Prescript : I was planning to recite a whole rewriting of the story of Christmas, in terms of how a Scandawegian legend involving pine trees and reindeer got spliced with a myth from the deserts of Africa - but it became this astronomical view of Solstice. I'll have to do the rest of it next week.
Few people know these days that when the Christian missionaries, as they were then (following behind the Roman legionnaires) arrived on the soft, rolling, forestland of Britain, they discovered a thriving society, deeply embedded in relative harmony and appreciation of nature.
Nothing special there - that was the default human condition - on the whole.
As the Roman Empire declared itself 'Holy' and rolled its killing machine out across Europe in all directions, the only resistance they really got was from the other warlords attempting to do the same.
In between these dark, Satanic mills, were endless miles of simple folk, reaping a living from what they sowed, surrounded by forests full of deer, boar and endless flocks of birds of every colour & song, woven together with crystal clear streams of drinkable water, filled with fish and further wildlife.
Something has changed !
Those simple forest folk, with their multitude of gratitude rituals for life's gifts, were considered Godless, and all most know about them today is hidden in detrimental associations with words like 'pagans', 'druids', and more recently 'luddites', 'hippies' and even 'hobbits'.
But as the indoctrination machine that followed the weaponry found, it was hard to just slaughter the folklore out of these wilful natives, so instead much of it was adapted, hijacked if you like, into the Christian calendar.
The 13 moons of the yearly cycle (the most obvious means of counting through the year) - and the names of month (moon'ths) that followed the planets across the sky was gradually twisted out of shape. It was reduced to to 12 when Julius & Augustus, two of Rome's more arrogant emperors, decided their birthdays should be forever celebrated as July & August, and further threw the counting system to the dogs, pushing SEPTember from 7th to 9th month, OCTober (from 8th to 10th), NOVember (9th to 11th) and DECember (10th to 12th)...
But the most successful hijacking of all was of the pagan seasonal celebrations .The locals really refused to relinquish their parties... and so they had to be incorporated somehow!
The ruling forces kept the peasants happy by keeping the dates essentially the same, but morphing the stories to reflect these new Christian values.
Solstice - The Light in the Darkness
As the sun reaches its lowest in the year, and sets as far north as it will in the whole year - Dec 21st - villages would come together to bring the winter foods they could spare to share out with those that had too much with those that had had a poor harvest in the autumn - assuring the survival of all.
The 3 stars in Orion's belt point to the exact place on the horizon where the sun will set further north, where 3 days it will appear to stop moving (21st to 24th Dec), and then on the 25th night, it will have set, just a touch further south, marking the returning of the lighter days, weeks, months, and the inevitable blooming into the spring.
Thus, this celebration could not be moved in time. But it somehow had to be attributed to the new religion, who's victor died for 3 days and arose again...
This symbology far predates Christianity - Horus, Osiris, Mithra, Heracles, Dionysus, Tammuz, Adonis, to name but a few... And many of them even shared Christ's miracle-bringing attributes and reverential names. And... they all died on the cross aged 30ish...
These are less ancient references to more ancient celestial phenomenon.
Here's a much better rendition than I could type... you'll have to listen through the difficult Southern drawl. The narrator's intentions seems to be more anti-religious than mine - I am just interested in the truth, rather than its interpretation and political usage.
I'm gonna sign off now, but I will try to bash out the rest of my Xmas rant before the big day itself.
In the meantime, we're wishing you a happy Solstice, and a deeper connection to the stars above, rather than just the Xmas presence below...