Eternal Divine

Eternal Divine
The beautiful night sky created for us all. From the Isle of Skye, Inner Hebrides, Scotland

Friday, February 1, 2013

Asherah: The Bride of God

(Goddess of the Tides by Jonathon Earl Bowser)


"Asherah of the Sea,
Asherah Come to Me,
Asherah, Asherah, Asherah."



          I originally wanted to do a post about the Wiccan Wheel of the Year and Christian Holidays, however my family and I made our way up to Cincinnati to see the Dead Sea Scrolls for my mother's birthday.  It was a magnificent display of old Jewish culture, writing, and faith.  However, there were other objects on display which included some old pots, dishes, grinding stones, coins, and certain statues; including this one. 

(Note: I did not take a picture of either the scrolls or statues as photography wasn't allowed, I merely got this picture from another website but it was the sculpture on display.  Also Asherah is not mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls)

The description next to display said (I don't remember word-for-word) this statue was of the fertility goddess Asherah, who was called Astarte by some.  It went on to say that the statue and others like it have been found near Jerusalem and throughout the Israeli-Palestinian areas.  There was a picture taken from a broken pithos (see below) with the description that said  "Yahweh and his Asherah".  Finally, the description went on to say that Asherah was worshiped alongside Yahweh, a.k.a God (Yahweh means "I Am who I Am"), as His wife or consort in the temple.




"Yahweh and his Asherah"

               For those of you are just now hearing about this, this finding of the "Bride of God" has caused some discussion, arguing, and revelation between Judea-Christian beliefs and Pagan ones.  In Paganism, especially Wicca, many of the Deities have wives and consorts but in the Judaism, Christianity, and Islam God is alone.  Asherah is worshiped by Goddess worshipers, some Wiccans, and Semitic Neo-pagans in today's world however these groups either worship her alone or alongside the god Baal who was often seen as her husband or mate.  Only in Christian Wicca (yes, it exists), Trinitarian Wicca (which could be another name for Christian Wicca or a certain path of it), and Jewish Wicca (yes, it exists too) is Asherah worshiped alongside God.  Blah blah blah blah---- You get the point:  The ancient Israelites worshiped the goddess Asherah alongside Yahweh as His wife or consort.
                And oh boy, how did the internet explode when this discovery was made.  I even came across a discussion forum on PaganSpace.net where many Pagans railed and flamed about "God's wife being edited out of the Bible" and how she was removed because she was a woman, and how Jews and Christians hate women yada yada yada yada.   First of, even though Francesca Stavrakopoulou made this discovery in 2011 on the BBC program "The Bible's Buried Secrets" the theory of God, or Yahweh as He will be referred to many times throughout this post, having a wife had been proposed a long time ago.  William Dever even wrote a book that was originally published back in 2005 entitled Did God Have a Wife? but even before then a few scholars and philosophers thought of this theory since the ancient Israelites' culture sometimes did blend with the cultures of the people who conquered them or who were around them thus prompting the inclusion of polytheism into the Hebrew religion.  So if you think this is a new discovery or theory then you're kind of behind.
                And now a bit of information about Yahweh and Asherah.  God how has been called Yahweh in Judaism, Allah in Islam, and God in Christianity has been called other names as well, specifically El in the Canaanite religion.  Despite their complicated ancestry and history, the Canaanites also worshiped God but used other names for Him along with incorporating other Deities including Asherah who was seen as El's consort or wife.  The name "El" does mean "god" or "deity" however this name of God would also influence language.  The English word "angel" is derived from a Hebrew word meaning "messenger of God" and specifically the suffix -el in the word means "of God".  We see these in names that are both somewhat modern and names for the angels like Michael means "Who is like God" or "Who resembles God", Nahaliel means "Valley of God" or "Torrents of God", Uriel means "God is my light", and Eli means "my God" or "God most high".  
                As for Asherah (I've heard various pronunciations for her name), was often called Ashratu, Asherdu, Ashratum, or other similar sounding names.  She identified, equated, or seen as an epithet of the Babylonian Ishtar, Phoenician Astarte (who was also called Ashtoreth), Ugaritic Athirat, Arabian Allat, and the Sumerian Inanna.  Please note that there's a difference in her other names and the goddesses she was equated with, example: Artemida is the Russian pronunciation of Artemis but Artemis was equated with the goddess Diana.
                Overall, Asherah has the position of Mother Goddess and a fertility deity of which the former may be the reason why the Israelites saw her at the side of Yahweh.  When Yahweh made the covenant with Abraham and when He spoke to Moses as they burning bush, polytheism was still heavily popular in the region so it's not like the Israelites didn't know about the concept of multiple deities, although it is believed that at some point Israelites became monolatrist, followers of monolatrism a.k.a the acknowledgement of multiple deities but the consistent worship of only one.  Nevertheless the worship of Yahweh and Asherah together as a Divine Union or Pair predates the belief that the Horned God and Goddess are a masculine and feminine aspect of the Divine and that they, the Horned God and Goddess, together form the the gender-less Divine.  Interestingly enough, I wonder what the priests of Baal though about when the consort of their Deity suddenly became the consort of an enemy civilization.  Why did the Israelites see Asherah as Yahweh's specific consort and what of Asherah's fate with the Israelites?

