When my colleague told me about the piercing that happens in a Sundance, all my senses started to tingle. I’m sure some of you picked this up when I described the Sundance ritual. It just shouted at me and I wanted to come back and discuss about the symbolism behind it.

The participants of the Sundance get pierced and hung from a tree. This is a powerful symbol that keeps coming back through the ages. Of particular interest to us is the Crucifixion, but there are also other occurrences in mythology, like the god Odin who was hung from a tree and got his eyes pierced by a bird. There is the hanged man that is featured in every Tarot deck and I am sure there many others. (If you know of others, please write a comment for the benefit of all) Whenever a symbol this powerful keeps coming back, it is well worth taking a look at it to see what the Universe is saying through it.

I was always puzzled by the prominence of the cross in our sanctuaries. Why should a symbol of such violence be so prominent? I always thought that the fish or the Cup and Bread would make a better symbol for our faith. I think the prominence of the cross comes from the early glorification of martyrdom. The life of the early Church was marked by persecution, first by the Jews and then by the Romans. Dying as a martyr became a symbol of being united to Christ in the most ultimate way. So, it makes sense that the cross became such an important symbol.

Let’s go back to the ‘pierced and hanging from a tree’ bit. Jesus could have been killed by any number of ways: lapidated, speared, thrown off a cliff… The act of crucifixion is important. It keeps coming back so there is an important message in this specific symbol.

A couple things come to mind:

First of all, the position on the cross is one of total surrender. The victim cannot crouch and huddle to avoid pain and death. He/she is completely open, chest forward to face what is coming. Then, there is the ‘piercing’ aspect, something goes through the body. It seems to say that to move to the next level of being, you have to face the destruction of the body.  It’s like I mentioned on the last post: You have to face your ultimate fear, the fear of death, head on, willing and in complete surrender. That is how we can transcend our human nature and become divine! How tremendous! If we believe the Christian myth, that is how we are freed from the holds of death. Buddhists teach the same idea: you achieve enlightenment by being unattached to the body and by not fearing death. The difference is that for us, Christians, this teaching comes in the shape of a cross.

I’ve been reflecting on these symbols for many years. When I say that my vision of Christianity has changed since walking the Pagan path, this is a perfect example.Whether the Crucifixion is an historical event or not does not take away from the symbol it carries. The historicity matters less than the symbolic teaching it carries, a teaching that is apparently universal.

I have waited many years to have a discussion with people of like mind. What are your experiences of this great Mystery?

Blessed Esbat everyone!

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