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Catholic Saints & Polytheisim?

So surely I can't be the only one to notice that initially Catholics prayed to not only their God but also many Saints. This likely being their way of bridging the divide between their old polytheistic life where different deities {be they major or minor} had control over different aspects of life; so do Saints.

Mary {could easily represent the Goddess}
St. Gerard Majella = Fertility {Demeter/Ceres}
St. Christopher = Patron St. of Travelers {Hermes/Mercury}
St. Cecilia = Music {one of the Muses?}

Not only that but Catholics & Episcopalians {IDK about others} use colors to represent the seasons; in cloth and in candles, 4 to be exact. They also have very specific placements of their Chalice; Incense; their cloth & candles; etc...on their alter.



Asked by Anonymous at 9:16 PM on Jun. 18, 2010 in Religion & Beliefs

This question is closed.
Answers (41)
  • I tend to feel that just like the early Church (which was Catholic) absorbed many of the common Pagan Holidays, and Traditions both in an effort to better convert and out of people simply blending their old and new beliefs, many of the Gods/Goddesses were carried over as well. Mary is a great example, she has even kept some of the old Pagan titles for the Goddess - Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and so on... For people who loved and wanted to keep these traditions and beliefs alive but were forced under law or threat of death to deny them, the idea and belief in Angels and Saints allowed for a more comfortable convergence. And although denied by common day followers those traditions and beliefs continue going strong even in today's anti-Pagan Catholic belief systems...

    What can I say, old habits die hard.

    Answer by SabrinaMBowen at 9:26 PM on Jun. 18, 2010

  • Also, I feel it's worth noting that today's Cristian Alter is without doubt a child of the old ways. The Pagan Priestesses in areas such as Greece, Rome, Egypt and other major contributors all had very similar alters well before Christianity picked up the tradition. What isn't commonly known is that the Pentacle which is seen today as a purely Pagan symbol was used by the Catholic Church up through the 14th century and it was more than common for the Pope and a great number of "lesser" clergy members to be fluent in both ritual magick and in some basic sorcery.

    Again, it comes down to the simple fact that the majority of the people who were creating this new church and new faith were not raised in it and held these Pre-Christian Pagan (AKA - Common for that day) belief systems or belonged to belief systems which had been mixed with them.

    Answer by SabrinaMBowen at 9:31 PM on Jun. 18, 2010

  • This is what I was thinking Sabrina. My mother was taking my 4yr old to Sunday School at her Episcopalian Church and I was very surprised at all the similarities between what they were showing as their alter and an old world traditional alter setting; down to having the specific colors denote the seasons etc; obviously they use a different color scheme than pagans would but still.

    I've also been told that they don't "pray" to these Saints but are simply asking them to intervene with God on their behalf - I say that's splitting hairs. You kneel; you utter words TO the Saint; to me that's a prayer.


    Answer by Anonymous at 9:48 PM on Jun. 18, 2010

  • I think a lot of the difference comes in the titles... When a Wiccan works with Angels, they are still working with a form of "higher power" just not a God/dess... So to with Christians and Angels or Saints...

    Catholics acknowledge that there are non-God higher beings or higher powers, and they see no reason not to tap in to that. But because Christianity is generally a monotheistic belief system it would be going against that very basic point of faith to have their other powers equal to God. I guess it's like when you mail a request to your congressman... The mail man you give it to has the power to get it there, but no power to read it or do as you ask... Your congressman on the other hand will get the message and has the power to fix your issue when he gets the message... You could walk it there yourself, but UPS is faster... Saints are like Catholic Airmail...

    Answer by SabrinaMBowen at 10:17 PM on Jun. 18, 2010

  • Saints are like Catholic Airmail
    I'm not sure if my OP or this comment will offend them more; rofl

    Answer by Anonymous at 10:22 PM on Jun. 18, 2010

  • You kneel; you utter words TO the Saint; to me that's a prayer

    So when a husband goes down on his knees and proposes marriage to a woman the phrase "will you marry me?" becomes a prayer?  Actually the word "pray" means to entreat or implore.  The preposition 'to' indicates where the request is directed.  Praying to someone means you're directing a request to that person - doesn't mean you think that person is a god.


    Answer by eringobrough at 11:13 PM on Jun. 18, 2010

  • Saints are like Catholic Airmail

    I wasn't offended - it made me smile. But because Catholics don't pray to saints in place of praying to God or thinking only saints can relay a message to God I'm not sure it's accurate.  It's more like the saints are university alumni.  They've successfully graduated from this school of life, but they're still active in the university.  They providing support when they can; but, they're not the "dean" of heaven - they don't make decisions for God.   But they're there to try to help us successfully graduate through their prayers and examples.


    Answer by eringobrough at 11:20 PM on Jun. 18, 2010

  • As a Catholic I tend to see the example in the OP as someone imposing their understanding of Catholics saints on an example rather than understanding what the Catholic Church teaches. Reading writings of the Early Church Fathers and other early Christian writings I don't see them looking as a replacement for gods/goddesss - but a big belief that we will have eternal life in heaven- the idea that there's one Body of Christ and going to heaven doesn't stop one from being a part of that Body. So obviously if they're alive in heaven they'll keep following God's teachings about helping others and so they'll continue to help. All we do when we "pray to" a saint is ask them for help - just like we can ask someone here on earth for help.

    Answer by eringobrough at 11:27 PM on Jun. 18, 2010

  • I ask out of true curiosity so you know not to mock. But I do see a lot of similarities between the two; too many for my own comfort to be ignored and be able to 'believe'. I think you knew I didn't mean something like a husband proposing; I meant words formed in a prayer; I'm sure you have another term for it; I'm just not familiar with that term so I simply went with the most basic...

    Norse religion predates Christianity by I don't even remember how many hundreds of years; and yet in their tales of the creation the first man was named Askr & Embla...which in another language can very easily become Adam & Eve could it not?

    As there isn't space I only listed but a small example; however there are more Saints than any pantheon has ever held; all with their own specialties. Of whom people do have idols of; ie: St. Christopher medallions hanging in cars or on necklaces and kissed for luck?

    Answer by Anonymous at 12:36 AM on Jun. 19, 2010

  • The Catholic church makes it very clear that there is only one God in the Catholic faith. We believe we are all connected and part of one community, the living and the dead. We pray for and with each other, but there is one God.

    Using color to represent something is visual and common in many traditions and customs. I have no problem understanding that many customs are simlar to pagan traditions because these are the things people could relate to before most people could read. Stories were/are told using colors and nature, because this is what people knew.


    Answer by RyansMom001 at 2:40 AM on Jun. 19, 2010