                  As stated there's a lot of ruckus being stirred up about Asherah being edited or nearly edited out of the Bible.  Well, there are some places that clearly refer to her or her epithets (i.e. Ishtar, Astarte, etc.) that weren't left out.  Specifically, both Jeremiah 7:18 and 44:17-19, 25 refer to her as the "Queen of Heaven".  I don't know about you but that's a very lofty title if I've ever seen one, it carries a lot of meaning.  There is also frequent mention of the asherim, or Asherah poles, that were sacred to her being put up and taken down in the temple; it is often said that these poles were reminiscent of a tree associated with Asherah (there will be more on that later).  2nd Kings 21:7 more explicitly deals with Asherah when King Manasseh (a descendant of David and Solomon) when he had an image of Asherah carved into a wall of the temple and he also restored all the altars to Baal and Asherah poles which in some Bibles may be written as "Baals and Asherahs" because in the ancient world whenever there was an object that was symbolic or sacred to a certain Deity that object would be named after the Deity.
                 During these times, which were near to or before the Babylonian Exile, was when Asherah was within the temple.  However after the temple's destruction the statues and markings of Asherah, along with everything else (some objects survived) was lost.  In the Second Temple no images of Asherah were re-established as the Israelites had become monotheistic at this point.  This is a few centuries before the New Testament time and in the New Testament there is no mention of the Queen of Heaven or Asherah.  There is only one goddess mentioned in the New Testament and that is Artemis at Ephesus who we can certainly agree is not Yahweh's wife. 
                So, what happened to Asherah?  Did the Jews and Israelites remove her from their worship for monotheism?  Maybe.  Is she now one of Yahweh's most important angels at His side?  Maybe.  Did she and Yahweh unite into one gender-less being?  Maybe.
                At this time Judaism had become monotheistic and unlike before with the other Semitic civilizations, the Jews did not syncretized God nor incorporated nor equated Him with any other Deities.  So Asherah, where'd ya go?  One thing that most people point out is difference between God in the Old Testament and the New Testament.  In the Old Testament, God is very wrathful to the point of punishing His people for their acts while in the New Testament God is more merciful and kind to the point of Him incarnating Himself as His Son to die for His people.  Could Asherah have involved in this?  Could she and Yahweh have united into a kinder yet gender-less God?
               In Readings in Christian Thought, Elizabeth Cady Stanton said something that was similar to Julian of Norwich's views that we have a "Heavenly Mother" as well as a "Heavenly Father"; the book also includes an excerpt from Stanton's book The Woman's Bible.  She goes on to say that the in Genesis there is plain declaration of the feminine element in God that's equal in all ways with masculine.  "God created man in His own image, male and female."  While it is certain that Stanton didn't know about Asherah here we have a declaration of the Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine which rarely seen in Christianity and Judaism.  When God came to the ancient Israelites He identified Himself as Yahweh, perhaps Asherah was the name of the feminine aspect. 
                 One thing that the Bible is known for is its heavy usage of parables or symbolic stories.  One of these supposedly parabolic stories is the story of Adam and Eve.  I've often heard that Adam and Eve was just a representation of how mankind original fell into sin, although a small handful (like this person) believe that this parable represents the relationship between Yahweh/God and Asherah.  The Tree of Life, a name given to Asherah and one of the few trees that God told Adam and Eve to partake of, is said by such people to have been represented by the aforementioned asherim poles.

                 So, wow this has been a long one, there is proof that the ancient Israelites worshiped Asherah at some point.  The conclusion?  So what?

                 I mean no disrespect, but the Christians, Jews, and Muslims aren't the ancient Israelites.  They're monotheist through and through, the term Bride of God or Bride of Christ in Christianity only refers to the people of the world, that God loves all of us.  We don't follow, worship, or believe in a Semitic goddess in fact in truth God has no gender.  We only call him He because all the writers were male, but as you can see no one's going to die because they say God the Mother or the Heavenly Mother. 
                Also, unless you're omniscient, I don't think every Israelite in the area worshiped Asherah.  Not every Jew followed Christ, not every Greek followed Socrates' teachings, and I don't think that every Pagan followers all the Deities of the world.  So, some of the Israelites did worship Asherah but not every single one.
                At most the Christians and Jews (you probably won't get the Muslims doing it) can at most acknowledge that Asherah was worshiped alongside Yahweh/God at one point but they're not going to start worshiping her again.  You aren't going to wake up one day and see in the news "The Pope re-establishes the Worship of Asherah!"  No.  But the worship of Asherah is not dead, as stated Neo-pagans, Goddess worshipers, Christian-Pagans, and Jewish-Wiccans worship Asherah.  If you feel that Asherah should be appreciated than give her an offering or prayer (I don't know how all the stuff in Paganism works).

And that's it.  If you have any questions, comments, or concerns post away!

God Bless, N. Perez 
     
                       
                   
                            


              


  


Friday, December 28, 2012

The Holy Trinity and the Triple Goddess

                         















