Sunday, January 04, 2009

I'm making a list. And checking it twice.

A friend of mine hosted a semi-open circle last night, and the Co-Witches and I trekked out to participate. Despite my general misgivings about public displays of Paganism, I have to say that it was a lovely ritual, with only one glaring blemish to remind me why I never go to these things.

At a particular point in the evening, the officiating priestess asked that anyone feeling inclined to do so share a story, and one attendee spoke of a recently-passed friend, who, with his big belly and white beard, was routinely mistaken for Santa Claus by her children. We all laughed, and several people who knew the guy told similar tales. Finally, somebody quipped, "And if he were here with us today, he'd say, 'Stop calling me Santa Claus!'" Which inspired another hearty round of laughter.

"Yeah, because Santa Claus is Christian!" a rather heavily tie-dyed woman announced.

There was a brief, awkward pause, and then more laughter, but of the nervous, "um, what?" variety.

Blessedly seeking to avoid incident, a woman standing next to Tie-Dye chuckled gamely and said, "Well, not really..."

"Santa means Saint," Tie-Dye replied, her eyes defiant, her voice rising just enough to let the rest of us know she was Not To Be Challenged.

Co-Witch A., alerted by what she later described as the "waves of rage radiating off of you," reached over and gently patted my arm, which is the universal symbol for both "There there, everything's okay," and "Don't you dare embarrass me in front of these people."

So I bit the hell out of my tongue, but oy was I in a mood. Not only because of Tie-Dye's ignorance on the history of a specific metacultural icon (although that was part of it), but because of her arrogant approach to the subject. She was right, any dissenting perspective was wrong, end of story.

You come across this attitude a lot within NeoPaganism: Everyone’s a freakin’ expert, regardless of how little they know, or how limited their range of experience may be. Anyone who actually has a modicum of knowledge and experience is hailed as a guru for roughly five minutes, after which they’re condemned as a stodgy elitist.

Eventually, those with the aforementioned knowledge and experience learn to pick their battles. And then they start their own blogs. Which works out well for everyone.

But just for the record... “Santa” doesn't mean anything. “Santa Claus" is an English vulgarization of Sinterklaas, which is itself a Dutch vulgarization of "St. Nicholas." So yes, we have some Christianity thrown into the mix, but sinter doesn't directly translate as "saint." It does, however, mean "cinder" in German, which possibly connects to that whole “coming down the chimney” thing. But in the U.S. at least, “Santa” is understood to be nothing more than the quaint first name--not the canonical title--of one Mr. Claus, North Pole.

And we haven't even begun to scratch the surface of the correlations between Sinterklaas and Odin, the Norse All-Father.

Then again, I'm not a linguist, nor an anthropologist, nor an expert of any kind. So please feel free to challenge anything I have to say.


Bo said...

Well, I am a linguist, and I'd say that it's fairly clear that the sinter- bit is indeed 'Saint'.

But on the other hand,


for the rest of it - I totally agree. Twats. Honestly.

Evn said...

Deep down in my soul, I knew, knew, that you were going to nail me on the linguistics.

But you're also the first to bring the word "twat" into play on my blog. So you're officially promoted.

Red Delicious said...

I wasn't planning to comment on this one, but my word verification is "wommen," which is practically a dare.


One thing I hate about being a blogger member is that they announce your "new posts" something like five days later.

I want to know about your new posts immediately, and I just found out about this one.

Evn said...

RD, it's not Blogger's fault. I've been back-posting in an attempt to get caught up to the current date.

Michelle said...


Santa is a whole bag of mess. Santa in Spanish can be used as saint but in true Latin and southern European form can be used as a first name.

sinterklauss :D In the Netherlands St. Nick is a horrible man who kidnapps and eats children with his for black friends (re: slaves, this was updated to pc him a bit). I had a friend from college who was from there. She'd regal us with tales of how Christmas was used to distract the cannibal.

But none of that really matter. Christmas is a day in the twelve nights in which kids get presents. Yule is when people begin to gather. We celebrate the end of year and coming of the light and if your religion prevents you from the secular side of the celebration, then you're a poorer person for it.

I loves me the Christmas. Nearly all holidays for this time of year are about light for a reason...that's what links them all together. If other pagans insist on being grinch about it, I have no use for them.

The Germans resurrected Christmas traditions to get people to go to church. Prince Albert brought them to England when he married Victoria, from their they spread to the US mainly from the likes of Charles Dickens. In the last Century we've revived the magic of the season and frankly that's something to celebrate.

I don't care how many cokes he's sold or who was pretend born on that day. That not the point. :)

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

I totally understand where you are coming from with the loudly and ignorantly pontificating lady in tie-die, Evn.

As a New Englander, I find that a certain smile of brisk and chilly condescension, combined with looking straight through the offender communicates with bystanders, at least, that such a person is Not Quite The Thing.

