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Origin of the Symbols


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It was Paul who said:


“Critically examine everything. Hold on to the good”

First Thessalonians 5:21

Remember this as you read.


When I was growing up, I strived hard to be in the “in-crowd”, following the herd, to be accepted, but I never really was. I definitely wasn’t the prettiest, wasn’t the smartest, wasn’t the most athletic. I viewed it as my curse. Today, I don’t concern myself with how I fit in society, or how many people will be pissed off by how I conduct myself, as long as I don’t hurt anyone. It has made me into what I am today. I stand strong with my convictions, and I hold strong in my support even when it is inconvenient. I don’t shop at Amazon.com because they continue to supply how-to’s in the dog-fighting world. I don’t shop at Wal-Mart because the company has devastated the little guy, and supports China, who supports people in Afghanistan that are fighting people like Collin and Mac… and many other men and women who you do not even realize are there. While I wasn’t the prettiest or smartest, I think I was one of the most adventuresome and strongest of my class. I have endured much, and hold dreams beyond an office cubicle. No longer am I ashamed of who I am, of where I’ve been, or how I feel. And it’s quite fair to say that I abhor the herd mentality, and I attract negative feelings because I question everything, and shake the shabby foundations of their pitiful world. And why should this blog be any different? (laughs softly) It isn’t!


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As you made your way through the holiday season, claiming that path of the good Christian, put up the wondrous Christmas tree, decorate the halls with boughs of holly… fa la la la la… la la.. la..la! Do you ever wonder where those “rituals” came from? What are their origins? Yes, I know the Christmas season has passed, but I have been working on the research behind a few “controversial” blogs that are bound to not set well with the general public, and let’s face it. I didn’t particularly want to ruin your “Christian” holiday. But is it really a Christian holiday? Did you know that even today, as Christianity claims to be the leader of religions, that it is still a holiday celebrated by many religions and affects the entire world, beyond the effects of commercialism? Being a good Christian, wouldn’t you want to know where all these customs and traditions originated? Please don’t think that most of them descended from a moment in Christianity, except where the religion took it over from some other religion, because the fact of the matter is that most all of the customs of Christmas pre-date the birth of Christ.



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Let’s take the traditional mistletoe and holly. (Hums: Deck the halls with boughs of holly…)

Viscum album, from the family Loranthaceae, is a highly poisonous plant if directly ingested. It was used by the Druids to celebrate the coming of winter feeling that it symbolized magic and fertility. I could only authenticate the recordings back to 200 B.C. accurately. The Druids put much faith into this plant, thinking that it had special healing powers for everything, including female infertility. Frequently, sprigs of this wonderful plant were fastened over the conjugal bed on the wedding night of the population. Thanks to my wonderful Nordic ancestors, it emerged as a token of peace and eventually romance since they felt it symbolized peace and harmony, as a representation of Frigga, the Goddess of Love. Hence the modern social aphrodisiac of kissing under the mistletoe. It is mentioned as the “kissing stems” from Celtic and Nordic myths. It was a healing plant so holy that enemies would lay down their weapons if they met beneath it. The early Christian churches banned the use of this plant because of its “Pagan” origins, and suggested using Holly (Ilex) for Christmas greenery instead. The word “Holly” was derived from the Old High German word “hulis” meaning holy. The berries were thought to be the food of the gods by some, while others felt they symbolized the menstrual blood of the queen of heaven, also known as Diana. The white berries of the mistletoe were thought to represent droplets of semen of the sun god. Obviously, the “Church” didn’t do enough research into it, because holly is also a sacred plant to “Pagans” (laughs softly). It was used in wreaths, which was a symbol of victory. Athletes in ancient Greece wore laurel wreathes, while in Roman times, they were used as symbols of celebration. In approving the use of holly to decorate the homes, the “Church” decided to add their own representation to it: The green leaves were the life and the red berries were the blood of Christ.