                 
       When Wicca original rose, one of its main features was the dual God and Goddess, and more importantly it emphasized that the Goddess is a triple one.  The Goddess is Maiden, Mother, and Crone who are represented by the waxing, full, and waning moons respectively.  Each of these aspects represents both different stages of a woman's life and the themes of love, fertility, and wisdom.  But, before we continue, the Horned God is sometimes seen as triple as well, in the aspects of Young Lord/Hunter/Son, Father/Warrior, and King/Sage and are represented by the sun rise, midday sun, and setting sun respectively; and, like the aspects of the Goddess, they are representations of a man's life and carry the themes of childhood, protection, and wisdom (the Crone and Sage aspects are the most closely related despite the gender difference); however this post will focus on the Triple Goddess.  In some traditions, the basic Maiden, Mother, and Crone & Hunter, Father, and Sage (this is what I'll use to refer to the Wiccan God as triple) will be in place but Queen and King will be added.
        One of the most important doctrinal views of God in Christianity is shown in the Holy Trinity-- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The Holy Trinity holds some similarity to the Triple Goddess however its meaning and representation are entirely different.  The Holy Trinity is God in His three identities which are individually different but nevertheless still God.  Despite the masculine naming, the Holy Trinity doesn't represent a man's life-- Christianity is not an Earth-based religion like Wicca.  In the Holy Trinity, God is shown as the Father a.k.a the Divine Creator of all people and beings; God the Son a.k.a Jesus Christ who is both God-incarnate and the Son of God, sent to die for His people so that they may obtain salvation (and that's ALL OF HIS PEOPLE, don't let any radical fundamentalists **CoughWestboroBaptistsCough** tell you otherwise); and God the Holy Spirit a.k.a an unseen and truly gender-less Divine force that guides and empowers His people.  And remember, God is not a man nor a woman, the majority just uses "He", "Him", and "His" just because most of the historical and religious texts are written by men who were dominant then.
          Due to the fact that both the Christian God has a trinity and the Wiccan Goddess has one as well one would expect there to be some sort of friction between Christianity and Wicca.  Well, not so much anymore.  When Wicca first started in the 1950s there were debates and arguments between Christians and Wiccans about which trinity was the original and who stole and distorted what from who, however, that was in the past.  The Holy Trinity and Triple Goddess have been recognized as being completely separate in origin and have different meanings to them.  The debate has completely died down; however, certain members of the feminist Dianic tradition founded by Zsuzsanna Budapest, which is predominately monotheistic, views the Triple Goddess as Virgin, Mother, and Crone and believes that to be the original Holy Trinity.
          Before going more in depth into the Holy Trinity and the Triple Goddess, we need to look at the symbolic meaning of the number "3".  In many other religions there are trinities, triads, and triple deities that are apart of cultures that never had contact with one another, for example the Hindus and the Egyptians.  In Hinduism there are two known trinities the Trimurti and the Tridevi which is both the consort and feminine aspect of the Trimurti, remember Hinduism is both henotheistic and soft polytheistic (a.k.a all the deities are just aspects and manifestation of one Divine).  The Trimurti consists of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the maintainer, and Shiva the destroyer and is an aspect of the central Brahman or Para Brahman; while the Tridevi consist of Saraswati the cosmic intelligence and consort of Brahma, Lakshmi the prosperity and consort of Vishnu, and finally Parvati the spiritual fulfillment and consort of Shiva.  Just as the Trimurti are from the Brahman, together the Tridevi form the Adi Parashakti from which all other devi, or goddesses, are aspects of.  In turn the Adi Parashakti is both an aspect and consort of Para Brahman.
                      
      



    













Trimurti (left) and Tridevi

         Alright, back to the significance of "3".  Besides the Holy Trinity and Triple Goddess, the number "3" is persistent throughout Christianity, other cultures, and in general and secular life.  For example Christ fell three times taking the cross, in Chinese culture "3" is seen as the perfect number, and in in secular chemistry all atoms have three constituents (protons, neutrons, and electrons); in fact, my high school was called Trinity High School.  From what we can see, the "3" has been appearing persistently throughout time in all sorts of fields and views.  So now the question that's on everybody's lips is this: How did the "3" become such a significant and persistent number?
        It's unknown, really.  Many cultures throughout history, before they had contact with other countries and cultures, had entities of three in either religion, science, philosophy, or other fields but as to when these said entities were put into triads or trinities can be answered somewhat.  The word "Trinity" is derived from the Latin "trinitas" which means "the number 3"; in turn, "trinitas" is derived from the adjective "trinus" which means "threefold", "three each", or "triple".  Its first recorded use in Christianity was by Theophilus of Antioch in 170 A.D. but its usage then was not for the Holy Trinity.  Tertullian in the 3rd Century (a-ha, more significance) is credited with using Trinity in the Christian terms we now know of--- i.e. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The First Council of Nicaea in 325 established the Trinity as an official doctrine of the Church and later used the Nicene Creed to emphasize and set in stone the Trinity's meaning.
         Now, don't jump to any radical conclusions.  When the Holy Trinity was finally established that does not mean that it marks the first appearance of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; they had already appeared.  God the Father obviously innumerable amounts of time throughout history from creation onward;  God the Son was obviously Jesus Christ; and God the Holy Spirit had appeared when the apostles and disciples were hiding in the upper room and the Holy Spirit descended on them.  However, the Holy Trinity cannot be found in all denominations of Christianity and it isn't exactly the same in every single denomination nor can it be found in the other Abrahamic religions.  In Christian Science the idea that Jesus is God-incarnate is rejected (along with Hell as a place of punishment) so there is no trinity; in Mormonism Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three different beings so it isn't the same; Jehovah's Witnesses reject the Trinity but Jesus and the Holy Spirit do exist in the religion but have slightly different roles; Muslims severely reject the Trinity believing it to be an interpretation of polytheism; as for Jews, they also do not have the Trinity believing it to be based on paganism; and lastly the Baha'i Faith (the lesser known Abrahamic religion) sees the Trinity as contradicting to their doctrine.
           Moving on to the Triple Goddess, while there is evidence of triple goddesses in some ancient European religions, like the Celtic goddess Brigid who's picture is used at the very top right of this post, when the exact concept of Maiden, Mother, and Crone came into play is still unknown.  Remember, the aforementioned Tridevi do not follow the Maiden, Mother, and Crone view of the Triple Goddess.  Also, we've already gone over that the Triple Goddess' meaning is different compared to the Holy Trinity.  In neo-paganism, the Triple Goddess isn't wholly accepted much like the Trinity in Christianity.  Again, we see more and more comparisons between Wicca and Christianity.
            Anyway, the first known mention of a triple goddess in general is from Robert Graves' book The White Goddess, a name that would later be attributed to the Goddess in Cochrane's Craft a tradition of Wicca founded by Robert Cochrane which also revered the Goddess under the name of Hecate (or Hekate) the Greek goddess of witchcraft who was a triple or three-formed goddess (although earlier depictions are as a single one).  In the book, Graves identifies the Triple Goddess as Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena based on the three Greek goddesses who Prince Paris of Troy deemed worthy of the golden apple.  None of these goddesses are associated with the moon like the Goddess in Wicca and immediately looking at them one cannot find Maiden, Mother, and Crone among them exactly.  While Aphrodite was a maiden and Hera definitively a mother, Athena was a virgin unlike the other two so they couldn't be seen as the same goddess if the concept of the Triple Goddess was similar to each individual persons of the Holy Trinity in mainstream Christianity  However, Athena was a wisdom goddess and wisdom is attributed to the Crone aspect although Crones are generally seen as being older in modern times.


