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  GIFT CERTIFICATES AVAILABLE. Call 401-847-6551 to request. Any denomination available.

When Santa was a Shaman

At this sacred time of year, I am grateful to two authors who expanded my understanding of the connection and importance of traditions and who give me a little hope and levity when the Christmas madness gets to be too much. One is British author, TERRY PRACHETT.  Prachett was a satirist or the most delicate kind, working his magic and commentary on the world and humanity's foibles through his imaginary world, DISCWORLD.

THE HOG FATHER (both the movie and the book) remains one of my favorites. I especially enjoy Michelle Dockery's performance as Susan, the granddaughter of DEATH and ultimate saviour of the Solstice return. The title "Hog Father" refers to the Scottish celebration of Hogamanny, if you are curious. This "Santa" drives a sleigh of boars rather than reindeer but otherwise much resembles our Old St. Nick. The tale, of course has its villians. Entities called "THE AUDITORS" seek to "in-hume" The Hog Father to cause disruption of belief and gain power over the minds of the humans. The words by the protagonist, DEATH, (don't worry, he is a good guy) are what really stick with me. When he and grand-daughter Susan save sthe symbol of HogFather, the shaman riding a boar being hunted down by wolves,

Susan asks: "What would have happened if I hadn't saved him? The sun would have risen just the same, yes?" "NO", replies DEATH, "THE SUN WOULD NOT HAVE RISEN". .. instead, he continues, "A MERE BALL OF FLAMING GAS WOULD HAVE ILLUMINATED THE WORLD."  As Susan accuses her Grand-father of "trickery with words", he responds; "NO, TRICKERY WITH WORDS IS WHERE HUMANS LIVE. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE FLLING ANGEL MEETS RISING APE." Susan asks, "...like Hog fathers? Tooth-faires?"

"YES", he responds. "LITTLE LIES, AS PRACTICE (so they can believe in big ones?) YES. JUSTICE, MERCY, DUTY...TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY AND YET- YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD...SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED."

WHEN SANTA WAS A SHAMAN by Tony van Renterghem traces the history of the Yuletide holiday . He traces the origins of Santa back to  Neolithic times. Truly, not a real stretch, folks. Most Shamans cary a "sampo" or magic bag out of which they draw a myriad of abundance, food, gifts (though I am sure when Neolithic children were asking for presents they may have really prized their bows, arrows and knives).  In documenting the traditons which eventually led to Clement Moore's iconic poem "The Night Before Christmas" and the representation of Santa as a jolly bearded , fat man by Thomas Nast, Van Renterghem takes us on a magical mystery tour of history and the world. rather than stripping away the magic of the season, I feel "WHEN SANTA WAS A SHAMAN" expands my amazement  at our shared humanity and creative ability to make sense of that alchemical primitive moment, the Return of the Sun!

I hope you will investigate the magic of the above volumes. I am sure they will foster a more interesting conversation around your Holiday table this season than any political stress.

HAPPY SOLSTICE, HAPPY CHANNUKKA, MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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