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Next on the list: Poinsettias

Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima), originated in a southern region of Mexico near the present-day city of Taxco (Taxco del Alarcon). An interesting note is that the ancient Aztecs called this plant cuetlaxochitl (which means “mortal flower”) and used it for a variety of purposes, from a purplish dye for textiles and cosmetics, to medicine to treat fevers prepared from the milky white sap. One text stated that it was their symbol for purity and a reminder of blood sacrifices, but I couldn’t get that confirmed anywhere. The first United States Ambassador to Mexico Joel Robert Poinsett was not only a Southern plantation owner in Greenville, SC, but also an accomplished botanist. He would also give birth to what we know today as the Smithsonian Institute. Upon visiting Taxco in December, he was struck by the brilliance in the red plant and had it brought to his plantation in South Carolina. Mr. Poinsett thought that this was one of the most beautiful Euphorbias he had ever seen, and I think that he may be right. Mexican Christians felt that it was a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem, and of course, the “Church” now deems it as a representation of the blood of Christ.


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One of the biggest controversies for the modern "Church": The Tree

The evergreen tree was a symbol that united almost all religions and groups of people during the winter solstice, as a reminder that soon life would flourish again. The origins of the sacred Christmas tree dates back further than the 16th century when Germans were decorating the boughs with roses, apples, and colored paper, calling them “Paradeisbaum (paradise trees); past the ancient Germanic people who honored their God Woden by tying fruit and lit candles to the boughs of their symbol for eternal life. (Wednesday was named after this deity). It dates back to the “heathen” Greeks who worshipped their god Adonia with decorated evergreen trees. They believed that Adonia was brought back to life by the serpent Aessulapius after having been slain. Smyrna, the mother of Adonis, the sun god and great mediatorial divinity, was mystically said to have changed into a tree, and when in that state to have brought forth her divine son. If the mother was a tree, the son must have been recognized as the ‘Man, the branch’ (this could possibly be the origins of putting the Yule into the fire and the Christmas tree appearing the next morning). In many cultures and religions, the evergreen symbolizes immortality and the continuity of life. December 25th was a sacred day for the Romans. It was the birthday of the unconquered Sun (Natalis invictis solis). The Yule log is the dead stock of Nimrod, deified as the sun god, but cut down by his enemies. The Christmas tree is Nimrod redivivus, the slain god come to life again. Romans added the symbolism of loyalty as well, with frequent presentations of strenae, evergreen branches, commonly presented to political and military leaders as tokens of loyalty.



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Martin Luther (1483 – 1546), a protestant reformer, was said to be the first to light candles on a tree after being inspired by starlight shining through the tree branches above him on his walk home, but in reality, ancient Romans placed twelve candles on the tree to show honor to their sun god. In the 19th century, the Christmas tree rage spread to Britain, and then to the United States in the 1820’s by German immigrants. You can trace the Christmas tree back to the Prophet Jeremiah, the author of the book Jeremiah in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). In the following excerpt from the book Jeremiah, he condemned the Middle Eastern practice of cutting down trees and bringing them in the house to adorn them with decorations. These “heathens” would cut down trees, carve and/or decorate them, and overlay them with precious metals (perhaps the origins of the tinsel?).


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As a side note, the Egyptians considered the palm tree to symbolize resurrection, and would decorate their homes with its fronds during the winter solstice.


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Jeremiah 10:1-5: “1 Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel. 2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for they heathen are dismayed at them. 3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. 4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. 5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.”

