The present Yuletide winter season in North America started on the December 2020 Winter Solstice and ends on the March 2021 Vernal Equinox. The Winter Solstice is the time when the light is reborn from the darkness of the womb of Winter.
Yule or Yuletide ("Yule time") is an ancient Pagan indigenous midwinter festival (based on Norse mythology) observed by the historical Germanic peoples, later being absorbed into and equated with the Christian festival of Christmas. In modern Germanic language-speaking areas and some other Northern European countries, Yule denotes the Christmas holiday season. The earliest references to Yule are in the form of month names, where the Yule-tide period lasts somewhere around two months in length, falling along the end of the modern calendar year between what is now mid-November and early January. The festivities of Yule are generally held to have centered on Midwinter (although specific dating is a matter of debate), and feasting, drinking, and sacrifice were involved.
The Neopagans, who borrow from Germanic folklore and customs, also call the Winter Solstice season "Yule" or “Yuletide.” In most forms of Wicca, this holiday is celebrated at the Winter Solstice (“Solstice Night”) as the rebirth of the Great horned hunter god, who is oftentimes called the "Sun King" and is viewed as the newborn solstice sun.
Nordic Yule festival (Die Gartenlaube, 1880)
For a detailed explaination of what Yule or Yuletide is, click here
For an in-depth look at the meaning of Yule through its lexical cognates, click here
Thematic Images for Yuletide & Christmas
Thematic Images for Yuletide & Christmas Santa Claus
Yule Father Christmas
Yule-Wizard Father Christmas
Baccy Claus: The Smoking Santa
The magazine cartoonist, Thomas Nast (1840-1902), is credited with inventing our modern Santa Claus image, “Merry Old Santa Claus." (“He created the modern image of Santa Claus.")This image above, published in Harper's Weekly in 1881, shows a pipe-smoking Santa Claus. Whether Nast knew it or not, what has been dubbed as "Baccy Claus" shares tobacco use in common with shamans and medicine men of all times and places. (Pipes known as "feenpipjes" from prehistoric times have been unearthed in the Netherlands, which were originally used in the ceremonial offerings of pagan rituals.) However, Baccy is not just any normal tobacco, but a "strong tobacco." (Etymologically, baccy means "bad-smelling tobacco.") This is actullly because this type of taboacco often contained cannabis. This "baccy" blend was in popular use in 19th-century Germany and England. Therefore, "Baccy Claus" harkens back to the ancient shamans and medicine men.
The Coca-Cola Santa Claus
The Coca-Cola Santa Claus
The Coca-Cola compamy capitalized on Nast's Santa Claus in 1931, when it decided to increase sales to children. As it was illegal for advertisements to show children drinking their beverage--it actually contained cocaine--, they changed the recipe and now showed a friendlier Santa Claus, kicking back with a Coke, which was served to him by children. The man resonsible was Haddon Hubbard "Sunny" Sundblom (1899 – 1976), who was an American artist of Finnish and Swedish descent. Sundblom continued to create his Santa illustrations for the brand until his final version in 1964 “Things Go Better with Coke.”
Father Frost & Snow Maiden (Slavic-Russian)
Before Santa Claus, there was the Roman old woman "La Befana," who became known later in Italy and Sicily as "La Befana, The Christmas Witch."
For information on the history and significance of this folkloric figure,click here
Winter Solstice shaman & world tree
Winter Solstice shaman flight
Thematic Images for Odin's/Wotan's Winter Solstice Yuletide Wild Hunt
Odin (also known as Wotan or Woden) is the principal god of Norse mythology. He is known as the wild god who rides a magical white horse (Sleipnir), leading the ghostly army of the Wild Hunt in the storms during the Winter Solstice, especially around the time of the 12 days around New Year's day. At this time of midwinter, the thoughts of the living became focused on the community of the dead. A cultic, ecstatic connection with the dead – in fact, a special kind of honoring of the dead is also the basis for Odin's/Wotan’s ability to lead the Wild Hunt. As the god of the dead and the ecstasy associated with their cult, Odin/Wotan is their leader. There are several reasons given for the Wild Hunt phenomenon, the two most prominent being that the phantom army is riding in search of the return of the sun, or they are in search of the dead souls of men.
Odin's/Woden's Wild Hunt
For detailed information about Odin-Wotan and his role in the "Wild Hunt," click here
At Yuletide, Odin would lead the spectral riders and his hounds on his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir, bestowing gifts upon those he favored, and doom upon those he did not. Over the years, as Christianity came to reform Europe, Yuletide was re-tooled and combined with the stories and imagery of Christmas, but the traditions surrounding Odin’s Wild Hunt still survive to this day. Where children would once leave bushels of hay and vegetables to feed Sleipnir, they now leave carrots for the eight reindeer in its place. Where Odin would sometimes deposit strange, ethereal valuables at the foot of pine trees, now Santa Claus leaves the latest glowing technological gadgets under the Christmas tree. This is because Odin, the giant, bearded master of the Hunt, along with his hounds, became a pudgy, lovable fellow with an army of reindeer.
