Christmas, When the Veil is Thin

Christmas Eve 2020

In December (yeah, this is late) I was tapped by a public library in Oregon to give an hour’s Zoom lecture on the “Pagan origins of Christmas.”

I did it, but that format is still pretty weird. How many people are watching? Three? Thirty? Three hundred? And are they awake? No post-lecture Q&A or chat was scheduled by the organizers, so I will never know. On the other hand, they sent the check promptly.

While I agree there is some swapping of symbols back and forth, I will just say that Yule and Christmas are still fundamentally different.[1]And Santa is not a flying shaman; he never flew before about 1823, and his red and white suit commemorates Coca-Cola, not Amanita muscaria. Old-time Santa Claus/Father Christmas figures wore various … Continue reading The Christmas Story is just that, a linear narrative, while the Pagan Yule is cyclical and performative. We used a few minutes of video from the Denver winter solstice custom of Drumming Up the Sun at Red Rocks Amphitheatre to introduce my talk.

Another thing  — it’s been drilled into me since my twenties that the “veil between the worlds” is thin at Samhain, so it was a jerk back into someone else’s story to be reminded, while doing my research, that there is a whole parallel tradition of the “veil being thin” and the dead walking on Christmas Eve. (Also domestic animals talking and other nonordinary stuff.)

In fact, M. and I always do that, hang a candle lantern at Christmas Eve, Pagans that we are. For the Holy Family? For the dead? Is is just one of those customs that you follow, while the rationale changes from generation to generation? It has always seemed like the right thing to do.

Over in the sidebar of the blog — if you are looking at the main page — is a list of magickal and paranormal podcasts. One of my favorites is Timothy Renner’s Strange Familiars. For the last two Decembers, Renner, who sometimes calls himself a “Marian animist,” has invited on Br. Richard Hendrick, an Irish Franciscan monk with a deep interest in paranormal matters, albeit seen through a Roman Catholic lens.

For the 2020 show, “The Three Magi, Mary Magalene, and More,” he wrote, “We discuss the pagan [sic] origins of Christmas, the Three Magi, Mary Magdalene, the Holy Grail, the teachings of Saint Francis, Christmas legends and rituals, and much more. Brother Richard also relates some stories of his encounters with The Other.”

In my talk, I did not have time to get into “thinning of the Veil” stuff, and I did not know if was appropriate for my invisible audience, but listen to this episode if you want to hear more.

And the show with Brother Richard from 2019 was pretty spectacular too!

You could imagine the Pagan Dead (countless generations of them) showing up at Samhain and the Christian Dead at Christmas, but really, from their perspective, does it matter?

Notes

Notes
1 And Santa is not a flying shaman; he never flew before about 1823, and his red and white suit commemorates Coca-Cola, not Amanita muscaria. Old-time Santa Claus/Father Christmas figures wore various colors — often green — frequently with fur trim.

Revisiting a Colorado Yule Log Hunt

The little southern Colorado town of Beulah has a traditional Yule log hunt that is almost as old as Wicca — it began in 1952.

M. and I attended with a friend and her young son in 2015, and I wrote a blog post about it, “Invoking the Birds and Hunting in the Woods at Yule,” with lots of photos.

Then I chanced across another set of older pix on Facebook at the Beulah Historical Society’s page. Here is one from 1954 and one from 1977. Those “huntsmen” from 1977 look like they are ready to get back to their moonshine stills, but I think a couple of them worked at the steel mill down in Pueblo, a city that is a sort of mash-up of Pittsburgh and Albuqueque, although much smaller than either of those. One’s surname is either Slovenian or Czech; I had a co-worker who might have been his relative.

The 1954 Yule Log (Beulah Historical Society)

The “huntsmen” of 1977 — they direct the Yule log hunt (Beulah Historical Society).

When I watch the hunt, I think of something that the English folkorist E. C. Cawte wrote back in the 1970s. He was directing a group of schoolboys in performing a “souling play,” a traditonal entertainment from the winter in which St. George slays someone — who does not stay slain.

Huntsmen of 2015.

“The boys found the play much easier to learn and perform than others they were given . . . and the Wild Horse seemed to know, without rehearsal, exactly what he was supposed to do.”[1]E. C. Cawte, Ritual Animal Disguise (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1978), 224.

The kids in Beulah know it too.

This year, of course, everything fun has been cancelled, but up in Beulah, they are planning for 2021. Covid-19 should not last as long as Oliver Cromwell.

Original Beulah Yule log blog post and photos here.

Notes

Notes
1 E. C. Cawte, Ritual Animal Disguise (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1978), 224.

This Is the Real “War on Christmas”


From a hardcore Muslim Instagrammer:

Shaykh Ibn Al Qayyim said “Congratulating the non-muslims on the rituals that belong only to them is haraam by ijmâ (consensus), as is congratulating them on their festivals and feasts by saying: ‘a happy festival to you’ or ‘may you enjoy your festival,’ and so on. If the one who says this has been saved from disbelief, it is still forbidden. It is like congratulating someone for prostrating to the cross, or even worse than that. It is as great a sin as congratulating someone for drinking wine, or murdering someone, or having illicit sexual relations, and so on. Many of those who have no respect for their religion fall into this error; they do not realize the offensiveness of their actions. Whoever congratulates a person for his disobedience or bid’ah (innovation) or disbelief exposes himself to the wrath and anger of All?h.” [Ahkaam Ahl Al-Thimmah]
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See, Ibn Al Qayyim was a renowned Shaykh of Ahlul Sunnah from over 600 years ago. On top of that, he mentioned this statement with reference to the Ijmâ (consensus) of that time! An ijmâ (consensus) is when every single scholar agree on a certain matter and none of them disagree over it, so this is something we haven’t even had for hundreds of years. So if you want to say, “Nah maybe he’s wrong”, surely the other hundreds and thousands were not all wrong!
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Tell your friend/family, or Abu Fulan who talks a lot, or your misguided Shaykh who gives you a fatwa for celebrating Christmas; tell them they have no authority to overwrite an ijmâ.

#tawheedvision #shirkmas #shirk #tawheed #christianity #christmas #carol #jesus #allah #makkah #madinah #polytheism #monotheism Reposted from @tawheedvision

And then you have the monotheists who say, “We all worship the same god.” Somehow, I don’t think that phrase means what you think it means. At least polytheists can say, “Well, maybe Yahweh and Allah are not the same god, and we can make room for that, at long as you are not trying to kill us according to the instructions in your holy book.”

Have a wonderful Yuletide, y’all.