Thursday, December 22, 2011

Here Comes the Sun: Merry Yule!

I hope the night was not too horrible for you and that you got to spend it by a warm fire cuddled up to the one you like best doing naughty things with evergreens! 

As was discussed in yesterday's blog, there are many ways that people use Sungazing and there are many ways that the practice can be integrated into religious practice.  I'm still getting a lot of helpful feedback from the Sungazing community, so as information continues to come it, I'll post it.

This is Issac's story:
I am not affiliated with any religious or spiritual group, organization, lineage or tradition. I live in surrender to Divinity, receiving guidance from Spirit and communing with Spirit in daily meditations.  My first regular sungazing was in 1997. I currently sungaze on an irregular basis, according to my inner guidance. On average, I sungaze once every five weeks, for one minute at a time. I always remove my glasses and stand barefoot on bare ground (I prefer gravel or dirt, but grass or stone will do, and occasionally even concrete). I often close my eyes after sungazing, and use my attention and breath to move the energy I've received evenly throughout my body, discharging any excess.  Most of my sungazing is usually with the rising sun, less often with the setting sun, and even less often with the mid-day sun. Ever since I was little I have enjoyed looking directly into the sun for only a few seconds at a time. I do this at any time in any conditions.
I sungaze only when my Heart tells me to do so. This guidance can range from a mild message that I may sungaze if I would like to, to a stronger message that tells me that it would be best to sungaze at a particular time.  By only sungazing when I receive inner guidance to do so, my natural interest in sungazing is yet one more thing that helps to keep me tuned in to my inner guidance, awaiting the signal / nudge / "go ahead".

My Heart and Solar Plexus and Belly chakras became larger and more open as a direct and prompt result of sungazing one morning, and were filled with a special energy from the sun, which felt wonderful, and stayed with me for a week or so afterwards, slowly fading.

On more than one occasion I have experienced a connexion with the Sun as a living being, gazing back at me. This connexion helps me to transcend my personal self, and gives me a deeper understanding/knowledge of life and my place in the universe. This is not an intellectual knowledge but rather a heartfelt and bodily knowledge.  I have experienced the sun as a manifestation of Divinity, and communicated with the Sun, both sending and receiving thought & feeling.  The intensity of the Sun's light touches me in a way that few things in the physical world can compare with.
Sometimes when I gaze at the sun, it splits into three or more different suns which overlap. Sometimes a colored halo appears around it, very striking, rainbow-colored or diaphanous diamond white or with other coloration. Sometimes the sun shimmers, or waves of light rapidly run across its surface in various ways. This is not really important but I appreciate it when it happens.
Halo with sun dogs, aka mock suns

My vision has at times been better after sungazing.  My appetite and digestion have often improved. I've felt quite energized at times, with a very focused and efficient mood.  Fall, winter and spring can all be rather overcast for much of the time where I live. When I sungaze, this tends to not bother me. A small amount of sungazing goes a long way in this regard.  I have experienced impaired or reduced visual acuity, temporarily, from sungazing. Nothing serious. I've had my eyes checked plenty of times over the years (I wear glasses) and the most recent tests, about half a year ago, confirmed that my eyes are very healthy.
When I first sungazed, many years ago, I was never grounded (bare feet), I gazed at the sun while it was high in the sky (very intense), and I also did not know to remove my glasses. I gazed only with my left eye. I was very ungrounded at the time and suffered from various mental issues, and sungazing in this fashion may have exacerbated things, but was not the cause. Even though, from my current perspective, I was doing it all "wrong," I think that it was more helpful than harmful at that time. However I would never recommend that someone try to copy the "technique" I had! In fact, I don't recommend sungazing to people at all unless they are guided to do so by their Higher Self, by Divinity / Spirit, and/or by their Heart and Gut Knowing.
I always love it when he gods shimmer and separate before my eyes!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Waiting for the Sun: Happy Solstice!

There she'll be: in green sun, on blue earth under warm running water.
--"Martha" Paul Kantner

Happy birthday baby Sun!  Tomorrow will be the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. Tonight is the longest night.  For some pagans, this time represents when the slain god is about to be reborn from the goddess in the form of the Sun.