European Pagans in the past did not cut down trees, but they did use evergreen boughs to decorate the homes to recognize the winter solstice. The Pagans noticed the shortened days and lengthened nights, and saw that despite that the crops and bushes died or hibernated, the evergreen trees remained green. They felt that it had symbolic meaning, if not magic, that enabled them to withstand the rigors of winter. They felt that cutting down the trees were too destructive of nature. Romans also used evergreen boughs for decoration for the celebration of the feast of Saturnalia and used replicas of their god Bacchus (a fertility God). Pagans did decorate living trees with bits of metal and replicas of their gods. Early Christian churches highly opposed and prohibited the decoration of the houses with even boughs of evergreen. Even the English Puritans and their second governor condemned the use of these “heathen practices”. Some Christians today feel that decorating a Christmas tree is so similar to what was described in Jeremiah, that they condemn the use of any Christmas trees. In 1851, Pastor Henry Schwan of Cleveland, Ohio was the first to decorate a Christmas tree in an American church. He was threatened with bodily harm by parishioners who condemned the “Pagan” idea. “Better that they should look to the true tree of life, Christ” was repeated. The mid 1850’s saw President Franklin Pierce (1804 – 1869) arrange for the first Christmas tree in the White House. President Calvin Coolidge (1885 – 1933) started the first National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the White House Lawn in 1923. Jehovah’s Witnesses and, until recently, the Worldwide Church of God opposed Christmas trees, too, because of the literal interpretation of the quotation from Jeremiah. Today, it seems to be a secular symbol of hope for the New Year and the future return of warmth to the Earth… or a severe fire hazard! Funny side note: In December of 2000, the city manager of Eugene, Oregon, forbid any Christmas trees on city properties because he considered them to be a Christian religious symbol!!


So where did the term “X-mas” come from?

This abbreviation is of Greek origins. The Greek word for Christ is Xristos. Europeans used the first initial in the place of the word Christ as a shorthand form of the word Christmas. Christians who did/do not understand the Greek language mistook/mistake the word “Xmas” as a sign of disrespect.


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And the sweet sweet candy canes?

The only story I could find about the candy cane is as follows, but I really wonder on the authenticity of it. It sounds more like a move by commercialism: In the 1800’s, it was the wish of a Hoosier candy maker to create a sweet symbol of Christmas. He bent a white stick of peppermint to symbolize the shepherd’s staff, viewing Christ as the shepherd of man. Turn it upside down and it could be a “J” for Jesus. The white was to represent the purity and sinless nature of Christ. Three small red stripes represented the Holy Trinity and to symbolize the pain inflicted upon Christ before his death. One bold red stripe was to represent the blood shed for mankind. He made these for Christmas, and made a pretty penny. Hmmmm.. The true part of the story is that they were handed out at church during Christmas services to keep children quiet.


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What about our precious Santa Claus?


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To most christians, the original Santa Claus (St. Nicholas) was born in the 4th century in Turkey. Even from an early age the life of Nicholas of Myra was devoted to Christianity and he became known for his kindness and generosity. Simply as a side note, Myra is in Lycia of Anatolia, which is modern-day Antalya province, and was a Greek-speaking Roman Province. His name meant “victory of the people” in Greek. The Romans possessed much disgust and contempt for him as the result of his secret gift-giving reputation, and he soon found himself imprisoned and tortured. And that is where he stayed until Constantine became the emperor of Rome. A converted Christian, Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.) and appointed Nicholas as a delegate. Known for his love of children and for his generosity, he became the patron saint of sailors, Sicily, Greece, and Russia, but most importantly, the patron saint of children. His legacy began to wain in the 16th century, but fear not, it was the Dutch who would keep his image alive by placing their wooden shoes by the hearth in hopes of having them filled with treats. He was not St. Nicholas to the Dutch, but rather Sint Nikolaas. The name would change again to Sinter Klaas.


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Sinter Klaas would gallop his horse across the winter sky between the rooftops dropping candy down the chimneys to the awaiting shoes, while his assistant, Black Peter, was the one who dropped down the chimneys to leave the gifts. Later, the name again changed, this time to Sinterklaas… and later in Angelican, Santa Klaus. The imagery of Santa Claus presented by Washington Irving’s Knickerbocker History (1809) is far different from the one presented today. In Irving’s presentation, he was a stern ascetic personage.


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It is Clement C. Moore who composed the famous poem first titled “A Visit from St. Nicolas” (later titled “The Night Before Christmas”) in 1822 that would give the modern image of the Santa Claus of today. There is some controversy even in this, as some scholars say that Moore didn’t actually write the piece, but rather Henry Livingston, Jr. was the correct author. Who knows? That research would take me a bit off course. So if you are a good Christian, you probably might know that story, but the origins of good ole Santa Claus goes down deeper than the 4th century Turkey.


