Category Archives: Druids

Have a Yourself a Very Druid Christmas

The holiday season always brings with it the whining of Christian traditionalists to ‘keep Christ in Christmas’ and wanting to take all of us back to that ‘old time religion.’  I suppose most of these folks are not reading this blog, but if you get a chance, please remind them that the Christians stole December 25th from the pagans and no one really knows when Jesus was born.

The Winter Solstice was a popular December festival celebrating the coming light of spring as the days started to get longer, not shorter, following the first day of winter.  It was such a darn good celebration that Christian converts didn’t want to give it up.  Who can blame them?  They even took the now popular Christmas tree and transitioned that ancient fertility symbol into something for their own religion.  So if we reflect on Christmas and the Old Time Religion, we may need to study the Druids, who I’m told, really knew how to party.

When it comes to clashing traditions and complementary myths, there is no one better to turn to than gifted storyteller and mythology expert, the late Joseph Campbell.  He and Bill Moyers (journalist and Christian theologian) produced that series for public television in the 1980s.  In Program Two, “The Message of The Myth,” he said, “Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life.”  Campbell showed us that today’s common perception of the word myth as an untrue story, like an urban legend, is a mistaken understanding.  As Karen Armstrong also said, “In popular parlance, a ‘myth’ is something that is not true.  But in the past, myth was not self-indulgent fantasy; rather…it helped people to live effectively in our confusing world…” (The Case for God, p.xi).

The following excerpt is one way Campbell and Moyers said it, again from Program Two (which I transcribed, so the sentence structure is mine).

MOYERS:  Far from undermining my faith, your work in mythology has liberated it from the cultural prisons to which it had been sentenced.

CAMPBELL:  Every mythology, every religion, is true in this sense, it is true as metaphorical of the human and cosmic mystery.

The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions said, “But while myths may be both intended and understood as factual, it is clear that more often they are stories which point to truths of a kind that cannot be told in other ways, and which are not disturbed if the apparent ‘facts’ of the supposed case are shown to be otherwise…” (p.672).  So just in case any fundamentalists are reading this blog, myths are your friends, just as they are mine.  You may choose a literal interpretation of your myths, but by preserving the underlying metaphor, you are assuring the longevity of those stories.  It’s as simple as the story of the boy who cried wolf.  Does it matter if some kid really did this?  Of course not.  However, the underlying wisdom of that story can be applied to a medieval village or an Internet web site.  When fundamental religions cling to the details of the myth, they limit the possibilities offered by the lessons of the metaphor.

Whether we are talking about Jesus, Mohammed, Abraham, or the Buddha, all traditions offer us myths to live by.  Describing these stories as myths does not demote them to the realm of fiction but strengthens their identity as timeless metaphors.  “Star Wars” is an example of contemporary fiction with common human metaphors that express timeless values.  Watch any of the movies again and identify themes like heroism, justice and oppression, good and evil, the vision quest, and love, just to name a few.

Joseph Campbell said: “It’s ridiculous to go back to the old time religion.  A friend of mine composed a song based on ‘The Old Time Religion.’

‘Give me the Old Time Religion

Let us worship Zarathustra

Just the way we usta’

Zara-thustra-busta

He’s good enough for me.

All religions are true for their time if you can find what the truth is and separate it from the temporal inflection.  Just bring your same old religion into a new set of metaphors and you’ve got it.”  (In case your ancient religious history is rusty, Zarathustra was an Iranian prophet from c.6,000 BCE.)

No matter what holiday you celebrate, even if it’s just a day off work because of someone else’s religion, I hope your holidays are pleasant.  I plan on spending a perfectly Druid Holiday in the best city in the world: The Big Easy, New Orleans, NOLA.  I hope to make the Druids proud – and I’m ready, though I’m not entirely sure NOLA is ready for me.

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