Fri, 23 December 2016
[ORIGINS OF XMAS]
December 25 is coming up, and everybody is getting geared up for their Baby Jesus celebration. However, Christmas is not the only wintry celebration to come in the month of December.
Due to the winter solstice, December has always been host to a number of pagan festivals, and some believe the date of Christmas was chosen to offset the many, many pagan rituals of the time period, including Saturnalia and Natalis Invicti. Similarly, if you’ve ever heard of the Yuletide, then you’ve at least passively acknowledged a Norse tradition.
The reason for the season, historically, outside of the Christian religion, has to do with the re-birth of the sun gods and the celebration of the returning of light to the world. The winter solstice represents the shortest day of the year, and getting the sun back is definitely a reason to celebrate.
But today’s episode isn’t about Christmas, not really. It’s about a half-goat, half-demon who punishes all the bad little children of the world, so if you were naughty this year, perhaps you should put off listening until the dawn has lit upon a post-Christmas day. Yes, I’ll be talking about Krampus.
Krampus is a “half-goat, half-demon” with long horns and killer beard whose name comes from the German ‘Krampen’ for claw. He is the dark yin to Santa Claus’s yang. While Saint Nick brings joy and happiness to the good children of the world, Krampus punishes the bad children in some pretty deviant ways.
He is a myth figure in middle and eastern Europe, including Austria, Bavaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, and Northern Italy. Basically, anywhere in the Alpine Region, you’re bound to run into the horned goat creature. If you travel over to Iceland, you’ll find a whole host of these Santa figures, known as the Jolasveinar. There’s the ‘Door Slammer’, ‘The Window Peeper,’ ‘The Sausage Snatcher,’ and ‘The Doorway Sniffer.’
December 5 is considered Krampusnacht, which I assume translates to Krampus Night. On this night, he travels from house-to-house, like Old Saint Nick, and leaves bundles of sticks for bad children. Doesn’t sound that bad, huh? Like coal in a stocking. However, if Krampus deems the child to be bad enough, he might bag up the offending child and toss her in a river or take her straight on down to Hell and save himself the trouble of trying to redeem the little bastard.
He is sometimes depicted as having one cloven goat foot and one human foot, perhaps to bridge the gap of his half-human, half-devil form. The chain he carries may be a vestigial holdover having to do with binding the devil and whatnot, but today it just makes for one hell of a terrifying legend.
The next day, after Krampus has whipped or damned all the evil kids, is Nikolastaugh, or St. Nicholas Day. The Dutch name, Sinterklass, eventually became our modern Santa Claus. It was his job to bring presents to all the good little boys and girls who missed the wrath of Krampus.
Nicholas himself became popular in Germany in the 11th Century, and though it is unclear when, exactly, Krampus came to popularity, it goes back as far as pre-Christian times. He is believed to be the son of Hel from Norse mythology, but whether that is exactly true is anybody’s guess. Either way, he is totally a pagan symbol.
By the 17th century, Krampus had been incorporated into Christian celebrations. Over the course of a few hundred years, he melded together with the Santa Claus myth to become something of a dark, violent companion to the fat old gift-giver.
And just as the legend grew, so did the list of punishments bad ole Krampus would mete out. This next part comes from a site called The Robot’s Voice:
According to a series of very popular 1800s postcards, Krampus enjoyed: ripping pigtails out, leading children off a cliff, sadistic ear-pulling, putting pre-teens in shackles, forcing children to beg for mercy, and throwing youngsters on an Express Train to The Lake of Fire (making no local stops). And then there’s my favorite: drowning children to death in ink and fishing out the corpse with a pitchfork.
In fact, today people can participate in the Krampuslauf (Krampus Run) in which young men dress up and participate. Other festivals include people dressing up as the goat-devil and attacking poor, unsuspecting party-goers, usually chasing them down and beating them about the legs with the birch sticks Krampus is known to carry.
I’m not sure if this is still true, but some homes in the Alpine region were known to leave the bag of birch sticks hanging on the wall all year as a reminder to be good, lest Krampus make his visit the next Krampusnacht.
Fri, 23 December 2016
December 24, 2008. All over the nation, parents are dressing up as Santa Claus, donning the red suit to amaze their children with the prospect of a wonderful Christmas morning. When I was a kid, family members would call and pretend to be Saint Nick to get me excited for the next day. Still happens, I suppose, all across the country, and even the Federal Aviation Administration even gets in on the action, posting a Santa Watch every year for captive youngsters.
The same thing happens in a suburb of Los Angeles called Covina, California, only with very deadly consequences. This is a true crime story of violence so personal and so without conscience, discretion is heavily advised.