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Odin, the tough god of the North People was a beefy old man with a flowing white beard and a long cloak racing across the night sky on his 8-legged horse bringing gifts to the needy, but it was Hertha that appeared in the fireplace and brought good luck to the home. Was it Odin who was transformed into Santa Claus and his eight-legged horse into eight reindeer? Who knows?


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I do have to mention “Satan Claus” here, a name dubbed for his power of omniscience (all knowing). This myth was enacted because of the belief that Satan wanted to take God’s place, and would have been a substitute for God and for the supposed “reason for the season”.


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More widely known for its Pagan roots is the Yule Log.

Northern European Pagans called their winter solstice celebration as the Yule. A representation of the Sun God, Mithras, being born, it commenced on the shortest day of the year. The lighting of a candle was to encourage Mithras, and the sun, to appear the next day. As he grew and matured, the days grew longer and warmer. These yule logs were burned in honor of the sun. The Yule is a symbol of the sun, and Chaldee name literally means ‘infant’ or ‘little child’. Perhaps that is why your Anglo-Saxon ancestors and mine would call December 25th ‘Yule-day’ or ‘Child’s-day, and the night that preceded it as ‘Mother-night’.


Now for the stickiest topic of the Christmas season: The date, and why it really was decided to be on December 25th. Everyone knows that Christ was not born on December 25th, and if you still believe that he was, then just go ahead and move on to another form of entertainment. Theories of the date of Christ’s birth are another blog that I have been working diligently on and will be presented at a later date. And yes, I understand that you might think that the reason for the season is in your heart, blah blah blah… I am just here to tell you the facts. Wasn’t it, after all, Paul who stated:


“Critically examine everything. Hold on to the good”

First Thessalonians 5:21

So sit back and read with a critical but open mind, and see what is around you and between the lines.


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The Roman Empire saw the birth of many different things, including Sol Invictus, the celebration of the resurrection of their sun god, Mithras. The idea of Saturnalia was to not only give a reason for a festival during the winter solstice, but also to give the Sun a nudge to send a message to Mother Earth, and in turn, hoping that she would respond in reproduction for the Spring. This seemed to work, because sure as we breathe air, the spring would see the rebirth of life.


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This festival was a fantabulous week long party including gift giving, feasting, dancing, singing (caroling), and an excuse for a bit of an orgy (laughs softly – damn Pagans (grins)). This Nativity of the Sun would see the start of lascivious orgies that “would begin with an ‘innocent kiss’ underneath the mistletoe and would then lead to justification of all sorts of sexual excesses, perversions and abominations" … according to the “Church”. Romans spent the days dancing through the streets with gifts under their arms and greenery crowning their heads. The tradition of the Mummers was born here. These were groups of costumed singers and dancers who traveled from house to house entertaining the neighbors. (Doesn’t this sound kind of like modern day carolers?) The 25th of December was also the birthday of Mithras (a Persian God that many thought was who Jesus Christ was based on) and the rebirth date of Dionysus (Harvest God). Mithras was known as the unconquered Sun, and the celebration was of his rebirth. Mithraism rivaled Christianity in popularity.


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In Rome itself, Saturnalia was specifically for the birth date of Saturn, the God of Agriculture. The sacred priests of Saturn were called dendrophori, and walk the street in procession carrying wreaths of evergreen boughs. And in other parts of the continent, the Germanic tribes of Northern Europe also celebrated mid-winter with a festival of feasting, drinking, religious rituals, and the lighting of the Yule.

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The people of ancient Mesopotamia took part in Zagmuk, the festival for the New Year, which lasted 12 days. It was believed that their chief god, Marduk, would do battle with the monsters of chaos, and the people would assist by holding Zagmuk.



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Some Greeks would hold a festival to assist Kronos (Chronos) the leader of the first generation of titans, do battle with the god Zeus and his titans. In Scandinavia, scouts were sent to the mountains to look for the return of the sun after 35 days of darkness. When they saw the first light, the scouts would return and hold a grand festival called the Yuletide, with a special feast served around a burning Yule log.

