The April issue of National Geographic had a photo essay by Charles Fréger that caught my eye...
EUROPE'S WILD MEN
I am always one for fables, monster tales, pagan traditions, ritualistic practices, and brilliant garb.
"A primal heart still beats in Europe. Deep beneath the gloss of cell phone sophistication lie rituals that hard back to harvests and solstices and fear of the winter dark. Monsters loom in this shadowy heart, but so does the promise of spring's rebirth and fertile crops and women cradling newborn babies. It turns out that Europe-at least pockets of it-has not lost its connection to nature's rhythms. That connection is rekindled during festivals that occur across the continent from the beginning of December until Easter. The celebrations correspond to Christian holidays, but the rituals themselves often predate Christianity. The roots are difficult to trace."
(photo below left: PORTUGAL | During Carnival in Lazarim characters called caretos parade through the village in hand-carved masks to a bonfire where effigies known as the comadre and compadre are burned)
(photo below right : AUSTRIA | Every five years the men of Telfs collect lichen to create Wilder Mann, or Wild Man, costumes for the town's Carnival festival. Tradition dictates that they nibble on a piece of this lichen before the festivities)
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( Upper Left - ROMANIA New Years Day // Upper Right - FRANCE Bear at the Festival of the Bears )
( Lower Left - SWITZERLAND Sauvage at Carnival // Lower Right - GERMANY Strohmann at Carnival )
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( Upper Left - POLAND Macidulas on New Years // Upper Right - SPAIN Zezengorri at Carnival )
( Lower Left - ITALY Boes on the Eve of St. Anthony // Lower Right - AUSTRIA Krampus on St. Nicholas's Eve )
(photo below left: GERMANY | On Christmas Eve Pelzmärtle appears in the village of Bad Herrenalb with the Christkind (Baby Jesus) to scold naught children and rap them with a stick. The straw costume is sewn on to the wearer)
(photo below right: BULGARIA | On New Year's Day men cover themselves with goatskins to impersonate the Kukeri, who both embody and chase away evil spirits. In the past they'd brush against women to bestow fertility)