Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Swiss Chalets and Ogres

The Switzerland of fairy tales is real...

gingerbread porches...

 
 little villages perched in the mountains...

 
flower-covered chalets,

shutters and ancient wood......

and ogres.
Photo from the website Valais: Les Alpes Source.  Click on the title of this post to see more.

The mask in the picture above is the stuff of fairy tales.  It is a traditional hand-carved Carnival mask.  In the Valais region of Switzerland, between Candlemas and Ash Wednesday, men put on hand-carved masks, some of which have real teeth in them, and are fringed with hair, and become Tschäggättä.  They pad their shoulders, don huge wigs and clothes made of the fur of chamois, fox, or sheep, hold a staff, and tie a cow bell around their waists with a broad belt.  They run through the village chasing those brave enough to go out after dusk!  I would love to know the origins of this ancient celebration.  I found a fascinating video of the event, which I have posted below.  I got it from a website about the celebration in Loëtschenttal, and it features an interview with a mask-carver.  The video is in Swiss German, I'm afraid, but the imagery of monsters chasing laughing children through the ancient village streets is unforgettable!


This building is probably a mayen, a summer dwelling place for cowherds and their families, although it is in a village now.  Mayen are the most rustic alpine dwelling places for people.  The stable was frequently connected to the house.  The word "mayen" might come from the word "mai," which is the month of may in French.   In May, the cowherds drove their herds into "l'alpage," the high mountain pasture, to eat the fresh grass and herbs all summer.  While there, the cowherds made cheese and butter out of the cows' milk, bringing it down to the villages to sell in the autumn.  The descent of the cowherds and their cows in the Fall is called the Dèsalpes.  I wrote a special story about it last month.





 I like to look at the things which people hang on their chalets and mayens, the ladders, wheels, ancient scythes, (people still use scythes to cut hay on the steep hillsides,) antlers, and pine cones.  At this time of year, the outsides of some chalets are covered with piles of wood, in preparation for snowy times ahead.


5 comments:

Bonnie said...

Oh my gosh, I love all of the wood stacked against the chalet...it is beautiful and it makes sense. I also love the video of the ogres and the wooden mask artist....how wonderful is that!!! I am smitten! Thank you so much for writing this blog..you are exposing me and others to a world and culture that we may never get to experience!

Coral said...

Hi Beth!
A moment over milky coffee in your petit bol from Paris for gratitude and wistfulness -- for this blog and my faraway friend. Hugs.

Beth said...

Oh, Coral!!!! I think about you all the time. I especially thought about you today when we had a campfire in the mountains, my campfire buddy. love, Beth

Beth said...

Thanks, Bonnie!!!! I am revelling in the fun of seeing and learning so much new in such a beautiful, beautiful place. love, Beth

Kayli said...

I looooove the stuff about the masks! I wish I could figure out when and where it happened, so I could take my kids-- what a great time that would be!

I hope it's okay, but I quoted this post in my blog and linked over to you.
Thanks!