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YULE AND NOEL: THE SAGA OF CHRISTMAS
Yule and Noel:
The Saga of Christmas
By Alvin Boyd Kuhn, Ph.D.
Get any book for free on: www.Abika.com
Get any book for free on: www.Abika.com
YULE AND NOEL: THE SAGA OF CHRISTMAS
Yule and Noel
The Saga of Christmas
Alvin Boyd Kuhn, Ph.D.
YULE AND NOEL
YULE AND NOEL: THE SAGA OF CHRISTMASnecessary to add that in such attempts to throw some light on ancient customs connected with the festival most of the explanation advanced falls wide of the mark of truth.
If question was asked why the Christmas pine tree is trimmed with bright objects, or why a gold star is usually hung atop the highest branch, there would be complete innocence and a blank stare. If it was inquired why the two strongly contrasted colors of red and green were universally accepted as traditionally appropriate to the festival, similar default of knowledge would be encountered. Even the practice of presenting the Yuletide gifts to family members and friends is not too clear to the average person, although there is a hazy impression that it somehow is connected with the sentiment of God's great gift of his Son to redeem mankind. It would be asking far too much explicit question why the Norse and the Anglo-Saxons at an earlier time used to drag in and burn the Yule log on the old-time hearth, and why they scattered parched wheat upon the doorstep or the hearth-stone of the house. Equally vain would it be to ask why they suspended a twig of mistletoe under which lovers might steal a kiss. And what the significance of the candle set in the window to send its tiny gleam abroad in the dark night of December? Perhaps some one might venture the explanation that it symbolized the light brought to the world by the birth of the Christ, to shed his benignant rays upon a benighted humanity.
4 IS CHRISTMAS A CHRISTIAN FESTIVAL?
For centuries in Western countries Christmas has been proclaimed to be a purely Christian celebration, commemorating the birth of the Christ, the Savior of mankind, in ancient Judea. Yet so stolid and unthinking are the masses that it has hardly ever entered the brain of one in millions that practically nothing connected with the observance is in any way distinctly Christian except the one item of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. The Christian religion has over these many centuries berated and flouted the Pagan world and its religions. Yet the odd truth is that here in its most colorful festival of the year the Christian world is found perpetuating the celebratory rites and traditional practices of that same Pagan system that it traduces. Encyclopedias and apologetic writing in the Christian world have to be content to say that this is due to the fact that as Christianity spread over the northern Teutonic and Nordic lands of Europe, it insensibly commingled its own ideas with the ineradicable customs of the new converts in those countries.
Instead of ousting completely the religious routine and addictions of the peoples it had newly won over, it had to be satisfied to make a blending of its basic Christology with the ritual usages of the nations it overspread without uprooting these from their native hold on these people. In short it graciously condescended to allow its Pagan converts to continue undisturbed in th e grooves of hereditary custom, aiming the while to read a Christian meaning into those survivals of the olden time and such early religions as the Druidic.
This is the common belief, the general understanding. How far it falls short of the truth will constitute 5 the astounding revelation of this brochure. So far from its being true that Christianity captured Paganism in its Christmas institution, the fact of history is that as regards the mode of the
Christmas celebration, it was Paganism that captured Christianity. For the astounding truth about the matter is that the entire body of meaning foisted upon the festival by Christianity has missed the mark of true significance by many a mile, while for a comprehension of the primordial motives expressed in and by the ritual and symbolical customs and rites, we have to go back to the mysteries of occult Pagan formulations. To the substantiation of this epochal pronouncement the present essay will be dedicated.
This declaration virtually asserts that Christmas finds its true and more potent spiritual significance for us when treated as a Pagan rather than as a Christian ordination. The inferences from this deduction are not dodged. They will be openly accepted and confirmed in their general correctness. The claim is here advanced that not through Christian but through Pagan forms of celebration and channels of understanding does this great solstitial ceremony derive its highest moving and uplifting moral and spiritual power. Christianity has diverted the true original meaning off into dead-end by-paths. This has happened because it has lost the underlying sense of the Pagan formulations. The sad result is that nobody in Christian lands has the dimmest conception of the true significance of the striking rituals and symbols that still prevail to mark this as the most cherished festival of the Christian year. This is a strange and anomalous phenomenon indeed.
6 CHRISTMAS ON MARCH 25.
In the first place there is the matter of the date, the year, month and day of the anniversary and the celebration. In all Christian understanding the assumption is that Christmas commemorates the birth of the infant Jesus at a given place and hour. It is perhaps well enough known that the exact time of this event is not a matter of historical record, and therefore the anniversary character of the celebration is hardly any longer considered. It is kept in the dark background of silence because to agitate it opens the door to scores of pertinent questions for which religionists have no authentic answers. The twenty-fifth day of December is accepted now as a token date of the birth, though few even pause to wonder any more what led to the selection of this date, if it is not to be held to be the actual birthday of the Galilean Messiah.
