Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of Dec 24th - Dec 30th, 2004

Seasonal Spirits

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      Last week we looked at some rather obscure seasonal currents which ran through the land. They are perhaps most associated with May Day and Halloween, but they can also be tied to Yuletide.

      "The Wild Hunt or Furious Host appears at different times of the year, being frequently seen in spring and fall, but the most common and consistent period for its appearance overall is the Yule season. This fits in neatly with the Germanic tradition as a whole: Yule is the season in which hauntings and supernatural visitation of all sort are the most common. The hauntings in Eyrbyggja saga take place at Yule, as does the death of Glam in Grettis saga. Folk tales of all the Scandinavian countries have trolls or elves making their appearance at Yule, particularly in Iceland, where a common theme is the supernatural visitor menacing the woman who must stay home to look after the house on Christmas Eve. The Wild Host

      Christopher Arnold, writing in 1674, mentions "neither good or evil spirits, which are particularly in the air around the holy birthtime of Christ; and are called "Juhlafolker," that is, "Yule-folk" by (the Laplanders).""

      -Kveldulf Hagen Gundarsson

Elf       There's a strong relationship between the fairies, elves, Christmas elves and Jolly Old Soul of Santa which winds its way around the Yule tide season. If we start to peel back layers of this mythic tale, some of these themes can be seen. Many of the fairy themes are similar, for instance that they are gregarious, ride in processions or fly through the air, hunt, hold court, have feasts, and above all dance in their fairy 'circles'. These stories can be readily found in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, England, Scotland, Wales, Iceland, Ireland, Italy and France.

      It was generally agreed that it was best to leave these processions alone. While there were a few who profited from their interactions (mostly the honorable and clever), far more seem to have been swept off by these currents. The following quote was ascribed to John Aubrey, and tells a traditional tale with many of the familiar clues.

      "In the year 1633-34 soon after I had entered into my grammar, at the Latin schoole of Yatton-Keynel our curate, Mr. Hart, was annoy'd one night by these elves, or fayeries. Coming over the downs, it being neere darke, and approaching one of the faiery dances, as the common people call them in these parts, viz. the greene circles made by those sprites on the grasse, he all at once saw an innumerable quantitie of pigmies, or very small people, dancing rounde and rounde, and singing and making all manner of small odd noyses. He, being very greatly amaz'd, and yet not being able, as he sayes, to run away from them, being, as he supposes, kept there in a kinde of enchantment, they no sooner perceave him but they surround him on all sides, and what betwixte feare and amazement he fell down, scarcely knowing what he did; Crop Circle

      and thereupon these little creatures pinch'd him all over, and made a quick humming noyse all the tyme; but at length they left him, and when the sun rose he found himself exactly in the midst of one of these faiery dances."

      Today these "greene circles" are what we call crop circles, "made by those sprites on the grasse."

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