These creepy dudes look straight out of our nightmares, right? Definielty don’t want to run into these guys if your ever alone, camping, with the sounds of screeching chants coming from the woods. Lucky for us they only come out once a year during the holidays to haunt the innocent souls of children. You see, while we’re nestled near the fire with our families munching on gingerbread men and sipping on hot cider, in most Austrian Alpine towns, it’s tradition for the men to dress up as Krampus, a horned monster looking figure described as “half-goat, half-demon.” Legend warns of the horned beast who punish bad kids and squabbling families who lose their festive spirit. In that case, where do I sign up?
A few years ago, photographer Charles Fréger traveled through 19 European countries, documenting the various pagan rites he came across along the way. Dressed in bear heads with giant balls (bells), they were described behaving like menacing beasts and aptly named them the “Wilder Men.”
Here we have the Mamuthones, typical of the carnival of Mamoiada in Sardinia.
In Slovenia, one of the most popular carnival events is know as Kurentovanje. The main attraction, a figure know as Kurent seen as an extravagant god of unrestrained pleasure and hedonism. In today’s festival, groups of kurents wear traditional sheepskin garments and are believed to “chase away winter”. Being a kurent was at first a privilege offered only to unmarried men, but today, married men, children and women are also invited to wear the outfit. I’m looking for one of these outfits on Amazon as we speak.
Mechkari costumes of the bear handler in Prilep, in the region of Pelagonia, Macedonia.
Bearded Djolomari of Macedonia.
The Bulgarian Babugeri, to scare away evil spirits. This looks like something straight out of “Where the Wild Thins Are.”
Old-Slavic pagan traditions held on the Easter Monday in Poland include symbolic acts of purification after the wintertime and the evoking of fertility for the arrival of spring is performed by throwing water on people from the community. The symbolic ancestors, Dziady, wear costumes made of woven straw and masks of sheep skin. Like Batman, the Dziady can’t reveal their real identity or talk, and only murmur, whistle and hoot.
Juantramposo, a mischief-maker, appears on Mardi Gras in Alsasua, Spain. The festival ends with all the participants taking part in a celebratory dance.
The Gallarones, Spain
In Germany, on Christmas Eve Pelzmärtle appears in the village of Bad Herrenalb. But he’s not alone, he rolls with his sidekick the Christkind (Baby Jesus) to scold naughty children and spank them with stick. The costume is sewn directly on to the wearer. I have no idea how they get out of it but why would they?
Strohmann at Carnival in Germany.
Schnappviecher the snapping beast on Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day).
Stag on New Year’s Day in Romania. Adding color is nice touch, don’t want to start the year on a frightened note.