You may be thinking, why is the Voodoo Universe blog making a stop to talk about Krampus ? Well, Krampus is cool. The Nazis hated him, and he has had two appearances on network television this month. He drinks beer and he will beat you into submission if you don’t behave. Sounds like a modern hero to me. If he isn’t honored as a Gede (Voodoo ancestor spirit) yet, he certainly should be. He represents social control and the awesome power of disguise. Masquerade is a vital component of magic in many traditions. New Orleans Voodoo has its Mardi Gras. Revelers become someone else for a day, or in my opinion, become who they really wish they were.
Shotgun on Santa’s Sleigh
Krampus is traditionally viewed as an ancient Pagan counterpart to St. Nicholas, the darker side of Santa if you will. A series of postcards from the Victorian era shows him performing all kinds of torture: pulling hair, ripping off limbs, shackling old and young alike, and carrying people away in his sack. He has horns, a forked tongue, and can be seen riding a broom, a pitchfork, or even in 1945, an atomic bomb.
For more info on the History of Krampus, check out my fellow Patheos blogger Jason Mankey’s eloquent article “Beyond Santa Claus:The Other Gift Givers,” and Chris Ward’s entertaining “10 Fun Facts About Krampus.”
A Grim View of Krampus
This month saw the arrival of Krampus in not one, but two major network television shows this month. The most notable was Grimm‘s “Twelve Days of Krampus” featuring this legendary character. Now, NBC’s Grimm is a show that explores the dual nature of mankind in its very premise. It supposes we are all part monster, animal, demon, hero…linked to these personas through our DNA, through our ancestors. I mentioned recently in an interview that I respect this show for this fact, and I definitely think they are on to something. In almost every episode we see the protagonist honoring his ancestors, something that there is too little of, both on and off screen these days. Here Krampus has his whipping switch, his claws, and his attitude. He is described as “Something out of — and I quote — my worst drug-crazed acid-induced flashback nightmare — if you ask me we’re dealing with one sick Santa.” A lighter side is presented in American Dad‘s musical episode titled “Minstrel Krampus.” Here the demon screeches like James Brown. Krampus is portrayed as a “soul singing “goat that makes people pay. It definitely worth checking out for a healthy dose of Seth MacFarlane, and guest appearances from Danny Glover and Ziggy Marley.
The UnHoly Host
Many associate Krampus with the “devil,” which is an obvious leap considering he has horns and is known to “drag people to Hell.” Definitely a fitting motif for anyone who has fought for holiday toys and trinkets in the holiday madness. What is extra amusing, however, is the number of recipes dedicated to this Yuletide demon. Well the German winters can be cold and the need to fortify can be apparent in the frozen snow of the Black Forest, I know I’ve been there. There are a number of beers created for Krampus, we have Birrificio del Ducato’s Krampus brew and Southern Tier Brewery’s Krampus lager. For those home-brewers out there there are plenty of brew your own recipes for Krampus to get fermenting. Check out Brewtoad’s Der Krampus recipe and Beer and Wine Journal’s Krampus Klaws. For those who prefer to eat their demons, there is bite the head off the devil bread from Strudel and Cream, or try your hand at Krampus Oatmeal Cookies.
For those who haven’t seen enough of the devil yet check out these videos:
You can witness Anthony Bourdain getting in on the gore with “A Krampus Carol.” Watch it for licking and whipping fun. The spirit of the Krampus parade is alive and well everywhere from Munich’s 2013 Krampus Parade all the way to small town Bloomington, IN. Maybe next year Krampus will be coming to a town near you. I’m sure I will have made the naughty list, so let me know when he arrives. I’ll make Krampus cookies.