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Surviving in Church as a Pagan by Rev. CatWeasel
Surviving in Church as a Pagan
By Rev. CatWeasel

Introduction

All of us have Christian relatives and/or friends. Some of us had a Christian upbringing. It is unlikely that we will be able to go through our whole lives without being invited to a wedding, or a funeral or a baptism at a Catholic Church.

When this happens, what should you do? Politely decline? Make some excuse? Announce at the top of your voice that your Pagan and Proud and you refuse to take part in the rituals of a repressive religion? Personally, I don't think that distancing ourselves from the rest of the community helps us, neither does it help the world-at-large.

There is another option. You could politely accept, and attend the Church. The most enlightened person can be comfortable at any religious ceremony, for they will see deity honored and feel part of the experience. Do you think the Dalai Lama would be uncomfortable at a Wiccan Beltane celebration, or would he jump the fire with the rest of us? Would he fear walking into a Catholic Church because he does not accept Christ as his Lord and Savior, or would he stay behind afterwards badgering the Priest, wanting to know how the beautiful stained glass was made?

Admittedly, Pagans and Catholics have not had a particularly happy history together. Some of it has been downright miserable. But if the future is to be any different, then we need to find ways to not only accept the Catholicism, but be willing and happy to take part in the celebrations of our friends and family that choose to honor deity differently from us.

The purpose of this article is to help you do just that. We will look at various aspects of the Catholic faith and see where and how we can integrate it with our own beliefs, should the situation arise. You may be surprised to find how much of Catholicism has Pagan roots, a fact which sadly the Roman Catholic Church is aware of but is not willing to openly admit.

There is a lot to look at, let's start at the beginning, with the oldest piece of Christian faith:

The Ten Commandments

The Ten commandments are, generally speaking, held to be those mentioned in Exodus 20, forged on the Stone Tablets that Moses later smashed. After they had been smashed, the Lord commands Moses to make a new set (in Exodus 34) containing 'The words that were on the first'. In point of fact, only the first two commandments remain the same in Exodus 20 and 34. Commandments 3 through 10 are strikingly different. However, since this article is not an exploration of the inconsistencies of the Old Testament, I recommend you find a copy of the Bible and read Exodus for yourself.

The Jewish, Catholic and Protestant churches generally use some version of the original commandments found in Exodus 20. I say 'generally use', because there are differences, starting with the first commandment. In the Hebrew version of the Old Testament, the first commandment reads:

"I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery."

In the Catholic and Protestant versions, this reads:

"I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have no other gods before me."

Why the change? We cannot know for sure, but we can speculate. It was important to the Catholic church that Christianity be seen as distinct from Judaism, especially since the Jews were portrayed as the bad guys in the new testament that got Christ executed. So the first line from the second Hebrew commandment ("thou shalt have no other gods before me") got bumped into first place.

The full second commandment from the Hebrew reads as follows:

"Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any manner of likeness, of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; Thou shalt not bow down unto them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; And showing mercy unto the thousandth generation of them that love Me and keep My commandments."

The biggest problem with any new religion is selling it. Sorry if that sounds cynical, but it is true of many things in life, and it is certainly true of religion. It was common practice in Pagan religions to have images of the various deities that were worshipped, and if the Catholic Church had any hope of converting the peoples of Europe to Christianity, they needed a point of focus. But the second commandment specifically forbade such imagery. The solution? Remove it. Which is why you don't see the graven image commandment in the Catholic bibles. In its place was put the third Hebrew commandment:

"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain."

Interestingly, the original commandment was restored in the Protestant bible. The rest of the commandments then follow in the same order, but because of the removal of the second commandment, there were only nine in the Catholic version. So the tenth commandment was split. In the Hebrew version, it reads:

"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house; thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's."

This was adapted into two commandments:

The ninth: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife." and the tenth: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods."

What has all this to do with surviving in Church? Well the first thing to understand is that the commandments have clearly been subject to interpretation and adaptation by the churches (and if you believe Exodus 34, even God!). But the second point to understand is that they are not the exclusive domain of Judeo-Christians religions.

