A Season for Krampus

As I have written in previous entries, I am and remain a very strong supporter of the Occupy movement and what it represents as the largest and most diverse social, economic and civil rights demonstration of the past sixty years. While some may argue that it is too slap-dash and incapable of formulating a coherent set of demands, it is important to consider that it is a peoples’ movement and there are a lot of questions and concerns and demands on the plate that still need to be sorted out. Discussing politics is, however, not the purpose of this essay – instead I want to talk a little bit about Krampus.

Krampus vs. Guy Fawkes

Since the beginning of the Occupy movement, the most iconic image has been supporters and demonstrators wearing Guy Fawkes masks reminiscent of the one worn by the anti-hero “V” in the recent film, V for Vendetta based on a graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore. While I am definitely a big fan of the message of the film itself and think that there are many symbolic elements that can be utilized by participants in the Occupy, one must invariably consider that Guy Fawkes is something of a failed symbol in many ways despite the rehabilitation effort on part of the character, “V”.

The original Guy Fawkes, a British soldier and citizen, belonged to a group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 that was aimed at destroying the British Parliament and re-instating Catholic interests in post-Reformation England. Fawkes as inevitably discovered and was subject to trial during which he and his co-conspirators were to be “put to death halfway between heaven and earth as unworthy of both”, their genitals mutilated and burnt before their eyes, their internal organs removed, their heads decapitated, and what remains survived be put on display as “prey for the fowls of the air”. Fawkes was the last to stand on the scaffold. He asked for forgiveness of the King and state, while keeping up his “crosses and idle ceremonies”, and aided by the hangman began to climb the ladder to the noose. Although weakened by torture, Fawkes managed to jump from the gallows, breaking his neck in the fall and thus avoiding the agony of the latter part of his execution. In short, he died and celebration of his death continues in England to this day in which his effigies are placed on public display every November 5th amidst chanting and celebration and publicly burned.

Guy Fawkes on Fire

Krampus, on the other hand, is an interesting symbol whose origins from the European Alpine region are largely shrouded in mystery.  In these regions, Krampus is represented by a demon-like creature accompanying Saint Nicholas, whose job it is to dole out frighten and doll out punishments to naughty girls and boys during the Christmas season. Throughout many cities in Switzerland, Austrai and Southern Bavaria, especially the market town Berchtesgaden; young men dress up as Krampus on the evening of the fifth of December and roam the streets frightening children with rusty chains and bells with the hopes of encouraging them to engage in more responsible behavior throughout the rest of the season and the year to come.

Krampus holding the torch

While there are many good reasons for members of the Occupy movement to related to the rehabilitated image of Guy Fawkes/”V”, I am personally convinced that the image of Krampus could potentially be a much more effective iconic symbol of the Occupy movement, especially in the coming weeks leading up to Christmas which is arguably one of the biggest and most lucrative times of year for large banking institutions and corporations that have been shown to have connections to less-than-equitable business practices. Krampus represents responsibility and accountability for one’s actions while more than willing to punish those who engage in harmful practices – business and otherwise.

Krampus has a long history of political action

Even though the image of Krampus is decidedly punitive in nature – a symbol that many in Occupy would gladly see extended to plutocratic industries – it is also creative in origin in that everyone can embody Krampus and each person who don’s that mask and costume puts their own creative faculties and energy into becoming something that is unique and individual and cannot be recreated or pre-packaged. Krampus very much represents community involvement on a highly radical level, something that many Occupiers can appreciate. In addition to the homespun creativity put into making Krampus come to life, there is music, dancing, and community celebration in addition to food. These elements, which are traditional to pre-Coca Cola Christmastide are also values that can be extended throughout the rest of the year as a part of radical self-reliance and community engagement. As an agrarian, pre-Christian folk deity; Krampus’ horns equally represent fertility and the hope for real change in the darkest part of Winter through the Spring.

For the above reasons, I propose the following “Top Five Reasons Why Krampus is Better Than Guy Fawkes” with the hopes that other readers will contribute their reasons in the comments:

Top Five Reasons Krampus is Better Than Guy Fawkes

  • Encourages radical community involvement.
  • Actually aims to punish wrong-doings.
  • Horns are much scarier than a mask and pantaloons.
  • Makes reasonable demands.
  • Hasn’t been usurped by Time Warner and was never a Papist tool.

