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Ibex and Santa

Ibex and Santa

Ibex and Santa

Copyright © 2017 by Yehuda Rotblum

The horned animal myths spread around the world is a 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.

The symbol is localized to geographical areas and it represents the region horned animal. It could be an Ibex, Reindeer, Deer, Caribou, and even a Ram. Apparently, the horned animal symbol changes with geography and time but its symbolic role is maintained throughout. Accordingly, its role as presented in many mediums such as rockart,  it represents the Earth God with its connection to fertility. Some places it brings rain that causes the land to burst with its abundance and it has always a constant association with the Sun.

Fig. 1 Examples of ibex hunt, Negev Desert Rockart. The sun is the circle between the ibex horns.

There are many examples, in rockart and myths, of hunting the horned animal that carries the sun, Fig.1. In this example, the Sun is the circle between the Ibex horns. This scenario, of the ibex,  that carries the sun and is hunted was created long ago in myths that explain the Sun cyclical behavior, both daily and seasonal. The sun carrier scene is illustrated in many variations over the world, as shown in Fig2.

Fig. 2 Examples of horned animal that carries the sun from Asia. Left to right: Negev Desert, Persia, Pakistan, Tibet, and Siberia.

An important role of the Earth God or its symbol, the horned animal, was to take care of the sun travel in the sky (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 sun disappearance. 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.

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