Religion and Relatability (or the Lack Thereof)

Photo by Pixabay

My mom and aunts never forced us to go to church. Except for that one year we moved from the projects to a new apartment. My aunt seemed hell-bent on giving us the American dream. I suppose after the trauma of growing up in Robert Taylor, if she couldn’t give it to us in total, she’d try to provide us with the next best thing. To her, that meant bump beds, new clothes, our own rooms, going to church every Sunday, and choir rehearsal every Thursday like all the other “good Christian folk.”

We hated it.

8 Year Old Me

The first time I got baptized, the church came to scoop the project kids up in these school buses, took us to some building, separated the girls from the boys, and made us undress and put on long, white t-shirts with no underwear. 

Right.

So when the new church tried to baptize me, I was so terrified that my entire head didn’t go into the water. 

Fortunately for us, that was the only time in our lives we were ever required to go. As we aged, going to church became one of those decisions we could make ourselves. We got to decide what or how we would believe. Later in life, my cousin decided to be a Jehovah’s Witness.

Easter, 1995, Robert Taylor Projects at 4947 S. Federal

I think choosing our belief system and the freedom of being able to explore religion outside of Christianity was one of the healthiest things the surrounding adults could have done for us, which we totally overlooked growing up.

There was so much trauma I think we missed this critical sort of autonomy our parents afforded us. And I think they missed it too. With all the drugs and abandonment, there were still these glimmers of hope we didn’t realize were diamonds in the ruff.

To make a long story short, I’m an anomaly to most people because while I am obviously spiritual, I am not religious (and I believe there is a difference.) Because no one had ever forced religion on me, I’ve never been devout in the traditional sense. I can talk about the bible all day, but I’ve never been the “church lady,” nor do I live my life that way.

And no, you don’t have to be a Christian to be a “church lady.” Ya’ll know what I’m talking about.

I have zero interest in being the embodiment of that fake piousness too often present in mainstream religions. This pretentiousness, in my opinion, causes many to lack the ability to be relatable.

Take my most recent Instagram post, for example. (If you read this later, it’s the reel with the God Did song by DJ Khaled featuring Rick Ross, Wayne, and Jay-Z…whose part was too long and not as great as everyone says, but I digress.)

In general, I don’t listen to a lot of mainstream rap. I think most of it is trash. Give me some throwback Common or Talib Kweli. I’ll even take College Dropout Kanye.

But pairing that song with the message I had for that day (and doing it on a Sunday when most people’s minds are religiously focused), I thought it would relate to people more deeply. 

And it did. 

I should point out that being relatable does not mean compromising your own beliefs. I see it more like being able to connect with something others might find familiar for a greater, more clear understanding.

My internal motto is: “You (your actions, how you carry yourself, think) will be the only bible some people will ever read.”

I hope one day more of us could consider this point of view in all its layers.

The Ancient Origins of Modern Holidays

christmas-pagan-updated

I don’t celebrate Holidays but rarely do I go into why. I thought this would be a good time to do that.

To put it simply, I believe in putting no gods or deities before the one Almighty Creator, Yah. Holidays are a contradiction to this as they each go back to the worship of a god/goddess. 

For clarity, I do celebrate my birthday. I do not consider it a holiday in the same way as these holidays. 


New Year’s Day – The Babylonian God Akitu, Roman Goddess Janus

In Egypt, the year coincided with the rising of the star Sirius, the Phoenicians and Persians began their new year with the spring equinox, and the Greeks celebrated it on the winter solstice. For the Babylonians of ancient Mesopotamia, the first new moon following the vernal equinox—the day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness—signaled the start of a new year and represented the rebirth of the natural world.

They marked the occasion with a massive religious festival called Akitu, derived from the Sumerian word for barley, which they cut in the spring. This practice involved a different ritual on each of its 11 days. During the Akitu, statues of the gods were paraded through the city streets, and rites were enacted to symbolize their victory over the forces of chaos. Through these rituals, the Babylonians believed the world was symbolically cleansed and recreated by the gods in preparation for the New Year and the return of spring.

