Continued from Previous Page
In Germany, we find that the veneration for sacred groves seems to have held the foremost place. According to Grimm, the chief of their holy trees was the oak. Again, here we find that it is dedicated to the god of thunder, Donar or Thunar, the equivalent of the Norse Thor. Among the Slavs, the oak tree was sacred to the thunder god Perun. Among the Lithuanians, the oak tree was sacred to Perkunas or Perkuns, the god of thunder and rain.
The Christmas tree, usually a balsam or Douglas fir, was decorated with lights and ornaments as a part of Christmas festivities. The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands as a symbol of eternal life was an old custom of the Egyptians,
Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship, common among the pagan Europeans, survived after their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastide. It survived in the custom observed in Germany, of placing a Yule tree inside the house in the midwinter holidays.
The modern Christmas tree originated in Western Germany. The main prop of a popular medieval play about Adam and Eve was a fir tree hung with apples (the tree of Paradise) representing the Garden of Eden. The Germans set up the Paradise tree in their homes on December 24, the religious feast day of Adam and Eve. They hung wafers on it (symbolizing the host, the Christian sigh of redemption). In later tradition, the wafers were replaced by cookies of various shapes. Candles were often added as the symbol of Christ, though they were also a pagan symbol for the light of the God.
As we can see, even though the pagan community has been trod upon, it was never destroyed. The date of Christmas was purposely fixed on December 25 to push into the background the great festival of the sun god, and the Epiphany on January 5 to supplant an Egyptian festival of the same day and the Easter ceremonies were set to rival the pagan spring festival.
Let's take a look at a few of the holidays and compare.
On Easter Sunday, everywhere, the children hunt the many colored Easter eggs, brought by the Easter rabbit. This is the vestige of a fertility rite, the eggs and the rabbit both symbolizing fertility. The rabbit was the escort of the Germanic goddess Ostara who gave her name to the festival by way of the German Ostern.
The first day of Spring holds much in the way of folklore. It is also known as the Spring Equinox, Ostara, Eostre's Day, Alban Eilir, the Vernal Equinox, or Festival of the Trees. It takes place between March 19 and 22. It marks the first day of true spring (verses the balmy weather that may precede it.)
The day and night is equal on this day, thus the name of Equinox. There is a story in one culture that says that the sun has begun to win it's race with the night and that the days get longer as the sun pulls ahead. (Followed by the fact that the sun begins to lose the race at Mid-Summer, and loses the race at Mid-Winter just to start the race again the next day.)
It is a time of beginnings, of action, of planting seeds for future grains, and of tending gardens. On the first Sunday after the first full moon following Eostre's Day (the name from which the Easter was derived), the Christian religion celebrates it's Easter Day.
Spring is a time of the Earth's renewal, a rousing of nature after the cold sleep of winter. As such, it is an ideal time to clean your home to welcome the new season.
Spring cleaning is more than physical work. Some cultures see it as a concentrated effort on their part to rid themselves of problems and negativity of the past months and they prepare themselves for the coming spring and summer.
To do this, they approach the task of cleaning their homes with positive thoughts. They believe that this frees the homes of the hard feelings brought about by a harsh winter. Even then, they have guidelines that they follow such as any scrubbing of stains or hand rubbing the floors should be done in a "clockwise" motion. It is their belief that this aids in filling the home with good energy for growth.
To the Druidic faith, this is a sacred day occurring in the month of Fearn (meaning, "I am the shining tear of the Sun"). Part of their practices are to clean and rededicate outdoor shrines, believing that in doing so they honor the spring maiden. This is a time of fertility of both crops and families. In promoting crops, they believe that the use of fire and water (the sun and rain) will reanimate all life on Earth. They decorate hard- boiled eggs, the symbol of rebirth, to eat during their rites, and such foods as honey cakes and milk punch can also be found. The mothers and daughters give dinners for each other and give cards and gifts as a way of merging with the natural flow of life and with each other. (The Druids consider this also as Mother's Day.)
In Greek mythology, spring was the time when Persephone returned from the underworld (where the seed was planted in the barren winter months) and thus represents the seedlings of the spring. Demeter, Persephone's mother represents the fertile earth and the ripened grain of harvest since it is alleged that she is the one that created the need to harvest crops when her daughter was kidnapped and taken to the underworld. It was through an arrangement that her daughter could return for 1/2 the year that Demeter allowed the crops to spring forth for that time until she again went into mourning for her daughter in the fall.
In some cultures, even today, the ones that continue to celebrate the rites of spring rise on Easter morning to watch the sun "Dance" as it rises.
