through the promotion of meekness as goodness etc., and the beliefs that Europe was and would be more peaceful without Christianity or that Christianity is somehow anti-white/European identity.”

These false claims are also addressed in his essay. Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest!


Notable quote:

“It is quite legitimate for nations to treat those differences [e.g., distinctions between ethnic nationalities] as a sacred inheritance and guard them at all costs. The Church aims at unity, a unity determined and kept alive by that supernatural love which should be actuating everybody; she does not aim at a uniformity which would only be external in its effects and would cramp the natural tendencies of the nations concerned. Every nation has its own genius, its own qualities, springing from the hidden roots of its being. The wise development, the encouragement within limits, of that genius, those qualities, does no harm; and if a nation cares to take precautions, to lay down rules, for that end, it has the Church’s approval.”

— Pope John XXIII (1961) “Mater et Magistra” (http://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_jo23mm.htm)

Halloween: An Orthodox Christian Perspective

Source: Halloween: An Orthodox Christian Perspective | DAIMONOLOGIA

Good morning, all, and wishing everyone who celebrates a joyful Eve of All Saints (All Hallows Eve), Hallowe’en, or Samhain! Yes, I said Samhain. Let us be clear, shall we, that while there are indeed some Pagan – or at least folkloric – roots to Halloween, it is not Satanic in origin. Although the Evil One and his minions can infect, warp, and twist this as they can many other things, let’s not hand him a victory by conceding the field uncontested, shall we? And Pagan does NOT equal Satanic, unless you want to claim that all of our pre-Christian ancestors were so: a notion I vigorously deny, decry, and protest!

Leaving nutcases like Anton LeVey and his followers out of it, there are two basic roots of Halloween, as we have it today: the pre-Christian Celtic, and the Christian. The latter is clear and historical; the former is more suggestive, based on linguistics, mythology, and folklore.

With respect to the Celtic root, Samhain is the Irish Gaelic name for this holiday, apparently derived from “samh” = summer and “fuin” = end. In Gaul (ancient Celtic France, before the invasion of the Germanic Franks, and the conversion to Christianity), it was Samonios, or Trinuxtion Samonii, “the Three Nights of Summer’s End.” This comes from the Coligny Calendar, IIRC, and because the Celts tended to start things on their eves (days were reckoned as beginning at sunset of the day before), it is generally believed that Samhain (Samonios) was the “Celtic New Year.”

The word “Samhain” is used today in modern Irish to refer to the month of November: it is NOT the name of the “Celtic God of the Dead,” that is Annwn (and he was not evil either). As a holiday (holy day), it marked the boundary between the season of warmth and light, and that of cold and dark, and corresponded to Beltane (May Day), its opposite on what some have called “the Wheel of the Year.” It was a liminal time, being neither (quite) Summer, nor (yet) Winter.

The ancient Celts were fond of these “boundary” times and places, which are neither one thing nor the other – dawn and dusk, for instance, which are neither day nor night, or the sea-shore, which is neither land nor ocean – and appear to have considered them to be “thin spots,” where the “veil between the worlds” (our ordinary physical-sensory world, and the “Otherworld” of spirit and the sacred) was permeable. Thus, at both Samhain and Beltane, spirits – both the spirits of the dead, and spiritual beings such as fairies – were thought to be able to cross between the Otherworld and this one.

Some were benevolent, some baneful, and some neutral: that Samhain had a darker cast to it than Beltane is understandable given that, Beltane is the beginning of the season of warmth, light, and growth (“Summertime, when the livin’ is easy,” to borrow a line from the American musical “Porgy and Bess”), whereas Samhain is the beginning of the season of cold, dark, and decay, a time of danger and potential death in an agricultural society. But again, while such considerations are unpleasant and frightening to humans, they are not evil, unless one considers the natural cycle of birth, life, death, decay, and rebirth (new life springing forth from, and nourished by, the detritus of the preceding year) to be evil.

