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The Significance of the Mystifying and Mythical Krampus in Austria

Every culture and land has its boogeyman, but do you know the legend of a horned demon that exploits terror? This week, we cover the significance of the mystifying Krampus in Austria and explore various elements that make it prominent.

The more we explore the origins of this celebrated beast, there comes a sense of surprising elements that anticipate inquiry.

A Winter Beast

A dark but accurate depiction of the Krampus in Austria.
A dark but accurate depiction of the Krampus in Austria. Image Source: (tumblr.com)

The origins of the Krampus figure go back beyond pre-Christian times in Austria. Although the roots of this character are established in central and easter Europe, Krampus becomes prominent in Austrian culture.

This mystifying figure serves as an idol of anti-Christmas since he becomes notorious for casting misfortune upon whoever encounters him. Interestingly, Krampus is believed to be a species of beasts that wander out of the forest during the winter solstice.

In addition, their terrifying appearance only adds to the crippling fear one experiences when viewing. Moreover, Krampus ties into Christmas culture in Austria by the beast coming out on Nikolaustag (December 6th).

Here, he scavenges for unfortunate youthful souls to kidnap and make a feast out of. This figure becomes notorious for his bone-chilling scare and hunting tactics as secretly tip toes villages at night.

In summary, these signs are the beginning of the end for many as the last thing heard are rattling chains.

Tradition Blending into Modern Society

Krampus alongside St. Nicholas in Austrian Christmas art.
Krampus alongside St. Nicholas in Austrian Christmas art. Image Source: (whitemagickalchemyblog.com)

Besides the Krampus serving as a figure of mystery, death, and fear, ancient traditions become a central evolution in modern Austria. To illustrate, by the seventeenth century, the Krampus became a stamp onto most Christian-related Christmas celebrations.

To add, he started being featured alongside St. Nicholas as they both targeted children during December. Of course, St. Nicholas served on the light side of the celebration as he gifted well-behaved children presents.

On the other hand, Krampus plays a more sinister role as he kidnaps misbehaved children and brings loss to families. Next, comes the festivals that highlight this mystifying creature.

In modern-day Austria, citizens incorporate Krampus into Christmas celebrations by having festivals that honor the figure. For example, on St. Nicholas day, there are parades of people walking, dancing, prancing around town dressed like Krampus.

To sum up, this festival becomes one of many celebrations of the idol in Austria.

 

Events and Customs that Glorify Krampus

One of many Krampus bonfire celebration in Austria.
One of many Krampus bonfire celebration in Austria. Image Source: (vox-cdn.com)

To begin, one interesting custom that many Austrians practice in Krampuslauf (Run Parade) is giving schnapps (Fruity alcohol) to participants. Moreover, with these runs there also came other mythical figures featured such as the Perchten.

The Pertchen are wild winter spirits of Germanic folklore that become celebrated around the same time as the Krampus. All in all, this run parade event provides an exciting, mythical, and a memorable experience for Austrians in Christmastime.

Furthermore, the Krampus can also be found in greeting cards throughout the country. Sometimes you can discover cards with messages like “Gruß aus von Krampus” (Greetings from Krampus) or ones with humorous phrases.

Next, the evolution of the artwork presented also evolves. For instance, in the 1950’s, the Krampus depiction on cards illustrated darker representations of the beast than today.

In essence, Krampus becomes a modern success of valuing and preserving tradition in Austria.

 

Regional Variations of Krampus in Austria

Twigs that are left outside remote Austrian villages by the Krampus.
Twigs that are left outside remote Austrian villages by the Krampus. Image Source: (kreweofkrampus.com)

Next, we go over the various interpretations of the Krampus throughout the country of Austria. First, in Styria (Southeast Austria), the citizens there present the Krampus with Ruten bundles (Birch branches).

This tradition is hilarious and disturbing because people provide the beast with the tool he needs to punish misbehaved children. To add, the twigs become painted in gold and laid over a home year-round to serve as a traumatizing reminder.

Second, in more isolated villages the Krampus can be found with extra fiendish friends causing trouble. They are described as possessing an antlered and wild humanoid appearance.

Moreover, the creatures become known as “Schabmänner or Rauhen“,which equally provide the same intense feeling of fright for children. Besides the isolated locations of the country, Krampus becomes presented in a friendlier manner in larger areas like Salzburg.

His interpretation becomes viewed more as comical than devilish. In brief, the image of Krampus varies by region throughout Austria.

