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Sunday, March 24

Shedding Christianity

Most Pagans of a certain age were not born into the faith.  They are converts.  In the wide world of religion, modern Paganism is pretty new, so that's to be expected.  After all, this very blog operates under the idea that our children are the second generation of Pagans and so of course they're parents are "newbies". 

As we learn the ropes (or braid them ourselves) we take steps to "become" more Pagan and less of whatever it is that we came from.  For a majority of us, our backgrounds are Christian or Catholic.  We know what the Christian holidays are, we're well aware of who Satan and Jesus are, and we have a pretty good idea of what heaven and hell are.   We know a little bit about sins, commandments, baptism, and what the Bible is. 

Some of us grew up with Christianity so engrained in our subconscious that our speech reflects it.  How many Pagans do you know that still say things like "God, Damn It!", "Jesus Christ!", or "Go to hell!" when they're agitated?  How many still offer a "God Bless You" when you sneeze?  Probably quite a few.

After we put on our first pentagrams and started to get odd looks in the supermarket, this growing awareness of Christian resistance developed.  If you transitioned in an area like Mama Stacey did, you may have been legitimately harassed or even physically intimidated for your new choice in faith... making your fondness of (and patience for) Christians fade quickly.

And some of us came to look into the history of witchcraft or Pagan cultures and many of us turned quite sour towards our old faith.  "Never Again the Burning Times!" right?  "Freedom of religion means ALL religions!" right? 

I have a sort of personal guideline about this 'phase' of conversion.  For me, the more angry a Pagan is at Christianity, the newer they are to the Pagan faith.  Most of us who have been Pagan since forever have moved on.  We don't pick apart the Bible or start conversations with "Christians are so.... blah-blah-blah."  We're too busy being Pagans to keep looking back all the time.

Anyway, this growing dislike of Christianity helped some of us plow ahead on our path to identifying as Pagan.  We rejected the idea of Satan and may have put stickers like "It's your hell, you burn in it." on our cars or posted clipart of Christian hypocrisy on our social feeds.  Eventually we jumped into chatroom conversations to correct people's ideas of Paganism or offered the Pagan roots to things like Christmas trees and Easter eggs.

[img source: AzureGreen]

This is the shedding of Christianity and as with any ending, there is a grieving process.  It's like a death or even a bad break-up.  We take it in stages, only instead of somberly packing our grandmothers things away into boxes or cutting our ex out of all of our photographs, we begin to dismiss or dissect the parts of Christianity that we don't like.  Instead of getting a haircut or buying a new outfit to make ourselves feel better, we start to replace "amen" with "so mote it be" and start to light incense at night and get serious about reading runes and trying to meditate.

One of the last steps in this shedding process seems to be saying goodbye to the parts of Christianity we liked.  For many, this would be the holidays.  Afterall, they were happy times and for some, still may be.  There's presents, food, music, and cheer.  What's not to like?

Now, I've written about my personal journey through this before (Leaving Christmas Behind), but if you haven't read it, here it is in a nutshell:  Until I had Doodle Bug, it never occurred to me to NOT celebrate Easter or Christmas with my family.  There I was, a self-proclaimed Pagan, singing carols about Jesus and attending Palm Sunday church services with my mother.  But after my son's birth, the conflict of interest hit me and I tried for many years to make the switch.  It was not an easy process and we still seem to miss a sabbat here or there, but the point is that I try to make sure my son knows the holy days of his faith and impress upon him their importance above and beyond Christian holidays.  

My experience is far from an isolated phenomenon.  Pagans, like others in minority faiths, struggle to block out Christian holidays.  Easter and Christmas are almost secular in America.  Visit a store, turn on the tv, or take a stroll through your neighborhood... you almost can't escape the imagery.  Now, if you're in the broomcloset still, or living in an isolated area, or living in a home where your spouse is not a Pagan... it may be easier to simply go with the flow.  You could shrug and say to yourself, "It all has Pagan roots" as you pull on a reindeer sweater and play that Bing Crosby CD. 

But after a while, is it really that simple?  As a Pagan singing about Jesus at Christmas, can you really believe that "it all has Pagan roots" cuts the mustard?  Do you think that that same philosophy works for your children?

Mama Stacey doesn't.  As Steven Posch said, " can’t gull kids. They’ll see the gap between what you say and what you do every time. Authentic paganism isn’t just a religion; it’s a culture. Kids need to grow up with the songs, the stories, the foods, the holidays. . . . All this gives texture, richness, a sense of identity."

It gets under my skin when Pagan friends wish me a Merry Christmas or when my Pagan neighbor makes up an Easter basket for her 22 year old daughter and cooks a ham dinner for her on Easter Sunday.  (Apparently, it annoyed her daughter too.  This year, the young lady told her mother not to do any of it, insisting that if she was going to celebrate a holiday, it was going to be Ostara and only Ostara.  I was so proud!)

It's my opinion that Pagans should celebrate Pagan holidays.  But I understand that this transfer takes time and is a personal journey for each and every one of us first generation-ers.  I have never told my Pagan neighbor that she was wrong for celebrating Easter.  I have never sent back a Christmas card to a Pagan friend, criticizing them for being Pagans who send a card with the nativity on it to us.  Mama Stacey feels pretty strongly on this subject and yet it still took me about a decade to make the full switch.

Believe me, I an NOT here to force Pagans to give up holidays that they either don't want to or are not ready to.  But... I stumbled across something on the internet today (Facebook to be exact) that struck a nerve.  A page entitled "Wiccan Parents" had the following displayed as their image or splash. 

The Wiccan Parents page on Facebook, March 24th 2013.

As a community resource, I feel that organizations like Facebook groups and informational websites should hold themselves to higher "standards" in their reflection of Paganism to the world.  Even if Wiccan Parents somehow claimed that the use of the word Easter is interchangeable with the word Ostara due to some ill-conceived play on etymology... I see this as massively confusing for their target  audience.  As a resource and tool for Wiccan parents who need support as they form and define the Pagan world for their children, images like this are completely unhelpful.

Wiccan Parents is not the only page/organization/website that makes habitual faux-pas like this.  Other Pagan parenting sites have been posting about the Easter plans of their followers and I've been trying to ignore it... trying to be a good sport.  I simply don't feel that faceless pages which set themselves up as authorities and position themselves as an outreach should be misrepresenting Wicca or any other Pagan faith so blatently.

Alright... end of hoity-toity rant.  I hope that however you and your family have chosen to usher in the season of spring this past week, that you had a lovely time.

Love and light to all.

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