With a sub-title such as this, “Yuetide Traditions for the Darkest Days of the Year” we know that this is not going to be a rousing, cheerful, typical Christmas book. And if you’re not completely sure what this is about, reading the introduction lets you know what sort of voyage this book will encompass. Take for instance:
“Few of the spirits you encounter will make your blood run cold, for the aim of this book is to capture the mystery of Christmas, not to evoke full-blown horror. Still … you’ll be looking out for the Wild Hunt instead of Santa’s sleigh, and as soon as you turn your calendar page to December, you’ll be on alert for the thump of a broom, the rustle of straw or the brushing of birch twigs against the window pane.”
This all made me a little skeptical to get in to the book, but it was in my queue and I was determined to give it a read. And I’m glad I did.
While this is in no way going to convert me to paganism, and maybe not even give me a greater appreciation of the pagan background, it did give me a greater appreciation of the history and mythology of the Scandinavian culture (as most of the information provided is historically linked to our Norse neighbors), and for that, I am grateful.
Author Linda Raedisch has clearly done her research, is passionate about the topic, and writes on her subject very well. I found the information wonderful and easy to absorb. There was so much content that I was not familiar with (I’ve done a great deal of research on Scandinavian mythology actually) that I took regular notes and devoured her bibliography.
Each chapter included some cooking and crafts related to the information in the chapters. This was over-kill for me, but clearly I was looking to the book for mythological content and not how to enjoy a non-Christian Christmas (which seems to me the initial intent behind the book).
Over-all, I got much more out of this book than I anticipated, and enjoyed it for that.
Looking for a good book? This non-Christian look at the history of Christmas is full of wonderful information and mythological history.
* * * * * *
The Old Magic of Christmas: Yuletide Traditions for the Darkest Days of the Year
author: Linda Raedisch
publisher: Llewellyn Publications
paperback, 312 pages