Pagan ritual versus Catholic and Christian beliefs Do Catholic and Christian beliefs and holidays have Pagan roots? Pope Gregory 1st said, "Converting heathens is easier if they are allowed to retain the outward forms of their traditional Pagan practices and traditions, while recasting those traditions spiritually towards the one true God instead of to their Pagan devils. "(Pagan timeline Google para6) Three of eight major Pagan holidays were converted to Christian and Catholic holidays when Christianity spread through Europe. There are many reasons this was done, one was to ensure that the Pagan worshipers would convert to Christianity. They converted the holidays to show the Pagans that they too celebrated what they celebrated and were not all bad. Many of the Pagan Gods followed and were canonized into Saints so that many of the Pagan converts would have names and faces they recognized to worship. This essay will break down the three major Pagan holidays and compare them to the Christian counter parts. Then it will show the similarities between two Pagan Gods and two Catholic Saints. Pagan, Christian, and Catholic holidays Starting on the Pagan calendar Samhain is the first holiday and celebrated on October 31st. This holiday celebrates the final harvest of the year when all things die. Samhain is related with death and the tales tell of the spirits of the dead coming back to visit. Customs were to set out small feasts for dead loved ones made of small cakes and wine, carving squash and turnips with symbols to ward off the evil spirits and let the good spirits know that they were welcome to visit. Christians converted this holiday into All Hollows Eve or Halloween; in later years it was associated with carving pumpkins, bobbing for apples, playing pranks, and dressing up as ghouls and goblins. Catholics in the Ninth Century often wondered from house to house asking for soul cakes, because the day after All Hollows Eve was known as All Soul Day. Upon receiving the soul cakes, which were plain bread cakes topped with currants, the Catholics would offer to say a prayer for the souls of the family members that had passed the previous year. This tradition in later years became great fun as trick-or-treating for candies and toys became popular. The prayers for the dead associated with begging for goodies slowly died away. The second holiday on the Pagan calendar is Yule celebrated on December 21-25. Yule was a celebration of the beginning of winter. Yule was a celebration of the conception of light. While the God of light hid from the world his seed was planted in the womb of the Goddess and as the days lengthened it was believed that the god was growing and preparing to bring renewal to the lands and crops. Christians celebrate Christmas as the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus. Both Pagan and Christians celebrate this holiday with great feasts and spending time with family. Decorations and candles were used for the celebration. Pagans often burned a Yule log which was often a log from a conifer tree, these trees proved that life could last throughout the darkest days of winter and were ever self-renewing. Christians decorated the trees instead of burning them. In later years the process of handing out gifts to family members was incorporated into the feast of the holiday. Popular belief is that Candlemas was another word for Christmas and there for Yule and Candlemas were celebrated on the same day. This however is not true Candlemas is associated with the Pagan holiday of Imboloc and celebrated on January 31st to February 2nd. These two holidays are associated with the Goddess Brighid and Saint Brigid; we will get to that later. The third holiday of the Pagan calendar to be discussed is Ostara and it is celebrated on March 20th-21st. This holiday is associated with growth and the spring’s arrival. It is believed that during this time the Goddess of life awakens from the clutches of death and brings with her the revival of the crops. One of the most recognizable symbols of this holiday is the egg, which for Pagans symbolize the rebirth of nature, the yolk of the egg the color of the sun which brings warmth to the land and allows all things to live again. For Christians and Catholics this holiday comes in the form of Easter associated with Jesus rising from the dead to renew hope and faith. In later years the egg has been connected with Easter and many spend time decorating them with bright colors of spring. Pagan Gods and Catholic Saints The two Pagan Gods that this paper is going to compare to Catholic Saints are the Goddess Brighid and the God Dagda. Their Catholic counter parts are Saint Brigit and Saint Patrick, both are Irish Saints and Irish Pagan