What Is Krampus?
Ol Saint Nick as it turns out has a bunch of demonic buddies. One goes by the name of Krampus, from the Old High German word for claw, Krampen. He likes to beat the crap out of little kids and flirt with the ladies. Krampus along with other strange names like Bartel, Pelzebock, Pelznickel, Belzeniggl, Schmutzli, Rumpelklas, Bellzebub, Hans Muff, Drapp, Buzebergt, Hanstrapp and Le Père Fouettard are the servents of Father Christmas and get to dish out the punishments on the wee ones. You wouldn't know it from the Christian American Coca Cola interpretation of Christmas but there's some really disturbing stories surrounding that special time of the year...
"The companion of the French St. Nicholas, Père Fouettard, is said to be the butcher of three children. St. Nicholas discovered the murder and resurrected the three children. He also shamed Père Fouettard, who, in repentance, became a servant of St. Nicholas. Fouettard travels with the saint and punishes naughty children by whipping them."
"In some of the Ruprecht traditions the children would be summoned to the door to perform tricks, such as a dance or singing a song to impress upon Santa and Ruprecht that they were indeed good children. Those who performed badly would be beaten soundly by Servant Ruprecht, and those who performed well were given a gift or some treats. Those who performed badly enough or had committed other misdeeds throughout the year were put into Ruprecht's sack and taken away, variously to Ruprecht’s home in the Black Forest, or to be tossed into a river. "
"The Companions travel with St. Nicholas or his various equivalents (Father Christmas, Santa Claus), carrying with them a rod (sometimes a stick, a mace, switchblade, sythe, revolver, a magic top hat, bundle of switches or a whip, and in modern times often a broom) and a sack. They are sometimes dressed in black rags, bearing a black face and unruly black hair. In many contemporary portrayals the companions look like dark, sinister, or rustic versions of Nicholas himself, with a similar costume but with a darker color scheme.
Some of the companions take on more monstrous forms, namely in Austria, Bavaria, or Hungary. Krampus and Klaubauf are variously depicted as horned, shaggy, bestial, or demonic. In many depictions the Krampus looks like popular images of the Devil, complete with red skin, cloven hooves, and short horns. They whip everyone that comes on their path."
quotes taken from the Wikipedia article on the Companions of Saint Nicholas.
For the rest of the week I'll be posting heaps of Krampus related artwork old and new as well as photographs from recent festivals with people dressed as the demonic companions of St Nick.
For more information relating to Krampus check out this article at Rotten.com