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Vikings: Rollo needs a bigger boat!

 

As I think back to when I first began my journey to the past, I am reminded of  dear Mrs. Graham… I do hope she is doing well. I have been here in the past for such a long time now and much of the time, I am so caught up in trying to survive in this world that I forget I was sent here originally on a investigative and fact finding mission for Mrs. Graham and her associates at Crag na dun Time Tours.  In the beginning, I tried hard to follow their directives and guidelines- such as remaining a distant and wholly objective observer? That may have been fine and feasible had I been able to stick to our plan of only being here for a short time… Because of the events that took place early on with Earl Haraldson and then so many other events, I felt it my obligation and duty to remain here and follow what ever path this place sets before me.  I found it impossible not be caught up in the lives of these people and could not stand aside and just watch them suffer! I made my choice to remain here and live my life with these people that history may have told the wrong stories about or forgotten entirely. I only hope that I do nothing to change the course of the future too much- I do not foresee that happening as I am but a small part of this time and place… an unknown woman with little power to change or influence anyone’s destiny! I just try to go on with my life as best I can now. I am happy here for the most part, and like many of the other travelers, I find myself more content and at peace here despite all of the difficulties I face on a daily basis.

I am ever thankful to Mrs. Graham and Crag na dun Time Tours for this opportunity and I now believe that it was my destiny to follow this path.  I shall never again mock or ridicule her Tea leaf readings nor her palm readings! I can only hope to repay her by documenting my journey and I pray that someday it will all arrive safely back into her hands to be shared in the future!

craigh_na_dun_time tours

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/crag-na-dun-time-tours-update/

tea leaf reading2

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/03/mrs-graham-tells-my-fortune/

Mrs graham demonstrates tea leaf reading

As I mentioned, I found it impossible not to become involved with these people and care about what happens to them. I do remember one of her most specific directives for me… It was not so much to follow Ragnar Lodbrok but to find out more about his brother, Rollo?  Of course, in our version of history as we know it- Rollo was a great warrior and ancestor of  King William I or William the Conqueror.  What I was to do was find out more about this Rollo brother of Ragnar Lodbrok and see if there is any correlation or connection between the two?

I took this directive quite seriously, and even if I have not been able to comply with any of their other directives, I am determined to carry through on this particular one as it feels so important to do so? I will write much more about this man, Rollo in the future as he has become such an integral part of my life here. first and foremost, I must caution that Rollo Lodbrok may be a great warrior, but as Lagertha once commented, not so great a man at times?

you're too great a warrior but perhaps not so great a man

you’re too great a warrior but perhaps not so great a man

He has made more than his share of mistakes from the very beginning and often I become so frustrated with him that I should like to kick him senseless and give up on him completely. He is stubborn, short tempered and many times acts before he thinks of the consequences! But, despite these flaws, I am constantly drawn back to him and feel that some where deep within him, there is greatness and worth… my loyalties and my heart will forever be with him and I will follow where ever his path leads. Yes, there are untold times when I question his actions and my sanity for such a fierce loyalty to him?  I often find myself questioning, much as he does himself, whether he is truly worthy? But, then I see how he beats himself up so well that there is no point in the rest of us beating up on him as well? I leave that action to Siggy… she is so good at it, and she seems to able to get through to him when the rest of us can not! 

siggy and rollo

I will share more of the story between Siggy and Rollo later. I do not begrudge her actions, or his involvement with her. After the terrors that we all have faced over the past few years, I understand and accept that we all do what ever we must to survive and live to fight another day. We have all made our share of mistakes and must live with the consequences.

I swore my loyalties and my allegiance to Rollo whether that be right or wrong, it is done and I will abide by it for I made my oath with clear conscience. I asked him only one thing… I will follow him anywhere and I will wait patiently for him to become the man I know he is destined to be, but he must put more thought into his plans for the future and cease to act before thinking? He must think ahead and plan his actions more carefully… an example of this is when he told me that we would sail to France?

Rollo needs a bigger boat

I had to remind him to please think his plans through more thoroughly and not act quite so hastily! Just because he wants to be his own man is no reason to act foolishly… I had to state the fact that it would be far better to take advantage of  a plan that involves Ragnar and much bigger, better equipped ships?

rollo2

Do not act so rashly, think ahead to your future and you will become a man of great worth, Rollo!

rollo5

 

Viking adventure: Last thoughts before I embark!

 

 

 

 

Previous related post: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/reflections-wishes-and-suggestions-for-the-new-year/

I am so excited, nervous, and just a little overwhelmed with all of the preparations for this trip! There are still a few final details to get worked out with the travel arrangements and a bit of last minute research, but Mrs. Graham assures me that we are almost ready for my departure. While she and her staff are seeing to the final travel details, I am trying to cram in as much history and varied information as possible and go over notes on what Mrs. Graham and her associates want me to pay most attention to as far as documentation?  They want me to keep a close eye on a man named Rollo? It seems they are concerned about his behaviors and are wondering if he truly is destined for greatness? They also want more information on Ragnar Lodbrok and his sons… there is so much controversy on all of them that it would be helpful to sort out the myths from fact.

mrs graham and tea leaves2

Ahhhh Mrs. Graham, I am so grateful to her for this opportunity! I only hope I make it back to see her again, and don’t end up regretting taking her up on this offer, or cursing her name and existence at some point in the future during this experience! Let’s pray that her tea leaf readings are not just a bunch of fanciful imagination!

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/category/mrs-graham-of-outlander/

tea leaf reading2

 

Before I leave on my adventure, I do have a few last thoughts and research notes I would like to share.

First of all, my thoughts on how one chooses to look at history and learn it? There is much debate and criticism over the methods used to learn history… Many historians and intellectuals look down on the history information provided in fiction as in books, movies and television. I keep seeing the comments on how inaccurate all of this information is and how it does more harm than good to be presented in such formats. These academics insist that if one wants the truest picture of history, then they need only concern themselves with non-fictional accounts and documents. Every time a historical novel or show arrives on the scene it is picked apart and criticized for all of it’s inaccuracies, frowned upon as a misleading or misrepresentation of what actually happened.  Yes, I do agree in some part with those observations. There are any number of books and shows that so blatantly disregard the facts and misrepresent the events and as a result, can not be considered as any form of historical representation at all. I have read and viewed more than my share of those, and do not bother to comment on them or share them here!

My disagreement with such academics and historians is in terms of  what is accurate, what is the truth? There is a much common phrase that, History is written by and colored by the victors. For that reason, the so called documentation and accurate evidence cited is often written in terms of what the victorious side wanted portrayed. With the more ancient past, much of the time, the losing sides were so decimated as not to even leave behind any trace as to what their side of the story or event might have been. So, by all rights, even the most supposedly accurate accounts of an historical event are colored by the writer’s viewpoint and perspective at that time.

My other personal thought on the subject is that any book or show that sparks an interest finding out more about history is well worth the reading or the viewing! I hear so often from so many people that they don’t like history, it’s sooo boring and does not interest them at all? I usually ask them what they do like to read or watch, and then explain to them that everything from sci-fi, fantasy, horror or  suspense and  mystery… what ever genre they have mentioned, has already been written about throughout history. When put that way, it sparks their curiosity in history. An example of this is the horror genre. Now, I am not a fan of this genre by any means but a recent conversation with a group of young people who are fans led to my suggestion that if they want some short horror stories, they should perhaps try reading the original Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales!

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/grimm/index2.html

Another example of generating interest in history; I recently watched an old movie with a young co-worker.  The movie was Gypsy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gypsy_(musical), it was an entertaining musical about the life of Gypsy Rose Lee. My young co-worker enjoyed the movie and was surprised when I mentioned that it was about a real woman. She then asked me for more information so she could find out more.  It doesn’t sound like much, but it spurred her interest in a past time period- and sometimes, that is all it takes!  My only slight concern on this particular occasion is the thought of not hoping that my young co-worker is not considering a change of careers now? Ahhhh well, I guess if she chooses this path, at least she will be an entertainer with some class!

