When stopping for lunch at a super-cheap Chinese restaurant on Friday, I got to hear a conservative commentator talking on the radio. He was addressing the concerns some of his friends had shared with him about whether it was Christian to celebrate Easter by coloring eggs, as this was a “pagan tradition” and they didn’t want to do something that would dishonor their faith. The host pointed out, quite rightly, that there were lots of other things that “good Christians” did that had their roots in ancient pagan traditions, like toasting (the kind that involves drinking alcohol, not heating bread) and headstones for burial sites. He even mentioned my own favorite, that the names of six of the twelve months of the year, and five of the seven days of the week, are named after actual pagan gods. (I do get some amusement out of people hemming and hawing over whether their dyeing eggs is an unwitting violation of their First Commandment, but they always perform that act in a month named after either Mars or Aphrodite, and that never registers as a problem.) The radio host said that if the act was being performed to honor the right God, that the origins weren’t a concern. It was good to hear a sensible, non-polemic comment like that on a talk radio show, even if he did indirectly call ancient pagan traditions “evil” and compare it to prostitution in its non-Godliness. I know I’ve been called worse. >8)
On the other hand – or maybe it’s the other side of the same hand? – I do worry a little when I hear my fellow pagans make a big deal out of how “the Christians stole our stuff!” and that so many of the symbols associated with modern holidays are “pagan in origin”. That may well be true (or maybe not, at least one “pagan origin of Easter” may have been a more modern invention), but so what? No, I’m serious. If dyeing eggs has been done as part of a Christian holiday celebration for the last thousand years, does its origin matter to those who do it? More importantly, does it really benefit us or do honor to our gods to make a big deal out of it? I’m pretty sure my mission as a neopagan clergyperson doesn’t involve tormenting monotheists by making them think that their god hates them. It’s not within my purview to tell monotheists how to worship – Hek, it’s barely within my purview to tell ADF members how they should worship! I leave it to them to decide for themselves what religious acts are proper or not, and I hope they’ll give me the same courtesy.
I’d write a bit more about the topic but it’s late, and anyway Symposiarch over on LiveJournal already wrote an excellent article on much the same subject. So go read that too!
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF
PS – Oh, and for folks in the Ann Arbor area, we’ll be doing an impromptu nemeton cleanup at 3 PM next Sunday, to get ready for our upcoming Beltaine weekend. Everyone’s welcome to attend, and contact us at 734-262-1052 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you need directions!