Friday, December 24, 2010

The Christmas Demon

This season, I've seen articles on Krampus on both Way Past Normal and on Topless Robot. Krampus, if you haven't heard of him, is the Christmas demon who accompanies St. Nicholas on his rounds, punishing the bad children with something far more horrific and traumatic than a mere lump of coal. Krampus, a folkloric figure in Austrian, Bavarian, and other alpine areas, seems to be enjoying an internet-driven surge in worldwide popularity lately.

Lesser known to Americans is the Czech version of St. Nicholas (Mikuláš), who is accompanied by both a devil and an angel. St. Nicholas comes on the eve of his name day, Dec. 6. Although the devil bears a resemblance to Krampus, with the disturbingly long tongue, I don't think he's actually the same demon. I've never seen names ascribed to the Czech devil or angel.

This illustration by Josef Lada comes from the book Dětem, and it depicts the scenes of winter (Zima). Note St. Nicholas in the center, robed as a bishop, with the angel at his right hand with a basket of good things (probably fruit and nuts) for good children, and the devil on his right hand, carrying what looks like a whip or a chain. Note the children on their knees, pleading with St. Nicholas for something good, or perhaps praying that the devil won't whip them.

Other details I'd like to draw your attention to include the man playing the dudy (Czech bagpipe), seen just behind and to the right of the devil; the carp in the lower right corner, which is the traditional Czech Christmas meal; and the ominous raven on the right-hand side of the picture. I have no idea what the raven is about. Can anyone enlighten me?

1 comment:

Jeannette said...

Thanks for sharing.