Tag Archives: paganism

The Militant Monotheistic Religions, Christianity and Islam, And How They Dealt With Paganism

A History of Pagan Europe by Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick

Excerpt from Chapter 11 – Paganism Reaffirmed (p196)

The High Medieval period (950-1350) saw the militant monotheistic religions, Christianity and Islam, imposing their influence on the rulers of Europe, so that the official religions of the emerging kingdoms and empires became monotheistic and in practice androtheistic, referring to their supreme deity only in the masculine gender. 

We have also seen Pagan practices and beliefs continuing here and there, unnoticed by official sanctions, and also being incorporated into Christian practice as this developed. In that sense the Pagan outlook and deities remained, shaped in the form of Christian society which overlay them, and were available as a living tradition to be recognised and reclaimed by later investigators in an age of independent thought.

In Islamic areas of Europe, the situation was different. Islamic doctrine did not compromise with Pagan values (indeed, the famous Satanic Verses of the Koran were almost immediately repudiated by Mohammed as an attempt by the Devil to incorporate the three goddesses of Mecca in the celestial hierarchy), and Islam remained militantly anti-polytheist.

Get the book: 

http://astore.amazon.com/thenorgro-20/detail/0415158044

————————–——————————————-

My commentary:

Right on, this book tells it like it is! Yes, Christianity was militant… BUT it made a lot of accommodations for paganism that Islam did not. 

There is this myth that Islam was in a golden era during the Middle Ages while Christianity caused Europe to rot. This myth paints Islam as this beautiful, peaceful religion of enlightenment and tolerance, while Europe, saddled with Christianity, is depressing, ignorant, intolerant, and lost in a fog of darkness. It’s not that simple.

As many scholars in their papers, books, and documentaries are showing, there was a lot of intellectual work going on in Europe during the so called Dark Ages. Yes, Islam did preserve a lot of Greco-Roman knowledge and were especially good with mathematics. Bravo, Islam, you get a cookie. But they fervently attacked native neighboring religions with gusto from day one, and continue to do so now.

Was Christianity perfect? Nope. But if it’s a contest on which religion is the biggest asshole…. Islam wins hands down.  Don’t get me wrong, they were both assholes. But, Islam takes the cake.

No more false histories and misrepresentations, please. Stick with the truth, even if you have to play hardball. People cling to what they’ve been told and what they want to believe.

 

Advertisements

The Sorceress – Film Review

ImageThis subtitled French film is about a “forest woman” in a remote rural medieval village. She uses her knowledge of plants to act as a healer. Villagers come to her for her knowledge of herbs to heal sickness.  She also has some “tricks” up her sleeve in terms of cures that are more for placebo affect.  So of course, when the Catholic Church sends a new priest to the village, he accuses her of witchcraft.

The priest is depicted fairly in this film. Rather than a purely evil figure, he does try to wrap his head around what’s going on. He’s from a more urban, and his mind a more forward thinking, town.  So these rural villagers and their folkways appear backwards and superstitious.  But, the priest sees practices that just do not jive with Church teachings and the forest woman finds herself in a prison cell.

The film is interesting because theories about pagan superstitions are explored through the dialogue between the accused witch and the priest. Also, many occurrences that are known to have happened are depicted, such as the priest ordering a sacred tree to be chopped down and destroyed (this is documented to have happened all over Europe, and even in Mediterranean areas).

I really enjoyed this film and highly recommend it. Anyone interested in Medieval history and pre-Christian folkways will enjoy this film. The entire film can be viewed online for free on YouTube!  We’ve also added the DVD to our shop 🙂

~ Aelfwynne ~

Baltic Religion Today *Free ebook* – Book Review

Image

Stylized ‘World Tree’ or Austras Koks (Tree of Twilight). The most used symbol of Romuva

Some Background:

Baltic Religion Today is quite possibly the only book about Baltic indigenous religion available in English today. It is written by Jonas Trinkūnas, who is one of the founders of the Lithuanian traditional pagan revival movement, known as Romuva. The religion takes its name from an old pagan temple that existed in Old Prussia.  The temple was destroyed by conquering Christian Teutonic Knights (the conversion of Europe was discussed in our last blog).

