Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Krampus

In the spirit of this Christmas season, I have researched a creature that many have undoubtedly heard of, but none have actually seen. Enjoy!

In this day and age, everyone knows who Santa Claus is. He’s a jolly, overly-plump man in a red suit with white fur trim and wearing a matching hat, having a distinctive twinkle in his eyes, a cherry-red nose, and a long, snow-white beard on his chin…right? In recent times, people have become aware that good old Saint Nick has a dark counterpart, a bestial creature that punishes naughty, troublesome children who don’t behave themselves during the year, especially during the Christmas season. Such children are stuffed into a large sack, and they are seldom ever seen or heard from again. He is known by many names across the European continent: Knecht Ruprecht, Zwart Piet, Black Peter, Cert, Perchten, Pelznickel, Bartl, Parkelj, Niglobartl, and Klaubauf.  However, one particular name stands out above all the rest: Krampus. His name has terrified Germany and the surrounding countries for hundreds of years, and the Christmas Devil shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

According to Germanic folklore, the Krampus (pronounced krahm-pus) is a monstrous horned demon – the spitting image of the Devil himself – that accompanies Saint Nicholas while he visits the remote villages of the Alpine countries of Europe during the Christmas season. While old Saint Nick hands out gifts and treats to all the good boys and girls, it is the Krampus who metes out punishment to the naughty ones. The name krampus itself is thought to be derived from the old High German word krampen, which means “claw” or “to seize”. Much of the folklore about the Krampus can be found in Germany, Austria, Poland, Styria, Bavaria, Hungary, Switzerland, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, and Croatia. And since his popularity has increased so dramatically in the last decade or two, he can be found in other parts of Europe and even America as well.

If anyone has ever seen the Krampus, they haven’t come forward with a description as of yet. But then again, it can be assumed that those who do see this Yuletide Demon either disappear and are never seen again, or die under mysterious circumstances soon afterwards. The actual appearance of the monster varies slightly from one region to the next, but otherwise his features remain consistent. The Krampus is described as having long, curving horns like those of a mountain goat or a ram, pointed ears, glowing yellow eyes, sharp fangs, a very long tongue that is said to be pointed or forked like a snake’s, clawed fingers, and a tail with a tuft of fur or a barb like an arrowhead on the tip. He towers over his victims, standing at seven feet in height and having a muscular body that is covered in matted black hair (Weber 2014). Some say that his feet are mismatched, with one being a cloven hoof and the other a bear’s paw. Sometimes, the Krampus may be seen as a sinister-looking gentleman dressed entirely in black (“The History of Krampus”, Jenna Maxwell). Overall, the Krampus is truly a horrifying monster!

The Krampus is most often depicted as carrying a large sack over his shoulder (much like Santa Claus), or he otherwise wears a large wicker basket, a wooden barrel, or even a washtub on his back (Ward 2011; Ramos 2013). He sometimes wears iron manacles on his wrists, and carries rusty chains and tarnished bells. These the demon brandishes and jangles noisily, both for dramatic effect and to create fear within the hearts of his victims. The chains and the manacles are thought to symbolize the binding of the Devil by the Christian Church, while bells have long been believed to repel demons and evil spirits. Either that, or the bells are used just because they make a lot of noise (“Krampus”, Wikipedia). The Krampus is known to carry a three-pronged pitchfork on occasion, much like the Devil himself. In every depiction of the beast, however, the Krampus is shown carrying bundles of birch twigs called ruten, which are thought to be a pagan fertility symbol and serve a very dark (and painful) purpose.

The Krampus has only one purpose, and that is to punish wicked, misbehaving children. This is a task that the Yuletide Devil takes a perverse delight in performing, and yet at the same time, it is a job that he takes very seriously as well. Much like Saint Nicholas, the Krampus knows which children have been bad or good. If the child has been mostly good and only a little naughty, the little one is subjected to a rigorous test on religious catechism. Considering that the Krampus is thought to represent the Devil, it really isn’t surprising that the beast would know a thing or two about religious education. If the kid passes, then he or she may have their gifts. If not, the monster pulls out his ruten and viciously beats the children to within an inch or so of their lives. Saint Nicholas just watches, keeping out of the picture due to his saintly status (Ward 2011). However, he may tell the demon when to stop, as having to watch something so brutal is both horribly disturbing and has the capability to unhinge a person’s mind. Needless to say, the old biblical saying of “spare the rod, spoil the child” (Proverbs 13:24) suits the Krampus very well.

