A Somewhat Counter-Intuitive Christmas Origins Story

Even though the things I wrote about lately were more like “evergreens”, not bound to particular events, I often like to latch onto some dates. To my dismay I found that I couldn’t make the deadline of the death of mysterious faith healer Grigori Rasputin in mid-December (of 1916) and was then determined to sit the whole Christmas season out. Reader Matt Cavanaugh debunked The Nativity throughout (go read it), and everyone else was writing on the annual “War on Christmas”. There are probably a lot of “Christmas-Pagan-Rites” articles out there, and I didn’t feel like adding one of my own. But then Outwest and some other Twitter friends prodded me to write. This was very nice. What’s left to write about on Christmas? There is something I could think of, and it is again a fabulous journey through everything. How about “Headless Hessians and Other Humorous Germans?”. Let me foreshadow a little…

“They make a great deal of Christmas in Germany, and no doubt the Hessians will drink a great deal of beer and have a dance to-night. They will be sleepy to-morrow morning.” – nameless officer of George Washington before the Battle of Trenton

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Fear of the Dark

Welcome back to the series of the Scarlet Letter (Magic of MeaningMark of the Witch). If you’re new, you will do fine without having read anything before, but some parts may be a bit difficult to understand without the themes introduced before (and I hope I haven’t written them for naught).

For us visual creatures, the darkness is the omnipresent metaphor of the unknown – that which is outside of our senses and faculties. Thus recognizing a “thing”; giving something a name, labelling it, or learning the “true name” means not only knowledge, but control.

Fear of the dark, fear of the dark
I have constant fear that something’s
always near
Fear of the dark, fear of the dark
I have a phobia that someone’s
always there
— Iron Maiden “Fear of the Dark” (excerpt)

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The Mark of the Witch

And quick! As long as the iron is red hot! This is the next instalment of this series of meaning with the Red Letters. You can jump in without having read anything previously (but it can’t hurt either). Since today, 496 years ago the Reformation was kicked off, and since today is also Halloween, this part will be a tad gruesome. Brace yourself.

Theistic Phobocracy

Old Europe was an unpleasant place to live in the Early Modern Period (ca. 16—18th century), the period that saw the Puritans as well as the Gunpowder plot.

This time, I hope to explore a bit how meanings change and what all this symbology meant in practice by giving a tapestry of the times. It is not merely historical backdrop. Our ancestors at the time were like you and me. History could tell us a lot about how we (as humans) tick. The general populace at the time was perhaps simultaneously more pious than ever, while it also lost faith in their traditional beliefs, and found itself surrounded by a rapidly changing world–like it is today.

Phobocracy: Greek phóbos (Φόβος), “morbid fear” and kratos (κράτος), “power” or “rule”: rule by fear or power through fear.

Burning Witches

Competing information flew in swarms out into the streets from the printing presses and hit upon minds that weren’t familiar with such a storm of symbology. The art of writing was arcane and magical, where we already saw some examples and possible (non supernatural) mechanisms. Words can have a strong effects on consciousness. The traditional symbolic culture was challenged, and collapsed and probably left people without orientation. Amidst this situation, the Catholic Church, the big bad of human history, tightened its iron grip on their flock.

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