There are many deities, both god and goddess, associated with the Sun.  The Japanese have the goddess Amaterasu, the Celts have Lugh and Brigid, the Greeks have Helios and Apollo, the Egyptians have Ra, and the Aztecs and Incas have a long history of giving human blood and suffering to their solar deities.
Sun worship is nothing new.  Our early ancestors recognized the importance of the Sun and the gifts that it gave them.  It was a natural extension to worship it and the energies attached to it.  Even today, we worship the Sun by tanning our bodies.  Some people even gaze at the Sun.  While many members of this growing practice would probably not say that they are worshipping the Sun, the amount of time that they spend looking at and meditating upon the Sun borders on worship.  Sun gazing is nothing new either.  Many ancients practiced it in conjunction with Sun worship.

I first became aware of sungazing several months ago when I caught the last half of the movie "Eat the Sun" on the Documentary Channel. 
Eat the Sun

My interest was peaked.  When I was finally able to catch the whole movie, and I became fascinated by the practice.  The movie's really good too.  I started out thinking that these folks were idiots.  Then I became engrossed with the idea.  I almost became convinced that it was a good idea when the movie visited the optometrist.  Now, I'm torn between wanting to sungaze but not wanting to ruin my eyes.

The modern Sungazing movement owes its impetus to this man:
Hira Ratan Manek (HRM), of the Solar Healing Center, is how many people became involved in Sungazing.  For a time, and maybe still, he held workshops and conferences all over the West Coast of the US.  He has a very strict protocol that he wants folks to follow.  His claim to fame, so to speak, is that he claims that sungazing helps lower your appetite to the point that you no longer want to eat and that the sun provides all the nutrients that you need so you no longer need to eat.  Unfortunately, he's been somewhat discredited.  I've never contacted the man, although perhaps I should.  He just strikes me as being very haughty.

Mason Dwinell

Mason Dwinell, on the other hand, I have emailed twice, and I've never received a response.  I don't know if he's tired of being interviewed, if he finds my blog socially inappropriate (as some Sungazers have), or if he's dead. I just don't know.  Mason was the subject of the documentary Eat The Sun.  According to the documentary, Sungazing has really altered his life.  It broke up a relationship he was in, it caused his appetite to be greatly diminished, it caused him to feel isolated somewhat, and it damaged his eyes.  On the other hand, according to his website, it seems to have brought him some spiritual satisfaction as well. 
Mason's instructions for sungazing, which are based off of HRM's protocol are as follows:
Depending on the weather and the level of commitment this is only a nine month to a year practice. Once you reach 44 minutes of sungazing you are finished. You should not have the need to stare at the sun any longer, your sungazing is complete. Sungazing is to be practiced standing bare footed on bare earth. Without shoes you can stand on sand, gravel, mud, or bare earth. Your bare feet should be in contact with the bare earth. Try to avoid standing on tar, concrete, granite, stone or even on grass (the grass absorbs the solar energy).  If you happen to stand on any other surfaces, that is fine, the results may simply be a bit different or arrive a bit slower.
While the sun is low on the horizon the intensity of the rays will be at a minimum. During this time, the sun's rays are tolerable, and the UV radiation is lower, so the potential of harming your eyes is lower. Use common sense within these parameters, if the sun is too bright and it feels as though it may be burning your eyes, don't stare at it. The best time to learn about your limits is right as the sun rises or a minute or so before it sets.  According to HRM the sunrise holds more energy, vitamins and minerals then the sunset. Go figure. Personally I recommend the sunrise, energetically it is a beautiful balance of yin and yang. You only need the sunrise or the sunset, both may be a bit much. By rushing about you will not find what you are looking for any faster.  Be careful and always listen to your body.
To Begin As the sun rises over the horizon simply gaze at the whole glowing ball of light for 10 seconds only. The key is to be relaxed, just like in mediation, let go of all thoughts and become immersed in the moment. Simply, look at it. No stress or strain on the face, facial muscles or eyes. Relax your jaw. Stand at peace, knees bent with your arms at your sides.  Let go.

If you choose to get up with the chickens, and try gazing at the rising sun. Stay relaxed and receptive for greater assimilation of the beneficial aspects of the sun's rays. Try to become aware of what your body is feeling, how is your mental, emotional and physical state as the sun fills every atom, every electron, and every cell in your body.  Feel every tissue filled with the regenerative and healing properties that the sunlight imparts on your body. You may notice an amazing increase in your overall energy as well as your physical stamina and positivism. Be aware of how the sunlight actually cleanses and rebuilds the whole of your being, your mind and thoughts, your feelings and your physical body; total rejuvenation. By completely surrendering to the suns greater power, and as the minutes of sungazing increase, the awareness of your energetic being may heighten dramatically. 