For children that revel in their misdeeds and enjoy being bad just for the hell of it, stopping at a beating with a bundle of birch twigs would be far too lenient for the Krampus. The Christmas Devil has mastered a wide variety of tortures and punishments, and he won’t hesitate to use them on the worst offenders (Ward 2011). Anything less would be a dreadful waste of his talents. After beating the kids with his ruten, the beast may stuff them into his bag and carry them off to his lair, which is said to be deep within Germany’s Black Forest. Once there, the monster inflicts further punishment on the children until they repent of their sins and wrongdoings (Feldmann 2010). If the kids get lucky, they just might make it home for Christmas. If not, the Krampus may decide to slaughter and devour the children, or he might just drag them down into the fiery bowels of Hell (Ramos 2013).

According to a popular series of postcards from the 1800s, the Krampus can get very creative with his tortures. According to these postcards, the Krampus thoroughly enjoys ripping pigtails off of little girls’ heads, clapping children in shackles, viciously pulling their ears, throwing kids off of a cliff, pulling off their fingernails, stuffing them into a sack and throwing them into a river, making them beg on their knees for mercy, drowning children in large containers of black ink and pulling their bodies out with a pitchfork, and finally, tossing them onto a train headed straight for Hell (Ward 2011; “Krampus”, Monstropedia). With all of this being said, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that the Krampus won't hesitate to kill any children that he feels are deserving of such a fate. He doesn’t care whether these little boys and girls have parents and families that love and care for them. To the Krampus, punishment is absolute. Punishment cannot be avoided or reasoned with, and neither can the Krampus.

It is thought that not even adults are safe from the wrath of the Krampus. Men and women that are cruel to others and revel in their wickedness are targets for the Christmas Devil, especially virginal young women. The Krampus is believed to be related to the satyrs of ancient Greek mythology, who were known throughout Greece for their lusty temperaments and their nymphomaniacal tendencies. In other words, these goat-men were always chasing women of all sorts (mortals, nymphs, dryads, goddesses, et cetera). The Krampus could also be related to the Incubus, a hideous male demon that engages women in sexual intercourse while they’re asleep (Riordan 2009). The Krampus is no different, and the demon satisfies his lust with women that he has abducted. He uses his long, wet tongue to caress their nipples and breasts, and then he violently ravishes the lady’s pink parts with that same tongue. He continues his sexual assault on the woman by penetrating her with what Chris Ward says is “a penis that is violently barbed like a housecat’s” (Ward 2011). This continues until the Krampus has filled the woman with his demonic seed a number of times and the beast is finally satisfied. It is also said that the creature is into BDSM and kinky fetishes, which really isn’t surprising when one considers the demon’s penchant for spanking and whipping children with birch sticks (Ward 2011). But despite his appetite for wanton sexual encounters, the Krampus’s one true joy remains punishing bad little boys and girls.

If the Krampus has any supernatural powers, then he has kept them hidden well. One of the more obvious ones is the monster’s unnatural strength, with which he could tear off limbs, twist off heads, or even disembowel his victims if he felt so inclined. He may have some shapeshifting abilities, since he appears slightly different in each Alpine culture and has been known to appear as a man dressed entirely in black. And since the Krampus is considered to be the polar opposite of Saint Nicholas, he may also share some of Santa’s powers as well. Like Saint Nick, the Christmas Devil instinctively knows when children (and adults) have been naughty or nice, and he also knows who’s sleeping and who’s awake. And like Santa Claus, the Krampus may have some powerful magic at his command. Such magic may give him the power of invisibility, the ability to appear and disappear at will, conjuring up his ruten or rusty chains, et cetera. It’s also possible that the Krampus has the ability to travel in between other planes of existence, but this stretches credulity just a bit. Whatever other powers that the Krampus may otherwise be hiding are sure to be formidable.

Nobody seems to be completely sure how the Krampus came to be, or where exactly he comes from. Most people, however, agree that Krampus pre-dates Christianity, and was an ancient figure before the Lord Jesus Christ was born to save the world from its own sins. Maurice Bruce, in his 1958 article on the beast, argues that the Krampus is descended from “the Horned God of the Witches”, and that the bundles of birch twigs he carries are both a phallic symbol and have some connection to the “initiation rites of certain witch-covens; rites which entailed binding and scourging as a form of mock-death” (“Krampus”, Wikipedia). The “Horned God” is indeed pre-Christian, quite possibly dating back to the Paleolithic Era. A horned figure that appears to be half man and half stag can be seen painted on a wall in the Caverne des Trois Frères, which can be found in Ariège, France. But in her book The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft, & Wicca (Facts on File, 2008), Rosemary Guiley says that the Horned God is considered to be “gentle, tender and compassionate yet is not effeminate”. She also notes that there is absolutely no connection between the Horned God and the Devil whatsoever, unlike the case is with Krampus (Guiley 170). Doesn’t sound much like the child-torturing Krampus, does it? The Horned God was eventually demonized by the Church, so the Christmas Devil may have gained at least some of his more fearsome traits from this time. Even so, it is very unlikely that the Krampus is derived entirely from the demonization of this ancient deity.

