The Hiding of the Brooms

One of my favouritestest countries in the world is perhaps Norway- Nice, snowy, Scandinavian but not as popular as Sweden. Yeah. I likes it. And when I found this Christmas tradition it made me smile…

On Christmas eve the Norwegians believe that spirits and hags and all kinds of evil demonic spirits come out to play. Now these spirits, being spirits, can’t just wander the street and cause mayhem. They need some form of transport. And that’s why every year on Christmas eve Norwegians hide their brooms. Because, to put it simply, brooms are the preferred method of transport for hags, witches and other demon spirits. So, therefore, if those spirits are deprived of their main method transport then they can’t commit any acts of mischief and spoil Christmas. And just to make sure they don’t come anywhere near once the brooms have been hidden all the men go outside and fire shotguns into the air just to make sure the spirits stay away.

There’s not much to it but I thought it would make an interesting (and brief) Christmas post. It’s far too close to the 25th now to be writing long essays anyway.



Naughty or Nice?

It’s only a few days till Christmas and stuff is about to get real. Very soon presents will be unwrapped, wine will be drunk, babies will be conceived… (?) But right now I’m guessing that Santa is compiling his naughty and nice list ready for Christmas eve. So whilst he goes through the A,s the B’s and half the C’s (basically before he gets to the part of the list that could be categorised as ‘Ch-J.P’) It’s time to work out which list I’m on.

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The Druids

Today is December 21st and that means the Winter Solstice… But this also means that people who call themselves ‘druids’ will have already been dancing around Stonehenge like there’s no tomorrow. And I hate to break it to you but those aren’t druids. Sure, they call themselves druids but they aren’t really druids in the proper sense of the word. They all think they’re practising an ancient pagan tradition, but no, they’re not. Everything about the modern druid is wrong. Seriously wrong. And there’s a good reason for this.

The thing about druids as we know them today is that they are modern, really modern. There isn’t an ounce of ancientness about them except for the name. It is true that there may have once been some ancient people called druids but the information we have about them is scant and we only have a few sources at best, and none in their own words. One of the earliest references we have to them appears in Caesar’s ‘Conquest of Gaul’ where he describes them as being essentially priests and important members of society. Kind of like the popular image vicar today I suppose. And that’s really all we do know about them. We don’t know what they really did or how they worshipped or how people treated them in the community. Just that they were an important priestly figure in society. Also they had absolutely nothing to do with Stonehenge.

The Romans really hated the druids, however. They despised them so much that in the end they decided to wipe them out. Many writers, Caesar and Suetonius amongst them, express utter contempt and disgust for the druids. They make rather erroneous claim that the druids practised human sacrifice, cannibalism and ate babies whole… But if you know your Roman scholar speak then ‘eats babies’ and ‘cannibalism’ are actually the technical term for ‘not liked very much by the Romans.’ As a matter off fact, they called a number of types of people that they didn’t like cannibals including the early Christians. Usually the description was reserved for the ones they detested the most, again the early Christians to use an example.

What we know about this is that the Romans just couldn’t understand why the Christians wanted to worship a man who had died in a way that was then largely seen as being reserved for the worst of all the criminal scum. Even in Christian circles the crucifixion was seen as something that was shameful and not celebrated at all. The truth is that Christianity seriously conflicted with what was considered as the Roman ideal and the Roman way of life (which was greatly tied up with religion in almost every aspect). So perhaps this is also why the Romans disliked the Druids so much. Perhaps they conflicted with the Roman ideal as the early Christians did. We can’t know for sure but it’s certain that the Romans had a distinct hatred for the druids and this is only one possible explanation for that.

So where do modern Druids fit into this picture? Like most ‘traditions’ in the modern world it comes from the Victorians. They were the first to romanticise the druids and turn them into what we know of today- the long bearded, white robed man in the forest with all sorts of jangly bits and spouting nonsense about free love like a hippy? This is all nothing but a modern day construct trying to pretend its an ancient ritual. It’s not as we really have no evidence about the ancient druids at all apart from a few contemporary Roman Sources which are no doubt biased and a complete pack of lies. There are no druidic archaeological sites and certainly no other contemporary sources for them. The only other sources we have are post-Roman, which in all likelihood are also unreliable. There’s little evidence for them, but they certainly didn’t go around like the druids of today do.

Also if you see someone using the term ‘Celtic’ at any point you have my permission (as a trained archaeologist and historian) to face plant them in the nearest puddle of and shout about how there is actually no thing as ‘Celtic’ and that’s also a Victorian invention.

