With the arrival of December, winter began to make itself felt in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere. The weather is colder now and the nights are longer. Cold and long nights have been associated with new mythological creatures and monsters in many communities. Here are eight mythological creatures associated with snow and winter from around the world:
Amarok: The Giant Wolf
In Inuit mythology, it is the name of a gigantic wolf, also known as the Amaroq. It is one of the most frightening folkloric figures in the myths and tales of the Inuit living in Alaska, Canada and Greenland. It is very strong due to its size. In this respect, it resembles Fenrir in Norse mythology, but is quite different from it.
Amarok hunts people who go hunting alone at night. That’s why hunters are so afraid of it. However, it is also mentioned with positive features in some Inuit tales. In this respect, it can be said that it resembles the wolves in Turkic, Siberian and Altai legends. Because in Turkic, Altai and Siberian mythologies, the wolf is one of the animals that are both feared and respected.
In an Inuit tale, Amarok makes a weak and lonely boy strong enough to fight bears. In another Inuit legend, it keeps the herd healthy by eating sick and weak reindeer.1
Bocuk: The Winter Witch
Bocuk is the name of a witch-like evil creature in Thracian folk beliefs. It is believed that by appearing in the coldest days of winter, she does evil and harms people. Although Bocuk is referred to as a male in some villages, she is mostly described as a woman.
In January, on a day thought to be the coldest day of winter, celebrations are held under the name of Bocuk night. People cook pumpkin dessert to protect themselves from the harm of Bocuk. Painting faces with soot on cauldrons and disguising as ghosts with white sheets are the most common customs. These practices are often compared to Halloween traditions.
Serbian ethnologist and folklorist Tihomir Đorđević wrote that Turks living in the Balkans celebrated Bocuk night in the early 19th century. Therefore, it can be said that Bocuk night was known among the Turks in the region even in the 18th century.
However, it is not known when and where the Bocuk traditions first emerged. It is believed to have its roots in the Middle Ages.
Ded Moroz and Ayaz Ata
Ded Moroz is a figure similar to Santa Claus in Slavic mythology. As the New Year approaches, he appears and distributes gifts to the children. He is usually depicted with a long white beard, dressed in blue and holding a magic wand.
The equivalent of Ded Moroz in Turkic folklore is Ayaz Ata. He is known as someone who helps the hungry and the homeless. There are two different views on the origin of him:
1. As a result of cultural interaction, Ayaz Ata passed from the Russians to the Turks.
2. He has been included in modern Turkic folklore with the adaptation of Ayas Han in ancient Turkic myths.
Ayas Han is a mythological entity in ancient Turkic mythology, consisting of moonlight and starting the winter by blowing cold air from the Pleiades constellation.
In European folklore, it is a hairy, horned and scary creature that roams the streets with Saint Nicholas during the Advent period. While in some regions it is depicted as completely demonic, in some regions it is both a demonic and a mischievous creature. While Saint Nicholas distributes gifts to good children, Krampus punishes naughty children. In today’s parades, some disguised as Krampus may nudge the audience with a stick in an attempt to annoy them. But sometimes the opposite happens. Naughty children may try to tease a Krampus in order to prove their courage and play pranks.
The origin of Krampus is uncertain, but some folklorists believe that the roots of Krampus go back to the pre-Christian pagan period.2
While Krampus is a figure in the folklore of Northern Italy, Southern Germany, Eastern Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Czechia, Slovenia, Croatia, Slovakia and Hungary, nowadays Krampus parades are on the rise across Europe and North America.
In Greek folklore, they are evil creatures believed to appear in winter. Their physical features are similar to Krampus, they are often depicted as hairy and scary creatures. They try to cut down the world tree.
Kallikantzaros is also believed in other Balkan countries. It is known as Karakondjul (Караконджул) in Bulgaria and as Karakondžula (Караконџула) in Serbia.
The equivalent of Kallikantzaros in Turkish folklore is Karakoncolos. It is also known by names such as Koncolos and Congolos. In the freezing cold, it calls people to itself and causes them to freeze to death.
In Scandinavian folklore, Nisse, also known as Tomte, is a mythological creature associated with winter and the winter solstice. They are usually depicted as someone of short stature and a white beard. They are important mythological figures in both Scandinavian literature and Scandinavian art. Illustrations of Nisse and similar creatures often appear on Christmas postcards in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.
According to mythological narratives, they live in farms and barns. In this way, they protect the farm and the animals. They love buttered porridge. That’s why the farmers reward them with porridge from time to time, so as not to anger them.
It is a creature believed to live in the Himalayan mountains. It is usually depicted as an ape-like anthropomorphic creature covered with white or brown hairs. Some Tibetan folklorists say that three types of Yeti are believed, based on color and size.
Yeti-like creatures are believed by different names in many parts of the world. Despite dubious eyewitnesses, there is no scientific evidence for the existence of such a creature.
Scientists think that the rumors about the Yeti may originate from a large native bear species living in the Himalayas.
Yuki-onna is the name of a supernatural entity that means snow woman in Japanese. She is usually depicted as a beautiful woman in white, with dark hair, who can seduce men. She appears on snowy nights and is believed to freeze people.
Yuki-onna is described in many different ways in different parts of Japan. Therefore, there are many different legends about her.
- “Loup – Amarok, L’Esprit du Loup“, Larousse, consulted on December 5, 2022
- “Südtirol in Geschichte und Gegenwart”, Michael FORCHER & Hans Karl PETERLINI, Haymon Verlag, ISBN: 978-3852186368