Mittwoch, 6. Dezember 2017

Krampus, Yule time, skóggángr and penitance of the wicked

 Whether you call it Chrismas time or Yule time, there is no denying of the fact that these are special times. Being fed up with the clash of religions and all the ranting and self-entitlement going on on the web and elsewhere, I took some time to contemplate: What is it that makes this time special, and what do all the opponents have in common? The answer is quite easy. Remove the names and all that paraphernalia and you have one fact. Up until the 21st of December, which was the original date for Chrismas eve, the nights become ever longer, and the 21st. December as the winter solstice is the longest night. It is the triumph of darkness, if you so will-and its ultimate defeat. But darkness and light are both necessary sides of the same coin... no winter, no summer, no death, no life. The birth of the light unfathomed (Sól invictus) was allegorically transponed into the birth of Christ, but contaminated with a lot of ancient pagan beliefs, customs and traditions, one of which is the "Chrismas demon". In the Alps and in the South of Germany, there still is the figure of "Krampus", a word which derives from Old High German "Krampa"/ "Krampan", Old Gothic: "Krampja", meaning claw /claws, a horned spirit with a load of fangs and claws.

Bild könnte enthalten: eine oder mehrere Personen
(source: Mörk djevels, Ennstal, Steiermark, Austria)

While in Christian times everything with horns on is evil, the Krampus actually acts as a bringer of morale, even in a Christian sense. Krampus is a part of St. Nicolas host, something like the minion who takes the evil children to hell. Krampus was said to be a descendant of Loki, son of Hel, but also derives from the horned Gods of nature. One aspect is the holly king.

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The holly king is the "green man" of English folklore and shares a lot of similarities to Cernunnos, the horned god, Herne the hunter, Robin Goodfellow and others.

Image result for Robin Goodfellow
(image source: Wikipedia)

Back to the figure of Krampus. He is never depicted as outright evil, but as a kind of negative psychopomp and acting as a cautionary mythological figure. The Krampus is a wood sprite (said to live in the deepest woods) in some traditions, and stands for the violent forces of nature. In a different place on this blog I have already referred to my presumption or theory that the Norwegian "Trolls" might have something to do with the "skóggángr mannar", the wood-walking men, people who had been banished from society due to a sentence, denying them the privilege to be a part of human society any longer. With the Krampus, however, I found a striking example of a Mongolian shaman costume:

Image result for mongolian shaman costume
(image source: pinterest)

This costume shares a lot of similarities to the Krampus costume. These are: Horned mask, sound-producing implements, a "shaman´s whip" (in the case of Krampus the bundle of birch twigs serves the same purpose besides being used to punish nasty children), staff (often a Krampus also holds a staff with bells on), shaman´s sword:

Image result for Mongolian shaman´s sword

(image source: pinterest)

bells and drum. The shaman in Mongolian society, while being called a holy man, often came to shamanism via a mental illness or any other character trait that distinguishes him from the norm. He is ab - normal in a purely descriptive sense. Often he is a person of higher intellect and education, but not necessarily so. In most cases he lives away from the community of other men. Robinson (1985) postulated a correlation between introversion and emotional intelligence, just to mention it along. In any way, the shaman is seen as someone sitting on the hedge between the worlds. Having had the privilege to converse and make closer acquaintance with a genuine Mongolian shaman several years ago I can say that this quite certainly distinguishes a genuine shaman from all those self-entitled morons running around selling their so-called dream-travels. That gentleman was extremely practical-minded and saw his spirituality in much the same way in which he put up to everyday tasks. He was actually quite down-to-earth, but also had the capacity of having "one foot in the spirit world", as he put it.

In Mongolian society, the shaman is living apart from human society, not because he is despised or in any way banished, but because he is dangerous in a sense, dangerous because of a power that elevates him from human society. He is not entirely human, but able to share characteristics with spirit and animal. He is the one who talks to the world of spirits. In Saami culture, there are stories of shamans you could only look at through an iron ring to be able to survive their gaze.

The Krampus is something that lurks in the darkness and stands for the dark half of the year. Like trolls and dwarves, like elves and dragons, like white women and death itself, he stands for the uncivilized, for the woods, for the counterworld of civilization. In Arthurian romance we find the hero venturing into the woods where adventures, monsters and fair maiden dwell, to test his fortitude and then return as initiated to the court. It is a rite of initiation. 

