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Sunday, December 24, 2006


Kertasnikir.....Candle-beggar appears on Christmas Eve as the children wait in anticipation while their parents light the Christmas candles. When the family leaves the living room to get the children. Kertasnikir slips into the room and takes as many candles as he can carry.

The Jolasveinars and my project to count down to Christmas, by showing and talking about them each day and introducing their charming family, Gryla, Leppaludi and The Christmas Cat, has brought me more joy than I could ever have imagined. I have met through my blog other bloggers, some from my homeland and others from far and near. Thank you all for your kind words.
This year the Jolasveinar had the honor of being guests on two blogs Waking Ambrose and Endicott Redux.
My family and I, wish all of you that celebrate Christmas. Gledileg jol, Glaedelig jul and a Merry Christmas.
Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends. And to my friends who celebrate Kwanza, Happy Kwansa.


Posted by Mo'a :: 7:50 AM :: 8 Art Connoiseurs

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Saturday, December 23, 2006


Kjotkrokur.......Meat-hook jumps up on the roof and lowers his long meat hook down the chimney to snatch the Hangikjot, that is being cooked for Christmas Eve dinner. When the household notices that the meat is gone, they give chase to meat hook, calling and screaming at the top of their lungs. Kjotkrokur is limber and fast. He quickly hides behind a big bolder and sits down to feast on the stolen meat.


Posted by Mo'a :: 8:04 AM :: 3 Art Connoiseurs

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Friday, December 22, 2006


Gattathefur....Door-sniffer is number eleven. He has a nice big nose and remarkably he never gets a cold. He can smell the good smells of Christmas from afar. Today he can detect the lovely smell of Laufabraud and there is the fragrance of Hangikjot that hangs in the rafters. He tip-toes to the kitchen door, so that he can delight in all the good smells of Christmas cooking. As he is standing there in ecstasy, the housewife walks by and startled by his presence screams. Gattathefur unperturbed smiles and raises his nose higher.


Posted by Mo'a :: 7:46 AM :: 7 Art Connoiseurs

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Thursday, December 21, 2006


Gluggagaegir.........Window-peeper. He sneaks around looking in all the windows, to case the premises for what he can steal. The people in the house scream in fright, when they see his face in the window. Gluggagaegir only laughs and makes faces to scare them even more.


Posted by Mo'a :: 7:38 AM :: 7 Art Connoiseurs

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bjugnakraekir.......Sausage-swiper and Gryla and Leppaludi

Bjugnakraekir.....Sausage-swiper is number nine. He will seek high and low to find the sausages that have been hidden from him. Sometimes they are hidden so well, that he can not find them. Today luck was on his side, he found a string of seven.

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Meet Gryla and Leppaludi the Jolasveinar’s parents. Are they not the most charming couple?

Gryla the Jolasveinar’s Mother, is a huge Troll. She is hideous to say the very least. Her nose is big and crooked. She has big warts on her face with wiry hairs sticking out of them, big teeth, some worn down to a stub, shifty eyes, stringy hair and horns on top of her head.
She has enormous bony hands with long sharp nails, her feet a hoofs and she has a long tail.
It was recorded in the 13th Century that she had 15 tails with a 100 sacks on each tail and 20 children in each sack. It makes me shiver just to think about it, and I think and hope, that whoever recorded this story was prone to exaggeration.
Her diet is one that strikes fear in every Icelandic child, she eats naughty children, just like her pet, the Christmas Cat. Oh! the horror!!! Is it any wonder that the children are particularly good this time of year? As this is the time of year that Gryla and her family, venture from their caves in the mountains, down to the farms, towns and cities.
Leppaludi, whose name means Ragamuffin, on the other hand is a pitiful specimen of a Troll. He according to some telling is Gryla’s third husband.
Her first husband was Gustur whose name means Gust, as in a gust of wind. His death is suspicious and there has been much speculation and talk about just how much of a hand in his death Gryla had. I shall not go into that here, I might frighten you away with just mentioning one of the theories that I have heard. Shivers and more shivers!!!
The second unfortunate husband was Boli his name translates into Bull. Boli did not resemble is name at all. He was a sickly Troll and it is said that he was bedridden for a Trolls age and that he faded away in his sleep.
Leppaludi is the Jolasveinar’s Father. He is slovenly Troll that wears torn and tattered rags, that have been patched numerous times, by whom remains a mystery. He is an uncouth slobbering slacker, who usually waits in the cave, for Gryla to bring unfortunate naughty children, for his dinner.
Today he ventured down from the mountains to check out the story Gryla told him, about how hard it is to find misbehaving children in this day and age. Leppaludi is afraid of Gryla’s wrath and did not want to contradict her story, so for once he roused himself and followed her, the Christmas Cat and the Jolasveinar down to civilization. At worst, he thought to himself I could go to Bæjarins Bestu and steal some Pylsur and Cokes.

