A Christian-Pagan Christmas Story…

Walking along Princes Street in Edinburgh, I came upon the latest mixture of Christmas mythology. A red fur-trimmed cowboy hat. Was it a blend of popular and ancient culture, with the sole aim of profit? Has it not always been so?… Is Santa really the Devil and is his “Ho Ho Ho” a disguised code for something more sinister? Have I PC230009-1 been misled to regard him as a fat cheerful chap, dressed in Red, with white fur trimmings and an enormous white beard? I find it rather unsettling to discover that Santa Claus was also Saint Nicholas, The Green Man, Herne, and Cernunnos, amongst other Pagan deities.

Due to the take over of Pagan celebrations by the newly Christianised Romans around 400 years after the crucifixion of Jesus, the images of Cernunnos, so similar in many ways to the cleft-footed horned image of Pan, were combined into a conditioning image of the Devil. But what about “Ho Ho Ho” and “666″? Well - If you rearrange the letters of the name “Santa” you get “Satan”. Not only that, but each “Ho” has six letters and spaces between the H and the O. Therefore, when Santa says “Ho Ho Ho” ~ he’s really saying “666″ the Devil’s number. Apart from the fact that I think that the last example is urban folklore and a bit mischievous; it is a fact that we still call the Devil “Old Nick”. ~

I would be a voice amongst many thousands if I simply turned this ‘post into a diatribe about the over-indulgence of Christmas; but it has always been so - even 3,500 years before Christ’s time, when it was a Pagan festival. The northern cultures of Europe called the celebration of the winter solstice “Yule.” And today we have merged Yuletide greetings, Yule logs, mistletoe, gift-giving and the Yuletide season into today’s Christian calendar. The men of these ancient religions would go out and find the largest log or tree trunk they could bring home for the winter solstice or Yule festival. These logs were burned, and they were supposed to be large enough that they burned for twelve days. This was the foundation of the twelve days of Christmas; the Pagan origins and ritual going back as much as 4000 years before Jesus and the birth of Christianity.

From being an outlawed and despised religious sect, Christianity grew from its humble beginnings and was eventually declared the official religion of Rome. The Emperor Constantine held the Council of Nicea in 325ad where the “authorised” gospels were chosen from the mass of writings surrounding Jesus and the outline of the new religious movement was formed. I think that many people in Britain and America would be surprised to find that Christmas Day was only created by the Roman Catholic Church in 1038 and that December 25th was in fact, the laughing-jesus-1birthday of the Persian God Mithra.

The time of the winter solstice has always been associated with excess - not just our current round of binge-drinking and raving festivity. No matter how much the church tries to emphasis the Holy quality of the Christmas period, the old Pagan ways show through. The winter festival honouring Bacchus, the god of wine, lasted around a month, ending on December 25. The twelve-day festivals of the winter solstice were full of eating, drinking, violence and sex. Does that sound familiar?

This is significant later when Protestantism came about, and the winter festivities of Christmas were looked down upon as being excessive and wasteful. The celebration of Christmas was banned in Britain and New England in the early 17th century, persisting in parts of the USA until the 18th century. . Puritan ministers fought against the celebration of Christmas in the U.S; there were fines for such modern day traditions as singing Christmas carols, nativity scenes, eating certain foods like mince pies, etc. In fact, Christmas was not an official holiday in New England until 1856; Less than 200 years ago.

The case for being dogmatic about the 25th of December as being the birthday of Jesus takes another blow when we consider that the shepherds sexy santa “watching their flocks by night”, would not have done so at in onset of winter, as it snows in the hilly areas of Jerusalem at that time. It is more likely that Jesus was born in mid to late summer - this would suit the strange Japanese village of Shinto, who believe that Jesus escaped the cross and that his brother took his place - Jesus meantime journeyed to Shinto, where he became a garlic farmer and married, having several children! Jesus is purported to be buried there and every midsummer he is commemorated by the villagers (many of whom have blue eyes)

In the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice occurs on December 22nd, when the sun is at its lowest point in the sky. On December 25th it rises one degree, signalling the return of life. There are also three dominant stars from the constellation known as Orion’s Belt that are referred to “the three kings” in several cultures. It does seem that the early Christian church hi-jacked the Summer and Winter Solstices, overlaying Christmas and Easter - as these were two events that were celebrated at a traditional and instinctive level by pre-Christian people. As every politician knows, it is better to re-brand than try to abolish. You can see the Pagan origins of the Christian calendar, showing through the layers of each superseding culture. How many people consider, as they put up their Christmas tree and hang mistletoe over a doorway, that they are participating in the echo of ancient Pagan religious practice? Not only that, but many of the major events in the lives of our Christian Prophets are assigned calendar dates to co-incide true-christmas-1 with and overlay major Pagan holy days, dating back to the seasonal events of our early agricultural societies and their worship of the Sun as the major God and the Solar Year as his life cycle.

