John Barleycorn should die…I’m thirsty

As in the words of the poet Robert Burns –

There was three kings into the east,
   Three kings both great and high,
 And they hae sworn a solemn oath
   John Barleycorn should die.

John Barleycorn smiles as you drink his blood, the result of fermented barley

John Barleycorn smiles as you drink his blood, the result of fermented barley

I do have a passing interest in ancient beliefs and folk lore.  One of my favourite books on my bookcase (yes, I do have a bookcase in my lounge) is a collection of old folk tales of the British Isles.  One tale within this book is called The Wee Bunnock, the original version of The Gingerbread Man which was a nursery rhyme read to me when I was a toddler.

For those unfamiliar with John Barleycorn, you may want to read this wikipedia page.  I will tell you in summary that it is a story and song dating back centuries with John Barleycorn a metaphor for barley, and the whisky and beer that is made from the barley.  It examines his life, indignities and death and subsequent new life as an invigorating drink.  Man, I offer thanks for his passing every time I have a glass of whisky.

One of the facts that Jehovah’s Witnesses have said to my wife Gloria is that Jesus Christ was not born on 25th December.  She later asked me about this.  I explained that that’s true but this does not disprove anything in the Bible as the Bible never actually tells us Jesus Christ’s birth date.

The date of 25th December as the celebration of Jesus’ birthday should bring a wry smile to every Christian’s face.  This date was previously Dies Natalis Invicti which was probably first celebrated in Rome by order of the Emperor Aurelian who was an ardent worshipper of the Syrian sun-god Baal.  The worship of Baal features repeatedly in The Old Testament as an idolatrous religion.

And as for the twelve days of Christmas, look no further than the twelve day Yule festival.

Well, this is the pity with Britain.  We have a rich history of pre-Christian beliefs, festivals and architecture but it seems to me that not enough Britons care about them.  Our pre-Christian history is as exciting and frightening as that of South America or Africa but do we care enough about this in Britain today?

Okay, you are right.  I am a little biased.  I got a grade A in my History GCSE exam and I enjoy a glass of whisky when it is etiquette to do so.  So, I will continue to shout that John Barleycorn should die…I’m thirsty.

2 Comments

  1. You might enjoy some of the works (novels & stories) of Thomas Burnett Swann, an American writer who incorporates the old mythos into his stories. You might also get some amusement from the works of Alan Garner, which are a bit juvenile, but fair stories anyway, which use ancient mythic material, primarily British, in their plots.

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