While condemning other religions for being “steeped in paganism” it’s interesting to see how many pagan things the Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves participate in. Every time they tell a householder something like: “I’ll be back on Wednesday, January seventh” they invoke the names of two pagan gods in one sentence:
- Wodan [Wednesday is a corruption of Wodan’s Day, named for the Norse god Wodan, aka Odin]
- Janus [January comes from Januarius, named for the Roman god of beginnings and endings].
Witnesses attend weddings, where pagan customs abound, such as:
- Bridesmaids (which originated in order to confuse the evil spirits as to who exactly was the bride),
- The wedding veil (which was originally intended to block evil spells),
- The wedding cake (originally thrown at the bride to magically ensure fertility.)
- The throwing of rice eventually replaced the throwing of the cake, but retained the same magical purpose of ensuring fertility. Unmarried women would pick up the fallen rice kernels to ensure their own future fertility (this aspect was later replaced by catching the bridal bouquet, and the meaning then morphed into symbolizing who would be the next woman to be married.)
- The bride’s bouquet and bridal wreaths were originally made of herbs, which had magical meanings for the couple’s future life.
[I don’t mean to suggest that Witnesses participate in all of these pagan-originated customs. My point is that they don’t use the existence of such customs as a reason to outlaw weddings, while they do use such reasoning to outlaw birthdays.]
A Visit From a Witness
A young man recently came to my door, Watchtower and Awake! in hand. During our brief discussion, I noticed a wedding ring on his finger as he was pointing out an article in the Awake! dealing with insomnia. On a personal note he told me that a bowl of cereal with warm milk usually cured his insomnia, and if that didn’t work he would strap on his Nike’s and jog around the block a few times to tire himself out. Before he had a chance to do the Watchtower tie-in I told him I was an apostate. Then I watched him sprint over to his Saturn and drive off.
Quiz question: In how many ways had he proven himself to be one of Jehovah’s Pagan Witnesses?
- Wedding rings have pagan origins (originally, the groom would wrap the bride’s ankles and wrists with ropes of grass believing this would keep her spirit within her, eventually this morphed into a ring on the finger).
- Insomnia comes from Somnus, the Roman counterpart of Hypnos: god of sleep.
- Cereal comes from Ceres, Roman counterpart of Demeter, goddess of agriculture, harvest and grains.
- Nike is the name of the Greek goddess of victory.
- Saturn is the name of the Roman counterpart of Cronus: god of agriculture, liberation, and time.
And that’s not even counting the pagan phallic symbol he wore around his neck!
The odds are also good that my Witness visitor was carrying around a pagan symbol in his pocket: the “eye of Horus”: a god of the ancient Egyptians, which appears on every U.S. dollar bill.
When I was a devoted follower of the Watchtower religion, every prayer I uttered or heard uttered ended with “Amen”. I always thought this meant “so be it.” Imagine my surprise when I learned that Amen is the name of an Egyptian god:
The ancient Egyptians called the sun Ra, and all other gods and goddesses were forms of Ra, the Creator. One of these gods was Amen (aka Amon, Amun, Ammon and Amounra.) For the first eleven dynasties (c. 3000-1987 BCE) Amen was just a minor god, but by the 17th dynasty (c. 1500 BCE) he had been elevated to be the national god of southern Egypt. This position gave Amen the attributes and characteristics of the most ancient gods, and his name became Amen-Ra.
Jews settled in Egypt for around 400 years from 1847 BCE and during that time they would have witnessed the worship of Amen. Amen was seen as a powerful god and his name found its way into their prayers and eventually into the Bible, one prominent instance of which is:
“This is the solemn pronouncement of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation”
Witnesses identify Amen in the above passage as none other than Jesus! So, is the Jesus of Revelation really a pagan god?
Paganism in the Annual memorial
The eating of bread and drinking of wine, as symbolizing the flesh and blood of a dying-and-reviving god, was practiced in the pagan “mystery religions” which preceded Christianity. One such was the cult of Dionysus: a son of god by a mortal woman (virginal until god had his way with her). He was a “savior” who performed miracles, was executed, and came back to life. His worshipers commemorated him with a meal of bread and wine. “Eating God” was a ritual rife throughout the world in pagan religions [see Frazer’s The Golden Bough, in fact if you’ve ever been a JW I highly recommend that you read the entire work.]
The idea behind the mystery was that by eating the body and drinking the blood of one’s god (or son of god) one would share a magical connection with said being, and stand a better chance of thus surviving death as well.
Given all of the above, how can it be that Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to be free from all paganism? Their loathing of paganism is so extreme that they refuse to admit that Jesus would most likely have been executed on a cross–all because the cross was a pagan symbol (and supposedly God would’ve prevented the pagan Romans from humiliating Jesus in this way [right: just like he prevented the humiliation of the crown of thorns — also a pagan symbol]). They assume their god is so jealous of other gods that he will rename the months and days of the week in the “New Order” so as to remove their pagan connotations. Wednesday, January the seventh will doubtless become Witnessday, Jehovah the seventh.
The Witnesses refuse to celebrate birthdays because of possible pagan origins, and the fact that customs they regard as pagan commonly accompany such celebrations (such as the oh-so-sinful gifts and candles.)
Well, I’m here to tell them that their stance is inconsistent, and hence ridiculous.They attend weddings where customs of pagan origin are typically observed, but refuse to attend birthdays where customs of pagan origin are typically observed. They say “Wednesday” and “Amen” but balk at saying “fate” or “good luck”.
Their efforts to rid their religion of magic and paganism are futile. The Bible is full of magical practices (such as Jacob setting a spotted stick in front of the cattle to cause them to give birth to spotted offspring via sympathetic magic.)
The whole idea of a dying-and-reviving god (or son of god) is of pagan origin. Since this is the cornerstone of their religion (i.e., the “ransom sacrifice”), and since they condemn all things that had a pagan origin as “paganism,” we shall apply their own formula to them and henceforth call them, not Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses, but Jehovah’s Pagan Witnesses. Or better yet, in light of this previous post, we should call them: Yahweh’s Pagan Perjurers.
For the rest of civilized humanity, we can happily acknowledge the pagan origin of some of our words and customs without being pagans (unless, of course, we want to be pagans.)We can refrain from practices we consider “pagan,” or reinterpret their meaning, or just go with it as-is — without damaging our integrity or offending anyone with an ounce of sense. Witnesses could do this too, if they were unshackled from the Watchtower for a moment. For example: just as they can attend a wedding without throwing rice themselves, they could attend a birthday party without beheading any of the other guests. Problem solved!
Since posting this, a visitor was kind enough to share the following inconsistent quote from a “Questions from Readers” article on the use of piñatas:
“…if it is very obvious that a custom has no current false religious significance and involves no violation of Bible principles, each Christian must make a personal decision as to whether he will follow such a custom.”
Since birthdays have “no current false religious significance” and involve “no violation of Bible principles,” Witnesses have hereby been officially freed by the Watchtower to join the celebrations!!! (It’s just that they don’t realize this, since the Watchtower doesn’t point out the contradictions in their rules.)
For my dear Witness readers: go ahead and celebrate, and if your local elders try to counsel you, just smile and refer them to the above Awake! quote. Go party!