Gypsy_Rose_Lee_NYWTS_1 Gypsy-Rose-Lee-photo

 

When history is presented in a way that people can relate to, it becomes more real, more personal and so much more interesting and valuable to them! If one begins their journey and education through history because of a so called frivolous book or silly show, what does it really matter as long as they are motivated to pick up a book, to search for  knowledge in any way that keeps them interested and wanting to learn more? Eventually their path will take them to the more truthful and accurate facts such as they exist.

 

Now back to our Vikings related research!

As I mentioned, I am finishing up some of the last minute research regarding the general time period. In a previous post, I mentioned a few book suggestions for additional information and insight into the importance of this time period and some of the historical figures related to it.  One book is of particular importance even though it deals with a much later time frame?

I am the Chosen King

In this beautifully crafted tale, Harold Godwinesson, the last Saxon King of England, is a respected, quick-witted man both vulnerable and strong, honorable and loving-and yet, in the end, only human. After the political turmoil and battles leading up to 1066, we all know William the Conquerer takes England. But Helen Hollick will have readers at the edge of their seats, hoping that just this once, for Harold, the story will have a different ending.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9223563-i-am-the-chosen-king?ac=1

I finished the book and have nothing but praise for Helen Hollick’s representation of all the characters involved in this historically important event! She gave an excellent portrayal of all the people, and presented them on a well even playing field. What she does for this event in history is provide us with a sense and feeling of their emotions, she gives us a well thought out picture of who they were and why they made the choices they did. Even though I knew perfectly well how it was going to end, she held my interest and my concern for all of them until the very end. She gave a detailed, but not overly bogged down and boring account of that final battle between the two men who would be King at Hastings. In those final pages and moments, she gave us some much appreciated and welcome thoughts on how each of the men might have felt at the end, knowing the importance of the outcome and what their fates would be if they lost the battle. She made me care about both men, see the event and the history from each of their perspectives.  The book  gave me insight into each of their possible personalities, their character traits and caused me to think more on how each of their past histories brought them to this point in time!

The reason I feel this book and these two men are so important to our journey to an earlier time is due to who and where they each came from. If you trace each of their ancestries, you will see the irony and the twist of fate or what ever you want to call it that led these two men to face each other in a final battle for the future of England.

Harold Godwinson, the chosen King of England

harold godwinnson

Harold Godwinson

Harold II (or Harold Godwinson) (Old English: Harold Godƿinson; c. 1022 – 14 October 1066), was the last Anglo-Saxon King of England.  Harold reigned from 6 January 1066  until his death at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October, fighting the Norman invaders led by William the Conqueror during the Norman conquest of England. His death marked the end of Anglo-Saxon rule over England.

Harold was a powerful earl and member of a prominent Anglo-Saxon family with ties to King Cnut. Upon the death of Edward the Confessor in January 1066, the Witenagemot convened and chose Harold to succeed; he was crowned in Westminster Abbey. In late September he successfully repulsed an invasion by rival claimant Harald Hardrada of Norway, before marching his army back south to meet William the Conqueror at Hastings some two weeks later.

On the surface, it may not seem that Harold had any real tie or connection to that earlier time of the Vikings, the one which we will be soon visiting. If you look closer into his family’s history however, you will find them closely tied to those Vikings and their eventual dynasty.

This is a quick, abbreviated history of Harold’s family and their ties to the history of Denmark. I do not want to overwhelm you or bog you down with excessive details on this. I do want to point out that if you are interested in how this matters, you should pay most attention to his Mother’s lineage and connections. His Mother, Gytha Thorkelsdottir was the one who brought the historical tie and passed it down to her son.

Harold was a son of Godwin, the powerful Earl of Wessex, and Gytha Thorkelsdóttir, sister-in-law of King Cnut the Great of England and Denmark. Gytha’s brother was Ulf Jarl, who was married to Cnut’s sister Estrith. This made Ulf the son-in-law of King Sweyn Forkbeard,  and the father of King Sweyn II of Denmark. Godwin was the son of Wulfnoth, probably a thegn and a native of Sussex.Godwin remained an earl throughout Cnut’s reign, one of only two earls to survive to the end of Cnut’s reign. On Cnut’s death, Godwin originally supported Harthacnut instead of Cnut’s initial successor Harold Harefoot, but managed to switch sides in 1037, although not without becoming involved in the murder of Alfred Aetheling, half brother of Harthacnut and younger brother of the later King Edward the Confessor.  When Harold Harefoot died, Harthacnut became king and Godwin’s power was imperiled by his earlier involvement in Alfred’s murder, but an oath and large gift secured the new king’s favour for Godwin.   Harthacnut’s death in 1042 likely involved Godwin in a role as kingmaker, helping to secure the English throne for Edward the Confessor. In 1045, Godwin was at the height of his power, when his daughter Edith was married to the king.

To make a very long history and story short, Gytha brought with her to Saxon England, the connection and loyalties to the Danish dynasty of Cnut and his father, Sweyn Forkbeard… why is this so important, you might ask? Well, because Sweyn Forkbeard’s lineage traces back to one important  member of  Ragnar Lodbrok’s founding family!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweyn_Forkbeard

Sweyn_Forkbeard Swen_Widlobrody_ubt

 

If you trace Sweyn Forkbeard’s lineage back, you will find him to be a descendant of one Harthacnut of Denmark… Harthacnut or Cnut I (Danish: Hardeknud) (born c. 880) was a legendary King of Denmark. Adam of Bremen makes him son of an otherwise unknown king Sweyn, while the saga Ragnarssona þáttr makes him son of the semi-mythic viking chieftain Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, himself one of the sons of the legendary Ragnar Lodbrok!

Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, as we will eventually come to find out is the son of Ragnar Lodbrok and second  wife, Aslaug.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sigurd_Snake-in-the-Eye

sigurd snake in the eye

ragnar and aslaug1 ragnar and aslaug4 VIKINGS2_09-final

Aslaug in Norse mythology

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aslaug

Aslaug and her father the king painting of Aslaug the legend

 

So, while Harold may not be a direct descendent of Ragnar Lodbrok by blood and he may be looked on as a Saxon King… the last Saxon King for that matter, his family history and his character has it’s roots bound deep in this Viking dynasty. In fact, after his death, his Mother Gytha eventually returned to Scandinavia, taking with her one of Harold’s daughters.

William the Conqueror

The other key player and claimant for the throne of England in 1066 was of course, William the Conqueror. William I (Old Norman: Williame I; c. 1028[ – 9 September 1087), usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard,  was the first Norman King of England, reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087. The descendant of Viking raiders, he had been Duke of Normandy since 1035 under the style William II. After a long struggle to establish his power, by 1060 his hold on Normandy was secure, and he launched the Norman conquest of England in 1066. The rest of his life was marked by struggles to consolidate his hold over England and his continental lands and by difficulties with his eldest son.

William the Conqueror AKA William I

William the Conqueror AKA William I

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_the_Conqueror

William’s lineage traces him back to one other person of note in Viking history… Rollo (c. 846 – c. 932), baptised Robert and so sometimes numbered Robert I to distinguish him from his descendants, was a Norse Viking who was founder and first ruler of the Viking principality which soon became known as Normandy. His descendants were the Dukes of Normandy, and following the Norman conquest of England in 1066, kings of England; he is the 33rd-great-grandfather of Elizabeth II.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rollo

Rollo_statue_in_falaise

*****Warning**** I do need to clarify and be very clear here on one point… for the purposes of our upcoming Viking Adventure and travel back in time, it is as yet uncertain whether the “Rollo” we will be observing is indeed the same person as this most famous one of history? We can only speculate or guess on this right now! It has been leaked that members of the Lodbrok family will travel to France and encounter a few people who would make this guess a plausible one….

                            Vikings Season 3 spoiler and preview: Charles Emperor of France and daughter, Gisela will make their appearance. Canadian actor Lothaire Bluteau will portray Emperor Charles of France and French actress Morgane Polanski (daughter of Roman Polanski) will be Princess Gisla, the Emperor’s daughter and his main advisor.

