Another Talk About Santa

I’ve talked about Santa before (and my general idea on him remains unchanged), but there was one little thing I noticed in a couple of more recent Christmas pop songs (the only one whose name I remember is Ariana Grande’s “Santa Tell Me”, but I remain convinced there’s another). That little thing is this: the songs came out sounding a bit like prayers to the Man in Red for relationship help, like it’s a Hallmark Christmas movie.

Now, I’m not sure how in his purview that is, but it kind of made me think. At the time it just made me think that this idea that Santa is not meant to be regarded as a physical entity, but is instead a spirit and therefore acts as such, had some merit (plus, it’s always better to ask the aid of spirits you have a relationship with, and we’ve all got a relationship with Santa, at least here in the States). But also: can Santa actually help in matters of love? Not sure on this one, as stated, but I have seen the odd Pagan blogger making links of sorts to a cluster of holiday figures that come to include the Ghosts of Christmas from A Christmas Carol, Bacchus/Dionysus, Odin, and others. Some of these links are probably more tenuous than others, but as also mentioned, probably better to hit up a long-time friend instead of a stranger.

Another thing to note here before I forget, is the interesting relationship I’ve had to this idea throughout my life. I wrote a letter to Santa once in high school because I was in love (that one didn’t work out, probably a good thing), and I’ve gradually gotten back into a practice of offering milk and cookies. A lot of it coincides with becoming Pagan myself and the winding road that has taken for me over the years, and I’ve found the notion of spirit!Santa helpful in that regard.

All of this to say, it probably doesn’t hurt to ask the guy for help every once in a while, especially around the holidays.

Tomten, Tomten Everywhere

These things. Are. Everywhere.

I feel like within the past three to five years I have seen an absolute explosion of items fashioned similarly to the above photo, just chillin around the place as Christmas decorations. And not just for Christmas, either. My workplace’s accountant has one dressed like Uncle Sam on her desk for the Fourth of July and another in black for Halloween. They are inescapable.

And I’m not sure why this of all things is the holiday decor trend for all possible occasions.

According to The Old Magic of Christmas, “[t]here is only room for one tomten in a household, so give the others away”, pg 106. And yet people inexplicably purchase dolls of these creatures in fairly significant numbers. I don’t know if the rules are different for businesses, and I don’t recall any vibes from seeing groups of these dolls, but I always thought it odd that, say, my bosses would keep more than one because they like the way the dolls look.

And while they do have a nice Yuletide vibe (that being half the point), in the States at least they are getting used for all sorts of holidays. I’ve seen 4th of July tomten; wood cutouts of the same that can hold different items; a chef tomte for, as far as I could tell, no discernible reason; and even the odd Halloween variant.

My question is: why?

See, I’ve been paying attention to a fair number of changes to Christmas fare in the past few years. Krampus has gotten more popular, and people seem to be getting tired of the same cheery nonsense every year. The “anti-Christmas” song (such as “The Night Santa Went Crazy” or “Ho Ho F@#$ing Ho”, for example) has been steadily gaining traction for at least a decade. But that’s just in the States. We’re talking at least partially about folkloric icons from parts of Europe that have been knocking around for centuries, with their own lore and context.

In part, I’m sure, the answer is capitalism. Marketers saw the changing trends and thought “this image [tomten] is similar enough to Santa, let’s try that” and have had an utterly indisputable level of success.

But, as with the Gavle Goat that I’ve discussed last year, it’s possible unseen forces are also at play. I joke to myself that the tomten are going to awaken in the night and take over. But, considering the overall fuzziness of the “real world” at this time of year anyways, and increasingly so in recent years, maybe I’m not too far off? Maybe they are taking over?

Roe v. Wade

TW: This post covers the violation of women and the bodily autonomy of people who can conceive, up to and including rape. I invite you to skip this one (and realize I have a much higher threshold than others but even this is getting to me, hence this post).

(Side note: this post took quite a long time to complete due to fluctuating numbers of spoons on part of the author.)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, then you know by now that the leaked opinion has indeed held. In a 5-4 vote, Roe v. Wade has been struck down. I’m not surprised, though I’m a little impressed they did it in spite of backlash. But, I’m disappointed, tired, afraid, and a little angry.

