Hail Krampus | A tribute to the pagan legend

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Embrace the old ways with this wintry blast from the past.

Crowned by long arching horns, clad in hulking fur, baring bloodied teeth and carrying both a whip of branches and a length of chains or bells, the Krampus is an ancient, terrifying figure of pagan folklore dating back to pre-Christian times (the most metal of all times). This unassailably badass “Christmas devil” is tasked with punishing naughty children not with a pathetic little lump of coal in the stocking, but instead with severe birch branch whippings before stuffing them into a sack and carrying them off to the woods to, presumably, be eaten. Or mauled, then eaten. But definitely eaten at some point. Probably alive. He is the antithesis of the modern hypersaccharine holiday season, the rotting elk carcass thrown atop the pile of shiny presents, the “fuck you” album of an artist’s discography (see also: Lulu, Illud Divinum Insanus, Metal Machine Music).

krampus_sneer

Eater of exactly 47,894 children

It’s easy to see how early Christianity, once it reached areas of Europe that practiced this tradition, easily retconned the Krampus’ fearsome, horned appearance into the traditional chimera-esque look & feel of the devil. It effortlessly taps into humanity’s natural fear of superior predators and malicious forces dwelling in shadowy corners of the wild; things wielding horn, tooth and claw with overpowering ferocity, as if their only role was to rend human flesh the way 365 Days of Horror rips apart shitty videos. Still, that won’t stop Rob Darken from attacking them every now and then.

krampus_angle

*rapes your dreams, steals your ale*

Typically framed against the snowy woods of early December, the Krampus is the living embodiment of the wintry, nature-heavy forest atmosphere that every lo-fi black metal or pagan/folk album strives so hard to achieve. But the Krampus is not some random marauder; he and his kind are the enforcer minions of St Nicholas (the Christian addition to the legend). It is said that St Nicholas, with his religious robes and regal, bishop-like appearance, is the one who commands the actions of the Krampus horde on the eve of St Nicholas Day (known as Krampusnacht) as they roam the snowy streets rattling their chains, whipping sinful townsfolk and stealing children for the whole eating them alive thing. Like the Emperor to the Sith, the Don to the mob or the competitive eater to the buffet table, it is he who should be the most feared.

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A Wardruna video waiting to happen

Experiencing a Krampuslauf, a street run of Krampus characters, is like discovering a thousand-year-old ancestor to the mosh pit. The clanging din of Krampus bells and chains can be heard from blocks away. When they come closer, they’re deafening. Hundreds of the creatures materialize en masse and take over the entire street. They scream and grunt from behind their carved masks, each one distinctive from the others. Most carry whips of horsetails or reeds and frequently dole out solid thrashes to the legs of attendees. Leave too much room between yourself and the crowds and they’ll give chase.

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*smash* BYAAAAH!

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You’re next, fucker!

Unlike many street fests or haunted houses where contact between performers and attendees is discouraged, the Krampus unabashedly run, bump, push and shove their way through throngs of onlookers, all the while whipping, grunting and bell-clanging. They’re not shy. They’re the opposite of shy. In fact, many of them are drunk (if local cabbies are to be believed). Each Krampuslauf is unique. Some are slightly tame and geared toward older/younger tourists. Some are loud, fast-paced and meant to be accompanied by copious amounts of beer. Others incorporate fire, smoke and pentagrams. Regardless, many will attend. Many will be whipped. Do not try to hide from the horde. You are filth and deserve punishment. The whip will always find you, lifelover.

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Pictured: your new Christmas alternative

For better or worse (definitely worse), the Krampus legend has been growing in popularity every year, partially through parodies on shows such as American Dad and The Venture Bros. Professional fat guy Kevin Smith is also said to be working on a Krampus-themed horror movie (*preemptive flush*). Since the US is notorious for adopting and sanitizing some of the most interesting facets of international culture, lopping off the sharp edges and offensive elements and neutering it of religious connotations which may harm our fragile sensitivities, it won’t be long until we see cute, smiling Krampus plush toys stocked on store shelves alongside Santa and his reindeer, castrated of his pagan menace and reduced to a harmless character ripe for a Disney adaptation. Nevertheless, Rob Darken will continue his attack, undeterred by his lack of dignity or loose grip on reality.

I realize might be part of the problem of driving attention to these inferior, flushable appropriations, but the goal here is to introduce and/or remind our readers ov the bowl of the fascinating and inherently metal-before-there-was-metal origins of the Krampus legend, before it becomes the centerpiece of every BDubs bro-filled sports bar in the country as they host yearly Krampus parties, or before “crazy guy in the Krampus costume” becomes the new “crazy guy in the gorilla costume.”

krampus_saint

I killed, raped and ate the gorilla. BYAAAAH!

So as we trudge into December’s forced lobotomy of industrial-strength holiday cheer, and as the bleak abyss of January seems more and more welcoming, be sure to check out Wikipedia for some more reading material about this and other pre-Christian traditions, remember to combat Christmas music whenever possible, and as always: STAY MERRY CHEERY JOLLY KRAMPUS WHIPPED WINTRY PAGAN BLOODY EATEN HORNED VOID.

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