Hello everyone, and welcome to a Festive Lukelore where I go completely off the rails to talk about bizarre holiday monsters that used to roam Europe in the dead of winter.
For anyone who has somehow stumbled upon this as your first Lukelore, this is a smaller companion show to the main Ghost Story Guys Podcast and it usually ties into what the main episodes tell, but I’m up to some Yule themed mischief here.
If all has gone right, this drops for Patrons on the 5th of December, meaning you all get this on Krampusnacht. So let’s start with what is easily the best known bogeyman of the holidays in Krampus.
Krampusnacht is pretty simply Krampus Night. The Germanic regions these tales come from would traditionally begin their winter feast rites at the beginning of December and Krampus at their simplest would go around the houses of naughty children on the 5th of December to either thrash them there and then with bound up birch twigs or else chuck the misbehaving child into a sack for some corrective kidnapping. In this Krampus is most usually seen as the demon of Saint Nicolas, good children get rewards and bad children get the goat monster kicking their doors down.
Krampus even has a simple solid horror movie name, coming from “Krampen” meaning “Claw”, but don’t let that fool you into thinking Krampus themselves are simple. There’s a lot going on here!
Most people know of Krampus because of a pretty big ongoing cultural revival where Krampusnacht is pretty loudly celebrated by areas of Europe native to the myth, and in parts of the world with significant settlement from Eastern Europeans, Bavarians, and Germans who brought their culture with them. For those of you in the United States, these costumed marches seem to be catching on over there. The slightest digging on my part showed that Clintonville in Pensylvania Ohio had their first official Krampus Parade in 2015. Traditionally: Men and women would get drunk and dress up to rampage through the streets, men in Krampus costumes and women as Frau Perchta who makes for a female counterpart in the revelry.
Krampus, or the stories which led to Krampus, appear to predate Christianity and therefore Christmas leaving him a very pagan relic of the holidays. There are some old Norse Mythology stories that point to him being a child of Hel with one L, the goddess of the underworld. Frau Perchta could be an aspect of Freyjay; the goddess of Abundance, Fertility and War.
While obviously the old pagan traditions have merged with Christian ones here, also obviously various churches hate Krampus and across history have taken runs at crushing the tradition. The cavorting devil side of things not being to their taste. But there’s room for everyone to enjoy Krampusnacht, if you love the old stories then nothing seems able to keep the goat demon down. If you unequivocally are a Christian, the Patron Saint of Children is supposed to have tamed Krampus to help teach morals to children. The fact that there are stories predating the Christian ones merely become the origin of how and where Saint Nicolas found a devil to tame.
Either way, being a big folklore fan I love the Krampus tradition and this is why I wanted to do a special festive Lukelore about them!
But as I began looking into Krampus, things just got better.
It turned out that there are loads of unusual Winter tradition creatures that are a part of the fabric of what became Christmas.
I’ve even had to cut a lot. Didn’t even need to dig too deep to get overwhelmed with content, so this could well have a part two in future!
I’ve narrowed down the next two traditions to Iceland, and I come bearing the gift of poetry here.
Anyone who knows the correct pronunciations for what follows? I am so, so sorry for what I’m about to do to these names.
First up we have the Yule or Yuke Cat, who immediately leapt out to me for being a giant cat who eats children who aren’t wearing new clothes at Christmas. I mean, that’s a bit harsh on any kids who didn’t get new clothes, but it certainly stood out.
The poem is originally from a poet named Jóhannes úr Kötlum
The one who translated it is Thor Ewing, and special thanks to the writer Villemey Mist who dug this up for me.
You’ve heard about the Yule Cat —
He really was immense ;
Nobody knew where he came from,
Nobody knew where he went.
He’d flash his eyes wide open
And both were glowing bright ;
It was not for the faint-hearted
To face that awful sight.
His whiskers sharp as meat-hooks,
His back was arched up high,
And the claws upon his shaggy paws
Were dreadful to espy.
He’d shake his mighty tail,
He’d leap, he’d scratch and puff,
Sometimes down in the valley,
Sometimes up on the bluff.
Hungry, wild and grim he roamed
Through bitter winter snow,
Gave everyone the shivers
Wherever he might go.
If you heard a dismal yowl outside
Your luck had just run out ;
It was men not mice he hunted —
Of that there was no doubt.
He preyed upon the poor folk
Who got no gifts for Yule,
Who struggled to keep going,
Whose life was hard and cruel.
He took all of their Yuletide food
From the table and the shelf,
He left them not a morsel,
He ate it all himself.
And so the women laboured
With spindle, reel and rock,
To make a little coloured patch
Or just a single sock.
Because he couldn’t come inside
To catch the little ones,
If you had given clothes
To your daughters and your sons.
And when the candles were kindled,
When Yule Night was come,
The children clutched their presents
As the cat outside looked on.
Some might get an apron,
Some shoes or other stuff,
As long as they’d got something,
That would be enough.
Because Kitty couldn’t eat them
If they had new clothes to put on ;
He’d hiss and howl horribly,
And then he would be gone.
Whether he’s about still
I really couldn’t tell,
But if everyone gets gifts for Yule,
Then all may yet be well.
Perhaps you will remember
To help with gifts yourself ;
Perhaps there still are children
Who would get nothing else.
Maybe if you can help those
Who need a little cheer,
It will bring you a Good Yule
And a Happy New Year!
Not gonna lie, sounds like a terrifying fairy creature that is easily dissuaded by following its rules while likely unstoppable if you don’t. Feel free to be generous gifting children!
