Saturday, November 2, 2013

A holiday story

Well, we all know that I am not a Christian and that I hold to the Pagan faith of my ancestors.

So about this time of year, I get a lot of questions about what it means to live "without a moral compass" and "what do you celebrate at Christmas" and stuff.  I reply kindly, that I DO have a moral compass and that I DO celebrate Christmas as a holiday of inspiration, peace, forgiveness and human warmth.

And then the conversation usually drifts uncomfortably into other topics.  I have, however, recently found myself surrounded by like-minded people who follow the same or similar traditions to what I hold dear.  And as we are all learning and growing together and trying to develop a modern tradition that still upholds the traditions of our ancestors...  we all come together to learn from each other and tell stories and so on.  We do this a lot.  It is Awesome.

Recently I was asked to share a "holiday appropriate" story from my tradition (which is called Asatru but it's not the racist, bigotted version that gets all the press)  and I had to apologize because I don't have a tradition based on fluffy bunnies who save the day and then drink apple juice before bed time.

No, I'm afraid my tradition is built out of hard winters and bad soil and really REALLY hard decisions.

And still, the request persisted.  So I shared the story which I have now posted below.  It's a brief introduction to what a holiday festival might have been like, and meant to the community.  It is also an introduction to the injustice of older ways; a reminder that while traditions are important, some things (like slavery) from the old days are better left buried in the ground forever.

So here's a story of a spirit called "Nisse", which you'll likely think of as a little bearded gentleman in a red pointy cap and a smart blue coat.  That is as close an image to the real thing as Mickey Mouse is to real mice.  Hallmarks are there, but still, you know?  Anyway, I'll tell you the story now:

  • So, once upon a time, in a farm you may have heard of just a few valleys over, there was a very prosperous farmer. He had horses and sheep and a great many Baandemen who worked his land for him. His was the farm at the center of a thriving, though small, community and everyone who knew him spoke of his bravery and kindness and fairness in all matters.  
    On this farm lived a young serving girl. It was her duty to keep the fires from dying and rekindle them quickly if they went dark. She was old enough for tasks like milking and spinning, too. Now it came to pass that it was a hard, dark winter. It was much colder than any had remembered and everyone had to work together to keep the livestock fed and safe.
    Everyone knew that their only salvation was their own work, aided, of course, by the nisse of the farmstead who were laboring tirelessly with the animals when the people were away. In the depth of this dark, harsh winter, came the festival of Jul. And during this time everyone gathered at the farmers large home to share in the warmth and revelry of his generously laid tables. His generosity did not stop with the people, either. He made sure to offer, during this period of celebration, extra food and as much spare bedding as he could afford to his livestock. And, as always, he poured a rich, frothy bowl of cream and fatty porridge as a gift for the nisse of his keep.
    When the slave girl saw this decadent bowl sitting on the floor of the barn in the dwindling candle light, her stomach churned with hunger. Her turn at the table wouldn't be for hours, yet, and her ice cold fingers longed to wrap around the steaming cream and butter to feel the warmth. Against her better judgement, she took a step closer to the holy offering made to the hidden folk who sacrificed so much to keep the farm healthy.
    She smelled the melted butter and her mouth simply ached for the smallest bite. She could resist no longer. She dipped her fingers into the porridge and scooped up a cautious mouthful and let it linger on her tongue. As she licked her lips clean, she felt a guilty shadow cover her and she immediately looked about her to see if her crime had been witnessed.
    Seeing no-one, she returned to her chores.
    It wasn't long, however, before she heard the gentle footsteps of unfamiliar boots. Her muscles froze and her candle blew out in an icy gust of wind.
    A tiny voice reached her ears:

    "Who has eaten my porridge?" the voice said.
    And the girl's skin crawled with fear. "Who has eaten my porridge?" the voice repeated, filling with jealous fury. And the girl closed her eyes, and turned around and whispered "I did, brother nisse." And she opened her eyes and saw that all of the candles in the room were burning brightly and the porridge bowl was upturned and the nisse stood upon it making a fearsome growl. "Then you shall be my prize this winter night, for you have eaten my only right, and from now until the dawn's first light you'll dance with me and you will not fight."
    And the girl's body began do move of its own accord, very much against her will, and the barn was ablaze with candle lights and laughter from a hundred throats she could not see. And she was embraced by the nisse and forced to dance with him, relentlessly, for hours and hours until dawn's first light finally broke over them.
    The next morning, a drunken stable-man found the girl's half-naked body in a heap just outside the barn. Her skirts were ripped as if they had been flown in the wind for a hundred years and her hair was pulled and tangled with filth from the barn. Her feet were bloody and a great deal of the flesh of her legs was missing.
    And everyone on the farm knew exactly what had happened.

    The End!  
    Sleep Tight Kids!  

1 comment:

kck said...

Worthy of the Brothers Grimm!