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Krampus, Son of Hel: The Ancient Origins of the Christmas Devil

Monday, February 27, 2017 15:42
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 Krampus, the Christmas Devil

It is well known in America that Santa Claus maintains a Naughty and Nice list for when he comes to town. Good kids get presents; bad kids get coal. This makes for a great Christmas carol but it is not really an effective means to encourage good behavior. In Europe, however, children are frightened into being nice by Krampus, the Christmas Devil. Originally an ancient pagan tradition, Krampus was being coopted into the story of Saint Nicholas. Since then, he has been rallied against by medieval clergymen and repressed by nationalists only to be revived in an era of mass consumerism. Today, practitioners are worried about how the massive influx of refugees will respond to the terrifying Christmas Devil.

Krampus, The Son of Goddess Hel

The Krampus tradition is popular in countries such as Germany, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic. The name derives from the German word krampen, meaning claw. He has a “mangled, deranged face with bloodshot eyes atop a furry black body. Giant horns curl up from his head, displaying his half-goat, half-demon lineage.” (Billock, 2015) According to legend, Krampus is the son of the Norse goddess Hel, ruler of Helheim (the Norse realm of the dead). Youngest daughter of Loki, Hel is described as “a horrible hag, half alive and half dead, with a gloomy and grim expression. Her face and body are those of a living woman, but her thighs and legs are those of a corpse, mottled and moldering.” (Lindemans, 1997) Krampus is a counterpart to other Christmas Devils such as France’s Hans Trapp and the Netherlands’ Zwarte Piet (Black Peter).

Krampus is said to be the son of goddess Hel (pictured). – Reconstructing the story of humanity’s past


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