Santa Predecessor #0: Odin

I put the number ‘0’ because Odin was present before the early influence of Christianity. In Germanic culture, Odin was depicted as a man with a dark cloak and a white beard who traveled by horse. He was known to come around during Yule, which was a time when spirits and supernatural occurrences were more frequent. Odin was also the leader of the ‘Wild Hunt’, which was a ‘ghostly procession in the sky’. He rode through the night with gifts for his people during Yuletide. Odin, traditionally a viking God, was also Father of the Gods and said to be a powerful wizard and a master of disguise, cloaking himself while being involved in human-like affairs.

I tried to look beyond Wikipedia for information on the Wild Hunt and it’s connection with Odin (I always go to Wikipedia first. . .) and the Wild Hunt, in actuality, was a band of undead horsemen who were seeking something unknown. Odin, obviously, was affiliated with this group because the Germans used this holiday to celebrate the viking based Gods we know today before the holiday was dampened by Christians. If someone saw them, that meant that there was some ominous event that was about to occur. There were also two holidays sort of smashed together to create this: one being the Roman winter festival of Saturnalia and Mōdraniht (Mothers-Night). Roman winter festival Saturnalia was meant to be a time for celebration that lasted about a week in dedication of the god Saturn. It was a time to spend with family and friends, practice religious rituals, and give gifts. Mōdraniht, originally on New Years Day, that changed to the 25th after the reform, was the holiday more connected to the celebration of the Viking God’s. Pagans came and took these two and basically combined them, creating Yule.

In accordance with this, Pagans were able to rip off a few things to create a Christian based holiday later on. Not only did it take some of the simple practices, but they also took some of the physical chracteristics of Odin to create the Christian/American based jolly man we know now.

Sources:

Wikipedia: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Claus

Yahoo: http://m.voices.yahoo.com/yule-history-legend-wild-hunt-christmas-4607169.html

Viking History: http://www.vikings-history.com/norse-god-odin/

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