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There's A Little Krampus In All Of Us

Updated on January 28, 2015

Santa Claus and Krampus

This picture is from an 1896 newspaper illustration of the Gefrierengeber Santa Claus and the Krampus.
This picture is from an 1896 newspaper illustration of the Gefrierengeber Santa Claus and the Krampus. | Source

Yuletide Archetypes

Most people are familiar with the Santa Claus characteristics: the jolly old elf that brings about miracles with love and light. In the recent years, however, there has been a comeback of the Krampus in the United States with the harsh personal appearance of the Krampus in commercialization. While Santa carries with him the childlike innocence and celebration; the Krampus brings back the mischievousness and adult revelry. This comeback brings to us balance for we are not all good, love, and light; but we have a dark and sinister side to us as well. Hence, Yuletide Archetypes.


Jungian Archetypes

What Are Archetypes?

Simply put, an archetype is a pattern of behaviors, recurring themes, or a collective unconscious idea that is generally accepted by people and demonstrated in literature, paintings, and mythologies all over the world.

Santa Claus and the Krampus are no different. They may be called different names depending on language, culture, and traditions; but the concepts are still the same.

Archetype of Santa Claus

The concept of Santa Claus dates back to pre-Christian times with that of Germanic Paganism and Woden/Odin. Woden was seen as an older gentleman with white hair and a long beard. Over time, he was given the name of Father Yule. He wore a cloak with a pointed hat. He rode a white eight-legged horse named Sleipner; traveled in other worlds (shamanism); was the king of the Gods, bringer of victory; God of poetry and inspiration; used trickery and deception; self-sacrificing through the loss of an eye to gain wisdom; and was magical. He was seen as a mythical fulfiller of wishes.

The Dutch called him Sinter Klass. Once again he has white hair and a beard. He wore a cloak with a miter (pointed hat); and rode a white horse. He used trickery or riddles to lead children to the gifts he had for them.

And of course, we cannot leave out the Christian Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas lived during the 4th century. He was elected bishop in Myra, Turkey. He had provided dowries anonymously for poor women so that they could be married, helped those who were suffering, sick, and in need. He also had white hair and a beard. He wore the clothing of a bishop which included the cloak and miter of the bishop. He was also a defender of the Church and her doctrine and was imprisoned for his faith. Over the years, he was later associated with eight reindeer.

Over the years, the similarities in lore of a man with white hair and a beard, his cloak and pointed hat, his giving and magical fulfillment of wishes became our archetype of Santa Claus as we know him today.

Santa All Over the World


Archetype of the Krampus

The Krampus originated from pre-Christian times from Germanic traditions in Austria, Northern Italy, and parts of Europe. He was not associated with Saint Nicholas and Christmas until the 17th century. In Norse mythology he is said to be the son of the Goddess Hel of the underworld. Later he was associated with the Christian Devil and known as the Christmas Devil.

In the 15th century, people would celebrate Krampusnacht by dressing up as the Krampus or disguising themselves as witches, wild men, and devils which is the practice of mumming during festivities. These festivities included dancing, singing, and making merry or mischievousness. This is where the traditions of caroling originated.

The Krampus characteristics are that of a terrifying demon-like creature with claws ("Krampus" means "claw"), horns, and a long sometimes forked tongue, typically brown or black hairy creature, carrying whips or chains. From mythology he has also been described as a satyr or faun. Satyrs and fauns are often associated with merry-making, drinking, sexual immorality, lovers of women, and symbols of fertility. Both the Krampus and satyrs/fauns do not obey human morality, but neither really are totally evil. In later times, the Krampus was actually seen as a servant or even partner of Santa Claus. While Santa Claus gave gifts and miracles to children on the "nice list"; the Krampus was there to dole out the punishment to naughty children by either whipping them, putting them in a basket to cart them off to Hell, or to drown them in the tub that he may have carried. This all depends or which lore and traditions you read.

The Krampus has been known by many names throughout the world and throughout varying traditions: Knecht Reprecht, Certa, Perchten, Black Peter, Schmutzle, Pelznickel, and Klaubauf to name a few. In some cases he works alone; and others, he works with a figure such as Santa Claus. Regardless, the characteristics of the Krampus were very similar across traditions.

Twelve Jungian Archetype

Spiritual (Without)
How we experience the world
How we experience the "Divine"
How the world experiences us
Innocent, Orphan, Hero, Caregiver
Explorer, Rebel, Lover, Creator
Jester, Sage, Magician, Ruler

The Twelve Archetypes

In Jungian Psychology, Jung has developed twelve types of human behavior or patterns divided into three categories: Ego, Soul, and Self.

