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Saturday, 24 December 2011

Investigating Santa’s dark Doppelgängers, Part 2

There seems to be quite a lot of bad boys who accompanied St. Nick, the more I find reference to, the more I find.  I realise now how essential a polar opposite seemed to be in the St. Nick folklore.  Just like Krampus I knew nothing of these dark sidekicks until this year. It seems that maybe all the bleaching of our European traditions has gone some to eradicate these guys, but I ask you, should we really ignore them?  

Should they really be forgotten? 

Is there a need for these fiendish friends of Santa in our culture? 
 A DARK FIGURE hides behind the grinning countenance of Ole’ Saint Nick.  Sometimes he rides on a white horse, and sometimes he is accompanied by fairies or men in blackface dressed as old women.  Sometimes he is in rags and a long black beard, and sometimes he is covered in fur with the horns of a goat and a long red tongue.  He is just one of the many murderers and child molesters that make up Santa Claus’ posse. 

Truth is, Jolly Santa’s “companions” are a hodgepodge assortment of rough-and-tumble characters; assorted fiends with sordid pasts and nightmarish agendas.  The companions travel with St. Nicholas or his various equivalents (Father Christmas, Santa Claus), carrying with them a rod (sometimes a stick, a mace, switchblade, sythe, revolver, a magic top hat, rusty chains, a birch branch, bundle of switches or a whip, and in modern times often a broom) and a sack.
They are sometimes dressed in black rags, bearing a black face and unruly black hair. In many contemporary portrayals the companions look like dark, sinister, or rustic versions of Nicholas himself, with a similar costume but with a darker color scheme.

The Père Fouettard (French for The whipping Father) is a character who accompanies St. Nicholas in his rounds during St. Nicholas' Day (6 December) dispensing lumps of coal and/or floggings to the naughty children while St. Nick gives gifts to the well behaved.[1] He is known mainly in the Eastern regions of France, although similar characters exist all over Europe (see Companions of Saint Nicholas). This "Whipping Father" was said to bring a whip with him to spank all of the naughty kids who misbehaved.
Père Fouettard is found in France and Luxembourg, where he's known as Housécker. He is the evil butcher who was forever condemned to follow St. Nicolas as a punishment for luring the little lost children into his shop. His name doesn't translate well, but means "Mr. Bogeyman," "spanking," or "switches."

One version of the story tells of a famine in the land and three young boys who become lost while out searching the fields for food missed by the harvest. In other versions the boys simply become lost while wandering in the fields. As night begins to descend they spy a butcher's shop and knock on the door seeking shelter for the night. The butcher opens the door and invites them in.
But, instead of giving them food and shelter for the night, the butcher kills the boys and then hacks their bodies to pieces and throws the pieces into a barrel of brine (salt water) along with a butchered pig that he is preserving in the brine. His intention, of course, is to increase his profit by including the boys' remains as part of the pork he is selling.

Some time later there is another knock at the door and when the butcher opens the door he sees St. Nicholas standing in the doorway. 

St. Nicholas makes his way to the barrel and tells the three boys to arise and come to him. All three are immediately made whole and come to life. Stepping out of the barrel, the boys spoke of being asleep and dreaming of Heaven. Watching from his position by the doorway, the butcher suddenly became remorseful and repentant for what he had done. St. Nicholas assured him that God forgave all sinners who repented regardless of the sin.
Feeling both ashamed for what he had done and gratitude toward St. Nicholas for undoing the damage resulting from his crime, the butcher chose to follow St. Nicholas from the shop and has been at the saint's side through the ages, not as the slave or servant of the saint but as a loyal follower showing his gratitude by helping where he can.

[This is in French]

The companion of the French St. Nicholas, Père Fouettard, is said to be the butcher of three children.  St. Nicholas discovered the murder and resurrected the three children. He also shamed Père Fouettard, who, in repentance, became a servant of St. Nicholas. Fouettard travels with the saint and punishes naughty children by whipping them.

Ruprecht  or Knecht Ruprecht is St. Nicholas' most familiar attendant in Germany. He is a servant and helper whose face is sooty from going down chimneys leaving children's treats. He carries the sack of presents and a rod for disobedient children. "Just wait until Ruprecht comes" is still a common threat in German homes.