Lothaire Bluteau

Lothaire Bluteau

Morgane Polanski

Morgane Polanski

The appearance of these two characters does much to link the Lodbrok dynasty’s Rollo to the historical Rollo.  According to accurate history, Rollo is traditionally referenced to as marrying Gisela, the daughter of Charles III of France.

Rollo with Gisela and Charles of France

Rollo with Gisela and Charles of France

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_the_Simple

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gisela_of_France

 

Now that you are thoroughly overwhelmed with history and confused even more, let’s go back to the original topic of William the Conqueror! I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself, “Yes, Please do get to the point of this already, we’re tired of the extra history lessons!”

 

Ok, the whole point of this history lesson and it’s comparisons to the Vikings legacy is that while Saxon England assumed it was being conquered by Normandy, in a sense it was actually being conquered once again by a Viking descendent that in many ways, still fought and thought like a Viking Warrior.

Rollo’s words can just as easily be attributed to how William the Conqueror felt and acted.

Rollo-vikings-tv-series-34231469-1000-561

Rollo-vikings-tv-series-

In a last thought on Helen Hollick’s portrayal of Harold Godwinson and William, her presentation of the two men could also very well represent the two founding characters of the Lodbrok legacy. After many generations of violence and battles for England, Harold Godwinson comes across as one similar to Ragnar Lodbrok in his beliefs, his reasonings, and his actions. He is caught in the middle of a for the most part, an un-winnable situation but tries to put the future of his country and his people as a whole above his personal wishes. In another ironic symbolism or reversal of it… Harold sets aside his long time love and handfasted wife in order to marry within the church and possibly provide a legitimate heir to the throne. Ragnar Lodbrok sets aside his long time love and wife (though, to his credit, he does offer to keep her as wife? She soundly refuses to share!) in preference for a wife who can bear him more sons. 

Then there is William, who is a bastard son and must fight for everything he feels is his. He is determined to win at all costs, willing to do what ever he has to in order to achieve his goals. He is volatile, uneducated in a scholarly sense but he is a Warrior and thinks like one in all instances. His goal is not so much one for the long range future of his people, but more of a personal vendetta. He is angry with Harold, whom he considered a friend- an ally… he feels betrayed by Harold and acts on it. In Helen’s representation of him, he also acts on it as part of a one time promise he made to his wife- that he would make her a Queen… and so he will, no matter what the cost to others. It is not until the end when he faces his final battle with one that he realizes is an equal on all levels, that he thinks about the possible consequences, about the future for all, not just for himself. Her portrayal of William, his character and his flaws closely parallels that of  Ragnar’s brother Rollo. Rollo, who acts before thinking much of the time, who questions and resents, who battles with himself so constantly.  It often seems impossible that this struggling and often failing Rollo could be the forefather, the founder of such a dynasty as Normandy? Yet, we see that same struggle for worthiness in William I as he battles for what he thinks is his by right.

In the final battle at Hastings, it was an evenly matched battle that by all accounts, Harold should have been able to win? But, by a twist of fate or luck, William won the battle for England. This event resembles much of what happens with Rollo’s life in the Vikings Saga. He  makes grevious errors in judgement, is  at the point of failing miserably but is always the warrior in the end. He is usually on the brink of following the wrong path but for some reason or twist of fate, he succeeds- often surprising himself!

portrait of Rollo in history

portrait of Rollo in history

Old ways of yule

 

I know this has been a rather lengthy, involved and more in depth look at some of the history that will take place after the Vikings initially invade England but I think it’s important to know the legacy that the Vikings such as Ragnar Lodbrok and his brother leave for us in the future!

And, yes, while many will scoff at the Vikings Saga as it is presented on the history channel, throw up their hands in disgust and cries of  “That’s not what really happened”,  I applaud Michael Hirst’s representation of history. He has worked hard to incorporate as much actual history as possible into the show and as a result, the show and the subject of Viking and Saxon era history has reached millions of viewers. Many of those viewers develop a deeper interest in the history of the time period,  go on to do their own research into it and come away with more knowledge and understanding of the past. Is that such a bad thing?

Historical accuracy

Some critics have pointed out historical inaccuracies in the series’ depiction of Viking society. Lars Walker, in the magazine The American Spectator, criticized its portrayal of Viking Age government (in the person of Earl Haraldson) as autocratic rather than essentially democratic.  Joel Robert Thompson criticized the show’s depiction of the Norse peoples’ supposed ignorance of the existence of Britain and Ireland, and the use of the death penalty instead of outlawry (skoggangr) as a punishment for heinous crimes.

Monty Dobson, a historian at Central Michigan University, criticised the show’s depictions of Viking Age clothing, but went on to state that fictional shows like Vikings could still be a useful teaching tool.   The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten reported that the series incorrectly depicted the temple at Uppsala as a stave church in the mountains, whereas the historical temple was situated on flat land and stave churches were a hallmark of later Christian architecture in Scandinavia.   The temple as depicted in the show does have similarities with the reconstructions of the Uppåkra hof on the other hand. The show also portrays a crucifixion of a prominent character instigated by a Christian bishop near Wessex, apparently as a standard punishment for apostasy – however, Emperor Constantine outlawed crucifixion in the 4th century  and no crucifixions were documented to have taken place in Europe thereafter.

Other errors include the presence of window glasses, XVI-XVIIth century helmets used by King Ecbert´s soldiers, the mention of “Russia” as the land the Vikings aim to plunder in the first episode, although the episode takes place in 793 A.D. and Russia would not exist until 860 A.D. (as the Kievan Rus’), as well as the scenery where Ragnar Lodbrok lives, which shows great mountains although there are no mountains in Denmark. One could assume Ragnar lives in Norway because of the presence of fjords and that Uppsala can be reached by land while Horik arrives always by sea. However, Lagertha seems to be able to ride from Hedeby to Kattegat without crossing a sea which would be impossible at the time.

Regarding the historical accuracy of the show, showrunner Michael Hirst comments that “I especially had to take liberties with ‘Vikings’ because no one knows for sure what happened in the Dark Ages” and that “we want people to watch it. A historical account of the Vikings would reach hundreds, occasionally thousands, of people. Here we’ve got to reach millions.”  When Katheryn Winnick was asked why she licked the seer’s hand she answered “It wasn’t originally in the script and we just wanted to come up with something unique and different”.

 

As I pointed out in the beginning of this discussion, my personal thought is that whether it is a book or a show, if it sparks one’s interest in learning more about history then it is well worth the time spent on it! To disregard a particular genre or format, as being just fiction and not authentic or accurate causes those who would look down on it or negate it’s value to miss the whole point that history has to be made interesting and relative to those learning from it. If you can not get people to read it, view it or listen to it, then it’s accuracies really make no difference anyway.  In sharing history and it’s lessons, one needs to make it interesting enough for the audience to want more of it! Such is the case for Vikings, which will embark upon it’s third season this winter. People are interested in the show, and as a result, are more interested in the real history presented in it!

So with that thought in mind, I will end this long winded discussion and be off to finish my last minute preparations for heading into the past with the Vikings.

If you missed my previous discussions regarding travel plans, you can catch up on it here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/crag-na-dun-time-tours-update/

I will be traveling to Lindholm Hoje near Aalborg Denmark

With the assistance of Mrs. Graham and her Time travel associates, I will be attempting to go through some stones in this area to the past and then travel to Kattegat where I will find the founding family of Ragnar Lodbrok!

Upon my arrival there, I will then proceed to document events of their lives from their humble beginnings as farmers and sometime raiders to their eventual rise to power and rulers of the Viking era!

vikings_gallery8_3-P

 

 

 

 

Time Traveler’s Christmas : Happy Yule Fest!

 

 

 

 

viking yule2

New religions new traditions

Previous Christmas guide post: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/time-travelers-guide-to-christmas-oh-christmas-tree/

Christmas music: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/musical-inspiration-christmas-music/

yule the longest night Yule_log

First of all, I do need to acknowledge that some people may take offense at portions of this next discussion about the origins and history of Christmas.  A great many Christians firmly believe that Christmas is their own personal, sacred holiday and that it should be observed within the context of  the Christian symbolism of  it.

