You can't go far this Christmas season without seeing the krampus, a devil-like consort to Saint Nicholas. But it is far less likely that you have encountered another Christmas-time mythic character, that of Frau Perchta. We may wonder what the sense is in these figures. All three of them are the same in this one way: All of them represent the darkest time of the year, a time when the fields lie fallow, when the unconscious gestates. Sounds pretty abstract, but what it means is that there's a part of our conscious mind that wonders "What have I done well this past year? What can I do better in the future?"
The solstice is a passage from darkness back to light. And out of that can spring guilt. The Germanic psyche demanded something else, a force both benevolent and terrible, to keep them in line. Krampus charges out of the frigid night, howling, beating the christ out of women and children with sticks, and carrying the especially bad ones away. Perchta asks,"have you been weaving your flax little girl? Have you been good? Are you eating the awful gruel and fish that are to be consumed on my holiday?" If the answer is no, the poor children are disemboweled, and their insides are stuffed with straw and stones. So, you know, don't mess up. By comparison, Saint Nicholas' 'present' of coal seems benign.
I first encountered the two (Frau Perchta and Krampus) when researching for the dark fairy tale: Nyssa 1: Love Notes To A Stranger.
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