The Pagan-Christian Crossover
My fellow Pagan, blogger, and social media junkie Kimberly over at Gypsey’s Treasures recently blogged an exploration of the crossover that Pagans often observe occurring in the Christian religious community.
I am finding more and more self-professed Christians (meaning they have openly said it in their bios, ‘about me’ pages, comments, tweets, etc.) out there using esoteric methods in their every day life and in their businesses. These methods include Numerology, Oracle/Tarot cards, Astrology, iChing, Feng Shui, Runes, Palm reading … and, yes, even consulting psychics or clairvoyants. Don’t get me wrong! I am all for this shift. However, I do question some people’s authenticity or sincerity — I told you! I’m jaded. Actually, it’s hard not to when you are in several DIFFERENT circles with these said people and you see what they post. This is what makes me question certain people.
It got me thinking (always a dangerous thing).
Early Christianity developed during the Roman Empire in an environment of mystery religions, the Roman imperial cult, Neoplatonism, tribal religions. In other words, paganism, which influenced the development of Christianity into the Early Middle Ages along with Germanic and Celtic paganism and other forms of folk religions. Many Christians and Pagans recognize the pagan roots of Christian holidays such as Easter and Christmas. This is why Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate them.
Christianity and paganism have always been inextricably linked. Christians have always practiced or dabbled in various forms of magic and esoteric practices whether it is miracles, divination, folk magic, or something else just wrapped up as superstition or tradition. Some Christians make no qualms of hiding it though they might not admit it such as Roman Catholics and their miracles, exorcisms, devotion to saints, and transubstantiation; or Pentecostals and their speaking in tongues and prophesying. In the last year, we’ve seen at least one American Christian Right-Wing group openly engage in spiritual warfare.
Eastern practices like I Ching, feng shui, and yoga have been largely stripped of their spiritual origins for consumption in the West. For most people, astrology equals the horoscope, a fun and silly, little, daily prediction. You don’t really take that seriously, do you? (For the record, I do believe in astrology, but there’s a lot more to it than magazine horoscopes.)
I don’t think the Christian problem with Paganism has been over magic and esoteric practices; I think it’s over monotheism versus polytheism and the desire to dominate. And the problem with witches was simply women.
So am I bothered by Christians who poo-poo us and then engage in pagan practices. No, but I used to be.
I’ve noticed different phases in the path of Paganism. They come at different times for different people. Some folks linger longer in one phase longer than another. Some we experience simultaneously and some we may never experience at all. But it’s a generalization that I find helpful. I think there are three in particular that are relevant to this discussion.
The Search. This phase is an early one, but it’s one most Pagans probably never move out of. In its earliest form, for those of us not raised Pagan, it’s where we find ourselves disconnected from the dominant religion or the one we were raised in, and search for something else. Once we come home to Paganism, we never really stop searching though the kind of search changes, and becomes about expanding our knowledge and experience.
Anger/Healing. This is the phase where Pagans, particularly young Pagans and those new to the path, fall into the trap of a mythic history that tells us stories of matriarchal societies conquered by violent mountain men, Medieval witch cults, and Burning Times – stories that are important to Pagan, especially Wiccan, identity, but are just that, stories and ones that have been long debunked. These myths make Pagans angry and often afraid. They resonate all the more with people who have been marginalized, have been victims of discrimination or abuse, or live in places where Christian conservatism dominates in frightening ways. Some Pagans will find healing in separatist spaces, education, or a loving community.
I think Anger/Healing is continuous, but it changes. I was once in that space where I was angry and blamed the patriarchy and Christianity for all the ills and oppression in the world. Ok, I still blame the patriarchy, but my anger is no longer raging, undefined, or lacking containment. I have a good grasp of contemporary Pagan history and my focus now is on education, magickal work, and activism.
Goddessitis. I need to come up with a male equivalent to this term that has a good ring to it. For now, men are included in this word that rings of disease and that refers to hubris in a Pagan that leads to arguments over authenticity, belittling of Pagans viewed as lesser (i.e. “fluffy bunnies”), and a general bad attitude that is hurtful, divisive, and, in extreme cases, abusive. I’ve been here too not about so-called fluffy bunnies, but over those who blend Paganism with Christianity and identify as Christo-Pagans, Christian Witches, and so forth.
So, I used to be bothered by a lot of things. I still get peeved from time to time, but I let go quickly because I’m reminded me that there are some very real threats to my safety and security not just as a Pagan, but as a woman in America. Here’s what really bothers me:
- unexamined privilege
- political efforts to take away my rights and those of my fellow Americans
- maintaining a status quo that keeps us unequal and people oppressed
Does Christianity play a role in oppression? Unequivocally and it rears its head in ugly and illogical ways. For example, Australia is largely a secular state with an unmarried, female Prime Minister who is an atheist (can you imagine that in the U.S.?). Yet Julia Gillard opposes gay marriage. On the basis of what? Her conservative upbringing. But Christianity also plays a role in liberation and that shouldn’t be ignored.
You want to believe in the healing power of angels while you worship Zeus and Hera? That’s fine with me. You want to worship Jesus and the Goddess and call yourself a Christian Wiccan? That’s fine with me. You want to be Christian, hang snake skins on the fence to keep the Devil away, and visit your tarot reader over the weekend? That’s fine with me too. I’m not going to call you on any of it (though I may have some questions).
You want to pass legislation to keep marriage between a man and a woman? So that constitutional protection only extends to Christians? To prevent me from getting an abortion or birth control? Now, that’s not okay. I got something to say about that.