First off, the Ten Commandments as laid down in the Catholic Bible are pretty simple and actually make a lot of sense. You should not kill. You should not steal, You should be honoring deity and your father and mother, and you should not be committing adultery.

The big problem for Pagans, and one which the Christian church has been beating us over the head with for the last 1500 years is this one:

"Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

Now here's the first thing to understand. It does not just say "Thou shalt have no other gods", it adds the words "before me". Which implies that other deities can be worshipped, but not over the one main God. The assumption by most Christians (and by more than a few Pagans if the truth be told) is that all Pagan gods are created equal. They are not. There is always one source God - the Ultimate Creator. On a Wiccan altar, you will normally see at least three candles, usually one gold (for the God) one silver (for the Goddess) and one purple, black or white for the Source.

It is useful to look at this in terms of the Qabbalah. You start out with nothing - a limitless void. Then, in a blinding flash of light (reminiscent of the Big Bang) you have the sudden awareness of the Godhead (The emanation) and the beginnings of Creation.

In Qabbalistic terms, this is Kether, the first Sephiroth. From this one source comes the essential masculine/positive force and the essential feminine/negative form. This is the King and Queen, the God and Goddess, Chockmah and Binah. They are the first 'split' of the Godhead that allows Deity to examine itself.

From them are born the subsequent deities, archangels and guides that ultimately represent different aspects of the One Source.

So yes, Pagans honor different aspects of deity (Isis, Osiris, Cernunnos, Diana etc), but so do Christians (Jesus, Mary, Michael, Gabriel, Father, Son & Holy Ghost etc). In both cases it is understood that there is ultimately one source for all of creation. And yes, it is the same source, whether you are Christian, Wiccan, Celt or Muslim.

One more thing I'd like to go over before we leave our look at the Ten Commandments. It is recorded in the Old Testament that Moses led his people out of Egypt, and their exposure to and integration with Egyptian mythology and customs can easily be inferred from that. So the Ten Commandments that Moses brought down from the mountain would not have been foreign to them. After all, they have their origins in the Egyptian Book of the Dead - specifically Chapter 125 the Negative Confession of the Papyrus of Anu.

The main difference between the commandments and the Negative Confession is that the Negative Confession is in the first person (I have not) and the commandments are in the second person (Thou shalt not). There are also 42 entries in the Negative confession, and only Ten Commandments. In the table below, I have selected the closest matches to each.

Note however that I could not find a match for the third commandment ("Remember thou keep the Sabbath Day"). But given the nature of Egyptian society, this is not something the average Egyptian would be likely to forget, and so to include it would be a bit like saying "I remembered to breathe today".

The Confessional

In the Catholic Church, one is expected to confess one's sins to a priest in order that you can be absolved of them through penance. Dying without absolution meant eternal hellfire and damnation. Pope Leo I stated absolution could be obtained only through the prayers of the priests. So in effect, the Church created the problem (going to Hell) and set itself up as the only agent of the solution (Absolution, to be exact).

Confessing one's 'sins' was not a new idea however, as we can see from the Book of the Dead. In my opinion, confession is important, although not quite for the reasons given by the Catholic Church. Please bear with me while I explain this.

In Ancient Egypt, there was a concept known as Ma'at, which translates reasonably well as 'balance'. The concept was very important to the ancient Egyptians, and in later dynastic periods took the form of a Goddess of the same name. It was believed that when someone died, Ma'at would place their heart on a pair of scales, and balance it against a feather. If the scales remained in balance, then the soul of the departed could move on to their next evolution. If however, the scales tipped, the person was not worthy to proceed, and their essence was eaten by Ammut - the Eater of Hearts and Devourer of Souls. Ma'at is also seen as one's own Higher Self, the quiet, guiding force in our life that is both our cheerleader and harshest critic.

Alchemically speaking, the idea is that through the choices and experiences one makes in life, one is able to strip away the leaden parts of the soul, leaving only pure gold. It is the pure essence that ventures onward, while the baser elements are stripped away; de-energized and re-used.

This is stated in somewhat more flowery terms in the Corpus Hermeticum (a famous text from Hellenic Egypt that survived the ministrations of the Church), as follows:

"Well hast thou taught me all, as I desired, O Mind. And now, pray, tell me further of the nature of the Way Above as now it is [for me].

