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Sunday, December 25, 2005

MERRY CROM-MASS

Of course, Jesus Christ wasn't actually born on Dec 25th...for starters, ancient Jewish shepherds wouldn't've been out in mid-winter keeping an eye on their flocks. It's not how they did business. It was far more likely that the Nativity took place in late summer/early Autumn, so whose birth are we actually celebrating here?



Welllll....Mithraism aka pagan sun-worship celebrated 25th December as "The Nativity of The Sun", or Sun-Day. Mithraism was the fastest growing cult around the 320's-ish and was the one big major rival to an up-and-coming crank-sect known as Christianity. No prizes for guessing what happened next...

Mario Righetti, a renowned Catholic liturgist, wrote: "the Church of Rome, to facilitate the acceptance of the faith by the pagan masses, found it convenient to institute the 25th December as the feast of the temporal birth of Christ, to divert them from the pagan feast, celebrated on the same day in honour of the 'Invincible Sun' aka Mithras. Mithras, in case yr wondering, was also known throughout Europe and Asia by the names Mithra, Meitros, Mihr, Mehr, Meher and Mitra, as used by Conan the Barbarian's creator Robert E. Howard. The veneration of this God began around 2000bc in Persia and spread fairly rapidly around the globe.

It makes perfect logical sense that, when you hit the shortest day of the year, usually round the twenty-something-or-other of December, you start praying to yr local Sun Diety (or regional 'female' analogue thereof), requesting that could you, pleeeeeease, please, have some daylight and warmth back pretty soon so that you can hunt or gather food or start planting next season's crops. The religious/spiritual lives of ancient communities were overtly embedded in the seasons themselves.

What Christianity achieved was, in effect, the first corporate take-over: millions suddenly found themselves part of a new hierarchical control-chain; they'd been hoovered-up, lock-stock, in a hostile buy-out by a foreign Diety-Mob with a Work-Hard-Now Ethic and fuck-all in the way of a pension-plan, 'cause, you know...you inherit it all in the next life.

As rackets go, it was a fucking master-plan. And the people on top of the heap are still laughing themselves silly today at its breathtaking simplicity. Fuck, the sky's the limit w/ this one, boys...I mean, these jerks were worshipping a Babylonian Sun Diety a few months ago, now we got 70,000 of the fuckers working for us for free, in this parish alone. Life don't don't get any better than this, does it?

Looking back thru the mists of Time, this religious transistion appears almost seamless, but, no doubt, at the time complex deals were cut behind the scenes by trailblazing Christian zealots, Mithraists, Manicheans and other worshippers of Sol Invictus, the Invincible Sun-deity. The end-result was the creation of a new religious franchise: a stripped-down, generic, Single Diety Package that even the dumbest of hicks could unnerstand...something that could be adapted and adopted, sold-on through-out all of the former Roman territories...Jehovah was repackaged and rebranded; most of the Hebrew-flavour'd nonsense was stripped out, but they left in a vengeful, paternally-authoritarian tone that top-level shyster-priests and bishops could invoke whenever the local help started getting a little uppity...

They then also built in a "Thou Shalt Worship No Other" type clause, in case anyone started drifting back to Dieties or Pantheons w/ more interesting names or physical attributes.

So, yeah, originally, practically all known Sun-deities were 'born' on the 25th December: Krishna (Vishnu), Osiris, Horus, Hercules, Dionysus (Bacchus), Tammuz, Indra, Buddha. A "Mother-night" festival was held at the winter solstice (approximately 25 th December) in honour of the Scandinavian goddess Frigga. Similarly, the great feast of Yule, in which a boar was offered at the winter solstice in honour of Frey.

In the 12th century, the Syrian Jacobite scholar and writer Jacob Bar-Salibi blandly described the Christian take-over, "It was a custom of the heathen to celebrate on the same 25th of December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and festivities the Christians also took part..." The God of Christ was a Cookoo-God: its followers would quietly leave its eggs in the nests of 'heathens' and allow the poor sods to raise the offspring.

But lately, the tide is turning.

