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No, Christianity Didn't Steal Ash Wednesday from Heathens

No, Ash Wednesday is not a heathen or pagan holiday. Yes, Wednesday is named after Odin (Woden.) Yes, other cultures besides Christianity used ritual fire and some even used ritual ash. Some Hindus in India receive a blessing from ash from a sacred fire. Fire as a source of cleansing, heat, and light is pretty basic and obvious, and the fact that x culture used it does not mean y culture stole the idea from x culture.

The internet meme making the rounds that claims that fire and ash is an exclusively heathen or pagan symbol is ridiculous on its face; all cultures used fire. The internet meme claims the ashes from heathen festivals were protective in heathen culture. While it is possible that some heathens in the past did use ash for some magical or religious purpose, but if so the person who created the meme really ought to cite the source.

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Taking the Ash

You're walking down the street and there, sure enough, under the same tree as this morning, sits the holy man, stark naked, blue with ash.

Rishikesh? Benares? No.

Turtle Creek, Wisconsin, USA.

I've always wondered what it would be like to live in a place where, in the natural course of things, one encountered the blue men (and women) as part of everyday life. I've also wondered what it would be like to be one of the ash-clad, given to the gods, wandering like ghosts through the world: in it, but not of it.

Well, I'll soon find out.

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