Saint Nicholas, or Santa Claus, is a well-known Yuletide figure. However, over the years we have seen some of the more… unsavory characters come into the spotlight. Krampus was one of those characters from folklore who became wildly popular after his 2015 horror/comedy debut on the big screen. However, there are still other mythic stories, legends and folktales of different Yule spirits and demons and elves and trolls. Today, we are going to be taking a look at one of these, a witch who punishes naughty children. Her name is Frau Perchta.
Frau Perchta comes to us from Austrian and Bavarian tradition, becoming more well known with her other name Frau Berchta which was popularized by the brothers Grimm. She is also associated with Berchta the Germanic goddess of abundance who was demonized by the Catholic church and referred to as a witch. Either way, Frau Perchta is generally depicted as a crone dressed in rage with a beaked, iron nose. Sometimes she carries a cane, but almost always she carries a long, sharp knife that she keeps hidden beneath her skirts.
You see, Frau Perchta — much like Santa Claus — will reward good children and punish the bad. She also punishes women for unkempt households and unspun flax. For those she deems good, a silver coin is left for them. If she deems you unworthy, if you forget to leave out a bowl of porridge for her, if your flax is half spun and unfinished, she slits open your abdomen, removes your organs, and replaces them with straw. She was also associated with the Wild Hunt, flying through the night sky while accompanied by her demonic Perchten — Krampus-looking creatures — and elves and unbaptized babies. During the last three thursdays before Christmas, you will hear the sounds of thunder and wind roaring, however it is really Frau Perchta leading her Wild Hunt.
Either way, Frau Perchta doesn’t seem like a woman to cross. Whether she is a crone who judges your housework, or someone who comes to punish the naughty and reward the nice, or even the leader of the Wild Hunt itself, Frau Perchta promises punishment for those who she sees as undeserving. One thing is for certain: whichever version of her tale you believe, be sure to have your house dust-free and stay indoors on the nights leading up to Christmas or Frau Perchta might replace your organs with straw.
For more reading on Frau Perchta (sources):