Holy heathen Gävle Goat! Sweden’s giant Yule Goat

That’s right a giant Yule goat! If you don’t believe me, you can watch it on its web-cam:

The Gävle Goat Website

So why does Sweden have a giant Yule goat? Well… It’s because Father Christmas it actually the Odin or Thor…And he used to ride a goat…Which was then sacrificed.

I kid you not. Ha ha, kid, geddit?

Ahem! Anyway…The Gävle Goat (known in Swedish as the Julbocken i Gävle or Gävlebocken) is a giant version of a traditional Swedish Yule Goat figure made of straw that is located at Slottstorget in central Gävle. The Yule Goat is one of the oldest Scandinavian and Northern European Yule traditions. Magically reanimated Goats were connected to the Norse god Thor’s flying chariot drawn by Tanngrisnir (one who has sparse teeth) and Tanngnjóstr (one who grinds his teeth) AKA Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder.

However, the Yule Goat originally the goat that was slaughtered around Yule, possibly a Thor homage, I say this because in Swedish custom that has been known as “Juleoffer” or “Yule Sacrifice”, where young men with their faces grimed would dance and sing. One of the men was dressed up as the Yule Goat, while the others would pretend to slaughter it. During the singing, different slaughter tools was brought in, and the dance ended with the Yule Goat being slaughtered, then it would wake up again magically reanimated just like Thor’s goats, Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder.

Even the word “Yule” comes from a derivation of the word for Odin, the word Yule is said to have come from the Norse word “Jul” or “Yul”, meaning wheel. Odin is known in Norse by the title “Jolnir” which means, “Jul-One.” Even now in contemporary Scandinavian countries they say “God Jul!” for Merry Christmas and is celebrated on Christmas Eve.

Another tradition associated with the Yule Goat was a straw effigy that was made of it, which was then used in the custom of going door-to-door, singing carols and getting fruit, cakes and sweets. Which is similar to the British custom wassailing, this is very similar to the tradition of the Mari Lwyd of Wales. This reanimated creature was supposed to be ugly creature that frightened children, and demanded gifts at Christmas. The 19th century saw importance shift towards becoming the giver of Christmas gifts, in Scandinavia, the men in the family would dress up as the Yule Goat. This tradition would have the goat replaced with the jultomte or julenisse (Santa Claus) at the end of the century, and the tradition of the man-sized goat disappeared. Now the Yule goat is reduced to a decoration.

Ornamental Yule Goats made of straws, used for Yule decoration in Scandinavia.

Mari Lwyd is carried through the streets of the village by a party that stands in front of every house to sing traditional songs. The singing sometimes consists of a rhyme contest (pwnco) between the Mari party and the inhabitants of the house, that challenge each other with verses.

Icelandic manuscript depicting Odin who slayed the frost giant, Ymir.

A folk tale depiction of Father Christmas on riding a goat. Perhaps an evolved version of the Swedish Tomte.


1 Response to “Holy heathen Gävle Goat! Sweden’s giant Yule Goat”

  1. 1 http://Mygoldrushtales.com/hangtown-hanging Trackback on June 13, 2017 at 6:51 pm

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