Kindling the Fire at Home & in the Community

A is for Abduction

Not in the little grey invaders sense of the word “abduction”, but in the “taken and tried to pawn off as belonging to you” sense of it. It took me awhile to really decide what I wanted to write about when I marinated on an idea for the letter ‘A’, but I was pretty certain that I didn’t want it to be something obvious, like altars or ancestors. I want to talk about something that many Pagans were discussing around Christmas. The abduction of Pagan traditions, holy days and customs by the Christian religion. I know this is going to be a bit of a controversial topic for some, that’s okay. For me, it’s just a fact of life. One that I’m not particularly happy about, but one that I am fully aware of and like to make others aware of. Everything from the story of Christ to the holidays that Christians celebrate can be tied back to Pagan beliefs, traditions & customs that predate anything in the bible.

It’s not so much that I don’t want others to enjoy the same holidays and festivities that we Pagans do, but I would like for those who do put up a “Christmas tree” to know that it was a tradition that Asatru/Norse Pagans observed. They decorated evergreen trees during Yule to remind them of the eternity of Yggdrasil, the world tree. I’d like for those who enjoy “Easter” and all of it’s fanfare to know that eggs and rabbits have no significance in Christianity, but in Pagan beliefs, eggs represent new life, fertility & the coming of Spring. Rabbits represent fertility & are a familiar of Eostre, the Goddess who the holiday Ostara (and consequently Easter) is named after. These are just 2 examples of a long list of Pagan traditions stolen and “Christianized” by the church in an effort to recruit new members of the church. They were adopted to incorporate familiar traditions in a newly forming religion meant to control the masses.

List of Traditions/Customs That Have Pagan Origins

  • The “12 Days of Christmas” is actually Yule, which lasted 12 nights, it begins on Mother’s Night (12/20) and ends on 12th Night.
  • Kissing under mistletoe (due to its association with the death of the Norse God, Baldr, it’s supposed to keep you from the same fate)
  • Burning a yule log
  • Born of a virgin mother or to a mother without the act of sex taking place: Dionysus, Attis, Mithra, Horus, Quetzalcoatl, Krishna
  • Cala lillies used at Christian funerals, interesting twist on a flower that has always been a symbol of birth/life to Pagans.
  • The image of the Christian devil looks suspiciously like the God Pan, who is in fact, not evil.
  • Jumping a broom at a wedding. This originates in Welsh & Romani gypsy traditions & symbolized a wedding union.
  • Tying of hands together at a wedding. This is quite literally a “Handfasting” (Pagan Commitment/Wedding ceremony) symbol.
  • Pendulums used to determine the sex of a baby. Pendulums are divination tools used by Pagans.
  • The exchange of wedding rings.
  • Gift giving during winter festivals (Saturnalia)
  • Birthday celebrations
  • The Goddess Brighid becomes “St. Brighid”
  • The God Bacchus becomes “St. Bacchus”
  • Dressing in scary masks on Oct. 31st
  • Carving pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns
  • Dumb suppers

Sadly, this is only a short list of some of the traditions and customs adopted by Christians. A few examples of some of the things that many people try to rationalize the “borrowing” of for Christianity. Others will flat out deny the origin of these things ever being Pagan and insist that they are exclusive to Christianity, even when given the facts in black & white. It is terribly frustrating to know that people can be so willfully ignorant.

I’m okay with others who want to share customs & traditions if they don’t have any of their own. However, the reason these customs and traditions even exist within the Christian religion is because of the need to appeal to rural Pagans they intended to convert. What better way to draw them in than under the guise of celebrating and believing in much of the very same things? Why is it so difficult for people to come to terms with that part? I don’t get it.

When the whole “war on Christmas” talk started circulating on the internet last Christmas it made me laugh. How absurd, I thought. No one is waging a “war on Christmas” or on Christianity. What had so many people in an uproar was the arrogance and entitlement attitude that many Christians had regarding their flavor of holiday observance deserving protection and recognition under the law. All the while, creating a big controversy if another another faith group asked for the same consideration. People were being accused of “trying to bewitch children”, “taken hold of by the devil” and “sorcery”. Seriously, who uses the word sorcery anymore? This isn’t Harry Potter, kids.

In fact, I read one blog post that sounded like the school yard taunt “neener neener boo boo”. He went on and on about how Christians had stolen the traditions and customs through force (so what, he said) and since they were stronger, there were more of them and they were the most popular, they win. Win what?

No matter how people observe the holidays, customs or traditions they incorporate into their lives, I hope that they know what it is they are celebrating & where they come from. It makes no difference to me if they find the observances of Pagan origin appealing. It actually makes me happy. I just want credit to be given where it is due. I want people to acknowledge that those traditions come from a beautiful origin not of their own, but one they respect and admire enough to want to incorporate into their own traditions. Not for them to deny it, argue about it and make disparaging remarks about Pagans. That is what puts a wedge of intolerance between us. Not the holidays, traditions or customs themselves, but the attitude surrounding them.

The world is big enough for us to share, but don’t fool yourself into believing that my willingness to share means you can claim it as always belonging to you. You can call it “borrowing”, “using”, “re-purposing” or “Christianizing”, but it is still an abduction when you deny it was ever Pagan to begin with.



4 responses

  1. ” I want people to acknowledge that those traditions come from a beautiful origin not of their own, but one they respect and admire enough to want to incorporate into their own traditions.”

    That’s a lovely thought. I don’t see it happening in mainstream Christianity, but it’s a lovely thought, nonetheless 🙂

    I love your take on the ‘A’ topic – very unique!

    March 12, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    • You’re probably right, but a girl can dream. 🙂

      March 12, 2012 at 8:32 pm

  2. Jen

    Love this one! It’s well articulated, and I can agree with every word you’ve written here; this is exactly how I perceive and feel about the Christianization of Pagan holidays. It’s truly willful ignorance for an entire genre of religion to deny the origins of so many of their customs and myths. It is well-known in history that strong cultures have constantly borrowed and stolen from those they view as weaker. There has been no sugar-coating of this fact in the history books, why should mainstream religions feel as if they are exempt from such a common historical practice? It is illogical and naive at best, and willful deception of the congregations at worst.

    March 13, 2012 at 10:15 am

    • Thanks Jen! My intention isn’t to degrade or devalue Christian celebrations, but to point out that many of them are based on Pagan holidays. I just wish more Christians understood/acknowledged that and didn’t degrade or devalue their origins. It seems a bit hypocritical to mock a belief in magic, but say that prayer is answered & valid. Or better yet, to believe that a baby born of a virgin mother was the messiah, but for us to believe in a female deity is absurd. LOL The world is big enough for all of us. Ya know?

      March 17, 2012 at 1:48 am

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