DECEMBER 19, 2007
Embracing Pagan heritage
Heritage Schmeritage! Like religion, it's whatever you make of it
BY WILL MOREDOCK
Winter solstice is upon us. It was a sacred day to the ancients, who saw
in it the rebirth of the sun, with the return of warmth and daylight.
Modern Pagans will celebrate the day as their ancestors did for
thousands of years before Christians co-opted it and turned it into
Another sacred day on the Pagan calendar is Lughnasdh, which local
Pagans celebrated last September as Pagan Pride Day, in a festival in
the National Guard Armory in North Charleston.
While happy Pagans observed the cycle of the year and the cycle of life
within the armory walls, outside those walls members of Friendship
Baptist Church prayed and sang for the souls of the celebrants,
according to The Post & Courier.
To my knowledge the Pagan community shrugged off the Baptists, as they
shrugged off the letter to the editor of the P&C, which ran a few days
later. In it, a Johns Island woman wrote:
"What have we come to in our so-called Holy City, where the South's
oldest newspaper gives attention to such people ...?" she asked. "I am
willing to bet many others found this offensive and unnecessary. It
certainly is not newsworthy."
I wish I had been able to meet the angry letter writer and the members
of the Friendship Baptist Church who protested outside the National
Guard Armory that day.
I would have asked them why they hated their own heritage so
passionately. What had their ancestors done to make them so angry and
I don't know what their response might have been, but I suspect they
would have been shocked — in denial, even — to consider themselves
descended from Pagans.
But, in fact, all people of European heritage are descended from one
Pagan tradition or another. Those of African heritage had their own
Pagan traditions. After all, Christians are one of the new kids on the
block, having arrived on the scene less than 2,000 years ago. Human
beings had been around for thousands of years before the first church
raffle or Easter egg hunt.
In this old city, so proud of its tradition and its heritage, how many
Christians (or Jews or Muslims, for that matter) would stand up and
claim their Pagan past? Not only were those ancient Pagans robbed of
their religion, we know from history that many of them gave up their
faith only at the point of a sword and that many others died rather than
accept a strange new religion with an utterly alien worldview.
But I have never once heard any southerner stand up and denounce "those
arrogant Christian bastards" for conquering their ancestors and
destroying their way life.
No, what we have around here is a strange breed of white ancestor
worshippers — and devout Christians all — who denounce the North for
destroying the antebellum glory that was Dixie.
I find this disturbing for a couple of reasons. I have always suspected
that all this Confederate nostalgia had a strong strain of racism at its
core and that suspicion is only reinforced by the absurd denial by most
Confederophiles that southern secession was committed in defense of
slavery. I suspect that these deniers — like Holocaust deniers,
evolution deniers, and global warming deniers — are more than just
misinformed or contrarian by nature. Such bold dismissal of fact and
scholarship certainly accompanies some larger, darker agenda.
I also find it disturbing that these white southerners have chosen to
identify with their Confederate past. If they wanted truly heroic
ancestors to venerate, how about those patriots who defeated the British
Empire and created a free nation on this continent? Or the "Greatest
Generation," which survived the Depression and won World War II?
In a thousand years, free men and women everywhere will remember the
battles America fought in the name of freedom, and they will be
grateful. And they will remember that this great and free republic was
almost destroyed by a slave-holding oligarchy, which started a war that
killed nearly half a million Americans. And yet that's the heritage so
many white southerners have chosen to identify with.
"Heritage" is a purely artificial and arbitrary construct. It is one
group advancing some sacred balderdash to gain an upper hand over some
other group who is not part of that "heritage." It also means ignoring
important parts of history — like Pagan heritage — and rewriting other
parts of history — like the cause of southern secession.
As a lifelong southerner, I have been called a traitor and worse for not
respecting my Confederate heritage. Well, two can play that game. I
hereby challenge every Neo-Confederate to stand up for his Pagan
heritage. And to show their enthusiasm, they are all invited to come out
next September and take part in the annual Pagan Pride Day. It's a lot
more fun than Confederate Memorial Day.