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Was Jesus a Pagan?

By Herleena

(Written for Ecclasia)


First you must consider, what is the truth about Jesus. Was he really the Son of God? Was he really the Christian Messiah? That his purpose was really to die for the sins of mankind. These are hard questions to give a definate answer to.

When you try and figure Jesus into paganism that may be hard to do, but is it really? It may be hard to imagine, but is is possible. Today's Christians would possibly cry out that to even have this notion is blasphemus. Then again modern Neo-pagans generally seem to be very adept in assimilating pantheons, rituals, and concepts from nearly every Western religious path except Christianity. Even when realizing that the Church has been historically both politically and socially intolerant during its era of power, that can in no way invalidate the truths of timeless mysticism, which it possesses in the inner resources of spirituality.

If bias can be put away and delving deeply into the eclecticism of authentic, historic paganism, which would enable one to see the wisdom of embracing the positive and uplifting aspects of the Christian mysteries, along with the sacred stories of other cultures and ancient religions of both past and present.

Christ is the most potent archetypal figure of Western history and religion. Members of the Craft of the Wise should not ignore his power and influence. Reactions against fundamentalist narrow mindedness should not create an artificial barrier between the complements of pagans and Christian's truths. Gerald Gardner himself said that renouncing or distancing oneself from Christ is not necessary to be pagan.

It is usually said that to be made a Witch, one must abjure Christianity. This is not true, but they naturally would not receive into their ranks anyone who was a very narrow Christian. They do not think that Jesus was literally the Son of God, but are quite prepared to accept that he was one of the enlightened ones or Holy men. That is the reason why Witches do not think they are hypocrites "in times of persecution" for going to church and honoring Christ (especially as so many of the old Sun Hero myths have been incorporated into Christianity) when others might bow to the Madonna, who is closely akin to their Goddess of heaven.

Well-known author Alan Richardson wrote one of the most well thought out expressed comments on the Craft/Christ issue:

It is a question, also of whether we accept Jesus as the Son of God or a son of light. This itself points out an advantage that not many pagans realize. By regarding Jesus as a son of light -- one of many -- they can actually work with and appreciate much of the Christian mystery traditions, while never surrendering their own pantheons. Christians, on the other hand, must necessarily accept the exclusivity of their God and are forever denied the use of pagan altars.

For those that might insist that for the Craft to be an authentic expression of the Old Religion, reading Aiden Kelley's book on the history of the Craft, Creating the Art of Magic, in which he attempts to prove how nearly every ritual used by Gerald Gardner was taken from the grimoire of Judeo-Christian ceremonial magick and only at a later time were distinctively Christian elements of the catenations deleted or revised. So with this one could conclude that even the so-called "Old Religion" is greatly indebted to the influence and rituals of Christian occultism in the formation of its earliest Book of Shadows.

So, back to Jesus.... For fundamentalist Christians the true identity is solved by simplistic application of Biblical "proof text." Jesus can only be defined on the basis of the words attributed to him in the gospels of the New Testament. Either Jesus was telling the truth about himself as in the gospels, or you are saying that Jesus was a liar. This approach neglects the problem of which sayings of Jesus recorded in the gospels can be considered authentic. This involves a lot more than opening the bible and pointing to a select passage to "prove" something about the divine nature of Jesus.

We may never know the "truth" about Jesus. Jesus may have not been some kind of omniscient demigod. He made mistakes like everyone does in both judgment and prophetic calculations. The titles that most Christians consider to be unique to Jesus Christ were actually appropriated from these Gods of earlier pagan mystery cults. Appellations of divinity as Logos, Light of the World, Good Shepherd, True Vine, King of Kings, Bridegroom, and the Resurrection and the Life were all earlier devotional designations of Hermes, Mithra, Osiris, Dionysus, Attis, Adonis, Tammuz and others. The composite image we have of Christ in orthodox church dogma is not just a picture of a teacher from Galilee. It is instead a theological collage of the most enlightened and exalted pagan symbols and myths blended. Jesus could be a composite of the earlier pagan deities which preceeded him, and it could be seen as odd that it was the intolerant and often unscrupulous church which utilized these letters and sacred stories of these older Gods to enhance the glory of their new succesor, while condemning them as demonic. Is it any wonder that a well known Anglican Priest admitted that Christianity is a manifestation of reformed paganism?

So if you were to agree that Jesus was a real person and did come to exist, would he have been pagan?

Here are some facts from Embracing Jesus and the Goddess by Carl McColman:

    1. Jesus along with the 12 apostles made a coven of 13.
    2. He was careful to guard the mysteries, and not divulge the secrets of his teaching to the unititiated. Only to the inner circle.
    3. He used the techniques of divine magick to heal.
    4. He was against the hypocritical religious establishment of his day.
    5. He could recognize the handiwork of deity in nature and beauty

McColman states that Jesus was a witch, and that if Jesus were here today just as he is depicted in the bible, would most likely be considered such by even Christians. So after considerable thought I would have to conclude that yes, if Jesus was the person that he is said to be, he would most definately be Pagan.