I can quite happily accept the merging of Christ’s birthday and his crucifixion and resurrection, with the solstices; with the Yule Logs, Mistletoe, presents and excess of the Winter and the fertility symbols of Easter Eggs, Easter Bunnies (except the blue ones!) and phallic maypoles - all are indeed the celebration of life and re-birth. What upsets me is the worship of the “real” God - the God of Money. The religious festivals of Christmas and Easter have become a commercial whirlwind of present-buying, against a comparative decline in church attendance - very Pagan. (Or at least the meaning given to the word “pagan” by the Christian church.) In 1931, Coca Cola commissioned an artist names Haddon Sundblom to design a new image of Santa for their advertising campaign. That campaign was the most successful in the giant company’s history - I’m not going to knock Coca-Cola however, Sundblom produced one of the most friendly, joyous, kind, loving and generous characters of our times (even if it was to make money) If we define the spirit of Christmas as being our of Love, Generosity and Remembrance, then it is easier to accept images and representations of that spirit, irrespective of whether they tie in with our conditioned ideas or not.

dickens ghost

Christmas - the sending of cards and the giving of presents - did not really take off in the mass-public consciousness until Charles Dickens wrote the classic “A Christmas Carol” in 1843. (It is interesting to note that Dickens rote the piece to write off a debt, so in a way he was not totally removed from Coca-Cola’s profit making with Santa) Anyway, Dickens produced an exciting blend of Christian and Pagan influence, which may have resulted in a drop in sales, if the general public had realised that his ghost of Christmas Present had a striking similarity to the Pagan Green Man The woodcut above, one of eight originals by John Leech, must have been one of the templates used by Sundblom in his search to find an image that would resonate with the American and world-wide public of the 1930’s. It is said that Sundblom had used images of Cernunnos as part of his inspiration, yet because of religious conditioning, and Pagan reference would have probably resulted in a sudden and dramatic drop in sales. Similarly with Dickens. In his description of the “Spirit of Christmas Present”, he laces his script with Pagan references and yet he does not underline the Pagan background.

“Awaking, Scrooge found himself in his bedroom. There was no doubt about that. But it and his own adjoining sitting-room, into which he shuffled in his slippers, attracted by a great light there, had undergone a surprising transformation. The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove. The leaves of holly, mistletoe and ivy, reflected back the light, as if many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney. “Come in, - come in! and know me better, man! I am the Ghost of Christmas Present. Look upon me! You have never seen the like of me before!”

Philip Arthur William Collins, the literary scholar, regarded as a leading authority of Dickens works stated “Dickens is making up his Christmas mythology as he goes”. I personally think that Dickens was not “making (it) up”, but rather going beyond the accepted tramlines of popular religious belief and blending together the sources of the Spirit he was describing, to produce a character who’s three-dimensional personification was perhaps closer to the more universal spirit of Generosity and Love that we worship at the Winter Solstice. Because the Pagan content of the Spirit was not underlined by Dickens, the inherent good nature of the Spirit was accepted by people who would probably have been shocked to realize that his green robe and the presence of holly, mistletoe and ivy revealed his ancient identity as that of Herne or Cernunnos (vilified by the Christian church as Satan) In fact - The Green Man Next time you Green Man Canterbury are near an ancient church or cathedral, go in and look up. Chances are that you will see, looking down at you from columns and pillars; images of “devil like” creatures. Maybe you accept them because of your conditioning, or probably don’t even notice them. It is an arguable theory that the stone-masons who originally built those churches, had accepted, (against the might of authority - Might is Right) Christianity. Nevertheless these workers, long ago, took the opportunity to carve images of their “real” Gods, high up where they could not be reached and (before the days of electric lighting) were probably not really noticed. Amongst the stone “devils” you may find the Green Man. There you will see an ancient stone face, sprouting with vines and leaves. He is the culprit. He is the God of Life - Not just the name of a Pub.. Merry Christmas and Good Yule.

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  1. Comment by Shianna on March 3, 2008 4:02 pm

    What a wonderful faerie land of truth and myth! Exposed as the truth as we Pagans see it. What a shame the other ’seekers’ cnnot see the light at the end of this particular tunnel. Next time I am in my villiages 13th centuary church I will look up May all your workings be fruitful.

  2. Comment by Lilly on December 21, 2008 11:01 pm

    I enjoyed reading that Henry. Incredibly interesting and I learnt a lot. In fact if you don’t mind I may link to it in my Christmas post I am going to do. “The twelve-day festivals of the winter solstice were full of eating, drinking, violence and sex”. Doesnt sound familiar to me - what kind of celebrating do you get up to? Have a great break from your touring (well at least I hope)!

  3. Comment by soulMerlin on December 22, 2008 12:00 am

    Thanks Lilly ~ looking at it, I feel that it is a bit of an ‘essay’ and a tad over-long, but the evolving of faith into different religions is a fascinating study.


    ps: I’d be delighted if you linked to it. :)


  4. Comment by celestial elf on November 30, 2010 12:16 pm

    Great Post on Yuletide :D
    Heres an alternate version of The Night Before Christmas Or Yuletide or such…
    I wrote the poem and then filmed it to share

    bright blessings
    celestial elf ~

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