Old Christmas was Darker Than you Think

Krampusz, Saturn, Father Christmas, Saint Lucy or the Christ Child:

An Eldritch Evolution of Christmas


Above: Santa Claus as a mask over the face of Krampusz!

Not to put a damper on your Christmas festivities, but this little diversion might be interesting to those who wonder about the  ancient rites associated, not with  a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, but with the primal need of our ancestors to assist the sun’s rebirth from the darkness of winter and the coming of the light. As a writer of Gothic fiction, I find the lure of the darkness strong, along with the desire to throw back the curtain that hides a primordial mystery. In researching the history of Old Christmas, I found some unexpected things.

In my Dark Fantasy novel, Roses of the Moon, Christmas is celebrated in the old way of Central Europe, in this case 16-17th century Royal Hungary. Though my heroine, Lady Mara, is raised Catholic, her mother, Countess Orzsebet, still carries on the ancient pagan rite of Winter Solstice as Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. Though Roses of the Moon is a book of high fantasy, I still had to do a lot of research to capture the atmosphere of Hungary in a time parallel to Elizabethan England, and to learn about Hungarian folklore, seasonal celebrations, and fairy tales in order to back up the magic in the story.

I discovered Krampusz. For those of us brought up on Nativity scenes and eight tiny reindeer, this is a scary figure indeed. Not only does he have all the attributes of the Devil with his horns and his long tongue, but he steals children. In Roses of the Moon, Countess Orzsebet, a Bathoryesque evil queen who bathes in the blood of young girls, he was an apt sidekick and a wonderful disguise for the true driver of the tale, the Demon Prince, Lucifer.


The attributes of Saturn are all over this figure. Astrologically, Saturn rules the sign of Capricorn, the goat, and is the traditional ruler of Aquarius, the Water Bearer. Krampusz is certainly goat-like with his horns and hoofs, he is black like the darkest night of Winter Solstice, as harsh as the cold, cutting wind and pretty hungry. Image after image of Krampusz shows him carrying off terrified children. The color of Saturn is black, and his appetite for children is legendary.


The image above combines Capricorn, the goat, with Aquarius, the Water Bearer, or perhaps, Bearer of the Punch Bowl. This Santa Clause, or Father Christmas, has a lean and hungry look. What will he fatten up on, if he is Saturn?

This is pretty creepy stuff, and its truth has long been buried. Krampusz has come out into the light for all of us to see and wonder at, especially in countries like America where these archetypal figures had been left behind and replaced by the safe but relatively empty glitz of mass merchandising.

There are lots of pictures of Krampusz online. They expose a dark side to Old Christmas that most civilized people would like to believe has been left in the Dark Ages.


Blatant child stealing in the image above. Does mere naughtiness deserve such cruelty? Or is something more going on?


Father Christmas and Krampusz in Salzburg, Germany. Could these be Santa’s elves? And why does Father Christmas look like a Bishop or a Pope, and why is he leading them out of Hell?


The Father Christmas, or Santa Clause, we all know and love. But what really is in that bag of his? And what is in his belly? The church is like a toy beside this powerful figure who comes out of the darkness bearing the promise of new, and everlasting life. The power of nature seems to dwarf the house of God.

Though their purposes may seem the same, I don’t think of Father Christmas as a Christ figure.  But the figure of Saint Lucy, or Santa Lucia, bearer of the light in the darkness, has also been called the Christ Child.


Above: The Christ Child by Hans Trapp

This image is worth an entire blog post. It suggests a meaning for Christmas in Old Europe that has nothing in common with the holiday we celebrate today—-unless your name is  Jon Benet Ramsey!

Clearly this Christ Child is female. She is Saint Lucy, Santa Lucia, whose festival is most famously celebrated in Sweden. She comes from the north, her head crowned with flames , bearing gifts for the good little children who seem uncertain whether to accept these baubles, while a brother and sister cower in the corner. The mother clearly wants to protect her naughty children from the creature who has just leapt in through the window: Krampusz, looking goatier and more sinister than ever. His body  is charged with sexuality, his willow switch is raised; he leers at the children. And what that is on his head, only the artist must know for sure. His entire aspect is predatory.

One must wonder what kind of Christmas celebration this is.

Lucy means Light and is often shorthand for Lucifer, the Angel of Light synonymous with the Devil. Krampusz is clearly the Devil. The word Christ means Anointed One, and can be applied to other beings besides Jesus. Folklore has it that Lucifer sits on the left hand of God, brother to Jesus Christ, and that he, too, claims to be a Christ.

