Father Winter-Oral Tradition.

These are the collections of stories and snippets I was told in my childhood, hence- there is no references or links to click.  This is oral tradition alone, and I ask if you have any stories of your own to share about growing up Heathen to please do so.  Our voice is still far too quiet.

European Heathens Especially:  We need you to write, in English, to prove to the Americans that we exist and have always existed.  Please have no fear to share your stories about how the Old Ways lived and never died, and how your family explained them!

Santa Odin
“He was St. Nicholas,” said the documentary, “”Who threw the dowry gold so that the daughters of the poor man next door could marry.”

“Oh, really? Eight Reindeer, Eight hooves:  It was fucking Sleipnir, what about all the Woten imagery?”  My dad would critique.

This was at least one good thing about Christmas.  I believed in Santa Claus, and honestly, the whole Santa thing was very, very impressive and imperative to the culture of both sides of the family for entirely different reasons in words, but not in ultimate action.

First, there was Christmas Eve.  German children see Grandfather Winter/Santa first before any other children, no matter where they live in the world.  Since we were German (Okay: Austrian-Deitsch/Latvian), He will come down the chimney during a long supper on Christmas Eve with many courses served at once.   It was a bit of an argument, I am told, until Nana Gloria passed on as to which family had the honor of Christmas eve and decided where their descendants would visit.   It was actually a good thing, in a way, because the sanity and strong personalities of these elder women took factors into consideration that looking on it now- are incredibly complex and absolutely without a doubt regarding how best to preserve the respective cultures of my family.  All two of them.

Nana Gloria went to my Uncle Barry and his two children, Tanya and Tommy.  I wish my Nana did not estrange that side of the family so deeply they fear re connection with my father and I out of how badly she hurt them in her slow dementia.

So.  Jason and Joey would spend it with the Austrians, but after Catholic mass most likely.  Jason was a second, what we call “kissing” cousin.  We were told we were “good luck” for being born exactly two months apart in the same year.  A story reconfirmed at a funeral by the daughter of the sister of  our great grandmother.  When I got that nervous, uncomfortable feeling I get when someone speaks of Pow-Wow in front of Christians, my Catholic cousin looked me in the eye: “I may be Catholic, but we come from the same family… I know what Pow-wow is.”

He also got to stay on family land until adulthood, and advantage I didn’t have until now… we will likely never meet again, but it’s okay, I’m back on “family land”… and we’re going to  replant the grapevines from Austria.  We already reclaimed the family musk roses from the garden.

I had my Latvian grandma, who was sweet and kind.  We lived with her and the entire period between Christmas and New Years her friends would arrive and prepare a series of dishes and strange activities such as melting aluminum or lead and pouring it into cold water.  The resulting sculptures were then held to the light of a lit candle and the shadow cast was interpreted as the future for the next year.

One of the more annoyingly aboriginal Latvian “Aunties” held her statue in mock frustration,

“Little Chicken, come here and tell me what you see..” to me.  All of us Latvian kids home and abroad were honestly somewhere between terrified and uncomfortable of her (“Little Chickens”…was apropos)…but felt a sort of obligatory affection despite all this.

I said I saw a man “hanging by his neck by a rope- like in the cartoons”- she laughed, my mother ordered me out of the room in anger, and my grandmother gently mewed I should stay.

I do not know if it happened that particular year, but someone of Auntie’s family committed suicide.  Then again, that is a pretty common way for Latvians to die outside of old age and literal assassination.

On New Years eve- you eat Saurkraut and pork for luck (both sides of the family) The Latvians had me run around the house clockwise and look into the windows to see the future. Obsessed with death, to see someone whose body was seen but the head hidden meant death of the person seen in that state.

(Never saw anything that I can recall, actually. I did do the running, though.)

The tree was not even a thought until Christmas eve:  “In the old days- they put candles on trees outside.  Why would you do that the day after Thanksgiving?”  Christmas Eve was when we decorated.  Not before.

And I realize at this moment, at the age of 33, that I worry the generations of children after my own mostly are tradition-less regarding family-legacy actions.

(I do not have children- so, I let my spouse determine “decorating time”- I actually am not a fan of the process!)

There was a pickle we had to find hidden in the tree to find to receive an orange no one really wanted.  There were calendars of chocolates, roses on the tables of odd numbers, pointsettias, holly, and Odin.

Oh yeah…Odin/Woten.   See…he’s Santa.  He’s had to hide over the years because the Christians wanted to kill him, but he won’t die.  That finger across his lips?  That is so all the children of Teutonic Europe were directly in on the best secret ever.

It was strange how only my father talked about it from his line- but grandma’s friends were all about Grandfather Winter.

