Hey! Isn't That Christmas Star a Pentacle?
Isn't that Star of Bethlehem a Pentagram?
Well, of course it is.
Just as the Saxon Eostra (or whatever spelling catches your fancy) lent her rabbit and name in English to Pasch. Also, the day of Christ's Mass is actually the festival of the birthday of Mithra; many of the honorifics bestowed on Mother Mary were originally those of pagan goddesses, and St. Brigid arose from the desire to anoint the stories and virtues of the old Celtic Goddess. Far from shocking the Christian, these facts should affirm to him or her that there is, in truth, only one Deity to whom all paths which are followed in love and in humble sincerity must lead.
The adoption of the Pentagram for the Star of David is a good example of the deliberate processes in which the old Christian denominations appropriate those things that they like from the cultures they encounter. In their minds, they have many imperative reasons for doing so. Put simply, if there is only one Deity then any attempt by anyone to communicate with that Deity should result in conversations that other folks also seeking the Deity could recognize. The Master spoke of this in part when He mentioned "other sheep in other flocks" during the Good Shepherd discourse. As is written in Philippians 2:13 "It is God, for His own loving purpose, Who puts both the will and the action into you (to do good)."
For us who follow the path of Earth Spirituality, this is the manifestation of the Goddess in Her nurturing nature living in and through us. For as we follow the paths of magical mysticism, we are always brought to greater choices, to either draw down the substance and nature of the Deity into our being or to try to turn away from it to more selfish ends. The language is different, true, from the Catholic "actual grace" or the Protestant, "living faith;" but an open minded analysis of what the language means leads to the same point. Because we have experienced the Love of the Goddess, of the Lord and the Lady, or the Primaeval Urge, or whatever your personal vision of the Deity may be (even the classic "Ancient of Days"), we in turn find ourselves desiring to continue not only in that relationship, but to share the benefits of it with others. We want the flowers to bloom in glory, the bees to swim in honey, and all creatures to live in joyful, harmonious abundance.
Again, this is fancy language for discovering how to live as Divine Children in the house and land of a loving God. It is the metamorphosis achieved by turning mystically to the Divine Source of life and existence, the "metanoia", the conversion, the turning towards the Deity in such a way that we begin to become more obviously like the Deity in our own being As St. John wrote in his first Epistle (I John 4:16), "God is love, and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him." Further on, John points out that whoever loves the parent, loves the children of that parent too. So we in our turn love the many creatures who each have their own way of showing us some of the sublime and loving hand of the Mother who begot all of them.
So given that if something is showing us this kind of wonder then it must have roots in the Breath of the Deity, it makes sense for Christians to accept it as a sign of the action of that Deity. Paul did this in Athens, for instance, when he
appropriated the altar to "the unknown God" as the starting point of his discourse. In the same way, he elsewhere appropriated the images of the race and even of the gladiatorial combat for the struggles of the spiritual path. Again in Philippians he wrote: "Fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honor, and everything that can be thought virtuous and worthy of praise (Phil 4:8)."
What does all this have to do with the Star of Bethlehem?
Centuries before Christ, the Greek philosophers began realizing that their myths on the surface simply were not adequate stories to account for the depth of responses that religious experience created. So they sought within their myths for the deeper message which revealed the greater Divine forces lived out in the stories of their gods. They soon came to see these "gods" as faces or aspects of some incomprehensible power which transcended all the stories and began working towards the idea that beneath all the stories, all gods were gods because they revealed to us ways in which we could relate with, communicate with, the underlying Source.
One of the tools which they found very symbolic of this process and reality was mathematics. Indeed, in the field of geometry they became giants whose work in many ways has never been surpassed. One of these mathematician philosophers, Pythagoras, was studying the pentagram, an already ancient sacred symbol. He discovered that if one is to join the corners of the interior pentagon across the middle of the figure, a new pentagram would be created. Then he noticed that if you not only joined the tips of the star together into a pentagon, but continued the lines further another new pentagram would be created. Theoretically, this process could be repeated infinitely!
Now Pythagoras was a religious leader as well, he or his followers made many discoveries just now being "rediscovered" in the fields of color therapy, aroma therapy, and music therapy. They also made a large number other great discoveries in geometry. Remember, however, that they were conducting this research to discover more about the nature of Deity and their spiritual place in the cosmos. For Pythagoras, the Pentagram became the best symbol of the infinite nature of the human spirit extending forever into both the macrocosm and the microcosm and illustrated perfectly the truths of the elemental balance in his being as well. Here was a sign showing the intrinsic union of the planes and making alive the fundamental principle, "as above, so below."
Along comes this mystical Jewish heresy which decides that its message must be true for the whole universe for it to be true for themselves. In their culture, they already have the concept of the star being the mystical representation of the features of the Divine King, the Divine People, and so forth in the Star of David. Yes, the Mogen David is a Hexagram. Yet they were deliberately searching for symbols to say that this is something new but also connected to the truth of the ancient heritage.
The Pentagram filled this need perfectly.
It was a star of mystical meaning. Moreover it was the symbol of the perfect human reaching infinitely into all the realms. How better to encapsulate the mission that they saw Jesus fulfilling? It stated the message of a real man who is also the mystical path to the Eternal Existence. Moreover that in this physical person, embodying the physical elements of the universe, the Transcendent Deity reached into our own bodies as well. Then there were the five points, already linked to the five elements, the Christians saw this as also good imagery for the five points in which the dissonance and the disorder of our world penetrated into Jesus. Feet, hands, and heart (though in some iconographic representations, the spear is shown thrust thru the crown of thorns to pick up that resonance as well), the five wounds, shown upon the points of the star.
So the Star of Bethlehem in is a pentagram and holds all the real meaning of the pentagram as well. Now if the pentagram HAS to be a pagan symbol to you, then perhaps in another strange twist, so does the miraculous birth and the opening of the path to perfect union with Deity represented by the story of Jesus should be another pagan symbol (as indeed many parallel stories in other cults reveal).
In the same way, as the birth of Jesus was the birth of the Divine Life among humans, so was the birth of Mithras, the Persian sun god. Since nobody knows when Jesus was actually born (My personal favorite is the Vernal Equinox the competing January dates for "old Christmas" arise from various calendar reforms in different places and different times), and since so many Christians were closet Mithraists (the two cults being very similar in certain ways), the Church leaders declared that they would appropriate that feast for themselves (thereby perhaps keeping a few more parishioners in church on that day and out of the sacred grottoes).
Indeed, just as Mary blithely assumed the honorific, "Queen of Heaven" which was once the title accorded to Asherah/Ishtar; Jesus was loaded down with the titles of the Solar Deities which his worshipers encountered. The symbolism of the dying god reborn worked just fine. "Sol Invictus" which was supposed to mean "unconquered Sun"
just as easily meant "The Only Unconquered", and so it went.
Besides, the Mithraic cults used the Star of Bethlehem too already and ----- hopefully, you now get the picture.
Santa Claus, the improbable juncture of a Balkan Bishop - Martyr and Father Christmas (old man Yule) of the north, is another story maybe next year.....
Meanwhile, Seasons' Greetings!
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