Judaism vs. Paganism

9 September 2016

Groups of Wiccans who practice their faith together, called covens, have been passing down their rituals, texts, and beliefs for hundreds of years (Berger 8). Some scholars believe that through the times of witch hunts and famine, many of these traditions were lost. Since Pagan has been such a hidden religion due to misconception and witch hunts, most historical tradition was oral (Bowker 1040). Through newfound texts and online interactions, some of these traditions have been resurrected and new ones still are being created from scratch and altered from the past.

The Pagan faith does not have a “set in stone” text, such as the Bible or the Tanakh. However, after the finding and exploration of America and once the witch hunts in Europe quieted, newer Pagans, or Neo-Pagans, chose to take a historically unique religion and expose it. They began to make “How-To” type books about the Wiccan faith, revealing a great deal of secrecy and nostalgic virtues behind the craft of a religion that lasted so long in Britain and other European countries. These books went viral, especially once the Internet was created.

Judaism vs. Paganism Essay Example

Today, many Neo-Pagans have websites and chat groups through which they communicate and learn new rituals (Berger 3-4). Due to the secrecy of Paganism for so many years, the practice is very centralized to location and diverse covens. It is not a “temple-driven” faith, and can be practiced alone or in a coven. Thanks to the newly printed texts and the Internet, it is simple for one to do some research and decide to become a Wiccan. On the flip side to this unique religion is Judaism, centralized in Israel. Similar to the Pagan faith, there is no single “founder,” or central leader, like a Pope.

The faith survived through Christianity withholding their Bible written in Hebrew, which is the only religion to have died off and been resurrected. They have altered their language to assume modern-day tongue for items such as computers, cell phones, and televisions. Jews pass along their faith through two main teaching texts. The first, called the Torah, is the Jewish scripture. It is found within the Jewish Bible and is used for the services in the synagogues. The second text is arguably the most important.

The Tanakh, which is the Hebrew Bible, includes the Torah, Prophets, and Hagiographa. This sacred text is how the language was revived. It also includes the first few books of the Christian Bible (Fisher 273-274). Though Paganism and Judaism do not seem very compatible, they surprisingly have some similarity. For instance, each religion had a horrific historic trauma. The witch hunts which fled European lands between 1400 and 1700 affected both legitimate Pagans and non-Pagans alike. There were an estimated 100,000 deaths within these instances.

The accusers, which were anyone from the towns and villages including their religious leaders and government officials, blamed typically older, single women who were once called healers for possessing the devil inside of their bodies or souls (Kagan 440). In legitimate Pagans, single women who attended “sabbats,” or mass meetings for religious purposes, were said to be conspiring against the towns and contacting the devil. Sabbats are a true part of Wiccan, however not as the townspeople thought. Sabbats are actually the spiritual division of the year (Berger 4).

Many accusations against these so-called “witches” led to death by quartering, hanging, the gallows, burning alive, drowning, or stoning (Kagan 440). Unfortunately, these occurrences did not end for quite some time. Slightly after witch hunts went viral, around the end of the 17th century, they moved from not only European countries but also America. This point of time sent the Salem witch trials into effect in Salem, Massachusetts, killing even more wiccans and non-wiccans in the belief of their devilish witchcraft. This period of time was hysterical for those who were legitimate Wiccans and those said to be “witches” as well.

Much like the death penalty for women being “different,” was the insanely famous trauma for the Jews, the Holocaust. In the process of World War II, the world was in shambles and while trying to pick up the pieces, a new leader emerged. Hitler gave the people someone to blame for all of the misconduct in the world-the Jews. In this period of time, it was against the law for Christians and Muslims to add interest when loaning money to citizens. Thus, the Jews added a bit of extra cash at the end of their paycheck, leaving the other religions to blame them for their universally declining economy.

Jews already lived together in tight-knit communities and tried to stay away from the day-to-day lives of the rest of the towns they lived in. Giving their perceived oddness an added negative bonus led the rest of the town to blame them for the war, their economy, and all else that was wrong in their lives at that time. Hitler took advantage of this shallow mindset and led him and his Nazis to create death camps for these “traitors. ” Twenty-Two million Jews were slaughtered by starvation, working to death, gas chambers, and so many more horrendous deaths (Fisher 266-268).

These sickening historic times are an awful similarity between two religions. A lighter similarity between Pagan and Judaism is their practicing of their faith methods: each in groups but sometimes alone. Wiccans can practice their faith alone or in a coven. When there are groups of Wiccans together, they tend to be all-women groups which enlighten us as to why Pagans are closely linked with feminism. This is also why many so called “witches” in the witch hunts were women (Cantrell 3-8). In the Jewish faith, Jews live together in close communities and prefer to stray from the rest of society.

They dress similarly, live closely, and have their own economies within the group, vaguely influenced by their outlying neighbors. In Judaism, ten men praying together are considered a synagogue, no matter the number of women (Bowker 512-514). These groups give a slight similarity between Pagan and Judaism. These two religions are also very diverse. Pagans tend to be based on women, whereas Judaism tends to be based on men. Susan B. Anthony coven was the first women-only witchcraft group created by six women and one Hungarian. The Hungarian took the historic values of this group and turned them feminist.

In this faith, women could be priestesses, healers, counselors, even warriors (Berger 13). This is the complete opposite for Jews, where in at least Orthodox (the traditional Judaism) men can only be rabbis. Men are also the only part of a marriage who can initiate divorce. Luckily, women cannot be divorced against their will, however (Fisher 255-256). Gender is a huge part of society and also in religions. Another huge difference between Pagans and Jews is how they conduct the prayers for their respective religions. In Pagan, prayer itself is not truly prayer as it is faith practice since there is no “God” that they pray to.

Instead, there is a common theme of rebirth amongst Wiccans, relating back to the Lord and the Lady. This rebirth cycle is closely linked to the eight Sabbats which are the six week segments of the year that tell the story about the Lord and the Lady (Mother Earth). This theme is one of the few common traditions amongst Wiccans from all locations of the world. Since it is a very secretive and therefore inconsistent religion, even the dates of the Sabbats tend to vary (Berger 89, 91). Completely unlike this are the prayer ways of the Jews.

In order to pray, a tallit (prayer shawl), Yamacha (round hat), and tephlin (scriptures inside of small boxes) must be worn. Jews typically pray at least three times a day; they pray when they wake, at lunch, and before bed. Their praying guidelines include praying ethically, so as to not pray harm or misfortune to others. On Saturday they practice the Sabboth Observance where they reflect on their good and bad actions of the week and how to improve on them. On this day, they are not to light fires, carry items a certain distance, etc. even though reform Jews find loopholes to continue to abide by modern society (Fisher 278-282).

Prayer is such an important part of religion that it’s a wonder there are not more concrete rules in Wiccan. In my own personal beliefs, Wiccan would closely reside along my beliefs. I do not agree with having religious texts to conclude legitimacy within a religion, because religious texts can be altered through language translations and the translator’s opinions and beliefs. Also, I think that circumcision to become Jewish is like hazing men when joining a religion. The point of religion is to have faith in a higher power in order to make our short time on earth less questioned. It gives us answers for the unknown.

Witch hunts and the Holocaust are the most horrendous actions condoned by humans because it is disallowing people to believe what they want which no one has the right to do. Between Jews and Pagans, their histories, religious texts, and christening methods may not necessarily be the same. Yet each religion gives their followers something magical to believe in-something that may not be real, but is tangible when it is most needed. It is great that both of these religions have groups that practice their faith together because through this strong union of people lead to a more fulfilling lifestyle and a more intense religious belief.

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