Monday, April 21, 2008

Blending pagan and christian elements

The blending of religions has been happening since the beginning of religion. All religions have similarities and this includes pagan elements. The word pagan has many definitions and is mostly thought of as something evil or devil worship. In fact there are many different meanings to the word and it is difficult for those in the religious, academic, and anthropological fields to agree on one meaning of the word. One vague meaning that is agreed on is that it is any religion that does not believe that there is one true God. Christianity is a well known religious nemesis of pagan practices, and it is because of Christians that the word is often used as a negative. However, many pagan elements have made it into Christian practices and because of this it brings them into Christian art. Offerings, prayers, holidays, weddings, funerals, etc. all have elements of paganism. Offerings and prayers to the gods is a pagan act, the difference is we use them in the Christian religion to worship one God. Christian holidays were pagan holidays in their beginning. Pagans worshipped the natural calendar of the earth, which is ultimately the different seasons. The Christian leaders at the time found this sacrilegious and tried to eliminate them. This did not go over well and the people did not want to lose the rituals they found to be important. So in an effort to Christianize these celebrations we have current holidays like Christmas and Easter. Which have incorporated pagan elements such as the use of robes, the ritualistic lighting of candles, singing, and banqueting. One other act the Christians considered pagan was drunkenness, while this is still frowned upon by Christians, we associate drinking with holidays like Christmas. A lot of the rituals participated in now originally began with “pagan” rituals, that through force of habit are still being carried out today. The advantages of making pagan customs a part of Christian customs is that it made conversion from one to the other easier; the people didn’t feel like they were completely giving up their beliefs. Now we don’t even think about the origin of our religious customs and we recognize them only as Christian. (FYI : when doing research for my paper I came across the book Pagan Survivals, Superstitions, and Popular Cultures by Bernadette Filotas, which is where I got a lot of my information. Very interesting subject and this book covers a lot!)

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