Thursday 20 December 2007
Miles Kington: On the 12th day of Yule, my true love went binge-drinking
Today I am bringing you a continuation of yesterday's session of the United Deities, in which all the gods upstairs were discussing the way the Roman feast of Saturnalia had been rebranded as Christmas by the early Christians. As rebranding and reinvention are still so much with us today, I think we should stick with them for a little longer...
1. The chairgod said that they had heard him correctly. He had indeed said that religions came and went. He stuck by that.
2. There were several very strong and thriving faiths in the world today. Hinduism. Islam. Christianity of various hues. Religions with staying power. But everyone knew that there were hundreds which had fallen by the wayside, and were to all intents and purposes discontinued.
3. Not in his experience, said the Catholic God. Catholicism had started small, perhaps, but it had grown and grown, and now, whatever you thought privately of the Vatican as a corporate entity, and He sometimes despaired of it, you could not help denying that the true faith flourished.
4. The chairgod reminded the Catholic God that it was against house rules to refer to any faith as the "true faith," as all faiths were as true as any other. He also should not think of himself as "He" with a capital "H", as gods had agreed to give up upper cases with pronouns. Even when spoken.
5. The Catholic God said He was sorry. Sorry he was sorry.
6. The chief Roman God, Jupiter, said he would speak up in favour of the chairgod. He was absolutely right. Religions did come and go. Most of all known religions were no longer believed in. Most religions had been recycled from other religions in the first place. Most gods who took advantage of these admittedly great entertainment facilities at the United Deities were survivors of faiths no longer observed.
7. He himself, Jupiter, was the victim of such a fate. Nobody celebrated Roman rites any more. The very word "Roman" had been taken over by the bloody Vatican. He was lucky in that the real Roman myths and gods had such strong personalities that they had outlived the disappearance of sacrificing and entrail reading etc.
8. The head Greek God, Zeus, endorsed this. He said that if the Roman religion had not rebranded the leading icons of Greek religion for its own use, there would hardly have been any Roman gods to speak of. Mars, the Roman god of war, was just a recycled Zeus. What was Mercury if not a reinvented Roman form of Hermes? Both were celestial messengers, and he thought they both did a terrific job, but Hermes was the true, the original. Mercury was a Roman clone.
9. Mercury asked if he could comment on that.
10. Loki, Norse god of mischief, wondered if anyone had ever seen Mercury and Hermes together in the same place. Perhaps they WERE the same god. Moving very fast from place to place to maintain the illusion of being separate. A bit spooky.
11. Hermes asked if he might comment on that.
12. Loki asked if there was something wrong with his ears, or was there an echo in here?
13. Jupiter said that the Norse gods were lucky in that they never got accused of being recycled from Greece or Rome, yet they must have had their own winter festival like Saturnalia.
14. Loki said did they ever. It was called Yule. They may have heard of it. Yule was a great party which went on for days and days and days. It, too, was eventually replaced by feeble little Christmas. Christmas only went on for a day or so. That's why the Church pretended they had Twelve Days of Christmas. Those Twelve Days weren't Christian at all. They were Yule in disguise.
15. The chairgod said that it was pretty clear by now that the Christians had had their comeuppance. They had taken over the pagan festivals, but now the pagans were taking over again. Carols were on the way out, binge drinking was on the way back in again.
16. Which brought him to the next item on the agenda, the arrangements for the gods' turn-of-the-year ambrosia party...
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