There is no need to maintain an unblinking, stare. Blink as and when it naturally happens, sort of like watching television. For the first few moments you look into the sun it may be very bright, after about 3-7 seconds of continuous gazing all the brightness generally goes away and you are left staring into a soft ball of pure white light; a beautiful pulsing orb. Don’t squint.  If you feel yourself squinting, relax the muscles in your face and eyes.  Let the light in.  The more open and relaxed the muscles are in your body the more oxygen and energy is able to flow within your cells, and then more light will be allowed in.
You have at your disposal an incredible amount of electricity to make things happen in your world. With the aid of sunlight, you can recharge each cell and atom to its full potential. 

Increase the time you gaze at the sun by a few seconds each day - say by 5 seconds or so per day, until you are comfortable and relaxed with the entire concept of staring into the sun. Once you are comfortable with the concept of sungazing feel free to increase gazing time at a constant rate of 10 seconds per day. You may find it helpful to get a watch or employ a friend to keep tabs on your staring time.   Subtle slow increments of time are important for allowing for the rods and cones within the anatomical structure of the eye to adapt to the intense levels light.
Increase the sungazing time by 10 seconds each day until you have reached 44 minutes, at which point you should be fully charged.   At 44 minutes you are finished with the HRM’s method of sungazing.  Depending on weather this may only take nine or ten months.
According to Mason, "Sungazing can be used as a tool for tapping into your human potential. Some change will occur to reach these peaks; your perceptions may alter circumstances, you may begin to change from the inside out.  Change can be uncomfortable.  Nonetheless, when we release our physical and emotional energetic blockages these changes will become trivial relative to the incredible expansiveness of the universe.   If at least three months are committed to the sungazing practice (reaching 15 minutes of staring time) some sort of change of your perception of your world will occur.  We are all energetic beings, vibrating at different frequencies, so we should be comfortable with the concept that all of us are different. There may be many different reactions, sensations and experiences.  Remember, whatever happens to you is perfect. It is yours and yours only.  At every turn there are lessons to be learned.  It may be helpful to become objective in your approach to life, awareness may prove to be an essential ingredient.  Be positive and open-minded; feel all there is to feel."

I would imagine that some sort of change in perception would occur.  Any time that you open yourself up, things tend to happen, for good or bad.  Mason's website mentions aliens dancing on his bed (as well as a book he's written about Sungazing).  HRM says that you'll no longer need to eat.  Dan G. says that it improved his eye sight.  The optometrist on "Eat the Sun" says that holes will be burned into your retinas. If there are such negatives associated with sungazing, why do people do it?  What kind of spiritual benefit (or other benefits) do people get from gazing at the sun and stimulating their pineal gland that makes it all worth while?  Will your "body battery" constantly be charged?  Will your libido increase?  Will you be a better energy manipulator?
  I have Sungazed a few times, perhaps against my better judgement, and I'm not sure that the practice is for me.  I like standing outside barefoot, digging my toes into the dirt while I watch the sun set, but the worry that I'm hurting my eyes usually ruins the moment.  I'm not sure why it should though.  I don't worry what will happen to my body when I ingest a hallucinogen.  I don't worry what my flesh will look like after doing fire play or being flogged (or at least not enough to ruin the mood!).  So why should I worry about damaging my eyes if the act of sungazing could hold so much promise for unlocking spiritual and metabolic doors?  Should the potential damage just be viewed as a sacrifice for spiritual enlightenment?  A gift given to the solar deities?

As with other potentially dangerous spiritual practices, there are a fairly large and international community of Sungazers.  There are Yahoo groups, web forums, blogs, chat rooms, and Facebook pages all dedicated to the act of Sungazing.  Sungazers come from all walks of life, all different countries, all different religions, and all different ages.  Some are even nudists!  There seems to be two main camps in the community: those that follow HRM's protocol and those that do their own thing.  Many of the gazers gaze for both spiritual and health benefits.