The Prussians were neighbors to the Lithuanians, and each region of the Baltic have languages and traditions that differ slightly. But, they obviously share a strong cultural heritage.  Lithuanian Romuva is the Baltic tradition with the most information available in English (which is still very little!), and being that the Balts are nestled between the Germans, Norse, Finns, and Slavs, anybody with a serious interest in Northern European pre-Christian religion would do well to learn about the region and religion.

About the Book:

ImageThere is currently very little available in English about Romuva. The English language market for Baltic pagan studies is a veritable dearth when compared with other reconstructionist movements such as Asatru, or modern neo-pagan religions like Wicca. So this book is literally a must have for anyone interested in Lithuanian and Baltic paganism.

Baltic Religion Today explains everything a beginner needs to know about Romuva. Starting with a short overview and background on the history, to tenets of belief, overview of the Baltic Deities, holidays, and the concept of Darna (Harmony).

Romuva is a truly beautiful, nature based religion. It focuses on being in tune with nature and one’s own inner harmony. For that reason, this book is HIGHLY recommended for ALL pagans, not just those on the Baltic Path, as well as anyone with an interest in spirituality in general. The concepts expressed in Romuva will deepen anyone’s understanding of the Earth and our place in it. As well as help us on our personal journeys to establish our own inner harmony.

It appears that this book was meant to be freely available as it is available for free download from the official Romuva website, which I believe is run by the author.

Follow the links above or click on the image of the book to download it for free. Also I have added a section on the Baltic to our book shop. Happy reading!

~ Aelfwynne ~

Clearing Up Confusion About the Conversion of Europe

Image

Cross of the Celts by Mad1Dave on Deviant Art

When people speak about conversion from the Old Religion to Christianity in Europe, they tend to use universal terms, as if it happened the same everywhere all at once. It didn’t.

There are a lot of generalizations and blatant falsities put forth from many different angles. Many Christians insist that conversion happened peacefully and voluntarily.  Many modern Pagans insist that all of conversion was bloody and forced.

What we need to remember is that the conversion of Europe occurred in a time span of over one thousand years.  The process happened differently in different areas.

Since this blog focuses on Northern Europe, defined by me as the area stretching from the British Isles to Russia, barring countries speaking a Romance language (sorry, France), I will not go into the very early Church in the Middle East and Mediterranean.

The Celts:

The  area where the biggest misunderstanding seems to lie is with the Celts who were the earliest converts outside of the Mediterranean. Wiccans, who tend to cling to Celtic culture and claim to follow a form of Celtic paganism, are often the worst offenders of spreading false history.  Sadly for them, the Celts were one group in Northern Europe who converted by and large peacefully and voluntarily.

Because they converted so early, very little is known about what Celtic pagans actually believed and practiced.  Since the Church arrived early in Ireland in the 5th century, they were the minority and therefor  had to tread lightly, and this conversion happened organically and willingly (much to the chagrin of  Wiccan writers who have been reading garbage by unqualified writers who don’t fact check).

There was no Druid slaughter by Christians. That is a myth. The Druids are thought to have blended into the Celtic Christian priesthood.  One reason for the confusion is that the Romans DID slaughter druids. But this was simply due to the fact that they were a political threat. It had nothing to do with religion. In fact, this slaughter occurred nearly 300 years prior to the conversion of Rome! It’s called the Menai Massacre, and it is the only known large scale slaughter of druids.

Also, Saint Patrick was NOT a slayer of druids. Please read this blog by The Wild Hunt and this one by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, a Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan and scholar for more information on this rumor.

Druids by Alex Martinez on Deviant Art

The Anglo-Saxons:

The area that became England was home to many Christians when they were occupied by Rome. At this point in time, Christians and pagans lived side by side. It was actually a very diverse religions environment, where people practiced both Roman, Celtic, and a hybrid version of paganism called Roman-Gallo paganism.  When the Romans left Britain, Christianity faded away with the influx of the pagan Anglo-Saxons early in the 5th century.

Replica of the Anglo-Saxon helmet found in the Sutton Hoo burial site.

Replica of the Anglo-Saxon helmet found in the Sutton Hoo burial site.

The Church did make huge missionary efforts to convert the Anglo-Saxons. Again this was very early (tail end of the 6th through the 7th centuries) and was a complicated process. At this point in time, virtually all Germanic people were still pagan (barring the Franks who had been long Romanized by now and no longer retained their Germanic language, religion, or identity). However, France had converted to Christianity one hundred years prior under the Frankish Merovingian king Clovis I, in the year 496 A.D. Between the French to the East and Celts to the North joining up with the Roman Church, the reach of Christian political military and political power was now stretching further out of the Mediterranean. So, it appears this is the point where political pressure began to be a true factor in the conversion of the Kings and people of Northern Europe.

