Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Saints and Divinities

This being All Saints' Day, I figured I'd do a quick rundown on some pagan divinities and heroes who have snuck in under the theological "velvet rope" and entered the Communion of Saints. Traditional Roman Catholicism is a blend of European philosophical and pagan religious folkways with Levantine monotheism. Much of the work of St Thomas Aquinas was rooted in the philosophy of Aristotle, and the writings of the Greek philosophers exert almost as much of an influence on Catholic theology as the Bible itself.

On a more basic level, the expanding Church incorporated local beliefs into its monotheistic model, and a veneer of sanctity was applied to pagan figures.

St Christopher is often depicted as carrying the Christ child across a river, much like the Greek hero Jason carried the goddess Hera across a raging river. While St Christopher has been quietly removed from the liturgical calendar, devotional medals and emblems are often worn or displayed on car dashboards to invoke protection for travelers.

The Irish goddess Brigid, a patroness of arts and trades, akin to the Greek Athena, has been subsumed by St Bridget of Kildare (also known as Bridey. The feast of St Bridget falls upon the old pagan feast day of Imbolc.

St George, often depicted as a dragon-slayer, shares qualities with a legion of monster slayers.

Even Jesus' mom can't escape association with paganry- the Virgin of Guadalupe is often conflated with the Aztec goddess Tonantzin.

Yeah, even saints sometimes have skeletons in their closets, such as a wild, pagan youth (sometimes, even a youth spent as a god or goddess). Of course, St Adiposa, who sought martyrdom through overeating, doesn't have a pagan connection, but I don't see her listed on the liturgical calendar. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that her feast day falls on Thanksgiving.

Mentioning St Adiposa reminds me, I never did review the non Face in the Frost parts of John Bellairs' Magic Mirrors... who's the patron saint of unfinished business?

At least I know who the patron saints of the stranded are:


Dragon-King Wangchuck said...

By teh lens of Eris! If there are any Discordian popes around, maybe they can return teh favour and re-canonize St. Christopher to restore some sanctity to all those medals. I'd do it, but I'm not sure how teh IPU (blessed be her garish unsee-ability) looks upon multi-denominationalism.

Laura said...

I only believe in St Zsa Zsa Gabor.
Every so often, a string of young celebrities MUST be sacrificed in order for her to live.
The fact that she is still alive, is no doubt a miracle. :)

(LoL'd at the St Adiposa paragraph)


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that her feast day falls on Thanksgiving.

Hear hear! I will toast St Adiposa later this month.

M. Bouffant said...

Day o' The Dead figurines, speaking of co-opting other traditions.

Helmut Monotreme said...

G.K. Chesterton wrote a nice poem about Saint Barbara the patron saint of artillery (one would assume the cannoneers and not the guns themselves) and those in danger of sudden death. I like the poetry of G.K. Chesterton even though it's Christian sanctimoniousness makes me wince.

the new high tech electronic oracle!(not the database company)

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Helmut, have you ever read Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun? Wolfe is a big Chesterton fan.