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Iceland’s Yule Trolls

In Icelandic tradition, the Yule lads are thirteen trolls who arrive one at a time on each of the 13 days before Christmas and depart in the order they arrived, on the days after Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, the troll witch Gryla leaves the mountains to seek any children who had been ill-behaved or were without the protection of their parents, taking them back to the mountains where she cooks them into a stew for her lazy husband.


The thirteen Icelandic Yule Lads are described with the acts they are infamously known for tormenting human communities. More can be found at the Smithsonian Magazine here


Sheep-Cote Clod: He tries to suckle yews in farmer’s sheep sheds
Gully Gawk: He steals foam from buckets of cow milk
Stubby: He’s short and steals food from frying pans
Spoon Licker: He licks spoons
Pot Scraper: He steals unwashed pots and licks them clean
Bowl Licker: He steals bowls of food from under the bed (back in the old days, Icelanders used to sometimes store bowls of food there – convenient for midnight snacking?)
Door Slammer: He stomps around and slams doors, keeping everyone awake
Skyr Gobbler: He eats up all the Icelandic yogurt (skyr)
Sausage Swiper: He loves stolen sausages
Window Peeper: He likes to creep outside windows and sometimes steal the stuff he sees inside
Door Sniffer: He has a huge nose and an insatiable appetite for stolen baked goods
Meat Hook: He snatches up any meat left out, especially smoked lamb  Candle Beggar: He steals candles, which used to be sought-after items in Iceland


Since 1746, the Yule trolls became less scary and presented as more mischievous, trickster characters who were depicted as jolly Santa Claus-like figures who left gifts for the well-behaved children and potatoes for the ill-behaved ones. The Yule trolls as they had been described in early traditions and folktales described them as emaciated and clothed in rags. There is a current movement in Iceland to return the Yule Lads to their original descriptions and depictions as the vagabond and desperate orphans accompanying Gryla.

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Namarrgon: Lightning Spirit

Namarrgon is an indigenous Australian creation ancestor, a powerful spirit of the Arnhem Land plateau in the Kakadu region responsible for violent monsoon storms of Northern Australia. In the indigenous stories of Namarrgon, violent lightning and thunder storms each tropical summer are associated with the axes he throws, splitting the clouds to cause thunder and lightning as the axes strike the ground.

” All things in the landscape were left by the creation ancestors. They taught Aboriginal people how to live with the land. From then on Aboriginal people became keepers of their country. “
Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre

Namarrgon resides in the sandstone cliffs of the Arnhem Land plateau but the Creation story tells his travel inland, moving from the coastline toward the sandstone cliffs where he leaves an eye on the escarpment, ever gazing eastward where he waits for the summer storm season. The summer monsoon lightning storms are preceded by vast numbers of Leichhardt’s Grasshoppers, called the alyurr in the indigenous languages, representing Namarrgon’s children. While feasting on the pityrodia plants, the alyurr call to Namarrgon who responds with the lightning and thunder storms of the coming monsoon.

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Legend of the Platypus

The platypus is an iconic Australian native semi-aquatic, burrowing, egg-laying mammal (monotreme) with an unusual soft-bill, webbed feet and a thick “beaver-like” tail covered in a soft fur pelt. An indigenous Australian legend details the origins of these eclectic physical features according to indigenous cultural heritage. The indigenous Australian legend retold in Aboriginal Stories by A.W. Reed, recounts the legend of shared ancient kinship between the groups of the ancestral indigenous  Peoples before they possessed human form.

The legend of Platypus details an argument between the Lizards, Birds and Animals, the totemic ancestors of the indigenous Peoples. The Lizards, Birds and Animals argued over who was more ancient, more powerful and rightfully belonged in the waterhole. The culmination of the debate is the Lizards decide to take the waterhole. The Frilled Lizards use their powers to call a storm, flooding the landscape. While the Birds could fly away and larger Animals flee from the flood waters, the Platypus became trapped and drowned. After the flood and much later, the Lizards, Birds and Animals gather again and realise the few numbers of once-plentiful platypus. One of the Lizards, the carpet snake recounts the sighting of an old platypus living far away. Finally, the old Platypus travels to meet with the Peoples and he tells them of his heritage. The Platypus explains he is the most ancient of the Peoples, related to the first group, the Lizards sharing a semi-aquatic lifestyle but he also shares kinship with the egg-laying Birds, but Platypus also has a fur pelt, claiming kinship with the Animals. The legend of Platypus details the shared kinship between the different and most ancestral Totemic groups from which the later human-form ancestors claimed heritage.

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Tariaksuq & Ijiraq

Amerindian cultures in the Arctic regions including the Inuit, mention in folktales, the “shadow people” or the Tariaksuq and Ijiraq, elusive, shape-shifting and malevolent spirits known for kidnapping children. These spirits, often mentioned in close association, can take the form of a humanoid-caribou like the Tariaksuq, or can lack consistent physical forms like the Ijiraq. Yet both the Ijiraq and Tariaksuq are believed to kidnap children who are either stolen or led astray, and once lost, the children are kept hostage unless they convince the spirits to release them. Not only children could fall prey to these elusive spirits with adults becoming confused and easily lost while trekking.

The Ijiraq, like the Tariaksuq, are reported to have powers which make them visible only from periphery of eye sight. The frozen lands where these spirits are believed to dwell have underground pockets of hydrogen sulfide gas. This noxious gas is capable of inducing hallucinations and confusion. The combination of noxious gas in these frozen lands is thought the reason for why the Tariaksuq cannot be seen directly. These strange and temporary vision loss issues may be the result of exposure to the gases released from vents in the arctic marshes and volcanic landscape.

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Wendigo

The wendigo legend forms a central part of tales and lore from Amerindian tradition in the forested areas of the Great Lakes in Canada and the northern United States. Despite numerous indigenous cultures inhabiting this region, the legend of the wendigo remains consistent with only two main variations. The majority of tales describe the wendigo is a giant or monstrous human-like creature associated with the harsh winters, insatiable greed, violence, murder and cannibalism.


The wendigo is reported as a giant, often several times the size of an ordinary man or the wendigo can be an evil spirit capable of possessing humans. If possessed, the individual becomes afflicted with traits associated with the wendigo, including, lying, acts of violence, murder or cannibalism.Among the Ojibwa, the wendigo lore is detailed. For example, the wendigo is an evil spirit but takes the form of a giant monster with glowing red eyes, fanged teeth and a lipless mouth. The wendigo consumes anyone who ventures into its territory. Lore states a wendigo is also capable of possessing a human, turning that individual into another wendigo. The afflicted person now enacts the traits associated with the wendigo with cannibalism, often acting without compunction and consuming those once held dear.The common and underlying theme of the wendigo legend is the damned nature of the monster. The wendigo is often described and depicted as both gluttonous but emaciated, suggesting that despite the craving for human flesh, no satiation exists once cannibalism is committed. Doubtless the legend of the wendigo serves as a ghost story and warning fable of times when harsh winters and famine were real concerns and reminding those of the desperation resorted to in acts of cannibalism.