You all know the Yule Cat
And that Cat was huge indeed.
People didn’t know where he came from
Or where he went.
He opened his glaring eyes wide,
The two of them glowing bright.
It took a really brave man
To look straight into them.
His whiskers, sharp as bristles,
His back arched up high.
And the claws of his hairy paws
Were a terrible sight.
He gave a wave of his strong tail,
He jumped and he clawed and he hissed.
Sometimes up in the valley,
Sometimes down by the shore.
He roamed at large, hungry and evil
In the freezing Yule snow.
In every home
People shuddered at his name.
If one heard a pitiful “meow”
Something evil would happen soon.
Everybody knew he hunted men
But didn’t care for mice.
He picked on the very poor
That no new garments got
For Yule – who toiled
And lived in dire need.
From them he took in one fell swoop
Their whole Yule dinner
Always eating it himself
If he possibly could.
Hence it was that the women
At their spinning wheels sat
Spinning a colorful thread
For a frock or a little sock.
Because you mustn’t let the Cat
Get hold of the little children.
They had to get something new to wear
From the grownups each year.
And when the lights came on, on Yule Eve
And the Cat peered in,
The little children stood rosy and proud
All dressed up in their new clothes.
Some had gotten an apron
And some had gotten shoes
Or something that was needed
– That was all it took.
For all who got something new to wear
Stayed out of that pussy-cat’s grasp
He then gave an awful hiss
But went on his way.
Whether he still exists I do not know.
But his visit would be in vain
If next time everybody
Got something new to wear.
Now you might be thinking of helping
Where help is needed most.
Perhaps you’ll find some children
That have nothing at all.
Perhaps searching for those
That live in a lightless world
Will give you a happy day
And a Merry, Merry Yule.
Again, us gloomy heathens here to remind you that Christmas is not always bright and merry. I am kidding, heathens are the most fun this time of year, all the bright holiday celbrating could knock you out for a lifetime, especially the food, the mead, the cookies, its definitly a time to break out your streatchy pants. The yule cat is again a moralistic type story in which we are reminded to gift to those in need. The poem is actually a call for those to gife spun garments to those who do not have any. In the old world, spinning was a prized gift. Houses that could spin were highly sought after, and sometimes there were years in which spinning may have been difficult or impossible due to poverty, war, famine, or death. “Families in Iceland work together to ensure nobody will “go to the Christmas Cat.” This terrifying feline is also referred to as the Yule Cat [from the Norse word “Jul” meaning wheel, as in the Pagan Christmas wreath or Wheel of Fate, cycle of seasons, rebirth of light at winter solstice]. Each year, families gift each other new and warm clothes for the winter, and make the Yule cat an offering of some warm weather gear.”
I think sometimes, people think heathens have ‘no soul’ or we don’t have compassion, but giving and taking care of others is in our code, it is who we are, its in our bones, it is what was built into us because it is reflection of how we show ‘tribe’ how we show our love of others and compassion for the greater world. It is greatly important to give, even if it is something as small as a mitten, as even something small to us, may be the thing most needed. In our podcast this month, we read The Little Match Girl, and I think that story bookmarks why I am bringing up The Yule Cat. The idea of giving, of gifting to those in need, to save the ‘least of these’ is something not just reserved for the holidays.
Should we not see the face of ourselves in the faces of others? Seeing humanity regardless of what state they are in, what color their skin, what language they speak, we are people, we need to recall what place in our hearts can remember that, because part of me fears that that little flame is being snuffed out. As authors we must not let the light of compasison die on our watch, we must lift it and hold it and show the way, I know my hands will be giving this year, and I encourage you if you can to donate to local food banks, help out local homless shelters and provide warmth and comfort to all.
Interesting note, that the woman who travels with The Yule Cat is a female troll named Grýla who apparently was a cannibal who ate naughty children “Grýla wanders around collecting misbehaving, rude and lazy children into her giant sack which she then brings back home with her to make a soup out of them.” This may be the bases of the ideas in many tales of trolls eating people, such as Jack and The Beanstock mentioning that he would grind the bones of man and use them as butter. She ate her first husbands, and married a troll named Leppalúði with whom she gave birth to The Yule Lads who will be featured in our next post.