 

The early Christian Church involvement

If you have been following our previous discussion, you will already know that we have touched on many of the pre-Christian roots of the holiday. For an excellent article that refers to the true history of  what Christmas should mean, please read this article!

http://time.com/3631899/christians-christmas/

The mid winter festival and holiday was around long before Christianity ever became a part of it. In fact, in terms of the history of civilization, the Christian addition to the holiday is quite recent. We have already pointed out that the early Christian Church could not compete with the so called Pagan religions and beliefs so they instead chose to incorporate those traditions and beliefs into their religion in order to convert the Pagans.

There are many Christians today who believe that they as Christians somehow own the rights and observances of this holiday? They cry outrage and criticism that others have taken the Christ of  Christmas in such ways as referring to the day as x-mas.  In reality, the x has been a part of the holiday since it’s earliest days of Christianity!

xp in x-mas

http://news.yahoo.com/x-xmas-literally-means-christ-150002098.html

 

The winter Solstice celebrations have been around probably since the earliest beginnings of man’s understanding and record keeping of the seasons, the sun and the darkness.

The solstice itself may have been a special moment of the annual cycle of the year even during neolithic times. Astronomical events, which during ancient times controlled the mating of animals, sowing of crops and metering of winter reserves between harvests, show how various cultural mythologies and traditions have arisen. This is attested by physical remains in the layouts of late Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeological sites, such as Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland. The primary axes of both of these monuments seem to have been carefully aligned on a sight-line pointing to the winter solstice sunrise (Newgrange) and the winter solstice sunset (Stonehenge). Significant in respect of Stonehenge is the fact that the Great Trilithon was erected outwards from the centre of the monument, i.e., its smooth flat face was turned towards the midwinter Sun.

 

Neolithic site of Goseck circle. The yellow lines are the direction the Sun rises and sets at winter solstice.

The winter solstice may have been immensely important because communities were not certain of living through the winter, and had to be prepared during the previous nine months. Starvation was common during the first months of the winter, January to April (northern hemisphere) or July to October (southern hemisphere), also known as “the famine months”. In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast celebration, before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, so it was almost the only time of year when a supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking at this time. The concentration of the observances were not always on the day commencing at midnight or at dawn, but the beginning of the pre-Romanized day, which falls on the previous eve.

Because the event is seen as the reversal of the Sun‘s ebbing presence in the sky, concepts of the birth or rebirth of sun gods have been common and, in cultures using winter solstice based cyclic calendars, the year as reborn has been celebrated with regard to life-death-rebirth deities or new beginnings such as Hogmanay‘s redding, a New Year cleaning tradition. Also reversal is yet another usual theme as in Saturnalia‘s slave and master reversals.

Some time during the fourth century, the Christian Church became involved in the celebration.

Athelstan

 The chronography of 354 AD contains early evidence of the celebration on December 25 of a Christian liturgical feast of the birth of Jesus. This was in Rome, while in Eastern Christianity the birth of Jesus was already celebrated in connection with the Epiphany on January 6.  The December 25 celebration was imported into the East later: in Antioch by John Chrysostom towards the end of the 4th century, probably in 388, and in Alexandria only in the following century. Even in the West, the January 6 celebration of the nativity of Jesus seems to have continued until after 380.  In 245, Origen of Alexandria, writing about Leviticus 12:1–8, commented that Scripture mentions only sinners as celebrating their birthdays, namely Pharaoh, who then had his chief baker hanged (Genesis 40:20–22), and Herod, who then had John the Baptist beheaded (Mark 6:21–27), and mentions saints as cursing the day of their birth, namely Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:14–15) and Job (Job 3:1–16).  In 303, Arnobius ridiculed the idea of celebrating the birthdays of gods, a passage cited as evidence that Arnobius was unaware of any nativity celebration.[55] Since Christmas does not celebrate Christ’s birth “as God” but “as man”, this is not evidence against Christmas being a feast at this time.  The fact the Donatists of North Africa celebrated Christmas may indicate that the feast was established by the time that church was created in 311.

ChristAsSol

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti

Main article: Sol Invictus

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti means “the birthday of the Unconquered Sun”, a festival inaugurated by the Roman emperor Aurelian to celebrate the sun god and celebrated at the winter solstice, 25 December.  During the reign of the emperor Constantine, Christian writers assimilated this feast as the birthday of Jesus, associating him with the ‘sun of righteousness’ mentioned in Malachi 4:2 (Sol Iustitiae).   In his work Adversus Haereses, Irenaeus (c. 130–202) identified the conception of Jesus as March 25 and linked it to the crucifixion, with the birth of Jesus nine months after on December 25.  Celebration of the conception of Jesus, known as the Annunciation, became associated with the spring equinox, thus led to Christmas coinciding with the winter solstice.   An anonymous work known as De Pascha Computus (243) linked the idea that creation began at the spring equinox, on 25 March with the conception or birth (the word nascor can mean either) of Jesus on 28 March, the day of the creation of the sun in the Genesis account. One translation reads: “O the splendid and divine providence of the Lord, that on that day, the very day, on which the sun was made, the 28 March, a Wednesday, Christ should be born. For this reason Malachi the prophet, speaking about him to the people, fittingly said, ‘Unto you shall the sun of righteousness arise, and healing is in his wings.'”

In the fourth century, John Chrysostom, who promoted the celebration on 25 December, commented on the connection: “But Our Lord, too, is born in the month of December … the eight before the calends of January [25 December] …, But they call it the ‘Birthday of the Unconquered’. Who indeed is so unconquered as Our Lord …? Or, if they say that it is the birthday of the Sun, He is the Sun of Justice.”  With regard to a December religious feast of the sun as a god (Sol), as distinct from a solstice feast of the (re)birth of the astronomical sun, one scholar has commented that, “while the winter solstice on or around December 25 was well established in the Roman imperial calendar, there is no evidence that a religious celebration of Sol on that day antedated the celebration of Christmas”.  “Thomas Talley has shown that, although the Emperor Aurelian’s dedication of a temple to the sun god in the Campus Martius (C.E. 274) probably took place on the ‘Birthday of the Invincible Sun’ on December 25, the cult of the sun in pagan Rome ironically did not celebrate the winter solstice nor any of the other quarter-tense days, as one might expect.”   The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought remarks on the uncertainty about the order of precedence between the religious celebrations of the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun and of the birthday of Jesus, stating that the hypothesis that 25 December was chosen for celebrating the birth of Jesus on the basis of the belief that his conception occurred on 25 March “potentially establishes 25 December as a Christian festival before Aurelian’s decree, which, when promulgated, might have provided for the Christian feast both opportunity and challenge.

 

There is of course far more involved in the Church’s attempt to take over the Holiday from the Pagan influences, this is just a very brief and basic description it. What it came down to though, was a thought on the winter solstice of, if you can’t eliminate it or beat it… join it and make it your own. While the masses converted to Christianity, most of them still continued with their winter Solstice traditions and celebrations despite every attempt by the early Church to eradicate the celebrations.

My personal thought on the current outpouring of criticism and demands for Christ to be put back in Christmas… it was always first and foremost a Pagan festival, perhaps all of the so called Pagans of the World should speak up and insist upon putting the Pagan back in Yule! If one were to use the early Church’s definition and perception of Pagan, that would include a great many people today. The early Christian Church recognized only one true religion- that being the Roman Catholic Church, anyone who did not follow that religion and it’s beliefs would be considered a Pagan, a heretic, a heathen.

gods of our saxon gods 1.sun god 2. moon god 3.god tiw 4. woden

gods of our saxon gods 1.sun god 2. moon god 3.god tiw 4. woden

Another excellent article on thoughts about the holiday: Putting Odin back into the Yule Tide Season!

http://ezinearticles.com/?Putting-Odin-Back-Into-the-Yule-Tide-Season&id=3005931

 

Now that we have discussed the early Church’s involvement in the holiday, let’s move on to the Pagan celebration that seems to have had the most influence on our present day traditions and celebrations of the holiday.