  For this blog, I joined the Yahoo groups In the Suns Rays, moderated by Dan G. and Sungazing,
 moderated by Vinny Pinto. I also solicited interviews and advice from Dan G. and the members of the two groups.  Dan G. was very helpful.  He suggests that gazers who are having difficulties with Sungazing use what is called the Bates' Swinging Method.  "In a swing movement, the eyesight focus point swings between two different objects or targets. Brushing on the space between the two markers, the eyes are exercising.
Let's say you pick as a target a tree or an electric pole on one side of the sun and another one on the other side of the son. The two targets are low intensity light.  If you "swing " between the two targets, brushing over the sun, the eyes have to adjust from the low intensity of one target, to the high intensity of the sun and again to the low intensity of the second target.  The "travel" between the two target should be about 1-2 second long at the beginning, later can be slowed down as desired and as it feels comfortable. The exercise can  be of 10-15 minutes or more, as desired.  The exercise can be done anytime of the day, as relaxed as possible.
My opinion is that this type of exercise should be a "must" before starting sungazing, and it is only too bad that it is not recommended before "parking" the eyes and staring at the sun."  
I tried this method of Sungazing, but for only 10 seconds, and it did help my eyes not to water uncontrollably from the amount of light being poured into my retinas.  Ten seconds, so far, is my gazing limit.  The time that I tried it for longer, I had spots that stayed for longer than I really wished them too.  According to Dan, there shouldn't be any after images after gazing.  "Any after image is a sign that the retina cells are overloaded.
If one relaxes the eyes right away, the afterimage or the spots  will not be lasting, but if the sungazing continues, the overloading might be of a longer term.  For example, after a sungazing pause of a few months, when I restart, I get a reddish or a yellowish big spot in the visual field. If I stop and relaxes, the spot goes away after a few seconds, if continue sungazing it might take minutes to go away.  If I stop and try again next day, the eye are already trained, no more spots.  Not all the persons are the same, I am giving you this info just as a reference.  Normally, if the eyes are in good shape, there should be no afterimage.
The idea is that a trained eye, adjusts instantaneously both to the strong sunlight and to the dark.
An additional comment : If the spots LAST  after sungazing is different from the spots APPEARING a little time after sungazing. The later might be a case for concern, the former is only an afterimage."

Some of my regular readers may be wondering how Sungazing connects with the theme of this blog, which is gritty spiritual practices, or with the current series of blogs, 'Blessed Be Thy Feet'.  Well, as I stated above, Sungazing can be dangerous.  And if you slogged through Mason's directions for Sungazing, Sungazing is typically done barefoot. 
According to Dan G., Sungazing does fit into a typical ritual format.  "Being started and driven by notorious nonscientific people, sungazing is very likely to become ritual driven. The barefoot walking is one of those aspects. Scientifically speaking, I would relate the barefoot walking requirement to the light massage and the stimulation of the soles of the feet, and through the nervous connections to the rest of the body. (see also Reflexology) The ten second exposure increment value is also empirical and ritualistic, and probably unnecessary. Ten seconds is the duration of the prayer, the timing of the rituals through prayer is a tradition."   
This correlates perfectly with what one Sungazer wrote me: "I practice sungazing to stimulate the pineal gland and also simply, to energize my overall being.  I do it very briefly each morning, followed by closing my eyes to "lock in" the energy I've taken in from the sun.  My practice is entirely intuitively guided and I have not experienced any major health benefits other than perhaps enhanced mental clarity and physical energy, improved overall mood.  For me, it is a form of prayer that helps me to feel connected to the cosmos." 

Real life Sungazers on a commune somewhere in the US
Another person that I interviewed for this blog is Zarrin.  Zarrin has been Sungazing periodically for four years, usually in short minute to five minute bursts.  He doesn't follow a protocol.  He uses Sungazing as a way to stay connected to the Earth since he's no longer a farmer, but a college student.
                                                                         Zarrin's Story
I have become increasingly inventive with the practice as time has gone on.  I learned of "shooting the sun" which is where you blink open your eyes to look at a bright midday sun which you cannot look at continuously.  After ten or fifteen minutes of this, it becomes possible to have your eyes open wider for longer.  Then, this past summer in Iowa, I sungazed in the middle of the day near the
summer solstice while standing on my head.  I found I could stare directly into the sun without blinking.  Then I did a bit of gazing while lying down and it was a bit easier to not blink.  While
standing, I had to blink much more.  However, as a result of this I gained a blurry spot in the center of my vision which has still not totally resolved.  I believe this also caused some perturbations to my
energy body as well, as I cannot see as clearly as I used to. Previously, I had excellent long-distance vision and I could steadily gaze into the distance.  This is rare for people today who mostly look
at books, computers, and things within the range of indoors distances. Our ancestors would have gazed and searched Nature more often. 
I feel my sungazing times as well as working outside on farms had brought me these visual and physical benefits of stillness, clarity, and centeredness.  Much of that has changed for me since this past summer, due to the sungazing mishap and other reasons which were the reason I did such a self-destructive sungazing session in the first place.  There was no need for it except that I was emotionally distraught and sought anything to rescue me from me karma there, but such rescue was not possible.  In times of difficulty, it can require great surrender to put up and shut up.  At that time, I faltered and suffered damage to remind me of my mishap, although I don't feel that there was any "purpose" for the event.  It just happens to remind me now of the need for surrender; in another situation or person, such damage may not have the same effect.

