November 2016 – December Holidays and Santa as a Shaman

  • Notes from …
    • Susan – More about the holidays and their meanings

      I wrote about October and November celebrations in our last newsletter. This time out, a little about December.

      December brings many holidays. We have the Winter Solstice, Christmas and Hanukkah. The celebrations around Christmas are derived from the Solstice celebrations. The Yule log, Christmas trees, gift giving and so on are some of the traditions.

      The Yule log burned on Christmas Day is a holdover from older times. The previous year’s Yule log would be used to start the fire for this year’s burning. The Christmas tree and the exchanging of presents didn’t start until Queen Victoria’s reign. Bringing evergreen boughs indoors was a way of bringing a bit of green into the home during the winter months. A reminder that things would grow again in the spring. The Christmas tree is another reminder of this promise of growth in the spring.

      One thing you’ll notice about the “other” holidays is that the date isn’t fixed. The Winter Solstice is around Dec 21 or 22. Summer Solstice can be on 20, 21 or 22 June. This is because they are an astronomical date and are governed by the stars, not “the forth Thursday in the month.”

    • Notes from Joseph – Santa’s Shamanic origins

      Many people know that the modern Santa was created by the Coca-Cola company as part of a marketing campaign. The nearest “historic” Santa Claus was the Bokkerijders, a group of laborers in Belgium who performed Robin Hood like acts. The church denounced their activities as Satanic although the poor people appreciated waking to gifts of food and money on their doorsteps. Prior to that, a St. Nicholas myth comes from the Slavic countries. There, St. Nicholas had a “Dark Helper” who was dressed in black, had horns and pointed ears, all pointing to Santa’s shamanic origins.

      The first historic Santa Claus was St. Nicholas of Myra, a Greek bishop from the 4th century AD. Nicholas of Myra made a habit of secret gift-giving, a nod to today’s “Secret Santa” office parties, perhaps.

      But Santa’s other names, such as Kris Kringle, Sinterklass, Frost and such, come from cultures where Santa was an elf, and each culture painted him slightly differently. To some he was tall and dressed all in green, to others he was angelic and dressed in white and in others he was a cyclopian giantess. In some cultures he rode a single reindeer or elk, in others he flew on the backs of geese. “Coming down the chimney” hearkens to a time when spirits were welcomed at the hearth and leaving sweets – sugared milk, cookies, candies, etc. – were typical elf offerings.

      What many people don’t know (and something I’ll be blogging about in December) is that these and related beliefs in a specific Winter spirit that brings gifts (traditionally harvest products and bounties) goes back to Herne traditions and even earlier (here’s where Santa’s Dark Helper comes from).

      Some research indicates that belief in such a Winter spirit goes back 40,000 years! This entity’s main function was to serve as a bridge between our primitive ancestors and the earth from which they derived their sustenance. People living in areas that experienced the cold and frosts of winter, like all people anywhere and even now-a-days, needed to hope and believe that the season would be over. They would ask their shaman to intercede for them, and the proof that Gaia, the EarthMother, was going to return warmth to them was by providing enough foodstuffs at the onset of winter to get them through to Spring. This is why the original Winter Spirit is associated with Herne, the Primordial Hunter in central and northern European cultures, as the Hunter would help the people find game to see them through. Ever notice that slight warming period in the middle of winter? That’s Gaia saying, I have not forgotten and will bring you Spring.

      Also, the Winter Spirit or Winter Giver isn’t specific to any one tradition. Some native american people tell stories of Winter Man, another hunter/provider spirit. That first light snow of the season, the one that comes silently in the night, covers the groud in a light but recognizable dusting and is gone before the sun reaches noon the next day? That’s Winter Man following the herds south, beckoning the people to follow him so he can provide for them. That last heavy snow in late winter, early spring? The one that comes after the ground has started to green up, after there’s a hint of warmth in the air, which may drop several inches of snow that are also gone just as quickly as it came? That’s Winter Man driving the herds back north.

      I’ll be sharing the stories of many of these Winter Spirits in the December blog post mentioned above. Susan will be sharing about January celebrations in our next newsletter and Joe Della Rosa will start a story arc you won’t want to miss.

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  • NextStage Expanded Awareness Society Happenings for Nov 2016