War On Solstice

Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of Saint Nicholas, Spanning 50,000 Years: A long title for a short-ish book; one not trapped in the pale of academia, yet lacking in the vibrant writing of a popular creative non-fiction; a book that won’t please your Christian Grandmother, but might get smirked at by the hardcore folkies as well. But the late Phyllis Siefker’s tract on the origins of Santa Claus – tracing this folk figure from, she posits, his initial existence as the “Wild Man” of pan-European paganism – is a wonderful excursion into our own mythologies, regardless of its faults. And, in fact, Last of the Wild Men has become one of the prime movers in getting my personal interest in Christmas back in gear. (more…)


We know by the moon that we are not too soon

And we know by the sky that we are not too high

We know by the stars that we are not too far

And we know by ground that we are within sound

– Phil Tanner singing “Gower Wassail”

For a week or two – and for another few to come – I’ve been listening off-and-on to the brilliant and gorgeous Midwinter box set as released a few years back by the Free Reed label. How’s this for the Xmas spirit of “too much ain’t enough”: Four CD’s, around 100 songs – ranging from the stark beauty of Phil Tanner’s unaccompanied “Gower Wassail” to Boris Karloff reading from “The Grinch,” to Doc Watson, Robert Frost, Bob and Ron Copper, and even Loudon Wainwritght – and a 136-page booklet explaining every damn moment on the thing. There are recordings both new and very old, but besides the occasional contemporary artist to keep things saleable, the songs tend to remain largely rooted in pre- or barely-Xtian folk concepts: Wassailing, the Wren, Mummer’s plays, etc. It’s a geek’s dream come true – as though designed to give someone like me something to buy in December. (more…)

Time to start chatting about the War On Solstice, as so much of the media ramps up to full-speed in its back-and-forth about the Christmas spirit. While they talk about a) Whether or not X or Y is causing damage to the true meaning of Christmas, and, b) all the glorious things you can spend money on, in what is apparently the actual true meaning of Christmas, the Old Weird Albion will have a few posts about the War On Solstice: Christmas, Solstice, Santa Claus, and how it all got to be the way it is.

I would’ve waited another week or two, but it seems the first salvo in the War On Solstice has already been fired – this year, from the ‘left’ of the Yule debate! Ed Buckner, president of American Atheists, Inc., wrote a brief guest post for the Baltimore Sun‘s “In Good Faith” blog reminding people that the Christians weren’t the first to annex the Solstice for their own religious needs.

So apparently, now, even the ‘official’ atheists are getting into the game – certainly more ironic than the Christian argument. I would never claim to be a practicing pagan, by any stretch. But to have one’s holiday season annexed, in a quasi-religious manner, by atheists – well, that seems close to a slap in the face.

I understand the religious quagmire of a holiday based on an actual, astronomical, scientifically provable fact of nature. But if the atheists are looking to commandeer a holiday whose trappings, ceremonies, traditions, and language has been stripped of religiosity, doesn’t Christmas fit the bill better?

I’d love to hear the pagan point of view about this funny little conundrum – check Contact and hit me with an email!

More on the War soon to come…