Friday, November 4, 2011

Sacred pagan traditions face persecution

Rockford Spirituality Examiner

In the candy-strewn aftermath of this year's Halloween festivities, well-wishing legislators and manipulative Christian agendas alike are attempting to marginalize the ancient traditions at the root of Halloween and All Saint’s Day.
Ironically, even after the violent conquest of the Christian faith over most of Europe and the superimposing of Christianized holidays over the sacred days of the old religion, some modern churches are attempting to re-imagine Halloween yet again. Life Church in Roscoe, IL holds an annual “Harvest Festival” each year on Halloween night and advertises “100% free candy, rides, food, games and music” to would-be celebrants. The event is like a bizarro-conservative Pleasure Island, complete with carnival rides, food, games, wheelbarrows full of candy and a full-sized outdoor stage with live musical acts.
Through the press of the ruddy-cheeked carnival-goers, the sound of contemporary Christian music punctuates random speakers who urge the attendees to start their spiritual journey with the church... but despite it’s publicized name, there is little to no mention of the Harvest. There are no mentions of the shifting of the light or the bounty of the Earth’s last month of food production. No one speaks of the cycle of death and rebirth that embodies both our spiritual and agricultural processes. The intent is not to celebrate the harvest, but to reap the phone numbers and addresses of hundreds of locals in order to add them to mailing lists for the church to recruit from.
Religious and spiritual festivals of different faiths often share the same general time of year(Christmas/Yule or Easter/Ostara for example), and are recognized through a variety of different practices by believers. In Rockford’s metro area, Halloween is still celebrated with publicly posted treat-or-treating times on October 31st -but elsewhere, some communities have already moved this ancient tradition to another day. The secular convenience of these changes apparently overshadows the spiritual meaning these days hold for pagan and Wiccan practitioners who live in these areas.
While Connecticut Democrat Tim Larson wants to make life easier for working parents and bring young trick-or-treaters out during daylight hours for their own safety, his proposal to move the holiday to the last Saturday of October (starting in 2012) blatantly demeans the already unstable recognition that the growing neopagan population struggles for.
Samhain, as the Wiccan tradition calls the night before November 1st, is a time for neopagans to celebrate the turning of the wheel of the year. It is one of eight sacred festivals that recognize agricultural milestones throughout the 365 day solar cycle, as well as the spiritual and physical shift from the influence of light (longer days) to that of darkness (longer nights). This association with agriculture is reflective of paganism’s origin and influence among the common country folk of Western Europe who passed these traditions down by word of mouth and from one generation to the next .
As the hours of daylight wane and the Earth’s plant and animal life lose vitality, neopagans recognize the ancestors who have passed away and pay respect to the spirits of the dead. They believe that the veil between the world of the living and the realms of the dead is thinnest at this time of year -and it is this belief in the potentiality of contact between the two that fuels some of Halloween’s most recognizable symbolism. Despite threats to life and safety, these rituals and traditions have survived persecution to be included in the practice of modern believers. It would be a tragedy to see them modified now, simply for commercial and recreational considerations. 

By Mary Diamond

Rockford Spirituality Examiner
Mary Diamond has lived in the Rockford metro area for nearly 30 years. Her mother and grandmother were both born and raised there, working and...

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