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Thread: Alpine Folk Mask

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    Alpine Folk Mask

    why is there so little info on Alpine Folk Mask and rituals or have I not googled it correctly? Any info or help on this subject would be great- pictures would be really spectacular.

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    a.k.a. Alpensun Ringenwald's Avatar
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    For Switzerland, one can Google "Tschäggättä" in the Lötschental region... No wonder there are so few foreigners in this part of the country... The local residents look quite harsh actually




















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    Scary looking monsters. To face those in dark forest road...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Finnish Swede View Post
    Scary looking monsters. To face those in dark forest road...
    They look very frightening to me, too. Now I'm reminded again of the 2016 opening ceremony for the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland.
    “She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick.”
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    Sorry for posting this in the evening The oldest ones and those usually hanging on the wall of chalets look more funny than scary in fact...

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    I thought it was some new metal band


    I wonder if these masks had something to do with frightening away 'evil spirits' or something like that ... I will have to look into this

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ravenrune View Post
    I thought it was some new metal band


    I wonder if these masks had something to do with frightening away 'evil spirits' or something like that ... I will have to look into this
    Certainly but I don't know exactly. There are many "theories" about this tradition. Where I live we don't have this kind of mask but for the New Year celebration, someone of the village usually starts walking throughout the streets from midnight and make the same kind of rhythm with a cowbell while screaming and laughing like a witch, presumably to chase away the 'evil spirits'. And it lasts all night long...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ringenwald View Post
    For Switzerland, one can Google "Tschäggättä" in the Lötschental region... No wonder there are so few foreigners in this part of the country... The local residents look quite harsh actually



















    These are Krampus walks that happen just before Weihnachten.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krampus
    Life is like a fire hydrant- sometimes you help people put out their fires, but most of the time you just get peed on by every dog in the neighborhood.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ringenwald View Post
    Certainly but I don't know exactly. There are many "theories" about this tradition. Where I live we don't have this kind of mask but for the New Year celebration, someone of the village usually starts walking throughout the streets from midnight and make the same kind of rhythm with a cowbell while screaming and laughing like a witch, presumably to chase away the 'evil spirits'. And it lasts all night long...

    Interesting....


    Some of this kind of thing makes me thank of the Mummers (but they are usually comical and bizarre outfits) in Newfoundland which seems to have root in Ireland.

    Sometimes it's hard to find out the root of such things especially if they are passed down but not really written down (sometimes they can be banned for a time ... and brought back but not the same.

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    I wonder if the person who started this thread will see our answers any soon, since it was so many years ago...

    There are similar traditions in Romania, very old ones, from immemorial times (they are obviously dating from pre-Christian era, from Geto-Dacian times, so they are basically old heathen traditions), more or less preserved to this day (but they were integrated into the Christian tradition, so one has to figure out what is Heathen and what is Christian)...

    There are lots of information on that in Daco-Romanian language, and also videos and images on internet...

    These are mostly New Year's traditions, and are believed to make evil spirits run away... Wearing those masks it's supposed to be like a protection... And also they are linked to the renewal of time, the old year that passes away and the new year that comes... Such moments of New Year are marked with this kind of traditions, with masks and ancient heathen dances and all sort of old traditions... I have many books on that in Daco-Romanian language, since folklore is one of my passions... The information presented above it's just a summary from what I've read over time...

    Now let's see some videos presenting masks. As they are preserved in today's Romania since ancient times, I suppose the meanings should be quite similar with other similar traditions preserved all over Europe...

    The first video presents an exhibition of masks in Piatra Neamţ, Romania (by the way, "neamţ" from Romanian language translates as German, referring to German people, in English; Piatra Neamţ is a town dating from ancient Dacian times, when it was called Petrodava, and it is located in the mountainous area, in the Eastern Carpathians), and the music in the video is not traditional music, so it is not so well chosen for the purpose of the video:




    In the next video there is an artisan of folk masks from Maramureş region of Romania (I will translate under the video what he is talking about; you can see some masks in this video too):



    He is emphasizing that the mask is an old pagan tradition, dating from ancient Dacian times, as in that part of the country there were the free Dacians (never conquered by anyone), and so people there are since ancient times free people and conservative and resilient with their own customs and traditions (even the communist collectivization didn't work there). He is emphasizing how the pagan tradition was integrated into the Christian religion, just giving to it new meanings that would fit the Christian tradition (he says, 'What bad can wearing a mask do? It's like a shield... it goes along very well... especially in the folk theatre... It is actually Christian theatre and the mask is pagan... But see how well the people before us thought about it... 'Let's make them work together!' 'So if we put horns to it what?' 'But it looks like Satan!' 'So if it looks like Satan what, Irod, after killing the babies, was taken by Satan!'... So this is an intelligent way of thinking that made the people adapt... and it is pleasant both for the man in the village and for the man in the town.'). The title of the video translates as 'Artisan Vasile Şuşca: "The pagan mask goes along well with Christianity"'.

    In the next video is the same folk artist who creates folk masks:



    He says no one taught him how to create the masks, he studied the folk mask traditions and learned by himself. He attended art school and he was a painter before that, a tailor and furrier... He says:

    In Maramureş it was a very rich tradition, it was a pagan cult here. There were many rituals to make the evil spirits run away from the fields, but they were forgotten. But during the winter celebrations the masks are still used nowadays. There is a folk theatre, Viflaim, with the mages, Jesus, the birth, the virgin and so on... and they have these 'devils' who were tempting Irod... and in all this story the masks are included. So they are still used, we don't know for how long, but will see...

    He only uses natural materials to create the masks... He had great success with the masks at folk fares, in Romania, but especially abroad, in Germany (Berlin, Ulm), Austria (Wien), at Bruxelles, Helsinki, in the USA (at the Romanian-American museum in Philadelphia)... His two children inherited his talent and passion in making folk masks. He says:

    The folk mask is how every man makes it... with what he has at home. But this one is the commercial one, which I was trying to sell. I admit that I deviated a bit from the folk mask to give it a little bit of personality, because otherwise it is no longer folk creation. We are artisans of folk art... So I try to make it better. You see, the nose is also created from "pănură"... it is all made of "pănură" and natural materials...

    And he describes and shows how he makes it... He continues:

    And there are... carnival masks, ritual masks, masks only for decoration...

    In the following videos we can see how he makes the folk masks (but I won't translate this time ):






    Well, when I was in primary school, in Romania, we did masks in the art class too... so I created a folk mask myself as well, but as a child, much easier, less complicated... All the masks we did in school were exposed in an exhibition in our school... To be honest, I don't remember exactly how I did mine, I think I just used hard paper and coloured pencils and things like that to draw it rather than sew it... We all did them in different styles, we were allowed to be as creative as we wanted to be... I remember a bit of how my folk mask looked like, it was not scary at all, it was cute, but my art teacher wanted to make it look more scary and added teeth to it, which I didn't like and so I cried and didn't like my mask like that anymore...

    I wonder how the folk masks are in other parts of Europe, especially in the Germanic countries, and if there are any clear references to the old heathen traditions... Would be interesting to find out more and also to compare...
    Die Farben duften frisch und grün... Lieblich haucht der Wind um mich.

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