Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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The Yules

They say that if you add up all the gifts in The Twelve Days of Christmas, you get 364.

364.

The Twelve (witches would say Thirteen) Days of Yule are a microcosm, a year in little.

So Yule is actually the Yules: Twelve (witches would say Thirteen) of them, and every one a Yule.

The same pattern of the Twelve Between turns up elsewhere. The old Zoroastrian New Year, Nawrúz, at the vernal equinox, is a festival of thirteen days.

Mircea Eliade suggests that the intercalary dozen serves to reconcile a solar year of 365 days with a lunar year (= 12 lunations) of 352.

There's actually an old (15th century) Scots song kin to the one you may know called The Thirteen Days of Yule. It begins:

 

The king sent the queen

on the First Yule Day

a papingo [parrot], ay!

Who learns my carol

and carries it away?

 

Alas, the original tune has been lost to history. Songsmiths, take note.

And as for that Thirteenth Day of Yule that witches make so much of? (They say that the gods gave us an extra Yule, Old Yule, as consolation for our long, sad history.)

Well, think: 364 presents.

Plus one.

 

Above: Anthony Murray, The Thirteen Days of Yule (1968). Crowell.

With illustrations by Nonny Hogrogian

 

 

 

 

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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.

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