Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Spurious Religious Arguments against Celebrating Festivals


Facebook cannot be perceived as the ultimate in real information but it does give one a sense of how people think to some extent. Obviously, the biggest flaw in the system is the fact that Facebook only represents a part of the population but even so, one can find interesting opinions, both intelligent and idiotic.

Today is St. Valentine's Day or Valentine's Day, depending on your culture and religious affiliations. Even among Roman Catholics, it is not really a religious festival. It is a popular festival with deep universal roots that celebrates love and friendship (and possibly fertility). I therefore always find it a little absurd when specific religious groups attempt to dictate to their followers, forbidding them to celebrate a festival like this.

Negative dictates or prohibitions of this sort tend to be the work of fundamentalists, both Muslim and Christian. I saw a rather absurd little ditty on Facebook this morning to the effect that: 'Roses are red, violets are blue; You're a Muslim, so Valentine's Day is not for you.'

I've seen similar prohibitions from fundamentalist Christians, denouncing Valentine's Day as a 'pagan' festival.

To me, this is one of the basic problems that creates hostility between human beings. Festivals usually are based on universal concepts and for the most part, positive concepts. I have made a study of comparative religion and have experienced Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Pagan Festival celebrations. To the fundamentalist Muslim who composed or copied out that little ditty, I would declare that he might be surprised to find how many practices and celebrations that are enshrined in Islam actually have their roots in ancient pagan beliefs and practices. To me, that does NOT invalidate Islam just as Christianity is not invalidated by the fact that the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is part of a universal tradition of Sacrifice for humankind. In fact, quite the reverse. Those beliefs that are universal and ancient tend to be the MOST valid in my view.

Whether St. Valentine actually has anything whatsoever to do with Valentine's Day or not therefore is irrelevant. It is a beautiful celebration of Love and Friendship with many endearing traditions. Furthermore, the date is significant, as it falls between Winter and Spring and is one of those celebrations that speaks eloquently of the renewal of life. The tradition of offering flowers, especially red roses, stems from this, if you will pardon the play on words.

The connection of chocolate with Valentine's Day makes sense when one studies ancient Mesoamerican civiliations. For the Mayans the Cocoa Bean was a symbol of life and fertility. For the Aztecs the Cocoa plant was stolen from heaven by the God Quetzalcoatl as a gift for humankind. He descended on a beam of light from the Morning Star. The Morning and Evening Star, Venus, is central to most ancient cultures and human sacrifices were offered to it or Her, in civilisations from Sumeria to the Americas. The symbol of Inanna and Ishtar both was the Morning and Evening Star, depicted as an eight-pointed Star. It is interesting to note that the gift of Odhroerir or Ecstacy was a drink stolen by the God Odhinn. The eight-pointed Star in the Runic Alphabet is a symbol of the World Tree, Yggdrasil, inter alia. Odhinn took the form of a serpent in order to be able to journey into the mountain where the sacred drink was guarded. The Serpent in the myths of Sumer was one of the creatures who dwelt in the World Tree.

Sacred drinks are a feature in many religions and festivals. For the Aryans, the sacred drink Soma was absolutely central to their religion and the ritual of preparing it is described extensively. In contemporary culture, although beverages made from chocolate are popular enough, it is the sweet that is most desirable and chocolates are a very important part of Valentine's Day.

The Heart is another symbol of Valentine's Day. Whether it represents the human heart or the female genitalia or buttocks is immaterial really. A red heart has become a rather universal symbol of Love and Friendship. The colour red denotes Life and Good Fortune.

From the dire pronouncements of Fundamentalists from every religion, one might think that a simple wish for a Happy Valentine's Day were tantamount to the worship of 'false gods' or even the Devil. I would like to believe that it is one of those festivals that could be akin to the clasping of hands across the sea, a means by which diverse cultures can meet in friendship and celebrate

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