Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Holidays Aren't Violent (Jason vs. Easter and Passover)

Pagan holidays are not violent. They aren't about the murder of innocents, or the re-enactment of a snuff-film. My holidays are about flowering trees and falling leaves, sunshine filled days and moonlight filled nights. As a Pagan I celebrate the cycle of life, and I take no joy in celebrating a "literal death."

Most Aprils the stark contrast between Modern Paganism and Monotheism is at its most vivid. Yesterday was the Jewish Passover, one of the most violent holidays on record. When looked at with a critical eye, Passover is a celebration of mass murder, with a "God" who is obviously not meant to be a deity for all people.

I thought to celebrate The Passover we'd take a look at the words and actions of the "God of Love" I here so much about. At least I understand a little bit better why Republicans do what they do. The italics below are the actual bloodthirsty "words of God," and the regular text is my analysis of those words.

(For those of you unfamiliar with Passover, it's the celebration of Yahweh "passing over" the houses of the Israelites and striking down first born Egyptians. In the Old Testament, the Hebrews were once slaves to Egypt's pharaoh, Passover is a part of the "Exodus" story to the Promised Land (Israel).)

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb or his family, one for each household.

Two things jump out at me here. If the Israelis are slaves in Egypt while this is going on, they are living a pretty good life as slaves. Each family has a freaking lamb! I've never owned a lamb, not even for a few hours right before dinner time. Oh, and what happens to single Moms here? It's hard to believe a community of slaves are going to have intact families.

If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.

Not only are these the richest slaves in the world, their blessings are so abundant that they have hundreds of year old male sheep (and goats) without defect! That's pretty amazing. I'm also wondering what the bleeping and baaaing sounded like as all of those animals were slaughtered. Also, why didn't the Egyptians notice all of this going on? That's a lot of livestock.

Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.

A couple of chalk markings might have worked here, but nope, we've got to use blood. Nothing says "Welcome!" like blood on the door.

That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.

Eating is always easier with a staff in hand. Who needs a knife and a fork? Oh and while you are eating one handed, be sure to do it as quickly as possible, and if your cloak comes untucked while you do it . . . . well shame on you. Also, leftovers aren't advised. As slaves you have so much money and extra food lying around, so it's fine to just waste the leftovers. There ya go, throw them in the fire.

“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt."

I understand that there were some problems with The Pharaoh and some of his staff, but to kill "every firstborn of both people and animals?" What the hell? I'm guessing the majority of those folks would be innocent bystanders? How bloodthirsty is that!?!?! If anyone asks me why I'm not a monotheist I'll point to this story every time. And don't give me that "your Greek Gods were jack asses" argument either. People take the above stuff literally, Pagans and ancient mythology, not so much.

While it's bad enough that all the first borns died at Passover, what about the animals? The cats prowling around the pyramids committed some atrocities we aren't aware of? I'm sorry, that's just not cool. Fido and Whiskers are pretty blameless.

Growing up I don't think I ever realized how horrible that story was. The amount of innocents that would be killed in such a scenario boggles the mind. But hey, let's raise a toast and thank Yahweh for killing all those kids and animals!

Easter is not much better than Passover folks. I think we are lulled into this false sense of Easter almost being a Pagan holiday due to the eggs, plastic grass, and chocolate bunnies. Yes, it's true Eostara was a fertility goddess, and many of the trappings around Easter are Pagan, but Pagan holidays are never giant snuff films.

"Good Friday" is about a guy dying in a horrible, grizzly, and violent matter. Crucifixion was a horrible way to go. Pagan fertility gods have met some nasty (metaphorical) deaths over the years, but nothing compares to having nails through your palms and ankles. Horrible, and for what? The baffling concept of "original sin?"

This is where Christian theology truly begins to make no sense. "So your God, who is all powerful and knowing created us with flaws? And the only way to get rid of those flaws was to come back to Earth as a man and get crucified?" Really? Why not bathe in some lamb's blood, or drink some wine (which would be the preferable way in my book) to "cleanse the imperfection?" Jesus as a teacher and a prophet I can understand, but the theological gobbledy good attached to him is a head scratcher.

In two weeks I will be celebrating the cross quarter holiday of Beltane, and I'm going to do it without celebrating any deaths. In fact I'm going to be celebrating life on that most high holy day. I'm going to drink some wine (and a lot of cider), laugh with some friends, celebrate in a cathedral of Redwood Trees that afternoon and then delight in the Lady oceanside that evening. You can have your blood sacrifices, and angry deities killing temple cats, I say "here's to life!"


  1. I've never really paid a whole lot of attention to Jewish holidays. But yeah, you're right... Passover is pretty awful!! Your words make me miss celebrating the wonderful Pagan holidays with all you guys! The celebration of life and our personal place in it was what drew me to Paganism in the first place.

  2. Hello Jason, I published some commentary on this over at my place. http://doingmagick.blogspot.com/2011/04/passover-seder.html