Pagan News and Views Since 1998

Differences and Similarities of Ritual and Services of Religions

The Christo-Pagan thread got me thinking about the similarities and differences between the rituals and services of different religions. I thought it would be neat to share experiences we may have had with different religions and see what things they have in common with what we do. Some use candles and incense, holy water, etc. as do Wicca and some Witchcraft and Pagan practices, for example. While Pagans, Wiccans and Witches may do other things very differently. I think learning of other regions may help us see what we all have in common as well.

To start with, I will share my experiences with 3 different types of non-Pagan churches (all Christian, actually). I'll detail the services so we can see the similarities. I think I'll post these experiences in different posts in this thread so it'll be easier to follow, and also open this thread for others to start posting their experiences as well.

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I have attended church services, both Catholic and Protestant, on several occasions myself due to funerals or insistent invites by family or friends of whom I did not want to offend. I don't remember much about them except for the fact that the Protestant services seemed to really creep me out; kinda had that "Children of the Corn" feel to it, people staring at me and the preacher pointing me out in the crowd, creepy sounding hymns and fire and brimstone. Yikes!

Back in the late 80's, however, I was living in Denver, Co. for about a year and made a connection with the local Hare Krishna community there. I really grew to loves these people during my time there and I found myself spending a lot of my free time just hanging out with them and learning about them.

The "services", as far as I can remember, went something like this:

At a certain time of the day, and there were several of these times, people would file into the temple, removing their shoes as they did so, and enter into a main room that was just a big open space without chairs or pews, just open floor. At the head of the room, was a huge altar with a large Radha-Krishna deity set standing in the middle, surrounded by other smaller deities, pictures of devotees, flowers, incense and food offerings. It always smelled great when you walked in; the fresh flowers and the incense always had the effect of instantly lifting your spirits and putting you into that spiritual kind of feeling.

Anyway, for a short while, some music would be played by some of the devotees there using some of the traditional Hindi instruments which would be accompanied by all of us chanting and dancing. Afterwards, we would all sit on the floor, making a big circle if possible, and listen to one of the devotees read from the Gita or other Vedic texts and discuss it's meaning or significance. More music and singing usually followed. Afterwards, everyone would be served a small meal of the offerings that were made to Krishna that day. This meal was considered to be specially charged and blessed since it was part of an offering. I'm sure that I am forgetting some of the details, but I do remember having a very relaxed and comfortable feeling while there. To this day, Krishna is one of my patron deities.

I really respected and admired the devotees there, because they lived their spirituality every day, not just on Sundays. They would start long before sun-up in the morning and wouldn't finish till long after sun-down

It has been my experience that what people do at the outer level can be very different, even within a given religion. If you go from one Temple to another, or one church to another, etc, each will have its own flavor based in part on the teachings of the faith and in part on the personalities of the members and leadership. The differences between some groups can be so great that you might well think that there could never be anything they might have in common. But what I find is that if you get to know the people who actually believe in the religion and who are engaged in personal spiritual growth, you will find that they have many similarities no matter what the group. If you look at all of the worlds religions they seem very different on the outside, but look at their mystics and you will find they are saying many of the same things, often in strikingly similar ways. I believe that this is because when a personal grows spiritually they will naturally encounter many of the same realizations. Ideas of love for one another, behaving decently to one another, the importance of meditation, the power of prayer and or magic/miracles -these and other spiritual ideas you find everywhere in the world in all different movements. People like to differentiate themselves from one another, just as children like to differentiate themselves from their parents, but in the end we are all people and what we find when we look inside tends to be pretty universal.

Good point Rev. Don; very true.

I would think that what ever ' faith ' we believe in , what ever teachings we try to adhear to , it in reality all boils down to the same thing ... we are all on a journey here and all making our way threw the steps of of understanding.
and that understanding is what inriches our lives, it is the very foundation we will hand down to the tree. All faiths have their magic as well as their miracles and all of them adhear to the power of belief. along our journey in life we as individuals, will adhear to many things, some of them quite impossible to believe , while others are as simple as research. All of us as you said would like to think that we are all different, but when we really take a look in reality we are all the same, the same basic needs, desires, and hopes and dreams, and to me this is universal in all of us I call this the human factor , as for faith we are free to choose , from the hundreds of theo out there.
In my research . they are all beautiful ... weather this is seeing God/goddess threw nature , or weather to believe that some unseen power lives. as not ever thing can be explained it just is ... BB

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