Christmas is a popular holiday for many countries around the world, but it doesn’t mean that we all like to celebrate it the same way. In the Ukraine there’s a magic spider who spins golden webs onto the Christmas tree; Italy has a witch who hands out presents via flying broomstick; in Austria lives a hairy, horned hellion who whips naughty children with birch branches. If you think that’s weird, imagine what they think of our North American myth, with our toy-making elves, neon-nosed reindeer and a Coca-Cola Santa Claus. The craziest legends come to life during the Christmas season, some we’ve come to accept and some we know nothing about! So open your mind, let your imagination flow and pretend you’re a child again as we recount Christmas tales from around the world, starting with our very own Old Saint Nick.
The epitome of dark myths and legends began deep within the wide forests of Romania, a country that was once harsh and full of mystery. Natural disasters, disease, wild animals, and war always felt too close to home and threatened to decimate the lives of the Romanian folk. Seemingly powerless against these terrible forces, the Romanian people created tales of monsters and heroes to give them hope and understanding. Earthquakes occurred only because your lack of faith erodes the Pillars that hold up the world. It was a vicious Pricolici that killed your cattle and a blood-sucking Strigoi that caused your mother to grow ill. Long ago, these superstitions were what helped the Romanian people deal with the harshness of life, as well as providing entertainment around a fire on a cold, winter’s night. All things begin and end with a story.
Iceland was settled by the Scandinavians in 874 AD by adventurous people fleeing civil strife and over-population of the home states. With no native population, and no large predators, it seemed that the untamed elements were the only thing settlers would have to war against. But as time when on it became clear that amongst the black rocks and deep caves of this island lay ancient magic, and mystical people who had lived there since the giant ogre named Ymir appeared out of the thawing drops of a new, and fierce, world.
Everybody, in the back of their mind, believes in ghosts. Your heart races for a second when you see a shadow move out of the corner of your eye, or you feel the presence of someone standing over you as you try to sleep, or a gaping face in the window almost makes you scream, but disappears as soon as you flip on the lights. You can dismiss the paranormal as simply a trick of the eyes, an illusion of the mind, or a fear of the unknown. You can explain any ghostly encounter logically as a natural phenomenon; we would be foolish not to. But try spending the night alone in one of the most haunted places in the world, like the castles of Britain, and all that logic and skepticism won’t help you when you’re battling red-eyed dog wraiths with an iron poker! Maybe, as skeptics, we should not disregard the countless ghost stories without first seeking out our own ghostly encounters. Using our sharply critical mind we should visit these haunted castles and try to discern the truth with our own eyes– and maybe we can get through the night without weeing ourselves.
This is a very poor drawing that I worked very hard on, my map of Yggdrasil and the Norse cosmology: Muspell, world of fire giants, Alfheim, world of light elves, Asgard, world of the gods, Utgard, world of the giants, Midgard, world of man, Dvergard, world of dark elves, and Niflheim, world of ice and darkness, land of the dead.