Still on the topic of fairy creatures, (Merry Christmas Brennan!), and also from Iceland is GRYLA the Christmas Witch. Christmas Witch seems a bit of an oversimplification, as she’s more an ogress that rules the mountains you absolutely should not be messing with. She and her children have a part to play in Iceland’s traditional version of Yule, although Gryla herself seems to have other stories as a bogeyman along the fringes of Christianity at other times such as Lent when she will cut open the stomachs of children who cry for food when they should be fasting. Which… Seems harsh. But she IS an ogre.
The poem I’ve got here is about how her children will come down out of the mountains to cause trouble at Christmas if you aren’t careful.
“Jólasveinarnir” by Jóhannes úr Kötlum
English translation/Copyright © Hallberg Hallmundsson.
I found this hosted online by Yngiwulf at their wordpress talesofyngiwulf (apologies for the atrocious pronunciation there, it should hopefully still be findable).
Let me tell the story of the lads of few charms, who once upon a time used to visit our farms.
Thirteen altogether, these gents in their prime didn´t want to irk people all at one time.
They came from the mountains, as many of you know, in a long single file to the farmsteads below.
Creeping up, all stealth, they unlocked the door. The kitchen and the pantry they came looking for.
Grýla was their mother – she gave them ogre milk – and the father Leppalúdi; a loathsome ilk.
They hid where they could, with a cunning look or sneer, ready with their pranks when people weren´t near.
They were called the Yuletide lads – at Yuletide they were due – and always came one by one, not ever two by two.
And even when they were seen, they weren´t loath to roam and play their tricks – disturbing the peace of the home.
The first of them was Sheep-Cote Clod.
He came stiff as wood, to pray upon the farmer´s sheep as far as he could.
He wished to suck the ewes, but it was no accident he couldn´t; he had stiff knees – not to convenient.
The second was Gully Gawk, gray his head and mien. He snuck into the cow barn from his craggy ravine.
Hiding in the stalls, he would steal the milk, while the milkmaid gave the cowherd a meaningful smile.
Stubby was the third called, a stunted little man, who watched for every chance to whisk off a pan.
And scurrying away with it, he scraped off the bits that stuck to the bottom and brims – his favorites.
The fourth was Spoon Licker; like spindle he was thin. He felt himself in clover when the cook wasn´t in.
Then stepping up, he grappled the stirring spoon with glee, holding it with both hands for it was slippery.
Pot Scraper, the fifth one, was a funny sort of chap. When kids were given scrapings, he´d come to the door and tap.
And they would rush to see if there really was a guest. Then he hurried to the pot and had a scrapingfest.
Bowl Licker, the sixth one, was shockingly ill bred. From underneath the bedsteads he stuck his ugly head.
And when the bowls were left to be licked by dog or cat, he snatched them for himself – he was sure good at that!
The seventh was Door Slammer, a sorry, vulgar chap: When people in the twilight would take a little nap,
he was happy as a lark with the havoc he could wreak, slamming doors and hearing the hinges on them sqeak
Skyr Gobbler, the eighth, was an awful stupid bloke. He lambasted the skyr tub till the lid on it broke.
Then he stood there gobbling – his greed was well known – until, about to burst, he would bleat, howl and groan.
The ninth was Sausage Swiper, a shifty pilferer. He climbed up to the rafters and raided food from there.
Sitting on a crossbeam in soot and in smoke, he fed himself on sausage fit for gentlefolk.
The tenth was Window Peeper, a weird little twit, who stepped up to the window and stole a peek through it.
And whatever was inside to which his eye was drawn, he most likely attempted to take later on.
Eleventh was Door Sniffer, a doltish lad and gross. He never got a cold, yet had a huge, sensitive nose.
He caught the scent of lace bread while leagues away still and ran toward it weightless as wind over dale and hill
Meat Hook, the twelfth one, his talent would display as soon as he arrived on Saint Thorlak´s Day.
He snagged himself a morsel of meet of any sort, although his hook at times was a tiny bit short.
The thirteenth was Candle Beggar – ´twas cold, I believe, if he was not the last of the lot on Christmas Eve.
He trailed after the little ones who, like happy sprites, ran about the farm with their fine tallow lights.
On Christmas night itself – so a wise man writes – the lads were all restraint and just stared at the lights.
Then one by one they trotted off into the frost and snow. On Twelfth Night the last of the lads used to go.
Their footprints in the highlands are effaced now for long, the memories have all turned to image and song They seem more torublemakers than anything else, dissuaded if you take care in your jobs around Christmastime. Would NOT mess with their mum though, and would be very wary around Gryla’s Mountains. Her children are up to mischief, she will straight up knife you for giving her a funny look.
That’s all for Luke Lore this time.
I will be back in the New Year with another episode, and followers on Patreon get this early so check out patreon.com/ghoststoryguys for that and plenty more cool stuff if you want to support us directly.
But just listening is plenty of support in and of itself.
I hope you enjoy my companion show and please feel free to reach out to either the show or myself directly via email or social media if you have any questions, feedback, or requests for Luke Lore.
The show email is ghoststoryguys@gmail .com, and I am Luke Greensmith on both Twitter and Facebook. We also have a very active Instagram account full or fun things we’ve found around the internet and even occasionally news and peeks behind the scenes. Special thank you again to Villemey Mist, whose name I am almost certainly pronouncing wrong. Her debut novel Eternal Blood is out if you’re a vampire fan and after finding me that great Yule Cat poem she more than deserves the shout out! As for absolutely everyone… Enjoy the holidays, however it is you want to celebrate them. Just take some time for family and get your feast on to show the dark that life goes on and you aren’t afraid.