View Full Version : Pagan Rites in Catholic Germany

02-23-2007, 03:59 PM
I thought I'd reproduce this post from my LiveJournal here...

What comes to mind when you think of a German? Probably a very organised, methodic, rational person, with little sense of humour and even less sense of magic
Well, put away the cliche for a moment. We've just had Fasching, and once again, Germans have shown just how foolish they can be, how irrational, and even how downright zany.

It's the Silly Season. It begins on the elften elfter elf Uhr elf: the eleventh day of the eleventh month at eleven minutes past eleven o'clock ( 11th November, 11:11), and lasts till - well till today, Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent.

Mostly, non-Germans hear only about the big Carnival fesitivities in the big cities of Mainz, Cologne and Munich. But far more impressive, to my mind, are the small celebrations in the tiny villages of the Black Forest.

I remember many years ago visiting one such village with a friend. Hordes of black devils and red demons carrying pitchforks, dancing a slow, sinister dance through the streets; an army of green-costumed demons leaping and prancing past. Witches and goblins. Chaniting, shouting, sometimes plunging into the crowd with a pitchfork... very scary stuff! This all takes place in the most Catholic villages in Germany. They are pagan end-of-winter rites: all these figures are here to sweep away the darkness of winter, and summon in the spring.


Here's a great desciption of what happens there: (http://corpse.org/issue_9/foreign_desk/jarvis.htm)

Germany: Black Forest Fasching
by Marcy Jarvis

Well, it's Fasching time again - Southwestern Germany's peculiar mix of Catholic Carnival and ancient pagan Rites of Spring all rolled into one. Where we live, in the deepest, darkest part of Germany - the Black Forest - it goes on for the whole week leading up to Lent (falling some time at the end of February, beginning of March, depending on the church calendar for that year). Revelers adorn themselves with elaborately wood-carved masks, which are passed down from generation to generation, and are transformed into witches and devils, forest trolls and swamp ghosts, who will take to the streets to "sweep" winter away, shouting, Naree! Naro!

First stop? The Hexen Tanz (Witch's Dance), held in the town of Sulz each year, on Shmutzigen Donnerstag ("Dirty Thursday" - the last Thursday before Lent). Here you can kick off the week's festivities by the light of the moon as witches fly down out of the mountains on broomstick and into the waiting throngs in the market place. Next, the Narren (fools) bound in with bells on, brandishing sticks piled high with soft pretzels for the Brezelsegen (the blessing of the pretzels). If they like the looks of you, you may get one to eat.

On Fasching Sunday, head for the historic town of Rottweil (where Rottweiler dogs originated) to see the Narrenzunft (Fool's Guild) file past dressed in the town's colors of black and yellow, jumping in rhythm and dusting people off with feather dusters to wake them from their winter's hibernation, all the while making this eerie laughing sound, Hu! Hu! Hu!" which is, at once, both funny and spooky.


02-23-2007, 05:57 PM
How neat! Thanks for posting this, Aruna!