Footnote: The aforementioned book by Aiden Kelly was mostly an attempt to prove that Gerald Gardner had invented Wicca. It is considered an odd book. It was published by Llewellyn and promoted as the book that would blow the lid off the Neo-pagan movement. It has the overtones of tabloid muckraking.

Thirteen Reasons Why Jesus, If He Were Here Today, Would Be A Witch

By Carl McColman, author of Embracing Jesus and The Goddess

No single one of these reasons prove the Witchiness of Jesus, but taken as a whole, they make for a compelling case!

1. Jesus criticized the hypocrisy and legalism of the religious status quo, and chose to embrace an alternative spiritual path. (Matthew 23:1-36)

In Jesus' day, the religious establishment included the Pharisees and Sadducees, dominant factions in first century Judaism. Jesus' alternative path followed the radical teachings of his mentor, John The Baptist. Nowadays, in Europe and the Americas, the status quo is mainly Christianity; the path of the Goddess - Wicca - is one of the most compelling of available spiritual alternatives. Many people who embrace Wicca have the exact same criticisms of Christianity that Jesus is said to have had about the religious establishment in his day. Hyprocisy, legalism, blind obedience of the rules to the point of ignoring spiritual values like love, trust, and freedom. These are the problems Jesus attacked in the official religion in his day, and that many Wiccans today see in the religious status quo of our time. Perhaps Jesus, were he here today, would join Wiccans in criticizing mainstream religion and trying to find an alternative way.

2. Jesus was a psychic healter. (Luke 6:19; John 0:1-12)

Luke comments that "all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them." And John recounts how Jesus made a magic healing paste by mixing his saliva with soil from our Mother, the Earth. For Jesus, healing was a central part of his spiritual identity. Witches, likewise, rely on herbal wisdom, natural foods, and psychic practices like Reiki to bring healing and comfort to themselves and their loved ones. Sadly, the Christian religion rarely encourages its followers to take responsibility for their own healing, but rather colludes with a medical establishment that keeps people passive in regard to their own wellness. Jesus the healer has much more in common with Wiccan healers than with church-going "patients."

3. Jesus acknowledged the divinity within each person. (John 10:34-36)

All he was doing was quoting the Psalms, but Jesus emphasized it: "You are gods." Throughtout the Bible, Jesus uses mystical language to illustrate the essential unity between humanity and divinity. How sad that the church founded in his name lost that sense of human divinity, and has instead stressed the "fallenness" and "separation" that keeps humanity alienated from the divine. Incidentally, this is an indirect affirmation of Goddess spirituality, as well - for if we are gods, as Jesus quoting the scriptures insists, then both men and women partake of the godly nature. Implying therefore that God emcompasses both the masculine and feminine dimension of life. So the "God" whom Jesus worships incorporates both the God and the Goddess as revered by Wiccans.

4. Jesus lived close to nature. (Matthew 8:20; Mark 1:12-13, 3:13; Luke 4:42; John 18:1)

Jesus took a vision quest in the wilderness; he loved to pray in the mountains, slept in gardens, and made a point of telling his followers tht he had no house to live in. Frankly, it's hard to imagine him driving an SUV or worshiping in an air conditioned church. If Jesus were here today, I suspect he would live in an ecologically sustainable intentional community, and he would advocate a sacred duty to the Earth with the same zeal with which he advocated care for the poor and the downtrodden.

5. Jesus believed in magic. (Matthew 7;7-11)

Only he called it prayer. "How many of you, if your child asks for a fish, will give them a stone?" "If you ask for it in my name, it will be done." Church-goers often see magick as a different from prayer, because prayer is timid and uncertain: "Not my will, but thine." By contrast, magick assumes that the Divine Spirit loves us and wants to bless us in accordance with our highest desires. When Jesus prayed, he prayed with confidence, not timidity. And he taught his followers to do the same. Nowadays, magick may have fancy window dressings (light this candle, recite this incantation, etc.) but it still comes down to the same thing: making a request for spiritual blessings. Jesus' vision of prayer is like Wicca's vision of magick: it is based on trust and love, unlike the prayer of church religion, which is based on fear, self-criticism and self-doubt.

6. Jesus could command the weather. (Matthew 8:23-27)

Witches have a long-standing reputation for being able to conjure up storms and otherwise control the weather. Jesus, like any accomplished weather-witch, possessed a similar set of skills. He did this both actively (like when he calmed the storm out in the Sea of Galilee) and indirectly (as he was dying, he caused darkness to reign in the middle of the day).