In the months of September and a bit in October, after I had returned to the lakes of upstate New York, I found my favorite practice of sungazing to date.  I would float, mostly on my back, in the
lake--therefore totally grounded--and look all around the sun.  Not directly at it, but above it, to the sides, and below it.  And I would look around it at different distances to the above, sides, and below.
This allows the light to enter my vision at an angle instead of directly through the focused center.
I always prefer to gaze, then look at the sky away from the sun for a bit, then relax with closed eyes for a period of time.  If I gaze for too long, I might end up with a tension headache, perhaps from too
much light.

And, I always look around at other parts of the sky after I finish gazing.  I also like to look at the earth's landscape in far-off vistas--for example, across the lake but below the sky, which I also
look at--after sungazing.

I determine the requisite time by my inner guidance/impatience.  And I often wish for more patience and love which produces patience, stillness, and happiness with choosing either way to gaze or not,
when, and for how long. 
Sometimes, sungazing seems to help thoughts to slow and quiet.  When they start back up again, or when calm interest gives way to a feelingof willful force to continue, is often when my body and mind and inner guidance know it is time for the practice to stop for the moment or
 Although Zarrin has suffered some eye damage from Sungazing, he says that he will still continue doing it since he believes it has helped stave off diseases, it helps to keep him grounded and connected with Nature, and it helps him to acclaimate to new places and stave off jetlag.

Sungazing sounds very Pagan, doesn't it?  Maybe the Druids did it.  A brief look at the rising Sun on the morning of the Winter Solstice could be a very powerful tool for meditation and energy work.  In theory, it could energize you for the coming year. What better way to welcome the infant Lord (if you're following a Wiccan or Neo-Pagan belief about the Sun's death and rebirth at the Solstice) than to gaze lovingly upon it?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Evergreens, my dear, for a long Winter's nap

This is a Yuletide idea that was suggested by a sister-in-arms.  It can be a simple act by itself or incorporated into a Yule ritual.  It can be for a couple or a single person.  It can be as comfortable or as uncomfortable as you please.
Create a bed of evergreeen boughs.  These can be fir, pine, cedar, or for the true S&M experience, holly.  Cones can be left in or taken out as the mood demands.

There's a Native American legend that says that evergreen trees are evergreen because they were given this ability as a prize for being able to stay awake the longest of any of the trees.  Many people stay awake all Yule night to keep vigil by a fire so that the Sun will return the next day.  Europeans would bring evergreens into their homes during the Winter to remind them of the promise of Spring, and to sympathetically ensure Spring would return.  The greens would also bring prosperity and luck for the coming year.  Hence our modern custom of the Christmas tree and wreaths.
With this in mind, recline on your fragrant bed, enjoy the crackling warmth of the Yule fire, and perhaps the warmth of a little something more intimate too!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Krampusnacht Remembered

As I've been doing research and soliciting interviews for upcoming blogs, a fond memory of my Krampusnacht popped into my head.  Hopefully your Krampusnacht was all you wanted it to be, and if not, well there's nothing stopping you from having Krampusnacht tonight!
If you'd like to contribute blog ideas or be interviewed for a blog (I'm currently interviewing Earthwalkers, barefooters, Hare Krishnas, Mormons, Muslims, foot washers, Pagans, and Sungazers), please drop me a line at

Friday, December 9, 2011

Blessed be thy feet: Part 1--A little tickle

Blessed be thy feet, that have brought thee in these ways.....

