Christmas, Yule and the Winter Solstice

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15 Responses

  1. Mauro says:

    Mithras and Jesus

    Yes, the 25th of December is now universally accepted as Mithras’ bithday. Mithra was an Iranic deity associated with Sun worship whose cult became so widespread in the Roman Empire as to become a serious threat for Christianity, counting many emperors among its followers: Galerius, Licinus, Aurelianus… Haeliogabalus even went one step further by becoming a fully ordained priest in this religion.
    Early Christianity had a single festivity, Easter, though local communities often celebrated their own festivities, up to the fourth century (see below). As for Jesus’ birthday, we are informed by one of the Fathers of the Church, Clemens Alexandrinus, that in his days there was no universal consent over the matter: some believed it to be the 20th of may, others the 19th of April, others still the 17th of November.
    Christmas as a festivity celebrating the birth of Jesus originated in Egypt sometime in the second century: it took over a previous festivity, most likely the birth of Osiris. Given Alexandria’s important position in early Christianity assured that this festivity spread quite quickly. It was only with the Council of Arles (353) that the present Christmas date was fixed.
    But even Mithraism wasn’t alien at atking over previous traditions. Despite early Christianity’s attempts at destroying everything related to its dangerous rival, recent historical research (mostly coming from Germany) has shown that Mithraism, much like Isis worship, assimilated over many earlier "mysteric" cults in a relatively short period of time, taking over much of their lithurgical and theological apparatus.

  2. steve_ash says:

     Yeah quite. But I’d add
     Yeah quite. But I’d add that the birth date of Dionysos was originally somewhere around Jan 6th as this was when the first wines were tasted, the first fermentation having been completed after the autumn grape harvest (the origin of the ‘water into wine’ myth). It seems this was also the original consensual date of the Christian nativity too (and still is in the Eastern Church). But as you say Dec 25th  the Roman Winter Solstice associated with the Solar deity, which merged with the Roman Mithras, came to be seen as the standard nativity in the Western Church. Here Jan 6th being preserved as Epiphany (associated in various traditions with the Magi discovery or the Baptism, a kind of revelation or second birth).    

    As there’s no evidence for a historical Jesus (despite scholarly bias) I tend to follow the Jesus Myth, though a modified one incorporating various Jewish Rabbi magicians. I think the Nazarenes basically adopted the Hellenic Dionysos-Osiris the only way they could in Judaic terms as a man, combining the archetype with a hybrid of diverse Jewish figures from folklore and popular history. While non-Jewish Christians just saw through the myths and regarded the archetype as divine. 

    I suspect its only later under the Sol Invictus / Mithraic Roman Cult, in the 3rd or 4th century AD, that had merged with early Christian sects, that the Solar aspects become central to Roman Christianity.


    Of course in Britain Nordic Paganism is a far greater influencer with Christ becoming Balder and St Nicholas preserving Odin.  

  3. Mauro says:

    This could go on
    Personally I do not feel like starting a debate of the origins of Christianity, as much as I find it an enthralling topic, because this is not the place and I feel I may unwillingly offend people.
    Despite all the recent research in the matter we still have a very incomplete idea of how the so-called "Mysteric Cults" helped shape religion and philosophy starting from the so-called Hellenistic era and the enormous influence they (together with Greek phylosphy) had on early Christianity, starting from St Paul.
    The 6th of January was an extremly important date in Eastern religions: Jesus, Dionysos, Osiris… even the mysterious god Aeon, which was perhaps an Hellenization of very ancient Egyptian cults, were all born on this day, pointing to an extremely ancient origin for this festivity.

  4. steve_ash says:

     Agreed. Though I suspect ‘Christianity’ is older the Paul and Hellenistic even then.

    Personally I have no problems with whatever myths others or myself adopt as I think everything can only ever be myth, as the truth (if it exists) is ultimately unknowable. Religion only bothers me when it imposes itself as truth, but then I view historical and scientific knowledge in the same way. And that debate could be infinite! At the end of the day I just rely on ‘mythic intuition’. 

  5. Daniel Parkinson says:

    Re: Christmas, Yule and the Winter Solstice

    There are a number of different folk traditions about Christmas related to the giving of presents (as well as the 3 wise men of the nativity). Saint Nick is the best known, as a gift giver and an origin of Father Christmas/Santa Clause. Children set out shoes on his feast day (December 6th) filled with carrots for his white horse so that gifts would be left in return as he rode over the rooftops. He had a companion elf called Ruprecht who carried a thin branch for use on naughty children. It is possible that the roots of this tradition started with belief in Odin who rode the skies at winter.