To this Man-Shepherd said: When the material body is to be dissolved, first thou surrenderest the body by itself unto the work of change, and thus the form thou hadst doth vanish, and thou surrenderest thy way of life, void of its energy, unto the Daimon. The body's senses next pass back into their sources, becoming separate, and resurrect as energies; and passion and desire withdraw unto that nature which is void of reason.

"And thus it is that man doth speed his way thereafter upwards through the Harmony.

To the first zone he gives the Energy of Growth and Waning; unto the second [zone], Device of Evils [now] de-energized; unto the third, the Guile of the Desires de-energized; unto the fourth, his Domineering Arrogance, [also] de-energized; unto the fifth, unholy Daring and the Rashness of Audacity, de-energized; unto the sixth, Striving for Wealth by evil means, deprived of its aggrandizement; and to the seventh zone, Ensnaring Falsehood, de-energized.

And then, with all the energisings of the harmony stript from him, clothed in his proper Power, he cometh to that Nature which belongs unto the Eighth, and there with those-that-are hymneth the Father. "

A similar story is told in the Descent of Inanna in which the Mother of the Earth seeks to visit her sister in the Underworld (the realm of the dead) and passes through seven gates on her journey. At each gate she is stripped of more of her earthly trappings, before finally being hung on a peg before resurrecting. This story is echoed in the myths of Ishtar and Persephone.

What the above concepts are basically saying is that what you are left with when you die is only that which has the purity to pass onwards. The more of your soul that has been cleansed, the more of your 'self' remains after death.

In the various spiritual cleansing processes we perform, one of the biggest challenges we face as individuals is being brutally honest with ourselves. It is hard to admit that one is wrong, either in word, thought or deed. It is often easier to rationalize our actions in some way, than to face the ugly truth.

'Well, maybe I screwed him over, but he had it coming.'

'If he/she had been more attentive to my needs, maybe I wouldn't have cheated.'

There is a modern approach to psychology that encourages people to realize that things 'are not their fault'. That's fine if it is truly the case, and as long as equal coverage is given to the concept of 'taking responsibility for your actions'.

We all screw up. We all make mistakes. We all do things we should not have done. It takes courage to face ourselves when this happens and to admit - confess if you like - what we have done. When we hear things from our own lips, we are more likely to believe them.

I have an altar to Ma'at, and I make it a habit once a week (every Wednesday, since that is her day) to honor her and to confess my 'sins' for the week, demonstrating in the process that I do know right from wrong. I do not expect absolution, but I do know that I am less likely to do the same thing again.

The Sign of the Cross

One well-known act of Catholic symbolism is that of crossing oneself. This is occasionally referred to, somewhat irreverently, as 'Spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch', thus identifying the places where the arms of the cross are formed. That this represents the crucifixion is obvious. What is not quite so clear is how it came to be a symbol of religious piety.

One version of the origin suggests that the sign of the cross was made by those at the edge of the crowd at Jesus' trial. When Pilate asked how Jesus should be punished, those who were too far away to be heard made the sign of the cross so that Pilate could understand their wish.

If the story is true (doubtful) then the Catholics caught a break there. If Jesus had been stoned, one can presume they would have to beat themselves over the head whenever they knelt in prayer…

Whatever the origins, the Calvary cross is a well-known symbol of Christianity, but it has roots that reach much farther into the past. A forerunner of it was the Egyptian Ankh, which is a cross with an oval at the end, and is the symbol for Life and Fertility.

Likewise the equal armed cross was in popular use amongst the Semitic people as the symbol for the God Baal. And the Celtic cross (Calvary cross with a circle laid over the top half) was a symbol of sexual union, and was known to the Hindus as Kiakra.

The Calvary cross however has special significance. Firstly this cross is what you would get if you opened up a cube.

