“The dark shall soon flee from the dells of the earth
So she a wonderful word to us speaks
The day shall again, new made rise from a rosy sky
Saint Lucy, Saint Lucy”
- The Lucia Song: verse 3 (English Translation)
PHOTO COURTESY OF EURWEB.COM
DREAMING OF A WHITENESS CHRISTMAS
Something that has gained increasing traction in not only academia, but also in popular culture, is the idea that people of European descent, i.e. “White people”, have no “real” culture of their own. This idea has largely come out of “Whiteness Studies”, which is an offshoot of Neo-Marxist Critical Theory and has entrenched itself into the worldview of an increasing number of people across the Western world. If you ask any adherent to this philosophy what “White culture” is, they might respond with words like “patriarchy”, “capitalism”, “oppression”, “privilege”, “cultural appropriation”, “racism”, “exploitation”, etc. They might even say that White people don’t really have a culture of their own outside of Big Macs and Hollywood movies.
There is perhaps no better, more consolidated example to support this view than the modern Christmas or “Holiday” Season. Christmas and the Holiday Season, have become synonymous with capitalism, commercialism, consumerism, materialism, and of course, racism. The myth of the fat old white man going around the world spreading “cheer” by distributing all the latest consumer products the “white” global consumerist market has to offer- this is what Christmas or “The Holidays” are all about in modern consumer society.
Plus, add to that the annual resurgence of all the various debates around whether we say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” or what skin color Santa and Jesus should have. One could even argue that the “origins” of Christmas, i.e. the Jesus Nativity story, is a sort of white cultural appropriation as it is a story involving Middle Eastern people in Middle Eastern lands, that is claimed by many white folk as their own.
In the following series, what I am going to lay out here is the case that what has become known as the oppressive “non-culture” of Whiteness, particularly as exemplified by the modern Holiday mythos, is in fact, something that was slowly imposed on “White people”, who in fact DO have a rich cultural tradition that still lives on DESPITE multiple attempts to twist, subvert and eradicate it over the centuries. I also plan to show how this rich culture, which has been shared with the world in a variety of forms, is also personified by the stories and traditions surrounding what has become known as “Christmas”, and this culture lives on in us in a deep archetypal and spiritual way, and is available to us here and now.
JOLLY OLD SAINT ODIN
I have written in the past about the Solar myth that forms the spiritual significance of this time of year and the deeper mysteries and parallels of Christianity and the earlier Proto-Indo-European religions. However, what of the Santa myth that rivals Jesus in cultural significance during this time of year? What of this seeming archetype of modern “White” patriarchal consumerist globalization?
When it comes to the origins of the figure known as “Santa Claus”, a lot of people immediately gravitate toward the story of St. Nicholas of Myra. A somewhat legendary figure, St. Nicholas was reputed to have a “legendary habit” of secret gift-giving. Nicholas was a said to be a Greek Christian in the Byzantine Empire and during lived in the 4th Century A.D.- three to four centuries before the Muslim conquest of the region. However, some have argued that St. Nicholas was in fact born of wealthy ethnic Black Anatolian “Muurs”.
But the origins of what became Santa Claus are in truth much older than that, and originated in a much colder place. In many parts of pre-Christian Northern and Central Europe, the Winter Solstice was known as the time when Odin or Wotan- the white-bearded ruler of Asgard, led his hunting party across the sky. Known as “The Wild Hunt”, Odin rode his eight-legged (eight reindeer) steed named Sleipnir, which would leap great distances across the heavens. During this time, children would leave their boots by the chimney filled with carrots and hay to feed Sleipnir. In return for their charity, “Odin” would leave the children gifts by their boots.
This night of Odin’s “Wild Hunt” has a counterpart in what is known as Lussinatta, or “The Lussi Night” in Sweden. This is now celebrated as St. Lucy’s Day and occurs on the 13th of December every year. However, before the Gregorian Calendar shift, it would have fallen on December 21st– the night of the Winter Solstice. Some legends suggest that a supernatural female entity was said to ride through the air with her fearsome followers called “Lussiferda” and that it was particularly dangerous to be out on this night. Misbehaved children had to take special care as Lussi could come down the chimney and take them away, and if certain tasks needed to prepare for Yule were not completed, Lussi would punish the household.
The contrast between Odin who left gifts and Lussi who brought punishment has echoes of the later pair of St. Nicholas/Santa Claus and the Krampus. Interestingly, some scholars link Krampus, as a member of the fearsome entourage of the ancient Germanic goddess Frau Perchta, who some connect with the ancient Norse goddess, Freya– one of the primary Vanir or old nature gods who some say ruled before the Aesir.
