I’m not sure what is creepier: this holiday greeting card depicting ole St Nick colluding with the Krampus, or the fact that the “Christmas Devil” is actually Jack Nicholson. Did you know about Santa’s dark companion? He’s been largely scrubbed out of the American Christmas tradition, despite the fact that he’s been riding shotgun with St Nick for hundreds of years in Europe.
For example, in the Alpine regions of Austria, the Krampus is the bad cop who enforces the reminder to be good little boys and girls. As depicted in hundreds of holiday postcards in the 19th century, the Krampus makes sure you’ve prayed enough, and if not, it’s the switch for you, or worse.
The Krampus tradition fascinates me because Christmas Eve makes sooo much more sense when we admit that half the fun of Christmas is giving kids a good scare. I mean, who cares if Santa is checking his list twice if there’s no teeth to his judgment?
In a new article at the Teeming Brain, I discuss the shamanic origins of Santa, the modern relevance of the Krampus myths– and why it’s important to recognize the dark emotions that are with us during the holiday season. Check it out here.
Y’all might particularly enjoy the holiday exploration of Yule Time apotropic rituals, a topic I recently explored in relationship to how people use amulets to guard against sleep paralysis nightmares.
From the Teeming brain piece:
“We should note that there’s an especially weird aspect to this entire tradition — I mean weird beyond the obvious high weirdness that’s visible on the surface of the thing — because the invitation of the shamanic wildman/animal transformer into our homes goes against the grain of our conscious expectations and behavior, and also against many other traditions associated with Christmas. After all, so many of our Christmas traditions are actually about repelling harmful spirits. Wreaths of pine and spruce are evergreen amulets that protect doorways from bringing in disease and death, while garlands tied with red cloth have been used to ward off evil spirits for centuries…. But we leave the chimney clear for penetration by spiritual entities. By guarding all of the other openings of the house with amulets of protection, we effectively funnel all of the energetic vulnerability of the dark night into this sooty opening.”
May you have a very scary Christmas! Or as the Germans say, Gruss vom Krampus!
Adelita Chirino says
This is wonderful lore; I’m definitely going to read it again and follow the links, but it’s Christmas and Santa and his evil twin are at the door, (luckily I have a wreath with red ribbon there). I really love learning all this, always enjoy your posts and am now really glad to be of African-Cuban heritage and not Northern European.
Ryan Hurd says
Enemy of Sleep says
Good lord–I read your linked article and I think it’s one of the most depressing things I’ve ever read. With all the horror that is becoming manifest in the world, do we really need to be focusing on stuff like this? Aren’t children’s nursery rhymes morbid enough, without having to remind everyone that even Christmas began as a reminder of the inherent terrors of human existence? If we focus on horror, we’re going to get horror. I’m saying it’s time we, as a race, turn this entire boat around.
Ryan Hurd says
well, my point is that true joy is grounded in reality, which includes suffering. But it’s not for everyone, I admit that. Feel free to focus on what you want… but the krampus is rocking my world.
A Muhammad Ma`ruf says
The best of the season and a blessed 2013 to you, Ryan.