The minds of children are filled each Winter season with tales of Santa Claus and his reindeer racing across the night sky, delivering gifts to good children and keeping a bag of coal or snuff for all of the bad. As they grow older, they lose interest. However, the story of Santa seems similar to Germanic mysticism tales of the Wild Hunt and a god named Woden--a fact older children may enjoy learning.
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Santa as a German god
In Christianised Anglo-Saxon England, Woden was rationalized as a historical king, and remnants of worship were continued into modern times as folklore. Woden features prominently in both English and Continental folklore as the leader of the Wild Hunt and as a precursor of Santa Claus, according to information found on the on line encyclopedia, Wikipedia.com and many others, like David L. Jeffery who is the author of "People of the Book: Christian Identity and Literary Culture". He writes that western German tribesmen practiced sacrificial death upon a tree as a part of an Odin cult ritual, between the seventh and ninth centuries. Odin or Woden was considered a battle god and thought of as the "arch-deceiver."
The tale of the Wild Hunt and Woden has been transcribed from many Caucasoid cultures across the globe and it is all tied to myths and cultural mysticism--according to some, for a hidden purpose. In this case, the Wild Hunt as described on Wikipedia, is led by the Germanic god Woden/Wuotan/Odin (namesake, Wednesday--a day of the week).Through the centuries, others who find misfortune by witnessing the event or being chosen, have taken his place.
Woden was worshipped as a god until the 7th or 8th century, when Germanic paganism was gradually replaced by Christianity. Woden is mentioned in an Old Saxon Baptismal vow in Vatican Codex pal. 577 along with Thunear (Thor) and Saxnot. The 8th or 9th century vow, intended for Christianizing pagans, is recorded as: "I renounce all the words and works of the devil, Thunear, Woden and Saxnot, and all those fiends that are their associates."
History of the Wild Hunt Across Europe
Throughout the years, each leader has a turn at being commander of the Wild Hunt. Medieval legends, according to sources found on Wikipedia.com, of the Wild Hunt are mostly from the area encompassed by modern-day Germany. Historical figures reported to have participated in the Wild Hunt were St. Guthlac (683–714), and Hereward the Wake (died ca. 1070).
Found on Northvegr.org and entitled "The Religious Practices of Pre-Christian and Viking Age North" by Alfta Svanni Lothursdottir "a great majority of customs from modern day Christmas have their roots in the Northern rite of Jól or (Yule) which was a multi-day event."
The author goes on to explain how Jól was also a time of year when the borders between the world of the living and dead were at its thinnest.
"It was during Jól that Othinn's Wild Hunt was conducted, which was thought to be a procession of the dead lead by Othinn. These processions of the dead were thought to occur all during the twelve days of Jól."
"The Christians decided it wiser to incorporate the Jól traditions into their Christmas instead of trying to wipe them out altogether. There is little doubt that such Christmas traditions as the Yule-log, the Christmas Tree, the song "the Twelve Days of Christmas" and even ole Santa Claus have their roots in Northern traditions," the author Lothursdottir opinions.
The Santa Compaña ("Holy Company") is a deep-rooted mythical belief in rural Galicia and Asturias (Spain) where it is called Güestia. This is according to a Web site about the paranormal, mundoparanormal.com where the Pilgrimage of the Dead is discussed . It is also known under the names of "Estadea", "Estantiga'" (estantigua means phantom, apirition) in Spanish from Latin, "hostes antiquus", meaning enemy of the state, or of mankind, with "hostes" defined as a company of men or body or crowd.
Estamtogua in a truer sense, means a procession of ghosts which is a contraction of the old Spanish "hest antigua" which means ancient host where "hest" comes from Latin "hostis" which translates to stranger, foreigner, an enemy, foe and public enemy according to the online Latin dictionary, latinlexicon.org and as explained on page 149 in the book Cervantes and Modernity: Four Essays on Don Quijote by Eric Clifford Graf, Rosemont Publishing and Printing, 2007. It is also named "Rolda", "As da noite" [The Night Ones], "Pantalla", "Avisóns", "Pantaruxada" All of these are terms show the presence of the dead in the world of the living however, as discussed on the site, the oral history of the ancient folkloric incident is considered a thing of legend. Notwithstanding, all tales considered draw close ties with the legend of Santa Claus.
David L. Jeffery People of the Book: Christian Identity and literary Culture, pg. 118
The Religious Practices of Pre-Christian and Viking Age North" by Alfta Svanni Lothursdottir
S.H. Houston, "Ghost Riders in the Sky" Western Folklore, 23.3 1964:153-162.
Katharine Briggs, An Encyclopedia of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Brownies, Boogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures, "Wild Hunt", 437.
K. M. Briggs, The Fairies in English Tradition and Literature, p 49-50 University of Chicago Press, London, 1967
Ronald Hutton, The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy, p 307.