Now winter is the time of holidays and gifts. But in ancient harsh times it was supposed to rejoice only in the morning — in the morning after some special night, when terrible gods and spirits came to collect their lodging with human lives. Belief in them has left its mark on many nations.
A popular legend is that the ancient Slavs and Romanians of the terrible winter spirit called Karachun, but in fact this hypothesis is based only on the names of Christmas from some nations and on curses such as “so that the karachun takes you away”. No traces of Karachun as a character in Slavic folklore have been discovered so far. The spirit of winter, capable (and willing) to freeze people to death animals, in fairy tales are called Moroz, Morozko, Treskunets, Studenets.
He beats trees and rivers with a magic staff so that they freeze and crack, freezes with the breath of people who are caught at the wrong time in the forest and not enough polite girls and women. By the way, fairy tales in which he experiences oncoming ones and freezes those who are disrespectful with him can be both a reflection of the hope that trouble will bypass the rituals and an echo of the memory of the pagan custom to leave the beautiful girl to death from frost as a victim, from the harsh god.
In German and not only lands at Christmas, not only the good Saint Nicholas came to the children with gifts, but also Krampus — with rods for naughty children. The children were also told that he would always carry the most naughty with him in a bag. In the twentieth century, Krampus was forbidden to scare children, and the character was thoroughly forgotten until the release of a series of horror stories about him in the United States.
Krampus looks like a person with individual goat appearance. There is a version that before St. Nicholas he was the spirit of winter, and the stories of naughty children in a sack are a memory of the time when the kids were sacrificed to the spirit of winter on the worst winter night. Naturally, at the same time they got rid of the most uncomfortable children — the morals were very severe, and the parents did not know the rules to love everyone equally.
Joulupukki and Muori
The Finns tell their children about the good grandfather of Joulupukki, who brings presents for Christmas, and his caring and caring wife Muori. Surprisingly, just like a good grandfather, the name is a Christmas scarecrow in the form of a goat. Guess that a long time ago it was the same character, similar to Krampus? And he did not give out gifts, but collected. Probably. The Finns did not have written language then.
As for Muori, it is considered to be an analogue of the Scanlinavian winter goddesses: when it approaches, water rises and the fire fades. This is a literal description of a terrible cold. No ancient Finn would have been glad to meet her.
By the way, the first part of the name Joulupukki comes from the Swedish name Yule, the main winter night, when the spirits and gods gathered the harvest, going on the Wild Hunt.
Ull and Skadi
Ull, the god of skiers and the god of archers, according to Scandinavian beliefs, was the stepson of Thor and, probably, the husband of the goddess Skadi. In general, he is a positive and once very respected god (many places on the Scandinavian peninsula are named after him), but once a year he seems to be leading the Wild Hunt, killing random travelers and those who were expelled from home. Of course, it was a winter night. By the way, he was also a god of excitement and good luck. There is definitely something to it.
Goddess Skadi is an ice giantess. Like Ull, she is an archer, but fate brought them far from immediately. At first she married Nyörd, but she was on a guest marriage, and he was tired of it at some point. Then Skadi slept with Odin. And only then she got along with Ull. She froze the earth for the winter, and probably travelers too. Her name is also named in so many places — it seems that the goddess was revered widely and strongly.
Where as, but in Iceland in Yule they were not afraid of the gods, but of a huge cat. He is tearing apart those who, to Yule, did not manage to fulfill a number of conditions, for example, to get and put on new woolen clothes instead of old ones.
The mighty Yakut god is responsible for so many things — often terrible ones like devouring human souls, creating bears obsessed with cannibalism and the like. It is not surprising that among the horrors that are expected of him are long and terrible snowstorms that can completely cover a person’s dwelling, not to mention the fact that a hunter caught by such a storm will simply not survive.
Surprisingly or not, the very Ulu Toyon gave people fire with which they can escape from their terrible storms in their home.
In the mountains of Japan, according to old legends, the Snow Woman lives — an evil spirit, like a tall woman made of ice. Yuki Onna appears with snowfall or during snowstorms. She can also come in the snow with the full moon. In general, there is no reason to be afraid of her, just, despite all the beauty, Yuki Onna is considered terrible by default, and not for some actions. Why is she so icy? Those who are dumbfounded by fear, having met her gaze, are found frozen in the morning — which is very logical considering the weather.
By the way, Yuki Onna is not always cold. Sometimes she turns into an ordinary girl and marries mortal men. But sooner or later, her husband realizes that Yuki Onna is not a man, and then she leaves him.
Algonkins have a belief that a person can go mad and turn into a cannibal-wendigo who does not know saturation. But many years ago, Wendigo were the spirits of winter, cold and winter hunger. They ran through the forest, translucent and toothy, and devoured any person they met. They, like Yuuki Onna, are very tall, but terribly thin.
Germans, Austrians, and Czechs sometimes portray at Christmas the arrival of Perkhta — the winter witch. She has one big goose leg, and she walks in white robes. On Epiphany evening, according to popular beliefs, Perkhta went home with children, and looked for lazy people. She opened her stomach with them and filled them with cold stones. Later, probably, the belief was added that she awarded hardworking girls with silver coins left as a gift. Obviously, the motive of opening the abdomen can also be a memory of sacrifices.
In Holland they believed that Percht led a wild hunt for Yule or Christmas. She is armed with a sword, opens the travelers’ stomachs with them and eats the contents, just as hunters regale themselves with the contents of a deer’s stomach.