Later, Julius Caesar instituted January 1st as the first day of the year, partly to honor the month’s namesake Janus, the Roman god of change and beginnings. His two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future. This idea became tied to the concept of transition from one year to the next.

Valentine’s Day –Lupercalia, Februata, God of Fertility

Originally celebrated on February 15, Valentine’s Day comes from Lupercalia, the “festival of sexual license,” and was held by the ancient Romans in honor of Lupercus, god of fertility. Clothed in loincloths made from sacrificed goats and smeared in their blood, the Luperci would run about Rome, striking women with februa, thongs made from skins of the sacrificed goats. The Luperci believed that the floggings purified women and guaranteed their fertility and ease of childbirth. February derives from februa or “means of purification.”

February was also sacred to Juno Februata, the goddess of “fever of love” and women and marriage to the Romans. On February 14, small pieces of paper, each of which had the name of a teenage girl written on it, were put into a container. Teenage boys would then choose one piece of paper at random. The boy and the girl whose name was drawn would become a “couple,” joining in erotic games at feasts and parties celebrated throughout Rome. After the festival, they would remain sexual partners for the rest of the year. This custom was observed in the Roman Empire for centuries.

Easter- Ishtar, Aphrodite, Venus, Goddess of War and Sexual Love

Rabbits and eggs have nothing to do with the resurrection of “Christ” but have long been part of spring celebrations as symbols of new life and fertility. The wreath-circles are symbols of the womb, for example.

The Sumerian goddess Inanna is known by her Babylonian name, “Ishtar.” In ancient Canaan, Ishtar was known as Astarte. Her counterparts in the Greek and Roman pantheons are known as Aphrodite and Venus. She is the goddess of war and sexual love. Her cult practiced sacred prostitution or temple prostitution, where women waited at a temple to have sex with the gods. The word Easter does not appear to be derived from Ishtar. This is a common misunderstanding. Easter is from the German Eostre, the goddess of the dawn—a bringer of light. Ishtar and Easter seem to be homophones: they may be pronounced similarly but have different meanings.

Easter is the celebration of Ishtar, the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility and sex. Her symbols (like the egg and bunny) were and still are fertility and sex symbols today.

Halloween – Samhain (pronounced /ˈsɑːwɪn/ SAH-win, sounds like Halloween), Lord of Darkness

Halloween kicks off the start of some of the world’s major Holidays, and it is the time of the year where heavy witchcraft takes place. In fact, from October 31st through November 1st, this is known as the Witches New Year in some pagan circles. The Celts believed the dead could walk among the living during this time and that during Samhain, the living could visit with the dead. This is why people dress up in costumes. They are representing the dead who, on this night, walk the Earth and visit the living. You could see a modern example of this in the last season of American Horror Story, where the dead people in the house are free to walk the Earth on Halloween.

According to the book “Halloween—An American Holiday, An American History,” some of the Celts wore ghoulish costumes so that wandering spirits would mistake them for one of their own and leave them alone. Others offered sweets to the spirits to appease them. In medieval Europe, the Catholic clergy adopted local pagan customs. They had their adherents go from house to house wearing costumes and requesting small gifts.

Though some would say that Samhain and Halloween are two separate Holidays, they are not. Today, the only difference is that one is ancient paganism (the maintaining of old pagan practices and traditions). The other is Neo (new) paganism, incorporating a more “happy” appearance to seem nice. However, it is the honoring of the same deity.

Thanksgiving – Ceres, Goddess of Harvest, Grain, Crops

We are taught that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621. We are also taught that the real Thanksgiving involved the slaughter of the Natives and the stealing of their land. Both of these accounts are not entirely true.

Yes, the Natives were slaughtered, and their conquerors hosted a feast to celebrate their demise. And yes, I would agree that celebrating Thanksgiving could be seen as disrespecting the Natives whose land was stolen and families killed.

At the same time, the celebration of what we now call Thanksgiving took place many centuries before Christopher Columbus.