Was Old Christmas a wicked old holiday? Or does the brightness of the light and the happiness of the Divine Birth simply cast a deeper shadow all around? Winter for our ancestors must have been a fearsome time when warmth and illumination came only by fire, wolves prowled the lanes looking for food, iron cold stole the breath from small children, and food stores ran low.

May the power of the Holy Birth bring peace and salvation to the world. May the devils of our fears cease to rule us.  Joy to the world, the Lord has come!


The Book of UnHoly Beasts

In The Lady in Yellow, Rafe gives Veronica an ancient, Medieval tome,

The Book of Unholy Beasts.


The book is a compendium of mythical creatures… including the one special to the de Grimstons…along with descriptions of them and their legends.  I was thinking of approaching an artist friend of mine to make this book and have it available to fans of The Lady in Yellow. It may happen someday, but in the meantime, I thought it would be fun to share some of these antique images from actual Medieval illuminated manuscripts.


Various UnGodly Creatures including a Wildman



Strange Unnatural Creatures, Dragon, Unicorn, Oliphant and Foreigners



Domestic Cats


Wolves and Wolfman


Manticore: Head of a Man, body of a Lion










Side Story: The Wolf of Chazes who was tried in a French court for murder. Thus are legends made.


Our ancestors really belived this stuff. Its possible that some of these weird creatures were real, created in the labratories of lost Atlantis. Who knows for sure?




13 Books that Made Me Want to Write

The urge to tell stories began in childhood for me. My father was a great reader of classic novels and he passed this interest on to me. I was thinking about the books I’ve read throughout my life and the ones that inspired me to say “I want to do that!” So I made a list.

Some books that inspired me are long out of print and long gone. As my reading skills developed, I discovered a taste for mysteries like Secret of the Haunted Pool and things like that. I made up a story based on that at one time.

These books are not necessarily my favorites, but they were the ones that excited the Muse in me. They sparked my imagination in a way that said not only: “I want to do that!” but “I have to.”

Stories build up in your subconscious, you see, over time, then start agitating to get out. These books were the seeds, many planted deep in my consciousness as soon as I could read. Images attract me, and all of these authors have the ability to create iconic images in their stories that resonate for a long time.

What books inspired you to write?

Childhood Reads:


Filled with drama and magic and mystery, I think these were the Harry Potter of our time. Disney helped, I suppose, but these stories were my constant companions as a child.

8. fairy tales cover,

There were never enough faiy tales. I still read them. The illustrations were inspiring as well and I did a lot of drawing most of my life. My first dream was to become an illustrator of fiary tale books.


I wanted to be Jo. How many women writers have felt the same?  Or is this just a New England thing? I used to sit in the big oak tree eating apples and writing in my notebook.  Somewhere deep inside, I still want to be Jo.


The dark moody atmosphere of Oliver Twist, and the strange characters worked their magic on me early. On my first visit to London in 1997, these were the streets I explored. The characters were so varied and so real. I wanted to write a story like this.




I was haunted by the 1960s movie The Haunting and wanted badly to read the book. My tiny local library didn’t have it, but, by hook or by crook, I found this book instead. For some reason it reminded me of Alice Through the Looking Glass, but was more inspiring because the voice of Merrycat as she tells this murky little tale is so human. Only in recent years did I finally read The Haunting of Hill House. But I feel We Have Always in the Castle in the better book.


Sometime during my adolescence I challenged myself to read very book in our tiny Leicester Library. That was where I found this little gem filled with stories by Algernon Blackwood. MR James, Wilkie Collins, Bram Stoker–all under one creepy cover. Short stories have been great Muse pokers for me. From fairy tales to scary tales, it was a straight line.


A little later in life, I found this book by Dickins to be a highly motivating. I loved the characters and wanted to create some of my own. Of curse, Miss Havisham is the Gothic Queen of cobwebby darkness. I love all the film versions of this book.