Another possible origin comes from Tanya Basu’s 2013 National Geographic article, entitled “Who is Krampus?” She suggests that Krampus is the son of Hel, the goddess of the dead and the Queen of Niflheim (Helheim) in Norse mythology (Basu 2013). But only three or four of the other sources that were consulted in researching this blog entry mention anything about Hel or Norse mythology having any sort of connection with the Krampus legend. And while Hel is the goddess of death and the dead, the Krampus himself wants little or nothing to do with the dead. While the Krampus might not have any objections to killing really bad kids, the beast has no interest whatsoever in that shadowy, depressing realm.

Another possibly deity that might have a connection to the Krampus is the German goddess Perchta, a horrifying figure originating from pre-Christian Germanic pagan traditions. According to folklore, Perchta wears a white robe and has one large foot (the other is normal). This is sometimes referred to as a “goose foot” or a “swan foot” in Alpine traditions, which Jacob Grimm believed connected her to a “higher being” that was capable of shapeshifting and taking on an animal form (“Perchta”, Wikipedia). According to Stephanie Weber, she would slice open the bellies of sleeping people, remove the vital organs, and stuff them with straw if they hadn’t left her any offerings on her feast day. However, she would enter a house on Mid-Winter’s Eve and leave presents for the children who worked hard and obeyed their elders. But on the other hand, she would punish those who were lazy. Some of her traits were eventually incorporated into Krampus beliefs in the 1600s (Weber 2014). However, Perchta is a female goddess, and Krampus is male. And while Perchta gives and punishes, the Krampus contents himself with punishing children.

One final possibility is that the Krampus was once a pagan fertility god, possibly Celtic in nature. According to Annie Riordan, this deity once roamed the forests of Europe, where it was worshipped by the indigenous barbarian tribes. Eventually, the Word of the Lord Jesus Christ made its way into the rural regions of the Alps, converting many of those same tribes into Christians. This fertility god, with his horns and his cloven hooves, quickly became associated with Satan and the realm of Hell. This creature gradually became something to be feared, rather than worshipped and revered (Riordan 2009). Soon, the Krampus was forced into hiding. However, his exile was by no means permanent

During the Inquisition, which began in the early 1200s and lasted until the late 1700s (Guiley 177-179), the Krampus very briefly resurfaced. However, the early Catholic Church strongly discouraged any kind of festivities that had anything to do with goats or goatlike creatures (i.e. Krampus), and great efforts were made by the Inquisitors to stomp such beliefs out of existence. In fact, the Church would put anyone who impersonated or even dressed like the Devil to death for heresy (Ward 2011)! Needless to say, it wasn’t a good time for Krampus to come out of hiding. But the Krampus is nothing if not patient, and is always content to bide his time until opportunity knocks on his front door.

Eventually, the Krampus reappeared in the 1600s, and was fully incorporated into Christian winter celebrations by the Church. This was done by pairing him with Saint Nicholas himself. From this point on, the Krampus would punish misbehaving children, while Saint Nick rewarded the good kids. His popularity only increased from here on. During the 1700s and the 1800s, people really began to take an interest in the Yuletide Demon. He began appearing on holiday greeting cards (known as Krampuskarten), which featured lavish illustrations of the demon torturing children and caught in some very sexual situations with gorgeous, half-dressed women. Most of these featured the moniker “Grüss vom Krampus” (literally, “Greetings from the Krampus”), which may have been one way of telling a friend or a loved one that they had been naughty that year, and which is still in use today. Another reason for the Christmas Devil’s soaring popularity are the old German folktales collected by Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm in the early 1800s. In fact, the Krampus even gets a brief mention in Jacob’s 1835 book Deutsche Mythologie (“Teutonic Mythology”), which added even more fuel to the fire (Blitz 2014). This popularity continued into the early twentieth century. But soon after, the Krampus had a new enemy: Fascism.

