In researching the winter solstice, I found a number of good and bad characters that are associated with this time.
In the way that the solstice can be seen as the beginning of longer days and shorter nights, there are optimistic figures that include Tonantzin in Mexico, Cailleach Bheru in Scotland, Horus in Egypt and Spider Grandmother by the Hopi.
Mythological gods and goddesses associated with the winter solstice, also have optimistic stories of the Earth’s regeneration or rebirth. The goddess, Beaivi is associated with health and fertility. In Scandanavia, it was believed that she flew across the night sky in a structure made of reindeer bones to bring back the plants that the reindeer needed to eat. Reindeer were so important to them that she was worshipped during this time of year.
In Italian folklore, La Befana is a goddess who rides around the world on her broom during the solstice, leaving candies and gifts to well-behaved children. Placing a rag doll in her likeness by the front door or window entices her into the home.
But not all the myths have benevolent characters. In Finnish mythology, Louhi, the “witch goddess of the North,” kidnapped the Sun and Moon and held them captive inside a mountain, causing the darkness of winter. She was considered to be more wicked than other benevolent goddesses.
The Yupik peoples of Alaska and the Russian Far East tell the story of the Kogukhpak, subterranean monsters with bulbous bodies and frog-like legs who could only be killed by the Sun. On the winter solstice, the Kogukhpak emerged to hunt. When the people had found mammoth carcasses on the Arctic tundra, they were said to be the corpses of the Kogukhpak who stayed out too long and died when the Sun returned.
Similarly, the Kallikantzaros in Greek mythology could only be killed by sunlight, so they emerged during the solstice to wreak havoc. They were angry, hairy, gnome-like creatures who lived underground. They wanted to cut down the tree of life.