This was originally published as a Facebook note on my birthday this year. This was my coming out as a pagan to my family and friends. What a scary time it was! And yet, I had some amazing close friends that helped me along the way.
I welcome any feedback you may have. All I ask is you please ignore the fact I didn’t link to any references in the note. This was on purpose. I was trying to open opportunities for anyone that is unfamiliar with the topics to engage with me more offline so I could share resources with them in person. It worked. And now I have more friends that are exploring the craft.
Welcome to my new adventure. Recently I found a path which had hidden from me numerous times over the years. Today marks a birthday, not only of my life, but also of my faith as I start down that path in earnest. This note is my attempt to share with my friends why I am chasing The Divine in this manner.
I’ve always loved studying Christianity, Judaism, Islam, other monotheistic faiths, and any faiths falling under the monolatrism umbrella. I have been studying early Judaism for a few years now as part of my wider studies into early Christianity, the Reformation, and the rise of Christian nationalism in countries like Brazil and the USA. It amazes me how far an ancient mountain-cult from the Middle East has come: It rose to become the dominant world religion due to its elasticity and its ability to evolve over time. The origins of the faith are what interests me most as I explain my beliefs.
Early Judaism was formed in the mountains of “Canaan” around the time Egypt lost control over the region. The people in Canaan worshiped a storm god, Ba’al, on the hilltops surrounding their tribes. We see remnants of this worship in the Tanakh.
Numerous books have been written about the relationship between Yahweh, the new god on the scene, and Ba’al. Both were storm gods serving in the pantheon of El. Both were initially represented through the imagery of the bull. Both were worshiped on their holy mountain - a mountain with a river of life flowing from it into the world. Both have a partner, Asherah.
At some point Yahweh replaced Ba’al as the dominant god in the region. There are remnants of this change in the story of Elijah from 1 Kings. Here we see the 1st Jerusalem temple priests crafting the narrative that the Ba’al worship of the northern tribes was wrong and only Yahweh, the god of Judah’s king, was to be worshiped. After replacing Ba’al, Yahweh usurped El as the dominant god. Asherah would later be demoted to the name: Wisdom of God.
Judaism was destined to be a monolatry, if not for an invasion from Babylon. Under Babylonian captivity, Jews interacted with many different religions, including Zoroastrianism. This is where they picked up concepts such as an evil force vs a good force, a messiah, and an afterlife. We see a lot of this developed during the 2nd Jerusalem temple period in Israel and it all became fully formed in the period of the so-called apocryphal books.
Side note: I have spoken at length with friends, family, and acquaintances about the influence the apocryphal books and Greek thought had on early Christianity. The clearest examples being the concepts of demons, a personalized devil, the angel of the lord as the logos of God, and a spiritual temple of the Lord. Early Christians would later develop the concept of Jesus being the logos of God, the messiah, and the angel of the lord. They would also flesh out the concepts of heaven and, contrary to popular myth, hell(see the Apocalypse of Peter).
The Wisdom of God from the Christian Old Testament became the Holy Spirit in the Christian New Testament. That’s right. Asherah evolved from the consort of Ba’al in early semitic religions to one member of the Holy Trinity in 3rd century Christianity. While late Judaism eventually became monotheistic, Christianity went back to very ancient, pagan roots by using the concept of three gods in one. To this day, many Christians claim their religion is monotheistic, like Judaism, but both Jews and Muslims take issue with that claim.
As Christianity spread into the European region, it took on the holidays and customs of the pagan people living there. This is easily verified when we compare Christian holidays like Christmas to the pagan Yule and Easter to Ostara. We also hear pagan themes in popular Christian praise music from Bethel, Hillsong United, and Jesus Culture, all of which focus on the elements of fire, water, air, and spirit while also referring to humans as clay, or earth. One of my favorite Christian artists, Kim Walker-Smith, covered her stage in her latest videos with plants to connect worshipers back to the earth.
It is inescapable, to me, that there is a primal underpinning in today’s Christianity. Concepts like the Divine Being living and working within humans and nature can be found in modern pagan religions such as Wicca. So, too, can the ideas of the previously mentioned elements, the towers as defenders, and a Triple God, or rather a Triple Goddess. (Wicca also has a dominant sun god, called the Lord, so it isn’t a direct equivalent, but then, again, we could get into the messy concept of the Holy Spirit being 7 parts and we would really start getting confused.)
Some have said that Islam is the natural progression from Judaism and Christianity. Maybe that is true. But maybe Wicca is the natural progression instead because we are starting to sense the need to go back to the roots of our fathers’ and our mothers’ faiths and reconnect to The Divine in a new way. Maybe we are finally seeing each other as equals, worthy of love, instead of “others” that need to be cast out or oppressed. Maybe that is the real reason people get disgusted by “organized religion” - practices that built up over thousands of years and which act as a veil between us and The Divine. Food for thought?
I am an eclectic witch. I celebrate Christianity and Wicca. In Wicca there are things like candles lit as prayers and offerings to The Divine. So called High Churches/Denominations in Christianity, such as Catholics and United Methodists, practice similar candle “magic”. In Wicca there are spells requesting everything from love to money to abundant life and everything in between. In Christianity these spells are called prayers. Meditation in Wicca is similar to contemplative prayer in liberal evangelical churches. The list could go on but I hope the reader gets the point. In the near future I hope to share more from my eclectic faith and I hope this note helps in understanding how I got here.