In what little time I have to watch TV, I have been watching as many old Christmas specials as I can.

As I was perusing what my video cue had to offer there was a surprise in my Netflix cue. It was the new Adventures of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I watched the full season of the show and what was harmless paranormal tale started to get darker and it appeared that the show was very open about the religion it supports – that, of course, is Satanism.

I would say that it is the most openly Satanic show on TV albeit a bit cartoonish.

I don’t know if I mentioned that the series creators were sued by the Satanic Temple claiming a statue that’s displayed in Sabrina Spellman’s fictional school The Academy of Unseen Arts infringes on its copyright in a monument of Baphomet. The Satanic Temple also wasn’t happy with having its statue associated with certain themes in the series, specifically the “prominent use of this symbol as the central focal point of the school associated with evil, cannibalism and murder.”

Oh how avant-garde – Satanists suing over a questionable presentation featuring, Cartoon Satanism. I wonder if the Catholic church has a case against the movie, The Exorcist?

Probably not.

Yet, the same Satanic Temple just loves to crash the party at Christmas as the Chicago chapter has been allowed to place a statue in the Illinois Capitol alongside holiday displays of a Nativity scene and a menorah.

The sculpture, called “Knowledge Is the Greatest Gift,” depicts the forearm of a woman holding an apple.

I’m all for religious equality but they claim to be non-theistic, so what do they care about a theistic holiday?

As I was saying I saw in my Netflix cue a new Sabrina Episode called a Midwinter’s tale and I had to watch it to see how the witches would depict Christmas.

It was surprisingly fun and a little spooky as Santa, witches and even Krampus show up in Greendale to actually show what a darker and spooky yuletide is all about.

The best holiday specials inch us along between seasons, moving the plot forward just enough to justify all the one-off Christmas mischief of the episode.

Taking a few liberties about the holiday can be fun because it makes for a fun and enchanting break from the serious side of the manger and the baby Jesus.

The TV special actually did a great job at putting together horror with holiday spirit, allowing us to revel in the good tidings of the witches’ Winter Solstice holiday, replete with gingerbread house effigies, spellbound yule logs, decorative pentagrams adorned with colorful baubles.

I would compare it to the likes of having Vincent Price read T’’was the night before Christmas, I mean it is already chilling to know that it is Boris Karloff who is the voice of the Grinch.

The appearance of a Krampus that doubles as a mall Santa named Bartel in the new episode was fun twist and an even more interesting plot twist was that Krampus would kidnap children and make them into wax dummies.

Bartel is another name for Krampus.

However, one of the best additions to the story was the appearance of Gryla.

While Krampus may be king of holiday scares, a lot of people may be overlooking an equally nasty, much more formidable queen — a Christmas monster who lives further north, in the frigid climes of Iceland who goes by the name Grýla, the Christmas witch.

When we had our Krampus Party a listener named Frances Moore came as Gryla and snapped pictures with me in my Krampus suit.

Gryla who is a giant female ogress lives in a cave in Iceland’s hinterlands, the matriarch of a family of strange creatures, launching attacks on nearby townships, snatching up misbehaving children, and turning them into a delicious stew.

In Sabrina’s tale, Gryla shows up as a sensual siren and brings with her a group of poltergeists called the Yule lads which appear as shadowy children who topple over furniture and in one scene topples over the flour in the Kitchen – and like in the old urban legend we see the little footprints that are left behind by these shadowy gnomes.

In Iceland, the midwinter holiday known as jól—a version of the Old English and Old Germanic word Yule, which describes this time of gathering together, feasting and celebrating and which evolved into modern Christmas—it is generally darker there than in the United States, so as the solstice is celebrated the darker time of the year is usually the time where the veil is the thinnest.

It is seen as the time where the demons ascend from the sky and people take part in the infernal hunt.

The earliest celebrations of the season were viewed as a time not only to bring together relatives, living and deceased but also elves, trolls and other magical and spooky creatures believed to inhabit the landscape. Sometimes these figures would visit in the flesh, as masked figures going around to farms and houses during the season.

Grýla, whose name translates loosely to “growler,” would be among these, showing up with a horned tail and a bag into which she would toss naughty children.

She was certainly around in about 1300, not directly associated with Christmas, but associated with a threat that lives in the mountains. You never knew exactly where she was.

Many times she was seen with Krampus because she ate her husband when she got bored with him. So maybe we can say the Gryla would be to Krampus what Mrs. Claus is to Santa or maybe not.

Other bits of folklore describe a second, troll-like husband and a giant man-eating Yule Cat known to target anybody who doesn’t have on new clothes—making a new pair of socks or long underwear an imperative for anyone in Iceland that wants to brave Black Friday.

Each of these troublemakers visits Icelandic households on specific days throughout December, unleashing their individual types of pestering poltergeists and to this day there have been many people in the darker climes that see these shadowy figures appear during the winter solstice.