Originally a farm hand, Ruprecht is known as Hanstrapp or Rupelz in the French region of Alsace. In Germany there are many different characters: Krampus in Southern Germany, Pelzebock or Pelznickel in the North-West, Hans Muff in Rhineland, Bartel or the Wild Bear in Silesia, Gumphinkel with a bear in Hesse, Buttenmandl in Bavaria, or Black Pit close to the Dutch border. In the Palatinate both Nicholas and his attendant may be known as Stappklos, the plodder and grumbler.
According to some legends, St. Nicholas had a servent.  His name was Knecht Ruprecht.  When St. Nicholas and Ruprecht come to the door, the children are asked to perform tricks, such as dancing or singing.  Good children will receive gifts from St. Nicholas.  Bad children will be beaten by Ruprecht.  If they are really naughty, they will be carried off by him in his sack.  Parents would leave sticks to warn their children to be good, and they would tell them that Ruprecht will take them away if they are really bad.
 I have never been a huge fan of  the traditional Christmas story of Saint Nicholas making toys for every good boys and girl in the world.  True, I love the fruits of his labor but I always felt something was missing. Like we were only told half of the story. Today, I found out we were only told half of the story. Did you ever wonder what happened to the bad children and come to think of it what about the bad adults?  Have you ever heard of Krampus?
December 6th, was Krampusnacht, a holiday celebrated in Alpine regions of Germany and Austria. 

The festival’s roots stretch back into pre-Christian times when Germanic mountain folk paid homage to Krampus the child-stealing demon of winter darkness. Krampus was a hell-sent god with goat’s horns, coarse black fur, and a fanged maw. He would visit disobedient or inattentive children and beat them with a cruel flail before tearing them to bits with his claws (in fact “Krampus” means “claw” in old high German). 

The demon would then carry the dismembered bodies back to the underworld and devour the human flesh at his leisure.

In Austria the feast of St. Nicolas brings together all sorts of characters that appear to come from hell. Santaklos (Nikolo, or Niglo Klos) through the streets, accompanied by "Krampus". The Krampus masks are of the devil and a big fur coat. Saint Nicolas asked the children whether they know their prayers and distributes nuts, apples, oranges and even gifts. In other places, is accompanied by Santaklos characters covered with straw, with long antennae, "the Schab." They perform the "Nikolospiele" Games of Saint Nicolas

--- DUENDE---
Not only does Santa have his dark cronies but the cronies in some places have their own servants, the Duende.

A “duende” is a gnome or goblin that lives under the stairs. The “duende” according to myth appears because of an evocation given by someone nearby. It is physical entity that allegedly manifests because of emotional stress. The duende is a demonic earth spirit much like the earth spirits of the dark nights like Krampus and Belsnickel. Those who see a “duende” are soon to have a death in the family.
It is also believed the “duende” can hide in your shoes and enter your body through the soles of your feet. It is interesting that the gnomes of European Christmas lore would have some fascination with shoes and stockings. For years the gnomes were believed to be sniffing around chimneys where children would dry their stockings.
There have been countless times in everybody’s day to day experience where they would lose a sock or even underwear in the dryer. People joking say that it is the work of the “sock gnomes.” Everyone may joke about it, however it seems as though the mystery dates back some 400 years ago on those dark nights by the fire at Christmas time.
A duende is a fairy- or goblin-like mythological creature from Iberian, Latin American and Filipino folklore. While its nature varies throughout Spain, Portugal, Spanish and Portuguese-speaking America and the Philippines
Just like Venom to Spiderman, Dr. Moriarty to Sherlock Holmes and Magneto to Dr. Xavier, Schmutzli is a more sinister counter point to the good that Santa represents.
The answer to how this tradition came about is once again representative of another classic battle between Christianity and paganism. Originally it was a pagan ritual called Perchten which involved good spirits driving out the bad old spirits. With Samichlaus taking the Christian "good" role Schmutzli some how managed to evolve into the dark figure.

Samichlaus is not Santa Claus however and the celebration of "St Nicolas Day"is on the 6th of December, while both Christmas and St Nicolas Day both have the same origins they take on different forms, with the latter having much more in common with its original tradition of paganism than its commercialised American brother.
Schmutzli is nearly always all brown: dressed in brown, with brown hair and beard, and a face darkened with lard and soot. He is St. Nicholas' helper in Switzerland. He carries a switch and sack, but no longer uses them. Children used to be told that Schmutzli would beat naughty children with the switch and carry them off in the sack to gobble them up in the woods. Today there is very little talk of beatings and kidnappings.
Perchten are in the Alpine tradition occurring forms, which occur mainly in December and January. Your name probably derives from the mythical figure of Perchta from. Another theory on naming assumes that the concept of Epiphany , Epiphany on 6 January is derived.
The Perchten embody two general groups, the "good" Schönperchten, and the "bad" Schiechperchten ( . obdt Schieche, schiach extremely stressed at i: ugly, bad, evil). Perchten important tool of the bell, after the popular interpretation of the winter - or the evil spirits of winter - is to be expelled ( out the winter , or expulsion of the old year). The visit of Perchten is sometimes held up in the vernacular as auspicious omen. The extent to which Perchtenlauf really goes back to pagan rites, is controversial.
Before the last Raunacht the Magi to Schiachperchten and Schönperchten exorcise the horrors of the winter.  With drumbeats, fog and stake demonstrates the Perchten an impressive spectacle, which causes the viewer alternately creepy and fascinating.

--- NACKLES---

Share freely, Gabrielle, Xmas eve 2011

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