An Example of Syncreticism: ChristoPaganism|
Posted: June 10th. 2000
Times Viewed: 13,006
Whenever the topic of syncreticism comes up, I think of the ChristoPagan tradition. This path seeks to blend elements of Paganism (such as reverence for the Earth and the Goddess) with elements of Christianity. It is still very new, and therefore often misunderstood.
As a ChristoPagan, I'd like to share how I practice my faith. In doing so, I hope that I can illuminate why someone would choose this path. One thing that you must keep in mind while reading this is that I can only speak for myself - another person who identifies themselves as a ChristoPagan might have completely different views than mine.
~ The Nature of the Divine
Chrisitianity generally sees the Divine as being separate from nature, whereas Paganism sees the Divine manifest in nature (pantheism). My beliefs are in the middle of these two polars, and is expressed by the doctrine of panentheism.
Panentheism is the belief that the Divine includes and penetrates the whole universe, so that every part of it exists in the Divine, but that the Divine's being is more than, and is not exhausted by, the universe. For me, this means that the Goddess and God existed before the universe, and as they created it, they became part of their creation.
Because the Lady and Lord are one with their creation, everything around us is sacred. It also means that no species (or gender) is superior to the rest. Because of the Book of Genesis, many Christians believe that God gave them the right to do whatever they please with the Earth and its creatures. However, I believe that it is our responsibility to look after the Earth, not abuse it.
The Divine manifests in the way that each individual can best understand. For one person that may be the Goddess; for another the Christian trinity. Dion Fortune once said that "all the gods are one god; all the goddesses are one goddess, and there is one initiator." For me that means that all of the deities found in the world's mythologies are valid aspects of the Lady and Lord. No one's deity is invalid, even if I do not choose to venerate that god/dess.
~ Mary and Christ
Having been raised a Catholic, when I think of Judeo-Christian goddesses, the first that comes to mind is Mary, the mother of Christ. Although she may not seem like it at first glance, Mary is a personification of the Triple Goddess: She appears as Maiden when the angel Gabriel came to announce she had been chosen to bear God's son, and when she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. She becomes Mother when she gives birth to Jesus, and this continues as she raises him, for the most part by herself (after Joseph's death). her Crone aspect manifests at the foot of the Cross, as she sorrowfully witnesses her son's death. After she is assumed into the heavens, she resumes her position as a Mother Goddess, caring for her children through the miracles she has performed, her intercessions, and her apparitions. When the Pagan traditions were suppressed by the Church, the figure of Mary became a mask for the mysteries of the Goddess. The visions and miracles attributed to her are a powerful sign of the Goddess' presence, at a time when her Pagan manifestations had been demonized by the Church.
In Jesus Christ I see another manifestation of the Dying and Rising God, who gave his life for the benefit of the people, just like Osiris, Tammuz, and countless others did. I believe that his sacrifice offered a spiritual renewal to the world, and that one does not have to become a Christian in order to benefit from it - it was an unconditional gift. His teachings were powerful. Stories such as the Beatitudes and the story of the prodigal son spoke to the people in his day of God as a loving father instead of a stern judge.
Although you might think that to become a Wiccan/Pagan one must abandon belief in Christ, this is not necessarily so. This quote from Gerald Gardner, in his book "The Meaning of Witchcraft, " offers a different perspective:
"It is usually said that to be made a witch one must abjure Christianity; this is not true; but they naturally would not receive into their ranks anyone who was a very narrow Christian. They do not think that the real Jesus was literally the Son of God, but are quite prepared to accept that he was one of the Enlightened Ones, or Holy Men. That is the reason why witches do not think they were hypocrites "in times of persecution" for going to church and honoring Christ, especially as so many of the old Sun-hero myths have been incorporated into Christianity; while others might bow to the Madonna, who is closely akin to their goddess of heaven."
~ The Bible
Fundamentalist Christians consider the Bible to be the infallible word of God, but I do not share this opinion. The books of the Bible were inspired, perhaps divinely, but they were written by many different authors, some of whom contradict one another. It is also quite possible that texts were edited to fit to individuals' beliefs or prejudices. The best example of this is the King James Bible and the infamous "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" - the original word was "poisoner, " but was later changed to "witch" at King James' command.
Another thing that Fundamentalists do not take into consideration is that there are more books than those found in the Protestant translations. The Catholic and Orthodox churches include a group of books known as the Apocrypha in their canons. Another group of books, which none of the mainstream Christian traditions accept are the Gnostic Gospels.