However, Anglo-Saxon conversion still happened very gradually. Their kings were not known for using violence to forcibly convert their people. And there were many tug-of-wars when a Christian king’s pagan son inherited the throne. The common people retained their pagan customs for many years, as is so famously lamented by the Venerable Bede. The Anglo-Saxon retained a lot of their pre-Christian culture even after they were by and large fully converted. It was really when the asshole NORMANS came in with their stricter version of Christianity when the Germanic systems of fairness in rule of law became oppressed by the choke hold of Norman rule.

A wonderful fiction novel, but one that was meticulously researched, about the old religion of the Anglo-Saxons and their conversion is The Way of Wyrd by Brian Bates.

Charlemagne’s Epic Battle Against the Valiant Pagan Saxon King Widukind:

Saxon Shields by Endakil on Deviant Art

Saxon Shields by Endakil on Deviant Art

Ok, so along comes Charlemagne in France. Just as his predecessor Clovis converted to Christianity and united the Franks, the Christian Charlemagne sought to unite the German tribes and used forced conversion as a tool. He was one of the first rulers actually use forced conversion en masse.

HOWEVER, it should noted that Charlemagne was defending Europe from onslaughts of Muslim invaders from the South (ever heard of the Reconquista? the reclaiming of Spain?). In case you haven’t noticed, uniting pagans is like herding cats. The Germanic tribes were fiercely independent and more prone to tribal raiding for land and goods than large scale war. I believe Charlemagne used Christianity as a way to unite Europe under one banner to keep the Muslims from conquering Europe.

(The Crusades are another story, but that’s another false history that the Christians were to blame. The Crusades started as a response to Muslim invasions, that had a long history. Vlad the impaler is another “hero” who kept the Muslim invaders from getting in through Southeastern Europe.)

Ahem. That said, Charlemagne is responsible for the conversion of the Saxons. The brave pagan Saxon king Widukind (who’s name means Forest Child, how perfect is that) fought against Charlemagne for years in what is known as The Saxon Wars. He was finally forced to surrender to save his people from slaughter, and his conversion was a self sacrifice to protect his people.

The Norse: 

On to the Norse. King Olaf converted as a political move in the year 995, because by now most of Europe had gone over. Olaf was an asshole. He brutally forced his people to convert or die. It was Olaf who slaughtered the Volvas and Norse pagan priesthood or “wise people.”

There’s not a heck of a lot more to say on that. Other than that the things people think happened with the Celts, actually DID happen with the Norse. It was a vile and bloody forced conversion and their religious leaders and “sorcerers” who were sort of equivalent to Druids were slaughtered by Christians. Sorry Celts, the Norse win the prize!

Sejdmen

King Olaf Trygvasson had seidmen tied up and thrown on a skerry at ebb.

The Balts and Slavs – Crusades in Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe:

The Teutonic Crusades, also called Northern Crusades, Baltic Crusades, and the Wendish crusades occurred a few centuries later. By now the Germans and Norse had been completely assimilated by the Borg (I mean Church) and were used as fighting-bots to go out and slaughter remaining pagans. This is how the Balts became Christianized, and in the case of some of them, especially the Prussians, this is even considered by many to be a genocide. The Wendish crusades were against the Slavs, I believe Poland and nearby areas.

Lithuania held out very long, until the late 15th century, when the now Christian king of Poland waged war on them. You will notice a pattern here.  Forcibly convert a people, assimilate them into the machine. Then send them off to assimilate their neighbors. That’s how the Borg, I mean the Church, worked.

the-northern-crusades

Destruction of the Baltic Pagan Temples by the Christian Teutonic Knights

The Last Holdouts – the ones that hardly anybody even knows about:

Saami Shaman Spirit Drum

Saami Shaman Spirit Drum

After that the main pagans left were the Saami in the tippy top of Scandinavia, a Finno-Ugric people, who were still pagan as late as the 18th and 19th century. It was the Lutherans who went out of their way to go after the Saami, and their tactics were remarkably similar to how Christians in America assimilated Native Americans and attempted to make them lose their languages and native religions.

