Thursday, 30 December 2010

folk goats

Folk goat available on Etsy
Midwinter and Christmas have come and gone, but the 13-metre-high Gavle Goat (no, not pictured - that's a cute and tiny crafted yule goat on Etsy) in Sweden is still standing. Hopefully it still will be by New Year's Eve, kidnapping and arson notwithstanding. And then it'll be set alight.

In time-honoured consumerist style, this annual ceremony dates back to ye olden days of 1966,  when the ancient Scandinavian tradition of the yule goat was turned into something that looks like the sacrifice of a reject from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade at an alternative Wicker Man.

Think of it as Sweden's revenge for replacing the visit of the yule goat (and the yule boar, and the yule cat) with Santa Claus in the 1870s, and turning the yule goat into a tiny straw ornament that you buy in Ikea.

The yule goat might not have looked as jolly, (and in fact in Finnish mythology it was an ugly beast that revelled in scaring children), but at least it came complete with some good old-time Norse pagan weirdness. From its origins as the literal sacrificial goat to the gods at Yule and Thor with his magical goats visiting homes to offer magical midwinter protection to becoming a man dressed as a goat going from house to house to entertain for food and drink or, even better, donning horns for the mock goat ritual of song and dance, only one thing could really top it in modern times, and that's Moondog, the Viking of 5th Avenue, with his Goat Invocation. Well, that and a really, really big straw goat being burned for the end of the Yule festivities. Happy New Year.

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