(left to right) Aphrodite, Hera, Athena, and Paris drawn by me!
Hope you like :) NO STEALING!


          As previously mentioned, the goddess Hecate was a triple goddess and earlier depictions of her were differently looking.  So, how did she become triple?  The answer is very simple:  She became closely associated with other goddesses.  Association with other deities was very common in the ancient world especially in Rome where gods and goddesses combined with other gods and goddesses much like with Artemis and and Carya who together formed Artemis-Caryatis.  So, who did Hecate become associated with and how did this lead to the Triple Goddess being labeled as Maiden, Mother, and Crone?
          According to Raven Grimassi in The Witches' Craft, Hecate became associated with the goddesses Demeter and Persephone during the story of when Persephone was abducted by her uncle Hades to the Underworld and that it was Hecate, who called upon the powers of the moon, to help Demeter reunite with her daughter.  In the Odes by the Roman poet Horace the twenty-second ode is to the moon goddess Diana (the Etrusco-Roman version of the Greek Artemis) and in said ode Horace identifies Diana as a three-formed, or triple goddess (Click here and scroll down to Ode XXII).  Also in fifth part of his Epodes, Horace identifies an actual witch name Canidia who invokes Diana (Click here and scroll down to the fifth epode).  Along with Persephone/Proserpina (or Proserpine) and Demeter/Ceres, Hecate and Diana became associated together.  In the seventh and last epode, Horace quotes another incantation by Canidia, this time invoking both Diana and Persephone/Proserpina (Scroll to the seventeenth epode).  
            In the Book Six of the Pharsalia by the poet Lucan, Lucan identifies the goddess Persephone/Proserpine as his patroness and says the she is lower form of Hecate.  The footnotes go on to say that Hecate was in fact identified with three goddesses.  She is identified with the goddess Luna (Selene in Greece) in the heavens, Diana on the Earth, and Persephone/Proserpine in the Underworld (See in the lines and footnotes here and here).  Even more in Ovid's Metamorphoses, Jason swears to Medea (who's patron is believed to have been Hecate) on the rites of the Triple Goddess of Artemis/Diana, Hecate/Trivia, and Selene/Luna (check here and here).  Overall, there seems to be a repeating theme of the goddesses Artemis/Diana, Hecate/Trivia, Demeter/Ceres, Persephone/Proserpine, and Selene/Luna being associated together; however, out of all the Greco-Roman goddesses mentioned it was Artemis and Diana who greatly differed from each other.                   
             The Greek Artemis is the goddess of the moon and the hunt and is a chaste goddess while Diana started off with simply being a moon goddess and goddess of hunting.  The Roman deities are adopted from the ancient Etruscan ones and are merged with the Greek ones.  After the Romans conquered the Greeks and imbued their religions together Diana reemerged as a virgin goddess.  Again according to Raven Grimassi's The Witches' Craft, chapter 3 "The Witches' Religion" page 52, in the early 6th century B.C, the worship of Diana at Lake Nemi in Italy included offerings to her to grant an easy childbirth; Lake Nemi was also called "Diana's mirror" since the full moon could be reflected upon the lake's surface.  Also, artifacts discovered at the Nemi site include a large number of the phallus and the vulva.  No virgin goddess of ancient times would be associated with anything sexual at their places of worship, so we can now see that Diana was different from Artemis.
            Another difference between Artemis and Diana is their interaction with the hero Actaeon.  In the myths, Actaeon spies on Artemis and Diana while they are bathing and is discovered.  In the Greek version, Artemis is enraged at Actaeon, transform hims in stag (Horned God) and has his dogs kill him, while in the Roman version Actaeon becomes Diana's lover.  In terms of the Triple Goddess, when Diana was worshiped at Nemi and the grove of Ariccia she was known as Diana Nemorensis (Diana of Nemi or Diana of the Wood) and according to some old coins found near those areas she was portrayed as a triple goddess.  


           While this is proof that Diana, who is often called the Goddess in Wicca, was a triple goddess this doesn't necessarily mean those individual identities were marked as Maiden, Mother, and Crone (although the figure on the far left on the coin does look like she's holding a phallus, giving a meaning of fertility, and wearing a young woman's tunic).  Although the festival that was held in honor of Diana Nemorensis, Nemoralia, was primarily for Diana the goddess Hecate/Trivia also had offerings made to her during  the festival, and as we already know Hecate is associated with the Goddess, the Crone aspect, and the dark of the moon.  On side note, it was believed that when Romans were persecuting the Christians the Christians decided to hold the Feast of the Assumption of Mary on August 15th, the end date of Nemoralia, to make the Romans think that they were worshiping Diana instead of honoring the Virgin Mary.  However, this was not officially set in stone until November 1, 1950 by Pope Pius XII.  
           Nevertheless, from all the aforementioned goddesses discussed we can see how the identities of the Wiccan Goddess were influenced.  In terms of Maiden, Mother, and Crone we can see depictions of Persephone/Proserpine, Demeter/Ceres, and Hecate/Trivia if we follow the story of Persephone's abduction by Hades and with Artemis/Diana (mostly Diana) being all three of them as one (I prefer to use this one).  Although it can also be seen as Artemis/Diana, Demeter/Ceres, and Hecate/Trivia with Selene/Luna as the amalgam.  


Persephone the Maiden, Demeter the Mother, and Hecate the Crone
Drawn by me again DO NOT STEAL!

