Santa Claus and the Wild Hunt

The origins of Santa Claus, like most Christmas traditions, are rooted in a blend of Christian and pagan traditions. ‘Santa Claus’, as he is currently represented in the United States, most resembles Sinterklaas, the Dutch St. Nicholas. “In the year 303, the Roman emperor Diocletian commanded all the citizens of the Roman Empire, including the citizens of Asia Minor, to worship him as a god. Christians, who believed in only one god, resisted the emperor’s orders and as a result were imprisoned. Saint Nicholas was among the many imprisoned. He was confined for more than five years, until Constantine came to power in 313 AD and released him. Later in life, Saint Nicholas became the Archbishop of Myra and the guardian of merchants, sailors and children. He performed many good deeds including miracles. It is said that Saint Nicholas stopped storms Read more…

The Names for the Days of the Week

*updated for today because my 7-year old son was asking about ‘Thursday’ 🙂 People have named the days of the week since ancient times. We tend to take them for granted, even the bizarre spelling of ‘Wednesday’. The Greeks had a seven day week associated with heavenly bodies. Vettius Valens, an astrologer writing around 170 CE in his Anthologiarum, gave their order as: Sun, Moon, Ares, Hermes, Zeus, Aphrodite, and Cronos. Following the Greeks, the Romans named the days according to their gods (modified, of course, from the Greeks), and then spread them throughout the world as they conquered Europe. The Roman days were: Lunae, Martis, Mercurii, Jovis, Veneris, Saturni, and Solis. From this come the Spanish (for example), Lunes, Martes, Miercoles, Jueves, Viernes, Sabado, and Domingo (which is the only one that doesn’t fit–see below). In English, the Roman Read more…

Women in Celtic Myth

Women in Celtic societies had more freedom and autonomy than women in feudal Europe.  It is not surprising, then, that women play an important role in Celtic myth, beyond the wives, lovers, and mothers of male gods. Within Celtic myth, warrior goddesses such as Babd, Aoifa, and Scathach have a significant role; Don (Danu in Ireland) was the mother goddess, giving birth to male and female goddesses such as Gwydion and Arianrhod.   The Irish word, Tuatha de Dannan means “Children of Danu”, the equivalent of the Welsh “Sons of Don” as popularized in Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three series.  Note that their children are not referred to as “Sons of Beli” or “Bile”, who was her husband and the god of death. Also among the Welsh is Cerridwen, keeper of the cauldron of knowledge.  Within Irish mythology, the Morrigan, Read more…