Santa had to have a real beard.   My family was adamant about this.  My parents were barely adults in age and the pressures of many older peopls influenced the good part of the holidays.  They knew my mother was evil, but imagine a group of old herding dogs, who although may not run very well, had advantage in numbers in their influence on both sides…and proximity suffocated her a bit, but gave me some good Christmases.

When I have flashbacks, I cannot remember the good.

Grandma’s friends, Grandma’s house, Grandma, although terrified was able to leverage the influence of her culture upon my childhood in a positive fashion by utilizing strength in numbers.  The Latvian Lutheran churches celebrated both the Old religion and the new- still in the process of a half-finished amalgam that was the algorithm of the extinction of countless native faiths the world over.

The Latvians cared for Solstice more than Christmas- in church.  The German Lutherans paid acknowledgement briefly to the pre-Christian origins of our “German heritage”.  Even being German was something to “keep silent”… because hundreds of years of deep and beautiful history were now inexorably linked in the public consciousness to war crimes and genocides, yet no other culture has such prohibitions to the same extent.

I learned grandma’s ethnic group latest census concluded under 700 full-blooded people.   Who speaks about Stalin?  Who speaks up against Andrew Jackson veneration?  Both also killed indigenous peoples to the complete ignorance of most  Americans.  There is no exoneration for any of the three of them or any others whose names I do not know.  But only Germany suffers to the extent of having our traditions and culture verboten and censored over the misappropriation of our cultural symbolism by a single man for a single decade of human history.

The “Red Scare” did almost as much harm for those from anywhere near the USSR…but who even held Jackson accountable for inspiring both those men who came after him, and cited his extermination of the Native peoples of North America as inspiration?

(Severely endangered people…..HEATHEN people, with the only legacy strongly held by other’s is in Latvian and Latvalian language.  FUCK!)

Christmas day was conceded to the Deitsch, gladly.   The elder women of Dad’s side focused on youngest son’s children….and neither of those sons were particularly receptive to any sort of spiritual interests, much less interesting intrigues of cultural contradiction between our traditions and Lutheran church.  One uncle ended up trying to be Methodist.  Like the rest of our family, now sees the inside of churches only for funerals or weddings.

Santa then divided as I was older….grandfather winter had left us, leaving a vapid man in a red suit as my mother became more terrifying.

However, moments were still there.  A coffee mug with “Father Christmas” in the blue of Odin with ravens holding mistletoe and holy in their claws or beak against a field of snow.   I kept the mug for years until it was left with a former roommate by accident.

The memory of someone, somewhere telling me, “No, our Santa is different.  You tell him your secrets and wishes .  Only Krampus and Schwartzen Pietr are the one’s who care about goodness and obedience for toys.”

My mother confused and muddled traditions every year to the point I am surprised we didn’t attempt Sainta Lucia- that would require me having to have live fire attached to my head and low ceilings.  I wouldn’t go for it anyway, it would require me wearing a dress.

(Seriously, fuck dresses. says past self with a smile.  Getting me into a dress was much like attempting to put clothes on a cat.  Much thrashing and hiding under objects..).

So, There is a man with a long white beard with a horse on 8 hooves who came during dinner and left presents for everyone.  But that’s “German Santa”… he wears blue.  “Red Santa” is Christmas day… or it’s the same Santa.

Christ-Allrighty, being raised by schizophrenics is confusing.

Fire was lit Christmas day, sometimes on Christmas eve.  Sometimes Black Peter was Loki from climbing down so many chimney’s first to tell Woten if it was worth his time, if the children were truthful and good.

His symbol was peppermint candy, good kinder got the candy canes, and bad- the whipping cane. Interesting how now that Heathenry is open now- so many Lokeans leave peppermints for Loki.

At that age in my life, there were enough elderly Latvian ladies around at Christmas invading the house no whip was seen, thankfully, nor ever.

Thank you, to you who are left.   Someone in Latvia is reading this- and I doubt you are a stranger to my grandma.

Chocolate oranges then became a rage.  Sure beat the boring, real ones…

Did Odin exist or  Didn’t he?  Did Santa have a real beard?   If so, did he whisper in your ear and ask you for a secret?

Real Odin/Vilanus/Woten apparently used secrets as currency.  Scary secrets, ones that hurt.  He wouldn’t tell.

I was asked once, “What is your SECRET wish”- we were in Wannamaker’s in Philadelphia, “I want to live with Daddy, I wish my parents were divorced like Maya’s” – a classmate at school.

He looked sad and smiled a little,

“I would love to! But that is a very hard wish for me to grant…”and he looked me in the eye,  “I am so sorry.” he mouthed.

