Thursday, November 29, 2012

Better Watch Out; Krampus is Coming to Drag You to Hell!

Christmas is not just a time of joy, gifts, and goodwill, it’s also a season of dark myths and legends. 
In the olden days gone by in Finland, they believed in Joulupukki. That word means Yule buck.

In December, pagan people had big festivals to ward off the Joulupukki. These spirits of darkness wore goat skins and horns. In the beginning this creature didn't give presents but demanded them. It was an ugly creature and frightened children. It is unclear how this personality was transformed into the benevolent Father Christmas. Nowadays the only remaining feature is the name. The process was probably a continuous amalgamation of many old folk customs and beliefs from varied sources. One can speak of a Christmas pageant tradition consisting of many personages with roles partly Christian, partly pagan: A white-bearded saint, the Devil, demons, and house gnomes. Nowadays the Joulupukki of Finland resembles the American Santa Claus. While most gift givers around the world deliver their presents in the middle of the night while everyone is sleeping, children in Finland get to see Joulupukki in the act of delivering the presents.

This reminds me of Black Peter and the Krampus, both being Santa’s “evil twin.” In many areas of the world, it is said that St. Nicholas has a companion. This companion is Krampus, though another version is Black Peter, or Zarte Piet or Zwarte Piet. Black Peter is associated with the Netherlands and has dark skin. Krampus isn't a man though. He has horns, goat hair, hooves, and claws. Just like a demon. His job is to accompany St. Nicholas and to warn and punish bad children. He is said to carry a basket on his back where he will place the bad children and take them to Hell to be tossed into the pit. It puts a frightening twist on “have you been naughty or nice!”

Krampus originates from Krampen--meaning claw. Krampus is the dark companion of St. Nicholas, the traditional European winter gift-bringer. This fiendish being is usually seen as a classic devil with horns, cloven hooves and monstrous tongue. Unlike American children who get coal if they’re bad, instead the Krampus beats them savagely for their misdeeds and then drag them down to hell. Born of a pre-Christian, Alpine Pagan tradition, he is identified by matted-black hair, along tongue that snakes out of his maw, and cloven hooves. He also sports a large wicker basket on his back, filled to the brim with thorny, unbreakable birch sticks for those beatings he delivers. He always comes with St. Nick who brings presents, but before the gifts are handed out, those who are bad is given what they "deserve" by him. Also, taking part in this Krampus legend, are young men that dress up in goat skins and masks they spent two weeks making and on December 5th, head out to scare all, and carry out "birching," mainly on young girls. Krampus makes the Grinch before his heart went several sizes bigger look good!


Cellophane Queen said...

Oh, if I'd only known about the Krampus when my boys were kids. I love the idea of telling them they'd be beaten to within an inch and dragged to hell. They might have been better behaved.

Thanks for giving me a legend I'd never heard before.

Pamela K. Kinney said...

You're welcome, Marva!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I found this legend really frightening. And the pictures! I don't think I would have told my kids about this legend. Christmas is all about sharing goodness and love. I think I would keep Krampas out of it. Love your blog, Pamela.

Pamela K. Kinney said...

I learned many holidays are mixed bag of stuff, good and bad. But yeah, wouldn't have told my son this. Though considering Americans have a version called giving coal in stocking for bad children which I suspect came from these scary legends from other countries.

Janice Seagraves said...

Good thing my mom didn't know about this legend while I was growing up, I think she might have used it on my sister and I. As soon as the presents were under the tree the threats began: Do you want the gifts to go back to the store?

I didn't do that to my daughter, nor would I have used that old legend either.


Unknown said...

Krampus is my hero. :)