In 1934, after the Austrian Civil War and four years before the rise of the Third Reich, all traditions involving the Krampus were officially forbidden by the Austrian government’s Dollfuss regime under the Vaterländische Front (literally, “Fatherland’s Front”) and the Christian Social Party. That same year, The New York Times published an article entitled “Krampus Disliked in Fascist Austria”, which reported that the Krampus had been labeled “the work of wicked Social Democrats”. The police were ordered to arrest anyone dressed as the Christmas Devil on sight. But after World War II, the Dollfuss regime collapsed, and Krampus traditions flared up again (“Krampus”, Wikipedia; Ward 2011; Blitz 2014). But a few years later, in the early 1950s, the Krampus once again made the international news. This time, a man by the name of Dr. Ernst Kotbauer published a pamphlet entitled “Krampus is an Evil Man”, which was distributed by the Austrian government in Vienna. This pamphlet voiced concerns that an encounter with the Krampus could leave children psychologically scarred for the rest of their lives. In other words, he was far too frightening! Dr. Kotbauer urged that the Krampus and all other associated traditions be discarded. In a 1953 Time Magazine article (the name of which is unknown), Dr. Kotbauer is quoted as saying “There is too much fear in the world already…unemployment, high taxes, not to mention the atom bomb. Let’s begin by throwing out Krampus” (Ward 2011). But despite Herr Kotbauer’s efforts, his little pamphlet did absolutely bupkis to stop the Krampus traditions from pushing on.

In the 1960s, the Krampus went from being scary to being sexy. According to Scott Farrel’s article “Krampus: From Folklore to Pop Culture”, a number of ad campaigns in Europe began to produce so-called “vintage” images in the form of Krampuskarten, which portray the Krampus “as an impish seducer, wooing scantily clad maidens and frisky housewives” (“Krampus”, Scott Farrell). These cards became wildly popular, reinforcing the notion that sex sells. And to this day, they still continue to sell. It’s surprising that these postcards didn’t come out a decade later in the 1970s, since pornography became a booming industry in that era. But this eventually ran its course, and the Christmas Devil resumed torturing naughty little boys and girls. Krampus traditions have remained more or less the same ever since.

In all of the articles and the sources that were used to research this entry, next to none of them have revealed any weaknesses or vulnerabilities that can be used against the Krampus. However, some answers may be found in Ryan Hurd’s 2012 article “Horror for the Holidays: Santa, Krampus, and the Dark Divine.” In this article, Hurd states that many of the Christmas traditions that people are so fond of are actually intended to keep evil spirits out of one’s home. Evergreen wreaths of pine and spruce are amulets used to keep death and disease out of a house when hung on the front door, while garlands bound with red ribbons have kept evil spirits at bay for hundreds of years. Even the annoying tradition of caroling was once used to ritually bless apple orchards and to keep malevolent spirits out of them, thereby ensuring a good harvest the next year (Hurd 2012). It may be possible that these very same traditions can be used to keep the Krampus at bay, although it may not keep him from sliding down the chimney like old Saint Nick. And since the Krampus is generally thought to be a demon, it seems likely that iron and salt can be utilized as defensive measures against the monster as well. However, if these methods should fail, all hope isn’t lost. The best way to ward off the Krampus is for children to simply be obedient to their parents and to behave themselves all year around.

As for killing the Krampus, it just may not be possible. Of course, since the Christmas Demon plays such an important role in making kids behave and do what their parents tell them to do, most adults wouldn’t even dream of trying to kill the Krampus. Punishing bad little boys and girls is his job, after all. But if such drastic measures become necessary, the old stand-bys of decapitation and burning the creature’s body afterwards are always something to fall back on. One might also try piercing the beast’s heart with a sharpened candy cane. Keep in mind, however, that this will most likely make the Krampus very angry. Either that, or it’ll just make him laugh hysterically. Still, in a desperate situation, anything is worth a try.

Today, the Krampus is not only feared, but he is also celebrated as well. In the last decade or so, the Christmas Devil has become just as popular as Santa Claus, and may even surpass the jolly old guy one day. And just as Santa has December 24th covered, the Krampus has his own day: December 5th, otherwise known as Krampusnacht (literally, “Krampus Night”). This celebration precedes Saint Nicholas’ Day, which takes place the very next day (December 6th). On this particular night, the Krampus accompanies Saint Nicholas as he wanders from one house to another. And while Saint Nicholas gives out small gifts and treats to the good children, the Krampus hands out birch-twig beatings and big chunks of coal to the bad ones. But Krampusnacht isn’t the end of the horror.

During the first week of December, communities and towns throughout the European Alps hold their annual Krampuslauf (literally, “Krampus Run”). This festival is a huge deal throughout the Alpine regions, and everyone participates. In the Krampuslauf, young men disguise themselves in costumes made from dyed goat and sheep hides, and put on handcarved wooden masks with genuine sheep horns or deer antlers attached. They put mismatched shoes on their feet, and carry rusty chains, whips, bells, baskets, and bundles of birch twigs with them. Each one of these masks is painstakingly carved with traditional hand tools, and the end result is truly horrifying. Many of the younger men do this competitively, as the masks are in great demand during this time of the year. But the purpose these masks are carved for is both fascinating and very frightening (“Krampus”, Monstropedia; Riordan 2009).

