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[Fan Write-up] Merry Christmas from Krampus and Frau Perchta

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  • [Fan Write-up] Merry Christmas from Krampus and Frau Perchta

    So, I was hoping to post this before Christmas, but you know how it goes! I’ve been interested in Scion for a while now and I’ve finally tried my hand at a write-up for two legendary figures from Austrian folklore appropriate for the season. If you’re still planning a late Christmas session of Scion, you might be interested in the fickle witch-goddess Frau Perchta and the terrifying Krampus!
    “I am Krampus! Fear my name!
    Far and wide extends my fame.
    I arrive when I am bidden,
    And sniff out children where they're hidden.
    Who is naughty? Where's my prey?
    I'll tear them up without delay.”
    - Al Ridenour, adapted from several Tyrolean St. Nicholas plays

    Frau Perchta, the Hag of Midwinter
    Aliases: Befana, Berchte, Frau Holle, Hulda, Iron Bertha, Lutzl, Pechtra Baba, Perschtl Muada, Schmutzli, Stampfe, Trempe, Zempa

    They call Frau Perchte 'kindly', 'bright', and 'the hidden one' – but would you want to call a goddess a fickle witch? She is the matronly leader of the Perchten, beastly or otherworldly spirits of the winter time that are celebrated every January in wild masked parades. They rule the Rauhnächte, the two week period following the winter solstice that Christians have adopted as the Twelve Days of Christmas. In this haunted season, Perchta leads her retinue of Perchten, witches, and unquiet spirits into the World. She may even be seen riding the great goat Habergoas at the head of the Wild Hunt. She comes to survey the land, making sure that both the natural and the social order are as they should be.

    Frau Perchta is a figure of opposites united, at times a goddess or a witch, delivering blessings and curses in equal measure. She may be a kind protector of women and lost children, but punishes the lazy, careless, and entitled with her terrifying iron scissors. She has been known to blind and deceive the arrogant, and to reveal the future to the wise. She brings the winter snow but she also drives out the evil Titanspawn of frost so spring can eventually return. Her followers are just as diverse. They include pagan cults going back to before the arrival of Christianity, witches' covens both ancient and modern, as well as troupes of Perchten performers who just enjoy dressing up as monsters for the fun of it.

    Frau Perchta's faces are many. She may have once been a Celtic fertility goddess or a Mantle of Frigg, while folk Christianity has syncretised her with Saint Lucia. Her Mantles include the snow-bringing Frau Holle and Befana, the Italian Christmas Witch, who brings children presents on Epiphany Eve. Sometimes Perchta incarnates as a beautiful young girl, but usually she looks like an old woman with at least one strange and ugly feature, like protruding teeth or a large, hooked nose (she likes to see if people are polite enough not to comment). She is quick to pass judgement, but she does so out of a stern sense of love. She expects her Scions to take responsibility and to apply themselves. To this end, she tests them rigorously to make sure they remain respectful, diligent, and dutiful. They are often women, especially ones who excel at what they do even if nobody notices – a tireless single mother, a focused student in a tough subject, or a secret witch, who still works hard at her day job.

    Callings: Judge, Leader, Sage
    Purviews: Artistry (Perchten Masquerades), Death, Fertility, Fortune, Frost, Moon, Prosperity

    Krampus, the Devilish Companion of Saint Nicholas
    Aliases: Bartl, Ganggerl, Klaubauf, Knecht Ruprecht, Kramperl, Parkelj, Tuifl

    On 5th December, one day before Saint Nicholas traditionally brings gifts to good children, his much more fearsome companion visits those who have been naughty. Who knows where kindly Saint Nick found his loyal servant Krampus? Some say that Krampus can hardly be considered a god (though they rarely do so to his face). Perhaps he is a bound demon or some other Titanspawn, as the chains on his back would suggest. Or perhaps he once was one of the many Perchten in Frau Perchta's retinue, who made it big when Christian morality plays began to paint him as the literal devil. And he has the looks to match, too: a demonic grimace and lolling red tongue, black fur and goatish horns, a single cloven hoof, a horsetail whip or birch rod in his clawed hand, great bells and a large basket on his back – Krampus isn't subtle about being a monster to be feared.

