At first I chuckled at the subject-line of an e-mail addressed to the “Facing A Challenge within” (FAC) listserve: “just sharing my great news about progress in the pagan community.” But then I came to share the writer’s good feeling and had some serious thoughts – which I hope won’t offend anyone.
FAC is a progressive e-mail list that emerged from the 2004 Oakland, California conference on antisemitism within the left. Evidently, the writer is a neo-pagan who also shares her Jewish heritage to an extent with her co-religionists.
In Biblical times, 2500-3000 years ago, the Israelite religion (evolving into but not yet Judaism as we’d recognized it) was at war with polytheism and probably paganism as well. But Christianity came to be by far the most cruel and effective anti-pagan force, systematically suppressing the Wickan tradition and other nature-worshiping religions. Under the rule of medieval Christendom, Jews and pagans both suffered persecution.
Judaism remains very different philosophically from forms of paganism, but Judaism similarly expresses itself seasonally. The Hebrew calendar is key; as Abraham Joshua Heschel put it: Judaism builds “cathedrals in time.” Many holidays track closely with nature’s annual cycle — spring planting (Passover), harvest (Sukkot), and winter (Hanukkah). And Janette’s story reminds me that both Hanukkah and Christmas are, at their roots, winter solstice celebrations (emphasizing lights).
Greetings of the season to all of our readers!
On 12/21/06, Janette wrote:
Hi folks, I couldn’t resist dropping in with a lovely little report back from the Reclaiming winter solstice ritual that I just came from. After the main ritual was over I announced that we’d be lighting the menorah in observance of Hanukkah, and that anyone who wanted to could participate. We ended up with a group of about 12 – 15, singing Hanukkah songs and then dancing the hora around the menorah (hey, that rhymes!).
Afterwards, a few stayed around singing lots of other Yiddish & Hebrew songs and finally this one guy remarked that he’s been seeing more & more Jewish stuff at the rituals & how awesome it was! Eventually, we brought the menorah back near the main bonfire & drummed for quite awhile with everyone dancing. It is really remarkable, that by now I don’t even feel nervous about openly announcing a Jewish observance at these rituals. It shows how far I’ve come.
People are getting used to this and seem to have dropped the mentality of “Judaism is oppressive and no self-respecting pagan would have anything to do with it” (my paraphrasing). I know that I got the strength and motivation to do this as a result of being part of the facing a challenge conference, so a big thank you to everyone!!