Monday, 21 December 2009

Father Christmas
& The Shamanta Clause...

The appearance of Father Christmas
dates back at least as far as the 17th century in Britain, pictures of him from that era portray him as a jolly, bearded man dressed in a long, green cloak. He typified the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, as the "Ghost of Christmas Present", in Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, where he takes a miserly Scrooge on an emotionally re-energizing expedition through London on Christmas morning, his goodwill overflowing all around.

* * * *
In 1931 however, the Coca Cola company redressed this classic figure with the Red Robes of Santa Claus, co-opting him in promotional service of their product.

Subsequently in his examinations of cultural iconography, the renowned anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss wrote in his analysis of Father Christmas: "Father Christmas is dressed in scarlet: he is a king. His white beard, his furs and his boots, the sleigh in which he travels evoke winter. He is called "Father" and he is an old man, thus he incarnates the benevolent form of the authority of the ancients." Thus we see the Father Christmas tradition although diverted to secular ends, still embodies deeper cultural values.....

* * * *

Whilst Father Christmas has become the most beloved of Christmas symbols and traditions, his origins are not clear....
On Father Christmas' 'Christian' Origins;

The Catholic Saint Nicholas Myra is one of the key inspirations for 'Santa Claus'. He was a 4thC Greek Christian bishop of Myra, Byzantine in Turkey, famous for his generous gifts to the poor. His cult spread quickly and he became the patron saint of many groups, including judges, criminals, merchants, sailors, travelers, the poor, & children.

According to St. Nicholas historian, Charles W. Jones,
". . . the cult of St. Nicholas was, before the Reformation, the most intensive of any nonbiblical saint in Christendom. . . there were 2,137 ecclesiastical dedications [churches] to Nicholas in France, Germany, and the Low Countries alone before the year 1500."
(Jones, Charles. W. "Knickerbocker Santa Claus." The New-York Historical Society Quarterly, October 1954, Volume XXXVIII Number Four, p.357)
Saint Nicholas is also the most revered saint in Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church' christianized replacement of the native people's local Shaman....

In The Netherlands and Belgium, Saint Nicolas is aided by helpers commonly known as Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) in Dutch or "Père Fouettard" in French, or in Switzerland, the Krampus, a scary demon who would just as easily take people away to punish them with a birch stick beating, as give a gift to reward their good year.

Eckhard, the forerunner of Black Peter
The European Father Christmas became more world widespread In 1626 when a ship with settlers from the Netherlands arrived in America bearing these traditions of the Dutch "Sinter Claes," or Saint Nickolas the patron saint of sailors, and their custom of celebrating the Winter Solstice....

. . . .

Whilst Father Christmas has become a secular representation of Christmas, a number of primarily Protestant fundamentalist Christian churches object to the materialist focus that his gift giving brings to this holiday.

This condemnation of Christmas originated with some 16th C Protestant groups, and was prevalent among the Puritans of 17th C England & America who banned the holiday as either Pagan (which means 'of nature') or Roman Catholic.
Christmas was made legal again with the Restoration of 1660, despite Puritan opposition in New England USA which persisted for almost two centuries....
* * * *

But Who Is Father Christmas Really?....

Whilst most religious historians agree that St Nicholas as Santa Claus did not actually exist as a real person, during the Christianization of Northern Europe local traditions were incorporated into the new Christian holidays to make them more acceptable to the new converts, & thus Santa Claus was created, a Christianized version of earlier Pagan gods.
In support of this view, nearly all Santa researchers agree that many aspects of Santa derive from The Norse mythology.

Mythologist Helene Adeline Guerber suggests the Northern traditions indicate Santa as the Norse god Thor; Thor was the god of the peasants and the common people, represented as an elderly man, jovial and friendly, with a long white beard. His element was the fire, his color red.
The rumble and roar of thunder were said to be caused by the rolling of his chariot ...drawn by two white goats (called Cracker and Gnasher). He was fighting the giants of ice and snow, and thus became the Yule-god.
He was said to live in the "Northland" where he had his palace among icebergs. By our pagan forefathers he was considered as the cheerful and friendly god. The fireplace in every home was especially sacred to him, and he was said to come down through the chimney into his element, the fire. (Guerber, H.A. Myths of Northern Lands. New York: American Book Company, 1895, p. 61)

It is also worth mentioning that Thor’s helpers were elves and like Santa’s elves, Thor’s elves were skilled craftsman. It was the elves who created Thor’s magic hammer.


