Monday, December 12, 2016

25 Days of Creepy Christmas - Jólakötturinn

Jólakötturinn the Christmas Cat

On episode 18 of the podcast, we covered the haunted side of Iceland and its folklore. We discussed elves and elf stones that reputedly are home to elves and it is bad luck to move those stones. This led into discussing the Yule Lads of which there are thirteen. Each one has a particular characteristic or action associated to him. There is the Sheep Coat Clod, Gully Gawk who steals milk, Stubby who steals pans to eat the crust from them, Spoon Licker who steals spoons of course, Pot Licker who eats leftovers, Bowl Licker who eats from your bowl if you set it down, Door Slammer, Skyr Gobbler who eats Skyr, which is like our yogurt, Sausage Swipper, Window Peeper, Doorway Sniffer, Meat Hook who steals meat with a hook and Candle Stealer. There is something that we missed in the folklore and that is Iceland's Christmas Cat.

The Icelandic Yule Cat is named Jólakötturinn. This is not a cute cuddly cat. This isn't a cat who might reach out and give you a little scratch if you get to close. This cat, might actually eat you! During the Christmas season, children who finished all their chores would receive new clothes for Christmas. If one is lazy, well, you can forget those new clothes because you were lazy. Sometimes the possibility of receiving new clothes is not enough and the legend of Jólakötturinn was born. They would tell the children that the cat could tell who the lazy children were because they had not received clothes on Christmas. And so, the cat would eat the lazy children. Scared children do their chores and even do things for the needy. It is said that Icelanders work more overtime than most Europeans and perhaps this is why. Because the cat doesn't just come for children, he comes for adults too.

The Christmas Cat Poem
You’ve heard of the Christmas cat,
that cat was monstrously huge.
People knew not where he came or where he went.
He opened his eyes wide,
they both were glowing.
It was not for the cowards to look into them.
Whiskers sharp as needles,
the tall curve of its bent back,
and claws in the hairy paws was awful to look upon.
He waved his strong tail,
he leaped and he scratched and hissed,
and was either up in the valley or out in the headland.
He roamed, famished and savage,
in the ice-cold Christmas snow
and woke fear in everyone’s hearts in every town.
If there was a pitiful meow outside
the bad luck was immediately certain.
Everyone knew that he hunted humans and did not want mice.
He aimed for the poor people,
who received no new garment for Christmas
and toiled and lived in miserable conditions.
From them he got his feeding for his Christmas dinner,
and ate them usually if he could.
That was why the women fought
with comb and loom and spinning wheel,
and knitted colourful patches or little socks.
For the cat could not arrive and eat the little children
They would receive their items with the grown-ups.
And when the candles were lit for Christmas eve
and the cat peeped in,
the children stood proud and ruddy with their parcels.
Some had received mittens and some had received shoes,
or something, that they were in need of but that was all it took.
For the cat could not eat anyone,
who some garment received.
She hissed then rather awfully and ran away.
Whether she still exists I do not know,
but her travel would become miserable,
if everyone was given some item of clothing.
You may have it now in your mind to help, when it’s needed.
Maybe there still are children that receive nothing at all.
Maybe the search of those who live in dark homes,
gives you a good day and a merry Christmas.

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