In the case of a festival of such importance and prominence as Christmas, it is a thing of no light insignificance that the Christian Church keeps from its people the simple and singular fact that the early Christians celebrated the birth of their Savior for over the first three and a half centuries on March 25. It is to be questioned whether its clergy are generally aware of this fact definitely and succinctly. It would involve the revelation of their faith's early kinship with Paganism. It is therefore kept from publicity. But the words of the decree issued by the Pope of Christendom, Julian II, in the year 345 A.D., are still to be read, and they inform us that in that year he decreed that henceforth it was fitting that the followers of the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, should unite with the followers of Mithra and of Bacchus in celebrating the rebirth of the deity under 7 solar symbolism at the winter solstice! Here again it is historically established that even the day and date of the Christmas event was not an original Christian institution, but was an
accommodation of Christian practice to Pagan observance. In this same decree it is logically established that the date is not set as an anniversary commemoration, since the only consideration governing its selection is astrological symbolism! No pretence is made that it is to be regarded as the natal day of the Son of God in human body.
Surely it is of first importance to inquire why, before Pope Julian's decree, Christian practice had set the celebration of the Savior's birth on March 25. Here, too, the dominant motives are found to be primarily astrological. March brings the vernal equinox, and the most moving dramatic rituals of the ancient Pagan religion were consummated on or about March 21, the date of the sun's crossing northward over the equatorial meridian. Annually at this epoch every allegorical representation of the aeonial cycle of soul's involvement in matter and body came to final stage and to victory with the sun's ascent out of the darkness of winter, typifying the soul's resurrection out from under the thraldom of "death" in mortal bodies. This was in fact the final and climactic act in the drama of the birth of the Son of God from out its material womb of flesh. Hence it came to be regarded in Pagan modes of pictorializing spiritual processes as the true birth of spirit, the conception having taken place back on September 21 and the "quickening" from "death" having occurred on December 21,--all in zodiacal symbolism.
As the advent of the human child from the mother's womb is as virtually a resurrection as any readily conceivable, so the resurrection symboled by the passing over the line of division between heaven (spirit) and 8 earth (matter) by the sun on March 21 could just as permissibly be classified as a birth. Every birth is a resurrection, every resurrection a new birth. It requires no special genius to poetize the vernal equinox as the birthday of the sun of spring, and, following solar symbolism, the birthday of the spiritual or deific "sun" in the constitution of man. Hence on the pattern of nature symbolism March 21 was held to be the birthday of the Messiah. From the first the Christians had joined with the Pagans in commemorating at the equinox of spring a festival called Lady's Day, outwardly in honor of nature's rebirth from the universal Mother Earth, esoterically in token of the rebirth of "dead" spiritual consciousness according to the inner teachings of the Mysteries.
The Christians thus celebrated it for almost three and a half centuries, an exceptional item of no slight historical significance. The statement to this effect is made by Clement of Alexandria and others of the early Christian writers. It is confirmed by the Julian decree. It can be affirmed, then, that the Christian celebration of the festival on December 25 dates from the year 345 A.D.
But why the twenty-fifth days of March and December, and not the twenty-first (or twentysecond)? Here is a question which, as far as general knowledge goes, has found no authoritative answer.
The reason is to be found, no doubt, in the peculiarity of ancient celebratory custom. It is in fact the same reason which prescribed the mythical "three days" in which the Son of God lay in the tomb between death and resurrection. "As Jonas was three days and nights in the belly of the whale, so must the Son of Man be three days in the bowels of the earth." These three "days" of the incarnational immersion of spirit in the three kingdoms of matter, mineral, vegetable and ani
9 mal, were held to be of such major significance in the ritualism of archaic religion that many of the more important festivals commemorating the soul's crucial experiences in the flesh were instituted as three-day ceremonies, the first day marking the entry of soul into matter's domain, and the third day consummating its rising out of that realm of "death." In Old Testament prophecies, it was again and again stated that we would rise out of the tomb of "death" in these physical bodies "on the third day." As Hosea (6:2) has it: "Come let us return unto the Lord: for he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight." After spending three "days and nights," or periods of incubation and release, in the three lower kingdoms of nature, spirit-soul would awaken from its aeonial submergence in the dark unconsciousness of matter and come to its birth into more expanded being in the mind and heart of mankind. So the Gospel allegory represented the Christ as emerging from the boat and walking forth on the water (the body is seven-eighths water!) to save his disciples from sinking in the sea "in the fourth watch of the night." Incarnation has always been symboled as the night-time and the winter-time of the soul, its light and life, like the sun's, going "dead" in the coldness and darkness of matter.
Hence at all the four cardinal points of the zodiac, June, September, December and March, the great ceremonial festivals were set at three days length, beginning on the twenty-first or twentysecond of the month, and culminating three days later on the twenty-fifth, or "after three days."
It has been indicated that the early Christians who commemorated the Savior's birth on March twenty-fifth 10 were not in reality totally misconceiving the significance of the festival appropriate to that date.
Even more cogently than Christmas, Easter is the birthday of the Christ grade of sentient being.