Lent does go back a long way and it didn’t come as any surprise to me that it’s Christian meaning and dates have changed a lot over the years!
There is a mention of Quadragesima Sunday until 600s, Quadragesima meaning Fortieth, but Gregory the Great (c.540-604) moved it to a Wednesday, now called Ash Wednesday, to secure the exact number of 40 days in Lent—not counting Sundays.
In the mainstream Christian religious tradition, Lent represents the forty days when Jesus of Nazareth was said to have fasted in the desert, a spiritual practice that shaped his ministry.
The very name of Lent is synonymous with the season, it comes from the Anglo-Saxon ‘lenctene’, meaning the time when the days lengthen; so we have some pagan roots right there! In fact in Anglo-Saxon the entire spring season was called ‘Lenctentid’ and there is a long tradition of spring purification.
Around this time the world is just coming out of its slumber, cattle wouldn’t have had much food so not be fattened enough to eat nor producing much milk; the land would be bare; food (meat, grain and dairy) would have been stockpiled as winter started and that would be running out through winter and into spring; in these ancient times as you start to see the promising sign of early growth around the land you could see a bright future, fasting until food was once again in abundance would have been a natural action, and we know that fasting did occur in ancient Egypt and Rome – makes sense therefore that Jesus would have fasted to ensure that what little food was around lasted longer! Jesus would have been following a Pagan rutual, he didn't create this one!
Most scholars agree that the idea of a “forty days” fast came from Alexandria in Egypt and from Greece.
The Egyptian Lent was held to commemorate Osiris, the god who represented hope of new life after death, and to honour the long fast of Demeter, who made the land barren until her daughter Persephone was returned by Hades who had kidnapped and imprisoned her under the earth.
The Babylonians conquered both the Greeks and the Egyptians, bringing with them the practice of a “forty days” fast in the spring of the year; customs travelled fast in these times.
By the time Rome had conquered most of Europe and the near East, Pagans from Palestine to Assyria, Egypt to Britain also observed Lent as a month long indispensable way to keep food going for longer
Around this time of the year many pagan gods and goddesses are worshipped for their death and resurrection. The spring equinox was recognized worldwide as a time for renewal, rebirth, and revivification.
Over centuries, the time leading up to the equinox became a celebration of the symbolic resurrection of earth itself as well as of the risen Christ.
Even the start of Lent, Ash Wednesday, seems to have originated in Roman Paganism, through the religion known as Mithraism, where followers were marked on the forehead with the shape of an Egyptian cross. Other historians think that the custom may have come to Rome from Vedic India where ashes were considered the seed of the fire god Agni, with the power to absolve all sins.
Whether from Egypt, Roman Paganism or India, the one place Lent did not come from was the Bible. Nor did it come from early traditions of the first followers of Jesus.
It took the Roman Emperor Constantine and the Council of Nicea (c.325) to conciliate the Pagans to nominal Christianity by taking measures to get the Christian and Pagan festivals amalgamated by a complicated but skilful adjustment of the calendar. Thus, the Christian orthodox liturgical season of Lent was established by overlaying new beliefs with Paganism!
So what does it all mean for a Neo-Pagan?
I think that purification and rebirth are key here; today we still have a tradition of ‘Spring Cleaning’ in our homes don’t we!
The majority of us do not need to fast to save on food today, but the symbolism of what fasting meant to ancient pagans could be kept alive today.
With all this new knowledge then I will definitely be fasting, as my ancient pagan ancestors gave up food to help them survive into Spring, then I will give up a precious foodstuff in my life for 40 days; As they stole lots of Pagan traditions and dates then I’m guessing that the Christian tradition of Lent starts around the same time as our ancient ancestors would have fasted so I have no problem using the same dates; I’m just doing it as a memory to them and their sacrifice, I’m doing it in the hope of a great Spring and a great beginning to the new cycle of life.
Not a major celebration for me, but the Autumn Equinox is celebrated when day and night are of equal duration before the descent into increasing darkness and is the final festival of the season of harvest.
In nature, the activity of the summer months slows down to the hibernation for the winter. For many Pagans, now is time to reflect on the past season.
It is also a time to recoginse that the balance of the year has changed, the wheel has turned and summer is now over.