The Mari El in Russia have an unbroken line of pagan tradition. Probably due to their remote location, they were left alone more than other groups, however they still faced many periods of persecution. They are still pagan today (although many are Christian, the pagans still thrive).

In Conclusion:

So, there we have it.  As you can see, conversion was a long and widely varying process.  Anyone who speaks of it in sweeping generalities simply demonstrates that they don’t actually know much about it!

We’re building our section for pagan scholarship and reliable history in our shop.  So please give it a gander. Books covering the conversion have also been added 🙂

~ Post by Aelfwynne ~

Comments on “Ten Things You Might Not Know About Christmas” by Addicting Info

All in all this article is pretty good. I support all efforts to resurrect Olde Yule, and get to the roots of many of our holiday traditions.  There are just a couple of items mentioned here, though, that I would like to address.

Influences that preceded Santa:

409px-Georg_von_Rosen_-_Oden_som_vandringsman,_1886_(Odin,_the_Wanderer)One great point in the article is something I have been saying right along, that Santa is an amalgam of many influences – BUT he is not simply Odin repackaged like a lot of Asatru bloggers keep saying.  There seems little doubt that the white bearded Odin/Woden/Wotin who flew through the air on his magical horse to participate in the Wild Hunt at Yuletide was certainly a major influence. However, there are many other influences to consider. The archetype of the wise man, magician, sorcerer was prevalent in Northern European society from Britain to Russia. Certainly Odin is a part of this tradition, as he is known as the Wanderer in pointed wide-brimmed hat, tattered robes, often carrying a staff or walking stick. He is associated with magic, bringing us the Runes and he is said to have learned the Norse magical tradition called “Seidr” from Freyja.

ded_moroz_by_brzoza77-d35np1hHowever, the image of the mage, the wise sage who is a wielder of magic is seen elsewhere in Europe.  Think Merlin, Taliesin, and Finnish sorcerers/wizards which are so common in old Finnish folklore.

Shamanic influences are also strongly theorized to be an influence on Santa. The Finnish wizards were affiliated with Finno-Ugric shamanic tradition.  Another FInno-Ugric group with a strong shamanic tradition are the Saami.  Their shamans were known to eat the red and white fly agaric costume and then journey to the spirit world aided by the beating of their drums. These drums were often adorned with jingle bells.

Other figures across Europe follow this same pattern of being influenced by “the wandering sorcerer” archetype. Ded Moroz is one such Christmas figure from Russia (pictured above). And the English Father Christmas is another (pictured below).  I do understand that other internet writers aren’t as well versed in European folklore, so they don’t mean to be dismissive of other cultures. But, I personally feel it is disrespectful to other Northern European cultures whose traditions have  a legitimate influence on Santa Claus to leave them out.

father-christmas

Saints were usually made up by monks to dissolve cults to local deities:

Another point of contention I have with the “influences” of Santa mentioned in the article, and this is no fault of the author as it is the common theory espoused about the “history” of Santa, is Saint Nicholas.

Now, a bit of nerdy Medieval explanation is necessary. When one is a student of Medieval Studies, one becomes familiar with a genre of writing not well known by the general public: hagiography.  Hagiography is a genre of literature dealing specifically with saints’ lives. However, it differs from biography because hagiographies were written with an agenda to spread the Catholic cult of saints. They were very popular during periods of conversion, when the church targeted locally venerated deities and attempted to replace them with Christian saints.  One such swap out is very well known – goddess Brigid to Saint Brigid.

StbrigidIn their campaign to build up the saint while diminishing the god, hagiographers literally made shit up.  Straight up inventions based on nothing but the imagination of the writer.  They bullshitted their way through it. Sometimes a real figure could be used as a model, and then merged with the god they were trying to erase.  But the lives were typically completely contrived, and all manner of miracles and benevolent acts were ascribed to the newly invented saint.

Therefore, it is my strong opinion that the Saint Nicolas theory is but more bunk that was put round by the Church to distract people from their traditional Christmas figures.  Many local Yuletide characters were unsavory to the church.  Italy’s Befana is a witch, and Germany’s Krampus is a creepy goat-man with likely roots as a Pan-like agrarian deity, just to give two examples! There may well have been one or more real life men who the story of Saint Nick was based on. But, more than likely, the story was purposefully devised to replace and distract people from Odin and the other figures mentioned above.