    In Russia there was Kolyada an elf- maiden clothed in white who would ride from house to house on Christmas Eve in a sleigh laden with gifts, which she rewarded to children who sang carols for her.

    In Denmark and Norway there were the Julnissen and Jultomten: elves that dwelled in the hidden nooks and crannies of the house all year round, emerging on Christmas Eve to leave presents while the occupants were asleep.

    In Italy there was Befana, an old lady who rode around on a broomstick and gave children presents if they had behaved, and coal if they had been naughty at Christmas.

    In Scandinavia food was left out for long dead ancestors, who were thought to return to their ancient homes on Christmas Eve.

    There are many more.

  6. doctore says:

    Re: Christmas, Yule and the Winter Solstice
    Christmas is a very important celebration in many cultures, and not to mention it is the best holiday, with carols, gifts and snow and most important of all Christmas trees , and I really love those natural trees like when I was a kid, but I am using Artificial Christmas Trees , just playing my part in saving our planet 🙂

  7. celestial elf says:

    Re: Christmas, Yule and the Winter Solstice
    Grat Post !!
    I rewrote the Night before Christmas poem to refocus on Odin and the old ways, and made it into a machinima film to share..
    The Night Before Christmas Or Yuletide Or Such…

    bright blessings
    celestial elf ~

  8. Ian Topham says:

    Re: Christmas, Yule and the Winter Solstice
    Hi Celestial Elf, I love your work 🙂

  9. robbiethered says:

    Re: Christmas, Yule and the Winter Solstice

    Not that I’m trying to spark a debate about truth of Christianity either, but you may find it interesting to hear of my view-

    It doesn’t matter, nowadays for all practical purposes, whether or not a Jesus ever existed in physical form! There are Christians even, who take the view the New Testament is more symbolic than literal.

    The position someone like me takes, who is very into the practical side of things, is that by now the Jesus entity is so strong on the spiritual plane, being fed for thousands of years of devout believers’ prayers etc, is that he will exist in the collective Deep Mind, and may well appear to respond to the attentions of people, just as invocations of the Pagan Gods will, when likewise we have little evidence to say any of them were "Real" on a temporal level.

    I can enjoy the Gods and pantheon of any culture. Obviously I can’t tell Chuchgoers of what I practise and of my cosmopolitan behaviour if I and the wife choose to go to, say a Carol Service in the local chapel, but sometimes we do! It’s also, admittedly, to celebrate History too, and to feel the vibes of love and community there on a frosty Yuletide evening thick with spooky atmospheres, I can’t deny. Yet my favourite carols are the Pagan -rooted ones, like the Holly and the Ivy.

  10. blusey says:

    Re: Christmas, Yule and the Winter Solstice
    i celebrate Winter Solstice as christianity was pushed down my throat as a child. i have come to the conclusion that as long as a person does not try to convert me or speak of persons of other beliefs in a "they are going to hell kind of way" i think anyone who is on a path that is headed up, has a piece of the divine. if we can stand the jinge bell sales and corporation christmas crap then even though really interesting and being a history lover all my life, really, time is all happening at the same time, so none of this stuff really matters. it matters that we love all, teach our children that the higher power, be it a goddess, god, a whole pantheon, or the universe, this is an abundant universe. there is enough love, food, money and happiness for everyone. one just needs to believe, know that our thoughts and actions have the power to change circumstances for the good.
                                                                                                                     happy solstice and sorry i couldnt stop writing, blusey


  11. megalith6 says:

    Re: Christmas, Yule and the Winter Solstice
    Christianity is in many respects a pagan religion, simply by dint of the fact that it grew out of paganism; Mithraism was its stable mate. Christianity is a form of sun worship which is why most churches face east and place a huge frequently beautifully stained glass window display ritually in that direction. The sun is everything to us, if it went out tomorrow we would inhabit a benighted piece of dark rock circling in eternity. Pagans still observe the winter solstice, the turning point of the solar calendar which reassures us, as it did the worshippers at Stone Henge, that winter will indeed end and that the summer sun will return to us in a matter of months. Imagine the sun as a deity and there you have it

  12. bedb says:

    Re: Christmas, Yule and the Winter Solstice
    the American economy depends on Christmas sales….I know of one Dianic Wiccan who buys Solstice presents…but she was A Christian for most of her life and old habits are hard to break. Even the staunchest atheists…while not celebrating it themselves understand that many of their jobs depend on Christians going out and buying junk.
    Even China profits from Christmas sales.

    and I remember how important it is to Bethlehem’s economy for Christians to come visit. The year so many stayed away made national news.