Feet.  Most people have them.  Some people love them, some people hate them, and some people fetishize them.  Quentin Terentino loves Uma Thurman's feet.  Watch Pulp Fiction and the Kill Bill movies again and count how many times the camera has a tight shot of her feet.  Feet take us everywhere.  They can bring us pleasure and they can bring us pain.  They can be lavished and spoiled, or punished and tortured.  They can symbolize dominance, like a foot on the back of the neck, or they can symbolize submission, like bowing to kiss someone's feet.  Feet carry us on secular paths and religious paths, often both at the same time.
The next series of blogs was suggested and inspired by two of my readers.  The series will look at how different religions, not just Pagan ones, incorporate feet into their worship, deities associated with feet, the Eathwalking/barefoot movement in the US, and some of the grittier, kinkier things that can be done with feet.  As always, along the way, tie-ins will be made to Paganism and how to incorporate this topic into your personal religious practice (and maybe other practices too).


From a Hindu forum:
" In the image, the sole of one foot of the Goddess is visible,
 apparently decorated with Mendhi, beautiful designs. I thought that it
 was an insult to display the sole of one's foot. Is that only true for
 the Islamic population? Is there an exception for Goddesses or other
 deities? Am I misreading the image, perhaps?"

"Every part of the Great Goddess Durga is Sacred! Haha It may be a little
distasteful to rub your own dirty feet on someone else or point them from a
cultural standpoint. From the point of Divinity it changes though. In fact,
many temples to the Goddess and Vishnu amongst others have only an image of
the deities feet. The idea is that to gaze upon the whole figure would be to
There is a Hindu custom of touching the Gurus feet or even placing your head
at the Gurus feet as a sign of reverence. The idea is simply that you
acknowledge the Guru's superiority in whatever it is they are teaching you. A
direct way to state that they are above you in some regard.
There is nothing filthy, or profane about the Goddess's feet for she is a pure
Look at Kali Ma-she is dancing on Lord Shiva's chest right now!
He doesn't seem to mind;-)"
He looks asleep or dead to me.  I guess that's why he doesn't mind!

Some people may question why I would investigate Hinduism and other religions for a blog that is unabashedly Pagan.  The reason is because Paganism is eclectic.  Even Wicca, that little subset, is eclectic.  Many Pagans have taken ideas and deities that they like from different religions and made them their own.  Gardner took many, many idea from the Hindu religion and made them Wiccan.  This was brought home to me one time at a handfasting that I attended.  The handfasting was at a public park, and an Indian couple stopped by to watch the rite from afar.  Once I spied them, I motioned for them to come closer and join in the fun.  After the ceremony, all they could talk about was how similar the handfasting ritual was to their own Hindu marriage ceremony that they had had in India.  The ritual planners hadn't set out to borrow Hindu customs, but because they had gone with a status-quo Wiccan ceremony they had done so anyway due to Gardner's original borrowing.
In the above quotes, the answerer discusses how bowing and touching one's head to someone else's feet is seen as an act of humility and respect to teachers and deities.  This practice is called Pranama.  It's often part of the custom of darshan, which means to "see with reverence and devotion," where not only does the one touching their forehead look to connect with divinity, the one who's feet are being touch often bestows a blessing.  This is done in connection with puja, which could be described as a Hindu worship service or ritual.
In some British Traditional and Gardnerian covens, especially ones that adhere to The Ardanes, coven members are expected to show respect to the High Priestess by bowing, sometimes to the point of their head connecting with feet.  As in Hinduism, it's a sign of respect.  I also know of many groups that will bow to the elements and deities when they are welcomed in or invoked in circle.  Some groups also have their members bow low to a person who is representing or aspecting a deity, especially if a blessing is being bestowed.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Happy Krampusnacht!

Who is Krampus and his hermaphroditic counterpart Frau Perchta?  They are the epitome of Yuletide Dom(mes)!

As you can tell from the video, Krampus hails from Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and into France and Northern Italy.  Pretty much anywhere they speak German or once spoke German, he makes an appearance.
Although now most folks associate him with St. Nick and Santa and see him as a minor devil, he was originally a Pagan nature spirit in his purest form that was associated with the Winter Solstice.  His original purpose wasn't to necessarily punish people, although he was a bringer of justice.  His original purpose was to scare off winter and bring about spring.

