Dark Nights of the Fairy Tale: The Wild Man and Wild Woman of Christmas
Storm spirits polt through the air in December. When their feet touch the ground and they arrive at the doorstep they are known as the Wild Man and Wild Woman.
They are ominous, fate-altering beings, as fickle as the weather and as destructive as the gale wind. It is best to appease such spirits with small offerings. They might also be swayed by demonstrations of diligence or industriousness. Whatever the method, folk tradition makes it clear that it is best to keep these spirits on your side.
Knecht Ruprecht is cast from the same mold. He appears in early December as St. Nicholas’s shadowy helper, ready and willing to do harm to all those who rile him.
Grimm's Saga No. 151 The Wild Ghosts of Christmas
Among the Vicentine and Veronese Germans (who inhabit the Italian Alps), it is widely known that from the second half of December until mid-January it is ill-advised for even the most daring hunter to visit the Wildbahn. All fear the Wild Man and Wild Woman. During this time shepherds do not drive their cattle. Instead children fetch water in containers from the nearest available source and water their herds in the stable. The women spin a piece of their hair onto spindles to appease the wild woman or woods wife, as she is known. Then they throw it into the fire to placate this spirit. On Christmas Eve, every place in the house with a chimney or an opening, through which air enters, is spread with ash. In the morning the footprints in the ash are carefully studied to see their position, size and whether they are moving into or out of the house. This tells which good or bad ghosts are visiting the dwelling.
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