The Ego is the mental aspect of us that helps us define ourselves from others. It is the part that experiences the outside world and reacts with our social and physical environment. The experiences from our ego, I personally believe shape our Soul and Self. Within the ego, there are four types of human behavior or patterns: The Innocent: The Orphan or Regular Guy or Girl: The Hero; and the Caregiver. The Innocents focus is on doing that which is right and living in fear of failing the Divine and others. The Orphan's focus is on belonging and "fitting in". The Hero's focus is on being the person who makes the world better for others. And the focus of the Caregiver is take care of others selflessly. This is our inward person.

The Soul is the spirit and emotional part of human beings. It is what animates us and gives us life. This is the part of us that is separate from the body. This is the part that connects us with the Collective Consciousness, the Divine, or God. Within the Soul is found four patterns: The Explorer; The Rebel; The Lover; and The Creator. The Explorer's focus is on being free and experiencing the world. The Rebel's focus is to revolt against that which he or she does not feel is working. The Lover's focus is on being intimate and in relationships with people, places, and things that they love. And The Creator's focus is to bring to fruition that which they envision. This is our spiritual person.

The Self is the body, emotions, behaviors, and thoughts that make up the individual and is demonstrated as our "true self". Within the Self are found four patterns: The Jester; The Sage; The Magician; and The Ruler. The Jester's focus is living in the moment and enjoying life to its fullest. The Sage's focus is on seeking truth. The Magician's focus is on making things happen. And The Ruler's focus is on having power and being successful. This is the part of us that the world sees.

We may demonstrate many of these archetypes in our personal life, but one or two are usually dominant.

The Santa Archetypes

My theory of the Santa and Krampus Archetypes are that they are two sides of the same coin going from one extreme to the other. They represent characteristics found in all of us-for each of us can be considered "Santa" or "the Krampus".

First, let's look at Santa. He is the "Ego" Archetype Hero and Caregiver. Santa has often been seen at Yuletide to be the savior that miraculously brings about what we need and want. He gives the strength we sometimes cannot find within ourselves. He brings hope where often there is none. He is also the Caregiver. He provides protection and care selflessly to those in need. Every year we see children, and even sometimes adults, sit upon his lap as he shows his concern for what we desire. In watching the news the other day, two little girls sat upon Santa's knee and the request to bring daddy home from oversees for Christmas. At that request, he appears from behind the crowd. To these little girls, he was the miracle worker to bring their daddy home.

Santa can also be seen in all of the "Soul" Archetypes. He is the Explorer as he wanders all over the world and is bound to no place, no time, and no person. He has complete autonomy. He is also the Rebel. In days of old he stood that which was right whether others thought it was or not-making him an outlaw. We have seen this in the story of "Santa Claus is coming to Town". He is also the Archetype Lover. He us the person who stays in a relationship with his people (elves), his work (bringing toys and joy to girls and boys), and his surroundings (toy shop, the mall, visiting homes). He is the ultimate friend, employer, and spiritual guide. He is the Creator. If we can dream, it can bring it to fruition. He has great creativity, imagination, and ingenuity.

He also can be seen in all "Self" Archetypes. He is the Jester that enjoys having a great time in the moment. He is the wise Sage who provides wisdom, planning for the next year, a professional in what he does, and a great advisor. He is also the Magician. He brings people together and events to fruition when they seem hopeless. As the Ruler, he is the great role model. He is the person who is full of goodness to others and encourages us to be successful. This has been displayed in such movies as "Miracle on 34th Street."

He is the epitome of all that is good in these Archetypes.

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

Krampus Story

The Krampus Archetype

The Krampus Archetype is the complete opposite of Santa. He is the alter ego of what we do not want to become. As his partner to Santa, he could be seen as the "Ego" Hero Archetype. This is the darker, even sinister side of Santa. He is the one who improves the world by ridding it of the naughtiness of those who do not want to comply with socially acceptable behavior. He is the warrior against evil and "beats the devil out of them" or drags them off to hell.

There are many of the "Soul" Archetypes that apply to the Krampus. He is The Explorer that does not conform to the world's standards and has autonomy only to himself. He is also the Rebel and does not comply with the moral standards of society. As demonstrated in the Mumming festivities, he participates in drinking, revelry, and sometimes sexual immorality like the Satyrs from old Pagan lore. He is seen as a wild person, untamed, and breaks the rules. He is also the Creator. He is known to be knowledgeable in various ways of torture and punishment for those who do not comply (naughty children in old lore) with correct societal behavior.

As far the "Self" Archetype, he is seen as definitely a Jester. He lives in the moment and enjoys inflicting punishment and torture to those deemed "naughty". He is the Magician, the catalyst to instill the "fear of God" to those who would think to not be moral. And he is definitely the Ruler. He is powerful and in control. The Krampus definitely does bring about fear to those who are naughty and even to those who are not.

Archetype of Krampus Not All Bad

In a sense, some of these aspects that could be seen as negative, evil, or dark, in reality are not all bad-they are what keep us in check. We all balance aspects of Santa and the Krampus in our daily life. So, yes, there is a little Krampus in all of us!

Nice or Naughty

Are you on Santa's List or the Krampus'?

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