An interesting post from the Farmer’s Almanac appeared via Twitter last week. It talked about the myth of the snow woman. This was fascinating to me for two reasons: the first was that I had never heard of this myth, and second, I was fascinated because in mythology in general and weather mythology in particular most of the lore is masculine. So to hear of a female snow person was intriguing to say the least.
She is known as a yuki-onna or yukionna, depending on which source you consult. I finally went to a web site whose sub-title was “everything Japanese.” If that isn’t an authority, then I’m not sure what would be.
In any event, as with most mythology or folklore, a yukionna is a spirit or ghost who appears to those stranded in snowstorms. She is dressed all in white, and she sometimes has no feet, or, alternatively, leaves no footprints in the snow. She is depicted as having wild dark hair and dark red lips. Sometimes she is seen carrying a child.
In all cases, contact with the yukionna is deadly–the victim freezes to death.
The Farmer’s Almanac site posits that the spirit was devised to explain the concept of freezing to death and how a woman who has frozen to death might appear. It’s an interesting theory and could of course have some basis in fact.
A little closer to home, the Penobscot and Abenaki tribes had a spirit god called Pomola that was in the shape of a bird. It resided on Mount Katahdin (Maine) and was strong enough to carry off a moose. Pomola was not just a god of snow, but also of wind, storms and rain. Needless to say, the tribes avoided Mt. Katahdin altogether.
The Norse too have some gods and goddesses associated with their mythology. It was difficult for me to get a handle on who the actual gods or goddesses might be since their mythology is rather unusual. The names most often mentioned in the ski resort literature were Ullr, the “step-son” of Thor and Skadi, a goddess, who on some sites was called the “goddess of snow-shoeing.” Hmm. Sounds far more benign than it probably was in the twelfth century!
In any event, nowhere in all this literature did it tell me who to pray tostop all this snow–but I suspect we already know that. We don’t need anyone special for that!