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The ancient Babylonians were celebrating Sacaeae, the feast of the son of Isis, Egypt’s Queen of heaven (Osiris / Horus) and Tammuz (Dumuzi, (the god of vegetation) with raucous partying, gluttonous eating and drinking, and gift giving, all of which were traditional of this festival as well. In some areas, it was thought that the god Nimrod would visit the evergreen tree and leaves gifts upon it. The point of telling you all of this is that there were many religions, if not most, that were celebrating the birth of their deity near the time of the solstice long before the Christians thought of it, or even before Christ was born. Apollo, Attis, Baal, Dionysus, Helios, Hercules, Horus, Mithra, Osiris, Perseus, and Theseus were blended into this one grand celebration called Saturnalia by Emperor Aurelian (270 – 275 A.D.). Since early Scriptures did not record the date of the birth of Christ, and early Christians focused on his death as the event worth worshipping, not his birth, the attention to his birth had not shifted until the 3rd or 4th century. Celebrating the Solstice was absolutely forbidden by the “Church”, but it did not stop the celebrations. The “Church” saw declaring December 25th as a means to fuse Pagan celebrations with a Christian declared holiday, as they were loosing ground to the other religions.


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Even in 230 A.D., it was bitterly noted by Tertullian (Quintus Septimius Florente Tertullianus (160 – 235), a notable early Christian apologist) the inconsistency of the disciples of Christ, contrasted with the strict fidelity of the Pagans to their own superstitions. They thought this “fusion” of celebration would lead the Pagans to Christianity, revitalize the strength in their religion, and bring the fidelity that the Pagans displayed in their faith into their own. In 336 A.D., the “Church” in Rome spiritualized the festival of Saturnalia as the “Feast of the Nativity of the Sun of the Righteousness” since they were unable to stomp out the Pagan festivities. The date was secured by Pope Julius I. In 374 A.D., the practice was adopted by the Christian church in Antioch. By 380 A.D., it was observed by Constantinople, and in Alexandria by 430 A.D., or there about. The 5th century saw Ireland start while the 7th century saw Jerusalem begin. The 8th century saw Austria, England and Switzerland begin, while the Slavic didn’t start until the 9th and 10th centuries. To many who have their eyes open, this was a convenient way for the “Church” to ‘Christianize’ a Pagan celebration. Today, many Christians will claim that the ‘why’ is more important than the ‘when’. So let’s wake up from the haze: If God wanted you to observe Jesus’ birthday, don’t you think He would have told you the exact day in Scripture? Why would He have deliberately hidden the day from you? Perhaps it’s because the date is not important? Perhaps because He didn’t want that part of the deal obsessed about? It was the ministry and the death followed by the resurrection that you should be focused on.



… or maybe the Pagans were not necessarily the only focus for the decision on this particular date by the “Church”?


Hmmmm…


Perhaps this was effort of the “Church” to move its celebrations away from Judaism without denying any festivities to the followers? Let’s see…


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Hanukkah occurs on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, which occurs approximately in December.


Perhaps this particular date was the way of the Roman Church to “Romanize” everything...?


Other mentions:


The traditional colors of Christmas, red and green, are on the opposite sides of the color spectrum, a representation of Male and female, and hence fertility.


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Christians assume that the tradition of gift giving began with the Magi presenting gifts to the baby Jesus. The above text has shown that the tradition of giving was demonstrated long before Christ was born.


In England in 1611, the authorized Bible became available to the common people by the decree of King James. People began to discover the pagan roots of Christmas. They had to quickly come up with the connections of the traditions of Christmas to sell it to their public. Looks like it worked!


I think it’s fair to say that the true origins of Christmas, and therefore the history of it, dates back over 4,000 years ago, long before the birth of Christ. And it’s safe to say that the practices were taken from many cultures and nations. So what’s wrong with Christmas? To say Christ was born on December 25th is a lie, but to say this is a celebration of his birth, is fine. To think that all your Christmas traditions are Christian is a lie. And remember this: The lord never spoke of commemorating his birth, but rather commanded you to remember the sacrifice of his suffering and death, which purchased your salvation.




Listening to:
"Truth Hits Everybody" by Sting and the Police.
I feel enlightened and accomplished

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