Historical setting: 588 C.E. Forest Primeval
As the Yuletide is upon all of us, Druid Largin and another priest bring their tribes together at this village for the celebration. The guests come shouldering venison from a hunt and driving another white ox bull for the sacred sacrifice. Here are several of the kinds of oaken barrels Ezra uses for wines; only these have ale. Here hospitality is stretched so wide to include even us who are ill-prepared Christians. Here are these traditions, Christian and pagan together. [Footnote: Interpretatio Christiana]
So we’ve packed up our camp and returned the fleeces and deerskin. And now we’re guests at these fires of hunters and circles of thatch.
The divine law that rules is hospitality. Even a whole additional tribe, men and a few women and elders, along with the two of us all have places inside these thatch circles safe from the winter’s howl. And every cranny of unfilled space in any of these houses, from the slope above us under the roof to the seams at the door is filled with green bows of pine and bundles of mistletoe; everything is green and living even in this season when sacred trees stretch naked limbs.
This, being a great feast, allows no famished or starving guest among us. And may I not dwell too long on my accolades for the endless flow of ale so Thole and I are learning that all the world is not just drinking wine and mead this night.
These other guests are Britanny pagans from these barbarian lands between the rivers well north of the Loire. They claim to be neither Arian Ostrogoths nor Frankish Roman Christians of the creed. To me, they seem much like those Celts I’ve known of in Ireland resisting Christianity before Patrick brought them the loving Jesus. I mention this, because what I would call history is really the heroic tales that mark this celebration of the Yule. Maybe these tribes have a common myth.
I’ve heard it said that the story of the Wild Hunt that marks this night is meant to terrify children so that they will stay inside for the long winter’s storms, but I’ve not known children who were more driven by fears than their elders, so it hardly makes sense. And here for the telling of these tales everyone is gathered around the bon fire at the center of the village. But I see no children in these tribes.
[Footnote: Interpretatio Christiana] The letter from Pope Gregory I to Mellitus copied by Bede continues thus: …And because they are used to slaughter many oxen in sacrifice to devils, some solemnity must be given them in exchange for this, as that on the day of the dedication, or the nativities of the holy martyrs, whose relics are there deposited, they should build themselves huts of the boughs of trees about those churches which have been turned to that use from being temples, and celebrate the solemnity with religious feasting, and no more offer animals to the Devil, but kill cattle and glorify God in their feast, and return thanks to the Giver of all things for their abundance; to the end that, whilst some outward gratifications are retained, they may the more easily consent to the inward joys. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interpretatio_Christiana retrieved 8-20-21