I knew I would never be able to write like the Bard, but I acted in many of his plays. I got to say those words, to be or not to be  some of those characters. They filled me with story. Shakespeare’s influence is huge in my work because, while acting in his plays, his stories entered my blood.


stephen king salem's lot signet 1976 pb

Speaking of blood–its gets grimmer from here on. When I was first in college in Massachusetts, I had a frustrated  poetry professor. He ran a lively class and encouraged me a lot. One day he complained to us that his best friend had just gotten a movie deal off one his books, Salem’s Lot, and he was jealous as hell. At the time I had no idea who that best friend was. Then I got the book. I loved the idea of a vampire moving into a small town. It reminded of the black house one of my friends had been to. Apparently the lady who lived there was a witch. They had tea. As my friend was sitting on the couch, she realized that the cat she was petting was dead. Taxidermied! Perhaps a mummy…

I wrote a book based on these elements, but it is long gone.




In a period when I was  doing plays and reading mostly non-fiction, Dracula stands out. I read it every winter for years. It was my winter by the fire book. The gloom is filled with golden light, the mysteries are deep, like fairy tales and Shakespeare rolled into one. The first time I read it, I was surpirised at how good it was. I will say that after this time, I went back to university to finish my English degree and none of the books I was assigned to read, much as I liked many of them, made me want to write.





The dormant desire to write fiction was ignited to a painful degree when I found this book on the shelves of the University Bookstore.  Carter’s use of language is equal to Shakespeare, but she uses it to tell fairy tales. Talk about things coming together for a perfect storm! I was writing a lot of poetry, quite successfully at the time, and it hurt me that I had no stories inside me. I thought I was doomed to a plotless existence. Taking a Creative Writing class didn’t help because the professor didn’t reach us anything. I carried this thing around like a talisman, as if I could absorb Angela Carter’s muses by will.




I was living in England when I discoverd Tanith Lee. The title story of this collection, Red as Blood, supercharged my desire to write. Tanith Lee was another Angela Carter, If she could do it. maybe I could. I’d been a prize-winning published poet after all, and these authors had such a remarkable fluidity with language. I also found, living in London, that my imagination was flooded with stories.  I realzed how important place was to me. I could write stories in Massachusetts and in London, but Seattle left me cold.


This book, a fusion of fairy tale, romance and thriller is highly inspirational to me. It is the benchmark of the type of book I would like to write, a book that is high quality Gothic, and that excites readers’ imaginations worldwide. I’ve read it many times.

There could be more, but these were the sparks that set my Kindle career alight. I’d love to know yours. Leave a comment and share your inspirations with us.

In case you’re interested:



Gothic Romance: The Dark Allure at Gothic Romance Reviews

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Miss Stacy at Gothic Romance Reviews invited me to write

a blog post on the Gothic Romance genre.

Find it here:



I will have an interview with Stacy on her blog at the end of July about my writing with a focus on The Lady in Yellow. 

I’ll post the link here when its up there.

Meanwhile go to Stacy’s great blog and read my post: Gothic Romance: The Dark Allure.

the apparition


Dracula was a Man of the Theater plus Video

Vampires are a mainstay of Gothic Fiction. Bram Stoker’s Dracula has long been on my bookshelf, once quite dog-eared, now a bit dusty. We do move on.

Researching Victorian London for my Lizzie Siddal novel in progress: Infernal Muses, I found this wonderful documentry about the developement of the Victorian craze on youtube and wanted to add it to the Gothic Library. I also unearthed an old blog post I wrote back in 2009 for David at Occult View. You can find the original post and his excellent blog–still going strong— here: Occult View

Dracula Was a Man of the Theatre

Originally published at Occult View.com  as a guest post by me in March 2009



As the resurrection of Springtime is upon us, the Vampire  sleeps a little longer in his grave.  Now I feel it is safe to tell you a story of Vampires little considered on our side of the pond.

 Dracula was Born in a Trunk

Vlad Tepes may have been a warlord from ancient Wallachia, infamous for his cruelty, but Vlad Dracule was a man of the theater! Though not the first Vampire to tread the boards of the London stage, he is certainly its star. It was he who brought his nefarious race under the spotlight, and his lustre remains undimmed for over a century.


The first literary Vampire was invented by the physician, John Polidori in 1818, during the famous snowbound ghost story contest in Swiss Alps where Mary Shelley created Dracula’s erstwhile rival, Frankenstein. Polidori’s novella was called The Vampyre; A Tale.   It’s menacing antagonist, Lord Ruthven, was based on Polidori’s character assessment of the infamous poet, Lord Byron, legendary womanizer, and destroyer of souls…Not long after his book was published, to scandalous success, the 26 year old Polidori killed himself.

