Friday, December 20, 2002

Earlier this month, I touched upon the idea of Bigfoot as an aspect of an archetypal wild man. Now, as we move headlong into the Christmas holiday, I bring you:

Santa Claus: Last of the Wild Men

Summarizing her book of the same name (available at Amazon) for Fortean Times (in an article originally published two years ago), Phyllis Siefker paints a fairly compelling portrait of the "jolly old elf" as a modern adaptation of a fertility god/wild man possibly pre-dating homo sapiens.

As the Christmas season engulfs us, Santa Claus, Father Christmas, and their international counterparts beam at us from every medium, hawking earthly treasures to delight our loved ones.

As we watch this portly figure entice us with baubles, we are witnessing the last remnant of the oldest sacred figure that exists, for Santa's past is full of ancient mysteries, with a depth few imagined. In the Middle Ages he was a Wild Man, a beast-man who jousted with knights in Merrie Olde England and dashed through Germanic streets during Carnival, frightening children and adults alike. In the Sixth Century, he was a beast-god so powerful that Pope Gregory the Great chose him to be Christianity's poster child for evil � the cloven-hoofed, goatish devil figure that persists even today. For millennia before that, he was worshiped as a god whose annual death was a necessity for life on earth itself.

And to all a good night, indeed!

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