Pagan Virgin Births and the Case of the misunderstood Savior

Written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014.

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It is with astonishment that I continually witness Pagans deeming Mary’s virgin birth of Jesus greatly amusing at best and dangerously discriminating of women at worst. Most Pagan paths view sexuality as healthy and many as sacred. Especially those who grew up in a religion where the reverse was the case, virgin births appear to spark all sorts of enmity or at least skepticism.

In fact, virgin or miraculous births were not only established, but the event itself as much as mother and miracle-child held in high esteem in many pre-monotheistic religions. I shall explain the reasons thereof after delivering a few more examples of Pagan virgin births. These were mostly of religious figures, but also of especially enlightened humans, leaders, thinkers. Like Greek philosopher Plato for example.

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Numerous Greek Gods and Goddesses are considered “parthenos”, virginal or of “pure conception”. Many will be surprised to hear that Zeus, commonly known as the stereotypical philanderer, also was considered parthenos.

Although the virginity of Isis has been disputed, since one single depiction of Horus’ conception shows Isis impregnating herself with dead Osiris’ severed phallus, in all other accounts and depictions she is shown as a falcon hovering over Osiris’ dead body and miraculously conceiving Horus this way. Isis, like a plethora of virgin goddesses and human mothers, remained virginal her whole life.

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Let us also take a closer look at Osiris himself. He was called “KRST,” the “Anointed One.” Born of the virgin Isis-Meri on December 25th. His earthly or adoptive father’s name was Seb, which translates to Joseph. He taught at the temple at age 12 and was baptized at age 30, inbetween this time he had vanished or at least nothing is known about his life from 13-29. He was baptized in Iarutana river (Jordan) by Anup which translates to John. Anup was later beheaded. His suffering, death, and resurrection are celebrated annually by his disciples on the spring equinox, in other words, Easter.

The nymph Moye bathing in a river in China is touched by a lotus plant, and the divine Fohi is born.

Maya

Siddharte Gautama Buddha was born of the Virgin Queen Maha (=the great) Maya. (Interestingly maya is also the Hindu concept of this plane of existence being an illusion.) Maya dreams of a white elephant with six white tusks entering her right side, shortly after which she notices she is pregnant. In “The life of Buddha” we read that he descended on his mother Maya, “in likeness as the heavenly queen, and entered her womb,” and is “born from her right side, to save the world.” He teaches in temple at age 12, Jesus does at age 13. Other similarities to Christianity: In Tibetan Buddhism, Buddha was tempted by Mara, the “Evil One” while fasting. He healed the sick, fed the hungry and obliged followers to renounce the world.

In Siam (Vietnam), a teenage girl is impregnated by sunbeams while taking a walk in her garden. She later gives birth to Codom, the “great and wonderful deliverer”.

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Quetzalcoatl (also: Kukulkan or Kukulan) is a Mesoamerican god-man whose name means snake or also precious feathered serpent. He  – together with his twin Xolotl – was born of the virgin Coatlicue. He was associated with the planet Venus, the morning star, as was Jesus. (And on another note: So was Lucifer, but that is a subject for a whole other article. 😉 ) He renounced Tezcatlipoca, the “Prince of Darkness”. His blood resurrects the dead. He is often depicted as bearing a cross on his shoulders. In addition to that he is also often depicted with a cross on his head and his temples bore a cross on top of their roofs also. The cross here represented the four directions, as fitting for a wind-god, but some sources speak of the cross representing the four elements, also.

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Mithraism was a religion followed by Romans just before the forceful conversion to Christianity. It contained the following:  Virgin birth, born in a stable or cave, visited by wise men bringing treasures, twelve disciples, last supper, died on a cross and was resurrected. Mithras Day was celebrated on December 25th. (Even though Jesus was NOT born on that day it is after all the day his birth is celebrated.)