** Edit – Someone made a comment on Facebook that “the author is downplaying the real Saint Nicholas.”   Ahem. In helping a friend find scholarly sources for Valentines Day, I was reminded that it was yet another holiday rooted in a pagan past; the old Roman Lupercalia.  Saint Valentine was grafted on to the holiday in the SAME way as St. Brigid became the patron saint of Candlemas, which was formerly Goddess Brigid’s Imbolc.  If you don’t see a pattern here and want to continue to believe the tale of “real” Saint Nicholas, you go right ahead.**

Santa’s reindeer are not based on a horse. They are based on, erm, reindeer:

Corrected_Sapmi_in_Europe (1)Another point of contention is the assertion that Santa’s reindeer are based on Odin’s magical horse Sleipnir.  As explained above, the bearded magic man flying through the air at Yule does have connections to Odin and his flying horse.  However, the reindeer are more than likely inspired by the Saami reindeer herders.

Although the Saami are largely unknown by the general American public today, they were referenced quite often in writings of the 19th century when the American version of Christmas as we know it today was formed.  Back then they were referred to as Lapps, and they were of great interest to folklorists and travel writers to whom “Lapland” was an exotic and fascinating foreign location.

Reindeer herding has been a traditional livelihood of the Saami for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  The Saami live at the tippy top of Scandinavia reaching from Norway and Sweden to Finland and over to Russia. Most of this area is considered Arctic, and it is virtually undeniable that the Saami in Lapland (Sapmi is the politically correct term for this region today) were a huge influence on our image of “The North Pole.”

shoe17

The Saami tie to Santa’s reindeer goes beyond simply the coincidence of them being affiliated with reindeer in the North Pole. As mentioned above, Saami shaman used the fly agaric mushroom to spirit travel.  Well, as we would have it, the Saami reindeer herders did as well. According to folklore and historical sources, the Saami herders would watch when their reindeer rooted out the mushrooms from beneath the snow. After the reindeer ate the shrooms, the herders would collect their urine and drink it to “fly” themselves.  And there you have it: flying reindeer. This is pretty straightforward and difficult to debate. Sorry, Sleipnir! Not that I don’t love you and your eight legs or anything, but I’m not going to make up a tenuous connection just to pander to what people want to read! Especially when the truth is equally cool! If you don’t believe me, maybe BBC can explain it to you:

Fly agaric was a super uber common motif in German, Norse, and Finnish Christmas, which in all likelihood is a hold over from old Yule  All you have to do is Google it and you will find numerous images like the one below which clearly demonstrate how Santa got his red and white suit (Sorry, Odin! No rags for Santa!):

fly_agaric_childrens_holiday_card_lg

** Quick edit with massive EYE ROLL and condescending sigh.  Yes, Coca-Cola made today’s image of Santa famous. Duh. We all know that. But this article is more about addressing the information given by the other article referenced at the top than an exhaustive meticulous history of American Christmas. However to address some comments made on Facebook… ahem, do you think the artists working for Coke lived in a vacuum?  Obviously they lived in the same culture as everyone else and were exposed to the same culturally pervasive motifs and imagery that were common to the time. As I said above, the fly agaric mushroom was a popular Christmas symbol and that pre-dated modern images of Santa.  Coke’s artists, just like everyone else at the time would have seen these everywhere. So when they were choosing colors for his outfit, there could be little question as to whether these images played a large role in their inspiration.**

Christmas Caroling began in Pagan Europe, not in the Christian 15th Century:

One last thing to mention. The article mentions Christmas “songs” going back to the 4th century in a Christian context, and that carols originated in the 15th century.  Again, no blame on the author as this information is very hidden and not well known. But Christmas caroling is a VERY pagan tradition!  It is yet another indigenous European pre-Christian custom that the Church literally rallied and launched campaigns against.  They finally decided to try to wipe out the pagan custom by replacing it with a Christian one, the same tactic mentioned above with the saints. Please read this article which explains it in detail: The Hidden History of Christmas Carols. 

winter solsticeAnd there we have it. ~ Aelfie

Please check out our section for Pagan roots of modern holidays in our shop. I will be developing and adding more great resources and recommendations to it 🙂

CW’s “Reign” Misrepresenting Pagans

It may surprise some people to know that I have been enjoying CW’s new series “Reign.” It’s a historical (I use that term lightly) drama about the life of Mary Queen of Scots. Although false history is usually a pet peeve of mine, it was obvious from the get-go that this was not going to be a scrupulously accurate re-telling of history. So, I took it with a grain of salt and just enjoyed the drama, the foofy dresses, and looked forward to it as nothing more than light-hearted (and not very well-written) entertainment. A guilty pleasure, if you will.

