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Primal Christmas presents

12/21/2005

Given the volume of catalogs flooding my mailbox, if Christmas came more than once a year, the earth would be suffering massive deforestation. That would be too bad, because what is Christmas without Christmas trees!

Aside from honoring the birth of Christ, many of the basic elements of the Christmas tradition — the tree, reindeer, a magical man flying through the air to bestow gifts, holly wreaths, mistletoe, elves and the like — originate from the folk traditions of northern Scandinavia, especially the native Saami culture, or Lapps.

This is special to me, as my family name traces its roots back to the Saami, where it was "Sweyn," before my ancestor "Olaf The Black" led his people to settle in northern Scotland, where they became the "Swans" of Clan Gunn.

With all the commercialization, the true roots of the season can be forgotten; which depletes the true spirit of the celebration — bringing light to the darkest time of the year.

To honor the roots of our Christmas tradition, every year we cut a live tree, put real candles on it, invite the neighborhood to come over, light the candles and sing carols around tree. (I also teach people to "Yoik" — a unique Saami style of singing — but that's another story.)

In keeping with the primal spirit of Christmas, the following are some suggestions about stocking stuffers that will light up the fires in a sportsmen's soul this Yule.

Video

  • "Primal Dreams" by Barry and Gene Wensel, $20.00.

    Barry and Gene Wensel are icons of modern ethical bowhunting, and in this new beautiful nearly two-hour video the Wensels invite you into the romance and beauty of the outdoor experience seen through the eyes of true woodsmen.

    Stunning scenery, majestic wildlife and spectacular music accompany the thrill of the chase. This is what dreams are made of.

    The commentary is minimal, often poetic, kills are infrequent and the overall experience is mesmerizing. This is the best video I've ever seen about the soul of the hunter. To order, go to www.brothersofthebow.com.

    Books

  • "Antlers: A Guide to Collecting, Scoring, Mounting and Carving" by Dennis Walrod (Stackpole; $16.95).

    The ideal gift for all you horny devils, Dennis Walrod's remarkable book about the allure of antlers goes far beyond scoring.

    Complemented by black-and-white photos and line drawings, the title delves into the biology of antlers, scoring, collecting sheds and using them for art, gives you instructions on making an antler chandelier, and even sheds light on the ancient claims that antlers are a source of magical medical powers — which turns out to be partially true.

  • "Sharks of The World" by Leonard Compagno, Marc Dando, and Sarah Fowler (Princeton University Press; $29.95).

    Ever since "Jaws," people have been caught up in mystique of sharks in the way that traditional cultures sometimes consider them gods.

    If you want a truly primal experience, have an eye-to-eye encounter with the spine-chilling and icy-cold eyes of a shark.

    But the world of the shark family is much, much more; and as this extremely detailed and beautifully illustrated field guide shows, there are a lot more sharks in the world than you might think.

    You can read this book on several levels. There are enough details for a scientist and a key to sharks of the world that takes some real study to use. But the pictures alone are worth the buy.

    If you meet up with a swimming shark anyplace in the world, this is the book that will identify it. The sequel should be about the two-legged variety!

    Music

  • "Drinkin' Town, Fishin' Problem" by the World's Greatest Fishing Band, 2005. $11.95 CD from www.fishingband.com.

    The World's Greatest Fishing Band is a down-home country act fronted by Gary Shiebler.

    The CD showcases a dozen truly original good-spirited and toe-tapping tunes about the ups and downs of piscatorial pursuits that will get your rubber boots tapping out a rhythm faster than a lunker bass can chomp down on a hula popper, including my favorites "Shake, Rattle and Troll," "Launching Ramp Blues," "Redneck Side of Him" and the unforgettable "It Really Makes Me Nervous (When You Touch My Rod)."

    James Swan — who has appeared in more than a dozen feature films, including "Murder in the First" and "Star Trek: First Contact," as well as the television series "Nash Bridges," "Midnight Caller" and "Modern Marvels" — is the author of the book "In Defense of Hunting." Click to purchase a copy. To learn more about Swan, visit his Web site.

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