Santa’s Shamanic Origins

[[Note: this originally appeared on the Discover the Practive website]]

Some people know that the modern Santa concept (heavy male, white hair, red suit, et cetera) was created by the Coca-Cola company as part of a marketing campaign; Coca-Cola wanted to get children as a market but were forbidden by law from directly marketing to them. Their solution was to create a character that benefitted children (gave gifts) and the children in return would reward this giftgiver with a bottle of Coke. So we weren’t marketing to children, but if those kiddies wanted to get gifts…

Coca-Cola's Santa

The nearest “historic” Santa was the 19th century Bokkerijders, a group of Belgian laborers who performed Robin Hood like acts. The church denounced their activities as Satanic although the poor appreciated waking to gifts of food and money on their doorsteps. Prior to that, a St. Nicholas myth comes from the Slavic countries. There, St. Nicholas had a “Dark Helper” who was dressed in black, had horns and pointed ears, all based on Santa’s shamanic origins.
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Sheldon, The Jewish Christmas Tree

Holiday Greetings from Sheldon, the Jewish Christmas Tree

We found out today our Christmas Tree is Jewish.

There was nothing overt. Nothing obvious. We found out the hard way.

First, Susan and I don’t celebrate Christmas so much as celebrate Solstice. It’s not that we’re Pagan or Wiccan, we simply prefer to celebrate Nature’s events. Much less confusion regarding days and dates, no variations on a theme, no Orthodox versus Reformed, no Baptist versus Catholic, no Sunni versus Shia, et cetera.

I mean, if you’re pagan you’re pagan you’re pagan. Pretty much a Wood Spirit is a Wood Spirit, a Guide is a Guide, a Totem is a Totem and so on.

Part of our Solstice celebration involves getting a tree, lighting it, putting gifts around it.

Sound like Christmas?

Guess again. Christians stole those ideas.

We got a tree at the Rotary. They sell trees every year in the shopping center parking lot.

We put it up, we were decorating it, Susan sipped some wine, I tippled a bit of Scotch. We started singing some Pagan Wodes (you can find them and hear them if you know where to look). Pagan Wodes tend to be simple. Religions, when they started, borrowed from them. They were easy to sing, everybody already knew them, tack on a Jesu or whatever and you were good to go. The modern wodes make use of modern musicianship. Quite interesting, they.

So there we were, singing. One or two choruses in, we hear a soft humming.

Every once in a while the humming would be interrupted by a word or two in Yiddish.

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Ritchie&Phyl (A Celebration of Life) Chapter 2 – Flowers

Persistence is a virtue. Unless it’s stalking.

[[just so you’ll know, I’m not satisfied with this yet and am open to suggestions for improvement. Thanks.]]

Phyl returned to Station House 4 after two weeks on a Bahama beach with nothing but the occasional “Another pink drink, José” to disturb her. One night, okay, she invited that Adonis-tall, blue-eyed, curly haired, broad-chested José to her bungalow but other than that, nothing but peace, tranquility, the gentle lapping of waves and as many Nora Roberts books as she could fit on her Kindle.

It was glorious.

She had not missed The Bunker, which was what everyone on the job called Station House 4. She had not missed the high, reinforced warehouse walls, windowless until the third story, the security, the claustrophobic interior that sorely needed remodeling or at least some paint and new floors, she had not missed her squad car with no interior door handles in back and the close-meshed, heavy-gauge steel caging separating her from whatever perps she’d apprehended or the multitude of now necessary electronics that surveilled her as much if not more than anyone she was questioning.

She stood outside the Officers’ Entrance and hesitated. Her silver ID bracelet weighed her left arm down like a bucket of cement. The entrance’s surveillance camera clicked her presence. Whoever was on desk would recognize her but if she didn’t open the door within fifteen seconds all the auxillairy doors would open and the Host of Heaven would come out, weapons raised and going for bear.

Standard procedure. An officer might be compromised and not willing to admit the bad guys such sacred entrance.

A heavy sigh. Two weeks was not enough. Except she missed Hecate, her gray haired Abysinna-something kitty. Phyl heard a faint mewing from a dumpster one day on patrol, checked and found a freezing ball of fur, eyes not yet open, curled on a soiled pizza box.

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Setting Scenes with Props

Reality Makes Fiction Believable. Threat makes things interesting.

Deveraux stared at the calendar on the wall while he waited: a pastoral farm scene above a month of days and dates. Young men haying in the foreground, scythes in hands, an older man – broader back, heavier build – guided a horse-drawn cart. A few passes remained. In the distance a setting sun. One of the field hands stood wiping his brow with a bright red neckerchief. Another leaned on his scythe, watching him. A white-sided farmhouse and barn with two towering red silos in the distance, at the far end of the field.
Why didn’t they start here and finish at the barn? Wouldn’t it be less work that way?
Under the picture a woman’s delicate hand wrote over specific dates: anniversaries, birthdays, doctors and vet appointments – cat? dog? He hadn’t seen any pets when he walked in – school meetings, church cookouts. Two gold stars where kids won awards. A red heart on a Friday, a church holiday. He’d have to step carefully when he explained why he was here.
Someone approached, a woman, her step light, delicate – the same woman who marked the calendar? The smells of fresh washing line-hung to dry, a lemony furniture polish, a light soap and talcum came through the door before the woman did, wiping her hands on her apron as she did, speaking his name as a question, welcoming a guest yet unsure of his purpose, her voice rising at the end, “Lieutenant Deveraux?”
He held his gray fedora in his hands, his fingers on the brim, spinning it slowly like a kaleidoscope showing nothing but dull browns and blacks and grays.

Now consider this:
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Dancers in the Eye of Chronos

Is there a love so strong it outlives the gods?

Dancers in the Eye of Chronos originally appeared as the “Free Worlds” cover story in August 1994. It’s also the lead story in my Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires anthology and Susan‘s favorite.

The Tales anthology has been optioned by my publisher so I’m giving each story a careful reread (not to mention because I’ve learned so much more about writing). Below is the latest version of Dancers (also available on Kindle).

Hope you like and let me know what you think.

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