Its funny how small things coalesce into a huge horned devil. This is basically what's happened this week for me.
It began with my post-hospital stomach cramping on the sofa whilst forming an old memory of a film I saw as a teenager. All I could recall where certain images so I googled 'witch, sickle, snow'. Lo and behold, it churned out a name, a film called Curtains! Curtains I thought. I have that in the attic!
Yes, Curtains had been languishing for at least 10 years in my sizable big box video collection salvaged from countless car boots for posterity. I had no idea it was the film I had been searching for. Despite thinking it was much older than 1983 [ I recall seeing it with an old girlfriend in Preston in the Seventies!] this is the key image I remember:
Oddly enough I had thought that the 'witch' was much scarier, replete with white hair and horns in the style of the Unnamable from 1988 below:
And so, chronologically challenged, I began to watch Curtains. As is my want I sometimes surf the net whilst watching TV when BOOM! Up pops THE hairy horned devil to end them all! Krampus!
Krampus is an ancient Christmas spirit as old as the season itself and celebrated across most of continental Europe. One of St. Nikolas's many helpers Krampus is his opposite. This festive beast is responsible for the Naughty List and he takes his job very seriously!
Armed with a sack, chains, a birch, horns, cloven hooves and lumps of coal, old K could be Satan himself. He often turned up on old creepy December postcards sent throughout Europe like this one:
When I think of Krampus I can't help thinking of the Fire-Beast in Night or Curse of the Demon. I wonder if the studio were aware of the seasonal creature? I suppose its the horns that do it.
I have been aware of these Darth Vaders of Yuletide for some time. Missus Moonbase is European and has often spoke of her childhood staring at dark characters in procession such as Knecht Ruprecht the "bad monk" as she describes him, complete with child-sized sack and Rute or birch!
Ruprecht sounds a lot like Krampus to me so consulting Wiki I see that St. Nick had a lot of mates and just like everyone's some were good, some were bad and some in between. Depending on where you lived in Europe children would be threatened with birchings and worse from Knect Ruprecht, Schwarze Peit, Belsnickel, Krampus, Befana, Hans Muff, Joulupukki [see below - for Arto!] and many other winter rogues.
In North West England, certainly in Preston, we had Father Christmas and his Reindeer and that was it in the Sixties. Jack Frost nipped their ears a bit. No proper monsters, worst luck!
"Joulupukki" by Lauri Rantala from Espoo, Finland: Santaclaus at Helsinki Cathedral
As popular culture searches for new legends beyond the Marvel universe creatures of European myth are rising. Foreshadowed by Tim Burton's Jack Skellington in 1993's The Night Before Christmas, in 2010 we had the horned Finnish Santa in Rare Exports. This year we had the spellbinding Scandinavian modern fairy-tale Jordskott on TV and this Christmas, after being introduced to it in October's Christmas Horror Story with William Shatner, we are treated to the festive fiend in his own full film, Krampus - playing at cinemas now:
And so we come full circle. A film. A December devil. A winter's day. Today in many parts of old Europe is Nikolausabend or Krampusnacht. Tonight IS Krampus Night! I just hope you've not been naughty!
What Winter spirits do you have readers?