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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in berchta

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Guy in the Red Suit: Pagans and Santa

A local coven just sent around the invitation to their big public Yule this year. So far as I can divine, the heart of the ritual will be an encounter with the “Guy in the Red Suit.”

Now, historically speaking, Santa is entirely a creation of Christian folklore, with no known connections to the pre-Christian world. Contemporary pagans differ in their attitudes towards this most popular—and vapid—of American folk figures.

Some pagans wholeheartedly embrace Santa, name and all, along with Yule trees, wreaths, and the rest of the (secular) Christmas package. I suspect that there's a strong element of nostalgia here. As pagans, we're so often entirely out-of-step with the overculture that, come Yule, it can come as something of a relief just to relax and go with the flow for once.

Some see Santa as a figure with pagan roots, and hence acceptable, if perhaps rechristened [sic] with a new pagan name. This is untrue, historically speaking: like the Yule tree, Santa grows out of folk Christianity. Granted this historical datum, whether or not—like the Yule tree—Santa is ultimately paganizable (now there's an adjective for you) remains a matter of opinion.

Some would reject Santa as hopelessly tainted by his Christian connections, often in favor of some other Yuletide gift-bringer: Mother Berchta, Befana, or the Yule Goat inter alia. With Brom's recent novel of the same name, Krampus has gained something of an enthusiastic following.

(In fact, all of these figures originally emerged out of Christian folklore as did Santa himself, and none of them have any traceable connection to any known pagan tradition.)

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Posch, Hooray for Krampus!
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    According to "Psychedelic Mystery Traditions" by Thomas Hatsis Santa didn't get stuck in a red suit until Coke used him in and adv

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Melting Old Witch Winter

 Propitiate, v. (< L propitiare, to render favorable, appease) 1. trans. To render propitious or favorably inclined; to appease, conciliate (one offended).


The good news: it may not be time to kill the black goat in the back yard just yet.

Not quite.

In pagan lore, a propitiation is an offering that you make when you want Them (or one of Them) to stop what They're doing. As one would expect, propitiatory sacrifices take many forms.

Here in Snow Country, winter started off understated, but late in January it turned nasty. We've been running 20-30 degrees colder than usual (we haven't seen above freezing for almost a month), and we broke the historic snowfall record for the month of February. There's a blizzard predicted this weekend and another for mid-week, with possible total accumulations of twelve or so inches to add to the three-some feet of snow already on the ground.

Fortunately, everyone agrees that Old Witch Winter loves pancakes. Why, I'm not sure—there must be a story out there somewhere, probably buried under the snow—but she does.

So, as I write this, the yeast sponge bubbles away in the warmth of the oven. By the time the snow falls on Saturday, the batter will be nice and sour and stinky: just the way she likes it.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Griddle cakes are the oldest bread that there is. Happy eating!
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I've never heard that story about pancakes and Winter, but I like it. It just so happens that I was lucky enough to find a packag

Early March is in in-between time. Back on my native South Dakota prairies, March either marked the very subtle beginnings of spring, or heralded one last round of storms where we'd be in Winter's icy grip for a few more weeks. Here in Texas, it's always a toss up as to whether early March will bring chilling rain and wind or high bright days in the 60s. More often than not, it does both in the same week. It's this magickal time in between, where it's not really Winter anymore but it's not yet Spring, and we start to think about planting but hesitate in case one last freeze or flood comes our way. It's a time to wait, suspended in the liminal space, when things are already heavy with potential. Soon we'll hurtle headlong into Spring, with all its busyness and activity, but for now, we're in that twilight period, where one season is not yet gone and another has yet to begin. 

So who better to guide us through this time than the Germanic Goddess Berchta? Berchta has visited us via the Oracle before, a few summers ago. But her message -- that the seeds of our future lie within us, ready to be planted and nurtured -- seems so appropriate to the time we find ourselves in now. As we think forward to the Spring, we are reminded that the things we will nurture over this next cycle are already deep within us. They are things we nurtured and kept alive through the dark and introspective days of Winter. Our destiny is already within our power, if only we recognize it, fertilize it, honor it, tend to it.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Yuletide Household Lore & Traditions

art by Arthur Rackham

The winter solstice is approaching.

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Weekly Goddess Inspiration: Berchta

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, it's nearly Summer Solstice. Thankfully, the Texas heat has (mostly) held off so far, and we've enjoyed some lovely temperate days. The full force of the Sun will surely arrive after the Solstice, but it's been a nice respite to have our days in the 80s and low 90s.Here in the high, bright days of June, the Winter Solstice seems very far off indeed.

As we approach the midpoint of the year, I've been doing a lot of reflecting on what it is I'm trying to create in my life, what I'm trying to manifest, and what I want for my future. My companion this week is a Winter Goddess, Berchta. Worshiped throughout what is now Germany, and one of the patrons of Midwinter, Berchta is thought to oversee spinning.  Cloaked in her mantle of snow, and sometimes pictured with swan's feet, Berchta is also the guardian of beasts and of mothers. (Her celebration at Winter Solstice is known as Mother's Night.) She is a great teacher and an initiator. And like other Goddesses associated with spinning, including the Fates and the Norns, she is also a Goddess of Destiny.

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  • Susan Harper
    Susan Harper says #
    Thanks for reading! I sometimes get soooo caught up in trying to "make" things happen!
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Excellent questions and reminders, Susan. Thank you. I, too, find that things go better when I allow them to unfold. I, too, somet

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