I believe the Southern for such a situation is to speak of such a one in a tone of cloying sweetness... "Oh, bless her heart--" perhaps followed by a headshake.

Pained silences can also be quite eloquent when used sparingly.

Just sayin'. Not that they ever figure out what they're doing wrong. But it sends a signal for impresionable newbies. ("Acting like a horse's ass... well, it just isn't done by the nicer sort of Witches, dearest.")

Oooh. Evn. You always bring out the best of my evil self. Thanks for that, friend. ;->

Thalia Took said...

Actually I always thought it was a misspelling of "Satan." In which case it's definitely Christian.

Evn said...

Michelle, if you haven't already, check out the David Sedaris essay "6 to 8 Black Men," in which the author learns that St. Nicholas also kicks children before beating them with a switch. It's fabulous.

Evn said...

Cat, you speak Southern like a native. ;)

Thalia, mixing up Santa and Satan is one of my favorite hobbies.

Michelle said...

oooo, I love that essay. He read it on NPR once....I had to pull over so I didn't crash while laughing.

Pax said...

Ms. Tye-dye sounds like one of those...
"No one can understand the uniquetude of my pain..." types that so invoke withing me the UTK by throttling...

Thanks folks for the ideas of how to handle it though!

The trouble with a lot of situations like this is that they tend to happen during the open ritual... in the Circle or sacred space, and I have a serious block about being disruptive in someone elses hardworked on ritual...

(perhaps that's why I appreciate your blog so much Evn, it's helping me to grow spiritually! Admitedly it's sometimes in a

"Feel the hatred, let it flow through you..." kind of way, but that's still spiritual growth too!...right?)

I'd like to think that were I hosting/officiating at an open Circle and someone decided to start their ignorant Meeping however... (engage Utah Saints Mortal Kombat song...) "Get Ready to Rumble!!"

... of course I haven't done that many open Circles... and sadly, or perhaps for my reputation, blessedly, folks have been pretty well behaved during the few that I have done... darn it!




Word verification = "enelluma" as in

Enelluma: Noun: a particularly painful cleansing and educational experience...

"Ms. Tye-dye needs and enelluma!!"

Evn said...

The trouble with a lot of situations like this is that they tend to happen during the open ritual...


Admitedly it's sometimes in a "Feel the hatred, let it flow through you..." kind of way, but that's still spiritual growth too!...right?)


"Ms. Tye-dye needs and enelluma!!"



Anne Johnson said...

I have a friend here in town who was taking some kind of online college course, and she had to do a paper on some religion other than her own. Knowing that I was a Druid, she asked if she could come observe our ritual and ask some questions. I figured she needs her BA to get a decent job, so I gave her the complicated directions to our Ritual site.

She arrived on time, in the next thing to a business suit, sat down, and proceeded to use our pre-Ritual social hour as an opportunity to vent. She was speaking so quickly at one point -- and talking so relentlessly about herself -- that I knew in an instant that she was bipolar.

In the midst of a story about how someone had insulted her and her daughter at the Middle School, she paused and said to us, "I ask you, do I LOOK like a bad person?"

And the youngest member attending that day said to her, "You're not bad, but you're troubled." We're talking a 20-year-old kid hitting the nail on the head of a 45-year-old soccer mom.

Anyway, my friend freaked and started browbeating the sweet 20-year-old, who just sat there calm as a cupcake fielding the questions. I wanted to die on the spot, because I had allowed this woman to come "observe" us, and she was well on her way to ruining the Ritual. But at last the serenity of a 20-year-old Pagan prevailed.

Evn, it's too bad you live in Texas, because they do a whopping big May Day ritual at the Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm. It's never ruined by inappropriate comments because it's usually 200 people strong, almost all of them strangers to one another, all chanting and shouting and dancing. Any smaller group, you're gonna have personalities in the mix, it's just the human condition.

Yewtree said...

The thing that's annoying about Christianity is not so much the theology (though that can be deeply irritating depending on which bit of Christianity) but the One-True-Way-ism of a lot of Christians. Seeing that Tie-Dye woman is clearly suffering from One-True-Way-ism in a big way, I'd say she was the one who bears the closest resemblance to Christianity, not dear old Father Christmas (we don't call him Santa Claus here in dear old Blighty). Funnily enough the new England way of dealing with such people is rather similar to the Old England way, which is often combined with "Oh really? How fascinating..."

Yewtree said...

PS - other Dutch saint expressions:

sint-bernards-hond (St Bernard dog)
sint-elmsvuur (St Elmo's fire)

cinder in Dutch: sintel; slak; as

Yewtree said...

Perhaps you should show Mad Tie-Dye Lady number eight on this list of hilarious church signs. No disgusting substitutionary sacrifice theology around Father Christmas, no sirree!

Evn said...

Yvonne, those are brilliant!

knottybynature said...

I'm not an expert either. But I do own a copy of "When Santa Was a Shaman" other various pagan connotations to the fat guy in red who caters to little kids.