7. Jesus had a profound relationship with the elements. (Matthew 14:22-26; Luke 3:16; Luke 8:22-25; John 9:6)

Jesus could walk on water; he could command the wind; he baptized with fire, and he used the soil of the Earth to make healing pastes. His spirituality was primal and grounded in the power of the elements. Modern-day Christianity is abstract, sterile, and anti=septic. It is a religion of books, words, and mental concepts. But Jesus, like most modern-day Wiccans, found vitality in the energies of the natural world.

8. Like a shaman, Jesus could channel spirits. (Mark 9:2-8)

One of the most profound stories in the Bible is that of the transfiguration, when Jesus conjured the spirits of Moses and Elijah. To his followers, this demonstrated Jesus' authority as a spiritual leader. Laer on, Jesus tells his followers that they will do greater works than his (John 14:12); ironically, though, Christianity does not permit its followers to invoke or conjure spirits. But invocation of benevolent spirits has been a part of shamanic spirituality since the dawn of humankind, and modern-day Witches follow in this shamanistic tradition when they Draw Down The Moon and The Sun, calling the spirit of Goddess and God into their circles.

9. Jesus was comfortable with sensuality and eroticism. (Luke 7:36-50)

One night, while dining at a respectable home, Jesus received a sensuous foot washing from a woman, who used oil and her hair to wipe the teacher's feet. The host and the other guests were scandalized, but Jesus saw it as a perfectly lovely expression of affection and hospitality. In fact, when comments were made to Jesus, he responded by saying basically, "What's your problem?" Alas, the religion that bears his name has evolved into an erotically-repressed spirituality, more like Jesus' uptight host than Jesus himself. Paganism and Wicca, meanwhile, are spiritual systems that celebrate sensuality, sexuality, and the basic goodness of pleasure. Jesus, who got criticized for being a pleasure lover himself (Matthew 11:19), would no doubt be at home in Wicca's celebration of the goodness of nature and the body.

10. In his own way, Jesus practiced the Wiccan Rede. (Matthew 5:21-22; Matthew 22:33; John 8:32)

The core ethical principle in Wicca is the Rede: "if you harm none, do what you will." There's two components to this teaching; non-harm and freedom. It's a basic principle; you have spiritual freedom, but not to the point of harming yourself or others. Compare this to several of Jesus' teachings. Matthew tells us that Jesus was so committed to the principle of non-harm that he regarded the intent to do violence as bad as violence itself. Meanwhile, John quotes Jesus as saying "Truth sets you free." But what is the truth that sets us free? The truth of love, trust, healing, and divine grace; in other words, the universal truths that can be found in any spiritual path. The opposite of harm is love. "Harm none" is another way of saying "Love your neighbor as yourself."

11. In his own way, Jesus advocated - Perfect Love and Perfect Trust. (Matthew 5:48; Luke 6:32-36; Luke 12;22-34)

John quotes Jesus as saying "Do not let your hearts be troubled" and "love one another as I have loved you." Throughout the Gospels, Jesus says "Do not be afraid." He suggests his disciples "become like little children" - in other words, be trusting and open-hearted. It's such a simple message, and today Wicca embodies the spirit of perfect love and trust; indeed, traditional covens require the phrase "Perfect Love and Perfect Trust" as a password to gain entry into circle. Christianity, meanwhile, preaches a message based on perfect anger and perfect fear: God is wrathful, and unless a person is fearfully obedient, he or she will be tortured for eternity. That's the opposite of what Jesus stood for. Love and trust leads to healing and liberation, whereas fear of judgment leads to depression and spiritual passivity.

12. His enemies accused Jesus of being under the influence of demons. (John 8:48; John 10:20)

It's an old tactic. When the people who have religious power want to dismiss their critics, they accuse the critics of being demonically possessed. That's what the Pharisees said about Jesus, and nowadays that's what the religious right say about Wicca. Jesus was someone who loved the average person on the street, but had little patience for religious bigotry and self-righteousness. No doubt Jesus would feel he has more in common with Wiccans than with the fundamentalists who attack them.

13. Jesus was killed, unfairly, for his "blasphemy." (Mark 14:63-64)

Thankfully, Wiccans nowadays don't get burned at the stake. But tens of thousands of people - mostly women - did get killed in Europe for the "crime" of Witchcraft. Even if these people weren't Witches, the fact remains: they were brutally murdered for religious reasons. Well -- so was Jesus. Modern day Wicca looks to the victims of the Witch burnings as heroes of the Goddess faith, just like Christians see in Jesus their own spiritual hero. Jesus, meanwhile, was the kind of man who would rather side against the killers and the executioners. Given the fact that, throughout history, farm more Christians have killed Witches than vice versa, it's easy to see Jesus embracing the Goddess, working to heal her children, and calling those who bear his name to repent of their violence.


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This page last updated December 16, 2005