Monday, 29 December 2014

Child-Eating Winter Demons #2: Krampus.


When painfully jaded beatnik assholes get together and decide that traditional holidays largely aimed at small children aren't รก la mode, it's rare that they offer up any kind of decent alternative. Ripping off Seinfeld or evoking a flying spaghetti monster while cloaked all smug in your own farts isn't the ideal way to garner support for your anti-Christmas venture, but seasonal pretension does have its merits; it did, after all, revive the Krampus legend. 

Germanic Alpine folklore has been the subject of revival and parody in recent years with many television shows and movies drawing their water from a well of ridiculous mountain folk tales that glimmer with absurdity and obscurity. One of the old stories to bob back to the surface and wash up on the doorstep of mainstream media is that of St.Nicholas' moral foil, the satanic child-molesting goblin, Krampus.

As legend has it, Krampus is the embodiment of Christmas sadism and retribution. Whereas old St.Nick (The one that looks like a grand dragon from The Klan) brings joy to the strange mountain children by leaving gifts in their Christmas shoe on December 6th, Krampus delivers nothing but cold, frost-bitten justice to the misbehaved by whipping them with chains, batting them with sticks, and even dragging them to the very pits of hell on Krampusnacht (Krampus night). Being naughty in the Alps obviously carried serious consequences, and it's easy to see this tale as a sort of microcosm of Christian redemption being sewed under the skin before that skin can know earthly pleasures.

Krampus is very similar to the Japanese Namahage legend in that he targets children in his annual orgy of violence, and that he appears as a demonic ghoul covered in hair. It's also important to note that both Krampus and Namahage have their own festivals in which young men get wasted, throw on costumes, and scare the living bejesus out of shit-eating children. It really is quite a beautiful thing. However, it could be argued that Krampus is a bit more sadistic than the Namahage in that his punishments are more twisted and varied, as depicted in Krampuskaten (Krampus cards). 

Even though experts would have it that Krampus predates the Christian orbit of the Alps, it's interesting to note the similarities between Krampus and the Christian vision of Satan. Obviously there was serious appropriation from Pagan lore, as is the case with most Christian traditions, but the concept of a demonic goat torturer dishing out punishments to wrongdoers seems to line up very smoothly with New Testament portraiture. 

Hope you all had a happy holiday, friends.

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