        Anyway, that should wrap things up.  Good Lord, this post went on for longer than intended.  Apologies to any brains that exploded from over information.  
        Let's sum up: The Holy Trinity and the Triple Goddess only share the similarity of having three people who are all the same person in the end but individually different.  The Triple Goddess revolves around the phases of the moon and a woman's life stages while the Holy Trinity is God's manifestations.  They have both existed for a long time.  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have been around for centuries but they weren't immediately put into a trinity the same with Maiden, Mother, and Crone.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns post away and thank you.   

God Bless, N. Perez. :)


             


          

    

Friday, December 14, 2012

A time of sorrow

My heart and prayers go out to the victim children of the Connecticut shooting and their families.... whether you be Christian or Pagan please pray for them.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Jesus Christ and Aradia di Toscano

         


















      What this post particularly talks about are two very, VERY, VERY, IMPORTANT messianic figures.  The former being the most well-known, and I the one I follow, and the latter being only exclusively known yet causes much interest among people, specifically Wiccans, other pagans, and most notably the Italian strega.  
        Here's the basics: Jesus Christ, whose real name was Yeshua or Joshua (Jesus is just a Latin translation from a Greek version, Christ is a title that comes from the Greek christos which means anointed and is the equivalent of the Hebrew mashiach, or Messiah--- see here for more details.) is the Messiah seen in Christianity as being both the Son of God and God incarnate.  His mother was the Virgin Mary, or Miriam, and His foster father the carpenter Joseph, or Yosef.  Jesus grew up teaching to the Jewish people new teachings and laws from God some of which were not met well by the Jewish leaders especially the promise of salvation being offered to everyone not exclusively the Jews.  Jesus was eventually put to death by His people via crucifixion and thus became self-sacrificing; this is Jesus' most notable feat, dying for the sins of the children of God and that's ALL of his children.  After being buried He rose from the dead three days later and reappeared to His apostles and disciples bearing His wounds--- the stigmata--- and remained for forty days until ascending into Heaven.  Although Jesus was a Jew, the Jews did not accept Jesus as their foretold messiah and thus Jesus and His teachings were seen as Christian rather than Jewish (to know more about the history of Christianity click here); Jesus' teachings spread because of his apostles and disciples the most important of them being Peter the first pope, Paul (Saul) who opened the teachings up, and John for his important writings.
        Aradia, whose name is believed to have been taken or based on either Erodiade the Italian version of Herodias, the woman who wanted John the Baptist beheaded, or Arianrhod, an ancient Welsh goddess, with the former being more likely the origin.  While the name Aradia has appeared in Gardnerian, Alexandrian, and Dianic Wicca as the name of the Goddess, this post will focus on the figure Aradia di Toscano whose followers were the strega (Italian witches) who's religion was what modern day stregone/stregono Raven Grimassi called the "Old Religion of Italy" a.k.a Stregheria.  Aradia's life is mostly told in Charles Leland's Aradia, or the Gospel of Witches which Grimassi believes that there is some distortion on the story.  According to Leland, Aradia is believed to have been the daughter of the moon goddess Diana and her brother Lucifer the sun god, and born in Volterra; Lucifer is seen as a distortion, since he is a solar deity and the brother of Diana many believe his real name to be Apollo.  Aradia taught witchcraft to her fellow peasant and pagan comrades who were oppressed by the Church at the time.  Afterwards, it is believed Aradia fled to safety but asked her followers to hold a feast in remembrance of her; later her disciples would form three clans Fanarra (Earth mysteries), Janarra (Lunar mysteries), and Tanarra (Stellar mysteries) each based on different names and powers for Aradia's mother.
           As far as I know, Jesus has been accepted as the messiah in all Christian denominations however in Wicca there is no set messiah or messianic figure.  Stregheria, the religion which Aradia is most important to, is not considered Wicca by its practitioners although they do acknowledge similarities like a central God and Goddess or incorporate similar practices and traditions like the Wheel of the Year.  Stregheria is based around Italian witchcraft which differs from the general witchcraft we all know about in Wicca.  So Aradia only appears as a messiah in Stregheria; as mentioned before though, the name Aradia has appeared in other sects of Wicca as the name for the Goddess.  But here is something very interesting:  we have both a male and a female, the former being a part of the world's largest religion and the latter being a part of religion that is rapidly growing.
          As guessed by the previous information, many people do have a tendency to compare and contrast Jesus of Nazareth and Aradia di Toscano with the most notably thing being their gender.  Before Jesus' and birth and in other religions, there have obviously been other male messianic figures however Aradia is the first female messiah to gain importance, well, at least she's the first female messiah whose religion has survived.  While looking for information I found that there is at least one notable female messianic figure that arose during the outbreak of heresy and Gnosticism in the late 1200s and her name was Guglielma of Milan whose followers, called the Guglielmites , thought her to be the incarnation of the Holy Spirit and said she was equal to Christ.  Eventually Guglielma died and her successor, Manfreda, was appointed pope, or popess rather, by the heretical group and they waited by her tomb waiting for her divine resurrection but held feast in honor of her.  However, that day never came as the group was destroyed, Manfreda executed, and Guglielma's bones burned; this interesting information came from Raven Grimassi's website.  
          The fact that Guglielma's followers held feasts in honor of her, which is exactly what Aradia (according to Grimassi) asked her fellow strega to do and that Guglielma was viewed as a female messiah seems very interesting.  This may be proof that Stregheria truly was the original native Etruscan or Italian religion and that Guglielma was attempting to fuse Stregheria with Christianity by being the messiah of both; however, we do not actually know what the ancient Etruscans and Italians did worship so this cannot be fully confirmed.  According to Grimassi's information again, it is said that Guglielma had ties to the Visconti family who were rumored to be into black magic and occultism thus hinting again, but not confirmed, an interest in an old Italian witchcraft-based system.  Going back to the theory of Gulielma fusing Christianity with Stregheria, there's another theory (although it is a very recent one popular with Christian-Wiccans or the Christian-Stregoneria that Grimassi believes is followed by everyday people) based around Jesus and Aradia that says that Jesus is both the Son of and the incarnate of the Divine Masculine while Aradia is both the Daughter and the incarnate of the Divine Feminine whose "parents" became divided at some point and the followers of Jesus and Aradia became corrupted by human desires and waged religious warfare against another.  However, I can already see errors with this as there are no texts or writing that supports this and this just may be a thought more than a theory to bring about either coexistence, peace, or an excuse for one's beliefs.