Yule

yule9 yule2

Yule or Yuletide (“Yule time”) is a pagan religious festival observed by the historical Germanic peoples, later being absorbed into and equated with the Christian festival of Christmas. The earliest references to Yule are by way of indigenous Germanic month names Ærra Jéola (Before Yule) or Jiuli and Æftera Jéola (After Yule). Scholars have connected the celebration to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Modranicht.

Terms with an etymological equivalent to Yule are used in the Nordic countries for Christmas with its religious rites, but also for the holidays of this season. Yule is also used to a lesser extent in English-speaking countries to refer to Christmas. Customs such as the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing, and others stem from Yule. A number of Neopagans have introduced their own rites.

 

Yule is the modern English representation of the Old English words ġéol or ġéohol and ġéola or ġéoli, with the former indicating the 12-day festival of “Yule” (later: “Christmastide“) and the latter indicating the month of “Yule”, whereby ǽrra ġéola referred to the period before the Yule festival (December) and æftera ġéola referred to the period after Yule (January). Both words are thought to be derived from Common Germanic *jeχʷla-, and are cognate with Gothic (fruma) jiuleis and Old Norse (Icelandic and Faroese) jól (Danish and Swedish jul and Norwegian jul or jol) as well as ýlir,  Estonian jõul(ud) and Finnish joulu. The etymological pedigree of the word, however, remains uncertain, though numerous speculative attempts have been made to find Indo-European cognates outside the Germanic group, too.

The noun Yuletide is first attested from around 1475.  The word is attested in an explicitly pre-Christian context primarily in Old Norse. Among many others (see List of names of Odin), the long-bearded god Odin bears the names jólfaðr (Old Norse ‘Yule father’) and jólnir (Old Norse ‘the Yule one’). In plural (Old Norse jólnar; ‘the Yule ones’) may refer to the Norse gods in general. In Old Norse poetry, the word is often employed as a synonym for ‘feast’, such as in the kenning hugins jól (Old Norse ‘Huginn‘s Yule’ > ‘a raven’s feast’).

 

Yule is attested early in the history of the Germanic peoples; from the 4th century Gothic language it appears in the month name fruma jiuleis, and, in the 8th century, the English historian Bede wrote that the Anglo-Saxon calendar included the months geola or giuli corresponding with either modern December or December and January.

While the Old Norse month name ýlir is similarly attested, the Old Norse corpus also contains numerous references to an event by the Old Norse form of the name, jól. In chapter 55 of the Prose Edda book Skáldskaparmál, different names for the gods are given. One of the names provided is “Yule-beings.” A work by the skald Eyvindr Skáldaspillir that uses the term is then quoted, which reads “again we have produced Yule-being’s feast [mead of poetry], our rulers’ eulogy, like a bridge of masonry.”  In addition, one of the numerous names of Odin is Jólnir, referring to the event.

The Saga of Hákon the Good credits King Haakon I of Norway with the Christianization of Norway as well as rescheduling the date of Yule to coincide with Christian celebrations held at the time. The saga states that when Haakon arrived in Norway he was confirmed a Christian, but since the land was still altogether heathen and the people retained their pagan practices, Haakon hid his Christianity to receive the help of the “great chieftains.” In time, Haakon had a law passed establishing that Yule celebrations were to take place at the same time as the Christians celebrated Christmas, “and at that time everyone was to have ale for the celebration with a measure of grain, or else pay fines, and had to keep the holiday while the ale lasted.”

Yule had previously been celebrated for three nights from midwinter night, according to the saga. Haakon planned that when he had solidly established himself and held power over the whole country, he would then “have the gospel preached.” According to the saga, the result was that his popularity caused many to allow themselves to be baptised, and some people stopped making sacrifices. Haakon spent most of this time in Trondheim, Norway. When Haakon believed that he wielded enough power, he requested a bishop and other priests from England, and they came to Norway. On their arrival, “Haakon made it known that he would have the gospel preached in the whole country.” The saga continues, describing the different reactions of various regional things.

                     It was ancient custom that when sacrifice was to be made, all farmers were to come to the heathen temple and bring along with them the food they needed while the feast lasted. At this feast all were to take part of the drinking of ale. Also all kinds of livestock were killed in connection with it, horses also; and all the blood from them was called hlaut [ sacrificial blood ], and hlautbolli, the vessel holding the blood; and hlautteinar, the sacrificial twigs [ aspergills ]. These were fashioned like sprinklers, and with them were to be smeared all over with blood the pedestals of the idols and also the walls of the temple within and without; and likewise the men present were to be sprinkled with blood. But the meat of the animals was to be boiled and served as food at the banquet. Fires were to be lighted in the middle of the temple floor, and kettles hung over them. The sacrificial beaker was to be borne around the fire, and he who made the feast and was chieftain, was to bless the beaker as well as all the sacrificial meat.

vikings_gallery8_9-P vikings_gallery8_8-P vikings_gallery8_7-P vikings_gallery8_6-P

The narrative continues that toasts were to be drunk. The first toast was to be drunk to Odin “for victory and power to the king”, the second to the gods Njörðr and Freyr “for good harvests and for peace”, and thirdly a beaker was to be drunk to the king himself. In addition, toasts were drunk to the memory of departed kinsfolk. These were called “minni [memorial toast]”.

The Svarfdæla saga records a story in which a berserker put off a duel until three days after Yule to honour the sanctity of the holiday. Grettis Saga refers to Yule as a time of “greatest mirth and joy among men.”  This saga is set soon after Iceland converted to Christianity and identifies Yule with Christmas: “No Christian man is wont to eat meat this day [Yule Eve], because that on the morrow is the first day of Yule,” says she, “wherefore must men first fast today.”

Haakon the Good ruled Norway during the early 900s. He lived from 920-961 and spent most of his youth being raised in England and fostered by King Haakon was fostered by King Athelstan, as part of a peace agreement made by his father, for which reason Haakon was nicknamed Adalsteinfostre.  The English king brought him up in the Christian religion.  When Haakon returned to Norway to claim his throne, he was successful in every way except converting the Norse to Christianity. Haakon was frequently successful in everything he undertook except in his attempt to introduce Christianity, which aroused an opposition he did not feel strong enough to face. So entirely did even his immediate circle ignore his religion that Eyvindr Skáldaspillir, his court poet, composed the poem Hákonarmál on his death, representing his reception by the Norse gods into Valhalla.

The Nordic regions were the most resistant and longest hold outs to the conversion to Christianity, perhaps that is one of the reasons that their ancient traditions have remained with us even though for the most part, theirs was an oral history and language. Their ancient beliefs were so strong that they have continued to influence us to the present day.

Scholars have connected the month event and Yule time period to the Wild Hunt (a ghostly procession in the winter sky), the god Odin (who is attested in Germanic areas as leading the Wild Hunt and, as mentioned above, bears the name Jólnir), and increased supernatural activity, such as the aforementioned Wild Hunt and the increased activities of draugar—undead beings who walk the earth.

Modranicht, an event focused on collective female beings attested by Bede as having occurred among the pagan Anglo-Saxons on what is now Christmas Eve, has been seen as further evidence of a fertility event during the Yule period.

The events of Yule are generally held to have centred on Midwinter (although specific dating is a matter of debate), and feasting, drinking, and sacrifice (blót) were involved. Scholar Rudolf Simek comments that the pagan Yule feast “had a pronounced religious character” and comments that “it is uncertain whether the Germanic Yule feast still had a function in the cult of the dead and in the veneration of the ancestors, a function which the mid-winter sacrifice certainly held for the West European Stone and Bronze Ages.” The traditions of the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar (Sonargöltr) still reflected in the Christmas ham, Yule singing, and others stem from Yule customs, and customs which Simek takes as “indicat[ing] the significance of the feast in pre-Christian times.”

When the Norse migrated to the British Isles, they brought their religion, their beliefs, traditions and Yule with them.  In the northern regions such as Scotland, traces of it can be found in Hogmanay, and throughout the rest of the Isles, it has merged with the celebration of Christmas until it is difficult to differentiate any of it!

yule log5 yule-log6

The celebration of Yule became Yuletide, Christmastide, Candlemas, Twelve days of Christmas… All of these had origins and roots in the ancient Yule celebration and observance.