The Cube is how the ancients understood the potentiality of the Universe. In essence, it was the box that held creation. Now a cube has three dimensions: Height, Width and Depth. This creates seven positions (The center and six sides). It also has twelve edges (Find a six sided dice, and count them J )

This, by the way, is the basis of the Hebrew Alphabet:

3 Mother Letters (The dimensions, and the three primal elements of Air, Water and Fire)

7 Double Letters (Representing the seven positions and the seven ancient planets)

12 Simple Letters (The twelve edges and the signs of the Zodiac)

When the cube opened flat, creation unfolded. The cross is formed from three horizontal squares and four vertical squares (The second square shared between the horizontal and vertical)

Three is a powerful number in most religions. It represents the Trinity of Source, God and Goddess, the three aspects of archetypal deity (e.g. Maiden, Mother, and Crone) and to Christians the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Four represents the compass points, the elements and the seasons, to name but a few examples.

Three and four make seven, which is the number of major chakras, planets, days in the week, alchemical metals, the seven lower sephira on the Tree of Life and a myriad of other correspondences.

In essence, despite whatever connotation Christianity places on it, the Calvary cross is symbolic of creation itself.

In High Magic, there is a quick ritual that is used to cleanse and refocus one's energy at various points within ritual, and before and after meditation and devotion. Used by Ceremonial Magicians and Isians, this is the Qabbalistic Cross, and on the surface appears similar to the Catholic sign of the Cross.

To perform the Qabbalistic Cross:

Touch the forehead with the index finger, and intone "ATAH"

Touch the breast, with the index finger pointing down, and intone "MALKUTH"

Touch the right shoulder and intone "VE-GEBURAH"

Touch the left shoulder and intone "VE-GEDULAH"

Clasp the hands together on the breast and intone "LE-OLAHM, AMEN"

At each point, visualize a point of brilliant white light, so at the completion you have a completed cross of light across your body.

There are several places that you can find more detail and explanation on the Qabbalistic Cross. One I would recommend is the Self-Initiation Guide to the Golden Dawn, by Chic and Tabatha Cicero.

Amen and The Lord's Prayer

The Qabbalistic Cross ends with 'Amen', as do all Christian prayers. Wiccans would say 'So Mote it be'. Amen was passed down from Hebrew, where it is believed to have meant 'Let it Be', but that in turn is believed to have come from the Egyptian God Amen, the Hidden One, and the God of Many Names. By the 26th Dynasty, Amen-Ra was seen as the Father God, with all the other gods contained within him.

The Lord's Prayer that Jesus taught to his followers begins: "Our Father, who art in Heaven,". As previously mentioned, there is some suggestion that Jesus may have been a follower of the Egyptian gods. The Book of the Dead has a prayer to Amen that begins:

"O Amen, O Amen, who art in heaven,"

An initiate of Isis would certainly have been familiar with this prayer. Another line from the Lord's Prayer, "On Earth as it is in Heaven", is a clear reference to Hermes Trismestigus and the expression "As Above, So Below".

The rest of the Lord's Prayer is mostly concerned with forgiveness, humility, discretion and baked goods. So unless you are on the Atkins diet, there is nothing one need take exception to. Again, it provides a connection to deity.

Communion

Any Catholic ceremony includes Incense and Candles (Air and Fire). The act of Communion adds the elements of Water (Wine) and Earth (Wafers) to complete the Wiccan ceremony known as the Four Fold Feast, where each of the four elements are enjoyed and absorbed into ones body through the senses.

The Christian Eucharist is intended to remind the patrons of the Last Supper, when Jesus broke bread and drank wine with his apostles for the last time, advising them that the bread was his body, and the wine was his blood (Matthew 14:22-24)

The Eucharist was not unique to Christianity. A similar meal was consumed by the followers of Adonis, which is a Greek version of the Semitic name Adonai (The Lord). In Jerusalem, he was called Tammuz. The son of the Virgin Myrrha, Adonis was a sacrificed savior who in death was re-united with his love Aphrodite (also known as Mari). He was reborn and died again periodically.

Osiris, another God that was slain and resurrected was also honored with the Eucharist. In the Book of the Dead, we find the following passage:

"Such was the great god-man Osiris: human like us, and thus able to take upon himself all our sorrow, but also divine, and therefore able to confer divinity upon us. He brought the divine bread from heaven, he taught justice and practiced mercy; he died, was buried, and rose from the grave; he gave to all who became members of his mystical body his flesh to eat and his blood to drink so that this divine sacrament might transfigure them into celestial gods; he went before to prepare mansions for his initiates in Elysium; and he was to be the just and merciful judge before whom men and women must appear beyond the grave."

