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Yuletide Specters

from The Swedish Fairy Book





Once upon a time there lived two peasants on a homestead called
Vaderas, just as there are two peasants living on it now. In those
days the roads were good, and the women were in the habit of riding
when they wanted to go to church.

One Christmas the two women agreed that they would ride to Christmas
night mass, and whichever one of them woke up at the right time was to
call the other, for in those days there was no such thing as a watch.
It was about midnight when one of the women thought she heard a voice
from the window, calling: "I am going to set out now." She got up
hurriedly and dressed herself, so that she might be able to ride with
the other woman; but since there was no time to eat, she took a piece
of bread from the table along with her. In those times it was
customary to bake the bread in the shape of a cross. It was a piece of
this kind that the woman took and put in her pocket, in order to eat
it underway. She rode as fast as she could, to catch up with her
friend, but could not overtake her. The way led over a little stream
which flows into Vidostern Lake, and across the stream was a bridge,
known as the Earth Bridge, and on the bridge stood two witch trolls,
busy washing. As the woman came riding across the bridge, one of the
witch trolls called out to the other, "Hurry, and tear her head from
her shoulders!"

"That I cannot do" returned the other, "because she has a bit of bread
in the form of a cross in her pocket."

The woman, who had been unable to catch up with her neighbor, reached
the church at Hanger alone.

The church was full of lights, as was always the case when the
Christmas mass was said. As quickly as ever she could the woman tied
up her horse, and hurriedly entered the church. It seemed to her that
the church was crowded with people; but all of them were headless, and
at the altar stood the priest, in full canonicals but without a head.
In her haste she did not at once see how things were; but sat down in
her accustomed place. As she sat down it seemed to her that some one
said: "If I had not stood godfather to you when you were christened, I
would do away with you as you sit there, and now hurry and make
yourself scarce, or it will be the worse for you!" Then she realized
that things were not as they should be, and ran out hastily.

When she came into the church-yard, it seemed to her as though she
were surrounded by a great crowd of people. In those days people wore
broad mantles of unbleached wool, woven at home, and white in color.
She was wearing one of these mantles and the specters seized it. But
she flung it away from her and managed to escape from the church-yard,
and run to the poor-house and wake the people there. It is said it was
then one o'clock at night.

So she sat and waited for the early mass at four o'clock in the
morning. And when day finally dawned, they found a little piece of her
mantle on every grave in the church-yard.

A similar experience befell a man and his wife who lived in a hut
known as Ingas, below Mosled.

They were no more than an hour ahead of time; but when they reached
the church at Hanger, they thought the service had already begun, and
wanted to enter at once; but the church was barred and bolted, and the
phantom service of the dead was nearing its end. And when the actual
mass began, there was found lying at every place some of the earth
from the graves of those who shortly before had been worshiping. The
man and his wife thereupon fell grievously ill, because they had
disturbed the dead.


NOTE

"Yuletide Spectres." The tale of the weird service of the dead
on Christmas night is common throughout Scandinavia. (From an
mss. communicated by Dr. v. Sydow-Lund).





Next: Silverwhite And Lillwacker

Previous: The Skalunda Giant



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