Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Krampus.... no, not cramp us....

So curtesy of a commenter, I'm doing a blog on the Krampus, a mythological beastie that hails from Germany...

If you're a fan of the TV show Grimm, you may have seen the episode on this guy... A Satyr-like Father Christmas gone terribly, terribly wrong...

So what is he? What does he do?
Allow me, as ever, to explain...

The most common description of Krampus is of a black haired human goat hybrid, who possesses a long red tongue, which frequently lolls out of his mouth.

It is believed by some academics that the Krampus has pre-Christian origins. It is commonly suggested that he is a form of the Pagan Horned God, and the birch sticks he carries are symbolic of his enormous phallus and the birch tree with which he is associated.

 Others theorize that Krampus is the son of the Norse Goddess Hel (daughter of Loki, who presides of the dead. You may remember her from my blog post about her brother Jormangandr.). Yet I cannot agree with this theory because I've never read of Hel having offspring - (please correct me if I am wrong).

The actual word Krampus is derived from the German word krampen, meaning claw, yet shares many features with Satyrs and several other vaguely demonic creatures scattered throughout mythology.

The myth of the Krampus is rooted in Germanic Christmas traditions. As in many Christian European nations, preparations for Christmas often begin in early December... and this is when the Krampus comes alive.

He is essentially the polar opposite of Father Christmas. Instead of bestowing gifts and lollies on good children, Krampus on beats naughty children with a birch sticks and drags them away to his lair to continue their punishment... I think we all know a child or two who may benefit from a visit from the Krampus rather than Santa...

According to the legend, he first begins appearing the night before December 6, known as Krampusnacht, or Krampus Night.
According to National Georgraphic, "December 6 also happens to be Nikolaustag, or St. Nicholas Day, when German children look outside their door to see if the shoe or boot they'd left out the night before contains either presents (a reward for good behaviour) or a rod (bad behaviour)."

So like many, many mythological beasties, the Krampus is a cautionary monster, frightening children into decent and socially appropriate behaviour.

Interestingly with the rise of Catholicism, fascism (and incidently science), in Germany in the 19th and 20th Centuries, the Krampus was a legend that became largely suppressed. However, it is now having something of a revival due to the rise in anti-Christmas celebrations.

The surge in interest in the Krampus, I personally believe has less to do with religious antipathy, but more of a rise in curiosity about mythology in general. In a society that believes science has all the answers, the thrill, magic and allure of the mythological world is almost palpable and something that people seem to be searching for more and more. You need only look at the popularity of Festivals of the Dead, Cosplay, supernatural investigations, paranormal themed movies, and even Krampus parades to see that people love to play with mythology even in our jaded 21st century.


  1. Krampus is an interesting guy...and that episode of Grimm featuring the Wesen known as Krampus was pretty darn cool. Oh, and I believe you are correct that Hel had no offspring.

    Thanks for another great post.

  2. Thanks :) I am slightly addicted to Grimm! That whole Hel as the mother of Krampus just didn't sound right, glad you agree.