Two books from Iceland, the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier sources and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th C, describe Odin as riding an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir (Santa originally had eight reindeers, Rudolph was nine) that could leap great distances, giving rise to comparisons to Santa Claus's reindeer. Tradition has it that Odin led the souls of the dead on a furious cross-country ride during the twelve 'bad' days between Christmas and Epiphany (January 6). The resulting gale carried along the seeds of the produce of the fields, stimulating fertility. The apples, nuts, and other autumn produce given around St. Nicholas Day were symbols of fertility and by giving the Gods these symbolic presents during the cold, dark winter days would result in increased fertility for man, animal, and soil.
This is The Wild Hunt, ubiquitous across Northern Europe with variations in the Nordic and Germanic countries as well as the United Kingdom. England's Wild Hunts were originally hosted by faeries and were often headed by the antlered Herne the Hunter, the Welsh trickster-magician Gwydion, and eventually King Arthur. Herne, a forest spirit, was first committed to paper by William Shakespeare in Merry Wives of Windsor. In one Germanic version, the followers of The Wild Hunt painted themselves black and rode at night to attack their enemies unawares. The English variation of the Wild Hunt also sees the Anglo-Saxon deity Wodan - equivalent of Odin, acting as guide to the afterlife for dead spirits.

Odin was accompanied by his servant, faithful Eckhard, the forerunner of Black Peter, who painted his face to resemble the black painted followers of The Wild Hunt.(see above). Black Peter or Zwarte Piets, also carried a 'rod'. As recently as the Middle Ages, it was the popular belief that certain trees and plants could render humans fertile and that merely striking a woman with a branch of such a tree could make her pregnant, by contrast it was useful to punish those who had fallen below par in their behaviour since the last visit...

* * * *

 Of Santa's Shamanic Sources...

Religious historians & astrologists appear to have combined forces to consider the matter of Father Christmas incredible voyage outside of time...
Santa's magical journey on his sleigh around the whole planet in a single night, is apparently developed from the ‘heavenly chariot’ used by many Gods from whom Santa and other shamanic figures are descended.
The chariot of Odin, Thor and even the Egyptian god Osiris is now known as the star constellation the Big Dipper, which circles around the North Star in a 24-hour period... thus the flight of the stars portrayed the flight of the God(s), and in turn of Santa Claus.

The Shamanic Flight of the Mushroom....

The Shaman, who was the highly regarded healer, seer, herbalist and counselor of his people, employed trance like states induced by repetitive drumming, and plants with psychotropic qualities to further their altered perceptions of reality beyond the physical constraints of normal reality in the earth plane. These vision quests were serious undertakings embarked on with ritual and purpose to discover the causes of illness, or to reveal the best courses of action for the community to pursue over any given matter, and often involved communing with deceased, and Otherworldy Spirits or Gods.

Specifically the Northern Shamen are reputed to have eaten Amanita Mushrooms, more commonly known as Fly Agaric, the Red/White spotted poisonous Magical Mushroom of many fairy-stories and folk legends.
Susan Seddon Boulet - « Odin

Not Advised for Consumption - Consult GP If eaten in error.
Entering into Mushroom induced trance and riding the regular beat of their drum, these Shamen 'climbed' up the world tree to commune with the spirits & return with gifts , not toys, but messages for individuals and the tribe, concerning the year to come, their hunts and harvests, the fate of their world.

* * * *                 
Of Father Christmas Elven Affiliations...

St. Nicholas is not only assisted by elves, but is possibly an Elf himself if an authors license is to be believed. In the Famous Poem written by Clement Clark Moore, 'The Night Before Christmas' - The author calls Santa a ' Jolly Old Elf'.