I don’t believe I have a dedicated post on here about Andred’s possible aspect as a Protector of Women (broadly), so this may be that post. I’ve spoken at length about witches and the interweb of connections between the goddess, Her animal, and a potential expanded role as time passed. I think this is another such case.

The long and short of it is this: as accounted by Tacitus, upon the death of Boudica’s husband Prasutagus, the Roman empire ignored his will and attempted to annex Iceni territory, in the process flogging Boudica and raping her two daughters (whose names I can’t provide because they’ve been lost to time). This, coupled with the financial strains the Romans placed on the Britons generally, drove Boudica to take up arms in a bid for freedom, and to gather allies along the way.

There are two key quotes I want to call attention to. The first is this:

“It is not as a woman descended from noble ancestry, but as one of the people that I am avenging lost freedom, my scourged body, the outraged chastity of my daughters … This is a woman’s resolve; as for men, they may live and be slaves.”

via https://folklorethursday.com/legends/celtic-warrior-women-queen-boudica-of-the-iceni/

And the second is the opening line to Boudica’s speech: “I thank thee, Andraste, and I call upon thee as woman speaking to woman.”

These indicate a perception either on part of the Iceni and other Britons, or on part of the Roman authors who recorded events and whose manuscripts survived to us in the present, that there may have been a special perception of Andred’s connection to the women of the tribe (or alternatively, Boudica held a high religious position that made a seemingly more informal dialogue possible, or both). And I’ve stated earlier that it is possible for the roles of the gods to change over time as people change.

And, from my own practice, I have had great success calling on Andred for help in matters of feminine health, wellness, and protection.

However long feminine matters have been a part of Andred’s spheres of influence, I think they’re well-entrenched by now. And sometimes, you’ve just got to pray about it.

Andred, Protectress and Avenger
Queen of the Witches
I call on You as woman speaking to woman
I tell you there is no safety for us, no right of life or liberty
The fall of one is the fall of all
I am heartsick with fear
And weary–so weary
So I turn to You

Walk with me
Grant me vigor and courage
Let me face each day
Be at my back and at my side and before me
Guide my hand and my step
Be my leader as you were Boudica’s
And I shall not want for boldness

Hares, Witches, and Andred

An insider view of my brain as I try to piece this together.

Hares

We’ll start here as the nexus of our “conspiracy board”, so to speak. In East Anglian Witches and Wizards, hares are described as connected in the folklore of the region to witches and witchcraft (i.e. eating a hare was unlucky, as hares were a common shape witches allegedly transformed into and a common shape of their familiar spirits or “imps”, and one could be eating the neighborhood wise woman or her familiar; however, hares’ severed feet were lucky and could ward off birth defects). Boudicca’s use of a hare (here described as a pet) for divination before doing battle with Roman forces was also mentioned, thereby connecting the animal with the witchy practice of predicting the future. (pp. 131-134)

There is also a folk belief (whose provenance I don’t know but which this article attributes to Robert Graves) that striking a hare causes one to become cowardly, and Boudicca may have been hoping to provoke the Romans to attack the creature and thereby be inflicted with cowardice. But it’s hard to say.

The connection between hares, Andred, and witches is summarized in “The Hare”, by Oak, which can be heard here. (Andred and the hare who is the speaker are also connected to the moon; sometimes the various features on the moon’s surface look like a rabbit or hare to certain cultures.)

Speaking of which…

The Moon

The moon has a long association with witches. There are surviving ancient attestations that Greek witches could “draw down the moon” (where the name of the modern ritual comes from). Hecate may have had lunar associations in ancient Greece (possibly) and then there is Diana. In Aradia, or The Gospel of the Witches, Diana has a daughter, Aradia, who teaches humanity witchcraft.

And the association is very strong in the modern movement. In ancient cultures lunar (and for that matter solar) deities came in all shapes and sizes, but a not insignificant chunk of modern Paganism casts “The Goddess” (either under an oathbound name or generically titled as such) as the deity of the moon and the Earth (except some flora and most fauna, as I understand it).

