Friday, December 26, 2014

Krampus is NOT the "Son of Hel"

While I am suddenly indeed seeing this claim that Krampus is the son of Hel, there is no evidence of it in southern Germanic or Alpine lore. Neither Hel nor Loki were known to our folk, and, while I think it is acceptable and sometimes necessary to utilize Scandinavian lore, personal gnosis, or comparative myths to fill in gaps in the lore of the south, the concept of Krampus being the son of Hel omits Berchta and our own lore from the region, including remnants of a horned god. 

This horned god has associations in our own oral lore with some tales from other regions in (and astride) the Alps and in the Deitscherei with the god Holler or the Eternal Hunter, from whom Krampus was perhaps derived. Some may also be led to place Krampus' roots in Wudan, Dunner, an elf-type of entity, or an animal spirit, and a good case can be made for each of them.

My opinion would differ if Krampus were known at all in the north, but he was not. Thus, it smacks of cultural appropriation to remove Krampus completely from the context of the southern lore in order to place him haphazardly in the lore of the far north and to artificially reconstruct his family line to match the north's lore. Links can be drawn, lessons can be learned, and dots can be connected, but the declaration that he is the "son of Hel" completely dismisses the history of the south.

Check out Grimm's "Teutonic Mythology," pp. 514-516. The same post-conversion denigration for Holle and Berchta also impacted house wights, deity companions, etc., and turned them from being understood as beneficent (or even benevolent) to being malevolent. Krampus is likely a product of that same degenerative process While ascribing him to be the "son of Hel" makes for an interesting story, the true story of how our deities came to be the models of the stereotypical depictions of witches and demons is, in my opinion, far more interesting and necessary for us to control. 

Since it was the south that encountered conversion efforts first, it is natural that it would be the deities known in the south who would suffer such profanities against their reputations first. Add to it the fact that goddesses were of such prominence in those regions, one can imagine the vitriol with with the patriarchal church might treat those goddesses.


Unknown said...

Have you been able to sort out how the whole "Krampus, Son of Hel" even got started? I thought it was surprising when I first heard it, and have been searching for a point of reference for it. Your post points out exactly why I found it odd and dubious.

It's not that I object if it's true, but it doesn't make sense historically, and I can't find any reference that doesn't just point elsewhere to a modern claim, and not even an academic constructed claim, so much as a "it is said" sort of thing.



Unknown said...


"Finally, it should be noted that the relationship between Krampus and Hel is solely a creation of Funcom and that in reality nothing connects these two myths, apart from their European origins…"

That may well be how all this nonsense got started, then. A game.

~sigh~ You'd think National Geographic would do a better job checking their sources. Everybody else is taking their word for it, even the Smithsonian. ~facepalm~


Mark S. said...

Ah, someone else aware of TSW/SWL winter events. Hope you enjoy them, I do.

Apparently the question of Krampus' origin is not new. National Geographic has an article on it from 2013.

It seems they also published a book about his origin, but it's in German.

The article summarizes that Krampus was created to counter (or compliment) the St. Nicolas celebration. So instead of positive reinforcement (good kids get rewards), Krampus is to encourage troublesome kids to be good or face the consequences of a whooping/spanking and getting dragged to his lair/Hell.

And it sounds like there's been a slow, positive trend to bring Krampus back or promote him as an alternative. I know of some little sh!ts who should have Krampus drop in on them.

Ruth said...

Hi! I came up with your article searching about the reality of this exact statement, and the sources it was extracted from. I could agree with your arguments, and I mainly do, only two ideas keep me away from believing an absolute yes or no. How come being so far geographically speaking the Finnish also have a goat during this time of the year? Which I was told also use to take children away just as Krampus, Joulupukki. And couldn't it be that the Germans had in some moment in history adopted some of the Norse gods, even though they could have renamed them? There is a type of god worshipped by the german celtic tribes very similar to Loki. Just wondering, not stating anything for sure 🙂