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Why Pagans Need a "Passover Seder" of Our Own

You know by now that I do (and advocate you doing) interfaith work. It isn't easy and sometimes it isn't even rewarding but it's important for people like me to be at the table with other religious folk for any number of reasons.  But this post isn't about that.

Because I do the aforementioned interfaith work, a rabbi buddy of mine invited me to his family Passover seder a couple of years ago. When I asked what I should bring, he suggested flowers or kosher wine. I had never heard of kosher wine but there's rather a lot of choices out there. I brought both.

A Passover seder, if you have never experienced one, is an ordeal by food and wine.  It lasted six hours and my head was spinning by the end, mostly from kosher wine and trying to speak Hebrew.

I had a great time.

And since then I've thought that Pagan folk need something very like a Passover seder. Each Passover Jewish people review the story of where they've come from. They rejoice in their escape from bondage and their strong bonds of kinship. They tell the old tales that everyone knows--how the people came out of Egypt and into a land of promise.  There is a deep longing for the closeness of tribe when danger is everywhere.

There is talk of magic and pilgrimage, of leaders who were imperfect but powerful. Everything is symbolic--the bitter herbs, the water, the non-leavened bread, the empty chair.

Why is this night different from every other night?

And the vision of Jerusalem--next year, next year. Even in the face of the dire situations in the "Holy Land"--our interfaith group is engaging in these difficult issues now--there is tear-inducing hope in the notion of all of us being together. Next year. In our most sacred place.

My people need this, too. If only once a year. An intentional retelling of the stories of our people, with food and drink. An endurance trial of our past, a vision of our future--and in the middle, we break bread together and honor the most ancient of sacred rites: hospitality.

We can continue to fight and argue for the rest of the year--just as the Jewish community does. But for that one special night, we can hold space for a kind of nobility that is often lost in my community. We can honor the liminal space between past, present and future and for one night rend the veil between them.

Why is this night different from other nights?

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H. Byron Ballard is a ritualist, teacher, speaker and writer. She has taught at Sacred Space Conference, Pagan Unity Festival, Southeast Her essays are featured in several anthologies, including “Birthed from Scorched Hearts“ (Fulcrum Press), “Christmas Presence“ (Catawba Press), “Women’s Voices in Magic” (Megalithica Books), “Into the Great Below” and “Skalded Apples” (both from Asphodel Press.) Her book Staubs and Ditchwater: an Introduction to Hillfolks Hoodoo (Silver Rings Press) debuted in June 2012. Byron is currently at work on Earth Works: Eight Ceremonies for a Changing Planet. Contact her at,


  • Joseph Merlin Nichter
    Joseph Merlin Nichter Sunday, 24 March 2013

    I love this post. We have our own "Seder" within our tradition, but we need one for the whole of Paganism. Now more than ever.

  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard Sunday, 24 March 2013

    I'm considering writing a Pagan Hagaddah. Kate Laity is, too. Who knows? I think it would be very good for us.

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