These last few years, Krampus has broken into the American zeitgeist in movies such as Rare Exports, Krampus and, heaven help us, last year’s William Shatner vehicle, A Christmas Horror Story. Those films and viral videos of the misidentified “Krampus parades” in Austria have conspired with our desire for a new, nastier way of celebrating Christmas, putting the red right hand of Santa in a leading role with the jolly old elf as kings of the season here in the U.S. and abroad.
Truly, though, it’s women—or rather female deities—who have long ruled Yule. Hailing from the older, colder countries of Austria and Iceland with their own fascinating companions, characters such as Perchta and Gryla both punished and rewarded adults and children during Christmas time for centuries before Santa Claus came to town. Read on about these winter witches and decide for yourself if these ladies should be our leads across the annual finish line.