Thematic Images for the Wild Hunt of American West Folklore:
Ghost Riders in the Sky
"Ghost Riders in the Sky"
"Riders On The Storm"
For information on the songs "Ghost Riders in the Sky" and "Riders On the Storm," click here
Thematic Images for the Wild Hunt in Popular Culture
The Wild Hunt in TV series The Witcher (season 2)
The Wild Hunt in TV series The Witcher (season 2)
Thematic Images for Rübezahl, Descendent "Wild Man" of Odin and Ancestor of "Wild Man" Santa Claus
Burning Yule Log
Yule Night goddess
Thematic Images for the Christmas Mummers
Thematic Images for The Wren Day & Hunting the Wren
For information about the Wren Day (December 26) and Hunting the Wren, click here
Thematic Images for Yuletide/Christmas Holly, Ivy, Oak & Green Man
Holly & Ivy King (with Mistletoe)
The Green Man Through the Seasons--Spring through Winter
The GS has traced the transformations of the mythic Green Man through the seasons, from the Spring Equinox to the Winter Solstice. At the Winter Solstice he manifests as the two rival aspects of the Oak King and Holly King. The Green Man symbol or icon has many different faces and variations in many cultures around the world. In Celtic lore, the Green Man is related to the archaic Horned God. The Green Man is often related to natural vegetative deities springing up in different cultures throughout the ages, but historically it has primarily been interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, or renaissance, representing the cycle of growth being reborn anew each spring.
Some traditions place the Green Man’s annual death on the Winter Solstice. This was not a sad thing, but something to be celebrated, because the gradual lengthening of days after the solstice was a sure sign that he was coming back; that Spring was returning. Traditions about this fellow abound, and he weaves his way in and out of history in many forms: Robin Hood, the Green Knight, the Holly King, Puck, and John Barleycorn to name a few. Although some of the traditions conflict, it generally seems clear that early pagans saw him as the essence of life and rebirth. He was all things green, alive and vital. And each year, as with most things green, he dies. In fact, according to some traditions, he has to die so that spring can return (and so you get the poem, “John Barleycorn Must Die,” which alludes to the Green Man tradition).
Read about the Green Man as the Inspiration for Old Father Christmas
Thematic Images for thePagan Dying-and-Reborn Sun/Son Gods
Thematic Images for Saturnalia
Thematic Images for Bacchus, The Bacchanalia, & The Feast of Fools
Thematic Images for the Christmas Tree, World Tree & Tree of Life
Since the 8th century, the Catholic Church tried to stop the pagan veneration of trees (particularly at the Winter Solstice), but never quite succeeded. With the Protestant Reformation, many of the ancient pagan customs that had gone underground resurfaced, as seen in this 1521 painting, the earliest known German painting of a Christmas tree.
German settlements, particularly in Pennsylvania, typically decorated community trees in the late 18th century, and soon the trees found their way into the individual homes of German families, but most of the country was still skeptical. It wasn't until England's Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (who was of German heritage) were depicted in a popular newspaper in 1848 standing around a Christmas tree with their family that the tradition became more widely embraced. Americans were hereby convinced that Christmas trees were desirable holiday decorations.
The Twelve Days Of Christmas, Christmastide, & The New Year
The Twelve Days Of Christmas are probably the most misunderstood part of the church year among Christians who are not part of liturgical church traditions. Contrary to much popular belief, these are not the twelve days before Christmas, but in most of the Western Church are the twelve days from Christmas until the beginning of January 6th (the 12 days count from December 25th until January 5th), with January 6th being a "thirteenth day" in some traditions and languages. In some traditions, the first day of Christmas begins on the evening of December 25th with the following day considered the First Day of Christmas (December 26th). In these traditions, the twelve days begin December 26th and include the Epiphany on January 6th. January 6th is also sometimes considered Twelfth Day/Twelfth Night with the Twelve Days of Christmas actually after Christmas Day from December 26th to January 6th. For many Christian denominations (e.g., the Anglican Communion and Lutheran Church) the Twelve Days are identical to Christmastide, but for others (e.g., the Roman Catholic Church) Christmastide lasts longer than the Twelve Days of Christmas.
The origin and counting of the Twelve Days is complicated, and is related to differences in calendars, church traditions, and ways to observe this holy day in various cultures. In the Western church, Epiphany is usually celebrated as the time the Wise Men or Magi arrived to present gifts to the Christ child. Traditionally there were three Magi, probably from the fact of three gifts, even though the biblical narrative never says how many Magi came.
