Julebuk - Yule Buck in old tradition in Scandinavia

Julebuk - Yule Buck in old tradition

In Denmark, Norway and Sweden creatures resembling Schimmelreiter (a rider on a white horse that could be an impersonation of Woden on his great charger) and the Klapperbock could in the past be found at Christmas time.

(Klapperbock: On the island of Usedom, a youth who carries a pole with the hide of a buck thrown over it and a wooden head at the end. The lower jaw moves up and down and clatters and he charges at children who do not know their prayers by heart.)

The name Julebuk¸ (Yule buck) is used in a variety of ways, more mysterious in the past – in today’s world it means in Norway, for example, just people disguised in various costumes. Sometimes it is a person dressed up in hide and horns, or with a buck’s head, who "goes for" little boys and girls; sometimes for a straw puppet set up or tossed from hand to hand. It could even be a cake in the form of a buck.

It seems people had a bad conscience about these things, there are stories connecting them with the Devil.

For instance, a girl who danced at midnight with a Julebuk, found that her partner was no puppet but the Evil One himself. It is said that a fellow who had dressed himself in black and put horns on his head, claws on his hands, and fiery tow in his mouth, was carried off by the Prince of Darkness whose form he had imitated.

The association of animal maskings with the powers of darkness is no doubt the work of the Church. To the zealous missionaries the old heathen ritual was no mere foolish superstition. It was rather a service of intensely real and awful beings, the very devil of hell. One may even imagine that the traditional Christian devil-type, half animal and half human, was indirectly derived from skin-clad worshippers at a pagan festival.

The king Haakon the Good established Christmas in Norway. In Sweden the Christmas service is performed very early in the morning, the chancel is lighted up with many candles, and the celebrant is vested in a white chasuble and the congregation arrives on foot or in torch lighted sleds making for a picturesque scene.

In Scandinavian countries simple folk have a vivid sense of the nearness of the supernatural on Christmas Eve. "On Yule night no one should go out, for he may meet uncanny beings of all kinds."

Julebuk - Yule Buck in old tradition

Christmas around the world

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