Will you be Meeting the Krampus or Čert?

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Traditionally on December 5th and 6th, St. Nicholas walks from house to house in the cities and villages of Alpine and Central Europe to admonish and laud young and old. In the Alpine regions, he is accompanied by a Krampus (an evil creature, a devil of sorts), who is going to punish the bad children and adults on St. Nicholas′ command. For the honest children he normally has little presents. In Prague and the Czech-speaking areas of Central Europe, the čert (a clearly demonic character) accompanies St. Nicholas.

In Come Hell or High Water, both St. Nicholas and his čert appear:

“It was commonly supposed [in 1356] that St. Nicholas, as he made his rounds bestowing gifts on children and the needy, was accompanied by both a tar-covered čert, a pitch-black devil, as well as a bright and glorious andel, an angel of light, who each argued for or against the worthiness of the recipient of the saint’s benefactions. The čert was always ready, at the slightest nod from the saint, to carry away the unworthy beggar or misbehaving child and–throughout the year–parents could always warn their children that they might be carried away by the čert….”

St. Nicholas himself is a Christian figure, the fourth century bishop of Myra. As son of a well-situated family, he started to help poor people who lived in deep poverty. He was supposed to have miraculous vigor and so he became patron of the seamen, children and poor people. (See a previous post about St. Nicholas and his care for the poor here.) In most modern versions of the St. Nicholas story, he is accompanied by a monster or servant (the Dutch describe his assistant as Black Peter) who punishes the bad children while Nicholas himself rewards the well-behaved children.

The figure of the Krampus is based on pre-Christian custom. The Krampusse not only punish the bad children but had the function at one time of driving out the winter devils and blizzard sprites. Originally the custom of the Krampus was spread over all of Austria but was forbidden by the Catholic Church during the Inquisition. It was prohibited by death to masquerade as a devil or an evil creature and so this custom only survived in some remote, inaccessible, regions of the Alps from where it slowly spread back across the western parts of Austria again. Today the Krampusse revels are especially popular in Salzburg. As many times as I have been to Salzburg, I have never been there during Krampusse-time; I would dearly love to be there to see the processions and parades of costumed characters in the streets.

St. Nicholas and the Krampus procession in Salzburg (2010); photo by Charlotte Anne Brady.

St. Nicholas and the Krampus procession in Salzburg (2010); photo by Charlotte Anne Brady.

Krampus revels at the Salzburg Christmas Market, 2011; photo by Neumayr/MMV 05.12.2011

Krampus revels at the Salzburg Christmas Market, 2011; photo by Neumayr/MMV 05.12.2011

New Top Blog Posts

The new "Most Popular" post knocked aside the previous winner, which had been the Lammas Day post.

The new “Most Popular” post knocked aside the previous winner, which had been the Lammas Day post.

It’s always a surprise to me which posts become SO popular. Writers never know what words or stories will strike their readers in a certain way, grabbing them by the lapels and demanding to be read. Of course, as a writer I hope that ALL my words will grab readers attention that way but experience proves otherwise. Some words grab some readers. Other words grab other readers. The important thing is that words and stories each be read and that each reader find their favorites. Often a writer never knows which words or stories grab which readers in particular; people share or trade copies of books and so sales is often a poor indicator of what readers find especially compelling or attractive.

One way of writing that is easy to measure it’s popularity are blog posts. Posts are tracked by the cyber-spirits that dwell in “the Cloud” and it is very difficult to trick these cyber-guardians who stand there with clickers in their hands, tabulating how many people click on links or pause a minute to look at a webpage. “Top Post” is a category that every post wants to inhabit but which only a very few are lucky enough to achieve. My most recent Top Blog post was the post in which I shared my thoughts on From Faith to Fantasy and discussed how having served as a priest has shaped my writing. The previous most popular posts were those about Lammas Day and about Frankincense.

Another post that has been consistently popular, often getting 50+ views per day, is the post about Storm Wolf. Although it has not been read as many times in one day as From Faith to Fantasy or Lammas Day or Frankincense, it has been very popular for several weeks in a row.

More top billing? My appearance on Hannah Kate’s public radio show in Manchester, UK is among the Top 30 downloads of programs on Mixcloud! You can listen to the show–in which I discuss writing, Prague, the Evil Conferences, and more–on Hannah Kate’s page.

You can also hear me pontificate about a cult classic made-for-tv horror film on the newest episode of the Scream Queenz podcast. If you haven’t seen the movie–or saw it years ago and have forgotten details–you can read my post about Crowhaven Farm and click on the link to the movie itself.

And don’t forget the podcast of my 2014 interview with Radio Prague!

The post about Lammas Day on July 29, 2016 surpassed the previous most popular post (Frankincense, on December 7, 2015).

The post about Lammas Day on July 29, 2016 surpassed the previous most popular post (Frankincense, on December 7, 2015).

The Byzantine World of Videssos

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Are you looking for an alternate reality or a parallel universe to step into while traveling for Thanksgiving or dealing with difficult family over the holidays? I cannot recommend the Videssos Cycle by Harry turtledove TOO highly! It is excellent!

In The Misplaced Legion, the first of the books, the Roman tribune Marcus Scaurus held the spell-scribed sword of a Druid priest, and the Celtic chieftain Viridovix held a similar sword, bespelled by a rival Druid sorcerer. At the moment they touched, the two found themselves under a strange night sky where no stars were familiar and where Gaul and Rome were unknown. They were in an outpost of the embattled Empire of Videssos–in a world where magic and dark sorcery would test their skill and courage as no Roman legion had ever been tested before.

Readers who know something of Byzantine history will quickly discover that the world of Videssos is closely modeled on the Byzantine Empire familiar to those of us who inhabit THIS reality. Harry Turtledove, himself a Byzantine historian as well as an award winning sci-fi and fantasy author, uses his knowledge of Byzantium to full advantage. Well known friends and enemies, dogmatic disputes, intricate social hierarchies are all recognizable in Videssos. But you do NOT need to know anything of Byzantium to appreciate the wonders and glory of the world Turtledove has created within the covers of these books.

The Videssos Cycle by Harry Turtledove is a four book series which is now available in two volumes, each volume containing two of the original books. Therefore, the covers are different now as well.

See my post about another Turtledove classic, Thessalonica, here.