In some cultures, especially Hispanic and Latin American culture, January 6th is observed as Three Kings Day, or simply the Day of the Kings. Even though December 25th is celebrated as Christmas in these cultures, January 6th is often the day for giving gifts. In some places it is traditional to give Christmas gifts for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas (hence the popular song). Since Eastern Orthodox traditions use a different religious calendar, they celebrate Christmas on January 7th and observe Epiphany or Theophany on January 19th.
By the 16th century, some European and Scandinavian cultures had combined the Twelve Days Of Christmas with (sometimes pagan) festivals celebrating the changing of the year. These were usually associated with driving away evil spirits for the start of the new year.
In the Elizabethan period, "Twelfth Night" was a festival celebrated with music, masked balls, misrule and general revelry. The Twelfth Night is January 5th, the last day of the Christmas Season before Epiphany (January 6th). In some church traditions, January 5th is considered the eleventh Day of Christmas, while the evening of January 5th is still counted as the Twelfth Night, the beginning of the Twelfth day of Christmas the following day.Many European celebrations of Twelfth Night included a King’s Cake, remembering the visit of the Three Magi, and ale or wine. (A King’s Cake is part of the observance of Mardi Gras in French Catholic culture of the Southern USA.) In some cultures, the King’s Cake was part of the celebration of the day of Epiphany. Twelfth Night in European traditions often meant riotous merrymaking, which included continuous feasting, music, and the election of a "Lord (or King) of Misrule" (a custom that is probably a survival from older pagan customs, including the Germanic Yuletide and the Roman Saturnalia, where the social order was "turned upside-down"). The entire merrymaking company was often known as the "Lord of Misrule & the Twelfth Night Revelers."
Kore, "The Maiden"
Aion, god of the cosmos
Kore & Aion of the Twelfth Night
(Picture: "Aion, god of the ages, in a celestial sphere decorated with zodiacal signs, between a green and a dismantled tree, representing summer and winter. Before him is the mother-earth Tellus, the Roman Gaia, with four children, the four seasons personified.)
Aion or Aeon was a Hellenistic deity associated with time itself; time unbounded or infinte (as in our word eon; time in the sense of ages). He was imagined as an orb or circle encompassing the universe. He was thus a god of ages, a cosmic deity.
Aeon is meintioned in a second-century descrption (by the Christian writer Epiphanius) of the celebration that took place on the night of January 5th/6th (the "Twelfth Night"), at which time there was a great festival. It was in honor of the mystery of the midwinter birth of the savior sun-god (as annually observed in Rome).
“They stay up the, whole night singing songs and playing the flute, offering these to the images of the gods; and, when the revelries of the night are over, after cock-crow, they go down with torches into a subterranean sanctuary and briny up a carved wooden image, which is laid naked on a litter. On its forehead it has the sign of the Cross, in gold, and on both its hands two other signs of the same shape, and two more on its knees; and the five signs are all fashioned in gold. They carry this carved image seven times around the middle of the temple precincts, to the sound of flutes and tambourines and hymns, and after the procession they carry it down again into the crypt. But if you ask them what this mysterious performance means they answer: Today, at this hour, the Kore, that is to say the Virgin, has given birth to the Aeon.”
What the Christian writer interprets as "Virgin" is a misnomer (not another "Virgin Mary"). Kore, or Persphone, was actually known as "The Maiden," who, along with her mother, Demeter (Earth Mother), was celebrated in the famous Hellenistic Eleusinian Mysteries.
January 4, 2016
For information about the German Rauhnächte, the Twelve Nights of Christmas, click here
The Christmas Season & Santa Claus, the Jolly Old Hallucinogenic Elf
Santa Claus as the Amanita Mushroom Spirit & the Jesus Sacred Mushroom Cult
There is a controversial theory about the origins of Christmas that posits an even older source for the main Christian holiday and its symbolism than the traditional "pagan" one. This more radical view of Christmas traces its origins even further back in time, before the rise of ancient priestly religion. This radical theory of the origins of Christmas sees most of the symbols and icons we associate with its celebrations deriving from the archaic shamanic traditions of the aboriginal, tribal peoples of pre-Christian Northern Europe.
The sacramental meal of this shamanic religion was not bread and wine, but a hallucinogenic mushroom. The “sacred mushroom” of these shamanic cultures was the red and white-spotted amanita muscaria mushroom, known as “fly agaric.” These grow under pine evergreen trees and mushrooms contain potent hallucinogenic compounds and were used by archaic peoples for insight and transcendental experiences. Northern shamans of Old Europe, Siberia, and the North Pole drank the urine of their tribe's amanita muscaria-eating reindeer to give them the power of flight in their astral journeys to the sacred Pole Star, returning home (back down the central pole of the yurt fireplace, or the cosmic axis of the cosmos), with the riches of vision to share with the community. Sound familiar?