Once all of the preparations are made, the real fun begins. Dozens of men dressed in these costumes (each one of them is unique) take to the streets, prowling about in search of wayward children and beautiful young women, whom these men wildly chase down the streets, screaming like banshees all the while. They wave their ruten about menacingly, and will actually swat anyone that gets too close (“Krampus”, Monstropedia; Riordan 2009). Oftentimes these men go from door to door, and they are let into the house by the parents. These Krampus imitators proceed to torment the young children while screaming and brandishing their chains and birch sticks, scaring the literal shit out of the little ones and ensuring that they remember to behave themselves during the coming year. This celebration culminates with the masked marauders being invited to share a few drinks with the laughing parents, with the traditional offering being beer and schnapps (Feldmann 2010). One of the largest Krampuslauf events in Europe takes place in Schladming, Styria, where over twelve hundred people dress up as the fabled Christmas Devil and run amok, whacking people that get too close with sticks and noisily jangling cowbells (Leafloor 2015). This tradition has become extremely popular in other parts of Europe and even in America. But regardless of where this celebration takes place, there are always quivering, crying children left in its wake.

Over the last few years, the Krampus has taken ahold of popular culture. He seems to be everywhere during the holidays. He has appeared in two very popular books by Monte Beauchamp: The Devil in Design: The Krampus Postcards (Fantagraphics Books, 2004) and Krampus: The Devil of Christmas (Last Gasp, 2010). He has been featured in novels and literature, like as Gerald Brom’s Krampus: The Yule Lord (Harper Voyager, 2012).The beast has his very own series from Image Comics (entitled Krampus!), and there is even Krampus erotica (in e-book format) available on Amazon. The Christmas Devil has also appeared on television shows like American Dad! (S10/Ep08, “Minstrel Krampus”), Supernatural (S3/Ep08, “A Very Supernatural Christmas”), Grimm (S3/Ep08, “Twelve Days of Krampus”), The Aquabats! Super Show! (“Christmas with the Aquabats!”, 2013), Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated (S2/Ep13, “Wrath of the Krampus”), and The Venture Bros. (“A Very Venture Christmas”, 2004). The Krampus has also made an appearance on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, in a segment entitled “The Blitzkrieg on Grinchitude – Hallmark & Krampus”. On December 9th, 2009, the comedian and talk show host Stephen Colbert was visited on set by the Krampus himself. The Krampus appeared complete with his flailing chains, uttering curses in German, and creating general mischief and hilarity. He even shattered Stephen’s Christmas cookie plate in the process! This appearance has made the Krampus more popular than ever before (Riordan 2009). He was also featured as a boss character in an awful first-person shooter arcade game called CarnEvil. And last (but certainly not least), the Krampus appeared in his own feature film earlier this month. On December 4th, 2015, Krampus was released into theaters. Ironically, the movie came out the day before Krampusnacht. So far, the film has received mixed reviews, but the author of this blog would still very much like to see the movie while it’s still in theaters. But needless to say, the Krampus has taken popular culture by the horns.

Today, the Krampus is still spoken of and is still very much feared by children and adults alike throughout Germany and the surrounding Alpine countries. The fear permeates these cultures during the Christmas season, but it is nearly forgotten during the rest of the year. The Krampus is now an icon in popular culture, but people need to remember that behind these traditions is a dark, horrible monster that takes great delight in torturing children and won’t hesitate to kill the little ones for their misdeeds. But one question remains: does the Krampus truly exist? Given that the traditions of the Christmas Devil date back to pre-Christian times and have been around for many, many centuries, one is inclined to think so. And as long as people continue to believe in Santa Claus, then the Krampus will continue to frighten children all over the world for years to come.


This blog entry is a complete revision of my original research on the Krampus, which was originally published on December 30th, 2012. Whereas the original had only three pages of text, the revision has just under eight pages of information. Moving on, I would like to thank Octavio Ramos and Nathan Brown for their help in researching this. You guys are great friends, and that's so hard to find in today's world. Thank You!!


Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft & Wicca. Third Edition. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2008.

