Christian handling of Pagan roots. Part 1
- Holidays Paganism and History:
Many Christians have serious issues with the Pagan roots of many holidays and especially many holidays that often observed across Christianity such as Easter and Christmas.
I respect those that view these days and seasons with such historical origins as somehow inappropriate for believers to recognize or celebrate in any way, however here is a bite sized truth to consider: what a person or people celebrates in their own mind and heart may have nothing to do with its original historical origins.
There is no doubt that many of the traditions and names around these holidays often originated with practices and beliefs that do not honor one true God, monotheistic, let alone honor the God of the Bible. That fact in and of itself doesn’t necessarily tell us what people are currently honoring, celebrating or remembering in their practices. Can’t old traditions give way, be moved aside and fade as new traditions are established?
I for instance do not celebrate ancient pagan roots when I celebrate Christmas or Easter in any respect. I celebrate Jesus Christ the Lord’s birth during the Christmas season and then his death, burial and resurrection during the Easter season.
I understand that the roots are Pagan but we should also understand that much of what you and I speak about and follow the patterns for every day are pagan.
Let’s define our terms first. In a religious context such as we are discussing, a Pagan is – An adherent of a polytheistic religion in antiquity, especially when viewed in contrast to an adherent of a monotheistic religion. Webster also discusses the evolution of the word pagan and heathen as it relates to Christianity from a word that originally meant simply country dweller to one that became similar to heathen in a fully derogatory sense.
So Pagan in this context basically means that the origin was from some religious context that was not monotheistic and therefore certainly NOT Christian. Does being pagan in origin make a thing particularly evil or ‘an abomination’ to the Lord God?
Well that depends I suppose on what in particular you think God finds offensive or inappropriate or what you yourself feel that way about.
How many understand that the names we use every day have pagan roots that originally honored pagan Gods and beliefs?
The entire society we live in uses these names and organizes our lives around them. Take a quick look at the Pagan traditions you could consider being ‘honored’ by recognizing, speaking and or writing the days of the week most of us use every day.
- Sunday is the Sun’s day of Roman holiday Pagan orgin. Many societies have worshiped the sun and sun-gods. Perhaps the most famous is the Egyptian Sun-god Ra, who was the lord of time.
- Monday is the Moon God’s day, from the Anglo-Saxon ‘monandaeg’ and on this day people gave homage to the goddess of the moon.
- Tuesday is Tiu’s day named after a Germanic god – Tiu (or Twia) – a god of war and the sky and associated with the Norse god Tyr, who was a defender god in Viking mythology. Tiu is associated with Mars.
- Wednesday is “Woden’s Day” or more recognizable thanks to comic book characters as the Norse name, ‘Odin’. Odin’s Day, the god equivalent to Mercury, who was the messenger to the gods and the Roman god of commerce, travel and science. Anglo-Saxon mythology considered Odin the chief god but the name directly translated means “violently insane headship”. Fans of comic and now movie super hero Thor know Odin, (from Woden) was the ruler of Asgard home of the gods, and he is able to shift and change into different forms according to mythology.
- Thursday was “Thor’s Day”, named after the Norse god of thunder and lightning and is the Old Norse equivalent to Jupiter. Thor is often depicted holding a giant hammer and during the 10 th and 11 th centuries when Christians tried to convert the Scandinavians, many wore emblems of Thor’s hammer as a symbol of defiance against the new religion.
- Friday is associated with Freya, the wife of Woden or ‘Odin’ and the Norse goddess of love, marriage and fertility, who is equivalent to Venus, the Roman goddess of love.
- Saturday derives from “Saturn’s Day”, a Roman god associated with wealth, plenty and time. It is the only English week-day still associated with a Roman god, Saturn.
History shows that the influence of the Scriptures, and the ‘people of the book’ has often led to Christians bringing the biblical influence into their secular society which is to pagans and heathens and any society they brought the light of God’s word into.
The Biblical Hebrews called Saturday the “Sabbath”, meaning, day of rest and the Bible identifies Saturday as the last day of the week. Western society and much of the world now respects the traditions of resting and taking off on the weekends as both Saturday (Sabbath) and Sunday (“The Lord’s resurrection”) took over from their old Pagan meanings and influenced the world with Biblical ideas, customs and practices.
Even the seven-day week can be seen as originating with ancient Babylon prior to 600 BC, when time was marked with the lunar cycle, which experienced different seven-day cycles but a millennium later, Emperor Constantine converted Rome to Christianity and standardized the seven-day week across the Empire. Rome may initially have acquired the seven-day week from the mystical beliefs of Babylonian astrologers but it was the biblical story of creation, God making the Heavens and Earth and resting on the seventh day that will have led the first Christian emperor of Rome to make sure it endured to this day.
What do the names of these various days, including the holidays signify to you? What do practice in your life on these days? What do you honor? What do you celebrate?
Romans 14:5 – One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. (KJV)
One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. (NIV)