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Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide Paperback – October 24, 2006
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"The illustrations and photographs are excellent. The text is concise, and accurate. Pagan Christmas is a fine reading experience!" (Lee Prosser, Ghostvillage.com, Dec 18, 2006)
From the Back Cover
The day on which many commemorate the birth of Christ has its origins in pagan rituals that center on tree worship, agriculture, magic, and social exchange. But Christmas is no ordinary folk observance. It is an evolving feast that over the centuries has absorbed elements from cultures all over the world--practices that give the magical properties of plants and plant spirits pride of place. In fact, the symbolic use of plants at Christmas effectively transforms the modern-day living room into a place of shamanic ritual.
Christian Rätsch and Claudia Müller-Ebeling show how the ancient meaning and use of the botanical elements of Christmas provide a unique view of the religion that existed in Europe before the introduction of Christianity. The fir tree was originally revered as the sacred World Tree in northern Europe. When the Christian church was unable to drive the tree cult out of people’s consciousness, it incorporated the fir tree by dedicating it to the Christ child. Father Christmas in his red-and-white suit, who flies through the sky in a sleigh drawn by reindeer, has his mythological roots in the shamanic reindeer-herding tribes of arctic Europe and Siberia. These northern shamans used the hallucinogenic fly agaric mushroom, which is red and white, to make their soul flights to the other world. Apples, which figure heavily in Christmas baking, are symbols of the sun god Apollo, so they find a natural place at winter solstice celebrations of the return of the sun. Indeed, the emphasis at Christmas on green plants and the promise of the return of life in the dead of winter is by its very nature another form of the pagan winter solstice celebration still practiced today.
CHRISTIAN RÄTSCH, Ph.D., is a world-renowned anthropologist and ethnopharmacologist who specializes in the shamanic uses of plants. A former president of the German Society for Ethnomedicine, he is the author of The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants and Marijuana Medicine and coauthor of Plants of the Gods. CLAUDIA MÜLLER-EBELING, Ph.D., is an art historian and anthropologist and coauthor, with Christian Rätsch, of Shamanism and Tantra in the Himalayas and Witchcraft Medicine. Both authors live in Hamburg, Germany.
Top Customer Reviews
Second, the book is not really a how-to book as far as rituals and such. This is more about the traditions and symbolism which we believe to be Christian and part of Christmas observance. Imagine telling someone that Santa Claus is really the personification of a hallucinogenic mushroom, the fly agaric, often used in shamanic religious practices. St. Nicholas' sack has pagan symbolism. The Christmas tree was the Christian church's response to the pagans who worshipped the living tree, so cutting down and killing the tree would be the ultimate insult. Plants and recipes involving particular spices are also mentioned in here. The living evergreen wreath is exceptionally symbolic as the circle of life and the wheel of the year. Buying gifts and decorating like mad is a new phenomenon during the Christmas season as is evident in poems, stories, and sayings from as late as the early 1900s.
I believe this book would be educational and would benefit almost any reader. Pagans and Christians should all read this book. Some extremists wouldn't like it as it is in direct conflict with their beliefs.
I say buy the book or borrow it from a library for its educational value. If it had been available in English, I would have bought it sooner. I've been looking for a book like this for years.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is a significant addition to my research on the history of Wintertide Holidays. Much new information and well organized and written. Read morePublished 6 months ago by lyndia lamberty
This is a lovely, interesting book, concentrating on the botanical influences on Pagan Christmas- that is, the customs we celebrate today that in fact have roots in pagan... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Nina Malischev
Great pictures but a little too new age and light on serious history for me. I was fun to read.Published 10 months ago by Thomas A. Kernan
I got this book, I guess, hoping to see how the Pagan crowd decorated their tree. Silly me! A lot of this book covers the different plants and flowers that are more or less... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Glenda Campbell
this is too funny. I don't remember ordering this but that's ok.. I love it. excellent condition.. thanks so much.. :)Published 18 months ago by Amazon Customer
Just because early christians put christmas in December to coinside with the winter solstice, does not mean that they are the same holiday. They both have different meanings.Published 22 months ago by steve cochrane
I have heard pagan means 'of the earth or nature'. I have been researching origins of Christianity & the Bible and am astounded that I have not thought more critically. Read morePublished on January 14, 2014 by HKriegh