Further Variations throughout the Land

In addition, comes a wheel of depictions that highlight the notorious Krampus in Austria. To begin, in regions close to neighboring countries like Slovenia, Krampus becomes known as Klaubauf, Bartl, Niglobartl, and Wulbartl.

Here he becomes described as a satanic figure sporting a sack around his waist along with chains around his body. In these regions of Austria, his function varies slightly as he takes gifts from naughty children.

Followed by leaving a silver branch to symbolize the bad behavior emulated by the child. Overall, the various illustrations of the Krampus provide a beautiful representation of Austrian’s imaginations as they celebrate winter festivals.

 

Role in Austrian Society

Krampus in Austria at his worst capturing naughty children and dragging them to the dark depths of the unknown.
Krampus in Austria at his worst capturing naughty children and dragging them to the dark depths of the unknown. Image Source: (wp.com)

Furthermore, in Austria, the Krampus serves as a leading figure for mysticism, punishment, and wintertime. To illustrate, the beast finds itself integrated into a modern culture by having parents use the image to scare children.

Meaning that the Krampus becomes nothing more than an urban legend in a sense to promote good manners. In all, the reputation of the Krampus becomes legendary as many become fascinated with the mystery of this dark creature.

From Christmas cheer, working alongside St. Nicholas, and kidnapping children, the Krampus thrives in Austrian culture. Despite his dark reputation, this fiend can sometimes be looked up as a signature representation of holiday tradition in the land.

Indeed, the Krampus plays a large role in Austria as many celebrate with great anticipation and inquiry of answers. Altogether, the figure of the Krampus brings exciting additions and flavors of culture in Austria.

 

Krampus in Popular Culture

Krampus film in 2015 poster. Derives inspiration from Austrian folklore.
Krampus film in 2015 poster. Derives inspiration from Austrian folklore. Image Source: (flickreel.com)

Equally important, as time passes, the significance of the Austrian beast begins spreading to other parts of the globe. In neighboring countries like Germany, Northern Italy, and Slovenia, the tale and traditions ravage with festivity and prestige!

For example, various forms of media promote the culture of Krampus through Austrian perspectives. Even though they all vary by appearance and turn of events, the main message persists.

These works of art in various forms are significant to Austrian culture because they promote ancient tradition.

 

Krampus Reputation Throughout Time

Ominous depiction of the Krampus throughout history in Austria.
Ominous depiction of the Krampus throughout history in Austria. Image Source: (tumblr.com)

Throughout Austria’s history as a nation, the legend of Krampus has found itself in a cycle of blossom and suppression. For example, in World War 2, as Austria became occupied by Nazi forces, any celebrations concerning the beast became banned.

This resulted from the ironic belief that the ceremonies and festivals promoted satanism. Followed by them showing allegiance to the pagan “Horned God“. Likewise, this was not the first occurrence to commence in the nation’s history.

Another example can be found when Austria began with the Christianization of citizens nationwide. Originally, most of the country started as pagan with observations of Yule, Winter Solstice, and many more ancient galas.

As Christendom started to become the dominant faith for everyone, the image of the Krampus revolted the church. Additionally, the Krampus resembled the Christian devil which left no room for the beasts to be celebrated in Austrian Christmas.

In short, Krampus became an emblem of a great offense.

 

Additional Theories of Character and Influence

Inline manner, the Krampus in Austria’s origins remain uncertain but range with a vast amount of beliefs. One example can be found with the Norse deity named Hel who rules the underworld. She can be compared to being his mother as they share the physical traits of possessing horns on their heads.

Plus, she resides in the Norse underworld called “Niflheim“ which is an icy counterpart to Christendom Hell. This location is believed to be the home of the Krampus because he becomes cursed to never leave this destination.

The way this all ties to Krampus is by him being able to escape the Niflheim once a year. In addition to occurring around the winter solstice period.

Next, some other theories of his character coming to fruition is by him being the spawn of satyrs and fauns. Although these creatures originate from Greek mythology, they all share the same physical characteristics and sinister behaviors.

In close, the Krampus origins in Austria provide intriguing possible backstories.

 

Krampus Superstition

Interesting and fun ornament of the Krampus in an Austrian home during Christmas.
Interesting and fun ornament of the Krampus in an Austrian home during Christmas. Image Source: (tumblr.com)

Along with the handful of feelings, there are for the Krampus in Austria’s history, superstitions arise concerning the figure. To illustrate, the runs and other festivals that take place in the country highlight traditional pagan rituals.