He is a carry over of the horned nature and pastoral gods like Pan and Cernunnos and of the trickster god Loki.  This can clearly be seen in his appearance and in the etymology of his name--"claw".    Originally he brought chains to bind up winter and any roaming negative spirits.  He wore bells to wake the Earth up from it's slumber and to ward off negativity.  He was also a bringer of fertility.  He is often portrayed riding a broom, which was a common sympathetic magic performed in fields to show the crops how high to grow.
In the same spirit of Lupercalia, he bears a birch rod.  The rod is seen as a phallic device. With every lick he imparted his fertile seed to the community.  The beatings with the birch can also be seen in the same light as beating the bounds of ones home to ward off evil, which may be how his whippings were twisted into a punitive context by early Christians.

And why does Krampus have his tongue out?  The better to eat you out with, my dear!

Even Krampus is a switch!
The Christian version of Krampus is still a big deal in German speaking countries and the pockets of the world where Germanic folks settled.  Instead of celebrating him on the Solstice, he is celebrated the night before St. Nicolaus' Day.  Every year there are huge Krampus runs in the Alps, where everyone turns out.  The runs were originally done by young men to chase away winter and to bring about the spring.  However, in some areas the runs were more like an enactment of the Wild Hunt than of a Yule Vigil. Kids today look forward to Krampusnacht and stoically bear whatever beating they may receive.  
Carting the babies off to Hell.

Krampus' counterpart and sometime companion is Frau Perchta.

As previously stated, Perchta is a hermaphrodite, but often carries herself as a woman.  She represents both man and woman, both light and dark.  She is an incarnation of the goddesses Holda, Holle, and Frigg and vaguely of Brigid.  Her name means "blaze",  and she is seen as a spinster who checks on the girls to make sure they've spun all the materials that they have available. She is also a leader of the Wild Hunt in some areas.  Sometimes Perchta is pretty and sometimes she is not!
Instead of beating you with a birch like Krampus, Frau Perchta slits open your belly, steals your guts, and replaces them with straw.  Dommes are always more sadistic than Doms!  If you're on her good side, you can leave her an offering (she likes herring) and she'll bestow upon you riches and fertility.  Around the solstice before she visits, folks usually smudge the house and barns to chase away evil spirits but to also cleanse the air of any germs.  Sage is a wonderful antiseptic.
Krampus and Perchta

Now to review just who Krampus is:


Winter's a long cold season.  Make it more fun by enacting some of these old traditions with your partner(s).  One night you can be Krampus and the next night the naughty one. Or maybe you're always Krampus!   If you've never prepared a birch rod before, there are instructions in the BDSM ritual section to the right of this post.  Chains should be tight enough not to get caught and tangled in things but loose enough to allow for blood flow. Clips for chains are safer than locks.

If you decide to go into Frau Perchta territory, make sure that you are experienced with edge play, and have antiseptic and other first aid materials near by.  If you are not experienced with edge play, an alternative is to blind fold your partner and use a plastic or wooden knife.  Both can be made to have sharp edges that don't cut.  If your hoodwinked partner thinks you're still holding a real knife, it will feel like a real knife to exposed skin.  Using a sterilized pin to simulate a knife point works well too.  Since Perchta means "blaze", wax play would be an appropriate tribute to her as well.

There are a myriad of other Solstice traditions out there that are meaningful and fun as well.  The wild hunt is one of them.  This can be enacted by partners or a group and be something as simple as wild hide and seek or something more complicated and serious.  There's also the battle of the Holly and the Oak Kings (or it can be Queens).   The Holly represents the waning year and the Oak represents the waxing year.  In some myths there is also an Ivy girl/boy who is a mediator.  An idea for this tradition is a mock Holly and Oak king battle, with the weapons being oak and holly switches.  The looser can be bound with strands of ivy for the real fun to start.  Holly leaves can also be used on the skin like a Wartenburg wheel or spurs.

Have fun and remember:
As with any sort of S&M and or sex ritual, be responsible.  Use safe words and condoms and respect boundaries.  No under aged participants or spectators.  Outdoor sex should be on private property.  Bondage should allow for blood flow.  If you break skin, use first aid to treat it and clean your equipment properly.  And for heaven’s sake, avoid the spine and kidney area!

May your Krampus put you in the best chains with the loudest bells, wield the stoutest birches, and be super horny to put that long tongue to good use!