MYTHIC BEASTS & BEINGS: THE YULE CAT

MYTHIC BEASTS & BEINGS: THE YULE CAT

Kate Belew Kate Belew
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Prowling the countryside of Icelandic folktales during Winter Solstice and Yule is the Yule Cat, on four paws through the snow. In some myths and legends, this creature belongs to the Ogress Gryla and her Yule Lads, who are associated with the season's trickster characters and dark goddesses. Gryla was a Santa Claus-like figure woven into the folklore of trolls, conjuring up this creature as a Troll Cat in some stories. 

This vicious creature was said to eat those who didn’t have new clothes before Christmas Eve fell. In other iterations of the tale, this feline solely eats the food of those who don’t don new outfits, leaving them alive but hungry on Christmas. 

The Cat became a fixture of Yule celebrations in 1932 when Jóhannes úr Kötlum published a poetry collection titled “Christmas is Coming.” In this collection, a poem titled Jólakötturinn told the tale of this mythic Christmas cat, solidifying the Yule Cat’s role in folklore in Iceland in print materials. However, accounts of the Cat in oral traditions likely go back to the Dark Ages. 

In these tales, the Yule Cat, taller than a house, gazes into children's rooms across Iceland to see if they are good enough to get new clothes for Christmas. If the Cat sees the new clothes unwrapped or removed from stockings, he’ll prowl on. If not, the Yule Cat may eat all your Christmas food as a punishment. 

Children were also encouraged to give to those who needed new clothes to protect themselves from the Cat, encouraging generosity through the folklore. So, wear those Christmas socks and wave a gentle hello to this mythic enforcer of generosity and hard work during the Yule season. 

When the Yule Cat appears, what’s the message?

Messages from The Yule Cat

Generosity: Though this mythic creature enforces through fear, the presence of this being reminds us to be generous in any way we can during this season. Give with your heart, support your community, and reach out if you see someone struggling during this time. 

Tell Stories: Share stories with your loved ones during the season. Though this feline was only recorded in the collective consciousness as early as 1932, the oral traditions kept this creature alive. Celebrate the stories of Yule, and gather around a fire to honor the storytellers in your family or communities. 

Hard Work: This beast embraces Capricorn season’s messages about dedication and hard work. During this season of Yule and Winter Solstice, commit to your higher calling and your daily life, and magic will appear to support you. 


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