Santa Claus

So I stumbled into a huge collection of articles about “The Santa Lie” (i.e. parents telling their children that Santa Claus literally exists and is capable of a host of magical feats, and the realization or learning of the truth of the matter having a host of consequences such as eroding trust in their parents and possibly threatening their religious beliefs). Listen, there are a host of controversies about Christmas, especially this year (every jackass on Twitter is commenting about how “communist regulations” are “canceling family” or whatever). This is “tame” by comparison.

But I really think it’s a matter of worldview. I hold a view of the world that accommodates magical, spiritual beings. I wouldn’t be running this blog if I didn’t. In my brain, Santa can be literally real, but not a physical entity. (As to the point on how some kids who learn Santa isn’t real begin doubting God or gods, well, it’s the same sort of thing. I don’t take the gods to be physically real in the same sense as this laptop, for example.)

John Beckett talks a lot about materialism as a worldview and why he disagrees with it, and I think this is an instance of that. People tend to believe that because Santa Claus is not a physical reality with a literal workshop at the North Pole and elves (helpful or otherwise), then he simply flat out doesn’t exist. They believe this about God, as if there must be physical and indisputable proof of a divine entity for that entity to be taken as “real”. (I’m using the words “physical” and “real” a lot in this post, so apologies if they stop seeming like proper words by the end.) However, as anyone who has had a mystical experience and touched the numinous can tell you, this isn’t necessarily the case. Andred is real because I have experienced Her, many times. She has yet to make a physical appearance in the mortal plane, but is that really a necessary thing?

We know there’s no workshop at the North Pole these days. We’ve taken satellite photos, explored up there, there are probably scientific expeditions going on considering the looming threat of global warming and glacial melt.

To pull another example, we have yet to find any evidence of alien life, despite all the UFO sightings and allegations of cover up and secret bases and so on and so forth. A diligent researcher can probably explain almost all sightings, given enough time and resources. But that is different from spiritual beings (including gods), who have been defined for ages as belonging to an otherworld or otherwise separate place distinct from the human world (but anchored in it somehow). They are distinct and separate from humanity, even if they can or could once “walk amongst us”.

Aliens are not gods, despite what Ancient Aliens may have its viewers believe. (I could go on a huge tear about how that show tries to shove spirituality into a materialistic framework if I could be assed to watch it again.) Physically separate, yes, but in a different way. Aliens are always assumed to be physical entities, that we can touch and interact with.

And some people think Santa Claus or Jesus or Ra or Andred must be physical entities that people can touch and talk to face-to-face, or the people who claim to believe in them (at least the gods on this list) must be hallucinating, delusional, or lying. I would not (intentionally) lie about my experiences of Andred, when it was She who taught me Her name in the first place. So I’m of the opinion that there is a third option.

Perhaps, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He lives in the Otherworld, where time moves differently than it does here, and in general none of the usual rules apply. Do not forget your offerings on Christmas Eve.

(Although in my reading a point was brought up to nix the Naughty/Nice list dichotomy and instead teach kids that Santa loves us all regardless of behavior, and leave the coal at the door.)

Yuletide Vandalism and Misrule

The Gavlebocken, or Gavle Goat, has been erected in Gavle, Sweden, since 1966, and in its life, its incarnations have been destroyed or damaged 37 times. Some consider it fitting that the Goat has been burned down (the most common method of destruction, given as the thing is made of straw) each year, as a sort of ritual sacrifice of the Goat to the old gods. Those in this school of thought would consider it fascinating that the Goat survived 2019, and a superstitious sort might attribute the year 2020 to that fact.

People are being discouraged from publicly visiting the Goat because of the pandemic, so it is likely to survive 2020, as well, although some enterprising sort might burn the thing down out of spite, or through some form of divine inspiration.

That isn’t the only form of Yule-related vandalism, although these days vandalism and general mayhem are relegated to New Year’s Eve and Halloween, parties at the former and things like toilet-papering houses at the former (Oct. 30 is called Mischief Night for a reason). There is also a living tradition of the theft of little baby Jesuses from Nativity scenes on public and private property. (There is a related custom of lifting garden gnomes and taking them on trips, but that is not strictly Yule-related.)

This year I have been feeling the undercurrent of older, wilder Yuletide customs and beliefs and the thinning of the veil between the spirit world and the physical world, more so than in past years. Christmas is lights and trees and carols, yes, but also ancient spirits and spiritual phenomena (such as the Wild Hunt, which some customs hold as most active around this time of year). I’ve been hearing the call of the spirits this year, and I think there’s something to the odd bits of Yuletide vandalism. I’m not the only one to feel the subtler energies this time of year that Victorians and Christians and other sorts tried to bury.

The term “misrule” originally applied to a complete social reversal, as occurred at Saturnalia when slaves were served by their masters, men dressed as women and vice versa. The custom, as customs are wont to do, evolved over time to arguably include wassailing, the practice of going door to door, singing and performing in exchange for gifts, food, and drink. The thing is, some people are rowdy drunks. Threats of vandalism began to enter the picture (although I wonder whether or not they were always there, under the surface), especially with the rise of the middle class and nouveaux riche, and the practice “fell out of favor” (this is how it is commonly described). It was replaced with the more benign caroling, going door to door singing Christmas carols just to do so.

But this doesn’t stop people from getting rowdy. Some of those instincts get shunted off to other holidays, as mentioned. However, some of them get funneled into acts like burning down the Gavle Goat, or stealing your neighbor’s or the town’s baby Jesus for a lark.