These aim at keeping away malevolent supernatural forces from the comfort of people’s towns and villages. Hilariously, children in Austria cling tight to the tradition of this beast as they sleep in fear on Christmas eve.

This puts the spotlight on how great the Krampus influence plays in Austrian culture. One of the most important things about these superstitions is how they persist into the twenty-first century.

As seen previously, Krampus as a figure in Austria has had its ups and downs but continues to remerge stronger.

 

Miscellaneous facts on the Winter fiend

Classic Krampus causing trouble to village dwellers in Austria.
Classic Krampus causing trouble to village dwellers in Austria. Image Source: (pinimg.com)

As we delve further into this article and learn of the origins and significance of Krampus, we become enlightened. To illustrate, In cities and towns like Vienna and Salzburg, Krampus figures are more prominent in the street scene.

Part of the fun here comes with the fact of many citizens or visitors becoming surprised with individuals scaring them. Meaning that they sometimes find themselves chased to seek refuge in seemingly safe locations like town squares and shops.

Moreover, some unlucky souls find themselves falling victim to receiving beatings in the lower leg areas. Followed by sometimes even being tackled and hilariously sat on as the role players become extremely passionate in their roles.

Likewise, the Krampus legend emulates these activities throughout Austria by displaying the behaviors of the beast. For example, Krampus typically love to chase and whip victims in the lower leg areas of their bodies.

As shown above, the Krampus in Austria displays a wicked sense of humor for citizens to practice in holiday events.

 

Bonus facts of Krampus in Austria

In addition to the actions and beliefs of the Krampus in Austria, there also comes the handful of illustrations he gets. To begin, Krampus becomes typically known to sport great horns, one human foot, and another cloven.

Indeed he can be considered a hybrid of some sort, but more of a cryptid humanoid overall. Interestingly, the Krampus becomes aesthetically adapted to their environment where they are presented throughout Austria.

Some examples vary from striking resemblances to devils, yeti’s, bats, goats, and something entirely unknown and frightening. The other notorious trait that becomes present is possessing a large tongue that reaches down to its chest.

This provides absolute mystery in terms of purpose, but overall highlights the fascination with the beast. To add, there are beliefs that the Krampus‘s tongue serves the purpose of paralyzing prey as it contains toxic properties.

To sum up, Austria creates the perfect monster to become a forever staple of their culture.

 

Final Thoughts on Krampus

Unique illustration of the Krampus from France. Another country inspired by Austria’s dark tradition.
Unique illustration of the Krampus from France. Another country inspired by Austria’s dark tradition. Image Source: (decoryourhome.store)

Lastly, comes a final analysis on the legendary Krampus in Austria and the significance of his influence in modern culture. To begin, Krampus in Austria become highly regarded concerning his image.

To further elude, beautifully disturbing masks that are used in festivals become often stored in large institutions like museums. For example, the town of Kitbühel and Stallhofen display a treasure full of historic costumes and mask from times past.

To add, the renowned artist of these products is Ludwig Schnegg. He becomes responsible for the distribution of these fine works from the early 1980’s to the “Haiming Krampusgruppe”.

In all, this shows how proud Austrian people have become to share the ancient tradition with the rest of the world. Next, the legend of the Krampus in Austria continues to blossom through borders as festivals become found almost everywhere.

In close, this marks only the beginning of a figure to becoming celebrated with an international status.

 

Significance of The Mystifying Krampus in Austria

The mysterious forest in Austria where Krampus are believed to reside in and only come out during the month of December.
The mysterious forest in Austria where the legend of Krampus thrives. Image Source: (wallpaperaccess.com)

In conclusion, from ancient beliefs, customs, and traditions evolving through time, Krampus strives to thrive in Austria! Winter solstices and the holiday season may be relaxing for some, but the Krampus provides just the same results.

Whether dark or light, there are always fun and memorable things to create in the cold and long nights. Austria perfectly follows suit with carrying on the tradition and entertaining others as the legend persists to capture imaginations.

 

Work Cited

Boucher, Clair (Grimes) Rasik. 2010

Boucher, Clair (Grimes) River. 2010

King, Lucas Dementia. 2021

9 Facts About Krampus, the Demonic Christmas Monster | Mental Floss

Krampus (rhsmedievaltimes.com)

Krampus – Wikipedia

Meet Krampus, the Christmas Devil Who Punishes Naughty Children – HISTORY

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Krampus! – The Reprobate (reprobatepress.com)

 

 

 

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