I love tweaking the fundies' noses on the pagan stuff that lies buried in what they call "Christianity." Here's more on December 25th as the so-called "birthday of Jesus." It has to do with Sirius, the most beloved of all the stars by our pagan ancients.
Another pagan tweak on Christmas
Civilizations have always tracked time by logging the movements of various heavenly bodies across the skies. We've had several choices, including the lunar calendar, the solar calendar, and the sidereal, or star, calendar. A sidereal year can be defined in different ways. One way is the time that it takes a specific star, in relation to the sun's movement, to come back to a specific apparent position in our skies. The Egyptians, especially, loved Sirius, and made it the hub of their most important calendar -- and not just because it's the brightest star in the sky.
On December 24-25 the ancient astronomers may have noticed that Sirius always migrates back to true north in our skies...and had evidently done so for many countless thousands of years. The "precession of equinoxes" was first noted by Greek scientists -- it's the result of Earth's slow rotational wobble on its axis, and causes the apparent position of most stars to shift very slowly throughout a cycle of around 25,800 years. But Sirius may be unique -- an "axis star" that doesn't change its position relative to the precession of equinoxes.
The Sirius Research Group, who are working on observations to refine our understanding of this phenomenon, are positing a radical idea: that Sirius may be the center of our solar system's position within our galaxy, meaning that our sun rotates around Sirius. In their view, this is why many ancient civilizations gave Sirius a central status as a star that they equated with divinity.
Fast forward to a moment early in Christian history, when church organizers were trying to decide how their dogmas would interface with the old calendars that everybody still lived by. They wanted Christianity to replace the old ways, but they also wanted to build on the old ways and appropriate the old symbols. No wonder they decided to have the "divine" Jesus born on December 25. In my opinion, they chose this moment in the sidereal year because north is the key direction for navigators, and Christianity was intended to be a "new direction." The New Testament even mentions that a "star that appeared in the sky, and the Wise Men traveled towards the star until they found the divine child." But this story may be more of a symbol than a historical fact.
Christian historians and archeologists always knock themselves out to prove, beyond any doubt, that there is an absolute historical foundation for anything they say about Jesus's life. Their reasoning is this: if they can prove a historical reality, then they can prove that the Gospels are really historical documents, and God really did put the Church in charge of the "truth." Later on, the Catholics and Protestants had a big falling about the guardianship of "truth." But it isn't hard to see how both religions try to tweak things their way.
It's time for the U.S. media to tweak back -- to start asking the Catholic and Protestant fundies some courageous historical questions. And yes, it's humbling to realize that the pagan ancients knew a lot more about science than many people today are willing to admit.
Copyright (c) by Patricia Nell Warren. All rights reserved.