Like the other Holidays, what we call Thanksgiving goes back to worshiping the gods and goddesses. Specifically, this Holiday marks the worship of Ceres, Goddess of Harvest though she has many names. (Ceres is where we get the word Cereal.) When the pagans had a good season, they thanked their gods/goddesses for their bountiful Harvest.

Ceres was a goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility, and motherly relationships in ancient Rome. Initially, she was the central deity in Rome’s plebeian or Aventine Triad, then was paired with her daughter Proserpina in what Romans described as “the Greek rites of Ceres.” Her seven-day April festival of Cerealia included the popular Ceres games.

“The Egyptian’s fall festival was centered around the worship of Min. The Babylonian’s fall festival was centered around the worship of Marduk. The Persian’s fall festival was centered around the worship of Mithras. The Chinese’s fall festival was centered around the worship of Chung Ch’ui. The Greek’s fall festival was centered around the worship of Demeter. And the Roman’s fall festival was centered around the worship of Ceres.” (

“The turkey was associated with abundance and being thankful.  Some tribes viewed the bird as a sacred symbol of abundance and fertility, one which would serve as the sacrificial guest of honor in various ceremonies.”

https://www.thegypsythread.org/thanksgiving-pagan-roots-secret-symbols/

Christmas – Saturn, the Sun God and The Winter Solstice

Christmas, too is an ancient pagan practice and has nothing to do with the biblical Messiah. According to the book The Bible as History, December 25th is referred to in documents as Christmas Day in A.D. 324 for the first time. Under the Roman emperor Justinian, it was recognized as an official holiday. An old Roman festival played a significant part in the choice of this particular day. December 25th in ancient Rome was the ‘Dies Natali Invictus,’ ‘the birthday of the unconquered,’ (Sun), the day of the winter solstice, and at the same time, in Rome, the last day of the Saturnalia.

In a book by historian Jack Finegan, Myth & Mystery: An Introduction to the Pagan Religions of the Biblical World, “the worship of the sun-god continued widely throughout the empire, and under Aurelian (A.D. 270-275), the cult was restored to its former high estate. In the year 274, Aurelian declared the god – now called Deus Sol Invictus – the official deity of the Roman Empire. He built a temple of the sun in Rome and set the sun’s birthday celebration (naturalis solis invicti) on December 25TH, the date then accepted for the winter solstice (also in his solar character, the birthday of Mithras.)

“In the time of Constantine, the cult of Deus Sol Invictus was still at its height, and the portrait of the sun-god was on the coins of Constantine….Likewise, it must have been in this time and with the intent to transform the significance of an existing sacred date that the birthday of Jesus, which had been celebrated in the East on January 6… was placed in Rome on December 25, the date of the birthday celebration of Sol Invictus. This date appears in a list of dates probably compiled in A.D. 336 and published in the Roman city calendar, edited by Filocalus, for the year 354 (Finegan, p. 211-212)”.

Christmas is the celebration of the sun, not the son. It commemorates the Winter Solstice (the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year), which begins December 21st, honoring the Sun God Saturn. The festival of Saturnalia was the festival held to exchange gifts, party, and worship. Finegan mentions January 6th, but this is also a pagan Holiday. It is called Epiphany. The truth is no one knows precisely when Yahoshua was born.

When Constantine became Emperor of Rome, he fused ancient pagan practices with the Bible to unite the pagan world. As a Pagan High Priest himself, he sought to reconcile and blend pagan practices with Christian beliefs to merge paganism with the Roman church. This included sometimes killing off pagans in the process who refused to accept the Christianizing of their gods/goddesses.

Sources:

The Bible as History

http://www1.cbn.com/the-pagan-roots-of-halloween

The Pagan & Genocidal Roots Of “Thanksgiving”

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-schiffman/the-thanksgiving-truth_b_1105181.html

Myth & Mystery: An Introduction to the Pagan Religions of the Biblical World

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving_(United_States)

https://list25.com/25-popular-holidays-with-surprisingly-pagan-origins/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_solstice

http://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day

Halloween—An American Holiday, An American History

https://rcg.org/articles/ttbsvd.html