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Attis of Phrygia was born of a virgin around the Winter Solstice. He was nailed to a tree for the salvation of mankind. He was buried around Eostre/Ostara but on the third priests found the tomb empty. His followers were baptized in blood to wash away their sins, after which they called themselves “born again”. Dionysus of Greece strikingly resembles this tale. On top of the above mentioned he was identified with the lamb and called “Only begotten son”, “Sin bearer” and “Redeemer”.

Devaki with Krishna

Indian Krishna’s nativity was heralded by a star and he was born of the virgin Devaki. Krishna traveled widely, performing miracles such raising the dead, healing the sick and feeding the hungry. The crucified Krishna is pictured on the cross with arms extended. Pierced by an arrow while hanging on the cross, Krishna died, but descended into Hell from which He rose again on the third day and ascended into Heaven. Krishna is the second person of the Hindu trinity.

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At least one folk tale speaks of Balder having been conceived by Frigga magically/not by physical means.  Balder was the God of Light, Righteousness, bringer of a new era. Whether he was sacrificed or murdered is a matter of interpretation, but he, too, will come back from the Underworld to reign over a new world.

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(Zoroaster/Zarathustra)

The prophet Zoroaster was claimed to have been born of a virgin, as was Tibetan Indra, Baal of Phoenicia, Tammuz of Syria, Bali of Afghanistan, Esus of the Druids… I could list yet another dozen virginal births, but let’s keep it at these most obvious examples.

So, back to Pagans, often feminists, opposing everything to do with virgin births: The interpretation that no human woman can live up to the expectation of this kind of physical “purity” is mislead. These tales are less about physical purity or “sinful sexuality”. When I attended Christian Science services for a while they raised an interesting point. The Bible speaks of man having been created in the likeness of God. What is God? Spirit. No matter if in monotheism or polytheism Gods are known to be able to take shape or “manifest” but they are, ultimately, spirit/of the spiritual world.

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The impregnation by “spirit” illustrates nicely mankinds spiritual heritage. Even in the case of human mothers the children of these virginal births were godly or (a) God, emphasizing the gnostic principle that if we are made in the  likeness of the divine and ARE like God(dess in essence, we are a part of the divine or basically the divine is in us as much as we are in it – one.
(Even Jesus claimed “I am in the father as the father is in me”, leading people to believe he was the “only begotten son of God” or “God in the flesh” instead of realizing that the same held true for them.)

If mankind lived by this principle, in the awareness that everyone is godly, including themselves, there would be no war, no murder, no fraud nor deception and no feeling of being better than anyone else. What war for monetary gain would be justified to be started if you knew what you are doing to another people will ultimately hurt yourself because you are all connected through the same source? (“Three times three”, “Do unto others…”, “golden rule”.)
While our human traits, talents, backgrounds all make us different individually and we are separated by different traditions and cultures (and hurray to that kind of diversity!), our spiritual traits all make us “the same” or equal. Virgin birth – basically a wonderfully comforting and liberating message of “As above, so below”.

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Heimdall – The “White God” in the Germanic and Norse traditions

written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014

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In Heathenry there are not just many different paths – Ásatrú as the most popular one, then also Vánatrú, Theodism, Rökkatrú and on the margins of Norse cosmology even Thursatrú, we also have almost too many Gods to count. One of them is Heimdallr or Heimdall. So who is Heimdall? Or rather, what is he? He was born by nine Jotun (giant) sisters, the Undines, Heimdal_and_his_Nine_Mothersnamely Gjálp, Greip, Eistla, Angeyja, Ulfrún, Eyrgjafa, Imðr, Atla, and Járnsaxa; yet who fathered him remains subject of speculation. So which tribe of the Gods he exactly belongs to is unclear, only that he joined or is  now regarded as one of the Aesir, although he is also attributed with Vanic powers. (>Thrymskvidha 15, “Then Heimðallr spoke, whitest of the Aesir,

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Like the other Vanir he knew the future well.“) One of the more popular theories is that his father must have been Wotan/Odin, as Heimdall – who lives in Himinbjörg at the end of the heavens – is the guardian of the burning rainbow bridge Bifröst. This bridge separates Asgard, home of the Aesir Gods  from Midgard, home of humans (and a few other beings of course). Who better to protect the Gods and the “Allfather” Odin than someone of Jotun (giant) blood after all? Especially since Odin himself derives from the giants despite often being at war with them due to their wild and free nature.
All we we know about Heimdall regarding this is from Hyndlujod (Thorpe translation): He was nourished “with the strength of earth [Mother Jördr/Earth], with the ice-cold sea [his Undine-mothers], and with Son’s blood.“ That is a clear indicator of his Jotun origin and powers.

