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The Midwinter Child

By a Contemporary Druid

The nativity story of Christianity so familiar to us has historical antecedents in the Pagan traditions of pre-Christian Europe. These traditions largely center on the Child of the Midwinter Sun whose story can be found in mythologies across the world. The child is known as Tammuz, Apollo, Dionysus, Mithras, Osiris, Attis, Baal, and the Mabon. All of these gods were either solar deities or dying/resurrecting whose glory or rebirth was celebrated on or about the Midwinter Solstice.

Apollo was the mighty Greek God of the Sun who was born in a cave and was also seen as a shephard, depicted in iconography as a young boy with a sheep draped around his neck. Mithras was the God of the Morning – a solar god sent to earth to slay a mighty bull. He was a favored deity of Rome, especially the army, from the 2nd to the 5th centuries. John Matthews intimates that his birth was attended by shephards, that he shared a last supper with his followers, and was thougth to have ascended into heaven. Osiris was slain by Set and revived by Isis on the Midwinter Solstice, which may be seen as parallel for the rising and the setting of the sun and its connection with the fertility of the Nile River. Attis, Tammuz, and Adonis were all vegetation gods who were sacrificed to ensure the continuation of the crops and then reborn the following year.

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