Ibex and Santa
Ibex and Santa
Copyright © 2017 by Yehuda Rotblum
The horned animal myths spread around the world is proof of its strength and age. Its deep permeability into far and different cultures shows that the symbol existed for long times, his prominence is known from the Paleolithic times. It could be an Ibex, Reindeer, Deer, Caribou, and even a Ram. Apparently, the symbol changes with geography and time but its role is maintained throughout. Accordingly, its role as presented in many mediums such as rockart, it represents the Fertility God and it has always an association with the Sun as illustrated in Fig2.
Fig. 2 Examples of horned animal that carries the sun from Asia. Left to right: Negev Desert, Persia, Pakistan, Tibet, and Siberia.
The Vanishing Sun myth
An important role of the Fertility God, the horned animal, was to take care of the sun (see the article, Ibex Hunt). The Sun Journey, daily and seasonal, got much attention in myths and rockart, especially during its most vulnerable times of Sun disappearance, either at night or winter time or during an eclipse. Such event marked for the ancients that chaos and dark forces overtook the land. The vanishing Sun phenomenon was a fertile ground for the rise of many customs and rituals, especially during the winter solstice. In the ancient world, the fire ritual was common in all cultures, from Asia to northern Europe and Israel, and its purpose was to strengthen the dwindling sun strength. Worship was conducted by burning wood or shooting flaming arrows into the sky to boost the dying Sun energy.
The myth of Santa Claus, relatively modern, is a late derivation of these ancient customs and is probably related to the ancient myth of vanishing sun. Same icons of the original myth survived in this cheerful story; it echoes the sun disappearance myth with the attempt to bring it back to earth. In this modern version, Santa Claus is returning to earth from the North Pole at Christmas time, ie. with the first-day elongation, or the shortest day of the year. He returns on a wagon harnessed to red nose reindeer. The reindeer represents the horned animal and its red nose is a symbol of the Sun that is returning to earth. Christmas is celebrated on December 24, three days after the winter solstice when the days begin to lengthen, or a time when the Sun power begins to strengthen.
So myths never die they just change clothes!
More deciphering, in a new book Rock Art in Israel, available online.