Written by: Drake Morgan
Christmas? Is the man mad? He’s writing a review of a Christmas book for a horror review site? There is a very dark side to this jolly holiday. It’s definitely not all jingle bells and wassailing by any means. Linda Raedisch explores the very pagan origins of Christmas and introduces us to the dark, spooky, Gothic side of the ancient traditions and beliefs of Yule.
We are immediately thrust into the dark past with the spinning tradition. In the Germanic cultures, Frau Berchta, also known as Frigga to the Scandinavians, dominated the nights before Yule. Spinning was forbidden on Frigga’s Eve, but the task was to be completed by Twelfth Night or one faced the wrath of the goddess. Frau Holla and her spectral children ran amok in the night skies, but should one catch a glimpse of this horde, the unfortunate soul was struck blind. Santa’s jolly elves were, in some cultures, really the dead returned to Earth as impish creatures. Christmas is filled with legends of elf curses, witches, the dead, and phantom souls. Raedisch does an excellent job of covering a wide swath of European history, both in geography and time. She brings us Sami traditions from the Lapland of Finland, Vikings, Celts, Germanic tribes, and more as she unwraps the shiny package to reveal the darkness underneath.
The work is not entirely sinister. She includes patterns for many folk crafts from the various regions as well as their less than happy beginnings. This is not only a history of Christmas, but a wonderful examination of the pagan roots that ran deep in European soil. She also reminds us that there are still elements of these traditions alive and well in our more happy version of this ancient holiday. We may not remember why we make Danish lace hearts, but we still do. Not your traditional horror read, but an amazing look into our scary past.
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