In April a Swedish newspaper, The Local, reported, “Archeologists called to the depths of the Citybanan tunnel project in Stockholm were stunned to find what they believe to be Mjölnir, the hammer of Norse lightning god Thor.”
The article was an April Fools’ hoax. But the worldwide success of two Hollywood films about Thor, with a combined total exceeding $1 billion, not including his role in Marvel’s “The Avengers” or his popular Marvel comics and action figures, is no hoax. The Asgardian Avenger is riding a new wave of popularity only seen by the likes of one other famous character who has also influenced film, television, commercials and the news media during the season to be jolly.
Yes, Santa Claus is the only other figure known around the world to equal or surpass the growing popularity of the mighty Thor. It might surprise you to know, however, that these two charismatic figures have much more in common.
According to “The History of Santa Claus and Father Christmas” on www.arthuriana.co.uk, under Santa Claus and Thor, “The chimney descent supports the theory that Santa is ultimately the Norse god Thor. The Norse god Odin, who rode a white horse or drove reindeer, may also have contributed to the Santa Claus legend; as Francis Weiser points out, Thor was represented with a long white beard; his colour was red, since his element was fire, into which he descended through chimneys. His chariot was drawn by two white goats. He became the Yule-god through battling against the giants of ice and snow; he lived in the northland among icebergs.”
The article went on to say, “Santa’s debt to Thor was spotted as early as 1872, when O.M. Spencer placed both figures in the context of a seasonal fertility rite: Thor battling the ice-giant is Spring’s eternal conflict with Winter. The three ritual colors attached to St. Nicholas since the Middle Ages are appropriate to a figure rooted in the seasonal fertility rite.”
Mythologist Helene Adeline Guerber presented other similarities between Thor and Santa in the book “Myths of Northern Lands.” Not only was Thor’s color red and he lived in the North Pole, but the fireplace was sacred to Thor and he came down the chimney into his element, fire. Guerber wrote, “Thor was considered a preeminently benevolent deity and it was for that reason that he was so widely worshiped.”
In the book, “Holly, Reindeer, and Colored Lights, The Story of Christmas Symbols,” Edna Barth wrote, “Swedish children wait eagerly for Jultometen, a gnome whose sleigh is drawn by the Julbocker, the goats of the thunder god Thor. With his red suit and cap, and a bulging sack on his back, he looks much like the American Santa Claus.”
In the chapter, “Santa Claus and His Ancestors,” Barth says, “Thousands of years before Christ, the Scandinavian god Odin rode through the world at midwinter on this eight-footed horse, Sleipnir, bringing reward and punishment. His son, Thor, god of farming, thunder and war made his home in the far north. The Christian religion brought an end to such pagan gods, in form at least. Later, as St. Nicholas and Father Christmas, they reappeared in spirit.”
In a recent article for geekygentleman.com called, “Thor’s Day: Norse Gods and Reboot Culture,” Matthew Faustini, who worked as an editorial assistant at Marvel Entertainment wrote, “While he had immense religious significance in pre-Christian Scandinavia, pilgrims seeking to convert the pagans to Christianity attempted to subvert the image of Thor (along with the other Norse gods), connecting it to evil forces. In some areas, this galvanized the local population into more fervent support of their traditional protector.
“The wearing of a hammer pendant around one’s neck was often seen as a reaction to the cross, and Thor in a sense became a major subject of prayer and a rival to Jesus. In the end, of course, Christianity won this mythic battle, and it was ironically the Christian clergy, learned in the ‘art’ of writing, who preserved the Norse myths.”
To this day Thor is said to represent Santa Claus in Sweden. Dr. H.R. Ellis Davidson in “Scandinavian Mythology,” wrote, “It was Thor who in the last days of heathenism was regarded as the chief antagonist of Christ.”
For those who still believe Jesus is the reason for the season, this might be food for thought. Could someone still be waging war for a place in our hearts and in the hearts of our children? Could this fascination with the god of thunder reach beyond commercialism or entertainment and impact one’s relationship with the Supreme God who told Moses at Exodus 20:5, “I am the Lord your God and I tolerate no rivals.” — Good News Translation.
What we do with what we know is between us and God. He is no myth. Instead, He searches hearts and knows when we are bad or good. No need to hammer that point home. The Most High has much better instruments to make His point than any hammer.
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