The Krampus

Apart from the Perchtenläufe, whose intent it is to banish the negative forces of winter and darkness in order to establish new fertility within nature, there is also another tradition that it is not directly related with the Perchten. It is the Krampus. The Krampus should not be mistaken for the Perchten. It is a different tradition.
The Perchten are an old tradition from the entire area of the Alps, even in Czech the rural folks know of Berchta and her Army of Spirits, Oskorei, the Wild Hunt. That Army of Spirits is a sure sign that the veil to the Otherworlds is very thin, and the portals are open.
During the last years, the Krampus has been somewhat distorted and turned into a Hollywood-type of horror and devil figure. I’d like to change that image of the Krampus. Even though Christianity is a strong part of bavarian culture, we should not forget that some of these traditions are way older than the arrival of Christianity in Europe. Most of those traditions have celtic roots and are related to their agricultural way of life. In the pagan worldview, there was no good and no evil, and based on that, there was no devil figure either. However, everything was part of nature, and nature was sometimes cruel, unforgiving, harsh and dark. It’s all about on the seasons, where spring is born out of darkness and winter and so on. The Krampus is not a devil. And not a demon, either. What is he?
Well. He shows up with Saint Nicholas. And his job is to make sure that the younger generations are well mannered. Even I have heard scary stories of what he is going to do with us kids, if we are not well mannered. The Krampus looks different from the Perchten, too. While Krampus usually only has 2 horns, the Perchten have often more, sometimes up to 4 to 6. He shows up in sheep fur. There is mythological connections here to the greek God of Pan, and he indeed does look like him, too. However, we shouldn’t forget that the Goat was a phallic symbol of potency and fertility as well as reproduction in many mythologies. There is other theories that state that he might be the Germanic Donar, the norse Thor. Donar had both aspects in him, he has protecting acreage, soil and the people, and also made the soil fertile. Donar might have been very important to the settlers of the Alps. Through him, acreage and soil was protected, and turned into fertile lands. We cannot forget how incredibly important this must have been to the early agricultural cultures!
Nonetheless, we must remain careful with those theories. We don’t know a whole lot of it anymore and much has become lost. We have some tales, folklore and some words and terms in local dialects that one can trace and study their etymological roots. But we’re far understanding those traditions and their true roots. To me, that’s the part of why I want to find out.


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