seasonal sunday legends

Krampus

gruss_vom_krampus

I got lucky this year. People didn’t flood me with Krampus related links on social media. Because there’s a whole hell of a lot o folklore I like more than Krampus, and for some reason my friends got really stuck on some sort of connection between Krampus and myself last year. It was enough to make a person grumpy.

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I’ve mentioned Krampus in passing, several times, but as his popularity has grown in American pop culture has grown over the past few years (want to smell like Krampus? Because you can. No, really…you can buy Krampus themed perfume) maybe it’s time he gets his own standalone entry.

It seems that European cultures are much more willing to play up the ‘bad’ side of Christmas-in America, at least, while there’s this veiled threat against misbehaving children the end result is pretty benign on the whole. The worst that can happen is that you don’t make it onto the ‘nice’ list and therefore don’t get presents. I suppose in a culture that is as commercially driven as my own, not being gifted-especially as a child-is pretty traumatic.

I suppose as a prior warning, if you click any of the links provided in the end of this entry, you might see vintage images of children being physically punished. It’s not horribly graphic, but if you don’t want to see these things you might want to avoid clicking those links.

You might also want to stop reading now, since that’s sort of the point of Krampus-otherwise known currently as the Christmas demon.

Krampus, like most folkloric figures, has a slight range of appearances, ranging from the Baphomet inspired cloven hooves and horns to a surly gentleman in black, to a gentleman in black who may be slightly furrier than normal. He comes holding some form of weapon for physical punishment (either rusty chains or whips) and a basket or other holding device. It should be noted however that there are other interpretations of the items he holds including the chains marking the binding of the devil by the Christian Church (Wikipedia has a full paragraph on the symbolism of his items; article is linked below.)

Krampus has one specific job: to accompany Santa Clause or St. Nicholas and heavily punish misbehaving children. If you’re lucky he’ll just beat you…if you’re not so lucky he’ll beat you and drag  you into hell. This is not a minor folkloric, throw away concept either-December features Krampusnacht, held the night before St. Nicholas’ Day. Krampusnacht features dancing, singing, drinking, mummery, parades, and other carnival like events to ring in Krampus’ return.

Krampus even had his own Christmas cards, often with slightly more adult tones than you would think.

As the Santa Clause image began to filter into American culture, the Krampus image with its potential ties back to Pagan solstice rituals (National Geographic claims that Krampus is the son of Hel) and emphasis on punishment lost favor and was never really picked up in the States outside of regional traditions. While the image also never died out fully in Europe, Krampus is now slowly making a re-emergence both Europe and the States with increasing numbers of Krampus parades, the reintroduction of Krampus cards, and the reintroduction of the image back into popular culture.

However, the States would not be the only culture to reject Krampus. The Austrian government took an unfavorable view on Krampusnacht and banned the practice by law in 1934. In the 1950s they distributed pamphlets warning against the evils of Krampus. This was most likely was a reaction to political thought in that era than the actual image, however. Further, perhaps understandably, the Catholic church wasn’t exactly fond of him either.

 

(As an aside, while Buffalo hosts a Santacon this weekend-and I would very much like to see it-several cities hold a challenger Krampuscon. I’m assuming that if Santacon is drinking and collecting charity gifts-which it is in Buffalo- then Krampuscon must be drinking and brooding.)

Krampus.com

Krampus

Who is Krampus? Exploring the Christmas Devil

10 Fun Facts About Krampus, the Christmas Demon

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Anoka

Via Pixabay

Via Pixabay

I said last week that it was impossible to track the beginnings of Halloween.

We do know that it’s linked to early harvest rites that were often further linked into death and renewal nights (Samhain being one of them).

(A minor sidetrack, I said years ago that I didn’t see the connection between Samhain and fae faiths. Being too trained not to, I have readjusted that stance in the years since. I’m just too lazy to go back and readjust that entry. But, yes, I’m willing to meet people further up the road on that one, though I’m still not sure that that the mounds were the main drive of that holiday.)

(A complete sidetrack, speaking of faeries and Halloween. Try coming up with a fast, simple, yet thorough way of describing the sluagh and the Wild Hunt to someone who knows absolutely nothing about fae lore.)

Once the Catholic church rose to cultural dominance, the holiday that we now call Halloween began to take shape-but we don’t have a set, easily verifiable date to look at and say, ‘this is the year that it tipped over into what we would recognize as Halloween.’

Except for the United States and a city called Anoka.