Before I even knew Her name, Andred had very strong lunar associations with me. It was almost like She was watching me from above. (Specifically this association was most prevalent with the waning crescent. I’m still not 100% sure why, and I probably never will be and that’s just fine.)

Witchcraft

Witchcraft is the recourse of the dispossessed,

the powerless, the hungry and the abused.

It gives heart and tongue to stones and trees.

It wears the rough skin of beasts.

It turns on a civilization that knows the

price of everything and the value of nothing.

Peter Grey, Apocalyptic Witchcraft
Other search suggestions, comparing witchcraft to rebellion.

This was originally going to be the “Andred -> Hares -> Witches” portion of the post. However, lately I have been reading a lot about horned deities and the liminal qualities they embody (both in a dedicated book about the subject, and in another book mostly about the interaction of religions in Britain at the time of Roman annexation). In my very first post I mentioned that I first encountered Andred’s name in Paul Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft, where She appears alongside Cernunnos, and they are the primary deities of Huson’s vision of witchcraft. (And on page 217, Huson states “Andred. Witch goddess name coming from the Forest of Weald in England.” I think Huson is referring to a different forest entirely, as Andred’s sacred grove is thought to be in Epping Forest, and in this case specifically the name “Andredes Weald” is a coincidence. But, as they say, coincidence is seldom “mere”.)

In Jason Mankey’s The Horned God of the Witches, he devotes a chapter to the horned god in traditional witchcraft, and points out in its own dedicated chapter that the horned god has always been the primary male deity of Wicca, and surfaces in the earliest writings. This particular horned god has a sacrifice arc wherein he is routinely killed in order to provide the fruits of the earth (in the form of grain, typically).

In one of my earliest experiences, I remember helping a wounded individual (henceforth the Wounded Man, as his identity is a mystery which has bothered me for years) off the battlefield, to be cared for by Andred. When I read about horned deities, for reasons as yet unknown, I think of him.

And there’s another possible thread, beyond “Andred -> Hares -> Witches” and whatever is happening with the horned deities as was revealed to various founders of Wicca and older names in traditional witchcraft (and any possible connection that has to the Wounded Man). There’s the idea of the fringes, the “outer rim” of acceptable society, where the familiar mingles with the weird. Britain was once the outer rim of the Roman Empire (and before that, beyond the edge of the world as they conceived of it). Witchcraft is perpetually on the fringes of accepted social practice as pertains to religion and magic. (In modern times all things magical are lumped as “woo woo” and summarily dismissed in favor of “rationality”, but during the witch trials things were not so simple. The Catholic Church had rituals which were held as socially distinct from alchemy (still accepted, as the domain of wealthy dudes with tons of free time) and herbalism (done usually by villagers, and not as socially accepted). There seemed to be some disagreement about astrology; court astrologers existed, but outside of that it appears to have come under question.) The quote and photo above are related to this idea specifically.

In a way, witchcraft is like Jughead from Riverdale. It doesn’t “fit in”, and it doesn’t want to “fit in.”

Conclusion

As fascinating as it would be to time travel back a couple thousand years and ask the Iceni themselves about their myths and theological positions, such information is actually kind of useless in the modern world with modern problems. Times change, folklore changes, and gods change. For one example, I think Andred has adopted rabbits as well as hares as symbols. And for another example, there’s a pretty solid possibility that as hares picked up associations with witchcraft (for good or ill) and the Moon, so too did She.

Something I found noteworthy about the material for this post was that it felt less like a discovery or “reveal” (so to speak) and more like a bunch of disparate pieces finally fitting together in my mind (see the photo above). Following the threads and seeing how they interconnected, and then working out what that might mean. Now, the second step is to figure out what I do with this.

Legend Tripping

I know of two definitions for legend tripping, one used by folklorists and another used by Jeff Belanger. The first is a practice done by adolescents in a culture whereby they venture to dangerous or allegedly haunted places to test their courage as a rite of passage. The second is the act of chasing stories, or going to some key location in an urban legend to see for yourself and maybe have an experience.

