Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Gruß vom Krampus!

I love Krampus.

I've been a fan of his for about eight years now, ever since I first heard of this Alpine demon who visits children side by side with St. Nicholas in order to punish bad children.  The punishment?  A night in hell's tortures.  His weapons?  A bundle of twig switches, and a basket on his back into which he will stuff the rebellious children.

"How awful!" you  might think to yourself.  But here's the important part, demonstrated wonderfully by my favorite classic Krampus illustration below....


Krampus doesn't punish all children: he only punishes the bad, spoiled, rebellious, rotten ones.  And he brings them back, honest...he just scares them enough to put them on the straight and narrow path.  The little boy above might be stuffed into the basket, but the good little girl gets a basket of apples to enjoy. 

The folklore of Krampus is far more potent than the risk of a few lumps of coal and missing presents, and he has recently been enjoying a resurgence in popularity, as parents lament their childrens' increasing dissatisfaction with anything but the best and latest and most expensive of gifts.  Now, in several cities across America as well as the traditional Europe, you can find costumed revelers engaging in Krampuslauf, or parades of Krampuses (Krampusi?  Not sure of the plural).  And of course most often this is done today, December 5th, the evening of Krampusnacht, the night before the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6th.

Whereas a few years ago, a search on Ebay, Etsy, or Google for Krampus would only bring up a handful of antique postcards and one or two handmade items, now there are pages and pages of results on Etsy.  However, a lot of people seem to fixate on Krampus as a terrifying devil: they miss seeing the fey-like whimsy of his role in traditional Alpine Christmas alongside St. Nick.  My favorite representations of Krampus are those that get the classical subtlety right, and I want to share a few of my favorites here.

I love how this one shows the duality of Santa and Krampus.  Both reading from the same list, both with their sacks for separate purposes.

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I couldn't find a good origin link for this image, but it looks like chocolate figures of St. Nick and Krampus.  Hilarious!


Once again, the two exist as a partnership, to assist in the betterment of children.


 Now for merchandise! 

I love this candle on Etsy, but I really love the design of Krampus on it.  As a silhouette-cutting enthusiast (link), this tempts me to make a Christmas silhouette of Krampus like this, with a matching Santa.

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I love this Amigurumi doll...what a combination of cute and a little twisted...











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Love the detail of the shell for this miniature Krampus with the child inside.

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This is an embroidered design for a tea towel :) Link
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And of course there's Brom's new fiction novel just released featuring Krampus.



 I thought recently of what a marvelous thing it would be if someone made a Topsy-Turvy doll of Krampus and St. Nick.  Well...someone did!


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A gorgeous pitcher was recently on Ebay:


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Missmonster is the queen of Krampus.  The rest of these images are from her imagination. 

I should note...there are a few charming Krampus items available for purchase, namely a sweater and Christmas stocking, that I did not include here because there is some controversy about whether they used Missmonster's art without crediting or compensating her.  As a proponent of small businesses and artists, I didn't choose to share those here.

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12 comments:

  1. How fascinating!

    As I perused the pictures of Krampus, I couldn't help thinking he looked like some archaic depictions of Satan, with the black fur, horns and tail... When I came to the "Krampus/Saint Nick" it crystalised - another name for Satan was "Old Nick"! Clearly the image of Krampus was corrupted and changed to the "devil", just as was Pan...

    I might be making arbitrary connections of course. But it *is* interesting...

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  2. I first heard of Krampus a year or two ago, and I find him both fascinating and delightfully twisted! I especially love the videos that have been popping up on Youtube lately of Krampus parades in Europe. There's something about the the lavish demon costumes against a backdrop of snow, fire, and fir trees is so primal and... dare I say, "metal?"

    I think perhaps part of the reason for Krampus' resurgence in popularity is the modern dissatisfaction with a certain type of (very commercial) Christmas-- one that constantly barrages people with glossy messages of undiluted "joy" and "cheer" 24/7 from November to January. Now, I'm not in any way putting down the positive messages of Christmastide, but it's also true that for many people, it's a season that brings up a lot of complex emotions and associations that aren't 100% warm and fuzzy. I think the "naughty" of Krampus offers some healthy balance to St. Nicholas' "nice," and has just the right sort of old-world, pre-industrial charm that can be enjoyed by people who who may not find solace in Christmas' religious roots, but are nonetheless looking for something ancient and unconventional to celebrate about the holiday.

    Incidentally, as an addendum to your list of Krampus-inspired mythic arts & crafts, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab has recently re-released their limited-edition "Krampus" fragrance for the holiday season this year:
    http://www.blackphoenixalchemylab.com/limited.html
    (you'll find it about 3/4 of the way down)

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  3. The top picture reminds me of what I used to do to my brother! I don't think children would be impressed with a bowl of apples these days, shame.
    Really intriguing and wonderful illustrations!
    Jess x

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  4. Krampus reminds me a bit of Struwwelpeter, though the things in Struwwelpeter are more terrifying. I remember reading this version when it came out, it's pretty crazy http://www.amazon.com/Struwwelpeter-Fearful-Stories-Pictures-Instruct/dp/0922915520

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  5. Laura, I have a feeling it isn't arbitrary at all!

    Samantha, I love videos of the Krampusnachts as well! It's fun to pick my favorite Krampus from the groups :) And I agree with you about part of his appeal...after all, adding a little salt to sweet can make the sweet taste better :) And thanks for the info about BPAL!

    LOL Jess, something tells me the bowl of apples wouldn't be exciting to a modern child, agreed ;)

    Amy, oh my goodness what a book! I think I would have had nightmares from that one...probably still would!

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  6. Krampus is coming to Bloomington, Indiana!

    http://www.facebook.com/#!/BloomingtonKrampus

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  7. Krampus, Belsnickle, Black Peter -- the companion who punishes the naughty children exists in several personae. Though I do admit that Krampus is the companion being I prefer...

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  8. Wow I can't believe I've never heard of this guy in all my pagan/archetype readings, I did of course know of Pan and how he was demonised by the Church. Shall look into it more and the vintage artwork is fab. Thanks to you and Raine for introducing me to him!

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  9. Moyra, isn't he wonderful? When I heard about him I instantly loved the guy.

    RdeHwyll, I love all the different iterations of holiday spirits!

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  10. Krampus is originated in the most southern area of Germany and Austria.
    Our aunt told us stories of her being young and fearing the day when Santa Claus would come along with Krampus. They would walk the snowy streets at dawn and go from door to door.
    Even though I grew up in southern Germany we didn't have Krampus in our area.
    The traditional Krampus masks are made out of wood and today some of those are true masterpieces. METZGER MASKEN is a wood carving shop in Austria run by 2 brothers who started carving traditional Krampus Masks on the side, while running a butchery for their restaurant.
    Their masks are among the best in the world and represent the image of Krampus more than well.
    Here is a link to some images:
    http://www.szene1.at/user/Psycho-Freak-415/1169286/photo/23995063

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  11. Thanks! I'm only now finding out about this. I have a sneaking suspicion Krampus will be more of a Halloween at Christmas thing in North America. I only say that because many of my friends are into Goth and Industrial music and themes and "Everyday is Halloween!"

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  12. It seems Krampus grows more and more popular in America every Christmas!!

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