Wren day is an ancient festival of a few Western-European countries. It falls on the 26th of December, right after the winter solstice. The tradition revolves around the decorated pole with a fake wren bird on its top. The masked crowd parades this pole through town, accompanied by music and dance.
There is no consensus on the origins of this festival. The three main sources usually proposed are Christianity, Norse and Celtic mythology.
However, there are many other similar festivals in Europe. They are all centered around the winter solstice. A masked crowd parades through the village, going from door to door, singing and dancing, and collecting gifts. Such masked men are Kukeri in Bulgaria, Bele poklade in Serbia, Kurent in Slovenia, Busójárás in Hungary, Krampus in Germany, to name just a few.
In essence, there is not much difference between these festivals. However, the Wren day has two unique motifs – a bird on a pole and straw-costumes, instead of the typical scary ones. It is these two motifs that we will first discuss.
Milky Way or the straw way
Christianity adopted much of the pagan symbolism. The celebration of the new solar cycle became Christmas. And the straw costumes that the wren boys are wearing, represent the same hay in which Jesus was born. This hay actually stands for the Milky Way.
Namely, in the Wikipedia article “List of names for the Milky Way,” you will see some of the countries who saw it as straw/hay: Armenia, Chechenia, Turkey with Kurds, most of the Arabic countries, and some Balkan countries like Serbia and Croatia.
On a typical nativity scene, hay stands for the Milky Way, the bull for the Taurus constellation, and the three wise men are the three stars of Orion’s belt.
In an image on the left, we see an angel in the top-right corner. If we take the whole scene as an astronomical allegory, he would represent the polar star.
The wren pole and the “polar” star
The bird on the pole is a really interesting motif. There is very little doubt that the “pole” represented the celestial pole – the Axis Mundi. It was an imaginary line going through the center of the Earth all the way to the polar star, with the whole celestial sphere rotating around it. The polar star is a part of the Little Dipper constellation. And dipper is the bird of the wren family!
The same image exists on one of the earliest zodiacs – The Dendera zodiac of Ancient Egypt. But here we don’t see a wren, king of the birds, but Horus, the king of gods.
Dendera Zodiac, a detail.
Orion, Taurus, and Polar star in paleolith
All of these symbols are related. And that means that the common source lies much deeper in time. Perhaps we should have a better look at some Paleolithic drawings. Similar symbolism exists in Lascaux, France. It dates to around 18,000 BC.
Here we see a bird on the stick, followed by the man with erected phallus (Orion) and the bull. This is the correct order of the stars in the winter night sky! Moreover, we see the same image in the Dendera Zodiac!
We may never know what is the bird depicted in the Lascaux cave. But the “ritual of chasing the bird” reappears in one of the most remote places on Earth – the Easter islands. They call it Tangata manu. In a nutshell, the point of this perilous, shamanic ritual, was to bring an egg through the shark-infested waters. The bird in question here is not a wren or a falcon but the sooty tern.
And finally, the bird carvings on this sacred site remind of those of Göbekli Tepe, dated to at least 10,000 BC.
Obviously, these ideas are paleolithic, at least. Certain authors associate the birds of Göbekli Tepe with the constellation Cygnus. The Cygnus marked the polar star – the tip of the world’s axis around 18-16,000BC. This is roughly the time of the Lascaux drawings.
Fascinating as this is, should it really be surprising? I have already written an article proving that astronomy is at least 40,000 years old. It is just the egoism of modern men and a tendency to label ancients as primitive monkeys that are stopping us from seeing things as they really are – marvelous in every sense.