I’ve just done both. Monday Jan. 17 was my first venture out onto the lake, which currently has around five to six inches of ice on it. You can see by how deep the bubbles are.

Bubbles and cracks in the ice

And at first, it was kind of terrifying. I realized during my early, misguided ventures that if the ice broke under me, no one knew I was there and I suspected I would never be found.

If it happened once…
Beautiful, but potentially deadly.

This isn’t entirely unfounded either. I grew up hearing stories about boats capsizing and people dying in the lake whose bodies were never recovered. (I also heard the lake was about a mile deep. This is an exaggeration. The lake is roughly 600 feet deep. It is, though, twelve miles long and a mile wide.)

Possible human remains at the bottom of the lake.

I heard there was an airplane to be seen at the far end of the lake (from the older dude whose party I ended up following around for peace of mind. He also showed me the bubble trick). The trouble with getting to the other end of the lake any way other than across the lake itself is, the road looks like this.

It’s exactly as much of a pain in the ass as it looks like.

My other plan was to try and walk across the lake to where it could be found, and then come back. However the sheer length of the lake made this impractical. It would require me to commit four hours, at least, one way, presuming I don’t hit a thin patch and fall into the lake and become the next body at the bottom.

Round 2

On the afternoon of Jan. 19, I did my (attempt at) daily divination with a new playing card deck I received over the yuletide season. Sometimes I struggle to understand what the deck is saying to me, but today I pulled the Seven of Diamonds, and I thought about my plan to go to the lake at night, see what it was like under the stars and the moonlight (I don’t have any hope of being able to find any airplanes under the water, even though these are perfect conditions for something like that as an amateur).

I drove up to the lake after sunset, and parked in front of the beach, and as soon as I got out of my car I could hear the wind howling, a kind of high-pitched sound through the trees and the tall bushes. Where my car was parked, the wind was, at best, a nice breeze. But, when I got onto the beach, I had crossed some kind of threshold and was mixed up in whatever the wind was doing all of a sudden. Not a good sign. I pressed on, looking for the path that would take me past the above pretty but unstable ice and onto the clear stuff, and I paused at the fork, staring at the trees, listening to the wind.

The Seven of Diamonds appears to be a card about choices. On one side, you have ruin and despair, and on the other, some offer or exchange or, depending on the system, wishful thinking, or a chance to start again. Or a reevaluation of something. I saw it as dual-natured, and it could easily be read as “do you want to take the risk?” I ultimately decided that I would not take the risk. I know the lore about the wind and the spirits, I would not be surprised a lake as old and as deep and as full of bodies and wreckage as ours turns out to be hella haunted. And I knew on a mundane level that being on ice in windy conditions was probably not a good idea. And so I left.

And I noticed something as I was driving back: Lots of houses and buildings up that road had their exterior lights on that evening. I could see the lights of the lodge from the beach. There was even one house that still had some Christmas lights up.

The more I think about it the more I think I just dodged a bullet.

Adventures in Amazon Reviews

Goth rock has been my music of choice for the past few months for dealing with suffering and bullshit. I like its vibe.

And if you’re anything like me, I recommend putting on some Siouxsie or Bauhaus and strapping in.

I’ve been looking into playing card divination (a specific form of cartomancy related to tarot). I’ve got a specific deck, that has its own vibe for sure, and learning to read it has been a struggle. That’s kind of what you get when you have decks based on intellectual properties; the vibes get transferred over, and you have added associations based on your knowledge of the intellectual property. Much of this is besides the point.

At some point, John Beckett reviewed Camelia Elias’s Read Like the Devil: The Essential Course in Reading the Marseilles Tarot, the first in a trilogy which includes a book on playing cards and a book on Lenormand. As is my wont, I poked into the reviews for the book on playing cards, and found a zinger of a review. One star, by a fellow calling himself ABCDEFG. This lovely individual has a problem with Cameliaa Elias’s books, chiefly that those books are Wrong. With a capital W.

