In my previous post I summed up some magical wintry fairy tales. Equally enchanting, but in a scary way, are the monsters that make you shiver, the creatures that destroy the Christmas mood, and the beings that haunt snow-covered moors.
So, here are three very fascinating but truly terrifying folkloric beings that have plagued this planet for centuries, and will continue to torment us for hopefully many centuries more. Saving the best for last, number four is a wintry creature with whom everyone would like to shake hands.
The Kallikantzaros bedevil many countries during the Christmas period. You’re most likely to find them in Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania and many more neighbouring countries.
Over there it’s common knowledge that they live deep under the ground. Their only concern? Sawing down the world tree in the hope that it will break down, and take the earth with it.
But even that isn’t malicious enough for the Kallikantzaros. Oh, no. From the 25th of December until the 6th of January they leave their underground dwellings for the surface.
You could call it a holiday. The kind of holiday where these goblin-like creatures entertain themselves by tormenting humans. During this period newborns are especially vulnerable and in grave danger, since they can transform into a Kallikantzaros themselves.
Fortunately there are ways to protect yourself. It’s highly recommended that you leave your fireplace burning for the entire night, so that they cannot enter your house. It’s also advised to leave a colander outside the door. Apparently these goblins like to count, and if they pronounce the number ‘three’ they will kill themselves.
To be entirely honest, the Kallikantzaros aren’t very clever. When they return under the earth after their little holiday they curse and knock their head against the ground out of anger. Every year it happens again.
Every year the world tree heals itself when the goblins are away, and the Kallikantzaros have to start all over again.
The Orkney Islands are one of the most beautiful places on earth. The majestic cliffs, the white strands, the deep blue sea, and the many places where you can spot cute puffins. If you’re lucky enough you can even admire the Northern Lights.
But what you see on this painting by James Torrance (1859-1916) is a terrifying creature that is known as the Nuckelavee.
It’s home is the sea, and no-one really knows what it looks like when it’s swimming around, but on land it takes the form of a horse-like being.
Despite the fact that its habitat is the sea, it loves to bring about destruction on land. When winter approaches, its malice can be felt everywhere on the Island. This monster is responsible for sickening livestock, destroying crops, and infecting everyone with plague. Few who have encountered it have lived to tell the tale. And its name can only be spoken aloud when you say a prayer immediately afterwards.
During the summer it’s imprisoned by the Mither o’ the Sea, a kind spirit, and the only one who can control the Nuckelavee.
Granted, this folkloric tale doesn’t have anything wintry about it. But Black Annis can definitely make you shiver, and therefore couldn’t be left out.
Black Annis doesn’t look like the witch in this painting by John William Waterhouse, but when talking about witches its the image that comes to mind.
Our witch is blue-faced and has long iron claws. She’s quite the DIY kind of person since she used those claws to dig herself a home in a cliff that is now known as Black Annis’ Bower Close.
Desperately Black Annis keeps a close watch on all the comings and goings of the Leicestershire countryside. Waiting until she finds a lamb or a child to eat. Once her belly is full, she tans the skin of her victims by hanging them in her favourite oak tree, and then binds the final product around her waist.
When Annis can’t find anything to eat, her howls and shrieks can be heard miles away. Inadvertently she warns the inhabitants of Leicestershire of her presence, at which they quickly close their windows, and use herbs to protect themselves.
Where Black Annis comes from isn’t clear. According to some she has her origins in Celtic mythology, while others claim that her origins lay in German myths. The most fascinating theory is that Annis is based on a nun who lived during the medieval period and went by the name of Agnes Scott.
These little fellows are my favourite wintry beings, and there’s nothing scary about them at all. To meet them we have to travel to The Alps.
The Barbegazi get their name from the French Barbe-Glacée which means ‘Frozen Beards’. These dwarfish creatures have long beards that look like icicles, and huge feet which are excellent for skiing.
They certainly need them, since skiing is their favourite pastime, and they do little else during the winter months.
In the summer they have some well-deserved sleep and protect themselves from the sun in the caves and tunnels which they call home. But when the first snow starts to fall, they come out.
Surfing on avalanches is what they love most. But they’re also very thoughtful and warn humans below by whistling when a snowslide is coming.
We’re very lucky to have them, since they will do anything to dig out humans who are buried underneath the snow, and they’re always very helpful when they come across a shepherd who has lost some of his sheep. Not stopping their search until they have found the missing animals.
As always with folklore there are many different versions going around. I would love to hear from you if you’re familiar with a variation, or if you know of any other folkloric creatures that either scare you to death or make you laugh.
Thank you so much for reading my blog!