It has been suggested that if the Last Supper really did take place as stated in Matthew, that Jesus would have been well aware of significance of it in relation to Osiris. Indeed, in the Koran, Jesus is referred to as Issa, which can be translated as 'Initiate of Isis'. In the book "The Templar Revelation", a lot of interesting evidence is put forward to suggest that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were indeed followers of the Goddess Isis and the God Osiris.

Whether this is true or not, I will leave for you decide. Two things are important here. Whatever your personal feelings about Christianity, Jesus, like Osiris, is an aspect of deity that millions of people have believed in throughout history. The Eucharist forms a connection with deity. And when you touch a part of deity, you connect with all of deity no matter that you form your connection through Osiris, Buddha, Diana, Jesus or Set.

The Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ and the Resurrection

According to the New Testament, Jesus is born of Mary the Virgin, spends three years spreading the word of God and is then crucified at Golgotha. After three days he rises again.

Much of what the gospels contain was added after the fact. Much of what was in the original gospels was removed. This we know from the discoveries of the Nag Hammadi (a collection of thirteen ancient codices containing over fifty texts, was discovered in upper Egypt in 1945), the Dead Sea Scrolls, and from what few other documents were not destroyed by the Church during the thousand years they had control of the written word.

When asking whether Jesus was the Son of God, the answer is of course, yes. Because we all are sons and daughters of God. It should be noted that Jesus never made any claim that he was God incarnate, although since we are all the manifestation of deity, it would have been a reasonable (yet somewhat egotistical) claim to make.

Regarding the Virgin Mary, much has been written on this subject, specifically whether or not she was conceived via Immaculate Conception. It should be noted that the idea of her being a Virgin was a later addition of the Council of Nicaea, which thus tied in nicely the story of the birth of Adonis. An attempt was made to claim also that her mother (St. Anne) was also a virgin, but it was decided that this was one too many virgin births, so Mary was considered purified in the womb. Hebrew gospels used the word almah for Mary, which simply meant young woman, and derived from the Persian Al-Mah that meant Moon Goddess. Remember that the early church had a lot of 'fudging' to do in order to come up with a savior and a religion that was at once all powerful, but also acceptable to the peasant at large. The Greek God Dionysus was born of a virgin in a stable. So was Mithra. Mithra's birthday was 25th December, as was Osiris. Other virgin births included Buddha, Quirrnus, Indra, Adonis and Krishna. A virgin birth was needed, so Mary went from virgo to virgo intacta.

As for Mary herself, she filled a void left by the removal of the feminine aspect of deity from the Holy Trinity (known as Shekinah in Hebrew). She has been identified with Diana, Artemis, Isis, Aphrodite, Venus, Mariamne and pretty much any other mother Goddess you care to mention. The well-known image of 'Madonna and Child' recreates the Egyptian deity Isis with her son Horus. This association caused a problem for the early church. Pope Nicholas III ordered friar Jean d'Olive to burn a treatise he had written on Mary because it showered her with too much devotion, and at every turn the church tried to demonstrate that Mary was neither divine nor particularly maternal.

But in spite of the church's desire to make Christianity male-centric, it was thwarted by a deep understanding that all things come from a balance of the God and Goddess. In short, the people needed Mary. They needed the Goddess. The image of the Virgin Mary represents the irrepressibility of the feminine aspect of deity. So honor Mary when you see her image, for she represents the Goddess in all her forms, and her refusal to be trampled under foot.

The resurrection was necessary for the same reasons as the virgin birth. No decent deity would let himself get murdered by humanity without rising again afterwards. But there is more to the story than that. The Egyptian king making Ceremony was a very important event, because the king in question was transformed into a God-in-the-flesh by a ritual performed just prior to taking the throne.

In effect the would-be king went into a secret place before his inauguration, accompanied by only the Highest of priests. He then 'died' and went on a journey to stand before the Gods where he joined their ranks and returned to his body to begin his reign. The process was probably aided by the priests administering certain pharmaceuticals.