While arguing over which symbol is better is arguably childish, the fact is that symbols do have their own peculiar power and can be used by those who seek to make radical changes. I’m not saying that Guy Fawkes/”V” is a bad symbol per se, however I personally feel that Krampus would be a more effective symbol for the needs and goals of the Occupy movement which, hopefully, could provide a little bit of levity as we enter into the darkest part of the year – both in terms of decreasing daylight and the overwhelming suffering brought upon millions by depression, mass-consumerism and a culture addicted to personal gain over community involvement.

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About michaelseblux

Proud product of the Pacific Northwest, I work in marketing and in my free time like to hang out with friends, volunteer for different causes, participate in church, and blog. View all posts by michaelseblux

10 responses to “A Season for Krampus

  • aediculaantinoi

    I suppose you can say I’m a Krampian at heart…And, since you know some of the intricacies of my own dress-sense, you know how true that is, goat-skin leggings lacking or not…

    But, one of the main reasons that Guy Fawkes has been added in to the OWS movement is because the group Anonymous has been using that image for the past several years in their own demonstrations, and they’re very much for the OWS movements’ broad goals, etc. So, that’s all right, then.

    Nonetheless, just for shits and giggles, further reasons why Krampus is better than Guy Fawkes:

    1. “If you don’t behave better, I’ll eat your entrails and make dice of your sternum!” is a much better and more effective slogan than “Penny for the Guy?”

    2. On Bonfire Night, Guy Fawkes gets fried in a fire; on Krampus Night, YOU get fried in a fire!

    3. While V had a good point that “ideas are bullet-proof,” still, when tear gas and truncheon time rolls around, Krampus masks make head-butting a much more fearsome prospect.

    4. Krampus is obviously a pre-Christian creature appropriated by Father Christmas into his retinue–what better metaphor of corporate overthrow is there than to have Krampus running about doing what he’s always done, as well as being restored to a position of respect and even mirth, without the corporate supervision of Mr. Claus’ Ponzi scheme?

    5. Krampus doesn’t like pizza, or things called “Godfather,” or CEOs, and has never been accused of sexual harassment. (Then again, neither does/has Guy Fawkes, but I think I’m now mixing up my “Why Krampus is Better than Guy Fawkes” list with “Why EVERYONE is Better than Herman Cain” list…or, maybe that was another one, I’m not sure.)

  • Jeff B

    I’m afraid you completely misunderstood the Guy Fawkes symbolism.

    Guy Fawkes is burned in effigy only when the British support their PM, which obviously happens only rarely. Normally Brits burn the PM himself in effigy :

    http://www.bloggerheads.com/archives/2005/10/burn_tony_blair/

    Afaik, this burning the PM traditions goes back quite far.

    see also : http://www.metafilter.com/109142/Guy-Fawkes-Day-comes-to-America#4013673

    • Michael Strojan

      Jeff, thanks for the comment. No, I completely understand the context of Guy Fawkes in both cultural and pop-cultural understanding and the very real sentiment that it has for members of a number of groups engaging in social action. This post is partly tongue in cheek and meant to provide a bit of levity.

  • anonemouse

    Also, the Austrian Fascist government pre-World War 2 tried to supress Krampus. So, he’s disliked by the right kind of people… :-)

  • Bob Struble

    When my wife first saw a Guy Fawkes mask she said what many must think: “it looks like it might be the Devil.” Your alternative mask is even more diabolical looking, I’d say.
    I used to live in Austria and the Krampus night was a lot of fun for people who were young and could run. But it was largely about beating people up with switches. If you want people to think that Occupy is intended to extend Halloween to all 365 days of the year, then this symbol would probably do the trick.

    • Michael Strojan

      Krampus is definitely an interesting character who can inspire a wide variety of responses. As I pointed out in response to a previous comment, this article is largely tongue-in-cheek. Although I personally do like the idea of dozens of Krampuses for Social Justice.

  • John_Johnson.

    Valid point. Shall we throw away our symbolism in favor of a demon shaped mask?

    • Michael Strojan

      As mentioned before, this particular entry was written largely tongue-in-cheek. I don’t see any particular reason one way or the other to move away from the imagery being used or adopting new imagery.

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