My mom thought I asked for a pony like I did every year.  There was one or two years where I felt I had an intelligence and still Believed.

8 reindeer=8 hooves
Tree in the forest lit with candles= tree inside lit with lights.
Latvia invented the Christmas tree for Father Winter to find us better.
His secret is that he is Odin, and his finger to his lips is so German children know we are special to know it.
Don’t tell anyone at school… We have to keep his secret too.

Like we keep things secret from Church about what we do at home.  My mother tried Christianity, and nana was a church secretary who never prayed or spoke of Jesus…but would tell stories of the Hildebrandt Hexerei Witches of Lancaster from which we were both descended.

My mother tried the manger scene, and I never even saw a single Jesus at Nana’s house. She liked angels and snowmen.  Dad ended up with a baby Jesus from a church creche in his yard a few years ago during a storm.  It’s in his basement because he’s afraid to throw it out and his efforts to find the owner have failed.  It’s a bit like Ibn Saladin picking up the cross…but not knowing where the heck to put it.

Even Jesus exists- but his birthday is in August, you need to know Jesus because the people who pray to him?  The German and Latvian Gods and ancestors might not know them.

How do you pray?  Not in public.  We didn’t pray as a family and I still see prayer as a very private thing.  Very few people have seen me do it, and fewer still would know my own rituals.

Did anyone else every ask the Moon for “sweet dreams”?  Did the moon show a face and talk back to you once and tell you stories in a dream as a child you would recall forever?

My blankets were wrapped in a crescent framing my face and arms as I looked at the full moon through the window-  the pink curtains I hated as a child, through the dead branches of the winter magnolia.   I forget what He said to me, but I remember for years every full moon pulling my covers up into the shape of the moon and looking out the window to see if He would come to my dreams again.

Did Odin ride through the clouds all year watching the children of the world cloaked in silence?   Or did Santa listen through the loud dial tone of how awful of a child I was?

Hey, I had rich grandparents.  I vote Odin.

And as an adult, having that amount of wealth to get any toy I wanted (until my mother would stomp it), but yet, it never made my life any better from my mother….  It seemed that Santa did not listen to that gnarly bitch…while I also learned that love and family is more important than money.

Life only started to fall apart in my family when the Matriarchs died and my parents moved me away from the family.  That year, they also were mutually disowned by our extended family here in Berks county.   There is safety in family.  Children need to be raised by more than just two people, but the family and community if you want them to care when they are older.

I do.

The insulting gifts from my birth mother meant to either embarrass or terrify me?  My Christmas eve also had my father, my uncle, my grandma, and whatever random Latvian ladies around.  Christmas day was any toy I could possibly desire short of a live horse at Nana’s- the Pa Dutch side.

Money doesn’t solve the most devastating problems of life, it’s simply a band-aid.  I wonder how my grandfather feels that everything he ran away from in his life, the “poor life of a farmer” or “the factory work of his brothers” is now the only stable work to be had…and my husband is successful in everything he attempted to instill in me was “inferior” to a way of life that was less materialistic and based more on learned skills than intimidating others to do tasks that would mean nothing even a year in the future.

Then again, the synchronicity of  the good fortune I had to be born with so many unrelated “aunties” on one side and great-grandparents on the other gave a great deal of deep cultural immersion in those things I could have missed… and did miss.  It’s like Rumspringa was 10 years working in an office and being miserable.  I pleased certain family, but I hated myself and allowed myself to be disrespected and abused in the process by the very nature of culture itself.

Now, I write- I repair my home, I take care of our local wildlife flora and fauna and i care for my neighbors.

One neighbor passed last Wednesday in a car accident- her brother is “one of us”- meaning not to go to the family and help immediately would be in violation of what is honorable.  I went without sleep and gave the last of my smokes to the widower and stayed until I knew he would finally sleep.

I knew when he woke up the rest of his family and the pagans of her family would be soon in coming.  The funeral is tonight, it is not only proper to pay respects, but for my husband and I to make our appearance will be recognized by the few in  the mixed group of another family of mixed traditions of this county…that Ed and I are STILL present.

The “Heathen Community” is not entirely public.

I have had enough experience to believe more in ancestors who actually react, and phenomena that people who once lived explained to me could/would happen to and for good people.  Good people take care of their neighbors- they take care of our people, and they give what they can without overextending themselves.

Because Woten could be anywhere, even as Santa…because sometimes, that’s the only way he could talk to all his descendants.

Grandfather-Allfather knows when you’re sleeping, when you’re awake- his ravens are watching and his eye is in a well (the size of a lake…)

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One Response to “Father Winter-Oral Tradition.”

  1. ladyimbrium Says:

    Blessed Yule, hon. May it be the best yet, with more and better to come.

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