The kindling of lights or fire was a large part of pre-Christian Sun Nativities... so, nice to see that this practice has returned (in full effect) with the recent rise of the urban winter-solstice ritual of buying as many fucking lights as you can afford from B&Q and plastering them over the front of your house and setting them on different random timer-mechanisms. Chavs as the new pagans, anyone?

There's a new pantheon of gods in town constisting of inflatable Snowmen, luminous cartoon Raindeer and enormous figurines of Santa Claus aka Old Saint Nick himself... amazingly, these tacky little electronic winter-elementals seem to have now surplanted and seen-off J. Christ in Retail-Park UK's Mass Unconsciousness...there's been a populist paradigm-shift, one that has unconsciously re-absorbed old world mythologies via the ghost-light of TV and digital-media to create a series of consensual retro-contemporary icons to help hold the icy devil-dark void of winter at bay during those few crucial days while the earth begins to spin itself back towards Spring. Interesting then that some of these Nu-Pagan images have been unashamably stolen from the memory-banks of Kapital itself: bearded, white-suited "Father Christmas" from a 40's Coca Cola advert (rather than blood-stain'd/raindeer-leather-wearing Saint Nick stalking the shadowy, skeletal pine-forests of Old Lapland...) mixed in w/ soft, roundly-'feminised' Disney-style kartoonforms...by unconsciously adopting its trappings, we seem to almost be celebrating the iconography of Mass Consumerism here, as if our frantic end-of-year spending is all that is keeping us from Endless Wagnerian Winter or the Heat Death of the Universe...

Ironically, it appears as if we are using a form of Hyper-accelerated Consumerism to keep the wolf (Fenris) from our door.

6 Comments:

At 5:28 pm, Blogger the X said...

The Fenris Wolf is, coincidentally, Loki's own offspring-
as half "åsa"-god and half "jotne"-monster (and 100% trickster), he once left Valhalla to live as an ordinarywoman, and gave birth to frightful monsters:
* Hel, the guardian of the kingdom of Death (Helheim)...
* Sleipner, the nine-legged dark horse later given to Odin,
* the Midgard Worm (World Serpent), who coils around the earth's oceans and the earth disk
* the Fenris Wolf,
...
after nine barren cold winters,
all these monsters will be set loose at Ragnarok, the Apocalyptic final battle where the gods of Valhall will rise down to the earth of ordinary men in a giant ship made from fingernails...
and god will slay men and gods will slay gods,
the fenris wolf and midgards worm will all devour each other,
the poet god Bragi killed by Loki will come back to life, and all the gods will be killed, and all men will be slain,
but from the wastelands two humans will be the only survivors, they will make a new and better earth...

 
At 7:34 pm, Blogger kek-w said...

Cheers, Liv. I was completely blown away by Norse mythology when I was a young kid of about 7 or 8...this was mainly because of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's amazing work on "The Mighty Thor".....but it quickly got me reaching for my dad's old 1920's encyclopaedias wh/ had large sections devoted to Norse myths and stories....(as well as Greek and Roman stuff)....so I devoured all that on top of Stan and Jack's comic-book work (which borrowed heavily from the original stories, but remained pretty true to them)...it all blew my mind in a major way that I don't think I've ever fully recovered from....

It's all stuck w/ me down thru the years, and, even this morning, I was telling my eldest daughter about Bifrost, the rainbow bridge that linked Earth w/ Asgard.

Ragnarok and The Midgard Serpent are just such awesome concepts to encounter when you're a mere eight years old. I've got all my old school books somewhere (gonna have to post this some day) and they're full of drawings of Norse Dieties and monsters, filtered thru Jack Kirby and bunch of dusty old books that I still love and keep in our attic. I owe Stan and Jack a debt that I can never repay, and my parents another huge debt for encouraging my imagination, not smothering it.

"...a giant ship made from fingernails!" See, that's why Christianity'll never get a look-in round here!

 
At 8:56 pm, Blogger Psychbloke said...

"The Fenris Wolf is, coincidentally, Loki's own offspring"

So we're all to fear Loki's kids now?
I wondered what the eldest was up to out with his mates......