I’ve read several of ABCDEFG’s reviews on these and other tarot books, and the one on the recent Charmed reboot. That one, though, is blessedly short, and if you’ve got it in you, you may take a gander below.

The new version of Charmed is… racist against white people and culturally appropriating the symbols of Wicca???

It’s hard to parse their problems with tarot books but it appears to be that there is no appreciation for “number”, sometimes capitalized for no discernible reason. For example, in their review of the Essential Course in reading Playing Cards, they say this:

For traditional card readers, Number rules the world into which we were born. Number is not alterable. It cannot be made to bend to the wishes of mankind. I can tell you, precisely–even mathematically!–why 3 is “a little” or why 7 can represent either an obstacle or something magical/mystical. The same is true for the rest of the numbers. Elias does not give such instruction.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/RM68QDR1YWIES?ref=pf_vv_at_pdctrvw_srp

I also have a snazzy math/science background but I’ve always struggled with numerology, so I’m not one hundred percent sure I can fully grasp this and I feel like if I asked politely I would receive a dissertation in my email within a week explaining in the most condescending fashion possible how everything works and why I am wrong for not automatically knowing this.

Speaking of which, ABCDEFG appears to believe that not just anyone can read cards:

she is not herself in the lineage of the cunning folk or the Old Religion, no one has trained her in the art of foretelling, and no one has passed her the power.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/RM68QDR1YWIES?ref=pf_vv_at_pdctrvw_srp

This is in a passage describing how the system presented in Elias’s book is ripped from a website the reviewer used to run, where they hosted the system they learned “as a child” from their family.

I can’t find any indication for how long the reviewer’s family has allegedly been doing fortune telling, but they rely on their family history and long years of personal experience to tell everyone that Elias is Wrong. ABCDEFG is kind enough to provide example readings they have done for people in their lives, which they claim were completely accurate.

All of this is used to inform the reader of the review, in this case me, that Elias is Wrong. I don’t see much attempt at correcting misinformation, besides the occasional, condescending addition of things like this from their review on Elias’s Marseilles tarot book:

In cosmological reality, Swords are Air. The principle applies everywhere in manifested reality. Of the four building blocks of life, Air is Oxygen. The word comes from Greek “oxus” – “sharp” because Oxygen cuts away things and eliminates them. Wands aren’t sharp. Swords are. This is manifest even in your own body, where oxygen is used to get rid of waste. Oxygen combines with hydrogen, and you sweat it out. It combines with carbon, and you breathe it out. It combines with sulphur, and you poop it out. Oxygen = Air = Swords. Similar things can be said of the other Suits and Elements.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R260YFJZ1NA0X?ref=pf_vv_at_pdctrvw_srp

This emphasis on “reality” is also really grating, and crops up 11 times in the playing card book review and 4 in the tarot book review. The implication, I gather from all this harping on “reality” (let alone how triggering it is coming from the home life I have), is that Elias is not in line with reality, i.e. “delusional”. (In the hyperrational world us Pagans come into contact with, “delusional” = “disagrees with me”, despite having a proper psychiatric use and its misuse being actively damaging.)

Since ABCDEFG dipped into the well of their personal experience (twice), I suppose I have a right to do the same. I am in possession of the Night Vale Tarot, and really should catch up on the podcast but that’s besides the point. I haven’t been reading with it lately, but I have had experiences, years ago, where I did read with it and twice, something happened. Andred hijacked whatever a given card was “supposed” to mean and said, symbolically, “I am here, hang onto this”. So those two cards are on Her altar. It was unmistakable at the time it happened. Was I supposed to turn to Her and say, “Sorry, but the principles of Number say XYZ”? I have a feeling that wouldn’t have flown.

I have had milder versions of this experience with other decks. Sacred Circle Tarot is my go-to deck for big readings about the nature of the numinous in my life. There are differences between the Reno Day and Reno Night cards I own, in ways I can’t put into words. And the Doctor Who deck, mentioned above, has been giving me absolute fits trying to decipher. Knowing what numbers mean is only half the battle.

