Born with darkness

Fem-Krampus, a self-portrait by Bonnie Obremski

Fem-Krampus, a self-portrait by Bonnie Obremski

I have darkness. I was born with it. It was a cause of concern for my mother and some elementary school teachers. I learned to hide it, to hate it, to be sorry and ashamed of it. Don’t cry, behave yourself, speak up, be quiet—I learned the language we use to keep one another’s behavior in check so we can all get along, right? But, those words aren’t spells that make those dark feelings disappear. Even ones like, “I love you,” don’t always work.

What darkness brings

They say darkness can fuel creativity, or you can go to yoga and leave some on a mat, or you can wear black lipstick. But there’s always more of it and I run out of places to stash it. So it can travel with me, sloshing around, like some mysterious fluid the doctor says your body will reabsorb eventually. Maybe I need to see the kind of doctor that deals with emotions not bloating, I will admit that! But this week, I went to the Goodwill instead. I bought a set of sheer, white curtains and a black satin slip. I bought lacy heels and a bag of ribbon. I went to the hardware store and bought wire and glue.


I had never made clothing before, but I had feels to feel and it occurred to me the only way to purge them from my body would be to construct a Krampus costume for Winter Solstice. Krampus is a horned god from Central European folklore. His origins likely pre-date Christianity but he wove himself into Christmas lore. Let’s just say that when Krampus frolics in the Alps, naughty Austrian children have far more to fear than a lump of coal.


I felt grateful for the sewing machine I’d borrowed for too long from a friend. I lifted it from its case and began working almost as if I knew what I was doing. Before long, the curtains became billowing, high-waisted pants and a crop top. It felt right to bring femininity and a sense of allure to the evil character. All the images of Krampus I found were repulsive. I didn’t want to create something vile. I wanted to illustrate a feeling of strength that comes from being comfortable with the lightness and unafraid of the darkness.