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In terms of our current century, Hollywood hasn't helped us much, either. Sick, twisted individuals who worship evil have always existed, and sadly, I'm afraid they will for a very long time to come. They pervert Christian cross by inverting it, and sometimes, they invert our sacred symbol, pentagram, as well. Hollywood directors just can't seem to get it right, though. They consistently show evil ceremonies prominently displaying pentagram right side up.
When pentagram is displayed properly, symbolism is that of a man standing upright within a circle, meaning uprightness and spirit over flesh. In other traditions, five points represent four elements (fire, air, earth, water) surmounted by aether – or spirit. In any case, spirit is on top. Needless to say, symbolism of an inverted pentagram is obscene to us, just as symbolism of an inverted cross is obscene to you if you are a Christian. Because most Christians have seen movies in which evil ceremonies were presided over by an upright pentagram, they are upset and frightened when they meet a Wiccan wearing one. That's understandable enough, but it should be corrected by education.
Other reasons for fear again date back to medieval times. The reasons have mostly been forgotten, but fear remains. During medieval times, life was unpleasant. In fact, it was downright horrible for peasants. Christianity taught peasants that it didn't matter, that material world was to be shunned in favor of a reward in Christian Heaven. Wiccans did not, and do not, agree. I can still remember my first teacher telling me that it would be difficult to cultivate my spiritual nature until at least my basic physical needs - as in food, shelter, warmth - were met. We are taught that achieving success at another's expense is wrong (remember we are permitted to harm none!), but success in itself is actually a virtue. In medieval times, daring to hope and work for success was dangerous thinking. It might even have led to a collapse of feudalism. So Christian hatred of that tenet of Wicca was one part envy, one part fear.
Another envy/fear combination had to do with fact that Wicca is fun. The Old Religion is filled with laughter and playfulness. Our ceremonies are wonderful parties, full of happy tipsiness and flirtation. By comparison, medieval Christian practices were rather grim. Somehow, Christians who were trying to convert us had to convince us that slipping off into woods for a bonfire and a roaring good time wasn't such a good idea. Do what they would, though, they couldn't get us to give up our fun. Quite logically under circumstances, they "borrowed" from us. The use of song and chants in ritual (although why church couldn’t manage happy song, I can’t say), incense (borrowed from Mithraic ritual)– even some actual elements of ritual itself. You can hear echoes of our cakes and ale ceremony in Christian Communion. Oh, I don't doubt that Jesus of Nazareth had bread and wine during his Last Supper! That's as may be, but I don't think contents of his last meal became a central part of Christian ceremonies until Christianity clashed with Old Religion in Europe.
Where did Jesus get idea in first place? Mithras, who died following a ritual meal of bread and wine? Or cakes and ale of Old Religion? Scary question, isn't it? For record, I believe it was Mithras, as he was secret god of many of Roman troops occupying Palestine at time of Jesus of Nazareth. Nevertheless, enough Roman troops were European “barbarians” that it is just possible that some elements of our faith were known to Jesus himself.
20th Century Christian practices never struck me as being a barrel of laughs, either. Wiccans are still having fun. So there is bound to be some ongoing envy, if not outright fear.
Please do not misunderstand. I am not bashing Christians! Those who practice their faith honestly have no part in this hatred and fanaticism. Most are decent men and women, and I am proud to call many of them my friends. When Rev. Jack Harvey called for a Christian boycott of Armed Forces over this pagan worship controversy, Rev. Pat Robertson had courage to publicly withdraw from boycott and state it was wrong. I refer only to dignified lack of humor in Christian faith as it has been practiced down through centuries. It does not speak to my heart at all.
Also, if I am to be completely honest, I must admit that pagans aren’t completely innocent in dirty tricks department. The so-called Cult of Mary, which existed within Roman Catholicism for so many centuries, was actually a secret form of “safe” Goddess worship.
I wonder how many Christians know how many of their holidays were originally ours?
Samhain, our New Year celebration, when walls between worlds are at their thinnest and our beloved dead walk and feast among us, became Christian All Hallows or Halloween. One ceremony used by pagans to encourage a rich crop (although not at Samhain, which is after harvest) was sweeping of brooms over planted fields. To early Christians watching from a distance, it must have looked like witches were riding on brooms or trying to do so. Since Samhain was known to be witches’ most important holiday, witches riding on broomsticks became symbol of Halloween. Not so surprising at all.
Yule, or winter solstice, when we celebrate birth of Sun God to Mother Earth and Father Time, was borrowed for birthday of Christian Jesus. Most Christian scholars agree that Jesus was actually born in spring. The Yule log, tree, and even Nativity Crèche were originally pagan customs. If you have Wiccan friends, and you thought they were only protecting themselves by displaying a Nativity Crèche at Christmas, you were wrong. We had Nativity Crèches long before you came along to convert us!
Imbolc, our festival of light, when we celebrate start of Mother's return to us, along with birth of new lambs and flowers awakening under snow, became Christian Candlemas.
Beltane, our famous (and infamous) fertility celebration when we leap bonfires in joy at arrival of summer, became May Day, famous for playful fertility celebrations throughout Christian world.
Lammas, or August 1st, when we celebrate fruitfulness of land - well, how many Christians have celebrated rich harvest to come down through centuries?
There are many, many more examples of "borrowing."
And therein lies real root of problem.
The thing a few fanatical Christians fear most of all is being forced to admit our kinship, because after nearly 2,000 years of borrowing, we aren’t so very different anymore.
At a tiny 5'1", Kathryn A. Graham is a licensed private investigator, pilot, aircraft mechanic and handgun instructor in Texas. Also a prolific author, she has written numerous articles, short stories and a science fiction novel. http://www.kathrynagraham.com/