The Stage

The Vampyre was staged many times in the 1800’s, with multiple spinoffs, much like the film versions since Bela Lugosi brought Dracula chillingly to the screen. These plays were particularly popular in Paris where they merged with the horrific Grande Guignol, and even inspired the German Opera, Der Vampyr, first presented in Leipzig in 1828.

John Polidori was uncle to the Pre-Raphaelite artist, Dante Gabriel Rossetti whose beautiful, red haired wife, Elizabeth Siddall, was his model and muse. Ten years after her tragic death from an overdose of luadanum,  Rossetti had Elizabeth’s  body exhumed to retrieve a volume of poetry that he had buried with her in Highgate Cemetery. The men who dug her up claimed her shining red hair filled the coffin, and that her body was still as young and lovely as she had been in life. Haunted by grief, and remorse for the horrible deed he had done, Rossetti succumbed to chloral addiction and went mad.


Vlad Dracule and Henry Irving

Bram Stoker himself was man of the theatre. Manager to the famous Victorian actor, Henry Irving, Stoker was the driving force behind the commercial success of the Lyceum Theatre in Covent Garden. Henry Irving was considered its resident genius and, like many geniuses, was a moody tyrant. Bram Stoker was completely under his spell.

Shakespeare was Irving’s specialty, and Stoker was immersed in the blood soaked tragedies, and rich poetry of the Bard of Avon on a nightly basis. His discovery of a portrait of Vlad Tepes caused an explosion in his imagination! It is not too far fetched to see in Tepes’s aquiline features, a reflection of the face of Henry Irving.  Irving was known to excel at dark, brooding, villainous characters, his tall, thin frame often clothed in black as he lurked menacingly about the stage.



Dracula was published in 1897 in London. Stoker dispensed with the charming, aristocratic Byronesque Vampyre. Rather, his Dracula was creepy and repulsive in the extreme, based as he was on Stoker’s research into the Balkan folklore about the Undead preserved in their graves by feeding on the living.

Significantly, the book was first reviewed in The Stage on June 17, 1897 where it was referred to as a tour de force. Many of the classic qualities we associate with Vampires were invented by Stoker such as his fear of crucifixes, (strange aversion for an impaler…) the Host, the need to sleep in his country’s soil, even sleeping in his coffin by day, to only come out at night, changing into a bat — all were inventions of Bram Stoker’s fertile imagination. The association of Vampires with wolves, though, is a deep part of the tradition in the wolf haunted forests and mountains of Central Europe.


On its 1897 release, a staged reading of Dracula, or The UnDead, was held at the Lyceum Theatre to secure its copyright. Behind the actors loomed the set of Irving’s current production of MacBeth. Dracula was already being prepared for dramatic performance, but Irving refused to play the part. When the play was produced, it was not according to Stoker’s vision, rather in cheap, pirated, slipshod productions in London’s theatre dives that were an embarrassment to the disappointed Stoker.

Dracula Becomes a Movie Star

Though he failed on the stage due to theatrical politics and B level productions, Dracula would be raised from impending obscurity by the new art of Cinema. The 1922 German Expressionist film, Nosferatu, would seal his future as a movie star. Despite a few alterations, and name changes, the script of Nosferatu sticks very close to the spirit of the novel, so close in fact that Stoker’s widow, Florence, was outraged at what she considered a violation of copyright, and sued the film’s producers, the Prana Film Company, and director, Friedrich Wilhelm Murneau. After a three year battle, the tenacious widow Stoker won, and demanded all prints of the film be destroyed. Woe to the future of Dracula, and his fans, had her wishes been carried out to the letter!
Dracula refused to bow out gracefully.

After the success of Nosferatu, many more productions of Dracula were staged in London and Dublin with varying success. But, by then, Dracula had found a more responsive audience in the movies.  In the 1930’s Bela Lugosi, an actor from the same part of the world as Vlad Tepes, would make him a Film Superstar. Perhaps it is Lugosi’s portrayal, a blend of the Byronic, sexy, cultured aristocrat, with the supernatural powers bequeathed to him by Stoker, that made Count Dracula truly immortal.


Thank you to David for having me as a guest on your wonderful blog. I hope my little insights have contributed to your audience’s pleasure by adding to your inspiring series on Vampires.
I am a professional Clairvoyant, Healer, Writer and Artiste. More of my articles, in a similar vein to David’s, can be found on my blog at www.houseofwinterspells.com : Life on the Magical Path, Legacy of the Witchblood.

Good Evening…