       Like Wicca, Stregheria does have some similarities to Christianity and as a result there are some disputes about said similarities.  However, out of all the innumerable denominations of Christianity the one that Stregheria can be most similar to is Roman Catholicism, my religion.  Now before I continue I must dispel some things so nobody gets the wrong idea:  Catholicism is Christian and Stregheria is pagan, they do not worship the same deities at all, Catholics worship and believe in one (monotheism) divine God is neither man nor woman but nevertheless uses "He" and "His" when being referred to while the strega worship and believe in two (polytheism) deities the God and the Goddess who have often been named in pairs as Tagni and Uni, Dianus and Diana, Faunus and Fana, Janus and Jana, and finally Tanus and Tana.  Strega take up the use of magick in their religion and practices while Catholics are heavily against magick and believe it is non-existent and only believe that God has any non-human abilities and that humans, while having great talents and feats, are only, or should be limited, to the natural world.  So as a sum up:  Catholics and the strega ARE NOT THE SAME THING!
          However, as said before, Catholicism bears most resemblance to Stregheria.  According to a passage from Raven Grimassi's Ways of the Strega: Many modern Strega simply consider Catholics to be Pagans who have accepted the divinity of Jesus (to see more about this go here and scroll down).  First, we need to look at the definition of the word pagan which comes from the Latin paganus which means country dweller or rustic, so in ancient times pagan simply meant someone who lived in the country or outside the major big cities.  How the definition of pagan that we know today came along was during European Christianization when people in the big cities, royalty, or any other important or high-class figures had already converted to Christianity but the peasants and country-folk were still apart of the older religions.  The country-folk were already called pagan before due to their status now they were called pagan due to their religious beliefs.  According to Robin Lane Fox in his book Pagans and Christians, he specifies that pagan actually always bore a deeper, unique connotation.  Early Christians coined it as a slang word to mean civilian, that is, someone no enlisted, through baptism, in the armies of Christ fighting Satan's evil (see here); and if you remember my post on the history of Christianity and Wicca, Christianity was seen as a cult by the Jews and Romans and cult simply means a religion or system of religious beliefs that is seen as unorthodox or not in the norms of whatever religion(s) or beliefs existed within the society at the present time.
       ACK!  I'm getting off topic, sorry!  The similarities between Stregheria and Catholicism are mostly found in the tradtions and old practices in the country of origin.  While Christianity did technically begin in the Israeli and Palestinian area, Catholicism emerged in Italy where Stregheria and the strega were also born.  Remember, before the Romans came to power the Etruscans, also called the True or Ancient Italians, lived in Italy and their practices and customs definitely influenced both the religion of the Roman Empire and Stregheria and by extent Christianity when its seat of power was established in Rome.
        The term Catholic was adopted long before the Protestant Reformation and the term Roman was added to the Catholic Church as an insult by the Protestants because they had believed the Catholic Church was becoming like the Roman Empire.  So the actual denomination of the Catholic Church did not arise until the split with the Eastern Orthodox Church in 1054 and it is that specific Catholic Church that most likely had old Italian or Etruscan-based practices but obviously the practice were formatted to worship God.
         Okay, so after all this tedious background information we get back to the main subjects of this post: Jesus Christ and Aradia di Toscano.  Both messiahs but one attributing to Christianity and the other to Stregheria.  Jesus will protect, save, and preach to everyone regardless of their beliefs and He will not do it in the way that the fundamentalists are doing today.  Aradia is said to protect, save and teach the witches and strega but says not to draw the first blood.  Aradia's religion bears some similarities to one denomination of Christianity while Jesus' religion, which was intended to be Judaism, was changed to accept everybody.
       Both Christianity and Stregheria had true intentions behind them, however there are members of both religions who seek to do harm to each other, don't deny it, there are.  It's unfortunate that both religions have such members that wish to do harm even though such individuals would not see themselves doing harm.  Even though Wicca is one of the fastest growing religions in America there are people who go their whole lives without knowing about it and furthermore Stregheria is probably not even brought up in a conversation about Wicca.  So, if one wants to know about why Aradia isn't well-known that exact fact is probably why.
     Finally focusing on the main topics again I'm sure there's a question on everyone's lips: What would happen if Jesus Christ and Aradia met?  Would they bully each other?  Would they become best friends?  Would they be regular friends?  Would they acknowledge each other's existence but not speak or make contact with each other ever again?  Would they just say hello as a formality?  Would they argue with each other about their beliefs?
      To be perfectly honest, I have absolutely no idea what Jesus and Aradia would do if they meet.  Jesus is my messiah and Catholicism is what I follow but I'm not going to shove me beliefs down someone's throat and I'm sure that's what God wants me to do.  I'm sure that a strega accepts Aradia as his/her savior and that Stregheria is what he/she follows and, from what I at least can tell, the modern strega don't shove their beliefs either.  Would Jesus and Aradia do this?I do not have an answer and to those that do they are probably all different answers.  I do know that thinking does not satisfy people.
     People will point out that Aradia was defending her people against the Church but had no plans to overthrow the Church and I'm certain that not many Christians approved of the violent manner in which the witch hunts were carried out in.  Others will point out that the Roman pagans tortured and killed Christians but there were and have been Christians that did fight back for the sake of their lives or religion but once again neither Jesus nor any true Christian had plans to overthrow the Romans and when Christianity became the official religion of Rome it was not by force.  So... what I'm saying is that both Christians and the strega went through the same ordeals and so did possibly every other religion.
       Jesus and Aradia had similar roles but were apart of different religions, in different areas, at different time periods.  Both Jesus and Aradia wanted to help their people in some way but never told their people to overthrow their oppressors.  One was a man and one was a woman, one was a Jew and the other a pagan witch, and one lived in Asia the other in Europe.  To be honest God only knows what Jesus and Aradia would do if they met.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns post away :)
This post is on Thanksgiving so Happy Thanksgiving and blessings!