Still, no one likes to die, or have one’s loved ones die, and in pre-modern cultures, Winter was a time when death – by disease, starvation, exposure to the elements, etc. – was an all-too-likely outcome. So many of the customs and traditions which developed around Samhain were, in origin, human efforts to come to terms with this aspect of existence. Many of our Halloween traditions today remain, from a psychological perspective, ways to deal with – even to defy and laugh in the face of – those things which most frighten us.

And then of course there is the second stream, the second major taproot, of Halloween, and the one which gives it its name: the Christian Feast of All Saints, or in England, All Hallows. This is described in more detail in the attached essay (which tends to deny or minimalize the Celtic root), so I will not go into as much detail, but basically: this is the feast (actually a triduum of feasts) celebrating all the saints (the “holy ones” of God), known and unknown, and including both those notable figures of extraordinary sanctity which we typically think of as “saints,” and also those whose holiness is known but to God – ordinary Christians, living out our lives to the best of our ability, as God gives us grace.

This began in Rome in the 8th century of the Christian era, and whether by chance or design, mirrored the three days of Samonios: the Eve of All Saints (All Hallows Eve) on October 31st, the Feast of All Saints (All Hallows) on November 1st, and the Feast of All Souls, on November 2nd, for the rest of us. 🙂 What is lacking is a clear-cut connection that would indicate a specific intention to “Christianize” Samhain; but in the all-encompassing design of Divine Providence, I do not think the parallelism is coincidental!

So these are the two “roots” of Halloween: the pre-Christian Celtic, and the Christian. What is notably lacking in this history is any reference to evil. That was, as the linked essay makes clear, largely a modern invention. True, the holiday has always had a close connection with death; but with the death which leads to rebirth: either in the naturally-inspired, “wheel-of-the-year” sense of the ancient Celtic feast, or in the rebirth to life eternal of the Christian faith (the dates of the deaths of saints are often referred to as their “heavenly birthdays”).

Of course, one may do as one wishes with this day – celebrate or avoid. But let us at least be fair and accurate to the history, and to the spiritual significance of this date. After all, for those of us who are Christians, our God is among other things the God of Truth. We do Him no honour by making up fables, or by lending the Evil One more influence than he actually possesses!

Why not “Smash Cultural Atheism”…?

An amusing little meme (please excuse the language in the last frame) which actually asks a very good question:

Smash Cultural Atheism

Note: This is in reference to “Smash Cultural Marxism” (see my post on the subject), which has become something of a buzzword or catch-phrase in some quarters. Some militant atheists (and, unfortunately, a few militant pagans / heathens) have responded with “Smash Cultural Christianity.” This meme takes a more balanced view – and asks the appropriate follow-up question!

The irony of atheism, of course, is that while it claims to be grounded in “reason” and “science,” it is in actuality just as much of a belief system as any religion. While it is not possible to conclusively prove the existence of God, neither is it possible to conclusively prove the non-existence of God: is anyone really foolish enough to think that a deity capable of creating the entire cosmos, from quasars to quarks, couldn’t build sufficient ambiguity into the system to make belief in “his” existence a matter of faith and not fact?

Speaking personally, the idea that all the incredible wonder, splendor, and complexity of the Cosmos, from astronomy to biology to particle physics, came about by sheer chance, and/or spontaneously generated from nothingness, requires more faith than I can muster. So I take my hat off to the deep faith of atheists, even as I question their supposed rationality.

Thus, while a discrete and humble agnosticism is an entirely reasonable approach to the question of the existence of God, and the relationship between that God (if in fact, as seems most probable, He exists) and humans – for there is indeed much that we do not and cannot know – militant atheism comes across, to me at least, as ignorant, arrogant, and downright silly, no better than the most extreme and fundamentalist forms of Christianity. The fact that it denies that it is a belief, a matter of faith in fact, just makes it seem all the more silly…

That being the case, both Christianity and Paganism have a great deal more, intrinsically, to recommend them – as this meme humourously points out!