Santa Claus, Mummers, Greene Knight, Wild Man

juantoo3

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In keeping with the season, I thought I would string together a few links to sources discussing the evolution of Santa Claus through the years.

Santa: Last of the Wild Men The Old Weird Albion

Siefker’s book essentially puts forward the idea that one of the most general tenets of European paganism – the Wild Man, the animal-like man referred to under myriad guises (from “the Bear” to Robin Goodfellow and Robin Hood, to incarnations, in the medieval period, of our now-ubiquitous conceptualization of the “Devil”) – transformed, over the centuries, into the jolly red-nosed and fur-clad character that brings presents to the kiddos each December 25. To do so, Siefker examines a broad cross-section of Christmas traditions and folk rituals, from Greece to Germany to America and, at the very end (in a big stretch), the Ainu of northern Japan.

Green Man - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mythical figures such as the Jewish (Elijah) and Muslim (Khidr) mystical prophet of eternal life, Cernunnos, Sylvanus, Derg Corra, Green George, Jack in the green, John Barleycorn, Robin Goodfellow, Puck, and the Green Knight all partake of the Green Man's nature; it has also been suggested that the story of Robin Hood was born of the same mythology. A more modern embodiment is found in Peter Pan, who enters the civilized world from Neverland, clothed in green leaves. Even Father Christmas, who was often shown wreathed in ivy in early depictions, has been suggested as a similar woodland spirit.[14]

The Green Knight of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight serves as both monster and mentor to Sir Gawain, belonging to a pre-Christian world which seems antagonistic to, but is in the end harmonious with, the Christian one.

Cryptomundo Santa = Wildman

“The Wildman of the Middle Ages was described as a grotesque, bestial, ape-like creature, dark, filthy and bearded. Its body was covered in thick, matted hair and gave off a foul odor,” he continues. “The habitat of the wildman was the northern woods where he lived in a cave or den. His traditional beast of burden was the reindeer. The Wildman shares all these traits with the Yeti….Over the ages, the brutal Wildman figure evolved into a character more like a clown or holiday fool. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss follows a classic Wildman scenario: The Grinch is a hairy, Bigfoot-like creature that lives in an alpine cave in a mountain similar to the Matterhorn.”

http://staff.kings.edu/davidjohnson/Sample Chapter _5_, From Whence Santa Comes.pdf

The story starts with one of the very first gods that ancient people worshiped—he may have even been the first. Evidence of human belief in this god goes back 50,000 years (long before Abraham would have been born), and he appears in one of the very first written stories, the Epic of Gilgamesh. It is a god Siefker calls “the Wild Man.”xxvi The Wild Man was an untamed half-man half-beast creature that the ancients believed lived in the wild. The half beast part of him was usually a goat, which meant that he often had horns, hairy legs, and hoofs. The ancients believed that he had grandiose powers over nature (thunder and lightning were often associated with him) and powers over fertility—which gave him powers over the bountifulness of crops, and even the fertility of people.

In fact, the ancients believed that the Wild Man was “one” with nature. Every winter, the earth seems to die, and they were never sure that it would revive again. But, the ancients reasoned, if the Wild Man were to die, but then be revived, this would ensure that nature itself would be revived, and spring would return. And thus, the ancients developed a custom. First, they would capture the Wild Man, often using a young girl as bait—he was a fertility god after all. They would then chain him up and lead him out of the wild and in through the streets of the town or village, to the square. Once there, he would be killed. Then a “healer” would come along and revive him. Everyone would celebrate, for that meant that spring would return. Lastly, the Wild Man would be set free, back into the wild.

That should be a good starting place. Any comments?
 

juantoo3

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Hey Wil! Good to see you!

It never ceases to amaze me how different Santa was viewed, even not so long ago, and how he no doubt reflects the social mores of the time and place. One of the sites I looked at had postcards from the late 1800s showing Santa with a young boy tied to a tree, wailing him with a stick. Same site showed Santa stuffing a boy into a sack much like you said. So it seems Santa has a bit more strident side to him as well.
 

juantoo3

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Mummers Play - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In mummers’ plays, the central incident is the killing and restoring to life of one of the characters. The characters may be introduced in a series of short speeches (usually in rhyming couplets) in which each personage has his own introductory announcement, or they may introduce themselves in the course of the play's action. The principal characters, presented in a wide variety of manner and style, are a Hero, his chief opponent, the Fool, and a quack Doctor; the defining feature of mumming plays is the Doctor, and the main purpose of the fight is to provide him with a patient to cure. The hero sometimes kills and sometimes is killed by his opponent; in either case, the Doctor comes to restore the dead man to life.

Green Knight - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In English folklore and literature, green has traditionally been used to symbolize nature and its embodied attributes, namely those of fertility and rebirth. Oftentimes it is used to embody the supernatural or spiritual other world. In British folklore, the devil was sometimes toned green which may or may not play into the concept of the Green Man/ Wild Man dichotomy of the Green Knight.[19] Stories of the medieval period also portray the colour as representing love and the amorous in life,[20] and the base, natural desires of man.[21] Green is also known to have signified witchcraft, devilry and evil for its association with the fairys and spirits of early English folklore and for its association with decay and toxicity.[22] The colour, when combined with gold, is sometimes seen as representing the fading of youth.[23] In the Celtic tradition, green was avoided in clothing for its superstitious association with misfortune and death. Green can be seen in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as signifying a transformation from good to evil and back again; displaying both the spoiling and regenerative connotations of the colour.[4][18] Given these varied and even contradictory interpretations of the colour green, its precise meaning in the poem remains ambiguous.
 
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