    Krampus is gleefully, almost psychotically single-minded in what he wants: to punish evildoers. He is an enforcer of moral order by way of scaring people straight. When someone's selfishness or laziness becomes a burden on those around them, they can expect charcoal in their shoes, ominous bells and hoarse cries in the night, and other warnings to change their ways. As for the truly irredeemable, some say Krampus might just stuff them into his sack and carry them off to God knows where. Krampus is terrifying, sure, but also colourful, wild, and exciting. He is a devil people love to be afraid of and a source of punishment to point to when someone thinks they can get away with anything. His uproarious style makes his role all the more fun to play in the rowdy masquerades and Nicholas plays every December that have made him popular even beyond Europe.

    Fundamentally, Krampus serves as a reminder that evil has a part in the social order, but that's no reason for people to give in to their nastiest impulses or to let selfishness go unpunished. Truth be told, Krampus wouldn't know what to do with a truly good person if he found one. That's why his Scions are usually just as wicked as he is. They are often confrontational, judgemental, and obnoxious, but they mostly direct their mischief and their anger at bigger evils. An anti-social teenager who picks fights with neo-nazi skinheads, an obsessive online shit-stirrer who starts flame wars against corrupt businesses – all of these wear the terrifying mask of Krampus. And yet, somehow Fate often finds a way to steady them by binding them to someone much kinder and more saintly than themselves.

    Callings: Hunter, Judge, Trickster
    Purviews: Artistry (Krampus Performances), Chaos, Darkness, Fortune, Journeys, Order, Passion (Exuberance, Fear)

    Disclaimer: I do want to point out that these two write-ups are mostly based on the Austrian interpretations of these characters (and there's competing versions inside of Austria, as well). There's different versions and related figures in other cultures that I don't really touch on here but that are crazy interesting in their own right. Seriously, look up the Kurentovanje, Père Fouettard, or Befana the Christmas Witch!
    Even then, Krampus in particular is difficult to categorise in Scion terms, so framing him as a ‘god’ is a bit of artistic licence on my part. In your game, you could very easily turn him into a Guide or a bound Titan, as well.
    If people are interested, I do have a couple of ideas on how these two might be expanded into something like a mini-pantheon of Alpine folklore with a broader scope.
    Last edited by Mr Wopsle; 12-26-2019, 06:37 AM.

  • #2
    These two are really cool! I hadn't honestly considered what they would be like in Scion, but I can see them working as gods in a weird way. I'd be intrigued to see you expand them into an Alpine sort-of pantheon. What other figures would you consider using?


    • #3
      Thanks, I'm glad you like them! There's still some stuff I'd like to revise, but let's see about that...

      There's a couple more figures that I think might work. Right now I'm mostly considering two: First, there's Habergeiß, another figure from the Perchten tradition and probably the most individuated one next to Perchta herself. Depending on the source, Habergeiß is either a part-goat, part-bird creature whose cries herald death, or a goat-headed figure who might be derived from a pre-Christian god. There's also some interesting connections between Habergeiß, the Scandinavian Yule goat, Thor, and the Slavic god Dazbog (who apparently is sometimes represented as a white goat), that I'd love to dig into.

      The other figure I'm considering is a version of the Wild Huntsman. The Wild Hunt is a popular motif throughout Europe, so I would have to find a version that is specific enough to the Alpine region to make sense as a distinct figure (heck, in Austrian traditions Frau Perchta sometimes leads the Wild Hunt herself). Right now I've got my eye on Türst, who is a popular Wild Huntsman from Swiss folklore. But I've still got a lot of reading to do on this one.

      There's some more figures that I'm aware of that might fit, but I haven't read up on them (yet) and so far I'm basically operating on Wikipedia knowledge on these. There's the German Pelznickel, the Badalisc from Northern Italy, the legendary tribe of the Fanes from South Tyrol, and Kurent, the central figure of the Slovenian Kurentovanje festival (who is probably a modern invention, though). All of these show some interesting parallels to the Perchten and Krampus traditions. The problem I'm thinking about right now is how to approach creating something like a pantheon out of figures that are from roughly the same area but from different cultures, and that have a fair bit in common in terms of traditions, themes, and symbolism, but that aren't in any way a set group.