One of the most familiar of the traditions is the Yule log.

yule4

A yule log is a large wooden log which is burned in the hearth as a part of traditional Yule or modern Christmas celebrations in several European cultures. It may also be associated with the winter solstice festival or the Twelve Days of Christmas, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or Twelfth Night.

The Yule log has been said to have its origins in the historical Germanic paganism which was practiced across Northern Europe prior to Christianization. One of the first people to suggest this was the English historian Henry Bourne, who, writing in the 1720s, described the practice occurring in the Tyne valley. Bourne theorised that the practice derives from customs in 6th to 7th century Anglo-Saxon paganism.

Robert Chambers, in his 1864 work, Book of Days notes that “two popular observances belonging to Christmas are more especially derived from the worship of our pagan ancestors—the hanging up of the mistletoe and the burning of the Yule log.” James George Frazer in his work on anthropology, The Golden Bough (p. 736) holds that “the ancient fire-festival of the winter solstice appears to survive” in the Yule log custom. Frazer records traditions from England, France, among the South Slavs, in Central Germany (Meiningen) and western Switzerland (the Bernese Jura).

There is some controversy over the origin of the tradition in England.   Because there are no accounts of the custom in Great Britain prior to the 17th century, some historians and folklorists have theorised that it was not an ancient British custom but was in fact imported into Britain from continental Europe in the early modern period, possibly from Flanders in Belgium, where the tradition thrived in this period. My personal theory on this is that once the Saxons and Vikings who remained in  England converted to Christianity, the practice would have been set aside in the Nobility classes who were trying to adhere to the Church beliefs. It most likely would have continued in rural areas that held on to the old ways much longer.  When the practice returned in the 1600s, it would have been looked on as a novel, new and festive tradition without the previous ties to the pagan religion. There would have been those who remembered the old ways though and embraced this new acceptance of the practice.

The earliest origins of burning the yule log probably involved burning the log outdoors together as a group to keep the darkness at bay on the longest night of the year until the sun returned.  There is evidence of burning of sacred trees such as the Yew tree in ancient Britain.  Fire was sacred to all ancients and they would have revered the burning of  such large and sacred trees as offerings to their Gods.

http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/news/the-oldest-living-thing-in-europe/0012067/

 

The yule log is a remnant of the bonfires that the European pagans would set ablaze at the time of winter solstice. These bonfires symbolized the return of the Sun.

An oak log, plus a fireplace or bonfire area is needed for this form of celebration. The oak log should be very dry so that it will blaze well. On the night of Yule, carve a symbol of your hopes for the coming year into the log. Burn the log to release it’s power. It can be decorated with burnable red ribbons of natural fiber and dried holly leaves. In the fireplace or bonfire area, dried kindling should be set to facilitate the burning of the log.The Yule log can be made of any wood (Oak is traditional). Each releases its own kind of magick.

Ash — brings protection, prosperity, and health

Aspen — invokes understanding of the grand design

Birch — signifies new beginnings

Holly — inspires visions and reveals past lives

Oak — brings healing, strength, and wisdom

Pine — signifies prosperity and growth

Willow — invokes the Goddess to achieve desires

http://thecronescottage.tripod.com/thecottagedecyule2001/id16.html

Yule and it’s Viking origins of Odin the Wanderer

Odin on his eight legged horse.

Odin on his eight legged horse.

wodin

Long before Christianity spread throughout the world, Pagan rituals and customs were prevalent throughout the lands and there was another whose arrival was long awaited by the inhabitants of northern Germany and Scandinavia – Odin the Wanderer or Wodan, the father of all the gods. Also known as the warrior god, the legends that became part of our Santa tradition were mostly of the benevolent kind. It was Odin who traveled the skies by night on his sled with his eight-legged horse Sleipner bringing gifts of bread for those in need.

According to Viking lore, the northern Germans and Scandinavians celebrated Yule, a pagan religious festival heralding the arrival of the winter solstice from mid-December to early January. During this time, many believed that Odin, disguised in a long blue-hooded cloak, would travel to earth on his eight-legged horse, to observe homesteaders gathered around the campfires to see how content the people were and for those in need of food, he left his gifts of bread and disappeared.

As traditions grew over time, the children of these lands would anticipate the arrival of gift-bearing Odin and would fill their boots with straw, carrots or sugar and place them near the fireplace so that Sleipnir could come down to eat during his midnight rides. Odin would then reward these kind children by replacing the food with gifts and candy treats inside the boots.

By now, you can see that many of those traditions transcended time albeit with slight changes: the eight-legged horse became eight tiny reindeer; the boots by the fireplaces would eventually become stockings “hung by the chimney with care;” and the food and candy, well those became to toys from the chief toymakers of the land – Santa and his elves!

Although Odin and Santa share many characteristics in that they both are older men with white beards and donning cloaks, there is one striking difference between the two – Odin is missing his left eye. According to legend, Odin ventured to Mimir’s Well, near Jötunheim, the land of the giants, as not Odin himself, but as Vegtam the Wanderer.  To gain knowledge of the past, present and future, Odin had to drink from the Well of Wisdom but for a price.  Ultimately, he had to sacrifice his left eye and today, it lies at the bottom of this Well of Wisdom as a symbol of the price he paid for the wisdom he possesses.  Fascinating legend!   

Upon the advent of Christianity, Odin eventually evolved into Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus and today, the children await the arrival of Sinterklaas or Santa Claus or both.   According to legend, Odin, the father of all the gods, portrayed one of twelve characters each month of the year. In December, he became Jul and the season of his arrival was known as Jultid or Yuletide.

http://www.examiner.com/article/christmas-traditions-europe-odin-and-the-celebration-of-yule

 

The time of Yule was one of great feasting and merriment as well as being full of sacred rituals.  Besides being a time of greatest darkness and fear, it was also a time to look forward to the sun’s lengthening and to new beginnings.

 

We have been focusing our discussion around the time period of the 800s with the Vikings arrival in England. I have chosen this time period because it provides for a good comparison between the early Christian Church’s influence and the still strong beliefs held by those Vikings. I think it is one of the most interesting eras for the specific reason that it shaped the future of  Europe in so many ways,  was a turning point, and yet left such long lasting traces of the ancient beliefs. This time frame also showed how much power and influence the Roman Catholic Church had at the time in the fact that it so quickly assimilated and converted the Anglo-Saxons in the area. Prior to the 800s, the Saxons were still holding on to their Northern Germanic identities and cultures. Within the space of  less than a century for the most part, those Saxons had completely settled into the areas of Britain.  They became the dominant force with the help of the Church, and had as a compromise, given up any outward sign of their previous culture and belief system. I say outward sign, because many of the Overlords held their old beliefs in some secrecy and it was more a matter of acceding to the Church as a way of receiving the benefits the Church could provide.

 

When the Vikings arrived in England, they were introduced to new teachings, new ways and beliefs. These new beliefs would have an affect on many of the Vikings and would cause them to rethink their own ways.  For what ever reasons, the Vikings would not  forget their old beliefs and traditions as quickly or as easily as the previous Anglo-Saxons had. It would be a long struggle for Christianity to convert these followers of the old Norse Gods and Goddesses.

 

Even the ancient Yule log has taken on a more Christian symbolic form.  The original log with it’s adornments of nature’s symbols attached to it have been replaced with Christian symbolism in the more modern tradition of a small log with three candles to represent the Holy Trinity.  Where once the Holly and Ivy that may have been wrapped around it had more pagan meanings, now they are a part of the Christian symbolism. Holly was once associated with ancient Romans and Druids. 

yule3 yule

 

European Holly  was sacred to druids  who associated it with the winter solstice, and for Romans, holly was considered the plant of Saturn.  European Holly has always traditionally had a strong association with Christmas. Henry VIII wrote a love song Green groweth the holly which alludes to holly and ivy resisting winter blasts and not changing their green hue So I am and ever hath been Unto my lady true.

The Holly and Ivy once symbolized the masculine and feminine and would have probably been an integral part of some Winter Solstice observances that included fertility and new beginnings.