Seriously - no big surprise that Christianity has managed to absorb all this nonsense. Jewish messianic cult mixed with bits of greek philosophy to make it palatable to gentiles then exported on good quality Roman roads taking in whatever local gods it could pick up on the way. Christmas in particular received another healthy boost of pagan fertility cults via Prince Albert and then spruced up with a few north european wood sprites and some obscure saints via the Coca-Cola marketing board. It's already absorbed Elvis, Jon and Yoko and The Pogues with barely a hiccup..... It always makes me laugh when people, whose entire lives are structured and mediated by their designation as 'consumers' claim to be be able to discern the 'real' spirit of Christmas beneath all of this adaptive mutation....

To Ragnarok and beyond!

 
At 10:44 pm, Blogger kek-w said...

And it doesn't hurt that the populist image of Christ as bearded caucasian Devendra Banhardt lookalike was probably half-inched from Greek poster-boy 'Warrior-Scholar' Alexandra the Great. History, it used to be written by the winners, now it's a post-modernist imagery grab-bag, where the most unlikeliest of weird shit gets dumped into some sort of Mass-Unconcscious version of Photoshop...

Strange to think that soon there will be entire generations who'll name-check Elvis without actually having any first-hand reference-points....the 'idea' of Elvis will continue to grow in whatever fertile consensus idea-space exists after we're gone, and get stranger and stranger....

Ragnarok? Hell, yeah...I'm there, man!

Just as soon as I unsheath me OdinSword.

 
At 11:07 pm, Blogger Psychbloke said...

see http://psychbloke.blogspot.com/2004/08/i-love-elvis-impersonators-they-do.html

 
At 11:09 pm, Blogger the X said...

Kek, a great way to introduce nordic pantheon/stories to kids are these Valhall(a) comic books by Peter Madsen:
http://www.lambiek.net/artists/m/madsen_peter.htm
(remember being completely absorbed by these comic books as a child)

BTW...Kirby's head (in a wheelchair) appears in the danish comic "Strid" as a guest act, puffing away on his pipe and discussing important issues like left-wing politics,
how to converse with the Universe, or, more importantly,
with the sheep-like Bob Dylan's head (it refuses to say anything other than "meh" when they drop it to the floor by accident, after losing it out the window they proceed to sumbit it to the Socialist Party, where it causes a scandal and hefty debate by refusing to tell their national assembly its stance on american death penalty: "are you for, or against?...but talk to us, man!" "meh" "???" "meh" "arrrggghhhh!")

((gotta scan some of these images soon...
expect a 2006 to be more images and less talking (as you perhaps gathered i've caught a temporary intelligence block))

Psychbloke:
yeah, we all got to fear Loki and his gender-bending abilities now!

interesting too to see the proto-Christ qualities of the "resurrection of the Balder god" myth, too:

legend goes, that Balder was the only completely unselfish and just god, and so his mother (Odin's wife Frigg), got all the plants and materials of the earth to promise not to hurt Balder of fear that he might be taken advantage of...

She walked far and wide over the earth to get every living thing to give their promise, although Loki disovered that it was a plant so small and insignificant that Frigg had forgot to ask it-

sly as always, he gathered it and took it with him to the moor of Valhalla where all the other gods stood amusing themselves with making arrows of all things and hitting Balder with them, as they thought nothing could hurt him anymore-

Loki tricked them into making an arrow of this forgotten plant (the mistletoe), and as soon as Balder was hit he fell dead to the ground-
As punishment Loki was tied up to a stone in a subterranean cave where for all eternity a poisoned snake will pour its acidic poison onto his body- not until Ragnarok will he be freed by his monstrous children and enter the last battle, where the dead god Balder will rise again...
(phew!)

but the Yule celebration in both Celtic and Norse/germanic traditions seem to be all connected with the Winter Solstice and the fear that the Sun would not come back if one didn't light up fires and held feasts to the nature deities honour, as you mentioned in yer post, Kek...

Apparently beer/ale and intoxication was central to the "old" tradition- a massive party, in other words...no phoney choral works by elton john's mum and socks with squashed oranges in them while watching appalling dr. who xmas specials while your granny steals the chocolate...

...bring back all-night Solstice dancing and Pagan forest rites!
..."Until Ragnarok tear us apart!"
(Sun Ra Division)

 

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