Perchta - The Female Counterpart to Krampus
In many parts of southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland the figure “Frau Bercht”, also known as “Frau Perchta”, are considered a counterpart to Krampus. According to medieval popular belief, they watched over the observance of religious fasting and punished offenses aggressively. Particularly gruesome sounding were the threats of the so-called Butzen-Bercht who were – as the name means – disguised with masks and served as a role model for the male “Butzemann” (goblin) character. These Perchta were similar to Knecht Ruprecht, because they also carried a basket or sack on their backs in order – as the legend goes – to kidnap children and later eat them…
“I do nothing to the pious, the evil I will plague”: The Bercht threw a critical eye not only to reluctant youth, but also to lazy or sloppy maids and housewives as well as to impurities in general. This was why, particularly before Christmas and Christmas Eve, the courts were carefully cleaned and all garments completely sewn – to placate the devilish figures. Food offerings, to appease these figures of death, were already forbidden by the “Tegernsee Codex” in the 15th century.
From this superstition the so-called „schiach‘n Percht’n“ or Percht Run was later developed. With much racket, short-stalked whips, cow horns and bells, participants went from farm to farm through the sleepy valleys. This run took place in almost all towns of Pinzgau and Pongaus as late as 1796.
In 1848 they were banned, because they always gave rise to serious scuffles with sometimes fatal consequences. Yet in 1900, for example, the so-called “Berchtenspringen” (Bercht Jump) were reported to have taken place in the villages of Windischmantrei and Fieberbrunn.