Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Yule Goat

Yule Goat

In December’s dark descent
across crackled breaking sky ice
slivered with dagger snow,
bells ring in whitened night, sharp
hooves stamp on the cloudcloth
shaking pearldust stripes on
viridian spruces, candelabra arms
turquoise and white pinwheels
circling their wands
of bitter bark raven haunted.

The god of thunders 
pulls the sun's shadow
flickering hammer tucked
in his brace of clouds,
drives his twin goats
toward the time when day
and night are strait, equals at last
as Odin's wild hunt 
passes damned, mad,
howling overhead

The Snarler and the Grinder
fleet of foot, heedless of fate
run on; tonight's feast, tomorrow’s
feat, killed for meat this starveling
night, raised at dawn.
Spread the skins and 
let each bone 
fall with care so
those here reborn 
race again on the solar wind.

O bright black eye
split with too much knowledge
devil’s mask, canting voice
of the abyss, god's bearer, hunger's enemy
come bless us this Yule with your
yellow stare, ignite yourself
against the hag’s winter storm,
flute your flames through a straw ribcage.
Watch us make the old dance new again
under the reckless stars.

December 2011

In Norse myth, Thor was not only provided with his mountain-shattering hammer Mjölnir, his magical, strength doubling belt Megingjörð, but a chariot in which he traveled through the sky pulled by two goats, Tanngrisnir (Old Norse "teeth-barer, snarler") and Tanngnjóstr (Old Norse "teeth grinder") spoken of in the Prose Edda, who could be slain for food at Thor's discretion then resurrected with the power of Mjölnir and returned to the traces.~ from wikipedia: 'The Yule Goat is one of the oldest Scandinavian and Northern European Yule and Christmas symbols and traditions. Originally denoting the goat that was slaughtered during the Germanic pagan festival of Yule, "Yule Goat" now typically refers to a goat-figure made of straw. It is also associated with the custom of wassailing, sometimes referred to as "going Yule Goat" in Scandinavia.' As always, I've taken a few liberties with the letter of the myths.You can read more about the folklore of the Yule Goat here  and the Wild Hunt here.

Happy Wassailing to All!


  1. think i need to re-read some of the old myths again.. a powerful and haunting scene you paint here the wildness in this..and really, you have to be careful not to set your blog on fire with your writing...blogger would sue you for this..smiles

  2. Thanks Claudia--don't know if they're still burning straw goats in your neck of the woods, but may your Yule be bright.

  3. smiles...hi we don't..but you never know with the scandinavians..they are funny honestly.. love the scandinavians - esp. the norwegians - they are open-minded and friendly people and their language sounds like moist soil..honestly..

  4. Such a vivid contrast here. I didn't know about the Yule goat, either.

    Happy Wassailing to you, too.

  5. Startling images brought to life here. An exciting poem.

  6. nice vivid write hedge...sorry i am so late just getting home and catching up...wrote nothing...crappy day....anyway...i will read this again once i get my head screwed on straight...i do find it very fascinating the customs and traditions...very cool....

  7. I recently finished a course from the Teaching Company on CD's (driven to it by poets such as you and loved it). Especially found Norse Mythology fascinating, perhaps because I'm married to a Loki kind of Norwegian:0)! So well expressed.

  8. So cool. I like the end especially--the yellow stare and straw ribcage. More hedgewitchery!

    Fun especially to read on a super-tired night (mine.) Beyond fatigue! K.

  9. The Snarler and the Grinder
    fleet of foot, heedless of fate
    run on; -> i'm totally trying to picture these guys, and boy do they sound scary

  10. Somehow your poem really resonates with me at this season of the year. I am into reflecting right now, and myths do it for me.

  11. Dear Hedgewitch: SPEECHLESS as you got my goat! Lovely in a metal on bone grinding sort of way. Poignantly Brilliant!

  12. I'd never heard of the Yule Goat, but loved learning about it both from your amazing poem and the history you shared, hedgewitch.

    Happy Wassailing!

  13. Took the night off but I'll see you all tomorrow--many thanks for reading, and Happy Yule to all. I had a lot of fun with this one.

  14. I do know this much...
    After a Hearty meal, Mr. Yule Goat leaves Yule Logs EVERYWHERE in the meadow!
    Happy Holidays Oh Spawn of Loki!!

  15. The movie scenes came to mind. The read most enjoyable.

  16. Could be a Red /Blue state matter of differences of a split spirit, exhibited in political and rhetorical divides -- Republican and Democrat, traditionalist and modernist, etc. -- but no one seems that happy with this holiday that proves like none other that getting what you want satisfies the spirit far less than what we learn in failing to ... put Christ back in Christmas, the traditionalists shout; go deeper and father back, say others, if you want to plug back into the missing fuse. Anyhoo as a fundamentalist of soul I prefer the deep end of the pool, and thrill to the gambols here, wassailing' away inside the summoned relic bones of a myth. A brew that's richly postchristian prepagan and pretermodern, the almost-perfect antidote to visions of a farty fat dude wedging down our dysfunctional chimney to deliver at long last an end to my unhappy childhood. (Almost-perfect, only because the gap allows for more invocations and articulations to come.) The soul is old, old, old though the expression of its spirit is ever new, and I'll take this as comfort enough to cancel the dreary seasonal mood I've been under, a pot of hot goat's head soup to warm the fossilzing bones of a culture. Five hammers of Thor and a Bronx cheer from the Wild Hunt trampling visions of sugarplums up there between the stars. A very merry Yule to ya, Hedge. - Brendan

  17. The goat is new to me as a yule symbol, and I love your poem to him. That candelabra image, wow. I feel I've lept over a few centuries into timeless wonder here, a far cry from the plastic seasonal displays and blowing billowing yard art. Thanks for rescuing me from that. Happy yuletide, my friend.

  18. I never knew the the exploration and celebration of the myth and tale. Interesting share ~

    Wishing you and your family Happy Holidays ~

  19. I love the Norse mythology, and especially at Yuletime. This is just an amazing piece of ancient culture, and hints at how it all became twisted up by the more modern religions: poor goat to be associated with the devil.

  20. fleet of foot, heedless of fate
    run on; tonight's feast, tomorrow’s
    feat, killed for meat this starveling
    night, raised at dawn.

    These lines pack so much in, especially powerfully the violent hunger for light come Winter Solstice.

  21. You really know how to link your wisdom and knowledge in amazing poems.

    Always loved that in you- always will. And I love goats and everything concerning them, especially myths and the way they... well taht's another story :-)
    Hugs and
    Merry Xmas HW!!!

  22. You should heed Claudia's warning: you've set me alight! Brilliant stuff!

  23. First of All! I Love! that photo!

    this piece is rich in folklore and legend, and allusions abound herein. nice myth-tale from the Eddas, and thus very enlightening for me, personally. I like this. New, refreshing, different.
    wonderful imagery provided from the details of the myth…which authenticates your message for me.

    very nice piece. Thank you!

  24. very mythical read... the imagery is stunning!

  25. To me, nothing says Christmas like a burning goat!

    Gorgeous work, Hedge.

  26. A lot of myth,legends and folklore around this. Brings the imagery to another level! Excellent verse,Joy as always!



"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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