Come to the Dark Side. We Have Yule.

Come to the Dark Side. We Have Yule. -By Debbi Decker

Although the holiday season of Yule is generally associated with birth and light, the original festival as celebrated has a much darker side. Celebrated by Germanic peoples (the most familiar will be Norse and Anglo Saxon) in pre-Christian times, Yule not only encompassed feasting, reveling, and celebrations, it also featured death, sacrifice, and ghosts.

Yule was primarily a midwinter observance during the months of December and January, which, over time, was incorporated into the Christian celebration of Christmas. Some familiar practices that have come down from this observance include the Christmas ham (the Yule boar) and caroling. Some of the not so familiar Yule customs and beliefs are as follows.

With December 21st comes the shortest day of the year and along with that comes the Wild Hunt. It is believed that the Wild Hunt comprises demons or dead fairies, ghosts of former huntsman or the undead, called Drauger (possible zombie references here), raging across the sky in search of dark secrets and souls. It was considered most unlucky to see the Wild Hunt, and many lit fires or candles to keep the Wild Hunt at bay as the light would repel the dark and the spirits that reside there.

Christmas Eve as we know it was originally celebrated in January and was known as Mōdraniht, which is old English for Mothers-Night. This celebration references “dis” or spirits of fates. Sacrifices were made on this night and many practices centered around fertility rituals to ensure a bountiful new year to come as well as to celebrate the fertility of tribes.

Aspects of modern day Christmas festivities can be traced back to the reverence of the Norse god Odin. The ham we eat is a reference to the boar with an apple in its mouth. The Yule log is burned to revere the departed souls and also to keep the darker side with its ghosts and demons and ghouls at bay. And again, another aspect of the Yule log may be phallic in nature as the ashes were sprinkled in the fields to bring fertility to the coming harvest.

So, this Yule season, light your candles and Yule logs and keep the darkness and all it encompasses away. Pay tribute to your ancestors, and most importantly, if you hear a huntsman’s horn on Christmas night, remember to stay inside. If not, you might be carried off to the darker side of Yule.

Debbi Decker is proprietor of twistedpixelstudio Art & Assemblage Emporium. Check out her artist page to find links to her shop and blog to read more of her writings. Visit again next month for the telling of hauntings and ghostly tales by Debbi Decker.

A Song of Grief

A Song of Grief-By Debbi Decker

The dog howled. It was a continuous howling, over and over. Plaintive, shrill, and at times quite eerie. I sat down at the table with my grandmother. “How in the world can you stand it? How long has this been going on?” Gramma just shook her head. “The howling started when your grandfather died. It has not stopped since.”

Gramma was in one of her more lucid moments so I knew that she was telling me the truth. Sometimes, it was hard to know what Gramma knew or what she would talk about at any given moment. But to hear this from her set me back a bit. It had been two days since Gramps had died.
“You know your grandfather hated that dog”, she said, shaking her head again. “He never would let it come around, would chase it off with a yell if the dog so much as stepped foot in the yard. But that dog, he did not seem to care. He still came around every single day. Sometimes it gave me a chuckle to see how your grandfather would fret about it. I never understood why he didn’t like that dog. You know he raised dogs most of his life. I just don’t know.”

The dog in question was my aunt’s dog, a black and white English Sheep Dog, one that we all thought was not quite right in the head for a dog. He lived down the street, almost two blocks away. Those howls were loud, and sounded like he was just outside the door. I wondered if I should go down to my aunt’s house and see if I could get him to stop. No, it was time to go to the funeral. The dog would have to wait.

Coming back to my grandmother’s house after the funeral and burial, the silence was almost deafening. No howling. No sounds at all. I helped my grandmother get settled, got some food in her, and chatted for a bit with her and other family members and friends that stopped by.

Later on that evening, while I was walking over to my aunt’s house, one of the neighbors stepped out to say hello, and ask after my grandmother. After expressing her condolence, she asked “Did you hear that dog? My word! That dog just howled and howled. We thought he would never stop.” I had completely forgotten about the dog and its strange behavior. “So, when did he stop?” I asked. She thought for a moment, then she said “I can’t rightly tell for sure but it was around 3:00 this afternoon”.

