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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Yule tree

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Given its iconic centrality to the American celebration, it's always struck me as odd that the Yule tree has inspired so few carols. Off-handedly, I can think of only one, and that one is, shall we say... problematic.

William Sansome once remarked of O Tannenbaum that it's apparently impossible to make an English translation of this German children's song “that doesn't sound simple-minded.”

Listening to Alf Houkom's Rune of Hospitality the other day, it occurred to me that maybe we've been working in the wrong genre.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Birth Tree

In her memorable novel Reindeer Moon, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas tells a harrowing tale of a winter birth in Ice Age Siberia. As Yanan, seven winters old, is traveling with her family between winter lodges, her mother goes into labor. While the family makes camp, Yanan's mother goes off alone to find a suitable birthing-place. (Since predators are drawn to the smell of blood, to give birth in camp would endanger everyone.)

She finds herself a spruce with a good, strong trunk to brace her back against, low protecting branches, and ample duff to absorb the birth fluids. She builds a fire for what warmth and protection it can offer, crouches against the bole of the tree—squatting is the natural birthing-position for humans, with Earth herself helping to pull the baby from the womb—and prepares herself for a long night.

Thomas knows whereof she speaks. As a young woman in the 1950s, her anthropologist parents took her and her siblings to the Kalahari Desert to live with the !Kung, among the very last of Earth's hunter-gatherers. Her personal experience and careful observation of Bushman culture lend her stories of the Eurasian Ice Age a noteworthy sense of authenticity.

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