Prior to the 1920s, there was really nothing to control children and teens from heavy pranking during events such as Nut Crack and Bonfire Nights. Halloween was practiced, but it was mainly a home-based holiday with parties and other events held on private property. While there was limited practice of treat or treating at the time, it was not as well established as a cultural icon as it would be in later decades. The pranking aspect of the holiday was in full force, leading up to Halloween night proper.

Towns would wake up destruction from the annoying but not necessarily completely damaging such as eggings and toilet paper to outright destruction of property and thefts.

In Anoka Minnesota, a town leader named George Green held a meeting in 1920 to address the pranking issue in a manner that would fulfill the population’s desire for social outlets, interesting enough to divert attention away from pranking and other less than desired activities, and community minded. What the town decided to put together was the first known civic Halloween event-which solidifies the town as the birthplace of American Halloween as we know it (sorry Salem, you have nothing to do with this one).

The events included a giant bonfire that has been held every year since, other than years affected by World War II in the 1940s, a giant parade, and mass distribution of candy. According to Anoka’s history website, the event has changed over the years to account for changing tastes; at one point, a giant snake dance was involved.

Was the Anoka the first place in the United States to shift into a ‘modern’ style Halloween? Probably not. In fact, I would be more surprised if it was. But Anoka has been acknowledged as the first place to fully ritualize it as a community event. Therefore, in a sense, you can date American Halloween to Minnesota, 1920.

 

Halloween of the Beast

Via Pixabay

Via Pixabay

I -just- came across this rumor/urban legend/Internet myth. Since it dates to last month, I suppose that’s not terribly surprising.

It’s common enough, however, to have already made it onto Snopes so I think it’s old enough for inclusion in this year’s round of seasonal Sunday Legends. As a side note though…it wasn’t until I sat down to write this entry that it hit me that I’m already writing this year’s Halloween seasonal legends. How did that happen? [I also promise to start bringing back more non-folklore material again, but I can’t promise when or how much. Just that it will eventually turn up].

So the question, as it stands in Internet-land is this: Is this year’s Halloween the 666th Halloween in history?

The short answer is no, but the ‘exact’ number this year’s Halloween is depends on a lot of factors, up to and including how we’re defining ‘Halloween’.

If we’re counting anything Samhain and Samhain-ish, we’re probably into the thousands. If we’re counting anything we -might- recognize as Halloween, Snopes places the holiday to roughly 800 AD and that’s only due to references in Church materials to holidays that could be seen as proto-modern-Halloween. An actual ‘modern’ Halloween might be placed to somewhere between the American Civil War and the Victorian Era, or slightly later (depending on what you need in terms of practice to make it Halloween). Which means that we would be somewhere in the 150s, or less.

Either way, this is not the 666th Halloween-and you would probably be safe not believing any meme that involves the number 666 as a whole.

Frau Holle

Pixabay

Pixabay

Mid and I had a conversation the other day on the way home from work.

The end result  is that with the way that I’m shaped like a beach ball and going gray young…I’m eventually going to end up Mrs. Santa Clause.

With that in mind, I thought I would touch on one of the happier, feminine Christmas and Yule legends-Frau Holle.

Depending on source, who Frau Holle (also called Frau Holda) actually is varies. Some suggest that she is an aspect of Frigga, the Norse goddess of the hearth. In some  regions of Europe she falls closer to Baba Yaga,  with a decidedly hag influence. In other areas, she is her own entity in and of herself. She -may- have originally been a dual natured entity, taking on either the hag or the maiden depending on story or region. Regardless of who she is, Frau Holle is a spirit who gifts the community in the winter.

She is often associate with women specifically, or by extension, the areas controlled by women-the hearth and children. However her influence also extends into the winter forest. This connection to the woodlands is extended to her symbols- Frau Holle, perhaps not surprisingly, is associated with holly and other plants that are still green in winter like pines and evergreens. Frau Holle is also associated with snow.

Interestingly, though the citations are vague, she may have been linked to the Wild Hunt. This would be one of the few leaders who were actually seen as being heavily benevolent instead of just morally gray. However, this might also just be an extension of her roles as a winter, forest guardian into similarly themed folklore. It does need to be noted however that when in connection to the hunt, she is connected primarily to the spirits of mothers and children, therefore maintaining her already established folkloric roles. Even though that source had little citations noted, the source list does heavily pull from academic sources, so maybe there is something to it.

The Legend of Frau Holle

Mother Hulda

Holda

Hans Von Trapp

Forgive me if this entry isn’t up to standard. My back hasn’t been stable since before Easter, and while I wanted to put up my Christmas tree when Mid got home tonight-both sides of my lower back decided to freeze instead. So instead being in happy Christmas mind space…I’m back to wondering how long I’m going to have to deal with this or if this is just how I’m going to be from here on out (my dad’s back isn’t good, so that’s unfortunately a possibility).