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We are guests on Waking Ambrose, please stop by and visit. Gryla is swooning over what Doug said about her. Come over and visit, I can not be responsible for what Gryla and the Christmas Cat will do if you don't. Just a small warning....because you are important to me :)


Posted by Mo'a :: 7:17 AM :: 15 Art Connoiseurs

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Skyrgamur.....skyr gobbler

Skyrgamur......skyr-gobbler arrived today and made a straight line for the dairy, where he found a barrel of skyr* He gobbles down all the skyr and is rewarded with stomach aches and pains. He is heard far and near, as he cries out “I should not have eaten all the skyr”.

*Skyr is a dairy product similar to yogurt that has been an stable part of the Icelandic diet for more than 1100 years.


Posted by Mo'a :: 7:46 AM :: 11 Art Connoiseurs

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Hurdaskellir....Door-slammer and The Christmas Cat

Hurdaskellir........Door-slammer is the seventh to arrive. He waits until everyone has gone to sleep, then slams all the doors in the house. He delights in the different sounds they make. The household wakes up startled from their sleep, children cry and dogs bark. All this is music to Door-slammer’s ears.

The Christmas Cat (Jolakottur) has been striking terror in the hearts of Icelandic children for generations.
The Jolakottur, is an enormous and ferocious ugly specimen of a cat, who has an appetite for misbehaving children. Naughty children did not get new things to wear for Christmas, thus they would have to stay in bed, miss all the festivities and worse, be eaten by the Christmas Cat.
Oh! The horror of it. I was always a good girl, really I was ;) My Mother always made sure I would have something red to wear, a candle and playing cards for Christmas. And I am here to tell the story, so obviously the Christmas Cat never ate me.
It is not enough that in Iceland adults had to worry whether their Christmas dinner would be delayed or stolen. Whether they and their animals would be scared out of their whits by the pranksters, whose progress we have been following here, the Jolasveinar. Their children had to deal with the Christmas Cat, Grila and Leppaludi who had a huge appetite for naughty children.
Now, the Jolasveinar have become generous benefactors to good children. They each leave them a gift in their shoe. If the Children have been naughty they will get a potato in their shoe instead of a gift. They are still up to the tricks that their name conveys , however, they never forget to leave something in the children’s shoes.
Not a bad life, I would say, for the modern Icelandic Children, who get a present in their shoe for 13 days, before Christmas. Furthermore there have been no reports of children having been eaten by the Christmas cat, Grila or Leppaludi, instead one hears an occasional report, that someone found the dreaded potato in their shoe.

This is a true story.
When I was twelve years old we lived next door to my Aunt and Uncle's house. One of my little cousins was a four years old boy, who had a way of testing ones patience. One evening just before Christmas he came over to our house for a visit. My Mother and I were baking cookies and my father was wrapping presents. He was getting in every ones way, snatching a cookie here, playing with the tape, getting hold of the scissors and asking questions over and over. Finally our patience wore thin so we used the Christmas Cat threat, which started with us saying “The Christmas Cat will get you if you are not good” and ending by knocking on any handy wooden surface, while he was not looking and saying “That is the Christmas Cat, he is trying to get you”
Why we did all the knocking still amuses me. Did we think the Christmas Cat was so polite, that he would knock? My little cousin told us that there was no Christmas Cat and that we were just teasing him. Finally my Mother had enough and asked me to take my cousin back to his house.
When we opened the door there was a new fallen snow and coming from around the corner of our house right up to the door were cat prints. The little cousin screamed in terror, grabbed my leg and tried to pull me away from the door. Finally after soothing him and hearing promises from him to be good, he agreed that I could carry him back to his house.
Some time ago, when I was in Iceland, he told me how grateful he was that I had saved him from the Christmas Cat, when he was a little boy.