 The light dies, and the forests are covered in twilight. Moonlight reigns supreme, and if you really venture into the woods in actual these days, chance is, you will be faced with darkness sooner or later. It is quite realistic that even on a short bimble in winter you will be having a problem with falling dark. Now I love being outdoors in the woods, and I also do it in winter, and I long ago learned that a handtorch is of little use in nocturnal forests.
 There is something soothing as well as terrifying in the falling night in the forest. The terrifying thing is that things awake that were asleep at daytime. The trees move and creak, and, being rapt of other notions, your stimulated hearing makes a show of even the faintest of noises-of the rustling of dry leaves in a breeze, of the hooting of an owl and the stealthy stride of the fox.
 You can still see the faint outline of light, but the forest grows ever darker.
 And in the twilight, unseen wonders emerge.

 The message of the Krampus is that there is terror lurking beyond, a terror that is not evil, but violent in its magnificience. It contains wonders unfathomable by man and not made for man to hold. Like the fairy gold or the elf - shit at the end of the rainbow ;-) as a positive connotation, there are monsters hiding in the darkness, spirits like the wood - devil. They belong to the dark side of the year, into winter and autumn. They are dangerous to even look at, but come with a message.
 In our world, however,we have lost this balance. We have banished the dark forces of nature from everything and thusly also robbed the force of light of its power. We know not how it is to huddle besides a fire while outside the wolves and winds howl through the chimney. We like to have a hot drink in winter-on the couch, while watching TV. But we do not know anymore how it feels to have a fire going in a cold winter storm and getting warm and closing one´s fingers around a steaming hot mug of cocoa while around one the storm is driving snow against one´s lean-to. We do not know anymore how it is to walk through a dark forest, when your imagination and your mind lead you on a different path.

To me, Chrismas season, or Yule tide, if you so will, always was a war between the dark and the light forces. The message of the winter solstice is simple: Do not despair-after the darkest night the light will return again, and a different year is born anew.

Now our society puts a lot of emphasis on stating that we are the good ones. We are praying to the forces of light, we bring other cultures the "light of civilization", the enlightenment movement has convinced us finally that there are no gods and no god at all.

Let me put it this way: St. Nicholas and Krampus do not agree at all. ;-) What we have done to nature and our fellow human beings, and what we are doing even now as I write, is worthy of the worst of the bad guys. We do not need to fear any devil anymore; we were better to fear ourselves.

 But there are good news-or bad, that depends on your perspective. The old myths currently somehow rewrite themselves. Somehow old Krampus jumped out of the box this year, being all the rage (pun intended). If you listen, he might have a message for you.

I personally feel that Krampus has a lot to do with Skóggángr. Having had a hearty fill of mankind just recently, with all the frustration and shitstorming going on as usual, I was feeling disgusted and again I thought the fault was that of the others. My shitty job, my shitty employer, my so-called friends that turned out to be absolute morons again, all their fault, isn´t it? But it´s not. It´s all mine. I thought I was a social guy and did a lot for others and forgot myself as usual and still got mobbed. Now I get mobbed since I went to a Kindergarten, and ever since, with no exception whatsoever. All by perfectly normal guys, and it does not help me any that I always was right in the end. The truth is, I do not belong into the enclaves of mankind. I grew up in a forest. The terrors of the wildwood are soothing for me. I talk to spirits and dance under the moon. I am wild, and I always was. I walk paths in moonlight that others would not dare even considering in broad daylight.

No, this is not braggery, but merely a fact, and a fact I could live without or maybe not. In fact, I cannot be anyone else than I am, with the exception of the many things I have to work on and work on.

 This is my world, the world of twilight. I do fairly well in the world of daylight, but this is where I belong.
 I walk out of their world deliberately, and I return to tell the tales, as I do with this post.
 That Mongolian guy laughed hard when I asked him to tell me what I was, what he saw in me, and he just said that I would see in time.

"Sympathy with the Devil", if you so will, but is it? I daresay Krampus can take you for a wild ride. He will die, and his death is right and righteous and necessary for the birth of light, but he is the psychopomp that can lead modern man into the woods still, into the actual woods as well as into those of your mind, where fairy tales are born. Oh yes, some get lost in the process and chucked to hell... but even hell is a far more agreeable destination than the world we are about to create. And the hell of legend always is a purgatory, a place of initiation. Skóggángr is something that somehow occured to me. The term just fascinated me, and I daresay there is a lot more to it to be discovered.

Become a creature of the wildwood. And walk the world of man to remind them that you´re dangerous, not because you mean harm to anyone, but because it is your very personality and character. Become dangerous not like a mass - murderer or lunatic is. But because you are one with a wolf, an owl, or winter. Be Yule, and Yule will reward you with the gift of light in the darkest hour.

And remember to fill your boots with leftovers from the feast for Krampus and put them outside! You never know... ;-)

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