God Bless, N. Perez


         
                      
                


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Christianity and Wicca: Brief History

Before we tackle any similarities between Wicca and Christianity, we need to know a little bit more about them.

 
Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.
For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. 
 Full moon shining bright, midnight on the water. Oh Aradia, Diana's silver daughter...
History of Christianity



      Before Christianity, there was Judaism and before that there was Zoroastrianism, but overall Christianity was initially supposed to be a continuation or renewal of Judaism.  However, the Jewish teachings said that only the promised children of Israel would gain acceptance into Heaven.  Jesus Christ said that everyone would be saved.  Jews and Gentiles (then Christians and anybody else who was not Jewish) would both be accepted by God.  Many of the Jews did not agree with this after all the centuries of suffering that they had endured nor did they recognize Jesus as their Messiah or the Son of God.  
      Those Jews, or rather Gentiles, that agreed with Jesus' teachings were known as the first Christians.  The Christianity was called The Way as was seen as a cult by both the Roman Empire and Jews (please note that the term "cult" is not the demonized word we think it to be; cult merely means a new religious movement that is not in the norms of whatever religion(s) or beliefs existed within the society at the present time).  Then Christianity was simply just Christianity although the term "Catholic" meaning "universal" would later be coined by St. Ignatius of Antioch.  The term "Roman Catholic" would later be used by the Protestants at the Reformation as an insult rather than a title. 
       Anyway, Christian teachers and preachers spread all over the then-known world spreading what they later would call "The Good News".  St. Paul, a former Jew, (real name Saul) was the most known of these preachers.  It was him who opened up the Church at that time to everyone while fixing the mistakes of others and rooting out the radicals.
       Christianity remained the same until 1054, when the Western Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church split, also known as the East-West Schism over many issues such as politics, theological issues, and ecclesiastical differences.  Many heretical and gnostic (not to be confused with agnostic) groups also formed at this time but never made it to present day.  To this day, even after coming to America, Eastern Orthodox Christians remain unchanged in their dogma and practices.  The Western Church however deal with some unfortunate incidents that led to more breaking away.  During these years, both the pope and priest of the Catholic Church could marry which led to some troublesome issues most of them centering around the Borgia family.  But the pope and priests did not only have wives but also had secret, illicit relationships with mistresses, courtesans, and prostitutes which ultimately led to some trust issues due to that fact that often the land and church the priests once owned would go to their children who would not be as religious as their fathers (in the Eastern Church and some other Christians churches, priests are still allowed to marry).
       Pope Siricius eventually tackled this issue declaring priests can no longer sleep with their wives and later Pope Gregory VII said all priests must leave their wives for celibacy.  The Council of Trent in the 16th century would alter declare all those working within the Catholic Church would have to be celibate (although Pope Pius XI in 1930 would later say sex can be could and holy).
      Shortly after these unfortunate incidents, the Protestant Reformation, another schism, would break up Christianity more.  Important figures like Martin Luther and Henry VIII of the Tudor family would appear.  Shortly after these political and religious turmoils America would be founded for religious freedom, but not all religions were accepted there.  The Catholic Church, now called Roman Catholic Church by Protestants, would reformed later as well.  Note: Protestants are any religious groups or churches that broke away from Catholicism around or after the Reformation, nevertheless they are considered Christians as well but Eastern Orthodoxy is not considered Protestant.
       All the Christian denominations would be at each others' throats until after WWII and John F. Kennedy, the first and only Catholic president, became president.  JFK tackled the issue of a Catholic being in power.  JFK said he would not adhere to the Bishop of Rome, a.k.a the pope, and called for separation of church and state.  This made Catholicism a bit more accepted in America.  Overtime, internal conflicts in Christianity calmed down but some issues still remain at an issue.

