Mudcat Café message #854968 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #54983   Message #854968
Posted By: CapriUni
29-Dec-02 - 09:58 AM
Thread Name: Pagan thoughts on 'Santa Claus'
Subject: RE: Pagan thoughts on 'Santa Claus'
And let us not forget the Wild Women who are gift bringers, either...

In Italy, it's the witch la Befana, flying on her broom, that brings candy and treats to children at Epiphany (January 6). Here is a webpage all about her done by M. Hos-McGrane's fifth grade class. (I think they did a lot better than some of the adults who put pages up about the same thing).

And in Germany/Northern France there are the three sisters Frau Berchta, Frau Trude, and Frau Holle... Oftentimes, these three are depicted as ogresses who will eat children up.

But according to an article in Funk and Wagnall's Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend, Frau Berchta is also the guardian of the souls of all the children who died unbabtised, and on the night of Epiphany, she gives them all the form of geese, and leads them on a wild flight through the skies. The farmers' fields that they pass over are blessed and will bear a double harvest the following year.

Personally, I think this is the archetypal origin of Mother Goose -- a witchlike figure who looks after children, often seen riding a flying goose, and holding aloft a golden goose egg (reborn sun). But I have not seen this theory expressed anywhere else. Usually, all theories assume that Mother Goose began in the life of a historical woman -- though it is interesting that some popular folk histories (generally dismissed by professional historians) say that the first Mother Goose was one Queen Bertha of France. ;-)

And then, there is the story of Frau Holle, from the Brothers Grimm, in which a poor, abused stepdaughter, in order to excape the wrath of her stepmother leaps into a well. When she comes to, she finds herself in a sort of Paradise watched over by the witchy (but in this story, kind) Frau Holle. When the girl leaves Frau Holle, she is rewarded with a shower of gold (literally), and returns to the world golden herself from head to toe. The family rooster is the first to announce her coming.

Now, if that's not a tale for Winter Solstice/Yule, I don't know what is!