Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Here We Go Again....

So it's happened again, just as it does every year around this time: A concerted effort to subvert the real meaning of the holiday and twist it into something far removed from its origins.

To take an ancient and revered celebration and rebrand it.

That's right – it's the annual War on Wicca.

No, no. Just kidding. What I'm really talking about is the annual War on Paganism, of which Wicca is a small subset.

That's right: Every year, pagan symbols and festivities stretching back thousands of years are co-opted in the name of Christmas. Without thanks or barest acknowledgment.

Christmas trees everywhere, but no mention of the pagans and their reverence for evergreens or lighting the yule log to chase away midwinter gloom, and whose "Yule" is now synonymous with Christmas.

No gratitude for evergreen wreaths and holly – pagan symbols of the feminine and masculine and of sacred cycles.

None for borrowing Santa Claus – an iconic figure in various pagan cultures, from a fourth-century Turkish bishop to Father Yule, the Winter King.

Mistletoe today may reference chaste romance, but it echoes the earthy sexuality of pagan Saturnalia celebrations in mid-December to honor the Roman god of agriculture. Saturnalias were jolly days of feasts and exchanging gifts.

Winter Solstice has morphed from a pagan mid-winter festival of the birth of the sun into a celebration of the birth of the son.

And December 25 has gone from the birthday of the Roman god Mithra to ... well, you know.

"Most religions – one is built on another, built on another," notes Betsy Ashby of the Pagan Resource Center. "Anybody who thinks their religion is original is deluding themselves."

The resource center was located in Windsor, but recently relocated to the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. Ashby declines to say how she and her family celebrate Solstice – "For us, it's a time of family; we do not do the commercial thing."

Lots of Christians would applaud this. Of course, many would also say she's on the path to eternal damnation. If only she believed in eternal damnation.

The good news about the perceived marginalization or under appreciation of Christmas is that complaints have declined in recent years.

They do still crop up now and then, as in this Feedback complaint in Monday's paper, from a reader upset about a general decline in wishing others "Merry Christmas":

"Why is there a systematic campaign to destroy the roots of Christianity?"

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