Kallikantzaros: Goblins of Southeastern Europe

KallikantzarosIn the folklore of Southeastern Europe and Anatolia (Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Turkey), goblins are known as the kallikantzaros. They live underground and only come to the surface during nights of the Twelve Days of Christmas—December 25th through January 5th.

Those days, which used to be known in Serbia as “the unbaptized days,” are a time when demons have greater power and freedom to roam. Yet when the sun dawns on the Epiphany (January 6th) they must flee back to their subterranean vaults.

For all the rest of the year, the kallikantzaros spend their time sawing at the trunk of the World Tree, hoping to bring down the universe. The traditions of what they look like vary widely. Small or large, and sporting different animal parts, they are mostly male and are typically brutish and stupid. This explains why they never remember that every year when they return to their demesne, the World Tree has healed itself of all the previous year’s hackings and sawings.

Goblins 1One way to keep your home and family from coming to harm by them is to leave a colander on the doorstep. Kallikantzaroi are unable to count higher than the number two. Three is a holy number and they can’t say it without being struck dead. As a result, they will squat by the colander all night trying to count the holes, never being able to, fleeing below ground again at sunrise.

Children born during the unbaptized days are said to have special vulnerabilities or powers. Once they hit adulthood, these unfortunate few stand a chance of turning into one of the Kallikantzaroi during each Christmas season. The cure for this affliction is to bind the baby in tresses of garlic or straw, or to singe the child’s toenails. If the child is born on a Saturday, however, he or she will forever after be able to see and talk with the goblins.

Do we have any readers born during the Twelve Days of Christmas?

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