The Christian festival commemorating the resurrection of Christ, synchronized with the Jewish Pesach, and blended since the earliest days of Christianity with pagan European rites for the renewed season. In all countries Easter falls on the Sunday after the first full moon on or following March 21. It is preceded by a period of riotous vegetation rites and by a period of abstinence, Lent (in Spain Cuaresma, Germany Lenz, central Italy, Quaresima) and by special rites of Holy Week.
Everywhere Easter Sunday is welcomed with rejoicing, singing, candle processionals, flowers in abundance, and ringing of church bells. Many pagan customs survive, such as the lighting of new fires at dawn, among the Maya as well as in Europe, for cure, renewed life, and protection of the crops.
The first day of May: observed as a spring festival everywhere in Europe, the United States, and Canada, and as a labor festival in certain European countries.
Rites such as the ever famous May Pole occur in the town squares or in the family's front yard. The gathering of green branches and flowers on May Eve is the symbolic act of bringing home the May, i.e. bringing new life, the spring, into the village.
The May Queen (and often King) is chosen from among the young people, and they go singing from door to door throughout the town carrying flowers or the May tree, soliciting donations for a merrymaking in return for the "blessing of May". This is symbolic of bestowing and sharing of the new creative power that is stirring in the world. As the kids go from door to door, the May Bride often sings to the effect that those who give will get of nature's bounty through the year.
In parts of France, some jilted youth will lie in a field on May Day and pretend to sleep. If any village girl is willing to marry him, she goes and wakes him with a kiss; the pair then go to the village inn together and lead the dance which announces their engagement. The boy is called "the betrothed of May."
This festival is also known as Beltane, the Celtic May Day. It officially begins at moonrise on May Day Eve, and marks the beginning of the third quarter or second half of the ancient Celtic year. It is celebrated as an early pastoral festival accompanying the first turning of the herds out to wild pasture. The rituals were held to promote fertility. The cattle were driven between the Belfires to protect them from ills. Contact with the fire was interpreted as symbolic contact with the sun.
The rowan branch is hung over the house fire on May Day to preserve the fire itself from bewitchment (the house fire being symbolic of the luck of the house.
In early Celtic times, the druids kindled the Beltane fires with specific incantations. Later the Christian church took over the Beltane observances, a service was held in the church, followed by a procession to the fields or hills, where the priest kindled the fire.
In some rituals, a King and Queen May symbolize the male and female principles of productivity.
We have looked briefly at the similarities of the philosophies and vocabularies, but is that all that they had in common? Let's look at symbologies.
For many years, the cross has been the symbol representing the death of the Christian Christ. It has represented that through his death, man could be reborn into God's grace. Thus, we have the philosophy of life in death being connected to the cross. Is this the only time where this symbol was recognized as such? Let's go back to Egypt and find out.
An upright piece of wood, tied to a horizontal beam indicated the height of the flood waters on the Nile. This beam formed a cross. If the waters failed to rise during the season of planting, it meant a poor harvest for these people. Thus the cross was revered as a symbol of life and regeneration.
The Ankh represents the genitals of both sexes. The cross itself is a primitive form of the phallus, and the loop that of the womb. Again, we continue the symbol of the cross as the giver of life.
Oh my gosh...did I use the word phallus in connection with the cross? Oops!
Yes...even prior to this time was the cross a symbol of the phallus or fertility. This is not the only thing that the phallus has symbolized over the many centuries within and without the pagan world. It has also been used as a symbol of strength.
Within the Bible, we find several references to the horn also as a symbol of strength.
2 Samuel 22:3 - He is my shield, and the horn of my salvation.
Luke 1:69 - And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us.
Psalm 18:2 - He is my shield and the horn of my salvation.
The move from horn to helmet is followed up also in the bible as follows:
Isaiah 59:17 - For he put an helmet of salvation upon his head.
Ephesians 6:17 - Take the helmet of salvation.
1 Thessalonians 5:8 -...putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.
In Roman days a warrior would were horns on his helmet. If he came back defeated, he was said to have been de-horned. There are several references where a soldier who lost his helmet on the field was killed for this offense because it meant dishonor for him to loose his horn.
Shakespeare had much knowledge of the use of horns as a symbol of protection and victory as is evident in his works "As You Like It" (IV,2) and in "Measure for Measure" (II,4:16) when he writes: "Let's write good angell on the devill's horne; tis not the devill's crest."