The Christian symbolism of Holly and Ivy are presented in the Christmas Carol, The Holly and the Ivy

The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown,Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown.

Refrain:
Oh, the rising of the sun and the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ, sweet singing in the choir.
The holly bears a blossom as white as lily flower,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ to be our sweet saviour
Refrain
The holly bears a berry as red as any blood,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ to do poor sinners good.
Refrain
The holly bears a prickle as sharp as any thorn,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ on Christmas Day in the morn.
Refrain
The holly bears a bark as bitter as any gall,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ for to redeem us all.

Earlier Carols reference the more ancient and pagan origins and meanings.

An early book mentions the carol as well as a manuscript containing a more ancient song which is, or was, in the British Museum. The book was printed in 1823 and entitled Ancient Mysteries Described: Especially the English Miracle Plays founded on Aprocryphal New Testament Story extant among the unpublished manuscripts in the British Museum by the author, investigative journalist, devout Christian and former satirist, William Hone (1780–1842), and printed at 45 Ludgate Hill London. The book contains a list of carols (p 99) described as Christmas Carols now annually Printed including 70. The holly and the ivy, now are both well grown.

The book also describes (p 94) a British Museum manuscript: The same volume contains a song on the Holly and the Ivy which I mention because there is an old Carol on the same subject still printed. The MS begins with,

Holly and ivy in the snow in Elmstead Wood

Nay, my nay, hyt shal not be I wys,
Let holy hafe the maystry, as the maner ys:
Holy stond in the hall, faire to behold,
Ivy stond without the dore, she ys ful sore acold,
Nay, my nay etc
Holy and hys mery men, they dawnseyn and they syng,
Ivy and hur maydyns, they wepen and they wryng.
Nay, my nay etc’

The music and most of the text was also collected later by Cecil Sharp (1859–1924) from a woman in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire which is also related to the older carol described as: “The Contest of the Ivy and the Holly”, a contest between the traditional emblems of woman and man respectively.

Holly stands in the hall, fair to behold:
Ivy stands without the door, she is full sore a cold.
Nay, ivy, nay, it shall not be I wis;
Let holly have the mastery, as the manner is.
Holly and his merry men, they dance and they sing,
Ivy and her maidens, they weep and they wring.
Nay, ivy, nay, it shall not be I wis;
Let holly have the mastery, as the manner is.
Ivy hath chapped fingers, she caught them from the cold,
So might they all have, aye, that with ivy hold.
Nay, ivy, nay, it shall not be I wis;
Let holly have the mastery, as the manner is.
Holly hath berries red as any rose,
The forester, the hunter, keep them from the does.
Nay, ivy, nay, it shall not be I wis;
Let holly have the mastery, as the manner is.
Ivy hath berries black as any sloe;
There come the owl and eat him as she go.
Nay, ivy, nay, it shall not be I wis;
Let holly have the mastery, as the manner is.
Holly hath birds a fair full flock,
The nightingale, the popinjay, the gentle laverock.
Nay, ivy, nay, it shall not be I wis;
Let holly have the mastery, as the manner is.
Good ivy, what birds hast thou?
None but the owlet that cries how, how.
Nay, ivy, nay, it shall not be I wis;
Let holly have the mastery, as the manner is.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Holly_and_the_Ivy

 

 

On a personal note, after much reflection on all of the history, and fond memories from my childhood, I chose to include a yule log in our holiday celebration this year.   Growing up, my family was not overly religious and we celebrated the holiday for it’s family traditions rather than any deeply religious or spiritual beliefs. Most of our holiday traditions were family oriented and tied to the traditions of my parents from when they grew up. Often they wouldn’t even know the reason or origin of a tradition other than, “It’s just what we’ve always done.”  My Mother was German, my Father was of  English and Dutch descent, but one thing they both held memories of was the Yule log. So, we always had one as décor at the holidays.

This year, I brought back the tradition. For our family tradition, it had to be a birch log…probably because we lived in Northern Minnesota where the Birch was abundant! Now, after reading some of the symbolism, the Birch does make sense as it represents new beginnings.  Of course, living here in California, I had some difficulty getting a birch log! Amazon.com to the rescue though, and I was able to receive a birch log from my homeland of Northern Minnesota!

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It came with the modern Christian symbolism of the trinity of candles and I am fine with that. I did give much thought to the decoration of it though, in reference to more ancient symbolism. Alas… No, I do not have a fire place to put it into so decorating around it will have to suffice.

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I used a combination of natural live greenery and some artificial to achieve the affect I wanted, only because I could not find easily purchasable fresh holly or mistletoe.

yule log finished

yule log finished

The Mistletoe Magic :

From the earliest times mistletoe has been one of the most magical, mysterious, and sacred plants of European folklore. It was considered to bestow life and fertility; a protection against poison; and an aphrodisiac. The mistletoe of the sacred oak was especially sacred to the ancient Celtic Druids. On the sixth night of the moon white-robed Druid priests would cut the oak mistletoe with a golden sickle. Two white bulls would be sacrificed amid prayers that the recipients of the mistletoe would prosper. Later, the ritual of cutting the mistletoe from the oak came to symbolize the emasculation of the old King by his successor. Mistletoe was long regarded as both a sexual symbol and the “soul” of the oak. It was gathered at both mid-summer and winter solstices, and the custom of using mistletoe to decorate houses at Christmas is a survival of the Druid and other pre-Christian traditions. The Greeks also thought that it had mystical powers and down through the centuries it became associated with many folklore customs. In the Middle Ages and later, branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits. In Europe they were placed over house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches. It was also believed that the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire. This was associated with an earlier belief that the mistletoe itself could come to the tree during a flash of lightning. The traditions which began with the European mistletoe were transferred to the similar American plant with the process of immigration and settlement.

 Mistletoe_Berries_Uk mistletoe2

The Legend :

For its supposedly mystical power mistletoe has long been at the center of many folklore. One is associated with the Goddess Frigga. The story goes that Mistletoe was the sacred plant of Frigga, goddess of love and the mother of Balder, the god of the summer sun. Balder had a dream of death which greatly alarmed his mother, for should he die, all life on earth would end. In an attempt to keep this from happening, Frigga went at once to air, fire, water, earth, and every animal and plant seeking a promise that no harm would come to her son. Balder now could not be hurt by anything on earth or under the earth. But Balder had one enemy, Loki, god of evil and he knew of one plant that Frigga had overlooked in her quest to keep her son safe. It grew neither on the earth nor under the earth, but on apple and oak trees. It was lowly mistletoe. So Loki made an arrow tip of the mistletoe, gave to the blind god of winter, Hoder, who shot it , striking Balder dead. The sky paled and all things in earth and heaven wept for the sun god. For three days each element tried to bring Balder back to life. He was finally restored by Frigga, the goddess and his mother. It is said the tears she shed for her son turned into the pearly white berries on the mistletoe plant and in her joy Frigga kissed everyone who passed beneath the tree on which it grew. The story ends with a decree that who should ever stand under the humble mistletoe, no harm should befall them, only a kiss, a token of love. What could be more natural than to translate the spirit of this old myth into a Christian way of thinking and accept the mistletoe as the emblem of that Love which conquers Death? Its medicinal properties, whether real or imaginary, make it a just emblematic of that Tree of Life, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations thus paralleling it to the Virgin Birth of Christ.
Read more at http://www.theholidayspot.com/christmas/history/mistletoe.htm#c7QoxysJ1HStX4Xw.99

 

As we close out this year and prepare for the beginnings of the new year, we pay tribute to those Saxons and  Vikings who met each other in England so long ago. The new ways of the Christian Church met the old beliefs of the Norse Gods and there would be a long dark battle to see the light again. What would emerge was a new beginning, a merging of cultures and traditions even though the Church would attempt ever after to gloss over those old beliefs, eradicate them and turn them into Church approved symbolism.