There is a lot of debate about how long (if at all) Jesus remained on the Cross, and what happened to him while he was up there. Again, I don't intend to fully explore this particular aspect of the crucifixion, but it should be understood that the idea of death and resurrection played an important part in the beliefs of the masses at the time.

Osiris, Mithra and Adonis are all examples of deities that died and were resurrected.

The title Christ simply meant anointed one, which was a name given to priests and kings, and also savior-gods such as Adonis and Tammuz. Other titles for Jesus include 'The Good Shepherd' (which was another name for Osiris), King of Kings (Dionysus), Son of Man (Vishnu) and Messiah (Mithra).

It seems clear that both Jesus and Mary had been adapted to incorporate aspects from various Pagan deities. This would allow them to appeal to the largest audience possible during the centuries after the biblical events took place, and before the Roman Catholic Church was powerful enough to use more direct methods to enforce fealty.

Vestments

Even priestly vestments carry remembrances from earlier times. The famous white priests' collar (affectionately referred to as a 'Dog-Collar') is a modern version of the ancient druid Torc that was worn about the neck.

The Stole is all that remains of the Roman Toga.

And the Bishop's Miter is shaped like the mouth of a fish, which many have assumed to be related to Jesus being a fisher of men or the Age of Pisces (which is just ending). In fact it has its origins going back to the Babylonian God Oannes, the Fish-God, said to have brought civilization to mankind. This amphibian god is reminiscent of Dagon, the God of the Philistines.

 

Location, Location, Location

If you find yourself in a Catholic Church in Europe, then you are more than likely standing on an ancient site of Pagan worship. It was customary to build churches on sites where people had traditionally gathered for worship, since the place had a special spiritual significance and would therefore attract its original patrons.

Seven particularly important sites have been identified and are described in 'Rosslyn' by Tim-Wallace Murphy and Marilyn Hopkins.

They are ancient Druid oracle sites representing each of the ancient planets, where people would once gather (so it is believed) for celebration of the various yearly festivals and where the druids would make prophesies, judgements and decisions concerning the community. These sites were replaced by important Cathedrals, and one very important chapel. There is evidence put forward by Trevor Ravenscroft (The Mark of the Beast) that ancient celts would take a pilgrimage from Iberia (Spain) to Scotland via the seven planetary oracles. The Knights Templar (those guardians of sacred knowledge that we find cropping up again and again in any study of the western mysteries) are believed to also have used the sites for initiations. The sites are as follows:

The Cathedral of St. James at Compostela in Spain. The Moon Oracle

Notre-Dame de Dalbade at Toulouse, France. The Mercury Oracle

Orleans Cathedral at Orleans, France. The Venus Oracle

Notre-Dame de Paris at Paris, France. The Mars Oracle

Chartres Cathedral at Chartres, France. The Sun Oracle

Amiens Cathedral at Amiens, France. The Jupiter Oracle

The final one, and the end of the pilgrimage that ancient initiates of the mysteries would take, is at the site of Rosslyn chapel in Scotland.

This 14th Century chapel, built by the Knights Templar, contains pagan imagery of Isis, Osiris, Hermes, the Green Man and so many Masonic and Rosicrucian references that it is clear that its founder had a somewhat different view of history than the Catholic Church. There are many books on this chapel, its founder, and the Knights Templar that are well worth reading as they show how much a lot of ancient knowledge was successfully saved from destruction at the hands of the Catholic Church.

Sabbats and Holy Days

Co-opting pagan deities and their sites of worship went a long way to controlling how and where people worshipped, but the church also needed to control when.

Even the church will reluctantly admit that Jesus was not born at Christmas. Mary conceived in the middle of the year (Luke 1:26) and shepherds attended the birth which would place a spring delivery more likely. So why is Christ's birthday celebrated on December 25th? Several important pagan events occur around that time. Yule and the Winter Solstice are celebrated around December 21st. Osiris and Mithras are both said to have been born on the 25th. So in order to co-opt these festival, Christ's birthday became December 25th. Similar thinking turned Imbolc into Candlemas, and this is also why All Saint's day falls right in the middle of Samhain, with the Hallowed evening (Hallowe'en) falling on October 31st.