Deities. The Goddess Brighid is known as the Goddess of fire and healing. The name Brighid comes from the Celtic root Brig which means exalted. The Goddess Brighid was worshiped as the Goddess of spring and associated with the renewal of life after winter. She is associated with fire and the Sun. Brighid’s holiday was Imboloc celebrated on February 1st. Brighid was worshiped in Ireland manly around the South East where a shrine built for her was attended by a devote group of an all-female priesthood. Her shrine had an ever lit flame that was attended to by her priestesses and surrounding the shrine were wells of water that only the priestesses could drink from. It is often said that Brighid was a midwife to other Goddesses. As Christianity came to Ireland the Catholic Church took over the land of Brighid’s shrine and used it as a shrine to Saint Brigit, this shrine was tended to by nuns who followed Saint Brigit. Saint Brigit was the Irish Catholic Saint of healing and the wells around the shrine were said to have healing waters. Saint Brigit was said to be the midwife to the Virgin Mary at the birth of Jesus Christ. Saint Brigit was said to have been born at the first light of dawn on the night between winter and spring February 1st, and because of this she was associated with the sun and the coming of the morning. For Saint Brigit this day has become known as Candlemas Celebrated on February 1st. Both the Goddess Brighid and Saint Brigit are known for the art of healing, midwifery, and associated with spring. The holiday for both the Goddess Brighid and Saint Brigit is usually celebrated by lighting candles on the window seals which represents the light of the rising sun which melts the frost off the panes of glass symbolizing the coming of spring and the retreat of winter. The second Pagan God and Catholic Saint is the God Dagda and Saint Patrick. The God Dagda, like the Goddess Brighid, is an Irish Pagan God. The God Dagda is called the Good God or The Father God. As a symbol of manhood The God Dagda was represented by snakes, because in pagan tradition snakes were a symbol of the earth and the male life force. The God Dagda is known for his battle against the Fomorians an ancient tribe of giants that terrorized the land of Ireland. After a fierce battle Dagda chased the Fomorians from Ireland. Saint Patrick, though born in Roman England, was thought of as the true Irish Saint. Saint Patrick spent time in a monastery in Rome and it is said that one night he had a dream that Ireland was calling for him, wanting him to teach the land about God. Saint Patrick went to Ireland with the blessing of the Catholic Church to spread the word of God. As he traveled through Ireland preaching the word of God, he was met with great upheaval among the Celtic Pagans that were not easily converted to the new religion. There was a conflict between the newly converted and the Pagans, many who practiced paganism went into hiding and blended in to the newly growing society. This was depicted as Saint Patrick chasing the snakes from Ireland. The snakes in this case represented the pagan worshipers. It is easy to make the comparison of the God Dagda and Saint Patrick, both are associated with chasing evil from the land of Ireland. The God Dagda and Saint Patrick are both associated with snakes in some way. Do Catholic and Christian beliefs and holidays have Pagan roots? Three of the eight major Pagan holidays were fused with Christian and Catholic beliefs changing the God or Saints that were associated with each and changing the reason each festival was held; but the important pieces were not lost. Two of the most important Gods to Irish Pagans were converted and Canonized into two of the most important Saints for the Irish Catholics. In effect it can be said that Paganism, Christianity, and Catholicism each have the same beliefs and holidays, but they have their own ways of being viewed and followed. ? Reference and Citation page Broome, F. (2008). Celtic Magick - Yule History- Pagan and early Christian. Celtic Magick. Retrieved from http://celticmagick. com/yule-history-pagan/ Google. (n. d). Google Pagan timeline. Retrieved from http://www. google. com/search? q=pagan+timeline&hl=en&rls=com. microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&rlz=1I7ACAW_enUS361US361&tbs=tl:1&tbo=u&ei=F3GuS5iHIILGlQfnubSRAQ&sa=X&oi=timeline_result&ct=title&resnum=11&ved=0CC4Q5wIwCg Graves, R. (1966). The White Goddess. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. Hayden, L. (2009). Who is Brighid? Suite 101. Retrieved from http://paganismwicca. suite101. com/article. cfm/who_is_brighid Nock, J. A. (2007). The Wiccan Year. Avon, MA: Provenance Press
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