"Krampus". Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. December 22, 2015. Accessed November 27, 2015. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krampus>

"Krampus". Monstropedia. November 5, 2009. Accessed November 27, 2015. <http://www.monstropedia.org/index.php?title=Krampus>

"Perchta". Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. August 27, 2015. Accessed December 22, 2015. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perchta>

Basu, Tanya. "Who is Krampus? Explaining the Horrific Christmas Devil." National Geographic. December 19, 2013. Accessed on November 27, 2015. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/12/131217-krampus-christmas-santa-devil/>

Billock, Jennifer. "The Origin of Krampus, Europe’s Evil Twist on Santa." Smithsonian Magazine. December 4, 2015. Accessed on December 7, 2015. <http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/krampus-could-come-you-holiday-season-180957438/>

Blitz, Matt. "Krampus, the Christmas Demon." Today I Found Out. December 11, 2014. Accessed on December 7, 2015. <http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2014/12/krampus-christmas-demon/>

Farrell, Scott. "Krampus: From Folklore to Pop Culture." Scott Farrell. Accessed on November 27, 2015. <http://scottfarrellauthor.com/krampus-folklore-pop-culture/>

Feldmann, Alison. "Krampus: The Darker Side of Christmas." The Etsy Blog. December 6, 2010. Accessed on November 27, 2015. <https://blog.etsy.com/en/2010/krampus-the-darker-side-of-christmas/>

HF. "Krampus, the Christmas Devil of Alpine Europe." The German Way. December 2, 2015. Accessed on December 22, 2015. <http://www.german-way.com/krampus-the-christmas-devil-of-alpine-europe/>

Hurd, Ryan. "Horror for the Holidays: Santa, Krampus, and the Dark Divine." The Teeming Brain. December 24, 2012. Accessed on November 27, 2015. <http://www.teemingbrain.com/2012/12/24/horror-for-the-holidays-santa-krampus-and-the-dark-divine/>

Jones, Sue. "Krampus: An Online Resource Guide to Saint Nicholas’ Counterpart." DateHookup.com. Accessed on November 27, 2015. <http://www.datehookup.com/singles-content-krampus-an-online-resource-guide-to-saint-nicholas-counterpart.htm>

Leafloor, Liz. "Santa’s Horned Helper: The Fearsome Legend of Krampus, Christmas Punisher." Ancient Origins. December 3, 2015. Accessed on December 7, 2015. <http://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/santa-s-horned-helper-fearsome-legend-krampus-christmas-punisher-004799>

Mankey, Jason. "The Krampus." Patheos. December 1, 2015. Accessed on December 7, 2015. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/panmankey/2015/12/the-krampus/>

Maxwell, Jenna. "The History of Krampus." Halloween Express. Accessed on November 27, 2015. <http://www.halloweenexpress.com/the-history-of-krampus.php>

Ramos, Octavio. "Monster of the Week: Krampus." Examiner. December 24, 2013. Accessed on November 27, 2015. <http://www.examiner.com/article/monster-of-the-week-krampus>

Ridenour, Al. "The Truth About Krampus." Atlas Obscura. November 29, 2013. Accessed on December 22, 2015. <http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-truth-about-krampus>

Riordan, Annie. "Krampus: The German Christmas Demon." Brutal As Hell. December 14, 2009. Accessed on November 27, 2015. <http://www.brutalashell.com/2009/12/krampus-the-german-christmas-demon/> (Now Defunct)

Ward, Chris. "10 Fun Facts About Krampus, the Christmas Devil." The Robot’s Voice. December 23, 2011. Accessed on November 27, 2015. <http://www.therobotsvoice.com/2011/12/10_fun_facts_about_krampus_the_christmas_demon_1.php

Weber, Stephanie. "Krampus, the Terrifying Christmas Beast Who Whips Bad Children." Modern Notion. December 22, 2014. Accessed on December 7, 2015. <http://modernnotion.com/krampus-christmas-beast-whips-bad-children/>

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Kalona Ayélisgi (The Raven Mocker)

In cultures all over the world, the raven (Corvus corax) has long been regarded as both wise and a little sinister. This could be due to the bird’s pitch-black feathers and its tendency to scavenge and feed on dead flesh. The smartest of all birds, the raven is often thought of as a shapeshifting trickster in various mythologies, most notably in Native American traditions. This majestic bird is also regarded as being a messenger to the gods – like Odin’s two ravens Hugin and Munin in Norse mythology – and even as a creator, as in Inuit mythology. In other cultures, however, the raven has acquired an evil reputation as being a dark harbinger of death and tragedy yet to come, which is again due to its penchant for haunting battlefields, its throaty, ominous cry, and devouring corpse-flesh like some sort of flying ghoul. This latter concept is exemplified in Cherokee mythology, where it is thought to be a birdlike demon or a shapeshifting witch that preys upon the dying, tormenting them to hasten death and then feasting on the victim’s innards in order to prolong its own godforsaken existence. The Cherokee know this vile creature as Kalona Ayélisgi, the Raven Mocker.

