It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when the old and the new traditions collide, and we blasphemously combine both heathen and Christian symbols in one big joyous celebration. Or at least we do here in Norway.
The suggestions that Santa Clause may have his origin as Odin is nothing new, and most definitely is an entertaining though. However, I was unaware of Jólnir being an alternative name for Odin, but he’s known by so many names that it’s almost impossible to keep track!
Anyway, according to Vera Henriksen in Christmas in Norway – Past and Present, the pre-Christian pagan winter celebration may be related to Odin who was also known as Jólnir (which apparently means “Yule figure” in old norse).
I’ve also seen some theories that Santa’s eight reindeer in fact may come from Odin’s eight-legged horse Sleipnir. Just do a google search, there’s plenty of mentions, but I’ve yet to find any primary sources.
Another compelling and rather amusing theory about the origins of Christmas that I just recently stumbled upon the one relating the amanita muscaria, more commonly know as fly agaric or fly amanita.
It basically links some shamanic practices of ingesting this hallucinogenic mushroom to Christmas traditions and lore. And it’s so ridiculous that there very well might be something to it. Not sure if I totally buy it, but there is definitely some strange coincidences that seem a little too coincidental. You can read about it here and make up your own mind.
I will add though, as yet another interesting aside, that the vikings also were known to ingest the very same mushroom, or at least so we were taught in school (the berserkers in particular, but this doesn’t add up, as it’s not likely that the effects of the mushroom would make you angry…).