I'd also been vaguely aware that there was a darker side to this folk custom. The book Christmas in Ritual and Tradition: Christian and Pagan, by Clement A. Miles, first published in 1912, offered the following details:
In central Europe we see St. Lucia in other aspects. In the Böhmerwald she goes round the village in the form of a nanny-goat with horns, gives fruit to the good children, and threatens to rip open the belly of the naughty. Here she is evidently related to the pagan monsters already described. In Tyrol she plays a more graceful part: she brings presents for girls, an office which St. Nicholas is there supposed to perform for boys only.I blogged about it back in 2015 in a post called Festival of the Week: St Lucya or Lucia's Day
However, I've just learnt that a whole new book has been published about the darker side of Christmas folklore. It is The Krampus and the Old, Dark Christmas: Roots and Rebirth of the Folkloric Devil by Al Ridenour, and it has a long section on dark Lucy. In part of that, he says:
The "dark Lucy" seems to be derived from from the mythologies of Perchta, Holda, or the Slavic witch Baba Yaga. She's widely distributed, from Bavaria, through eastern Austria, Hungary the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia and Western Croatia. She also appeared in Scandinavia, particularly Sweden, where St Lucy's wicked counterpart, the Lussi, was well known for haunting the Lussinatta (Lucy Night). On this night she flies through the sky like Holda, or the Wild Hunter, with her ghostly retinue called the Lussen, Lussiner, or the Lussiguber.Last night I listened to Al Ridenour's podcast, Bone and Sickle, in which he goes into a lot more details about dark Lucy and other related scary Christmas folktales. I'm going to be putting The Krampus and the Old, Dark Christmas on my wish list too, as it is a book I certainly want to read.
You can view The Krampus and the Old Dark Christmas on Amazon and you can also view the older book, Christmas in Ritual and Tradition: Christian and Pagan, on Amazon.
Links and previous related posts