At 11:30 PM local time, a man walks into the home of his in-laws dressed as Santa Claus. That man is 45-year-old Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, and he is visiting his family for Christmas. Only, instead of unloading a bag of presents for everyone, Pardo unveils a gift-wrapped, homemade flamethrower. He draws a semi-automatic 9mm pistol -- he also has three others on his person -- and fires into the face of his ex-wife's eight-year-old niece as she runs to greet him at the door.
As the first rounds echo through the house, the group of 25 people flee, but many of them are not lucky enough to get out. Pardo fires into the group and (authorities think) kills as many of them, execution-style, as he can. When Pardo is done firing into the group of partygoers, he uses the homemade flamethrower to soak the home in racing fuel before setting the home ablaze.
Nine of the 25 people in the house would perish from either gunfire or the resulting flames. Three others would be wounded. A 16-year-old girl was shot in the back, and a 20-year-old broke her ankle leaping from a second story window.
The eight-year-old, as fate would have it, survives. It is both a horrific curse and a perverse blessing that she lives. While she has the rest of her life ahead of her, she is going to be confronted with the reality of being shot in the face by the symbol of the season every December 25 from now on.
Once Pardo finishes his rampage, he shucks the Santa suit and leaves the residence in his street clothes. He drives his rented car thirty miles away, to neighboring Sylmar, California, where Pardo's brother lives.
There is some confusion at this point about what, exactly, Pardo's plan turned out to be. It is believed he contemplated fleeing to Canada. Police find $17,000 cling-wrapped to his legs and a plane ticket in his name. However, despite flying with Air Canada, the itinerary stated he would be traveling to Illinois, where a high school friend he had visited in October of that year lived.
The complicating factor are the burns Pardo sustained while setting the resident site of the massacre ablaze. He purportedly suffers third degree burns on his arms, and it is rumored that some of the Santa suit melted onto hi flesh, which would make a flight just about anywhere an unlikely, painful scenario.
None of these details about Pardo's intentions can be known, because Pardo decides to take his own life in the wake of this tragedy. Using a gun from the attacks, he places the barrel against his temple and pulls the trigger.
The horror doesn't end there. In his home, police find the following: five empty boxes for semiautomatic handguns, two shotguns, and a container for high-octane fuel. According to reports, they also found "a virtual bomb factory," and one can only wonder what sort of carnage he might have been capable of inflicting had he taken all of that with him.
Back at the in-laws' home, the fire rages on. It takes 80 firefighters nearly 90 minutes to put out the fire. The bodies inside the Ortega home -- Ortega was Sylvia Pardo's maiden name -- are so badly burned, they must be identified using dental or medical records. As if to punctuate the horrible affair, the day after, a pipe bomb explodes in the car rented by Bruce Pardo outside the home where he had committed suicide. He had rigged a Santa suit to explode if taken from the car's backseat.
The final death toll related to Pardo's rampage is nine, including Pardo's ex-wife, both of her parents, two of her brothers, their wives, and one of the nephews.
It's the sort of event that can devastate not just a family but the surrounding community. Every day is sacred, if you value life, but the holidays stand for something, even if you're not religious. If you're like me, and church is but a distant memory of childhood, the Christmas season represents a kind of renewal of your faith in humanity, a time to reflect on your successes and failures so that you can attempt to change and influence the world in some positive way. To be more forgiving of others and hope they might, too, forgive you.
To do something so vile during this season begs the question: why in the hell someone would perpetrate such a barbaric, inhuman act like this? Well, the answer is probably one you've been able to ferret out by now. Bruce Pardo and his wife had been going through some trying times in their marriage, and Pardo's divorce with his wife, Sylvia, was finalized on December 18, roughly one week before the attack. Reasons get even more specific, though, in the ensuing investigation. The problem, as it turns out, night not have been scorned love, after all, but money. Pardo had made the comment that Sylvia was "taking him to the cleaners" in the wake of their divorce, and so it might have been his wrath over the financial repercussions of their divorce that drove him to commit this heinous crime, rather than his passion for their lives together.
Is it better? No. Does it cast a reflection upon most people's feelings over the season? Hell yes. Most people I know find Christmas to be a season driven by money, rather than giving, family, community, or the like. So, yeah, it might seem that this is a horribly sardonic end to an even more unsettling crime.
Here is a news report from the wake of the shooting:
Bruce Pardo Kills 8 in Covina: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8z7u0T8sRDA
This is not new to true crime. A simple Google search reveals this happening days and weeks and months ago, so these incidents are not isolated. But on Christmas? It is unspeakable, though not rare, and so it is with this heaviness on my mind that I come away from this hoping that you all have a wonderful holiday, that you think not just of the people you love and admire this holiday season, but those you might disagree with. Those you might have hoped to forget about for the weeks leading up to 2016's end. Now is the time to make the rest of this year what you can, and what you will.
Check out other true crime at the site, tblakebraddy.com