Pagan Spirit

How Charles Dickens warped my life

The moment Scrooge's hand was on the lock, a strange voice called him by his name, and bade him enter. He obeyed.

It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation. The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney, as that dull petrifaction of a hearth had never known in Scrooge's time, or Marley's, or for many and many a winter season gone. Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see:, who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty's horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door.

"Come in!" exclaimed the Ghost. "Come in, and know me better, man."

Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit's eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.

"I am the Ghost of Christmas Present," said the Spirit. "Look upon me."

Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the garment, were also bare; and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour, and its joyful air. Girded round its middle was an antique scabbard; but no sword was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust.

"You have never seen the like of me before!" exclaimed the Spirit.
— Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

When I was a child, my mother used to take me to art shows, concerts, theatre (performing) matinees, art house theaters (movies), museums, basically anything that was cultural, cheap, and could be done on a weekend. The stebsibs were a little too old to appreciate the shows, but she got to me at exactly the right time.

One of my earliest pure "Pagan" memories is going to see a stage production of Dicken's A Christmas Carol. Now granted, it's a very Christian story, but there are three pure Pagan characters that Scrooge's redemption hinges on. None more than the Ghost of Christmas Present, who is about as Pagan as they come. This guy appeared in the middle of a feast, which was absolutely amazing to the child me. You just knew he was naked under that robe, and his laugh made it clear that he was ready for fun. He didn't care about conventions, he was here to PARTY. This was Santa as a much younger man after he had been drinking for a few hours. At least, that is how the child me saw it.

Above is a colored version of the original John Leech illustration.

This is Desmond Barrit from the 1999 film staring Patrick Stewart as Ebenezer Scrooge. Look at that robe, it practically screams Pagan spirit. It sings life in the middle of winter and demands charity.

I've a beard and long hair myself. How much did this early exposure influence me? It's hard to say, but fun to speculate.

I did my rites a few days ago, but there is still a matter of tradition to fulfill. I'm volunteering in the local food kitchen today. I've several Santa hats in red and one in green. I'm choosing the green one to wear.

Have to erase the Doom of Ignorance and Want somehow, at least for today.

Posted: Thu - December 25, 2008 at 04:58 AM
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