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Not everything is Christian baggage

In this blog, I don’t often bring up things I’m annoyed by or critical of in the wider Pagan/Heathen community. It’s not that I don’t think such things should be discussed. I’ve just preferred to put my time and energy elsewhere. But there is something that has been grinding my gears for so long that I have to write a post about it: the dismissal of beliefs and practises that aren’t inherently Christian as ”Christian baggage”.

First of all, this needs to be said: just because an idea or concept exists within Christianity doesn’t mean it is unique to Christianity.

Point in case: the golden rule. While some Christians like to claim this was a new and revolutionary principle Jesus came up with, it had actually been expressed by many religious figures and philosophers for thousands of years before he was born. And you wouldn’t say that someone has ”Christian baggage” because they treat others like they’d themselves like to be treated. That’s just called not being a jerk.

But there are many things that some Pagans like to claim is ”residual Christianity”, that in fact have a long history in different Pagan religions. The list is rather long but I’d like to bring up the main three, not only because the dismissal of them aggravate me the most but also because I believe they bring depth and variety to our traditions and should be defended.

Worship. Scroll through any Heathen tag on social media and you’ll eventually come across some variation of the old ‘we do not bend the knee to our Gods’ meme. It seems some Heathens have this idea that not only is worshipping something greater than yourself somehow humiliating but that it also has no place in Heathenry. But many modern Heathens do worship and pray and the ancient Norse and Germanic Pagans did too. Sacrifices, prayers, songs of praises and other forms or worship were often brought before the Deities in those days. In the lore, there are many examples of people worshipping and archeology has uncovered many sites of worship. The temple complex in Uppsala was often called a shrine and offerings to the Gods were constantly brought there.
If you think worship is humiliating then don’t do it, nobody is forcing you. But to say that Pagans who do it suffer from ”Christian baggage” is just plain wrong and insulting.

Piety and devotion. The word ‘piety’ comes from the Latin pietas, which before being used in the Christian context was one of the most important principles of Roman Polytheism. Pietas meant a form of religious devotion that encompassed duty not only to the Deities but also to your fellow human beings, society and your family. The notion of piety was not a Christian invention and it is something still important to many Pagans today.

One form of devotion in particular that often gets labeled with ”Christian baggage” is special devotion towards one Deity. Loving and worshipping a God or Goddess more than others is seen as just a roundabout way to be a Monotheist. But focusing most of your devotion towards one Deity doesn’t mean you don’t acknowledge the Others and it also doesn’t mean you never worship Them (unless you have made a special oath to your Patron).
This sort of special love for one or a few Deities has a long historic precedent in many Pagan traditions. From the Vestal Virgins to the Galli of Cybele to the modern Heathen fultrui, there has always been Polytheist who dedicated their service to one special Deity and that does not make them Christian or Monotheists.

Unifying Consciousness. Several Polytheist traditions share a belief in a unifying, omnipresent Consciousness. This idea of omnipresence might bring the thought to the Christian or another Monotheist God. But it it usually quite different. For one, this Consciousness is often seen as being beyond anything ressembling personality. It also has no ego and as It is already Everything That Is, It has no use of thoughts and feelings, all of which It already contains within Itself. The Deities are part of this Whole but the Whole itself is rarely worshipped as It is seen as either impersonal or suprapersonal and in no need or want of such things.
Some Pagans believe in such a Consciousness, some don’t. Call it The One, Brahman, The Dao or whatever else, the important thing to know here is that this is not a Christian belief and it predates Christianity by thousands of years.

Anyway, that was my little Sunday evening rant. This stuff had been bothering me for a good while and I felt I needed to get it out. Next post will be a bit more positive!

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