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Posted by Mo'a :: 7:35 AM :: 8 Art Connoiseurs

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Sunday, December 17, 2006


Askjasleikir.......Bowl-licker is a very brave little fellow. He sneaks around waiting for someone in the household to put down their food bowl. Then the brazen little fellow snatches it away and licks it clean. Askjasleikir has to be fast on his feet to get away from the bowl's angry owner.


Posted by Mo'a :: 8:11 AM :: 6 Art Connoiseurs

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Saturday, December 16, 2006


Pottasleikir.....Pot-scraper arrived today. He found the big stew pot unattended. He grabbed it and hoisted it outside to have himself a good meal. There in the pot were four pieces of meat. He has not had such luck for many years.


Posted by Mo'a :: 7:44 AM :: 8 Art Connoiseurs

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Thvorusleikir.....Spoon-licker and Names

Thvorusleikir...Spoon-licker likes to lick the wooden spoon, that is used to stir the pots. When he sees his opportunity he shoots into the kitchen and grabs the spoon and holds it tight with both hands. This poor fellow is long and skinny and always hungry, as there is not much nourishment on a wooden spoon. Today he was lucky as you can see and has licked the spoon until it is clean.

It is interesting to me how many translations of the name Jolasveinar there are. I have come across Yulelads, Yuletide Lads, Yule Goblins, Christmas Elves, Christmas Men and Christmas Lads. I am sure there are many more.
There have been over 80 recorded names for the Jolasveinar themselves describing their looks or their tricks. I wonder why names such as Bandaleisir....Strap looser, Faldafleikir....Skirt blower this name I have also seen translated as Skirt flipper
Hlodustrangi....Barn roll, have the Jolasveinar become more politically correct?


Posted by Mo'a :: 7:49 AM :: 12 Art Connoiseurs

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Stufur....Stubby and The Costume

Stufur....Stubby. He is very small and timid,he is afraid of his aggressive brothers, hardly dares to do any mischief at all. He waits in the corner of the kitchen, where the housewife is frying the meat, in the hope that she will leave the pan behind. Stufur lives in anticipation, sometimes he is lucky and sometimes not.

The costumes that I used for the Jolasveinar, are based on the Icelandic costume the men wore in the 18th century. Sheep skin shoes (saudskinnskor), that were very thin and without soles and had hand knit inserts (leppar), imagine walking in these shoes over the lava fields. Short breeches and hand knit woolen socks, nice and warm. A sweater loosely based on the lopapeysa, I say loosely as the designs I have made on the Jolasveinar sweaters, are not as ornate and intricate as the real thing. Mittens (vettlingar) and a woolen hat.


Posted by Mo'a :: 8:09 AM :: 5 Art Connoiseurs

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Giljagaur.....Gully-gawk and Needle Felting

Giljagaur........... Gully-gawk arrives today. He is a handsome and most happy fellow. His passion is the froth, that forms on the warm milk as it comes from the cow. He sneaks into the barn and while the milk maid is not looking, Giljagaur dips his finger into the milk pail and licks the froth off his finger. Giljagaur, was lucky today.

I have loved the story of the thirteen Jolasveinar, as long as I can remember. When I was a little girl I was given Christmas cards with drawings of them, by Eggert, that I had carefully colored in, with color pencil. I still have nine of the cards and suspect that there were actually only nine in the beginning, as in some of the stories there were only nine are mentioned. One of my favorite Christmas songs is about, Jolasveinar one and eight, who came down from the mountains, and the adventure they had along the way..
I have wanted to create the Jolasveinar for many years, but could not find a medium to work in, that would fit my image of them. I took a class on needle felting on the internet, a year and a half ago with Amy Rawson, through joggles.com. I took to the medium right away and practiced designing and making various figures, until I felt ready to work on the Jolasveinar. I started working on them, in the middle of October last year and had them all done by the 24th of December. I did them in sequence, so that I could show them all here day by day, as they arrive.
This year I have added three figures that are related to the Jolasveinar. They will make their debut soon.
This project has been the most satisfying one I have ever done. I looked forward to going to my studio every day. I started this blog to have a place to show them and to tell their story. I tell the stories in my own way, with the poems from a book called Jolin Koma (Christmas is coming) by Johannes ur Kotlum, which was first printed in 1932 and had it’s sixteenth printing in 1994, as one of my guides.

