You may have noticed in the last year that I've written a bit about our celebrating some traditional Pagan holidays, namely the wheel of the year (solstices, equinoxes, and the quarter days between them). I've mentioned how we do not find this to be in conflict with our Christianity at all, because we believe that God wants us to understand and respect the Earth that he gave us, and we feel the observing the passage of seasons and the cycles of time is respectful of Him and His creation.
But it goes a bit deeper than that; so I will explain.
When I was in college I was in the play Macbeth, and, as you're probably aware, there are witches in the play. The director was doing a more modern take on the play, and wanted the witches to be modern wiccans (now this isn't justified by the script at all, but she was the director so we did what she said!) As one of the witches, I did some research into wicca. I was very attracted to the simplicity of the "wiccan rede" and I loved the way we laid the circle in one scene--presenting a candle and then a crystal at each of the 4 directions, then ringing a chime to each, I think there was incense...I don't remember exactly anymore. It was just beautiful and so serene and purposeful. I loved it, and have been drawn to the symbolism of the rituals as well as the attunement to nature and natural cycles.
Of course, as a believer in Christ, I never pursued wicca, but my fascination with the nature spiritualities remained. When I visited Ireland, we saw stone dolemans and ancient passage tombs, which again fascinated me. In recent years I've begun to observe the solstices and equinoxes--not with formal rituals, but with a special meal or a gathering of friends, or at the very least I take note of the day. It feels appropriate to observe these things, and the mindfulness of observing the passage of time is very grounding. If there is one truly significant thing I've learned in this exploration, it is that truth can be found in many places, and that truths never contradict each other. They may be very different, but they still fit together in the long run.
|The "Wheel of the Year" showing the 8 Sabbats, which occur about once every six weeks|
From my perspective, the earliest humans were Adam and Eve. I do believe that they had religion--religion straight from God in fact (in other words, the perfect religion). I believe that over time--especially in a pre-literate/illiterate society, some things were forgotten or confused, while others remained more or less intact. I am inclined to agree on many points with this blogger who expressed the idea that we (as mormons) share with Christianity the understanding Christ as Savior and the need for the atonement, and we share with (many) Pagans the understanding of our divine origins and equally divine potential (as children and also literal heirs of God). In other words, I think that Pagans do have something right, I think they do have (at least part of) that original Old Religion that Adam had. I find that certain aspects of pagan beliefs overlap or mesh with mine, and that certain aspects of their practices, therefore, seem appropriate for me as well. (I don't want to get sidetracked in this post by going into what specifically those things are, but I may dedicate a future post to that topic if you, gentle reader, want details!)
The second thing that draws me toward paganism are the symbols and rituals. For example, the spiral is an ancient symbol for eternity. I find it aesthetically more pleasing than the sideways 8 used in mathematics, and have several pieces of jewelry with spirals in them. It may be a 'pagan' symbol, but I wear spirals because they can mean 'eternity' to me too, and since I believe in eternal marriage and eternal families and eternal progression, I like wearing the symbol that reminds me of those things. Goddess symbols--particularly the pregnant Goddess--remind me of my participation in the miracle of procreation.
A ritual may be something as simple as raising ones hand or lighting a candle, or as complex as a lengthy liturgy. In my perception, rituals have precisely as much (or as little) meaning as is felt by the participant. I find that the simplicity of lit candles, awareness of seasons and cycles, and repetition of simple mantras enhances my spirituality. I feel closer to nature and closer to the Holy Spirit as I tune out the world with these things. Aspects of these 'pagan' rituals work for me as a Christian. I may adapt some and ignore others, but the source is undeniable. (In fairness, any moderately literate person should know that many modern 'Christian' practices were originally pagan, from the Christmas tree to the Easter egg...again, it's not what the ritual is that matters so much as what it means to the practitioner!)
So there you have it. I am 'coming out of the broom closet.' I'm getting in touch with my pagan side, and I think I'm a better Christian because of it.
Incidentally, I am not the only one--not by far. But that is a conversation for another day. ☺