Mudcat Café message #1335475 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #54983   Message #1335475
Posted By: CapriUni
22-Nov-04 - 02:03 PM
Thread Name: Pagan thoughts on 'Santa Claus'
Subject: RE: Folklore: Pagan thoughts on 'Santa Claus'
Next Saturday (November 27, 2004) is The Art Garden*,and the theme is "Flight." I was inspired to write an essay based on the ideas discussed in this thread, so I thought I'd share it here.

Father Christmas, Father Wind
By Ann Magill


There is one summer day firmly embedded in the memory of my childhood. I'm lying on my back in our front yard, the sun-warmed earth beneath me, the scent of grasses and the drone of insects filling the still air. I'm gazing upward, where the sky is its deepest blue. For a moment, I get a sense of vertigo, and can almost feel the Earth spinning. Then, I hear the wind approach across the tops of the trees - hear their leaves rustling as it passes over them - first, far away, then closer, and closer, until the wind is over me, swooping down to brush past my ears and over my face.

I knew then, as I know now - the wind is alive. My Classroom Self nods reasonably at talk of barometric pressure and land masses. But my Feeling Self knows different: that the wind is not simply air moving, but a person. It's not human - nothing like those figures with puffed out cheeks and clouds for hair in the corners of old maps. But it's a person, nonetheless: a being far more ancient than I, who moves through the air as a whale moves through the sea, a companion to the birds in flight, flying with them - Father Wind.

Over the years, I've learned I am not alone in my feeling. Just as Mother Nature is personified in the mountains around the world, Father Nature is personified in the wind and storms. Mother Nature provides the stability that allows life to grow; Father Nature brings the change that allows life to flourish. This Father has been given many names: Shiva of the Hindu, Thor of the Norse, Jupiter of the Romans, and . . . Santa Claus.

The Santa we know today is quite tame. They keep him corralled in a simulated environment at the center of the mall. But he wasn't always so domestic. In centuries past, before Halloween became an occasion for parties, the tingly thrill of fear was wrapped up in Christmas, alongside the joy. And the gift-giving Nicholas didn't always wear the title of "Saint." In some German towns he was known as "Rough Claus" or "Furry Nicholas," and seemed just as ready to eat the naughty children as to give the good ones treats. Even today, many of us leave out gingerbread in the shapes of little boys and little girls, and hope that he will be pleased with our offering.

Such is the way with Nature. Live well within the balance of things - giving what you can, and taking no more than you need - and the gifts of Nature are without end. But if you are greedy, or careless, Nature will not hesitate to devour you.

So who else can Santa Claus be, but Father Nature - Father Wind - in disguise? Sweeping down from the North Pole and visiting every house on a single night is a tricky feat even for a saint with the power of magic. But there is no place on Earth that the wind does not blow. He sees you when you're sleeping - he knows when you're awake. He comes down chimneys and flies up them again. He brings the change of seasons, and he carries in the New Year. His wild-wind nature has endured longer than any other of his fiercer aspects, even after he shrank from cannibal to jolly elf. Here is how Clement Clarke Moore described his arrival 160 years ago:

"As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the housetop, his coursers they flew,
with a sleigh full of toys, and Saint Nicholas, too."

And after Nicholas finished his work there, they all flew away "like the down of a thistle."

These days, Santa's flight is almost as domesticated as he is - his sleigh arcs through the sky like a jet, or a helicopter with 32 legs, parks itself on our roofs, and takes off just as neatly.

Perhaps this domestication is, in itself, a clue to Nicholas's true identity. It wasn't too long ago that winter was a time of dread. The chances were slim that everyone around the table at the Harvest Feast would live to see the planting in the spring. Now our homes are warm and our refrigerators are well stocked. Nature, like Santa Claus, has become a thing of sentimentality.

But even surrounded by spray-painted snow and Astroturf lawn, there is something awe inspiring about Santa Claus. If you visit his habitat at the mall this year, watch the youngest children who come to see him. They know he is not cuddly. Perhaps they sense he is a being even more powerful than their parents. Perhaps it is time we learn from them.

This year, as we prepare for Nicholas's visit, let's not worry about crying or pouting, but whether we are generous and gentle of spirit. Let us remember that everything we give - even the things shrink-wrapped in plastic - come from the Earth, and to the Earth will return. On Christmas Eve, when we dream of Nicholas's midnight flight, let's give him all the freedom of the wind to dive and race, and soar, to rattle our windows, and crack his whip at our cheeks. For we are what we dream. And he is our Fatherů
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*"The Art Garden" is a sort of "Literary Magazine for the Stage." The editor/Mistress of Ceremonies sends out a theme to a select group of writers, who then each create something on that theme (usually essays or poems, but there are also a few songs, and occasionally, skits) and send it back to the editor, who arranges them all so that the theme is coherently developed.

Then, instead of having our work printed and mailed to subscribers, we all meet at a small theater.