Saturday, 6 February 2010

St. Michael = Mithras


It's no secret that Christianity, in its ruthless ascent to religious dominance, borrowed, commandeered, and co-opted elements from all the other competing religions of the time, weaving them deep into its totalitarian picture of the universe. Almost every element of Christianity can be traced to some pre-existing pagan faith.

But Christianity was also very skillful at Christianizing elements of paganism by finding the nearest Christian equivalent and substituting it. For example, in the Mediterranean, where the worship of the Goddess Diana had deep roots, they were able to transfer the pagan affection for this goddess to Christianity through the cult of the Madonna.

During the pre-Christian period, the religion of Mithraism, with its central theme of a dualistic battle between good and evil, was popular in the North West part of Roman Empire. It was especially favored by the military stationed in the provinces of Spain, Gaul, Britain, and the Rhine frontier. In order to successfully subsume these local sentiments into their religion, the Christians found aspects of their faith that matched local beliefs and then promoted them.

In the Bible, the Archangel Michael is described as the commander of the army of the Lord (Joshua 5:13-15). In artistic representation, he is usually shown holding a sword and defeating Satan or a dragon in battle. In short he is the cutting edge of the "Forces of Light" in the battle with the "Forces of Darkness." Like Mithras, he is also connected to those in uniform, being considered the patron of police officers and soldiers.

These affinities made Michael a suitable spearhead for Christianizing areas where Mithraic traditions still had some influence. A good example is the world heritage site of Mont-Saint-Michel in Brittany. Originally this was a site sacred to Mithraism. Its original name, Mont Tombe, means 'tomb,' probably a reference to the underground temples favored by the Mithraists.

The change of name is recorded in the Life of Saint Aubert, the bishop of Avranches. One night in the year 708, the archangel Saint Michael appeared to the bishop in a dream, ordering him to erect a sanctuary on Mont Tombe. At that time, the Mount was a remote site far from any road, and could only be accessed by passing through the vast forest of Scissy, which was inhabited by wolves and wild beasts.

For this reason, the bishop was reluctant to act, whereupon the Archangel Michael appeared again. Incensed at the bishop's prevarication, he struck the cleric with a blazing finger, leaving a deep mark in his skull, but persuading him to finally build the sanctuary, which gave the site it Christian name. In later years, a hole in the relic of the bishop's skull was explained as the mark of the Archangel's finger.

3 comments:

  1. Please see Mithra in Wikipedia :

    Mica was Old Persian for Mithras (cf Hebrew, Micah! )
    Mithras-God - cf Hebrew, Michael!

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  2. Sorry to burst your bubble, but the concept of an angel named Michael is a creation of Judiasm, not Christianity. The Roman Catholic Church just tagged an "St." before his name, like they did with kings, prophets and the "five angels that stand before the presence of God" of which Michael is one. Mithras may have inspired Jewish writings, but the concept of Michael was not imported from paganism directly into Chrstianity, as were several other customs, practices and holidays of the Roman Church. Furthermore, the cult of Mithras was isolated in semitic lands, and knowledge of "Michael" the angel of Jewish scriptures had reached followers of Mithras LONG before Christianity even existed.

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  3. Michael is a Canaanite name. Jews got it from them, as they did their other names.

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