Yet, Clark Moore's theory is supported by later academic research into the Nordic Mythologies..
"... Saint Nicholas was an absorbed pagan deity. Our modern version of this personage is an amalagation of many old personifications of a very old elf. Yes, elf. In ancient times, it was believed that an elf came and delivered gifts to those who left him porridge. Indeed, the popular figure of Santa Claus actually owes more to the god Odin than he does the Christian saint called Nicholas. He dresses in red, a colour symbolic of the Teutonic Alfs, or elves. He has one eye with which he can give knowledge with a single wink. He has a long white beard and hails from the ancient lands of the frozen north..." (Santa Claus, the Yule Elf, and Odi by Kimberly Moore)

Elven or otherwise, the mysterious nature of Father Christmas draws on many sources but resonates with a timeless quality outside of them all.

* * * *
On The Meaning Of It All....

Some psychologists suggest 'Cognitive Dissonance' which occurs when children are encouraged to believe in the existence of Santa Claus, only to have their parents reveal the 'lie' when they are older....
Yet such parents, perhaps victims of church led re-assignations of cultural meanings, are mistaken, as much psychological and spiritual truth does reside in these deep rooted mytho-historic traditions.
By better understanding such Nature-Al truths, we may better understand our modern world, and its relationship to the greater panorama of Nature's endless cycles and within that our own bright season of life.

The true spirit of Father Christmas then, lies not in the fraught or hopeful exchange of gifts or toys,
but in celebrating our gifts from Divine Nature:The gifts, of perception and awareness, that allow us to witness the beauty of this life and its many wonders, of seeing the solstice sun, or hearing joy in the voices of our children and friends, of love.....

So when the jolly Shaman gifts you with his blessings this year,
remember that the Nature which expresses itself in endless galaxies of light and wonder, also celebrates its existence through you, that is his real gift.....

* * * *

A Visit From St. Nicholas/
'Twas the Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap;

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below;

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer;

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk;

And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night."

(by Clement Clarke Moore)

And next year  
I rewrote this poem for a machinima animation,
read it here
Or just enjoy the machinima film
The Night Before Christmas Or Yuletide Or Such...

For a further adventure in the Santa Claus Canon, enjoy my 
Flight Of The Shamanic Santa
This animation features a modern day Santa Claus taking a shamanic flight to higher realms to seek help for the troubles that beset the Earth today, performing then for the modern world the same tasks of healing that Shaman have traditionally carried out.

Bright Blessings 
& Good Cheer to All ~ 

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

On The Mysterious Matter of Mistletoe..

According to the Ancient Druid traditions, Mistletoe was the most sacred of all plants.

Allegedly from the Anglo-Saxon word 'Misteltan' (Tan = twig) & the German Mistel (Mist = dung). This is not so awful as at first may seem, because to the Ancient Nature based traditions, excretion & birth were considered almost synonymous in the cycle of life.
Alternately the name Mistletoe may have derived from the Celtic 'Mil'ioc', meaning 'All-Heal'.

As Mistletoe grew from the Sky on the limbs of the Holy Oak tree (the Oak tree was believed to be a doorway between the worlds), its leaves green throughout winter representing the fertility of the Earth Goddess, its white berries the seed of the Forest God, the Celts believed that Mistletoe held the soul of the Holy Oak & therefore embodied its Sacred fertility.

Because Mistletoe is botanically unique
in the Northern Hemisphere
(the only highly-evolved flowering plant that is parasitic/roots into trees), it was considered to have miraculous properties that could cure illnesses, antidote poisons, ensure fertility and protect against witchcraft.
{{Modern Herbalists today use European Mistletoe to strengthen the heart and reduce blood pressure, & to relieve pain from headaches caused by high blood pressure. The powdered leaves have also been used in careful treatment of epilepsy.}}

Mistletoe was used by the Druids in a ceremony held five days after the New Moon following the Winter Solstice;
The Druids would cut Mistletoe from the Sacred Oak tree with a magical golden sickle or Bolline representing the life giving Sun.
The branches had to be caught by maidens, on white cloaks, before they touched the ground, otherwise they would discharge their magical energies into the earth.
The Druids then divided the branches into bunches and gave them to the people, calling it All-Heal, and the people hung them over their doorways as a protection, and as a sign of peace and goodwill.
* * * * * * * *

The Norse Traditions explain the meaning of Mistletoe
through the story of
Balder, son of Frigga, Goddess of love & life.
Balder, called the well-beloved & Holy one, is the 'God of Goodness' and represents the spring Sun in Norse tradition (& hence the Sun God).