 

craigh_na_dun_time tours

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/11/29/beyond-crag-na-dun-other-sites-and-options-for-your-time-travel-experience/

 

In the coming year, I will be embarking on my Viking time travel adventure courtesy of Mrs. Graham and Crag na dun Time Travel, so I thought it appropriate at this time to pass along Yule Tide and Odin’s Feast greetings from some of those who will be involved in this experience!

viking yule2

Ragnar Lodbrok and his wife, Auslag bid you welcome to their feast at Kattegat.

 

 

Kattegat, Danemark

Kattegat, Danemark

King Egbert of Wessex sends his own greetings and warnings from the Saxon Christians of England

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King Ecgbert of Wessex

King Ecgbert of Wessex

Egbert_of_Wessex_map

Athelstan the Monk sends his prayers to all.

 

Athelstan the Monk

 

 

Rollo, brother of Ragnar bids you not to forget the old ways and the fires burning from within.

Old ways of yule

Lagertha, one time wife of Ragnar Lodbrok, valiant Shield Maiden and now an Earl in her own right, sends blessings from her home of choice- Hedeby, Scandinavia.

Lagertha's Yule greeting

hedeby2 Hedeby3

 

 

 

 

Mrs. Graham tells my fortune!

 

 

 

Just a quick update… Mrs. Graham stopped by to let me know all is forgiven and she is dropping that silly notion of legal action. She says there has been a huge increase in business at all of the other Standing Stone sites thanks to the free advertisement that I gave her! As a token of her appreciation, she offered to do a free tea leaf reading for me.  Now, my personal opinion on the tea leaf reading is that of, “Who on earth dreamed up this rather bizarre form of fortune telling?”  Of course, I didn’t want to offend her by insinuating that I had serious doubts about any accuracy or validity of this particular form of fortune telling. I did ask her casually if she did palm reading and might she do one of those instead? She mentioned that yes, she does do some palm reading, but prefers the tea leaves as it kills two birds with one stone… as in you get to relax with a nice spot of tea along with having your fortune told! I guess I can’t fault her reasoning on that, I do enjoy a spot of tea myself. So, I went along with her absurd idea of the tea leaf reading- if for not other reason than I had a bit of spare time on my hands, the tea sounded good, and it might provide me with some free entertainment and amusement!

Mrs graham demonstrates tea leaf reading

mrs graham and tea leaves2

I tried not to show any doubt or laugh out loud at her as she took her time inspecting the tea leaves in the bottom of my cup… So serious she was about all of this? I’m sorry, it’s just difficult for me to take this tea leaf reading art seriously!  Really, what kind of fortune or future can you decipher from a mess of soggy tea leaves randomly stuck to the bottom of tea cup?

teacup-sunshine

 

mrs graham3

Mrs. Graham senses my doubting disbelief in the art and gives me a lecture and lesson on the history and art of reading tea leaves!

Tasseography (also known as tasseomancy  or tassology) is a  divination or  fortune-telling method  that interprets  patterns  in tea leaves, coffee grounds,  or wine sediments.

The terms derive from the French word tasse (cup), which in turn derives from the cognate Arabic word tassa, and the Greek suffixes -graph (writing), -logy (study of), and -mancy (divination).

Divination attempts to gain insight into the natural world through intuitive interpretation of synchronistic events.

The first inklings of Western tasseography can be traced to medieval European fortune tellers who developed their readings from splatters of wax, lead, and other molten substances. This evolved into tea-leaf reading in the seventeenth century, a short time after Dutch merchants introduced tea to Europe via trade routes to China.

Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England have produced a number of practitioners and authors on the subject, and English potteries have crafted many elaborate tea cup sets specially designed and decorated to aid in fortune-telling. Cultures of the Middle East that practice divination in this fashion usually use left-over coffee grounds from Turkish coffee/Lebanese coffee/Greek coffee turned over onto a plate.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tasseography

 

Ok, Ok…I put on my most serious face and nod my head in feigned interest and respect- just to get her to stop frowning lecture she is giving me! She goes back to reading the leaves intently, and then reaches for my hand. Yes, this is the good part! She is going to throw in a palm reading as well… she says this will just give her a clearer picture of what the leaves are telling her?

http://www.wikihow.com/Read-Palms

tumblr_mc58b2CSzm1qljfm7o1_500 palm-reading-maps--large-msg-138766562547 multi-perspective-palm-reading-chart-1

Ohhhhh ummmmm she’s going on again in an in depth, detailed explanation of palm reading now… I am far too interested and impatient to sit through a long discussion. I just want to know what she sees! I very politely tell her that I would love to discuss it in more depth at some other time- I am not making that up, I really would love to know more about the palm reading! But, for now, I really am far too excited to hear what her reading is. I’m not so interested in the tea leaves as she is but the palm reading has caught my imagination! She looks as though she’s bursting to tell me something… Ohhhh I hope it’s  good! I hope it’s not one of those usual clichés like meeting a tall dark and handsome stranger, going on a voyage, or any of that silly stuff!

Mrs Graham tries to tell Frank

Well go ahead then, Mrs. Graham, tell me what my future, or my past holds….

tea leaf reading2

What? What is this? She is smirking and going on about seeing distant Stones, a sea voyage, a tall dark and handsome stranger, a king… she says she sees ancient lands being fought over? Alright, that is really just enough! I know she could not have seen all those things in a bunch of teal leaves or on the palm of my hand! Now, I am a little annoyed that she is playing a prank on me. I have to tell her so!

She laughs at my irritation and moves the tea cups out of the way.  She digs in her over large purse and puts out some maps and other papers on the table. Still laughing at me, she says she could not resist the bit of fun but she does have some serious information to share with me!

It seems that there has been a great deal of interest in early medieval times and the Viking ages. A number of people have expressed interest in traveling to those times and her company is working on putting together some packages for those time periods. In fact, she states, she has been working with some ancient sites in Denmark and Sweden in order to provide transport points directly to the Vikings so that people might have a travel experience which reflects the Viking perspective or point of view.

Ales_stenar_bred stones

Ales_stenar_bred stones

Hagbølle

Hagbølle

Kong Asgers Høj

Kong Asgers Høj

ancient stone near uppsala

ancient stone near uppsala

uppsala vikings

uppsala Vikings

Map_Skagerak-Kattegat

Hmmmm, this all sounds quite interesting? I admit that I am one of those people who would be keenly interested in such a trip as it is one of my favorite time periods… I express my interest to Mrs. Graham, who nods her head, “I thought you might be interested in helping us out with our project.” She goes on to explain that they are working with some groups in Denmark to provide a unique type of experience for interested travelers, but before they can offer the package, they need some volunteers to assist them.  I am about to wave my hand wildly in the air and squeee in some childish excitement, “Ohhhh Pick me, Pick me!” She stops me and tells me to sit back down so she can explain before I blindly agree!

I listen half heartedly to her advisements and warnings… I am going to volunteer no matter how much she warns me of the dangers involved- especially when she mentions that this trip would be a free one! Whooooo talk about luck, an all expense paid vacation back to the past, to the land and time of the Vikings! I try hard to contain myself and remain calm but it’s a total fail until she regains my attention when she brings up the topic of the palm reading and tea leaves. She gives me a serious, pay attention look that causes me to do exactly that.  Mrs. Graham tells me that the palm reading and tea leaves did indeed indicate some of those things such as an important kingly man, another stranger, a long voyage, and the turbulent fighting for land or power.  She warns me in no uncertain terms that I will be in the middle of all of this and there will be grave danger in my travel. I should take some time to think about it and then get back to her?

Two distant lands meet and fight for power….

Viking era Denmark

Denmark_viking age

Denmark_viking age

Early England

Egbert_of_Wessex_map

A kingly Royal man, Ecbert of Wessex

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egbert_of_Wessex

Egbert of Engand

Ecbert of Wessex

vikings-linus-roache-history Vikings-Ecbert-King-of-Wessex-played-by-Linus-Roache1

A long voyage…

viking long boat

Some other strangers…

Ragnar Lodbrok

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragnar_Lodbrok

vikings_ragnar_3-P

His brother, Rollo…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rollo

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A clash of cultures, a battle for land and power…

Early Christianity in England

Lindisfarne-ep2

The more ancient Gods and ways of  Vikings

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The battles over land, power, traditions and cultures

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