It’s the holiday season, a time of love, togetherness, and revelry. And, if you’re from certain parts of central Europe, a terrifying goat man.
Yup, today we’re talking about Krampus.
Krampus is a figure that originated around Austria, but is referenced in a lot of places throughout Europe, including Germany, Bavaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, and northern Italy. He’s a companion of St. Nicholas, and generally visits homes the night before the saint’s feast day of December 6.
And what does Krampus do during those visits, you may ask? Why he punishes children who’ve been naughty, of course! Oh, but there’s none of that “lump of coal” shit here, oh no. No, Krampus whips said naughty children with a birch branch. The really evil kids, though, he stuffs in a giant basket to be drowned or eaten.
Because nothing says “holiday cheer” quite like corporal punishment and kidnapping.
Now, while he is currently associated with St. Nick, it’s believes that he may be much, much older. One theory is that he’s derived from the Horned God, an ancient European deity currently venerated by Wiccans. Another theory is that he’s actually the son of the Norse cthonic deity, Hel. Either way, it appears that he came to his current role though the magic of syncretism.
Appearance-wise, Krampus is generally depicted as above: a large, hairy black goat-man with a Gene Simmons-esque tongue. Think a satyr, but way, way creepier. Of course, modern depictions of the creature tend to lean way, way heavier into the horror factor.
A fesitval called Krampuslauf is quite popular in all the places I mentioned above, but is starting to gain popularity in North America as well. During these events, people dress up as Krampus and parade around. Researching this post lead me to a lot of pictures of these events, and holy shit do people put a lot of effort into these costumes. They are very impressive. Abjectly terrifying, but impressive.
As things like this tend to do, Krampus has managed to worm his way into popular culture. Most notable is probably a 2015 horror comedy simply entitled Krampus, but the figure has made his way into a lot of different media.
So, there you have it. Proof that the Germanic world will find a way to make the most innocuous things absolutely horrifying.
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