Also known as Black Peter, Knecht Ruprecht, Pelzenikel, Hans Mukk, Bartel, Black Pit, Gunphinkel, Stoppklos.
- European (culture)
- Domestic (attribute)
- Friendly and Dangerous (behaviour)
Krampus is like an evil Santa Claus or a companion of St. Nicholas.
The Krampus is a goat man with long shaggy hair and two long ram-like horn protruding from his head. His face usually has a hysterical and menacing expression - he is not the Santa you would like to meet on Christmas Eve. The Krampus that carries a black sack, a birch branch and a chain. He slashes the chains about in a wild and dramatic manner beating naughty children with them. Sometimes Krampus s armed with bells of various sizes. While St. Nicholas gives gifts, the Krampus punishes bad children by hitting them with his branch. Those of extreme bad behavior are beaten and then stuffed in his sack to be carried away.
The tradition of Krampus dates back to pre-Christian beliefs and was developed form a coming of age ceremony. Young men would be sent off into the wild with little more than a few provision to last them. They would then live in the wilderness of the forests and mountains for some time and come back wearing the skin of a stag. This stage costume represented the wild spirit that they were sent of with. they would then come back to town and try to scare children in their costume which was a test for both the young man and the children. He would jump out on unsuspecting children with his ruten, a bundle of birch twigs that was used in pagan initiation rites. In an attempt to diminish non-Christian traditions, this Satyr like creature of the ceremony became Krampus, a Devilish being. The ruten, a sacred object to the pagans now became a weapon. Even today young men in Czech Republic, Austria Hungary, Slovenia, SLovak Republic and Croatia dress up as Krampus at Christmas time.
Another tradition of the Krampus was exchanging Christmas cards with the Krampus on them. The Krampus was usually shown looming over children with a sinister smile. He was shown with one human foot and the other cloven. This cards usually carried sexual overtones with the Krampus pursuing women - a similarity to the Satyr that may have been mixed in the myth of the Krampus. This cards however had humorous overtones. The tradition of giving Krampus cards dates back to the 19th century.
The name 'Knecht Ruprecht' means 'servant' - perhaps meaning that Krampus is a servant of the Devil.
Krampus is similar to Schiechpercht.
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Background Illustrations (Left top-bottom, right top-bottom): Medusa by Gonzalo Ordonez, Loch Ness Monster by dyb,
Basilisk by JustMick, Shuck by Serphire, Ts Um A Kas - Illustration of a rock painting (from Dover publications).