There is a tradition in Scandinavia, and in various parts of Europe, that at the time of Christmas – some say from the stroke of midnight when the baby Jesus was supposedly born, and some say at the moment when the wise men of the East came to pay homage – the animals are gifted with human speech.
Those who study folklore have put forward various academic theories as to the origin of this belief, such as the melding of earlier pagan belief with the ‘new’ Christianity, or the world turned upside down because the birth occurred at midnight, but it is possible to find a pure and simple mystical lesson in it. If the baby represents the divine manifested in human form, openly seen and not veiled, it is natural that all of nature would respond. Hazrat Inayat Khan once commented that all the atoms ‘stand up,’ out of both respect and inspiration, in the presence of the illuminated soul. Those realised beings who have dropped any claim to ‘self,’ become the Truth to which the universe aspires.
At its foundation, the image of the talking beasts is a representation of that manifestation of light. The Divine Presence is in all names and forms; we are made of love, by love. Throughout much of creation though, that Presence remains hidden, waiting to be revealed. Even the trees in the forest, said Hazrat Inayat, are planted in hope, the hope that someday that life which makes them reach upward will be revealed, and become fully aware of itself.
Also waiting is the vast family of humankind, but until we awaken to our divine heritage within, we are little more than animals. When the light begins to shine, though, and we begin to talk like true humans, it shows a step upward in our consciousness.
Therefore, may we all remember the gift of the Divine birth, and endeavour to speak through the darkness, like real human beings, in sincerity and truth.