This rando on Amazon is way too much: witchsplaining, implication of an unbroken tradition untainted by [fill in the blank, really], on some moral crusade to “correct” “misinformation”, and a belief that a Charmed reboot with Latina actresses is racist white people because… reasons. Generally, they seem perpetually angry about things I can’t discern, and are taking it out on witchcraft and pagan content they disagree with.

(I suppose now it merits pondering the products they do like: Trials of the Moon, Magic Words and How to Use Them, Odisbook: The Book of Odr, The Compleat Witch or What to Do When Virtue Fails, Garnet Bracelet CHOOSE YOUR OWN CHARM, The Open Giza Fold-Up Cardboard Pyramid. I’m not opposed to the bracelet or the pyramid, Trials of the Moon or Magic Words (the last even sounds kind of interesting, as if I need more books). But Odisbook deserves plenty of second looks for dropping “odinist” and “a stronger relationship with the Gods of your people” in its blurb, that people are supposed to read, to decide if they want to buy the book! I guess all those 5 stars are self-selecting and I should avoid them and their opinions.)

I feel like I didn’t cover half of what I wanted to, even if I would be repeating myself. Perhaps I’m just overwhelmed by what I uncovered.

Yuletide Reflections

My internet connection has finally cooperated enough to allow me to write this on New Year’s Eve, where I still feel like I am in a bit of a nadir period with the seasons. I am growing into the opinion that shortly after the Winter Solstice is kind of a dumb spot to put the start of a calendar year, and this is something I’ve kind of explored in the worldbuilding for my still-in-progress sci-fi novel: the alien culture in question reckons every year by the rising of their two suns, an annual phenomenon with deep religious and cultural significance.

I’ve heard arguments for other dates, too: Samhain, as the start of the “dark” portion of the year, is popular among many Wiccan and Pagan groups. Jason Mankey makes a good case for Yule/Winter Solstice as “witch’s new year”, what with the rebirth of the Sun and suchlike. (This idea is also reflected above, albeit as something of a coincidence or synchronicity.) In Kemetic traditions, Wep Ronpet (the Opening of the Year) coincides with the heliacal rising of Sirius, which is usually in early August where I am but changes based on location. So really, a year can be reckoned just about any which way one feels like.

And the interesting thing about this year is I’m a little less about all that light symbolism when it comes to the solstice. Sure, I was hyped, and I got to have a neat ritual even if keeping it going for any length of time was a little difficult (and I will happily joke with others about shoving a sequoia through my front door over a twelve-day period. If you know you know). But there’s an energy to this time of year that I first noticed a while back: I don’t really feel like doing anything. In the words of a meme going around, why do I have to work instead of curling up in my den with enough food and hibernating until Optimal Foraging Conditions? An opossum wouldn’t put up with this.

My sense of activity and being-outside-ness will not return until around March, I reckon. I enjoy winter, I do, but I dislike being out in the cold and at risk of freezing to death. So I stay indoors as much as possible, with my books and my writing projects (yes, more than one), feeling that vague sense of biting cold deep within my bones.

And the other thing I’ve noticed is that spirits have been fairly active this year. Generally they are more active than they have been in decades past, or the conditioning designed to make us not notice is breaking down (or both), and also generally, they have historically been more active at this time of year than in other parts of the year (although the Good People have been known to move about on Beltane/May Eve, as well). But the past couple years I have been incapable of not noticing what’s going on. Several weeks back I was overpowered with the feeling of it, and have since been haunted by the feeling that something is coming and I must make ready. Shades of this feeling pass over me every time I pull into work, to remind me, I suppose, to have my emergency magical/mundane supplies on hand. (After all, my brain goes, this could be the day.)

