Profound and powerful magical charm that gets us drunk
in the present on the restored past! Baudelaire – The Flowers Of Evil
A day originally named for pagan Sun-God or Forest Father, Silvanus and like so many other things, was usurped by Christians and stamped with the name of St. Sylvester, is celebrated on December 31st.
The word, sylvan comes from the Latin meaning “wood” or “wooded.” Sylvester is also known as the Keeper Of The Woods. It is in his honor that a feast is celebrated with wild partying, drunkeness and the more magical aspects of protection and fertility rituals.
Branches are cut and woven into large circles to be placed on homes to protect the structure from fires in the coming year. Differing varieties of corn are mixed together with wild clover and fed to the animals to ward off witches. Stolen cabbages are fed to horses to ensure their good health in the new year. Finally, in hopes of making the fruit trees fertile, little sacks of peas are made to beat the trees with.
To maintain your own family’s heath or predict it, numerous things can be done. Precisely at midnight if you put a broth made of wild pears on the threshold, death cannot enter your home. Plant oracles could reveal what the year will hold as well -“During Sylvester night, you put an evergreen leaf on a plate filled with water. If it remained green the following night, health could be expected the following year. But stains prophesied illness – and blackness – death itself.” – Hiller 1989
Even in these modern times, all over the world with the first stroke of midnight, bringing in the new year, the air is filled with a cacophony of noise from fireworks, to pot banging to gun shots. This is all done in order to frighten away the bad spirits, ghosts, demons and witches away. The noise was also expected to “wake up” the sleeping seeds below the earth.
I found this charming video created by some German youths, celebrating the “resurrection of the sylvan god!” in rituals, feasting (are those furry apples?!), and it even includes some stop motion animation – enjoy!
Photo by Andreas Praefcke