This, ladies and gentleman, is my holiday card.

Those of us who have ever bothered to look it up probably know by now that winter celebrations have a long and glorious history, of which Christmas is only one of many, probably because at this time of year it’s so cold and grim you can either throw a party or slit your wrists. (This is the Reason for the Season. Well, that and axial tilt. All the rest is just excuses for the party.) We all know about Yule, and the winter solstice, and Saturnalia and all the rest.

My personal favorite, however, and the one I choose to celebrate because nobody knows what the hell it is, is Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, the Birth of the Unconquered Sun. It falls on the 25th, and celebrates the birth of the god Mithras, a Christ-figure from Zoroastrianism, who managed to pre-date Christ by a coupla centuries. Dies Natalis Solis Invicti is probably the reason we celebrate Christmas on the 25th rather than on the Solstice, because Mithraism rapidly achieved a life of its own and was hugely popular as a mystery religion on Rome for centuries, until at last being eclipsed by Christianity. Knowing a good thing when they saw it, they ignored the fact that Jesus was probably born in spring, and promptly christened it Christmas. 

This is fine. Religions do this stuff all the time, you should see some of the Santeria/Catholic fusions, and whatever you call it, it’s still a party.

Mithraism, however, was one of the great Olde Time Religions, a really rip-snortin’ man’s man machismo kinda faith, a fraternal god worshipped by soldiers and sailors and travelers far from home. It was macho. Had I lived at the time, I would have undoubtedly despised it, but with a coupla thousand years worth of distance, I can think of Mithras in much the same way I think of Ricardo Montalban—with a sort of vague dreamy expression and the thought that man, he was a stud in his youth. (KHAAAANNN!)

In keeping with their pure machismo, Mithraism’s greatest sacrament was to find a pure white bull without blemish, cut its throat, and bathe in the blood. (We are REAL MEN! We can swim in bull blood AND ENJOY IT!) Animal sacrifice was all the rage at the time, everybody was doin’ it, but this was pretty dramatic even for the day. White bulls without blemish ain’t cheap.

I will not be doing this for Christmas. 

However, in my perfect world, where all faiths come together in a glorious orgy of tacky decorations, where light-up Baby Jesus rides light-up reindeer and light-up Isaac Newton bears gifts to light-up Kwanzaa something or other and the light-up Solstice Chicken flies over head bearing a menorah and we find some form of light-up Ramadan thing that doesn’t violate the rules about idols and everybody’s faith or complete lack thereof is utterly degraded by cheap merchandising and we all come together to bitch about how commercial it all is and how we shopped for hours and the kids are playing with the bubble wrap, for god’s sake, and thus are unified in a glorious, pan-religious celebration of our mixed feelings for the season—in this perfect world, there is a light-up plastic white bull, with red christmas lights wrapped tightly around its neck, spilling light-up gore onto the snow. And perhaps a small hamster with a butcher knife. 

And a merry Dies Natalis Solis Invicti to all! - Ursula Vernon

  1. lovefromjea reblogged this from vanillajester
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  13. rollinginbooks reblogged this from fuckyeahursulavernon and added:
    … and that is why I have that avent-grand lawn ornament!
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  15. dragunsgalore reblogged this from shadesofmauve and added:
    Interesting, but I would point out that Mithras was probably not seen as a Christ figure until after Christianity was...
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  21. wingedtyger reblogged this from fuckyeahursulavernon and added:
    I imagine that if Mithraism was still around, the animal sacrifice part would have been downgraded, like it has been in...