I received a new deck of playing cards as part of the Doctor Who advent calendar I purchased, and I have been pulling at least one card each day (or rather, each day I remember to do so) in an effort to get to know the deck as a divinatory aid. Many of my notes on systems for reading them have fallen flat, and I’ve been largely forced to rely on analogies to Doctor Who episodes and situations, as well as “vibes” or impressions. Today was the 8 of Clubs and the Missy Joker (the latter asking if there were, indeed, spirits in this Chili’s tonight, and based on Missy’s primary or earliest scheme, I gathered the answer would be yes). Based chiefly on context and the way the suits were assigned by the deck makers (such that Clubs = monsters/aliens), I got an impression tonight would be quite busy. Not that this matters to anyone but myself, but I think it’s relevant to the point at hand: spirits are moving, often in groups this time of year. Usually the answer is to lock up properly and not venture outside unless absolutely necessary (i.e. I have to go to work at stupid-o’-clock in the morning). And if you hear unusual noises, don’t get too curious. It’s probably an animal anyway. Animals make plenty of weird noises.

(Side bar on that last point, a customer at my job at place discussed his second home, where he went for the most recent snowstorm we had, and among other things, he said “Be careful what you wish for” and that there were mountain lions up the wazoo in the area. “Kitty City” he called it. Tracks, a neighbor got a good photo, and a pit full of various bits of meat from various animals. He was wise enough to not linger to long at this pit, and I wouldn’t either. The wildlife is becoming more active and this is worrisome.)

Interestingly, spoons have been hard to come by when it comes to traditional Christmasy activities like watching festive movies, decking the halls, and baking more cookies than I could feasibly eat as a single individual. I’m not sure if it’s me being exhausted by “traditional” Christmas overall, or if it’s connected to the increased activity and my overall pull toward a “darker” holiday (and, I gather, the increasing popularity of Yule Goats), or both, or something else entirely, or a combination. But the image of Christmas being pushed (as it always has been) is increasingly not lining up with what I feel to be happening around this time of year. It does seem, though, that Christmas imagery is slowly changing to reflect the overall seasonal vibe (the aforementioned Yule Goat, straw goats both large and small that are ubiquitous in Sweden, as well as an increased popularity of figures like Krampus over the past several years).

And who knows, it could also be part of the overall anti-consumerism push among us young people out to kill all the industries because we don’t have the resources to keep up with the Joneses and are sick of hearing that we have to on principle.

The Wildlife (or, Don’t F@#k with Bears)

I didn’t find it in the newspaper I purchased, but my coworker told me about a news item she read about how there have been five bear attacks this season. Some bears will protect their cubs, but others will attack without reason. (Additionally, a friend of hers was taking his dog for a walk up by the lake and found fresh bear scat and huge tracks, and when he found a fresh kill he grabbed his dog and booked it back to civilization. She also mentioned the time her sister was charged by a mother moose, who dented her rental car.)

Us locals all have stories like this. I was told when I went to Yellowstone to not get within seventy-five feet of the bison we may encounter, and I remember observing them down a gentle slope from a distance of a few hundred feet, and leaving it there. And, I’ve always been a little freaked out by the moose. When one hopped the fence when I was little, minding its own, I ran back to the house. When they wander through my complex/neighborhood, I stay indoors and sometimes watch them from a distance. I wouldn’t get too close to them, I don’t stand a chance.

In the past two years we’ve had an influx of outsiders, moreso than usual. They moved here from places like California to escape the pandemic and they don’t know. Last winter was too easy on them and they stayed. But they ask questions to us about “is this [six feet] how close you can safely get to a moose?”, about a sign showing what six feet looks like in terms we recognize (size of a grizzly bear, span of a moose’s antlers). They do shit like pick up bison calves because “they look cold” and cause that calf to be rejected by the herd (true story, though it happened closer to 2007).

I consider myself a cautious person. There are things I know better than to mess with, and large fauna is among them.

(I originally composed this at the start of the month, a few weeks ago, but I couldn’t think of a good ending.)

Yuletide Vandalism 2021, pt. 2

In the early hours of Friday morning (Sweden time), the Gavle Goat was set ablaze. This marks its first defeat in five years following the institution of 24-hour scrutiny. Many of my pagan friends recognize the value in setting the goat ablaze, regardless of legality, and I think many of them recognize the same forces I do: misrule and a pull toward some modernized form of ancient ritual.

Coupled with other reports of recent holiday vandalism, and the overall sense of an increased presence of the gods and spirits in the “ordinary” or mundane world, I think this theory is pretty plausible.