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Intangible cultural heritage

Traditions, knowledge, craftsmanship techniques  
Photo: © UNESCO/James Muriuki

The Öblarner Krampusspiel – Krampus Play in Öblarn
Performing arts in Styria, inscribed 2014

As one of the last surviving Styrian folk theatre traditions, the "Öblarner Krampusspiel" [Öblarn Krampus Play] is performed by amateur thespians every year in early December in farmhouse parlours as well as publicly on the market square. The scripts for the play’s characters—such as the Hunters, Lucifer and his retinue, the Smith, the "Habergoas" (a demon with a goat’s head) and Death—are learned by way of a largely oral tradition and were first put to paper during the 1980s. The "Öblarner Krampusspiel" belongs to the sub-genre of those "Jedermann" [Everyman] plays that also contain entertaining characters and humorous moments.

The Öblarner Krampusspiel can be described as religious folk theatre, which—in the wake of Austria’s Re-Catholicization, and above all during the 18th century—contributed to the religious and moral instruction of the populace. The lines spoken in this play were only written down for the first time in 1989, as a field research project of the Landschaftsmuseum at Schloss Trautenfels, a branch of Styria’s Universalmuseum Joanneum. The Öblarner Krampusspiel is performed by amateurs who go from farmhouse to farmhouse in early December. They are led by the Schab—a group of figures wrapped in straw who crack their whips in a sextuple or octuple meter—followed by the Hunters, who enter the parlour in order to ask the house’s occupants for permission to perform, and lastly by devil-in-chief Lucifer and his retinue: the Smith, the Habergoas, and Death. These characters are joined by the luminous figure of St. Nicholas, who adds an ultimately wholesome twist to the plot and distributes treats to the children. Due to the spatial limitations of a typical farmhouse, this play is performed by a maximum of 10 to 12 individuals. In the public performance on Öblarn’s main square, however, around 50 individuals participate. The players and characters adhere to a generational hierarchy, with the younger ones beginning with characters such as Luziferhalter [Lucifer’s Henchman] and working their way up over time. The participating actors and actresses come from the general populace and cover the full spectrum from young to old, and in contrast to other plays of this kind, women are also included.




ID: 312

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