History of Wicca
     


     While Wicca is a relatively new religion, it traces its origins back to the druids and priests of ancient Celtic times.  However, some sects of Wicca have Roman or Greek origins specifically in terms of the God(s) and Goddess(es).  Unlike most other religions, Wicca is a bit more supernatural in that it involves the use of magic and/or mostly witchcraft.  Charles Cardell coined the terms "Wicca" and "Wiccen" (later spelled Wiccan), which clearly are derived from the word "witch" which most Wiccans consider themselves to be, but the exact etymological origins of the words "witch" and "Wicca" remain unknown.  One old word "hægtesse" (which was the originator of the  Dutch heks and the German hexe) seems to sound similar to Hecate a Greek goddess of witchcraft who is often identified as the Crone, a form of the Goddess or the Goddess Herself.  In Italian, "strega" is the Italian word for witch which derives itself from the Latin "strix" which means screech-owl; in Hebrew screech-owl is translated L-Y-L (layil) which is a word for Lilith who, in Christianity, is a female demon and often seen as a feminist symbol and, in Wicca and neo-paganism, is sometimes believed to be the Goddess or the first witch (Wiccans do not believe in demons or the Devil, at least not any physical ones).
     Anyway, Wicca first arose around the 1950-60s in England by the help of Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valiente, Edith Woodford-Grimes, and Robert Cochraine.  All four of them initially followed Gardnerian Wicca (named after Gardner) but Cochraine eventually fell out of the circle and formed his own coven.  Gardner, Valiente, Woodford-Grimmes went by the craft names Scire, Ameth, and Dafo respectively (craft names are similar to Christian Confirmation names; a name that designates the person who has said name to be a follower of their religion and that they will continue to follow it for the rest of their lives).  Gardnerian Wicca follows the practices of the ancient druids and was considered the only and mainstream however other sects, most notably Alexandrian and Algard Wicca, would so arise.  Regardless, before it came to America, Wicca was not as feminist-based or nature-based as we view it today.
     Wicca is often said to the old religion of England and the Celtic people and while it is polytheistic like those old religions, generally Wicca only has two deities: The Horned God and the Goddess, or just the God and Goddess or Lord and Lady.  The Horned God is sometimes represented by the masculine sun but His name and appearance often confuses him with the Devil and Satanism, thought most often He is just a green man with stag horns not goat horns like the Devil.  The Goddess, whose involvement in Wicca became extremely important, is most often represented by the feminine moon.  The Goddess allowed the role of high priestess to come in to play which gave women some role and authority in religion, which is alter why Wicca became so popular among second-wave feminist during the Goddess Movement.  Just as God in Christianity is three divine persons Father, Son, and Holy Spirit the Horned God and Goddess have three persons: Hunter, Father, and Sage & Maiden, Mother, and Crone (often the "Hunter" is replaced with "Son" and sometimes "King" and "Queen" are added based on the tradition).  Many Wiccans such as British Traditional Wiccans (i.e. Gardnerian, Alexandrian, etc...), Pan-Dianic, or McFarland Dianic see the Horned God and Goddess as being male and female aspects of the Divine which is neither male or female but beyond human grasping but making the Horned God and Goddess the same Divine in different forms.  
        Just as Christianity was, Wicca was, and is sometimes still, viewed as a cult and thus had a hard time gaining recognition in the world.  Over the years, Witchcraft Acts had been put in place to prevent the practicing of witchcraft and by extend Wicca.  The act of 1735 was the most recent which is still enforced in Israel, Northern Ireland, South Africa, and other countries.  The last person to be trialed internationally was Jane Rebecca Yorke while the last person in America was Zsuzsanna Mokcsay a.k.a Zsuzsanna Budapest the founder of the Z. Budapest Tradition of Dianic Wicca and the feminist Susan B. Anthony Coven #1 (which was later renamed). 
       During the 1970s, Wicca really took off especially among women and feminist in what was known as the Goddess Movement.  In the Goddess Movement theaology (not a misspelling), or women's spirituality, focused on a female God (specifically in Christianity), the Goddess, or the divine feminine.  It was around this time that Mary Nesnick's Algard Wicca (a fusion of Gardnerian and Alexandrian Wicca) arose but this was also the time when the Horned God was getting overshadowed or removed.  The Goddess often took supremacy or was the only being in the pantheon which added to Wicca being called "the woman's religion" or "feminist religion" and being accused of matriarchal dominance, just as  Christianity had been accused of patriarchal dominance.  Zsuzsanna Budapest's work was most notable of accusation.
      Zsuzsanna Budapest a lesbian and feminist witch who founded the Z. Budapest line of Dianic Wicca, a particular branch of Wicca that focused heavily, and often solely, on the Goddess.  Budapest's specific Dianic tradition removed the Horned God and said only women-born-women were allowed to participate in the craft and believed that only two people existed in the world: "Mothers and children".  Budapest disagreed heavily with Morgan McFarland's Dianic tradition in allowing men to join Dianic Witchcraft and caused further controversy when a transgendered witch wanted to partake in a Dianic circle at PantheaCon 2012.  Budapest denied this witch's right to partake in saying she wasn't a woman-born-woman or "cisgendered".  Lady Yeshe Rabbit, a high priestess ordained by Z. Budapest, could not agree with these methods.
       Yeshe Rabbit had studied under Zsuzsanna Budapest for some years but realized that her lineage of Wicca was not for her.  Rabbit formed her own lineage called Pan-Dianic; along with her fellow priestesses the Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe (originally named Amazon Priestess Tribe) they formed their own coven the Come As You Are or CAYA Coven which invites men and women of various background, beliefs, and identities.  I was not able to find Budapest's reaction or thoughts on Lady Rabbit's action though Zsuzsanna still seems to believe only women-born-women should partake in Dianic Wicca.  The Pan-Dianic tradition seems to be more neo-pagan in general rather than Wiccan making it more open to other witches.  Yeshe Rabbit is even partaking in a campaign against rape that helps to clear away the image that "all men a rapist".


  That is the histories of Christianity and Wicca in a nutshell.  Despite their differences, the two religions share some similarities in both history and beliefs.  It is unfortunate that these two are not on friendly terms.  While I am only a Christian, a Catholic specifically, I am hoping that Christianity and Wicca will come to terms.   

God Bless, N. Perez                                                              
            
          
         


 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Welcome to My New Blog

Hello, and welcome to my new blog! This isn't my first time blogging, my original blog can be found here . That blog is devoted to anime, gaming, manga, and my artwork but I got interested in other things so I decided to create this one.

 First, I am a college student who's majoring in history but with a minor in religious studies. I like the history and religion of all cultures and peoples. But most of all I like finding similarities between religions no matter how contradictory or different people claim they may be. So, that's how this blog was birthed.

I am a practicing Roman Catholic, one of the oldest Christian denominations, however over time I gain in interest in other religions; most recently and specifically Wicca a pantheistic, neo-pagan religion that focuses on witchcraft and worshiping of the Horned God and the Goddess (who is often seen or named as a Moon Goddess thus hinting part of the name of the blog).

I had always been told that Christianity and Wicca have nothing in common, but they do. However upon saying that accusations rose that one or the other stole ideas and practices from one another. But what we do know is that religions and cultures blend, so that may be a proper term.

 Each side has their purpose and right to worship which ever divine being they see fit, so as a result constructive criticism will only be welcome here. Any bashing, you're going to Hell, I'll hex you, or I hate you stuff will be immediately blocked and banned. This is a place to think and pray.

I hope I can keep your interest up :) God Bless, N. Perez