According to Cherokee legend, the Raven Mocker (also known as Ka’lanu Ahyeli’ski) is a shapeshifting witch or an evil death spirit (sources seem to be conflicted in this regard) that preys on the elderly, the very sick, and the dying, with the intention of ripping out and devouring the unfortunate victim’s heart, and sometimes consuming their blood and internal organs as well (Kilpatrick 9). The Kalona is able to strengthen its own lifeforce in this way, extending its own life indefinitely. For every year that the creature’s victim might have lived (if indeed they had recovered at all), the Raven Mocker adds another year to its own life. Some Cherokee believe that the Kalona Ayélisgi belongs to a larger group of evil spirits that prey upon the very ill, which the tribe calls Sunnayi Edahi, “the Night Goers”, or the svnoyi anédohi, the “night walkers” (Kilpatrick 9). The Raven Mocker can be either male or female, appearing as a very old, withered-looking man or a woman when taking a human form. This is said to be because the monster has stolen the lives of so many innocent people in the past (Mooney 401). Otherwise, the Raven Mocker appears as a demonic raven of monstrous proportions (Kilpatrick 9).

The Kalona Ayélisgi is driven by hunger and its own selfish urges to steal the lifeforce from other people. These people tend to be either very sick or on the verge of dying (if not both), making them easy meals for the Raven Mocker. As mentioned earlier, the monster steals the life from those it kills, increasing its own life expectancy. The more people it kills, the longer it will live. When hunting, according to James Mooney’s Myths of the Cherokee (Dover Publications, Inc., 1995), the Kalona “flies through the air in fiery shape, with arms outstretched like wings, and sparks trailing behind, and a rushing sound like the noise of a strong wind.” While it flies through the air, every now and then the creature cries out while diving through the skies. This horrible cry isn’t like that of a raven, but is instead a mockery of it, hence the creature’s name. The sound terrifies everyone who hears it, warning them that someone will soon die (Mooney 401-402). Others say that the Raven Mocker assumes the likeness of a true raven, and that its shrieking warns evil spirits and other witches that the Raven Mocker is coming. These lesser evil spirits know better than to test the Raven Mocker’s patience, and will flee immediately. This horrible shrieking continues right up until the monster enters the victim’s room (Wellington 2015). Under normal circumstances, the Raven Mocker is invisible to human eyes, and is thus able to enter a sick person’s home undetected. After having entered the house and located its prey, the Kalona quietly moves in for the kill (Mooney 402; Kilpatrick 9).

The Raven Mocker is known for being sadistic and cruel, taking a great deal of pleasure in tormenting and ultimately killing its victims. The Raven Mocker is particularly fond of lifting its victims out of their beds with its beak and throwing them against the walls and onto the floor to hasten death (Mooney 402; Kilpatrick 9). These attacks shatter bones and rupture internal organs, and thus will kill the victim rather quickly. The Raven Mocker tries to kill its prey as quickly (and as painfully) as possible, so that the victim doesn’t linger in this world and waste their ebbing lifeforce. If the victim lives too long, the Kalona won’t be able to steal what’s left of their life and add that life to its own. Therefore, giving its prey a quick (albeit agonizing) death isn’t a gesture of mercy from the creature, but is instead a necessary part of the Kalona’s survival.

Once the monster’s prey is dead, the Raven Mocker wastes no time in taking what it wants. The monster tears open the corpse with its beak and the talons on its feet and proceeds with its feast, consuming the heart, the vital organs, and even the blood of its prey (Kilpatrick 9). Some people say that this act of mutilation doesn’t leave a single mark on the body, but no trace of the heart remains within the corpse (Mooney 402). The monster somehow extracts the victim’s life essence from its gory feast, adding whatever years that the person might’ve had left to its own lifespan. That is how the Raven Mocker survives.

It should be noted that the Kalona Ayélisgi is considered to be one of the most powerful and the most feared of all the evil beings in Cherokee mythology, and is greatly feared by evil spirits and even other witches as well. Other such spirits that might be trying to kill a dying person and thus claim the person for themselves will flee that area in a panic if they hear the Raven Mocker’s cry (Wellington 2015). Other witches in particular are said to be jealous of the Raven Mocker’s power, and are actually afraid to be in the same place as the creature. It is believed that when one Raven Mocker finally dies (there is said to be more than one of these creatures, after all), these witches will dig up the creature’s corpse and violate it through mutilation, beatings, performing bodily functions on the body, and so on (Mooney 402). Exactly why the witches and the Raven Mockers hate each other so much is unknown, but it may have something to do with competition. Both factions target humans as their prey, and since the Kalona scares away both witches and other evil spirits alike, this act of desecration may very simply be revenge for the witches.