Frigga, worried on hearing Balder's prophetic dream that he would be killed, had the four elements, Fire, Water, Air, & Earth, promise that they would not harm her son.
However, Loki (the mischievous God of Fire, who was jealous of Balder), found the only thing that could break
this promise, Mistletoe, because as it grows 'from the sky' it was not bound to any of the four realms.
He made an arrow from its wood & gave it to Hoder (the blind god of darkness & ignorance) while the other gods were playfully hurling their weapons against the invulnerable Sun God Balder.
Hoder shot his arrow at Balder's heart, and he fell dead, thus Hoder fulfilled Loki's jealous plan, the mind darkened by ignorance accomplished what nothing else could, the death of the God of light.

Balder then traveled to Hel, The Queen of the realm of the Dead.
Whilst Odin, father of the Gods, pleaded with Hel for Balder's return
(Hel agreed on condition that all living things weep for Balder's return)
Frigga implored all beings to mourn the Sun God's death & her tears of grief became the mistletoe's white berries.

This account may be the origin of Kissing under the Mistletoe,..
As Balder is restored to life, Frigga is so grateful that she reverses the poisonous reputation of the Mistletoe,
making it a symbol of love and promising a kiss to all who pass under it as a pledge of friendship and goodwill.

Symbolically, the Nordic Story of Balder & the Mistletoe, portrays the cycle of life, death & rebirth of nature.
As The Sun God dies with every nightfall, & rises again each New Morning;
Also, He dies With every Winter Solstice, to return Each New Year bringing Light & Life.

* * * * * * * * * *

Mistletoe is still forbidden in most Christian churches
because of its Pagan associations; Although the holiday at Christmas time has always predated Christianity with it's traditions of Nordic paganism, Celtic fertility rites, and Roman Mithraism, many such earlier Gods ( including Theseus, Perseus, Dionysus, Apollo ) present a mythologic account of the divinities birth, death, and resurrection that was uncomfortably close to the story of Jesus..
Both Martin Luther and John Calvin abhorred Mistletoe for these reasons, & the Puritans refused to acknowledge it.

* * * * * * * * * *

Evidence of Mistletoe's use in Ancient Britain

has been recorded in the following extract from the Roman natural historian Pliny the Elder's accounts of his reconnaissance of Britain, on the subject of a Druidic ritual:
The Druids...hold nothing more sacred than the Mistletoe and the tree that bears it, as long as that tree be an Oak....
Mistletoe is very rarely encountered; but when they do find some, they gather it in a solemn ritual....
After preparing for a sacrifice and a feast under the Oak, they hail the Mistletoe as a Cure-All and bring two white bulls there, whose horns have never been bound before.
A priest dressed in a white robe climbs the oak and with a golden sickle cuts the Mistletoe, which is caught in a white cloak....
They believe that a potion prepared from Mistletoe will make sterile animals fertile, and that the plant is an antidote for any poison. " (Natural History, XVI, 249-251).

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Holding an influential role across cultures and over time, the enduring fascination with the magical properties of Misteltoe are further evidenced in two significant books of the Western Literary canon...

In Virgil's 'Aeneid'
(the most famous book in classical Latin & one of the most famous poems of all time),
The Roman hero, Aeneas, finds the 'Golden Bough' on a sacred tree in the grove dedicated to the Goddess Diana,
The prophetess Sibyl instructed Aeneas to pick this Magical Bough 'from which shone a flickering gleam of gold.
As in the woods in the cold winter the mistletoe ... which puts out seed foreign to its tree ... stays green with fresh leaves and twines its yellow fruit about the boles...' before his descent into the Underworld.
Sibyl knew that, with the aid of such magic, Aeneas would be able to undertake his perilous adventure safely. ('Aeneid' VI, 204-209).

