Friday, December 20, 2013
Much of our current idea of Santa Claus is a mixture of three sources: Scandinavian legends about Odin, Eastern European concepts of St. Nicholas of Myra, and advertising images concocted primarily by the Coca-Cola Company.
Odin was the father of the gods, although not necessarily the ruler of the gods. He was the god of war, victory, death, wisdom, magic, poetry, prophecy, and the hunt. Odin was father of the race of Æsir -- gods of desire, the sacred, and the ecstatic. A second race of gods were the Vanir, who represented wisdom, fertility, and prophecy. Odin precipitated war with the Vanir when he threw his magic spear over their heads. The Æsir won, and established a new world (Midgard) in the west out of the sea.
Odin had a number of sons, but the most powerful were Thor, Baldur, and Váli. Baldur was the most powerful, bravest, most handsome, most virile, most wise of Odin's sons. But there was a prophesy that he would die at the hands of one of his brothers. Baldur's mother made all the things of the world promise not to harm Baldur. But she neglected to ask the mistletoe, for she felt the plant too lowly to be worthy of asking. The god Loki then fashioned a spear out of mistletoe. One day, as the gods were standing around hurling various objects at Baldur (and watching them bounce harmlessly off him), Loki induced Baldur's blind brother, Hoör, to throw the spear at Baldur. He did, and killed his brother. Grief-stricken, Odin made love to his wife and the next day Váli was born. Within a day, Váli grew to manhood and then slew Hoör. It is said that Baldur and Hoör will be resurrected at Ragnarok (the sundering of the world), and be reconciled.
During Yule, Odin was said to lead the Wild Hunt across the night sky astride his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir. Children would fill their boots with carrots, straw, or sugar and pt then near the chimney. When Sleipnir passed such homes, he would magicially travel down the chimney and eat the food. Odin would then reward these children by leaving behind gifts.
Odin was nearly always depicted as an old man with flowing beard, broad-brimmed hat, staff, and long red coat trimmed in white wolf-fur.
Until Coca-Cola made Santa Claus a fat man, in the United States Santa Claus (also known as Father Christmas and St. Nicholas) was depicted just like Odin. He's still depicted that way in Europe.
Now, the attached erotic gay cartoon supposedly depicts Santa Claus.
Except that this is much more like Odin, God of War, than it is Jolly Ol' St. Nick with his tummy like a bowl full of jelly.