But, then they started messing with Pagans. And now Aelfie is a little peeved. (Yes, sometimes Aelfwynne likes to speak in the third person.)

*edit* Shouldn’t have to pander to crusty old fuddy duddy haters. But I will clarify, as if that wasn’t clear enough, that the reason the lack of historical accuracy wasn’t bugging me is because the show is so OBVIOUSLY not even TRYING.  If it was playing itself off as a true representation, then the inaccuracies would be insulting. But, it isn’t.  It’s not pretending to be something that it’s not. Therefore, I look at it as a form of mindless entertainment to “zone out to” after a long day. We all have them. End of disclaimer. *

ImageAny series needs conflict, and therefore a nemesis. This series started by using the English as the “bad guys.”  Ok, that makes sense considering the period and history of Queen Mary of Scots.  Then there was court intrigue, double agents, hidden agendas, the usual thing you imagine in a late Medieval court. But, apparently when that got old, the writers decided to fall back on the old “demonize the pagans” trick.

That the series’ writers would have no interest in historical accuracy was demonstrated from the first episode. They certainly make no effort what so ever to get their costumes remotely period accurate!  So, I wasn’t really surprised to see Pagans depicted inaccurately. But, what did surprise me as the viciousness with which Pagans are attacked in their representation.

Reign writers would have us believe that the 16th century saw rogue bands of pagans committing “Heathen” human sacrifice in the woods, using their own symbol rendered as a pewter stag’s head pendant left as a “calling card” to identify their next victim, the pendant is “dipped in poisonous oil” in order to burn an imprint of the stag on the skin of the targeted victim, and then terrorizing said victim by hanging a still bleeding head of an actual stag above the bed of said victim Godfather style.  Apparently Early Modern Pagans were masters of “the Sicilian message!”

Image

And, it’s not just the way the Pagans are depicted in the show that is so outrageous. It’s the way they are discussed.  The word “Heathen” is spewed forth with disgust.  They are discussed by the shows protagonists as if they are the most morally reprobate people on the face of the Earth and referred to as “savages.”

Did “Heathens” perform human sacrifice? Yes. But, did they during this period? Unlikely. Most of Europe, and certainly Western, Central, and Northern Europe was long converted by this time (barring the Saami in the remote far North).  Many modern neo-Pagans like to fantasize about witch trials being a purging of Paganism. But, the truth is the surviving remnants of paganism in the 16th century were usually folk beliefs.  In fact, “folk religion” is a term used to describe the fusion of old beliefs with new. Usually, practitioners are completely unaware that their traditions are, in fact, pagan.  They usually view themselves purely through a Christian lens.  (This obviously didn’t save them from the flames of the stake, but that’s another story). So, the witch trials were a purging of Paganism, but not in the way that they’re thinking of it.  There may have been pockets of agrarian “witch cults” surviving in secret. But the evidence is not yet overwhelming.

Secondly, we know that the practice of human sacrifice often involved the killing of prisoners of war and criminals.  In other words, people who typically would be executed anyway.  They just happened to prescribe a religious meaning to their executions. There are some very unpleasant accounts of Celtic human sacrifice by flame. But, this was during late Antiquity, and we can’t be certain how much of the account was exaggerated for the sake of propaganda. (Although it has been pointed out there are separate accounts which corroborate each other).

However, let us not forget to point out that the Ancient, Medieval, and Early Modern worlds were violent times! Abhorrent violence and killing was also committed under the Christian banner, even by groups who seem quite mild mannered today such as the Lutherans.

Image

Now, I’m not the type of person to falsify history to make our religion more palatable to a modern audience.  But, the fact of the matter is that Paganism is not well understood by the general public today.  There is still much discrimination against Pagans, especially in areas like the “Bible Belt.”  There is still a mistaken belief that Pagans are Satan worshiping practitioners of black magic.  And, there is also the annoying assumption that Paganism means Wicca, and that all Pagans identify as “witches.” Sadly, many uninformed neo-Pagans who have no knowledge of the numerous reconstructionist forms of Pagan revival even think that!

