They become bears, stags and devils.
They evoke death but bestow fertile life.
They live in the modern era, but they summon old traditions.
A primal heart still beats in Europe.
Paging through the latest issue of National Geographic I was delighted to read these opening words to an article on Europe’s Wild Men. After my Easter post, Eggs, Rabbits & Resurrection, I wasn’t surprised to receive emails with links to writings of similar sentiment. After all, there is a considerable awareness of this pagan heritage. I was, however, a bit surprised to receive this writing of similar sentiment in the National Geographic. The article is excellent, the photos are stunning. The story is all about the ancient traditions of welcoming the fertility of Spring and how many of those traditions are still alive in Spain, Portugal, Austria, Italy, the Czech Republic, Romania, France, Poland, Switzerland, Germany, Scotland, and Bulgaria. Although not mentioned in this article these traditions live on in Ireland as well.
One might well wonder, as does the article, at the sanity of grown men…and now apparently women although that has not always been the tradition…wandering around in these costumes. One might wonder just how much they believe that costumes and rituals have the power to banish evil and end winter. As one mask traditions scholar quoted in the article says, Modern life tells them not to. But they remain open to the possibility that the old ways run deep.