Monster Monday: Perchta

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Perchta.

Czech depiction of Perchta from 1910
Czech depiction of Perchta from 1910

Perchta is a character from Germanic folklore, known mostly in the region of the Alps in Bavaria, Switzerland, Austria, and Bohemia. She is likely based on a minor pagan Germanic deity that held sway over livestock and women’s crafts. Her name likely comes from a Germanic root that means “bright.” She can appear either as a beautiful woman in white or an old crone, sometimes with animal characteristics.

Legends say that she becomes angered if her feast day is not observed with a meal of fish and gruel. Her feast day is in the middle of winter, and she has become associated with the Twelve Days of Christmas. In many parts of the Alps, Perchta visits households on the eve of Epiphany to award good children who had worked hard with silver coins in their shoes and to punish bad and lazy children, but unlike other more benevolent Epiphany visitors such as Italy’s La Befana, Perchta’s punishments include cutting them open and stuffing them with straw.

 

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