Anyway.

I have a confession to make, and one that I think will surprise my social circle.

I’m not really a fan of Krampus. I feel like Krampus has fallen to the curse of pop culture, that is, taking a cultural image and turning it all trendy and stripping whatever meaning out from the thing.

I don’t like sugar skulls for that reason either. I like actual sugar skulls, I have a handmade one, but I’m not a fan of sticking them on anything from rubber spatulas to toaster ovens.

But I do like researching what countries do for their holiday figures outside of Santa Clause (…please don’t ask me about my stance regarding Santa/Odin. I would be absolutely shocked to find out that there’s an actual historical connection there, outside of being in the right place and the right time, and I need something more substantial, read, academic, than a bunch of memes telling me that they’re totally the same person. Maybe they are, and I’ll be willing to change that stance-but again, not because Facebook really seems to want them to be).

Hans von Trapp (or Hans Trapp, or rarely Hans Trott) is the folkloric version of a real historical figure, Hans von Trotha. Von Trotha essentially went to war with the local church over who owned the land he built a castle on. Eventually the battle worked its way to Rome, where the Pope called him to the court to answer  to the Church’s accusations…to which he sent a letter that on one hand said that he was loyal to the faith-but that the Church and the Pope were corrupt.

He was perhaps predictably excommunicated.

However, this seems to have been primarily a political move, and in the end the worst that seems to have happened to him was a stint as diplomat and ambassador to France. When he died in 1503, he was cleared of all accusations.

Eventually, however, the feud with the church did damage to his reputation and his image evolved into a local boogeyman. Von Trotha would come to accompany Santa Clause in a manner similar to Krampus, in that he would steal bad children from their families or otherwise punish them. Oddly, though, Von Trotha would take on significance beyond Christmas-he also was accused of being a malevolent ghost, among other folkloric usages.

[There are more versions of the story available on the web, but they go in weird directions involving devils and lightning and all sorts of strangeness that seem to be modern interests added into an established historical figure.]

Hans von Trotha

[Insert Seasonal Title Here] The Annual Seasonal Post Round Up

snowflake cover

Forgive me the accidentally snarky title. It’s not intended.

I did intend on writing you a new post for today but I’m exhausted. Between the holiday and the broken sink and a promotion at work and trying to deep clean the apartment (sorry Mom, I know you’re coming here tomorrow but this apartment will  not be to your standard. I’m still working on the Purge), I’m just tired.

Somehow I doubt I’m going to be seeing sugar plums tonight, though.

Gryla

Jack Frost

Frosty the Snowman

The Holly and the Ivy

The Haunted Elf on the Shelf

Reindeer

The Yule Log

The Yule Cat

Christmas Cookies

Snow

Krampus, et al

Wassail

The Haunted Elf on the Shelf

sundaylegends

I know it’s a little early to the start the Christmas seasonal stuff, but I’ve been sitting on this story impatiently for months.

Close enough.

 

I know full well that this story is [most likely] completely made up, I mean, if you think about this for thirty seconds it has to be.

I don’t care in the slightest.

Cursed objects aren’t exactly new. What they’re cursed with, why they’re cursed, and what they’re supposed to accomplish vary from object to object, but there’s not a lot of question that it is an established folklore trope.

Are you familiar with those Elf on a Shelf things? I hate them-which might be why I love this story so much. The basic idea of the elf, if you are unfamiliar, is that the elf appears nightly and monitors your children. The elf is supposed to report back to the child’s parents and to Santa about what the kid is up to. The elf has a name, but I honestly can’t remember what it is. It’s irrelevant anyway. I find the whole thing creepy but my dislike of the Elf on the Shelf is fodder for another entry.

According to an Ebay listing, the cursed elf was purchased at an estate sale. The seller brought the elf home and set it up. The traditional ‘strange things’ began to happen but the buyer didn’t make the connection to the elf until she tried to put it away. But she also, you know. posed the elf with a kitchen knife. The doll would move by itself, the doorbell would ring at odd hours, and shadow people started appearing in the home.

The seller does not state how she came to understand that the doll was the issue, but the listing included the original packaging.

Are Elf on a Shelf(s) even old enough to come in vintage?

 

http://ghostsnghouls.com/2014/01/12/haunted-items-ebay/#more-5099

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Haunted-Elf-On-Shelf-Doll-Holding-A-Spirit-Paranormal-/221347344656?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3389547110