I’m a diehard fan of Krampus. I’ve always thought that “Elf on the Shelf” was way too soft for kids. Why make them think a creepy looking doll is spying on them when you can use a terrifying half-goat/half-demon creature to scare them into behaving? If you don’t know the story behind Krampus, he is basically one of Santa’s buddies who punishes misbehaving children. His origins draw from German and Alpine origins. He carries chains and birch sticks to literally beat kids into shape. Some other variations have him sticking children in a sack or basket, dragging them to hell, or just beating them with the birch sticks while they’re in the sack/basket and being dragged into the underworld. Basically, I would behave if I knew Krampus was waiting in the wings to kick my butt. By the way, Krampusnacht is December 5th.
But…Krampus isn’t alone. There is a female counterpart to Krampus that is much more terrifying than our male half-goat/half-demon hybrid. And she’s much more terrifying than you can ever imagine.
Let me introduce you to Frau Perchta. She also comes from Eastern Europe, German and Alpine lore, and she is famously known as the Christmas Witch.
If you’re into the old school fairytales, like the Grimm Brothers, then you might already know about Frau Perchta. She came into prominence thanks to the eldest Grimm brother, Jacob. According to him, Perchta was originally known as Berctha, or Bertha in the 10th century. She is believed to be the female equivilent of Berchtold, who is the leader of the Wild Hunt, which consisted of soldiers of mythical creatures like spirits, fairies, and elves.
But why exactly should we be fearful of Frau Perchta? She is the upholder of cultural taboos, like the prohibition of spinning during the holidays. During the 12 days between Christmas (12/25) and Epiphany (1/6), Perchta would roam the countryside in the middle of the night. She goes into people’s homes and knows immediately if the children had been naughty or nice. She also required that the women had the flax spun by the 12th night of December. Perchta would also know if you adhered to her traditional meal of fish and gruel on her feast day.
Frau Perchta bears a striking resemblance to the Scandanavian goddess, Frigga. Both entities are obsessed with spinning as well as whether or not your house was clean. Jacob Grimm was convinced that Perchta was Frau Holda, who was also into spinning as well as wearing white robes.
Frau Perchta has been known to appear as a beautiful young woman in white robes, or an elderly and haggard-looking woman, depending on which culture you are studying. What is notable about her appearance is that she has a foot that is larger than the other. It has been known as a goose or swan foot, which could indicate that she is a shapeshifter of some sorts. If you behaved, you would see Perchta as the beautiful woman. But if you weren’t, then you saw her scarier side.
If you did what you were supposed to do, then you might get a nice coin the next morning. But if you neglected to be a well-behaved child, spun your flax, and ate your fish and gruel, there was certain hell to pay. Frau Perchta would slit your stomach open and stuff you with straw and garbage.
Krampus is sounding a little more PG now, doesn’t he?
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