    As for Mithra….I wonder if he and Midir of the Irish are the same guy. And if it’s too cold for Shepherds to visit Jesus….wouldn’t it be too cold for shepherds to visit Mithra? Just an odd thought.
    I know the founder of Zoroasterism was a staunch monotheist and hated Mithra for the cattle sacrifice he did…and I’ve often wonder if the guy started out Hindu. His obsession with the poor cow makes me wonder. Of course all the old IA religions would have some similarities.

    And why do witches dress up like Zoroaster fire priests? Someone I know speculated that was Disney’s fault.

    My final comment is on the three wisemen. I love this legend personally and the early Christians would have understood well what I am going to say. the Parthians  were Rome’s great enemy…but the Jews liked them because they drove Herod out of Jerusalem. They didn’t stay long and herod came back and was made king. The Parthians and later Sassanids were always taunting Rome…and they had a saying that went when you see a Parthian charger in front of a tombstone…later the temple of Herod…you will know the Messiah has come.

    The Magi rode Parthian chargers…how easy would it be to include that in the Christmas story. Like I said early Christians would have known this saying and understood the significance of the wisemen. Plus I’ve got the Martin Sheen movie The Fourth Wiseman forever implanted in my memory. 

    I am a Christian but not a literalist…and I believe in the fae…I think the old gods were just another class of people who are still with us and driving folks like me nuts by making crop circles and trying to pass themselves off as ETs and crash test dummies.

    There’s a Texas singer named Ray Wiley Hubbard who has a line in a song he wrote called Conversation with the Devil about going to hell that says Buddha wasn’t a Christian but Jesus would have made a good Buddhist.

  13. TomDickenHaraldsson says:

    Re: Christmas, Yule and the Winter Solstice
     The Germanic Yule Tide:~

    The Yule Tide Winter Festival falls with the Anglo-Saxon month of Geola or Giuli, in Old Norse it was the month of Ylir, the month that the Father Christmas character referred to as Lapland Man, a bearded man, who’s description resembles many deities of Germanic mythology, rode his reindeer sled acrossed the frozen waste land, dressed in a hooded long brown fur coat. He carried a wooden staff when he walked, this staff of ash was adorned with various nuts, respectively symbolizing fertility and non-perishable but yet substantial nourishment in the harsh mid-winter. Could the Lapland Man be Jolnir? Jolnir, the main figure of Yule and another name for the All-Father Odin, the deity strongly associated with Yule, who on his eight legged steed Sleipnir followed by hunting hounds, rode acrossed the Nordic skies in the winter months of The Wild Hunt, perhaps chasing Sonargoltr, the Yule Boar. Germanic tribes hunted wild boar in the winter months, if the hunt was successful, the huntsmen would lay hands upon the boar and make a solemn vow dedicated to Freyr, for a good harvest for the forth-coming year, the hunt would take place on Yule Eve.

  14. TomDickenHaraldsson says:

    Re: Christmas, Yule and the Winter Solstice

    The Germanic Yule Tide 2:~

    Odin as the figure of Yule, his steed Sleipnir could leap great distances, Odin and his flying horse lead the great hunting party through the night skies, bestowing gifts upon the mortals below. Yggdrasil, the world tree, could it be a celestial tree, Yggdrasil translates as Odin’s horse which is a rather strange name for an earth-bound great ash tree!
    Below the Nordic skies the Germanic tribes had now roasted the boar on Yule Eve and now performed the traditional three toasts in the great hall bedecked with winter greenery, the first toast of beakers of mead was for Odin, the All-Father that he might give power and victory to their king Harald Fairhair. The second toast was dedicated to Njord and Freyr for a good harvest and for peace whilst they gathered their crops. The last toast was dedicated to Harald Fairhair for a long life because long life of a monarch gave great stability. After three days of feasting they would strip the hall of its green decoration and return the holly and the ivy to the great outside releasing the woodland spirits back into the wild, not to do so would result in agricultural disaster for that years harvest. Holly and Ivy symbolised fecundity in the harshness of winter.

  15. Sus says:

    Re: Christmas, Yule and the Winter Solstice
     Hi Celestial Elf,thanks for sharing such beautiful work!

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