In the weird world of the paranormal there are certainly a lot of strange, often eye-brow raising things that are reportedly seen and encountered. From ghosts, to aliens, demons, angels, and everything in between there is no shortage of bizarre things that people claim to see.

However, there is a contingency of people who during the holidays have seen gnomes, or have experienced poltergeist activity during the winter solstice.

Recently, there was a peculiar story that was submitted by Stephen Wagner, who is a paranormal researcher who has had the uncanny interest of collecting stories about the appearances of trolls like Gryla, shadow people, black-eyed children, gnomes, Yule lads and even Santa himself at Christmas time.

I am not kidding people have actually seen apparitions of Santa in their homes around Christmas time.

These reports run from the wondrous to the frankly creepy, and one was told by a woman named Karrie K., who claims that in 1961 she went to bed on Christmas Eve and was awoken by her bedroom door slowly creaking open to allow the light from the nightlight in the hall to trickle in and illuminate quite a bizarre sight indeed.

She claimed that what she saw a man dressed in a red suit. He had white trim around his waist, like fur, a long white beard, and was wearing a Santa hat. He had red pants and black boots.

She goes on to claim that He stood there and looked at her for a few seconds, and then closed the door. The encounter terrified her as she drew the covers over her head.

She also claims that when she asked her mother and father about it – they felt it was time to talk the truth about Santa, however, she insisted that she had an encounter.

There is also the perhaps even stranger account given by a woman named “Sarah A.,” who says her sighting happened at a very young age, but that it has stayed with her into adulthood as clear as day. On this evening, Sarah was sleeping on the floor, as her aunt had been visiting and took her bed. Because of this, she was unable to really get into a deep sleep, and at around 2:30 AM she noticed a faint glow coming in from the crack under the door. She got up and wandered to the door, opened it, and looked out into the hallway.

She thought at first that what she saw was an angel.

She then realized that it was a bearded man in a long coat. He looked nothing like the traditional Santa. He was hooded and in a very long tunic.

Santa was standing in her door with a mystical, magical glow around him. It was silver and gold and glittery. Santa looked right at her and without moving his mouth he said to her telepathically, ‘Now you know you are supposed to be asleep while I am here, don’t you?’ she told him that she knew she was supposed to be asleep he then said ‘Close your eyes and at least pretend.’

Some encounters sure do have a rather creepy aspect to them that make them seem almost menacing. One witness named “Ana” says her encounter happened when she was just 5 years old. On this evening she crept downstairs after hearing something moving around down there, and to her surprise was met with the sight of Santa Claus standing there in the living room, complete with red, black, and white outfit and snow-white beard. Only there was nothing jolly or jovial about this Santa, and indeed he seemed to emanate a certain sense of creeping dread.

She said that this Santa eerily looked her as if he was peering directly into her soul.

Another rather spooky account comes from a 37-year-old witness who is certain he saw Santa one evening as he was walking outside his apartment complex on the chilly evening.

Of course being 37 he says that he was a little old to believe in Santa but as he was dumping trash in the dumpster a man was walking on the sidewalk. He was a chubby old man with long, snow white hair and a long white beard, round glasses, wearing a green flannel shirt, blue jeans, and red suspenders.

He called him by his name and it shocked him because he never met the man.

Now all of these encounters can have logical explanations but these witnesses certainly feel that they witnessed something bizarre.

From the legends of course gnomes and woodland demons have often been seen during the solstice.

The topic of gnomes, elves or even leprechauns does not always top the list of Fortean topics I choose to talk about. But around Christmas time, the story of Santa Claus and his band of elves are a product of fantasy that many people don’t realize are based on Laplander legends of wood demons and the very frightening image of the horned demon, Krampus.

The tale of gnomes goes back to pagan times, when there were widespread beliefs in house gnomes who supposedly lived under the stairs, in the fire place and in barns with the livestock. The gnomes would become nasty adversaries if they were not treated properly.

Many of the Gnomes were considered to be shape shifters and would change their bodies in order to meet their needs. The Tontut or tomte/nisse was often imagined as a small, elderly, often with a full white beard; dressed in the everyday clothing of a farmer. The word Tomte actually means home dweller. However, there are also folktales where he is believed to have a single eye. In modern Denmark, Tontut /nisses are often seen as beardless, wearing grey and red woolens with a red cap. Since nisses are thought to be skilled in illusions and sometimes able to make themselves invisible, one was unlikely to get more than brief glimpses of him no matter what he looked like. Norwegian folklore states that he has four fingers, and is hairy all over, sometimes with pointed ears. His eyes glow in the dark.

The Tomte was also known to stand and peek in on little children through the window; he would watch their various behaviors and would judge them on their good deeds. I never really had an interest in Gnomes because our imagination has been limited with them showing up in gardens as decorative and fairy likes statues.