Even in modern days, the Catholic Church uses this symbol when setting the mitre upon the head of a newly consecrated bishop. The words used at such a time are: "We set on the head of this Bishop, O Lord, Thy champion, the helmet of defense and of salvation, that with comely face and with his head armed with the horns of either Testament he may appear terrible to the gainsayers of the truth, and may become their vigorous assailant, through the abundant gift of Thy grace, who didst make the face of Thy servant Moses to shine after familiar converse with Thee, and didst adorn it with the resplendent horns of Thy brightness and Thy truth and commandedst the mitre to be set on the head of Aaron, Thy high priest, Etc..." (Copies in Latin and translated can be found in The Order Consecration of a Bishop Elect with the imprimatur of H. Card. Vaughn, p. 14, Burns and Oates, 1893.)
If we are looking at protections and the like, we must look at the use of stones and crystals within our lives. Yes, even in the Christian bible, the powers and uses of stones is mentioned. Exodus 28:15-21 - "Fashion a breastpiece for making decisions - the work of a skilled craftsman. Make it like the ephod: of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen. It is to be square - a span (9 inches) wide - and folded double. Then mount four rows of precious stones on it. In the first row there shall be a ruby, a topaz and a beryl; in the second row a turquoise, a sapphire (or lapis lazuli) and an emerald; in the third row a jacinth, an agate and an amethyst; in the fourth row a chrysolite, an onyx and a jasper. Mount them in gold filigree settings. There are to be twelve stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes."
Exodus 28:9-14 - Take two onyx stones and engrave on the names of the sons of Israel in the order of their birth - six names on one stone and the remaining six on the other. Engrave the names of the sons of Israel on the two stones the way a gem cutter engraves a seal. Then mount the stones in gold filigree settings and fasten them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the Lord. Make gold filigree settings and two braided chains of pure gold, like a rope, and attach the chains to the settings.
Though it does not say as much, we might take the engraving as a form of runes, again creating a similarity between the craft and religions of old.
From man's search for protection, we come to the telling by the stars...Astrology, and the use of stars as protectors of man.
The lore behind the star of David is an interesting tale. The easy interpretation is that of Zionism. The more research you do on this though, you will find that once again, depending on the cultures you look at, it's interpretation changes. The six- pointed star formed by the superimposing of one triangle on another. The symbol is a combination of the male (apex upwards) and female (apex downwards) triangles; it is said, in cabalistic writings, to comprise the signs of the four elements and the four letters of the Tetragrammaton, and thus it came to be the symbol for God. Since the Biblical commandment puts a taboo on the use of the Name of God and on the depiction of God, the symbol was inscribed as the graphic representation of God in synagogues and wherever the Name was appropriate. In alchemy, the star of David combined the symbols for fire and water; hence, it meant distillation. Until recently, therefore, it appeared on shops selling brandy. The star of David is the symbol of Zionism and appears o n the flag of Israel. As Solomon's seal, the hexagram possessed power to control demons of all kinds. The stopper on the bottle containing the bottle imp or jinni was stamped with the seal of Solomon. In the Nsibidi script of West Africa, a native form of writing, the symbol means ardent love; the universality of the male-female content of the sign is here apparent.
Astrology also has interesting roots. Though the word itself is made up of the Greek words meaning "star logic" (astra - star, Logos - logic), the actual origin is yet to be determined. We read in the Epic of Creation of Sumer - Akkad, or Early Babylon (ca 2200-1900 BC) that: "The Star - Jupiter who brings prophecies to all is my Lord. My Lord be at peace. The Star - Mercury allows rain to fall. The Star - Saturn, the star of Law and Justice..."
The telling of fortunes by the stars underwent an avid growth spurt during the times of the Roman Empire, and though with minor qualms with the Christian church, it co-existed peacefully until the time of Constantine when all "pagan" activities were outlawed. Though outlawed within the Roman Empire, Astrology continued to thrive within the Middle East.
I realize that I said that I would touch on the inquisition and such, however, I think that it is common knowledge the document used to persecute those involved was written by the Friars within the Catholic Church at the time. The document, The Malleus Maleficarum, was a document designed to bring about fear within the Christian community, and more power to the church. What is not widely realized is that the majority of the persons that were either burned, drowned, or hung were not witches, but Protestants within the Christian church. (The ones that were Protesting the Catholic church.)
I realize that, at this time, this is a rather sketchy document. I hope in the near future to be able to take the time to develop more of the depth that I would like to put into bring up our roots. I hope to include in the expanded edition the times of burning, modern witchcraft, more symbols, and famous persons in the craft.
We've changed...but then as a good friend has told me on more than one occasion..."When we cease to change, we cease to grow. When we cease to grow, life ends."