December 23, 2004

Krampus

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In Bavaria and Austria the grotesque looking, shaggy and horned Krampus monsters (a.k.a. Klaubauf or Bartel) come out twice a year with their clanging cowbells, dangling chains and sinister switches -- December 5th and 6th to punish children during the feast of the red mitered St. Nikolaus, and again a month later, around January 6th, to ward off evil spirits in a custom called Perchten. Whether or not they are the henchmen of Nikolaus or they are his adversaries is never made totally clear. As is commonly the case with surviving pre-Christian mythology, much of the pagan folklore has been redefined by humanist morality to fit, however awkwardly, into allegories of good vs. evil. Pagan mythology, on the other hand, is more often particularly concerned with power. Krampus are, like many monsters, emblems of uncontrolable natural force and untamed energy.

Posted by dmb at December 23, 2004 01:53 PM
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