However the more you dig through the tales of folklore you find yourself in a very dark place as gnomes have been associated with all kinds of paranormal activity including ghoulish behavior which includes caring for and eating the dead.

In “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, the Prince was in love with a beautiful maiden whose skin was snow white and whose lips were bright red. He would look upon her face through glass as her corpse lay in a crystal coffin. The story is literally a tale of carnal lust for a corpse. It also seems to be tale of vampirism, as the prince is able to revive his dead love with sexual intercourse.

An Italian story known as “The Crystal Casket” tells of a young maiden named Ermellina who is guarded by gnomes, similar to the dwarfs of the traditional story. A witch comes and poisons the girl because of her beauty. The gnomes place the young girl in a crystal casket that is placed on the back of a horse. The horse rides from town to town with the body of the young girl on it.

A lonely King happens to see the body of the girl and falls in love with her and tells everyone that she will be his wife. The Kings family does not want to tell the king that his girlfriend is dead, and so they play along and tell the others that the girl is a large doll.

The King’s family is a little concerned because the girl does not seem to be normal. The King tells his family that he will lead an army to war and that when he returns in victory he shall marry his girl. Unfortunately, when the king returns, the body of his young maiden has decomposed a bit. Her skin is dusty and there are flies and maggots that cover her gray flesh.

The gnomes were known to feed on the body of the girl. and gave to the chambermaids what was left In order to understand how putrid the body was; the chambermaids would complain about how rotten the “doll” would smell and so they neglected the body until the King returned. Ermellina recovered and lived again, and the King and his new bride lived happily ever after.

In Switzerland the tale of the gnomes becomes even darker as the seven little men had taken a girl into their home for work. There were only seven beds in the house and so the oldest of the gnomes would sleep with the young girl.

An old woman comes to the house and realizes that the young girl was having sex with the dwarves. She flies out in a rage realizing that the young girl is having sex with demons.

She returned with two men, whom she had brought up from the bank of the Rhine. They immediately broke into the house and killed the seven gnomes. They buried the bodies outside in the garden and burned the house to the ground. No one knows what became of the girl. Some claim that devil came for her body and she had to be buried in a golden coffin to ward off the spells of the gnomes.

Keep in mind that this tale is often told in the winter time. The story deals with the dead, shape shifting and vanity. The gnomes in the old stories are involved with mischief and are known to be in cahoots with the devil.

Another great story which places the gnome in the employ of the devil is Rumplestiltskin. The gnome is most certainly a male witch figure who is quite capable of magical alchemy.

The story of Rumpelstiltskin opens with a conversation between a poor miller and a king. The miller wants to impress the king, and appear more powerful in the king’s eyes. He boasts, “I have a daughter who can spin straw into gold.” The king, who understands the link between wealth and power, invites the daughter to the castle to put this skill to the test.

The first two nights, the king demonstrates ultimate power over the girl when he threatens to kill her if she fails to spin all the straw in the rooms into gold. On the third night, he informs her that if she again succeeds in spinning the straw to gold, she shall become his wife.

The king’s greed for more gold keeps the miller’s daughter in the castle for three nights under threat of death. When he takes her as a wife, he thinks to himself, “Even if she is only a miller’s daughter, I will not find a richer wife in the entire world.”

The gnome who comes to the girl’s aid each night and spins the straw into gold is very greedy. He takes no pity on the girl and her plight, but asks each time what she will give him if he helps her. He takes the only two possessions she owns, her necklace and her ring. When she has nothing more of value to give him, he makes her promise to give him her first born child.

Many German fairy tales, like Rumpelstiltskin, include the challenge of finding out the antagonist’s name. It may be that superstitious people felt unnamed evil was more powerful or dangerous than evil you could put a name to; as if knowing the name gave the evil definition, bringing it out of the darkness and into the light where it wasn’t as scary as before.

When the Queen reveals that she has figured out Rumpelstiltskin’s name, he screams, “The devil told you that!” He stomps his right foot so hard that the ground swallows him up to his waist. His demise comes when he takes hold of his left foot and rips himself up the middle in two.

The moral of the story is that when the evil is named – it has no choice but to destroy itself.

The gnome has been the agent of evil in most folktales and has been watered down as the friend of humans, when they should never be crossed and should never be trusted.

During the Solstice, it is often wise to burn a Yule log to cleanse the house of these creatures and it doesn’t hurt too look in closets, under stairs or even under your bed because in the darkest of nights the shadowy figures may show up in your home.

If you think you are being haunted by these creatures, it is best that you leave out fruit or even cookies and milk for these little demons.

It kind of makes you wonder why the children leave these things out for Santa when they really need to leave them out so the Yule Lads won’t tear down the tree or steal their stockings.

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