So, in a time when we are fighting for equality, fighting for acceptance, and suffer prejudice based on misunderstanding and confusion, it is highly IRRESPONSIBLE of CW and the writers of Reign to be so ridiculously biased in their interpretation of a living modern religion.

If anyone out there knows of a petition floating around demanding that CW apologize for their portrayal of Pagans, please link it in the comments below, and we will share it around on the FB page.  I would link you to their “Contact Us” form, but that part of their website appears to be down.  If anyone would volunteer to create such a petition, it would be much appreciated 🙂

~ Aelfwynne ~

How the “War on Christmas” Made Me a Pagan

I’m going to share something personal with you guys. Maybe you’ve heard Christians give their “testimony” about how they “came to The Lord.” Well this is my story about how I came to discover my own ancestral indigenous religion.

Unlike some of the pagan stereotypes out there, I was never a goth chick, never obsessed with magic or “playing witch.” What I was, simply, was a deep thinker, inquisitive, curious, an avid reader, a history nerd, an animal lover, nature lover, and passionate about the things I care about.

Being raised in the church from birth, I was naturally very gung-ho about it up through my teenage years, and my thirst for knowledge lead me to learn a lot about the Bible and church history. But, there was always a frustration because it was clear from childhood that my Christian peers tended to be very shallow thinkers and I butted heads with them on their hypocrisy and sheer lack of logic. By my late teens and early twenties Christian dogma was just no longer jiving with my own ability to process information and what I knew to be true about the world at large. So I entered a period of what I might call “agnostic spirituality.”

As someone who avidly absorbed myself in history since I was a kid, I always knew about old Yule, and always had an interest in world cultures in general, but also my own cultural heritage which is generally British and Northern/Central European. So one year during the Christmas season, when I heard Bill O’Reilly launch into his “War on Christmas” tirade, something inside of me just snapped!

Now, this was nothing new. I was raised with this rhetoric. But after having been released from the brainwashing for a few years, it just really irritated me to hear this complete and utter bull. I sat there thinking “what about when Christmas warred on Yule?!” How ridiculous and hypocritical to bang on about your holiday being attacked, when your holiday attacked and hijacked another!

YULE_640px

It led me to thinking on how much of Old Yule is still present in our current Christmas traditions. This spawned more and more research, and something inside me just clicked. To get to the truth, you must scratch away the facade. Christianity has been a veneer painted over Europe (and European descendants in the New World) which has separated and hidden us from our roots.

I don’t mean to leave out other ethnic groups because the same is true for many. Other ethnic groups experienced this assimilation and erosion of culture more recently so it is more well known. The attack on indigenous European culture is further back in time and very well hidden. By the time Christianity began assimilating other cultures, it had become ubiquitous with Europeans, so people saw it as “white man’s religion.” We had lost our own tribal and indigenous identities by then.

By emphasizing my ancestral roots, I make no claim on any kind of superiority what so ever. Every person should connect to their ancestral roots, and to all aspects of it if you are of mixed heritage. I do not mean to exclude anyone. But the fact of the matter is that American and European “Christmas” was stolen largely from Germanic Yule. There are many other winter solstice traditions all around the world, and I urge everyone to research solstice traditions from your own heritage, or simply embrace what speaks to you.

Yule has a special place in my heart because it was the moment I had an epiphany. It was my rational and knowledgable side that thought “um, no. Screw you and your fake war on Christmas! And screw your lack of knowledge of history. Screw your hypocrisy. Screw your idiotic lack of conceptual understanding that there was, indeed, a religious holiday preceding yours that your religion usurped and waged war on!” From that moment on I became a shield maiden. No, actually I always was a shield maiden, it’s in my blood! But it activated my inner warrior to stand up for what is good and right, for the truth, and for my heritage. It spurred my entire “Heathen awakening” if you will.

I hope to have the time to post more on Yuletide traditions and history this season, but life has been busy and I have been dealing with serious illness. The Northern Grove FB page will be sure to share informative posts in the upcoming weeks.

~ Aelfwynne ~

PS – UPDATE:

People have been asking where to find info on Yule, and Yule’s influence on Christmas. I’ve added some great books on this to our Amazon shop and created a new section for Heathen/Pagan holidays ! 🙂

pagan christmas

20131112-011337.jpg