With the appearance of the demonic Christmas character Krampus in contemporary Hollywood movies, television shows, advertisements, and greeting cards, medieval folklore has now been revisited in American culture. Krampus-related events and parades occur both in North America and Europe, and they are an ever-growing phenomenon.
Though the Krampus figure has once again become iconic, not much can be found about its history and meaning, thus calling for a book like Al Ridenour's The Krampus: Roots and Rebirth of the Folkloric Devil. With Krampus's wild, graphic history, Feral House has hired the awarded designer Sean Tejaratchi to take on Ridenour's book about this ever-so-curious figure.
Al Ridenour has lectured on Krampus at the Goethe Institutes in Los Angeles. He became somewhat of an internet phenomenon himself due to the hilarious hijinks he coordinated with the controversial Cacophony Societies.
Introduction: The Dead of Winter
Christmas wasn’t always a time of peace and domestic coziness. In German-speaking lands, the Twelve Nights of Christmas were closer to Halloween.
Chapter 2: Gruß vom Krampus!
How America fell in love with the Krampus. Pop-culture Krampus. 19th-century Krampus postcards, featuring the iconic slogan, “Gruß vom Krampus,” (“Greetings from the Krampus.”) Similar figures in North Germany, Holland, France, etc.
Chapter 2: The Devil at the Door
Firsthand account of the Krampus in Austria. How the Krampus groups organize and conduct traditional house-visits with St. Nicholas. Details and history regarding masks and costumes.
Chapter 3: The Beast Pursues his Game
The Krampuslauf (“Krampus run”) and modernizing influences. Issues of traditionalism, violence, alcohol, and gender involved in runs.
Chapter 4: The Church Breeds a Monster
Evolution of the Krampus from devils in medieval mystery plays. The surprisingly unruly Alpine Nikolausspiele (“Nicholas plays”) and parades of 17th-18th century contribute to Krampus practice.
Chapter 5: Frau Perchta, Witches, Ghosts
The witch-goddess Frau Perchta or Frau Holda as folkloric leader of seasonal horde of lost souls, ghosts, or demons, sometimes called Perchten. Frau Perchta and her Perchten as forerunners of Krampus custom.
Chapter 6: The Haunted Season
The Krampus’ native habitat is the season between St. Martin’s Day and Epiphany haunted by the Nußmärtel (“Nut Martin”) a sooty-faced, bearded character with a whip, the Bärbele, moss- faced crone-like characters carrying switches on St. Barbara’s Day, a “Bloody” St. Thomas and sickle wielding St. Lucy.
Chapter 7: The Perchten, Ancient Spirits of the Alps?
Perchten are largely indistinguishable from the Krampus but appear during the Twelve Nights, particularly Epiphany Eve. Perchten runs described, including oldest in Bad Gastein dating to 1730. A few theories as to why Perchten do what they do.
Chapter 8: American Krampus: Return of the Old, Dark Christmas
Immigrant Krampus traditions in American backwoods. Krampus’ in German Brazil. American’s old, dangerous Christmas
Ridenour (Offbeat Food) serves up an immensely accessible, well-researched history mixed in with his own personal journey tracing the Krampus, a Christmas devil with roots in Austrian and German folklore...Those interested in folklore, anthropology, history, counter-culture, and cosplay will enjoy this thorough assessment and its plethora of illustrations. Publisher's Weekly, October 2016
The Krampus and the Old, Dark Christmas: Roots and Rebirth of the Folkloric Devil is jam-packed with information on the history and meaning of the Krampus as well as scads of photos and art prints. The dozens of photos of celebrants of myriad regional-variant Yuletide festivals in bizarre and terrifying costumes is worth the price of admission alone. Award-winning designer Sean Tejaratchi has laid everything out gorgeously, augmenting Ridenour’s thoughtful analysis. I really can’t recommend this highly enough. If you have any interest in the subject, this book is simply a must-have. Dangerous Minds