This blogpost is about Europeaan myths.
la biche, a french doe
Around this time of the year there are some popular bloggers who tell us that the reindeers of Santa Claus/the fly agaric mushroom eating shamans/the Sun-goddesses, (all representing completely different characters with or without a sleigh) are in fact female reindeers. As it turns out male and female reindeer both have antlers, unlike the native deer of western Europe. The male reindeer generally (but not always) lose their antlers before winter and the female reindeer lose them after winter, because they have to bring their babies into the world first. The female antlers-in-winter-fact seems to be enough to prove that Santa’s flying reindeers are female (actually, they would have been pregnant reindeer, if you think about it for a moment, oh deer, oh deer). One must remember that Santa Claus and his flying reindeers, as we know them from the postcards, is a recent north-american myth which originated in Alaska, not in Sami land. Unfortunately, we’ve adopted this fake tradition here in Europe too, while it’s just commercial coca-cola propaganda. Santa Claus himself was a character based on Sinterklaas, imported into the US, believe it or not, from the Dutch people of the Netherlands.
Although there are old myths of flying reindeers in the Altai mountains and in Siberia, where some shamans are known to drink the urine of the agaric mushroom eating reindeer, to help with their trance-work. The actual non-flying reindeers have always been the domain of the Sami of Northern Europe but the Sami don’t seem to have a tradition of drinking reindeer urine. Reindeers were never part of any other European culture, except perhaps in Scotland where reindeer lived until eight thousand years ago, till the final end of the last ice age. We certainly have lots of other horns or antlers-bearing animals (but no female deer with antlers) here in our West European countries that may or may not be part of our own folklore and mythology. The Sami have their own folklore, please let us respect this and not make a stew out of it all. What I want to say is that we don’t have the right to throw all the European myths into a big pile to invent new, trendy myths that go well on social media.
I suppose everyone has the right to create new myths but then they should say it’s a new myth instead of trying to convince us they find the ONE AND ONLY, unique old European myth, which explains everything we would love to know. If one is popular on social media one has responsibilities, because one has the ´admiration´ from the public, who most of the time dont know anything about local myths. I mean, what’s still left of it. This happens when people choose to mix several european traditions because they ´look´and ´sound´ similar and thus create a soup of stuff they find on the internet. Every culture has it own myths. That they sometimes look the same, is because we are one human race. But because we live in different places we create myths who mirrors the specific landscape, language and rituals of the inhabitants themselves. Europe is NOT ONE BIG country, it has many different LANGUAGES, several different traditions, several ethnicities, different fauna and flora, different landscapes, etc… ´Tot spijt van wie het benijdt´.
In my own country for instance, Belgium, we have this legend about Frau Vreke (Freya) and her Wild Chase. She fly through the air with her carriage around Joel (Yule) pulled by four cats (yep cats) and in the Belgian forest of the Ardennes, birthplace of the Earth Goddess Arduinna, we honor the mythical male stag (with gigantic antlers). Just saying. If one is interested in the real story of any local tradition and myth, one should go to the land itself and study about the folklore of the place instead of googling all around till they find the ´proof´ of what they are claiming. Actually, to learn about the myths, one has to know and completely understand the subtleties of the local language, which is only possible if you are native of the place I´m afraid. Only the locals can tell you about their own myths and that is how it should happen.
International Order of St. Hubertus
As a Belgian living in western Europe my myths are the myths of my foremothers and fathers. It’s a mix of old norse-germanic and celtic-gaulish myths, (now most of them christianised unfortunately). Belgium, within its geography, is situated on the border of these two important european traditions and language groups. Actually, it´s is a very interesting mixed culture to study. Because these two old cultures are different, although with similarities, but they once flourished close together. Alas, nobody cares about the old myths of Belgium or from both the low countries as it matter, because those countries are definitely not trendy enough to talk about on the internet, not like the ’Viking’ or Scandinavian culture for instance or the anglo saxon myths, about which nobody seems to realise that those myths (and language) originated in the low countries in the first place, a long time ago, true enough. I’m convinced that language and myth are inseparable and people should learn to respect that.
Don’t get me wrong, I´m very passionate about all the myths of the whole wide world. I just don’t think we should mix them for the sake of trends or wishful thinking. A lot of people, are desperate to learn about their own ancient myths, which in western Europe almost entirely disappeared. And because these people read about these new myths on the net, there is this real danger that they will ignore their own local ancient myths. And so helping with the disappearance of it all, as it happened in Europe before, with the invading Romans first and later the Christians. We will be left, in the end with only one monolithic-culture and one language, you can guess which one. And probably no wild landscape either. Poor us. Maybe that’s what was meant to be but it makes me sad.