Some of my fave spooky gals at the That’s Weird podcast posted a photo of the Yule cat, and I was inspired to add to the #Crypdex.
This creepy critter hails from Iceland, where he is called a name that is not easier to read than pronounce, the Jólakötturinn. The Yule Cat likely dates back to the middle ages, but the oldest written accounts are from the nineteenth century. The cat was said to eat anyone who hasn’t received clothing by the time Christmas night rolls around.
The Yule cat is said to tower above the highest houses; prowling about on Christmas night, the Jólakötturinn peers into the windows to see what presents the children received. In Icelandic tradition, anyone who finished their chores before Christmas would get new clothes as a reward. If new clothes are among their possessions, the Yule cat will saunter off. But, if you’re lazy and don’t get your work done, you’ll have to face the dreaded beast.
It’s likely the Yule Cat myth was originally meant to urge farm workers to preform well prior to Christmas. It was also used to inspire generosity; the poem below suggests that children help out the needy, so they too can have protection from the Yule cat.
The Christmas CatTranslation of Original Icelandic Poem, “The Christmas Cat”
You all know the Christmas Cat
And that Cat was huge indeed.
People didn’t know where he came from
Or where he went.
He opened his glaring eyes wide,
The two of them glowing bright.
It took a really brave man
To look straight into them.
His whiskers, sharp as bristles,
His back arched up high.
And the claws of his hairy paws
Were a terrible sight.
He gave a wave of his strong tail,
He jumped and he clawed and he hissed.
Sometimes up in the valley,
Sometimes down by the shore.
He roamed at large, hungry and evil
In the freezing Christmas snow.
In every home
People shuddered at his name.
If one heard a pitiful “meow”
Something evil would happen soon.
Everybody knew he hunted men
But didn’t care for mice.
He picked on the very poor
That no new garments got
For Christmas – who toiled
And lived in dire need.
From them he took in one fell swoop
Their whole Christmas dinner
Always eating it himself
If he possibly could.
Hence it was that the women
At their spinning-wheels sat
Spinning a colorful thread
For a frock or a little sock.
Because you mustn’t let the Cat
Get hold of the little children.
They had to get something new to wear
From the grownups each year.
And when the lights came on, on Christmas eve
And the Cat peered in,
The little children stood rosy and proud
All dressed up in their new clothes.
Some had gotten an apron
And some had gotten shoes
Or something that was needed
– That was all it took.
For all who got something new to wear
Stayed out of that pussy-cat’s grasp
He then gave an awful hiss
But went on his way.
Whether he still exists I do not know.
But his visit would be in vain
If next time everybody
Got something new to wear.
Now you might be thinking of helping
Where help is needed most.
Perhaps you’ll find some children
That have nothing at all.
Perhaps searching for those
That live in a light-less world
Will give you a happy day
And a merry Christmas.
I hope yours will be a happy one too
And even if you manage to weasel your way out of the ‘Christmas Cat’s’ grasp, Icelandic legend doesn’t end there… you still have Gryla and her thirteen sons, the Yule Lads, to deal with; they’ll eat you, too! (as well as… molest your sheep?)
In conclusion, we hope you have a happy holiday, a merry christmas, and for the love of sweet baby Jesus, we REALLY HOPE you get some fucking clothes for christmas!