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Other names for him are Gullintanní – the one with the golden teeth, Rígr – king, Vindhler and Hallinskiði, the latter two being the subject of many a scholarly debate about their possible meaning. Sadly, a lot of our culture and language was destroyed, so while some say Vindhler means “Laughing like the Wind” others are convinced it means “Wind-Sea”, which would make a little more sense for obvious reasons.

The name Rígr, King, stems from the story in which Heimdallr visits Midgard and fathers three races of men: Thrall, the father of slaves, Carl, the father of free farmers, farmerand Earl, the father of rulers. Some view this as an act of separation of mankind, yet if we look at the fact that Thrall’s parents are called great-grandparents, Carl’s are called grandparents and Earl’s are called parents it appears to be more of a matter of family hierarchy. Each of these “family members” have their own qualities, talents and wisdom, amount of knowledge and abilities with which they contribute to this world and mankind in general.

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Heimdall is “the white As” (As = singular of Aesir) or white god; the color white was – or still often is – regarded as the color of purity and virtue. White is a color “unstained” or untainted, there are no secrets, no hidden agendas; he is but a truthful god. What you see is what you get so to speak. This title reflects how revered he was amongst his fellow Aesir as much as by our ancestors. On a personal note the title may also refer to his Vanic ability to be clairvoyant/see the future.

Heimdall is the god that will announce the coming of Ragnarök, often falsely described as “the end of the world” although it is basically renewal by destruction as known and acknowledged by so many other cultures and early religions.

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As the guardian of Bifröst Heimdall will see Surtr, the “world destroyer”, coming from afar with his burning sword of destiny and then sound his Gjallarhorn to alert the other gods of the upcoming battle. The end of his trumpet is referred to as “head,” and is referred to as being his sword. His horse is Gullintop and his loyal companion the rooster Gullinkampi. There are several depictions of Heimdallr sounding his horn with Gullinkampi perched on his head or shoulder, chiming right in.
The relationship of Gods with their animals or “pets” is an interesting one, and there are those who claim that they might as well be Fylgjas (similar to what Wiccans and a few other paths know as “familiars”), though there is no clear reference or confirmed academic source for that as far as I found.

Brisingamen

When Loki stole Freya’s necklace on Wodan’s behest, Heimdall retrieved it, and he is also the God who competed with Loke for the Brisingamen. It is not just because of the latter that Loke and Heimdall are mortal enemies. As Laufeysson (=Loki) will be one of those to bring about Ragnarök the enmity is not surprising. The Aesir strive to preserve this world in its pitiful state as much as the Rökkr Gods long to renew it. So those two will slay each other in the very end.
(Here’s a Rökkatrú source on this: http://www.northernpaganism.org/rokkatru/jotunbok/loki-and-heimdall.html)

Gulltop-Heimdall

In conclusion Heimdall – like several other Gods of the Heathen or Norse Pagan religion/s – is amongst those we know rather little about. There are no facts as such regarding him. – Scholars have tried to piece together information on this ominous god, yet the debate on the validity of those attempts keeps going on.
What we know for now is that there is no evidence for a “Heimdall cult” of old per se, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t or can’t be venerated nowadays. (Something Heathens – for once – agree with, although the lack of evidence for a Loki or other Jöten cults frequently prompts them to state that if they weren’t worshipped in the past there’s no need honoring them today. Hypocrisy at its best.) Those who believe Heimdall to be another aspect or guise of Wodan might find the uncovering of the Saltfleetby lead spindle whorl in which Heimdall is named alongside Odin and Thjalfi rather interesting.

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