At least 45,000 years ago, modern humans noticed the cycles and positions of the moon, the cycles of dying and rebirth, and our total dependance upon the planet to supply our needs.
Both summer and winter solstices became times of festivals and celebrations.
The winter solstice festival featured live greenery, candles and fire, bright colors and feasting because there was so little day time. We fear the dark. It was a celebration of the birth of the sun god, born of the Great Goddess, as light returned to the earth.
These are the times now referred to as pagan. Goddess worship thrived as the people thrived; in harmony with nature, with matrilineal societies and equality between the sexes. The good old days.
Each region or community evolved their own customs, but the Goddess was known throughout the world. She was called by many names: Isis, Asarte, Kali, Freyda, and so on.
What we know as Christmas Eve today was previously known as the Night of the Mother and was a bigger celebration than Christmas.
Many deities were acknowledged to have been born on December 25: Attis, Dionysus, Osiris, and Baal among others. These births were celebrated. For tens of thousands of years, these customs were kept.
Then along came the new religions and they did not play when it came to the older ones. The Old Testament is sort of a nice history of the lengths Abraham and his descendants went to to get rid of all of the other gods and most especially the Goddess.
From Abraham to Jesus begins the shift to patriarchy. Gnostic evidence would suggest that Jesus was less misogynistic than his eventual followers, but his church codified and brought to new heights punishment for the crime of being born female.
“Archaeological, mythological and historical evidence all reveal that the female religion, far from naturally fading away, was the victim of centuries of continual persecution and suppression by the advocates of the new religions which held male deities supreme. And from these new religions came the creation myth of Adam and Eve and the tale of the loss of paradise.”1
When people clung to the old ways, and the Inquisition and Crusades and witch burning didn’t loosen the grip, the church decided to co-opt the holidays entirely. There was no Christian Christmas until the 4th century A.D. The historical Jesus was probably born sometime in July, according to Biblical scholars. But the church needed to kill the pagan belief system and they did, cruelly and cynically.
Where the early religions saw humans as a part of nature and as being a part of the cycle of life and dependent upon the planet, the later religions severed those ties and substituted dominion, hierarchy, and separation from nature. We are paying for that today.
“In its worship of the masculine principle of aggression, the modern world sorely misses the central idea of ancient Goddess worship: that true power is the power to preserve.”2
1- Merlin Stone, “When God was a Woman”
2- Barbara G. Walker, “The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets”