Monday, December 20, 2021

Traditions: A Norse God And The Christmas Straw Goat


The origin of the Yule goat can be traced to pagan celebrations related to Thor, the god of thunder, who rode across the sky in a chariot drawn by two goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjostr, which translates to Teethbearer and Teethgrinder. 

In olden days in Sweden, people believed that the Yule goat was an invisible spirit that came to make sure Yule celebrations were prepared for properly. 

Then people began to imagine the goat and made a wood base that they covered with straw tied together with red ribbons. 

And now the straw goat with his pretty red ribbons can be found under most Swedish Christmas trees.

Back to Thor's goats:

Much as Thor's goats were cared for, they could also end up on the dinner table, as told in one of the sagas of the Poetic Edda. 

To be put back together the following day. 

Strict instructions by Thor to the diners: "Make sure to not break any bones." 

When at one such meal a bone was broken, one of the goats ended up limping after being put together again the following day. 

What is the Poetic Edda? Well, I didn't know. I knew about the Prose Edda, but not that there were two. 

So, of course, I googled it and learned that the Poetic Edda is the modern name for an untitled collection of Old Norse anonymous poems. 

Which you can actually buy for $11.49 on Amazon, where it has 3,395 reviews, ending in a five-star rating. 

Reading this, my mind flashed back to one of the ancient poets, long since dead, returning to life to find his poems part of a collection for sale on Amazon, so well liked, so many stars.  

If you read this far, thanks for letting my mind wander back to the culture of my ancestors, as it must be because I feel a strong  connection.

Just one more thing.

The Norse sagas left parts of their culture behind.  

The days of the week, for example, even in English: 

Sunday: Sol, the Sun

Monday: Mani, the Moon

Tuesday: Tyr, the god of war

Wendesday: (W)Odin, the king god of wisdom

Thursday: Thor, the god of thunder

Friday: Freya, Odin's wife, goddess of love and fertility

Saturday: See below.

In English:

It comes from the Middle English Saturdai, from the Old English Saternesdæg, which is a partial translation of the Latin Sāturnī diēs, meaning “Saturn's day.” The ancient Romans named the day we call Saturday after the planet Saturn, which was named for their god of agriculture.

In Swedish:

Lördag is the Swedish name for Saturday, which comes from the Old Norse name laugardagr which meant 'bathing day'. Laug meant 'pool' or 'lake' and dagr meant 'day'

So this was simply the day that my ancestors took a bath -- or washed up as best they could. A bit more mundane than being named for a planet that, in turn, was named for Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture. 


  1. This was all so facinating and I knew none of it except for the Saturn reference to Saturday. It was a Jeopardy question once. The Yule Goat's history was interesting.

  2. I wonder if the day we were born, and the name for that day has a modern slant on our own life? Love the goat story, let it continue for many years. Tradition, memories, they all have their place specially at Christmas , and the time we miss family members no longer with us the most.

  3. This is so cool, because I have seen these goats here and there in the last few years. But I had no idea what they meant! I am going to Amazon to check out this book, too.

  4. Very interesting reading about the goats - new to me!

  5. I've seen those goats and now I know something about the tradition.

    I came originally from the north east of England, where a lot of our language was Norse in origin. A lot of words and place names date back to Norse influence long ago.

  6. What amazing lore! I love the names of the goats especially!

  7. Hi Inger - such an interesting post ... and so pleased you get to bath once a week! Culture is so interesting ... leading to more to be found. I hadn't come across the goats before ... but now I know a little. The book sounds very educative - cheers Hilary

  8. oh Inger! this was IS wonderful!
    I have always loved myths and legends and folklore.
    and there is nothing like a 'billy goat' to make me smile!
    keep sharing with us. you have certainly added to my morning!
    thank you dear heart. you warm my own heart! xo

  9. I really like the blog and I hope people will have a new blog, thanks for the blog
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  10. This is so interesting! I enjoyed the goat story.

    Have a wonderful Christmas.

  11. Such a fascinating post ... thank you.

    All the best Jan

  12. I enjoyed this - lots of things I didn't know.


Thanks for leaving a comment.. ~~ Inger


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