Costumed participants in the annual Krampus Walk celebrate during the 2016 event in Columbus. Photograph by Lauren Pond.
According to ancient Germanic legend, Santa has a frightening counterpart: a devilish character named Krampus. While Santa rewards good children, Krampus frightens bad children into being good. Sometimes, he even nabs misbehaving children and carries them away in a basket.
In the contemporary Columbus, Ohio pagan community, this legend has inspired an annual “Krampus Walk,” an event where Druids, Wiccans, and adherents to other pagan traditions dress up in colorful, eclectic costumes and process about a mile down North High Street, one of the city’s main thoroughfares. Sound is an integral part of the event: While walking, participants bang on drums, jingle bells, and use a variety of other homemade noisemakers. By creating a mobile cacophony, the goal is to raise energy and scare evil out of the world, explained James “Seamus” Dillard, co-owner of the Magical Druid gift store, which sponsors the walk.
Costumed participants in the annual Krampus Walk process down North High Street in Columbus, OH, in 2015 (left) and 2016 (center and right). Photographs by Lauren Pond.
“Let’s take that spirit of doing away with evil and do something with it,” he said to a crowd of about 40 people in 2015. “We’re going to encourage the spirit of Krampus to take away evil from men’s hearts, to ignite the light that is the Yuletide season.”
On another level, the noise of the Krampus Walk suggests increasing confidence among pagans, many of whom used to stay “in the broom closet,” as the saying goes, for fear of being stigmatized. Columbus pagans actively participate in their community and claim space in the public soundscape. Reciprocally, a growing public support for pagans is audible, suggested by the number of onlookers who engage with the Krampus participants on the sidewalk, and by the honking and cheering of passing drivers.