Much later in the 20th C, the very Title of Sir James G. Frazer's comparative study of mythology and religion,
'The Golden Bough' (1922), derives from this scene in Virgil's Aeneid.
According to Frazer, Mistletoe could become a "Golden Bough" because when they die and wither, Mistletoe plants acquire a golden hue.
Naturally enough, as his subject matter explored the roots and meanings behind Religion & Magic, the apparently Alchemical and Transformative powers of the Mistletoe directly referenced the cathartic insights that his study would make available to his readership, & was therefore a good choice.

The 'Goldenness' of the Mistletoe was further influenced by the European folklore that Mistletoe plants were thought to have come to earth as lightning strikes a tree in a blaze of Gold and as the agent of life thus linked to the divine creative force, which is a suitably portentous birth for a plant whose home is half way between the heavens and the earth.

By The Magic Of The Mistletoe
Blessed Be ~

Saturday, 14 November 2009

The Tree of Life - An Introduction

The Tree holds an important place in many natural perspectives of the world, from ancient spiritual and psychological symbolisms of life, wisdom and friendship, to modern environmental awarenesses that champion the need for a more holistic relationship with the delicately balanced eco systems of the Earth our home.

As The Cosmic or World Tree touches the 'Three Worlds' of sky, earth and underworld, it thereby links them symbolically, psychologically providing an Axis Mundi or Center of the world, by uniting these realms enabling travel and communication between them.

As The Tree of Life, It also represents both a feminine symbol, bearing sustenance; and a masculine, phallic symbol. In addition, The Tree of Life represents Eternal Life, because of its ever-expanding branches and because of its seemingly endless cycle of regrowth from seed to towering tree...

Of Magic Trees, some have the ability to speak to certain individuals, usually those gifted with divination. In particular The druids were said to be able to consult Oak trees for such divinatory purposes, the christian bible stories also reference a talking bush to the visionary Moses.

Such Trees have carried great significance across various world faiths, including the Yggdrasil where, in norse mythology, Odin discovered wisdom and understanding, and the Bodhi Tree under which Gautama Siddhartha, the Buddha found enlightenment.
For the Babylonians, The Tree of Life had a magical fruit which could only be picked by the Gods and dire consequences befell any mere mortal who dared to pick them. Whilst this Babylonian prohibitive/punitive Tree has apparently found its way into the Judeo-Christian legend of Adam and Eve, in the esoteric Jewish tradition of Kabbalah, the Tree of Life is a mystical symbol used to describe the 'path' to God.

Across cultures and traditions then we see that The Sacred Tree holds an important place in the minds and hearts of mankind, from the purely practical applications of fruit and resources, to the deeply symbolic and spiritual language of interconnectivity and harmonic interdependence, the Tree serves and embodies many significant functions which furnish our lives and spirit's.

The 'Celtic' Tree of Life (known in Ireland as the 'crann bethadh') was central to the Celtic tribal life,
they always left a great tree in the middle of any new settlement which demonstrated the integrity of their Celtic traditions.

This Tree of Life represents the wheel of life as witnessed in the cycle of life, death and rebirth ('rebirth' in Tir Na Nog the Celtic Afterlife, the Land of Eternal Youth), as well as the Celtic theme of three worlds, that of the upper for Gods, the middle for our physical plane, and the lower as the realm of the fey or faeries (often housed below underground mounds or fairy hills). This symbolism is depicted by the branches that reach to the heavens, the trunk or body in the center, and the roots below, specifically showing that all stages and aspects of life are intrinsically connected through nature.
The Germanic peoples who also worshiped their deities in open forest clearings and believed that a sky god was particularly connected with the oak tree, similarly employed a central tree in their tribal settlements.
All trees in the Celtic perspective have specific powers or serve as the home of fairies or spirits, especially the magical trio of Oak, Ash, and Thorn.
That Chieftains were inaugurated under these Sacred trees with their roots stretching down to the lower world and branches reaching to the upper world, ceremonially endowed them with the magical powers of both the underworld and of the heavens.

