Monday, April 21, 2008

The Blending of Pagan Symbolism with Christian Concepts

While most people do not realise it, Christianity (especially its holy days) has many Pagan overtones. One of the first things people need to be aware of is that, before Christianity, the world was predominantly pagan in its beliefs. People worshipped many deities that served many purposes. With the advent of Judaism, there was a slight shift towards monotheism; however, many peoples were still living in smaller groups, subsisting off the land around them, hence the need to pray to a rain god, or a sun god.

With Constantine’s decision to unite his subjects under one religion, he was very careful to cover all his bases. He did not want to cause public unrest or upset by taking away their beliefs wholly, but let them blend. Of course, as time went on, Church doctrine became more and more strict. In this, the Church tried to create holidays that would distract the populace from the older, more pagan celebrations. The celebration of the fertility goddess Ester became the holiday Easter—a celebration of the “day” Jesus rose from the dead. All Saints Day is reminiscent of the old Greek and Roman tradition of celebrating the “unknown god.” And the most important Christian holiday, Christmas, was once a Roman celebration (I cannot recall the name of it) where people would indulge themselves in pleasures of the flesh and life. Never mind that there is no historical basis for Jesus being born in winter (the Palestinian winters are very cold—shepherds, kings, etc., would not have been out in the fields).

Another oddly pagan remnant in the Christian church is the existence of relics—material artifacts that oftentimes came from the very body of a saint (or, rather, claimed to be). Anything dealing with the body (especially pieces of it) is wholly pagan, whereas the body was never given much thought in Christian doctrine—the soul/ spirit was what was important. But still, people visit these relics and feel a sense of faith from them.

I believe, despite some ideas being pagan, people can relate to them more easily than lofty, untouchable concepts.

No comments: