The Invisible Web

Your Trip Into the Chapel Perilous


Posted by invizweb on December 25, 2008

With 86% of Americans having a belief in Santa Klaus until age 8 (AP-AOL, 2006), Jolly Saint Nick is perhaps one of the most recognizable figures in the USA. The story goes that from the North Pole, Santa emerges from his House each year to dispense gifts to children who are obedient to their parents each year. His house according to North American lore is located in the North Pole, where he lives with his wife “Mrs. Klaus.” In workshop hidden from the world, meek elves in his employ make toys and other presents to the believing, which are delivered to Jolly Old Sat Nick some time before Christmas. When Christmas Eve arrives, Santa and his team of eight reindeer fly across the world. Santa enters home through chimneys and eats cookies left by children.

As written in the past few days, this tradition is not universal; i.e. reindeer do not live in the North Pole, factually, so many European traditions locate the Reindeer of Santa in Lapland, Finland. Originally, the figure celebrated for bringing holiday cheer for the British whom would colonize the US, was traditionally Father Christmas, whose origin was the 17th Century when The Protestant ban on Christmas feasts was lifted. He was a man draped regally as if he was royalty. The modern interpretation of Santa Klaus, a large jolly man full of spirit was only popularized in the mid 19th Century, but was iconized by the drawings of former Playboy illustrator Haddon “Sunny” Sundblom as ads for the Coca Cola Company in the 1930s. This was after Father Christmas and the legendary Bishop of Lycia, Turkey, Saint Nicholas of Myra were syncretized. Nicholas was a holy man reputed to have resurrected three children butchered and paid for the dowry of three women, thus preventing them from entering a life of slavery.

Knight Rupert, or Knecht Ruprecht, as he was named originally in German folklore, protects Santa Klaus with staves. He also uses his rod to discipline “misbehaving children.” Contrasting with Santa, Rupert wars dark colored clothes and has generally uncouth hair and facial hair. Due to his strong resemblance to Odin, he is believed to be a modernization of the Highfather so much to the extent that the NAZIs attempted to replace Santa with Rupert believing him to be a corrupted form of the ancient deity. In some traditions, Rupert and Santa have been merged (something like the fusions in Dragon Ball Z and the combining in Transformers I guess) into one entity: Ru Klaus (Eng: Rough Nicholas), who is both the giver of gifts and the dispenser of punishment. Knight Rupert is also linked with Saint Rupert in Switzerland.

Yet another gift-giver/ punisher to the Pennsylvania Dutch (of German descent) and the Volga German communities of Argentina is the mysterious Belznickel. Der Belznickel is apparently a being with some resemblance to Santa Klaus as he has a similar face but like Krampus, he is covered with fur and wears tattered rags and chains. This shadowy figure in some legends is a demon Saint Nicholas frees every Christmas (or Saint Nicholas Day) to assist him in judging those deserving of gifts, such as Chocolate coins. Those who are not worthy of gifts are instead chained and beaten. His fur attire is also a throwback to Odin. The usual custom is for an uncle or older male relative to “go out on an errand” and then for Belznickel to appear. He then lines the children up and quizzes them about Bible and Church related trivia. In one story, he apparently appeared as a translucent ghost while someone was playing the role of him.

The High Father and Psychopomp (escorter of the dead) of Scandinavian Heathenism, Odin/Wotan/Wodanaz is a deity I have mentioned throughout the past few days.  In the Havamal, it is written that Odin exposes himself while on the World Tree, Yggdrasil, for nine days, after which he is reborn with all of the knowledge of the 9 Worlds, and became the God of Magic.  Odin is said to be the leader of the Wild Hunt in one interpretation of the story.  Odin usually travels on his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir brandishing his spear, Gungir.  The two ravens, Hugin and Munin whom arre his usual travel companions, represnt thought and memory, respectively.  Worship of Odin is theorized to have started during the Bronze Age in Proto-Germanic speaking lands.  Santa and Odin also have similarities leading some to belive Santa to be the Cunning God in disguise; the iconography of the Christmas tree is similar o that of the World Tree,  also both Santa and Odin are white-bearded figures who ride steeds with relevance to the number 8, and also children leave food for Sleipnir as they do for Santa (though the horse is offered carrots not cookeis and milk) and recive cady and gifts in exhcange from Odin.

In the United Kingdom, however, there is a rumor that children throughout the Isles now believe that the Doctor (WHO? Exactly) and his companions travel to Earth every Christmas saving the world from aliens. The Doctor apparently is a “Time Lord” from the planet Galifrey by the Medusa Cascade in a galaxy far away from Earth. He travels across time and space in a blue police box called the “TARDIS,” named by his grand-daughter “Susan Foreman.” He is usually accompanied by two to four persons from various backgrounds throughout infinity. They also go around trying to spread holiday cheer too I guess.

Happy holidays folks~!

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