Of the many realms that may be reached via these sacred trees,
Legends of the Norse World Tree Yggdrasil (pronounced ig.dre.sil) ((called Irminsul in Germanic mythologies)) describe that around it exist nine worlds. Yggdrasill is an immense Ash Tree; Ygg's {Odin's} horse, was so named because of the notion of the 'tree' as the 'horse' of the 'hanged' on which Odin hung during his self sacrifice for knowledge as described in the Poetic Edda poem Havamal & was often represented by a Cross or a Gallows, however as death did not cary the same finality or distress of modern religious and secular perspectives, these symbols indicated the doorways of change. The Aesir (Norse gods) go to Yggdrasil daily to hold their courts because the branches of Yggdrasil extend into the heavens, and because the tree is supported by the three roots that reach the Three times. Through these paths they could interact with the various realms including the magical sacred creatures that live within Yggdrasil, such as the Wyrm or Dragon, the Eagle, and the Sacred Stag. The notion of an Eagle sitting on top of the sacred Tree and the World Serpent coiled around its base also has parallels in other cosmologies from Asia, and thereby may be seen to hold psychological significance beyond any narrow micro cultures specific meanings.

Writing of its Shamanic origins Hilda Ellis Davidson comments that the existence of nine worlds around Yggdrasil is mentioned more than once in Old Norse sources, but the identity of the worlds is never stated outright...and speculates that the nine worlds could either exist one above the other or perhaps be grouped around the tree, while the gods are pictured as in the sky, using a Rainbow Bridge (Bifrost) connecting the Tree with the Other Worlds.

Of the Christmas Tree..
When the Roman Christian Church decided on a date to celebrate Christ's birth, they chose the day of the pagan winter solstice because this was already firmly fixed in the minds of the people, they thus sought to 'Christianise' existing festivals and so both overthrow earlier traditions whilst maintaining the rituals that gave meaning to the indigenous peoples lives.

Some accounts place the earliest Christmas trees in Tallinn capital of Estonia and Riga capital of Latvia both of which resisted Christianity longer than any other European nation and so point towards an earlier Pagan tradition. The custom of erecting a Pine Tree specifically to celebrate Christmas can more precisely be traced to 16th century Germany, as Ingeborg Weber-Kellermann (Marburg professor of European ethnology) reports of a Bremen guild chronicle of 1570 which states that a Fir Tree was decorated with apples, nuts and paper flowers and set up for the guild members children to collect the treats on Christmas Day.

By the early 18thC use of Christmas Tree's had become common in the upper Rhineland of Germany, but was still regarded as a Protestant custom by the Roman Catholic majority throughout wider Europe. Robert Chambers in his Book of Days (1832) asserts that the festivities of Christmas "originally derived from the Roman Saturnalia, had afterwards been intermingled with the ceremonies observed by the British Druids at the period of winter-solstice, and at a subsequent period became incorporated with the grim mythology of the ancient Saxons". However, just as Christmas was established (approximately) over the earlier pagan winter solstice, so the Christmas Tree was eventually accepted by the Roman Catholic Church as part of the seasons regalia, because it could not prevent its use. In the early 19thC the custom became popular among the nobility and spread to royal courts as far as Russia.

In Great Britain, the Christmas tree was introduced by George III's Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in early 1800's, but the custom hadn't spread much beyond the royal family. After Queen Victoria's marriage to her German cousin Prince Albert in 1840, the custom became more popular throughout Great Britain as people emulated the much admired and 'ideal' role model family.

Regarding the addition of lights and decoration to these Festival Tree's; whilst dried apple's may have been tied to the Tree as an offering to The Mother Goddess in the hopes of being gifted more fruit in the coming summer and candles may have been lit upon it to represent and summon the return of the (Father's) Summer Sun. The placing of candles and lights on the Tree also invited and gave home to the associated spirits and faeries that otherwise would be abandoned outside to the hash northern winters.
In this view then, the ancient traditions of decorating and sacralizing a celebratory Tree survives because it meets basic needs outside of our intellectual rationalizations of their purposes, perhaps embracing deeper psychological or spiritual needs, but certainly and not least of all, because we enjoy them.

And in this the blessing of our natural spirit shines through.