Check out my, Strange Things About Me Meme, on my other blog "To Live A Creative Life"


Posted by Mo'a :: 8:00 AM :: 8 Art Connoiseurs

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stekkjastaur.....Stiff-legs and Jolasveinar

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The first to arrive is Stekkjastaur.....Stiff-legs, he sneaks into the sheep shed, hoping to milk one of the ewes, for his favorite drink. He is particularly stiff today, after his long walk from his mountain home. The sheep startled , jump and tumble about the shed, and due to Stekkjastaur’s stiff legs, are able to get away. Poor Stekkjastaur will have no milk today.

Today December 12th is a big day in Iceland, the first of the 13 Jolasveinar, variously called Yule Goblins, Christmas Men or Christmas Lads, arrives down from the mountains. Today's arrival is named Stiff-legs then comes Gully-gawk, Stubby, Spoon-licker, Pot-scraper, Bowl-licker, Door-slammer, Skyr-gobbler (Skyr is like yogurt) Sausage-swiper, Window-peeper, Door-sniffer, Meat-hook, and on the 24th, Christmas Eve, the last but not the least, Candle-beggar. Then they leave for the mountains one by one, the last one leaving on 12th night, January 6th.
These charmers were first mentioned in print in the 17th century and were known by various names which differ from region to region, with up to 80 names recorded.
Most of the names reflect the tricks they played. They coveted things people found hardest to do without during the lean times and the blackest Artic nights, that is food and light. Their parents were real charmers, their names are Gryla (Ugly) and Leppaludi(one who wears tattered clothes). It was said that Gryla and Leppaludi liked to feast on misbehaving children and were used as bogeymen to terrify children into obedience. The family pet was an enormous Black Cat who had the same culinary habits as Gryla and Leppaludi.The children of today, do not have to worry about Grila's, Leppaludi's and the Cat's former culinary habits, as they now probably prefer a Pizza or a Hamburger with a Coke.
In the 20th century the 13 Jolasveinar have mellowed and evolved from bogeymen into benevolent beings. They are now entertainment for, and friends to children. Each night when the children go to bed they leave their shoe on the window sill. If they have been good, they will recive a gift from each of the Jolasveinar, as they arrive from their mountain home. If they have been bad, they will find a potato in
their shoe.


Posted by Mo'a :: 8:48 AM :: 11 Art Connoiseurs

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Rachael DiRenna Sculptor

I love this time of year, when the trees are bare and their structure and personality is visible. Each tree’s outstretched branches reach out to me and tell me who they are. When I saw Rachael’s Tree Spirits I knew that we are kindred souls.

Rachael was born and raised in the Mt.Washington area of Pittsburgh, PA.
It is hard to believe when you see Rachael’s art that she has had no formal art training. She told me that she has always been interested in art and was usually creating something, but that she has had no training. She was very young when her first child was born and that sidetracked her.
This used to bother her but now she feels that, because she has not had any training, makes her art a “little different”.
She has no pre-conceived ideas about what each piece should be, “I just make what I feel”
Her inspiration comes from mythic art, books and music that she loves. Her favorite work are always, her "strangest pieces".
Rachael said “I had played with polymer clay before, but paper just clicked for me. I work in paper mache because I love it. It is such a versatile medium. People actually make furniture from it. I find it so satisfying to take waste paper and create something beautiful. It is non-toxic, cheap, environmentally friendly, and the different handmade and specialty papers available are gorgeous. I got started in paper mache about 5 yrs ago because I wanted masks of my children’s faces. It was a small step to then creating figures."
I asked her whether she is a full time artist and what she calls herself.....a figurative artist, doll artist or a sculptor?
She replied: "I am not a full time artist, 3 kids makes that not financially feasible, but I hope someday to be".
I guess I usually call myself a sculptor but I don't really think about it. I just love to create. It feels so good when someone likes my work. Its such a high to connect with people that way. I just really wish I had more time to devote to it".
Rachael’s work is in private collections worldwide. She is a member of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Pittsburgh and has work at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. In November Rachael was featured on Endicott Studio's blog, Endicot Redux

Rachael said: "My tree goddesses are very important to me. I cannot look at trees without seeing people and I try to portray that in my work. They come to life for me while I am making them and I hope that anyone who owns a piece can feel it also".

Take a look at Rachael's Tree Goddesses and Tree Spirits. I am sure you will agree with me, that they are amazing and that you will look for the Spirits and the Goddesses the next time you see a tree.

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Posted by Mo'a :: 4:09 PM :: 25 Art Connoiseurs

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Doll Maker and Artiste Extraordinaire

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