Pagan Rites In Bavaria

Alte Saline, Bad Reichenhall (OSM)

My hometown, embedded in a valley on the northern slopes of the Alps, puts old traditions on display twice a year, the “Kramperl” (Krampus) accompagnying St. Nikolaus on Dec. 6th, and the “Perchten” at Epiphany. Both have of course pagan origins but while the “Kramperl” have been civilized and put under the authority of a catholic saint, the “Perchten” are on their own during the 12 nights between christmas and Epiphany, driving out the winter and preparing people and soil for the coming spring. Mask-wise there is a certain trend to unification, just see my old post on the Kramperl here and here. In terms of noise both are just terrifying in their (ab-)use of cowbells, but for the local teens there’s a big difference: the “Kramperl” are expected to beat whomever they can get hold of, contrary to the “Perchten”, who only hug the bystanders.

The image above links to the gallery of some more “Perchten” images.


  1. I hope you mean “beat” in a playful sense! I love that the paga tradition has been kept alive. I’m curious now what the older, more traditional (and I assume homemade) masks would look like. Great image too.

    1. Definitely not in a playful sense: in recent years, there were more than bruises to be recorded, sometimes victims of such Krampus violence had to be brought to the hospital. The last two years the whole thing was heavily regulated, with marshals and IDs and the like to bring down the number of incidents. Unfortunately alcohol plays no small roll in the course of those events.

      The “Perchten” in comparison are much tamer, and yesterday’s performance was well organized.

      Here (in the first image) you have the example of a traditional wood-carved mask, while in the 2nd image there are the nowadays popular zombie/horror film derived costumes, and here is a similar setup.

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