Perhaps it all speaks to something older “than us or God” (to quote a favorite “not quite Christmas-y” song). Perhaps the energies of the season, the energies of the Otherworld, are moving through arsonists to enact ancient rites. I wouldn’t know, of course, but there might be something to it. Something has been moving about in the physical for quite some time as many writers have attested, and this year it hit me personally quite hard.

What else was I gonna think about in 2020?

The Dark Half of the Year

Traditionally, the dark half of the year begins at or around Samhain and ends at or around Beltane. These are the two points where “the veil between the worlds” is at its thinnest and spirits can be reached. People have argued for years that this veil has been shredded or at least exceptionally porous lately, more so than it has been in the past.

I don’t know about any of that, but I do know that this year, I’ve been highly sensitive to the porousness of the physical world. It started, to me, somewhere two weeks before Samhain. I know that I was gradually being consumed by thoughts of ghosts and spirits. And then, three days before Halloween, I saw a black dog running across the street, in direct line of sight from where I work. I’m unsure if this was a sign, but it felt like enough of a thing for me to take notice.

I’m not sure what it meant.

Then there’s the persistent quest this year for something to Yule and Christmas that isn’t the usual cheery nonsense. Something deeper and scarier. This is the realm of Krampus, Berchta/Perchta, the Wild Hunt (in all of its forms), and, believe it or not, A Christmas Carol. This is the world of blizzards and bitter cold and the struggle for survival and the impulse to huddle together with loved ones (note: the key phrase is “loved ones”, and there are people I am biologically close to that I do not love). Part of me craves that atmosphere, as though the blizzard will contain the numinous.

Based on all the folklore, I think I’m on the right track with that one.

I’m Still Confused by the Buttwipe

What a lovely month it’s shaped up to be. Coronavirus has swept the globe, going from a faint abstraction a month ago to literally the next county over as of last week. If you aren’t under a shelter-in-place order, all the public spaces are closed, which is basically the same. Gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, Lysol spray. It’s. Everywhere.

And people did as people do: panic, and behave strangely (the hoarding of toilet paper, of all things), or pretend it’s all a government hoax caused by the Democrats because “they couldn’t impeach Trump” (even though last I checked that was held up due to the fact that Republicans refused to cooperate with Democrats under any circumstances but the ones that would allow them to throw out the evidence).

We’re still out of toilet paper, by the way. Distilleries are making hand sanitizer. People I work with are still trying to downplay the very serious pandemic going on all around us. One day I was deeply overcome with anxiety over the whole situation. Ever since, I’ve put more feeling into appealing to the Gods for health.

Thankfully, I haven’t had a crisis of faith yet. Those all seemed to happen before I knew who the Gods were, the ones I’m specifically talking to and praying to right now, and who are also making sure I eat something resembling health food every morning. I’m not sure if They saw all this coming, or if this is part of everything else which is going on, between the election (#hidinbiden) and the environment and who knows what else. Perhaps They did, and They know that small routines are good for times like these. Where would I be otherwise?

But, I don’t think about it tremendously much. I try not to panic. I avoid the news. I wait it out. I read other things, on other topics. I’ve been keeping myself sane for the most part. And, I’ve noticed very little change in my actual habits. I’m an introvert, after all. It just feels weird that the rest of the world is with me on that. (And, in the mean time, my Christmas decorations are still up, and a little off-season Holly Jolly never killed anyone, far as we know.)

Rabbit Rabbit – Dec. 1 (Dec. 4)

The Christmas season is now upon us, and I’ve done something peculiar with it. I know a lot of Pagans choose to eschew Christmas altogether for its religious connotations, choosing Yule or another winter holiday instead. But I’ve decided that if a lot of Christmas symbolism is Yule related, then I can nix any talk of the Nativity without much trouble and throw up the lights, wreaths, and trees, and put on some eggnog or cider and hope February is not abysmally cold. That seems to be about the only thing humans in the northern hemisphere have agreed on, after all: that winter is a bitch and it’s best to hunker down, put on as much food as possible, welcome guests you see out in the cold, and try not to starve to death.

I have generally given Christmas over to Ra as a means of honoring Him and it makes logical sense based on my geographic location. But there is also an element of Andred there. She is not particularly a hearth goddess, but there is something to be said for being home during the winter, for having an “off season” from war. (This was, I should note, a convention historically for quite a long time. Nobody had any mind to go out fighting or raiding or so on after the harvest was over, and that carried over into the customs of war until WWI, if I recall correctly.) And there is definitely that feeling in the air this month and through most of the worst part of winter. You just want to hunker down by the fire with people you like and some hot chocolate, with some nice warm lights up perhaps. It’s a good time, and I don’t see why that should just cut off at the start of a new year (arbitrarily setting the new year in the middle of winter is another matter entirely but we’ll get there).

I look to this season for a sense of warmth and happiness, that home is an OK place to be and not some backdrop for the horrifying nightmare surely brewing. Christmas especially was the time of year my parents didn’t try to kill each other or myself, and even though I was probably the only one that did any decorating nine years out of ten, it was still OK. It was warm and pleasant and that was never a feeling I wanted to lose. In fact I’ve been able to hang onto it more and more after moving into my own place and shifting away from preferring Halloween (although the collection of free candy is pretty sweet, if I’m not too sick and exhausted to go out for it). As the song goes, Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.