The impact of her words caused me to step back and gasp. Around 3:00 was when my grandfather was being buried. I could not quite wrap my head around it then.

But, over the years, I have experienced other such behavior with animals, and I have come to believe that animals can sense things and know things that humans cannot. You think to yourself that you need to feed the cat. And then watch the cat wander over to its food bowl just after you had that thought, even though you have not moved yet. A dog looks into the air and barks and whines. Or a cat suddenly hisses at a corner and runs from the room. You investigate, but find nothing out of the ordinary. It’s obvious that something spooked them, but what it was you cannot tell. Did they see or hear something that you cannot see? Are animals capable of reading minds, seeing ghosts, or hearing voices that you cannot hear? I believe that they can and they do.

Gramps may have hated that dog for whatever his reasons, but that dog did not care. That dog loved my grandfather, knew the moment that he died, and the moment that he was buried. I now think of those howls as the dog’s song of grief, his only way of letting us know that he too was sad and felt the loss of someone he loved.

Debbi Decker is proprietor of twistedpixelstudio Art & Assemblage Emporium. Check out her artist page to find links to her shop and blog to read more of her writings. Visit again next month for the telling of hauntings and ghostly tales by Debbi Decker.


EEKS!-By Robyn Madison

Eeks, What Was That? …I Don’t Think I Want to Know!

I’m a little obsessed with TV shows about paranormal subjects. I frequently tune in to such shows as my little guilty pleasure. My husband looks askance and goes to another room when I do. And there is a wealth of spooky reality shows on television – Ghost Hunters, Paranormal State, Haunted Collector, The Long Island Medium, Ghost Adventures, Celebrity Ghost Stories – to name just a few of those I can think of off the top of my head.

While I have had my own experiences with various psychic phenomena of which mediumship, i.e. contact with disembodied spirits, is a type, the more hair-raising contact [with those who have left our plane of existence] that is ghost hunting is something different all together. I have to admit, while the concept of ghost hunting is titillating to me – I’m sure I’d run away screaming if I personally experienced the first sign of ghostly activity. So, I’d rather watch someone else do it at a very safe distance through the airwaves.

Oh, I have all the buzz words down. I know all about EVP’s, EMF’s, orbs, full spectrum infrared cameras, spirit boxes, full-body apparitions, residual hauntings, intelligent entities, poltergeist, etc. (But again, all at a safe distance.)

I’d just love to be a fly on the set of one of the paranormal reality shows just to see what is real and what is staged or even fabricated. It really does not seem possible that paranormal activity will just happen on demand as is often portrayed in these shows. And while some of the supposed “evidence” certainly looks convincing, there is undoubtedly a bit of chicanery involved to close out production of any one episode.

That being said, it still gives me a little thrill to hear an electronic voice recording of something in the Lizzie Borden house in Fall River, MA saying “…but I was a good daughter!”, or misty figures of soldiers appearing while investigators film at Gettysburg, PA, or a flashlight being knocked out of an investigator’s hands by an unseen force at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO (setting of The Shining).

But I think being a distant spectator (not spector!) is about as far as I’m willing to go. That, and maybe working off some of my curiosity about other-worldly things through my artwork as a member of the Halloween Artist Bazaar. As members of this consortium of artists, we all have a certain fascination with things paranormal. We are perhaps offering a little peek through the “veil between the worlds” through the sometimes bizarre things we make. After all, Halloween is the time when that veil is the most penetrable, thus it is our main theme.

Bringing that sense of something extra-sensory versus what we experience in everyday life into our artwork, with a sense of humor and whimsy to mitigate any true evil, is a common theme among the HAB artists. Each artist works out in her/his own way a curiosity & fascination with things a shade darker than daytime allows.

So, I think I’ll just keep my ghosts in my art and not go seeking them out myself, how about you? If I ever do encounter one, I’ll let you know…that is, if I survive the experience…

Robyn is proprietor of Shrine Maiden. Check out her artist page to find links to her shop.