Sunday, December 22, 2019

Afraid of the dark?

Because theirs were "primitive minds," ya know....

Susan Cooper is probably a very nice person, but when it comes to the winter solstice, she is full of shite.

The tell in the NPR interview was when she spoke of "primitive peoples" scared of the dark and lighting fires on the night of the solstice to bring the sun back.  This kind of "sympathetic magic" is too crude even for Sir James George Frazer, but it persists as a "truth" and a "tradition" that predates human history and became true only after the Enlightenment, when we began to think of our ancestors as little better than the apes in "2001," and thank Reason we finally left all that behind in the...18th century.

The satire of Jonathan Swift and his intelligent horses notwithstanding.

Let me just quote myself on the subject (the first link, above, is an extensive and overlapping list of articles with "solstice" in them.  It's not "curated," in the current jargon, IOW.)

And rebirth of the sun?  In northern Europe that return of the sun doesn't happen for months.  Today may be the shortest day of the year, but the sun's "re-birth" isn't realized for months.  Today is the first day of winter, not the last.  Besides, Christmas observances started in Egypt, and only got to Europe in the 4th century.  Not a whole lot of sun worshippers left in Europe by then (the Romans worshipped their leaders as gods, and the Greeks were never that enamored of pantheism).  To say 4th century Europe was influenced by Druids and sun worshippers is to say American culture was heavily influenced by the natives who set up elaborate sun calendars in the American southwest, calendars we have only recently figured out.  Again, the past is simple, the present is complicated; or something.
Celebrating light in northern Europe in winter?  Who wouldn't?  Lighting fires as winter began?  Makes sense to me! But it has bugger all to do with being "primitive," or a "tradition" that only passed away when the Enlightenment taught us sweet Reason.

There is so much ignorance in the world I sometimes think Trump is just the tip of the iceberg.

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