The Raven Mocker’s powers, in comparison to other supernatural beings, seem to be rather limited. The monster has great strength, especially in its legs and the beak. It can use its beak to punch through wooden doors, and is able to fling grown men and women through the air with considerable force. The Raven Mocker is thought to be a shapeshifter, able to change its form at will. However, the Kalona seems to be limited to the form of a person, a raven, or a birdlike monstrosity. In addition, the creature can sense those who are very sick and on the verge of dying. Any other powers that the Raven Mocker may have remain unknown.

The Raven Mocker seems to have only a few vulnerabilities, and there are even fewer ways to kill it. Only a Cherokee medicine man can protect the sick and the dying with his wards and rituals. The family can hire a shaman for this reason (as only he can see the Kalona in its invisible form), and he will watch over the Kalona’s prey until that person makes their recovery, keeping the monster at bay all the while. If the worst should happen and the person dies, then the medicine man will watch over the corpse until burial. Once the body is buried, the Raven Mocker cannot steal the heart (Mooney 402). This could be because Cherokee burial rites prevent it from desecrating the grave. Either that, or the monster doesn't know how to dig.

There seems to be one specific ritual that is able to actually kill the Raven Mocker. However, the ritual is very elaborate and should only be performed by a Cherokee medicine man. When the shaman first arrives at the house, he drives a sharpened wooden stake into the earth at each corner of the house. And then, at around noon, he prepares a special tobacco known as Tsal-agayu’nli (literally “Old Tobacco”) and fills his pipe with it, reciting a certain chant all the while. After that, he wraps the pipe in a piece of black cloth. It should be known that the tobacco is smoked only for this purpose. He then walks into the woods (if there are any around the house), returning just a little bit before sundown (as the Raven Mocker is believed to be nocturnal). He then lights his pipe and slowly walks around the house, blowing the smoke in every possible direction from which the creature might approach. He then walks into the house and patiently waits for the Kalona to arrive. When the Raven Mocker finally makes its presence known and approaches the house, one of the wooden stakes on that particular side of the house quite literally shoots out of the ground like an arrow, coming down on the creature and piercing its skull. This will kill the Kalona in seven days’ time. Afterwards, the sick person’s family and friends will make inquiries as to whether anyone died specifically within that timeframe, and it will then be obvious that the deceased person was the Raven Mocker. Some say that if the Kalona Ayélisgi is seen by a medicine man, it will have the same effect. The corpse, like that of any other supernatural creature, should be dismembered and burned afterwards. The ashes should then be scattered to prevent the monster from resurrecting itself.

The Raven Mocker has received quite a bit of attention in popular culture. It has appeared in a number of novels, including The Old Gods Waken (Manly Wade Wellman, 1979), The Curse of the Raven Mocker (Marly Youmans, 2003), They Hunger (Scott Nicholson, 2007), and P.C. Cast’s House of Night series (2007-present). The creature has also appeared in the hugely popular roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons. Most notably, the Raven Mocker was seen in the immensely popular television series Walker, Texas Ranger. In the fifty-seventh episode (Season 3, aired on November 4th, 1995), “Evil in the Night”, the Raven Mocker appears as a shapeshifting medicine man named Running Wolf, who resurrects himself from his desecrated gravesite with the power to induce hallucinations in the minds of his victims. But even today, the Raven Mocker is still feared as a bringer of death. Although sightings are few and far between, many people still believe that the Kalona is out there, patiently waiting for someone to grow sick and to start wasting away. At that point, the Raven Mocker will strike, and that person will die. And only those who remember the old ways and the ancient stories will know that the Kalona Ayélisgi has killed once again…


Kilpatrick, Alan. The Night Has a Naked Soul: Witchcraft and Sorcery Among the Western Cherokee. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1997. Pages 9-10.

Mooney, James. Myths of the Cherokee. 1900. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1995. Pages 401-403.

“Raven Mocker.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. June 8th, 2015. Accessed on November 12th, 2015.  <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raven_Mocker>

“Kalona - Raven Mocker (Imitator).” Cherokee Heritage Documentation Center. Accessed on November 12th, 2015. <http://cherokeeregistry.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=215&Itemid=292>

Wellington, Oscar. “Cherokee Legends Raven Mocker.” Pitlane Magazine. August 17th, 2015. Accessed on November 12th, 2015. <http://www.pitlanemagazine.com/cultures/cherokee-legends-raven-mocker.html>