When I read the Bible, I try to find the passages that are meaningful to me. For example, in the Book of Wisdom and the Book of Proverbs, I found a goddess-like figure named Wisdom. She is described as being God's companion during his creation of the world, and some passages suggest that she may have played an active role (see Proverbs 8:22-31). Two beautiful passages about her are Wisdom 7:22-30, 8:1 and Proverbs 3:13-18.
~ The Afterlife
Do I believe in Heaven and Hell? I believe in Heaven, but I find that I can not believe in the doctrine of Hell - I could never believe that a loving God would condemn his children to eternal suffering for mistakes made in one lifetime. I believe in reincarnation, the idea that we are given many lifetimes to learn, and that if we get something wrong, we are sent back to learn it. No one needs to suffer.
I do believe in Heaven, but not in the traditional Christian sense of the word. I believe that Heaven is a state of being in complete union with the Divine, something that I believe will happen at the end of our many lifetimes, when we have finished our learning. The joy that union will bring is something that inspires me in my faith.
I observe the eight Wiccan Sabbats, as well as the cycles of the Moon (by holding an Esbat celebration on the Full Moon). My rituals are much like any other Pagan rite that you might attend, but there are some minor differences. When I begin by casting the circle, I invoke the ArchAngels at the four directions. I realize that there are other Wiccan/Pagan traditions that do this as well, but I've made the choice in part because of my Christian background. Before I invoke the Lady and Lord, at the centre of the circle I ask for the presence of my guardian angel. This is my way of honoring the "element" of Spirit/Akasha.
The ritual continues on with the invocation of the Goddess and God, and then a celebration of the Sabbat or Esbat. If the celebration is a Sabbat, I perform the symbolic form of the Great Rite (I omit this during Esbat celebrations). Instead of Cakes and Wine, I celebrate the Eucharist - the bread is dedicated to the God and the wine/juice to the Lady, and I ask them to infuse the food with their essence. I adopted the idea of a "pagan Eucharist" after reading Scott Cunningham's "Simple Feast, " wherein the celebrant asks for the Lady's blessings over the cup and the Lord's over the bread. I also learned that in some of the Mystery cults, such as that of Mithras, a sacred meal was celebrated, and that was likely part of where the Christian Eucharist came from. After Communion, I either meditate or say a decade of the Rosary. Then, if I am going to perform a spell, it is done at this time. After all is done, I thank the ArchAngels and the Goddess and God for their presence at the rite, and the circle is opened.
~ Prayer and Magick
Many Wiccans/Pagans see magick as being the same as prayer, and in a way they are right. When one compares spells to prayer, they are thinking of prayers of petition or intercession. However, there are more types of prayer - according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the other forms of prayer are adoration, praise and thanksgiving, confession, and unitative (mystical union or ecstasy).
When you pray, you are communicating with the Divine (which itself is a magickal act). This communication doesn't need to be limited to just asking for things you need. When you find yourself in awe of the beauty of Nature, you may say a prayer of praise to the Lady. Or you might give thanks when prayer is answered or a spell's goals have been accomplished. When you pray asking for something that you need, you are placing your request into the hands of the Goddess and God and asking them to help.
On the other hand, when you cast a spell, you are using the power of your will (and perhaps the forces of Nature) to cause needed change. You might ask for the Goddess and God to bless your efforts, but you are not asking them to do everything for you.
Both prayer and magick have a place in my beliefs. I use spell casting when I am in need, and I use prayer to help those who are in need (especially if they are someone who I do not know, and therefore spell casting would be inappropriate). I also incorporate a Pagan form of the Rosary into my nightly prayers, as an act of devotion to the Lady. The use of prayer beads is certainly not limited to Catholicism, and is a Pagan practice - the Phoenicians used them in their worship of Astarte, and the Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, and Eastern Orthodox faiths use prayer beads in their worship.
I have been on this path for five years, and my faith has continuously grown. Serving the Lady and Lord has been a pleasure, and I delight in finding them revealed in the world around me: in the wonders of nature, the faces of people I know and love.
In this essay, I have covered a fair bit of information concerning my beliefs as a ChristoPagan, but there is so much more to my faith than what can be covered here! I hope that reading this has shed some light on why some of us choose this path.
Peace be with you and Blessed Be!
Location: , USA
Bio: Ara is a Solitary Wiccan, and has been practicing for over five years. She follows the ChristoPagan path, and is a member of the Wiccan Church of Canada's Oshawa Temple. Ara lives with her dad in Whitby, Ontario, and is "big sister" to cockatiels Treeney and Sunny. She enjoys reading and listening to music (esp. Alice Cooper), and runs her own website, The Chalice of Rixx - http://pagan.drak.net/chalice
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