The inclusion of both the fearsome and the festive shows a deep understanding of the dualism inherent in nature that these ancient European peoples possessed- especially during this most perilous time of year. On the one hand, we have the often harsh and brutal forces of nature during the cold winter months. And on the other, we have the festive joy that comes from the promise of the return of the Sun.
But if we go even deeper and look at etymology and linguistics, we add another layer of sophistication. Swedish stems from the Indo-European family of languages, if we sound out the name of Lussi and in particular, her Lussiferda, the name “Lucifer” might perhaps come to mind. Lucifer, of course, stems from “lux ferre”, which in another Indo-European language, and that is Latin, literally means “light bringing”. We perhaps see that these ancient Northern Europeans were pointing at how it was the oft-times terrifying darkness that carried the Light that brought life to the world. This is true not only within Nature, but within the trials and tribulations of our own lives and our own being- the night is darkest before the dawn. It is the darkness that brings the Light.
We see this deep understanding mirrored in in the Scandinavian Festival of St. Lucy where traditionally a procession is led by a beautiful young lady adorned with a crown or wreath of candles upon her head (although now this is being changed to be more “politically correct”), bringing the promise of life-giving Light into the darkest night.
PHOTO CREDIT CATHOLICCOMPANY.COM
The cold and brutal Northern European winter was a time that had the potential to bring starvation and death (and often did). But with after the passing of the Solstice, the people knew that the days were slowly beginning to grow longer, and the life-giving Sun was growing stronger.
The Norse-Germanic festival of Yule was celebrated from right around the time of the Winter Solstice all the way through the second week in January. This festival of feasting, drinking and sacrifice was a hallowed tradition among pre-Christian Northern European peoples to whom winter had a special significance that was not held among most others. Yule was the tradition of a people who were close to the land and intimately tied into the cycles and processes of Nature.
The industrious elves/dwarves, the holly, the mistletoe, and the evergreens that have all become symbols of “Christmas” are all hallmarks of the culture and lore of Northern Europe. The white of the pure, cleansing snow; the green of the evergreen tree- symbol of the magic of regenerative life; the red of the blood of the sacrifice and the folk; and the gold of the eternal undying Sun; these are the colors that are synonymous with “The Holidays” and they are inseparable from the unique folk consciousness and soul of the Northern European peoples.
These ancient “white” people were a very distinct culture with rich customs and traditions. However, they would eventually find their culture usurped and altered at the point of a sword by invaders from the south and the east, as well as traitors within their own tribe. Of course, what I am referring to is the spread of Christianity in Europe.
Christianity moved in slowly at first, with the rather tolerant Northern European pagans accepting and in some cases even adopting the worship of this new “god”, seeing similarities between their deities of similar attributes. This was commonplace during the old phase of the Roman Empire, where Celtic gods and Roman gods were often mixed and matched. However, Rome began to use its wealth and influence to spread its influence, bribing local rulers and nobility, who in turn would use their military resources to impose the new religion on their people as well as neighboring tribes.
Another reason this new empire was so successful was that it also became adept at using more subtle tactics, such as co-opting the patron deities of various European peoples and turning them into Christian “saints”. These figures would be attributed to various good deeds or miracles that made them similar to the deity the church wished to replace. They would then proclaim the pagan festivals and holy days that used to belong to the old deity as now being a celebration and veneration of that saint. This is more than likely what happened with figures like Saint Nicholas and Saint Lucy in Northern Europe.
By the end of the 14th century, the entirety of Europe had been converted to Christianity, and even after the split between the Eastern and Western church in 1054 AD, Rome would still control Europe and its people from the British Isles, to Scandinavia, all the way into Hungary and parts of Romania. Through the church, Rome controlled the people not only through political means, but through the indoctrination of the people into a dogmatic belief system, it by proxy controlled their minds.
The conflict of the incoming Semitic Saturnian religion with that of the Indo-European Solar religion, has in many respects seemed to create a sort of neurosis in the European collective consciousness. This is could be in part because this was not really an organic spirituality of the people based on their unique relationship to Nature and Spirit, but rather something that was foisted upon them, largely against their will. This could also be because the totality of what was happening and is continuing to happen with these archetypal forces has not been fully understood and integrated.
PHOTO COURTESY CRYSTALINKS.COM