For me, it's definitely a time for refection, the past few months has been some of the best and worst ever, but today is a day when we give ourselves a little time to stop and breathe deeply, to feel the satisfaction of what has been achieved, to give a little thanks and look forward to the future.
For our ancestors who lived and died by the work then did in the countryside it was now time to start to relax a little as the growing and harvesting seasons were now over.
to start to relax.
It's traditionally a Celtic festival. The Celts held the festival of the Irish god "Lugh" at this time and later, the Anglo-Saxons marked the festival of "hlaefmass" at this time.
For these very early agricultural communities this was the first day of the harvest, when the fields would be glowing with corn and reaping would begin. The harvest period would continue until Samhain when the last stores for the winter months would be put away.
All the festivals around this time celebrated the harvest and in the case of Lughnasadh celebrated the baking of the first bread from the newly harvested corn or wheat.
For me as a modern Pagan it's once again a chance for me to give thanks for the fruitful growing period that we have had and therefore giving thanks for the plentiful food that will be available to me over the coming months.
Today it is easy to forget how important bread was and how thankful our ancestors must have been for a good harvest, no only for staples such as bread, but for fruit and vegetables also.
Traditionally Pagans would not only give thanks to the Divine for the great harvest, but also themselves for their farming skills over the period, so we should also be thankful to our modern day farmers and growers for their skill and experience in supplying us with plenty.
So a quiet'ish day today, no major celebrating, next year though I take some extra time to celebrate this period, to remember its warmth and bounty in a celebrated feast shared with family.
I will also save and plant the seeds from the fruits consumed during the feast. If they sprout, I will grow the plant or tree with love and as a symbol of your connection with the Lord and Lady, and my Pagan roots.
STOLEN BY CHRISTIANS!
With the coming of Christianity to the Celtic lands, the old festival of Lughnasadh took on Christian symbolism. Loaves of bread were baked from the first of the harvested grain and placed on the church altar on the first Sunday of August. The Christianised name for the feast of Lughnasadh is Lammas which means "loaf mass". And, of course, there are the fairs which are still held all across Europe and America.
- Current Mood: pleased
Here we are, the Summer Solstice, the Goddess took over the world from the Horned god, and today she is at her most powerful. The warm sun shining for the longest period today.
We give thanks to the life giving properties, but we also know that the sun is now losing it's power, and we are heading towards Autumn.
Things are different for me this year, I am currently not in my own home, so no lighting of a candle, I woke early and recited a simple blessing:
As the sun spirals its longest dance,
As nature shows bounty and fertility,
Let all things live with loving intent,
And to fulfill their truest destiny.
It's looks like it's going to be a beautiful day today, so I will be hopefully taking the kids walking, and I'll be explaining to them all about this special time.
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- Current Location:United Kingdom, England, Greater London
Maybe we are being guided, maybe someone or some force wants us to be together! No sure, but I have made a small blessing today to whatever or whoever has brought us together ... I lit a candle for a while and thanked them from the bottom of my heart and my soul and promised to look after the wonderful lady in question :-)
- Current Mood: happy
Beltane Eve, I lit a candle tonight (a beautiful one with a scent that reminds me of summer).
I said a small, simple and quiet rite, thanking the gods and godesses for a fruitful summer that we are about to commence; and asked then for their help for growth and warmth over the coming months.
I then reminded all long gone ancestors and departed family that they will never be forgotten, no matter where they are.
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- Current Location:At home
- Current Mood:Content
In essence, it's an announcement of the coming of the summer, and new growth and fertility is all around us.
Fire and light is important to Pagans at this time and to the celebration of Beltane.
For me as I have a lot happening in my life right now, Beltane will be a simple celebration, the lighting of a candle symbolising the emerging warmth of the sun (also my nod at a fire festival).
I will be making Bannocks (with a nice baked custard) to eat on May Day, not because I need good luck for my livestock, but simply to allow me to get closer to how my ancestors would have lived. I’ll also make a May wine to wash it all down with!
As the link between our world and the afterlife is closer, I will also say a small prayer for my long gone ancestors and family that are no longer with us.
Whatever you do at this time, blessed be
- Current Mood: satisfied