Winter solstice is upon us. It was a sacred day to the ancients, who saw in it the rebirth of the sun, with the return of warmth and daylight. Modern Pagans will celebrate the day as their ancestors did for thousands of years before Christians co-opted it and turned it into Christmas.
Another sacred day on the Pagan calendar is Lughnasdh, which local Pagans celebrated last September as Pagan Pride Day, in a festival in the National Guard Armory in North Charleston.
While happy Pagans observed the cycle of the year and the cycle of life within the armory walls, outside those walls members of Friendship Baptist Church prayed and sang for the souls of the celebrants, according to The Post & Courier.
To my knowledge the Pagan community shrugged off the Baptists, as they shrugged off the letter to the editor of the P&C, which ran a few days later. In it, a Johns Island woman wrote:
"What have we come to in our so-called Holy City, where the South's oldest newspaper gives attention to such people ...?" she asked. "I am willing to bet many others found this offensive and unnecessary. It certainly is not newsworthy."
I wish I had been able to meet the angry letter writer and the members of the Friendship Baptist Church who protested outside the National Guard Armory that day.
I would have asked them why they hated their own heritage so passionately. What had their ancestors done to make them so angry and fearful?
I don't know what their response might have been, but I suspect they would have been shocked — in denial, even — to consider themselves descended from Pagans.
But, in fact, all people of European heritage are descended from one Pagan tradition or another. Those of African heritage had their own Pagan traditions. After all, Christians are one of the new kids on the block, having arrived on the scene less than 2,000 years ago. Human beings had been around for thousands of years before the first church raffle or Easter egg hunt.
In this old city, so proud of its tradition and its heritage, how many Christians (or Jews or Muslims, for that matter) would stand up and claim their Pagan past? Not only were those ancient Pagans robbed of their religion, we know from history that many of them gave up their faith only at the point of a sword and that many others died rather than accept a strange new religion with an utterly alien worldview.
But I have never once heard any southerner stand up and denounce "those arrogant Christian bastards" for conquering their ancestors and destroying their way life.
No, what we have around here is a strange breed of white ancestor worshippers — and devout Christians all — who denounce the North for destroying the antebellum glory that was Dixie.
I find this disturbing for a couple of reasons. I have always suspected that all this Confederate nostalgia had a strong strain of racism at its core and that suspicion is only reinforced by the absurd denial by most Confederophiles that southern secession was committed in defense of slavery. I suspect that these deniers — like Holocaust deniers, evolution deniers, and global warming deniers — are more than just misinformed or contrarian by nature. Such bold dismissal of fact and scholarship certainly accompanies some larger, darker agenda.
I also find it disturbing that these white southerners have chosen to identify with their Confederate past. If they wanted truly heroic ancestors to venerate, how about those patriots who defeated the British Empire and created a free nation on this continent? Or the "Greatest Generation," which survived the Depression and won World War II?
In a thousand years, free men and women everywhere will remember the battles America fought in the name of freedom, and they will be grateful. And they will remember that this great and free republic was almost destroyed by a slave-holding oligarchy, which started a war that killed nearly half a million Americans. And yet that's the heritage so many white southerners have chosen to identify with.
"Heritage" is a purely artificial and arbitrary construct. It is one group advancing some sacred balderdash to gain an upper hand over some other group who is not part of that "heritage." It also means ignoring important parts of history — like Pagan heritage — and rewriting other parts of history — like the cause of southern secession.
As a lifelong southerner, I have been called a traitor and worse for not respecting my Confederate heritage. Well, two can play that game. I hereby challenge every Neo-Confederate to stand up for his Pagan heritage. And to show their enthusiasm, they are all invited to come out next September and take part in the annual Pagan Pride Day. It's a lot more fun than Confederate Memorial Day.