The First ‘Charlie Fuller’ Plot.

I’ve talked a lot about the new Charlie Fuller book and only a little about where he actually comes from. The truth is that the original book was ridiculous, silly and without a doubt one of the most awful stories ever put to paper. It is so bad it makes Twilight look like the complete works of William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens combined, a work of literary genius if you will. In the new version of the book I’ve only kept the bare necessities, the characters and the few decent ideas that could be salvaged. However, as you are about to see, that doesn’t leave me a lot to work with as I present you with an early Christmas present: The original, nonsensical and truly awful plot of the book once known as Under the Führer’s Control….

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The Piper

There is a town in Germany, and you all know its name, for throughout the years it has garnered much fame. You can go there today, to see if you must, perhaps even taking a friend that you trust. For once, long ago, there were rats of distaste and they called in a piper to make the streets safe. He led them away and demanded the town pay… But when they refused he turned nasty and frightful, taking all of the children who thought him delightful… That’s enough of bad rhymin’ so let’s get things grindin’ and have a long talk of the Piper of Hamelin…

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JPC’s Sound of 2012

As the year is almost over its time for my annual run down of my personal ‘sound of 2012.’ In some ways it’s not been as good as 2011 but in others it’s been a lot better. At least I’ve not been locked in my room eating donuts but then again I’ve been more or less stuck in a dead end, one horse town so it’s a little difficult to determine which has been worse. But this is the music that has dogged me for the last twelve months, the music I’ve loved along the way and the music that’s had a significance. Not necessarily my all time favourites but the songs that sum up 2012.

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The Piano

Maybe it’s me or maybe it’s just because it’s a Sunday but i think we’ve now hit the period where Christmas is only just over a week away and yet it feels like it’s been going on forever, whilst the anticipation for it to arrive is about to reach it’s zenith. It’s so cold you can’t go outside without turning into a snowman and I still haven’t done my Christmas shopping… Yes… The Christmas blues have begun. But there is a cure for most things so you would think that there has to be a cure for the Christmas blues. I usually find that doing something creative helps to ease normal depression and it may even cure the Christmas blues, like learning to play something challenging on the piano for instance.

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The School Nativity

I want to talk about the idea of the nativity play and where it comes from… Ok… So we know where it comes from (That’s obvious). But what about the modern idea… School kids (or church choirs or nurseries or wherever) re-enacting the story with sometimes hilarious consequences when they get it wrong?

The idea of the nativity play comes from medieval times and it mainly originates from ‘the mystery plays’ which were essentially reenactments of biblical stories such as the nativity. These are still performed in places like York and Chester at Christmas time-  They weren’t always about the nativity though and they went in ‘cycles,’ usually depicting a different bible story.  They were the earliest form of stage play to come out of Europe and in a way they set the precedent for people to follow such as Marlowe, Shakespeare, Samuel Becket and myself. Without the mysteries the four of us would have never touched a script.

There’s surprisingly little information on this across the internet and the only piece of decent information I could find was that St Francis performed a Nativity play in 1223, but that was  probably very similar to the mystery plays and they were usually performed all year round, and by adults not children.

The idea of an actual ‘school nativity’ has to be a relatively recent one. It’s hard to imagine them existing in the stern and stuffy world of the Victorian school room or even in something like ‘Goodbye Mr Chips,’ which is set after the first world war. The thing is that I couldn’t find reference to the first school nativity anywhere. It might have started as late as the 80’s for all I know. But then again I could be wrong and it could have been going on for much longer. Which seems likely considering they seem to have become such a staple of the Christmas season.

However, in this age of mass multiculturalism, many schools are now opting to move towards different plays and dropping the nativity altogether. Just this year there has been outcry about a school in Essex that has dropped the nativity altogether. But they’re not the only one. Schools are now opting for more religious-neutral plays such as Snow White or Scrooge. So no matter if it’s an old or young tradition in twenty years the school nativity could actually be a rarity. And there is already so little information as it is…

How The Witch Lost Her Mojo

I was going to take you all to Italy in order to have a nose at the ‘Feast of La Befana,’ which celebrates a woman who is very similar to Santa Clause but is a little different. The thing about La Befana is that she’s a Witch. She’s an old woman, wears a black shawl and rides through the sky on a broomstick. Which sounds to me like the traditional image of a witch- Only she gave presents to children, like Santa Clause, instead of being evil. I was going to write about this but then I got thinking… When did witches stop riding broomsticks and when did they evolve to become the mystical ‘super sorceress’ types you so often see today?

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