Column: the 13 Yule Lads of Iceland

If you were to arrive at Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport during the month of December expecting cheerful holiday lights or a jolly fat man in a red suit, you would be in for a bit of a surprise. Instead of being welcomed into the country by the familiar and cheerful figure of Santa Claus, your first encounter would be with slightly menacing, unmistakably witch-like figure: Gryla. Although she has not always been associated with the Yuletide season, Gryla has evolved to become the center of Icelandic Yule and Christmas folklore. While she bears some of the clear markings of the stereotypical witch as a cauldron-stirring hag figure who owns a scary black cat, she is actually described as a troll or ogress in Iceland’s tour guidebooks and articles. Gryla is said to live in a cave hidden deep in the mountains, where she always keeps her cauldron boiling.

La Befana turns winter into a season for the Witch

ITALY – There are many popular mythological figures associated with the winter holiday season. We’ve all heard of Santa Claus, Rudolf, Father Christmas and Jack Frost. This past December Krampus, a figure in Germanic folklore, became a household name through the release of a new horror movie. But there is another figure, who stands out within the canon of European winter holiday lore, and is beloved by those who honor her. She is called La Befana.

What is PantheaCon?

SAN JOSE – This past weekend, close to 3000 Pagans, Heathens, Polytheists and others of diverse religious beliefs descended on Double Tree Hotel in San Jose, California to attend the annual PantheaCon event. This is the largest indoor conference of its kind in the United States. Held over President’s weekend in mid-February, PantheaCon boasts “more than 200 presentations that range from rituals to workshops and from classes to concerts.” While PantheaCon is very popular and attracts an international following, there are far more people who do not know what it is, don’t care to attend, or do not have the time and means to attend. As observed by Jason Mankey in his post “Pagan Festivals and the .25%,” the number of people who actually attend PantheaCon and other community-based large events is relatively small compared to the number of Pagans and Heathens in world.