Bringers of Gifts

The Slavic ‘Ded Morez’ or ‘Saxta Baba’ – Grandfather Frost.

Ancient mythologies and old folkloric tales always include the archetype of an old man who brings gifts around the time of the Winter Solstice. This splendid white-bearded chap is Ded Morez or Saxta Baba – Grandfather Frost. He is a popular winter folk character in Russian and Slavic countries. Usually he wears blue, but sometimes he is dressed in red – just like Father Christmas. He brings gifts for good children – usually on New Year’s Eve, since this tradition is celebrated in Muslim or secular countries, where Christians are in the minority. Ded Morez has a long white beard, walks with a magic staff, like a magician, wears a fur hat and felt boots. He rides in a troika – a sleigh with three horses – and is often accompanied by his granddaughter, Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden:

Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden.

The well-known Christian story describes the arrival of three men, described in the gospels as ‘magi’ – not ‘kings’ – who bring gold, frankincense and myrrh as gifts for the Christ child.

The three Magi.

The magi were Zoroastrian magician-priests, who were also astrologers. It is likely the ‘star’ they were following was a conjunction between Saturn and Jupiter, which would have been bright in the skies around the year 7 CE.

Both the Ded Morez tradition and the gospel story of the magi are echoes through the ages, echoes of our ancient ancestors who practiced divination and magic. At the time Jesus was born, magic was an accepted reality across the Roman Empire. It was not until Christianity was established as a state religion that astrology and magic were marginalised, we could say ‘excommunicated’. Perhaps that was why the ‘magi’ became ‘kings’ (who have a very different status).

Saint Nicholas – a very papal character.

In later Christmas traditions we meet St. Nicholas. He also brings gifts, often oranges, for poor children who have left out their clogs on the night before his feast day December 6th.. He eventually morphs from a high-minded Christian saint into the jolly Santa Claus we know today. Old images of St Nicholas show him dressed in his bishop’s gown, with his staff and mitre. But Santa Claus and Ded Morez are definitely wearing pre-Christian garb. The trousers worn by Santa, tucked into boots, and the wide belt buckled round his tunic, as well as his fur-edged cap, are most likely derived from the garments worn by Scythian warriors. The Scythians were originally a nomadic people who lived in southern Siberia, but they developed the trade routes still known today as ‘the Silk Road’ and founded a rich powerful empire centred on the Crimea. Maybe the bringing of gifts was associated with their trade in spices, silks, precious metals and gems.

These traditions all tell us a similar story about how, at the winter solstice festival, there is some magic in the air! Jupiter is the god of jollity and he rules the December sign of Sagittarius. Think of the Spirit of Christmas Present we find in Charles Dickens’ story A Christmas Carol:

The ghost of Christmas Present.

So this is definitely the best time of year to bring gifts to friends and family, and to make donations for the poor.

 


The reason I write my books, newsletters and blogs, the reason I teach The Shefa Method, is to take you by the hand, so to speak, and lead you to knowledge of your own Divinity.