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Catholicism and Paganism

Updated on November 18, 2014

Church and magic: hand in hand in Italy

I'm Italian, come from a Catholic family and still was brought up by two witches. My grandma (dad's mum) and aunt (dad's sister). They brought me up after my parents divorced and went to live with my dad and his family at the age of 5.

When I was a child church and magic were the norm and I never knew any different.

During my teenage years I grew more and more distant from the Church and enjoyed the witchcraft path. As an adult and having learned and studied both religions I find it quite extraordinary how many devote Catholics are actually practising paganism without even realizing it.

Image from http://www.shiningmoon.com/

First of all...

...I would like to make it clear that I DO respect people's beliefs and I DO NOT wish for this lens to be offensive in any way

Growing up

To most people I wasn't very different. I was baptised, took the first Communion at 8 and did my Confirmation at 12. Went to a Catholic school and used to sing in the local church choir.....but I lived with my nan and auntie. Both Catholics, believed in God and worshipped him and Mary and all the saints (which I believe is very much a remnant of the Pagan religion, one God was not enough for Catholics so had to try and invent other deities, hence all those Saints).

They are also the ones who taught me about magic. We had a couple of sacred willow trees in the garden which, according to my nan were the home protectors. We also had a herb garden and every year on 21st June we would burn all the old dried out herbs from the previous year and collect fresh ones. We used to dry them so they would last all year. I used to help my nan and auntie to make sachets with blends of herbs which would hang from doors. Each season would have a different blend. They also taught me about "Malocchio" (evil eye) and how to protect myself. We had red chillies amulets for this. Both red chillies and red horns are used against evil eye in Italy these days. We also did a lot of cooking and they taught me how to use ingredients to cast spells. My nan also had familiars: a dog called Till and a small sparrow that she saved from certain death when he was fledgeling. We tried to free him when he was well enough but wouldn't leave. We called him Titti; he lived for nearly ten years. My aunt had a cat called Sabrina.

I learned a lot about loving our planet, respecting nature, morals and kindness from my nan and auntie and for that I will always be grateful.

The birth of Catholicism

Catholicism was a early Christian community founded in the 1st century AD according to the writing in the New Testament. The Roman empire persecuted catholics until the 4th Century; Romans believed that by believing in only one God, Catholics would enrage the Roman/Greek Gods.

Emperor Constantine I legalized Christianity at the beginning of the 4th century and in 380 AD Catholicism became the official Roman Empire religion.

It was at this point that so many beliefs and traditions got mixed together as there was still a great influence from pagans.

So, as Paganism could not be wiped out, the Catholic Church adopted pagan traditions as its own.

Catholic traditions have a strong pagan influence

Do you agree?

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Christian or pagan tradition?

Samhain

Most people know it as Halloween.

Romans celebrated the festival of Pomona on November 1st. Pomona was the Goddess of fruit trees, orchards and abundance. This is the equivalent to the Gaelic harvest festival of Samhain. Both were celebrated to end the harvest season and welcome the darker months (and in Gaelic folklore also the dead).

Christians adopted this festival in the 8th century AD and called it All Saints. To this day November 1st is a national Christian holiday in Italy and people celebrate it by carving a pumpkin and light a candle inside (just like Halloween).

Yule

Known as winter solstice was also a Roman festival called Saturnalia. This was the festival of Saturn. Was initially celebrated on December 17th but got moved to 23rd to coincide with the winter solstice. This was a festival of lights to celebrate both Saturn and the return of the "longer days" sun.

Celebrations included gift giving, banquets and parties (yes, remind you of something?).

Christian adopted this celebration as Christmas. Looks to me like they killed Saturn and replace him with Jesus.

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Ostara

Also known a Spring Equinox was the festival of Quinquatria in Roman times. Quinquatria was the festival to celebrate Minerva.

Easter is the Christian equivalent. I personally find Easter the most pagan Christian tradition of all as the date is decided by the moon and involves the equinox: Easter falls on the first sunday after the first full moon after the Equinox.....The Easter symbol is the egg. Adopted by the Christian to symbolize the resurrection of Christ, they were the pagan symbols for fertility and in Europe were used in magic if a woman wanted to fall pregnant. They were also given as presents to bring abundance in pre-Christian Europe.

Modern Days

To these days is very common in Italy for people to practice Catholicism and believe in magic. Malocchio is still regarded as the most evil spell that can be casted and many people wear a horn on a necklace for protection. The horn is very often worn next to a cross.

It's like the two are interwoven in Italian tradition and people can't believe one without the other.

As normal as it was as a child I find it quite extraordinary and fascinating as an adult.

As a witch myself I think it's great the "Old religion" traditions are still alive amongst Italians. What do you think?

What do you think?

Is it great that "The old religion" is still alive and kicking??

Yes, absolutely

Yes, absolutely

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    • anonymous 3 years ago

      I have always believed on the magic of nature

    • Melanie Wilcox 3 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      yes it is, and oh my goodness! I was starting to feel so alone.

    • Erin Mellor 3 years ago from Europe

      Without the old religion, Christianity wouldn't exist. Christmas and Easter as the celebrations we have in Europe and the former European colonies pre-date Christianity.

    • Nightcat 3 years ago

      Yes it is. Blessed Be! :)

    • Melissa 4 years ago from Albuquerque, NM

      The old religion can't die; it holds too many truths.

    No, I think it's bad for Christianity

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      BLESSED BE

      )O(

      Any comment on the subject is very much appreciated!

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        • profile image

          BarbaraCasey 3 years ago

          Really interesting lens. You explained it very well... and from an insider's perspective.

        • MelanieKaren profile image

          Melanie Wilcox 3 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

          Hello :) This is a really wonderful lens. I was actually shocked to come across it, as lately, I've been feeling alone when it comes to my religion and spirituality. Thank you for writing this and sharing!

        • winter aconite profile image
          Author

          winter aconite 3 years ago

          @Nightcat: Wow, small world indeed!!!!!!

        • Nightcat profile image

          Nightcat 3 years ago

          This is wonderful! I'm a witch that was raised by two Catholics and yes I'm also Italian. Small world, eh? :)

        • siobhanryan profile image

          siobhanryan 4 years ago

          Great lens

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          sherioz 5 years ago

          This is fascinating. I find history of religions very interesting. Thanks for sharing this.

        • WhiteOak50 profile image

          WhiteOak50 5 years ago

          Well, isn't it a small world. Being half Sicilian myself (both grandparents from Sicily) Many people who walk this path understands and see's the Mary as a Goddess, and also since the Catholic Church use to (perhaps still does) burns sage.. are a couple of strong points that Paganism and Catholic are very similar.

        • winter aconite profile image
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          winter aconite 5 years ago

          @Deadicated LM: Hi! I've read quite a few things from Leland. My family comes from a place near tuscany and we have Etruscan ruins near my town. I've never read that book, will look for it. I've read Aradia, gospel of witches. Glad you like it, I'm quite intrigued by how many form the pagan community I've found here on squidoo. Blessed be! )O(

        • Deadicated LM profile image

          Deadicated LM 5 years ago

          Love this Lens, I can totally relate )O( Brightest of Blessings Sister <3

          Did you ever read any of Charles Godfrey Leland's work, I totally recommend "Etruscan Magic & Occult Remedies" (it's a hard book to find); also "Aradia: The Gospel of the Witches".

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Godfrey_Lelan...