The Festival of the Goddess Eostre (Ostara) became Easter, when Jesus, Osiris and various other deities rose from the dead allowing new growth to appear in the world.

St. Valentines Day, February 14th, used to mark the beginning of Aphrodite's festival and a time when all maiden aspects of the Goddess were honored.

Saints

Apart from the deities mentioned above, many others were worshipped either openly or secretly well into the 5th and 6th centuries, until the church found a way to absorb them into the fold.

Examples of these include:

St. George: The Patron Saint of England, and the knight that put rescuing maidens from ravaging dragons in vogue, St. George's day was known as the Feast of Pales before the establishment of Christianity. His image can be seen all over English churches, a human head surrounded by leaves. St. George is, in effect the Green Man. How this connection came about is unclear - it suggests to me that, under questioning from an important cleric demanding to know why the pagan image of the Old Man of the Woods was carved into a chuch wall, someone did some quick thinking and simply claimed it was St. George to avoid getting burned for heresy!

St. Brigit: Brigit was the triple goddess of the Celtic empire - The Three Blessed Ladies of Britain. Since she was simply too big to eradicate, the church canonized her.

St. Anne: Ana was the maiden aspect of the Celtic Morrigan. And the mother aspect of the Goddess to the Romans. Once canonized, she was given three husbands and became mother to many other saints, including the Virgin Mary. St. Anne is a useful saint for Wiccans to be aware of - her symbol is the pentagram!

St. Margaret: The Goddess Aphrodite, wife of Adonis, The Lord at Bethlehem. If you follow the logic, this would mark her as Mary Magdalene, but there isn't a whole lot of logic associated with the first few centuries of Christian doctrine, and she is not mentioned as such in any references I could find.

 

Conclusion

We've looked at how the Catholic Church integrated the deities, sacred sites and celebrations of pagan religions into their Christian mythos in the early centuries after Christ. This was a way of gaining control of the hearts and minds of the populous and thereby enabling them to establish a power base. In later years, winning hearts was replaced with roasting the hearts of Heretics, as the church effectively took control of all learning, spirituality and king-making throughout Europe. But despite the best attempts of the Church to hide their pagan origins, the ancient gods and goddesses still shine through in modern Catholic worship.

Should we feel anger at this wholesale destruction and assimilation of ancient beliefs? Perhaps. But the past is the past, and we cannot change it. Anger will not make a better future for any of us. Besides more than anger, we should feel pride. Pride at the irrepressibility of the Goddess. Pride that ancient sites of worship that may otherwise have been completely forgotten are still venerated. And pride that through all the centuries of repression, the true light of deity could not be extinguished.

So the next time you see a church with its imposing doors, stained glass windows and gothic architecture, don't hurry past. Take a moment to step inside, make the Qabbalistic Cross, and pay homage to the deity that is honored within - in whatever form that may be…

About the Author

Vaughan Wynne-Jones is author of "Being Human - A Guide to Metaphysics" and various articles on spirituality. If you have any questions about this article or wish to publish it elsewhere you may contact him via vwj@pagannews.com

Bibliography

"Growing in Christian Morality" by Julia Ahlers, Barbara Allaire, and Carl Koch.

"The Book of the Dead" by E.A. Wallis Budge

"The Book of Exodus " from the Old Testament

"The Gospel According to Matthew " from the New Testament (KJV)

"The Corpus Hermeticum - Poemandres, the Shepherd of Men", translated by G.R.S. Mead

"Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot", Lon Milo Duquette

"Self-Initiation Guide to the Golden Dawn", Chic and Tabatha Cicero.

"The Woman's Encylopedia of Myths and Secrets", Barbara G. Walker

"The Story of Christian Origins", Martin A. Larson

"The Templar Revelation", Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince

"The Hiram Key", Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas

"The Mark of the Beast", Trevor Ravenscroft and Tim-Wallace Murphy.

"Rosslyn - Guardian of the Secrets of the Holy Grail", Tim-Wallace Murphy and Marilyn Hopkins.

"Uriel's Machine", by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas

 

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