Have you ever asked yourself why these amanita mauscaria mushrooms are commonly seen in books of fairy tales, and are usually associated with magic and fairies? Indeed, one could see Santa Claus and the reindeer surrounded by amanita muscaria mushrooms on early 20th-century vintage Christmas cards in Scandinavian countries, Germany, England, and even America. Today, Christmas cards with pictures of amanita muscaria mushrooms remain common in Central Europe, and the fly agaric mushroom is still the emblem of the region’s chimney-sweeps.
As for Santa Claus himself, he is an elf who represents, with his red and white outfit, the amanita muscaria mushroom itself. And the decorated red and white fly agaric mushroom is the real gift underneath the evergreen pines in the forest (of which the red and white presents under the Christmas tree are replicas). The taking of this sacred mushroom by drinking reindeer urine (reindeers are very fond of eating the hallucinogenic mushroom, but it's poisonous to humans unless filtered through the reindeer's kidneys) allowed one to fly.
It is truly surprising (and even shocking to some people) to find out that most of the major elements of our modern Christmas celebration—Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, flying reindeer, the giving of gifts, and etc—are originally based upon the traditions surrounding the harvest and consumption of these hallucinogenic mushrooms. This has led some bold researchers to posit a shamanic northern "sacred mushroom" cult as the origin of Christmas.
Shamanism may have originated in Siberia. The first travelers to Siberia observed that the many tribes there used fly agaric mushroom for ritualistic and entertainment purposes, and even today it is used by the village shamans of Siberia and Lapland. Siberian shamans used the amanita muscaria as a religious sacrament; for spiritual visions and out-of-body travels into the higher realm of the spirit. These archaic peoples (including the Lapps of modern-day Finland, and the Koyak tribes of the central Russian steppes) believed in the idea of a World Tree, as did many other ancient peoples. We can find this World Tree in Germanic and Norse mythology, the Yggdrsil, the great ash tree that holds together earth, heaven, and hell by its roots and branches. The World Tree was seen as a kind of cosmic axis (axis mundi), onto which the planes of the universe are fixed. The roots of the World Tree stretch down into the underworld, its trunk is the middle earth of everyday existence, and its branches reach upwards into the heavenly realm. We can also find this World Tree archetype in the mythology of the Celtic peoples. The northern shamans, with the aid of the amanita muscaria mushroom and drumming, would ascend up the cosmic tree to the realm of the gods or ancestors and then descend with the divine gifts of healing and knowledge. Some scholars have identified this primordial World Tree with the biblical Tree of Life. And some have asked: If the evergreen Christmas tree is a symbol for life, then could it also be a modern image of the same Tree of Life?
In an attempt to answer this question, they have looked to the amanita muscaria mushroom that grows in the extreme northern latitudes, where conifer trees live in symbiotic relationship with them. The amanita muscaria, it is said, is the Fruit of the Tree of Life because they cannot grow without the conifer tree. The amanita muscaria mushrooms grow only under certain types of trees, mostly firs and evergreens. In other words, these hallucinogenic mushrooms are quite literally the fruit of the pine tree because of the bio-chemical relationship that they have with the roots of that particular type of tree. The mushroom caps are the fruit of the larger mycelium beneath the soil, which exists in a symbiotic relationship with the roots of the tree. To ancient people, then, these mushrooms were literally “the fruit of the tree.”
The aboriginal peoples of the far north were amazed at how these magical mushrooms sprang from the earth without any visible seed. Thus they considered this “virgin birth” to have been the result of the morning dew, which was seen as the semen, or divine fluid, of the deity. This archaic hallucinogenic mushroom cult, according to religious historian John Allegro, found its way into the Jesus cult in Rome. Thus, the question is: Was Jesus the sacred mushroom?
Thus, about "Christmas" ... the Gypsy Scholar would suggest: Could this be the real"spirit" of Christmas? And, thus, is Christmas originally a Sacred Mushroom Festival?
For Disclaimer concerning Jesus & Santa as representatives of a Hallucinogenic Mushroom Cult, click here
The Christmas Season & Jesus Christ, the Incarnation of the Sacred Mushroom
This mushroom found growing during the Winter Solstice in GS's backyard under a pine tree (7' in diameter)
Although the above poster puts the message of the GS's Winter Solstice / Christmas musical essays in more negative terms (and doesn't account for the traditional, seasonal merriment), it nonetheless gets to the point--the universality of the recognition and celebration of the Return of the Light, whether one is a Christian, non-Christian, or whatever. The posters below poke a little fun at the historical mishmash that went into the making of "Christmas" as we know it.
For the Gypsy Scholar's "The Origins of Christmas & Its Symbols," click on link below: