MODERN PAGANS, PART 6: HOW PAGAN ARE WE?
by Joanna Poppink
Maybe the floats in our Christmas parades are our tribute to the Feast of Fools, born of the ribbon festooned carts of Lord Misrule's boisterous subjects celebrating the revolution of the earth.
Today many children want to stay up and wait for Santa on Christmas. They want to hide and spy as he lays gifts under the tree. Many such children receive a warning from their parents. "If you see Santa he will leave you coal in your stocking and disappear."
I thought this was commonly said to encourage bedtime so parents could have calm before the Christmas morning tumult. But it may be connected to deeper traditions of solstice reversals.
Animals were also affected by the overturning of nature. During this upside-down time, animals could speak. On Christmas Eve the cattle spoke and kneeled to honor the Christ child. However, for a human to hear them or attempt to hear them was dangerous and could be fatal.
This may be part of the excited secrecy at Christmas. Adults and children keep secrets from each other about who is giving what to whom. People whisper secrets and wrap presents behind closed doors. It becomes deliciously dangerous to listen. There is so much mystery in the season, in the rituals then and now.
The children loving spirits of Berchta and Hulda may well be influencing our hearts as we celebrate our children at Christmas. And the warning, "You must be a good boy or girl if you want Santa to bring you gifts," may have some connection to Berchta. After all she would not be pleased with people who don't wash their hands or behind their ears or keep their things somewhat tidy. Yet, with all her power, it is she who cradles the neglected child, bringing protection and soothing to his fears. Could this be akin to the soothing so many children receive from writing letters to Santa with their heartfelt requests?
Christmas presents, cloaked in mystery and kept secret till Christmas day, may be our version of the fertility vigil. The gifts are like seeds and ova germinating in the dark and which will soon emerge in the light of the sun.
And our jolly Santa is the gift bringer. He jingles with bells which frighten away all evil. He travels through wild winter storms to find each of us, as his many forerunners have in the past.
The myths, history and folklore show us that natural cyclical events grip us in our modern December traditions as they have in the past. We seem to acknowledge the forces of creation in our souls, our behavior, our emotions, our genetic code and our imagination.
Perhaps we will always live out ancient and new rituals devised to honor these events whether they fit our currently accepted religious and philosophic beliefs or not.
There may be more than a touch of pagan in us all.
"Merry Christmas," from Joanna Poppink.
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