Yesterday I got a look behind the scenes of our local Narrenzunft (Fools Guild). Every Fasching, or Carnival, I’ve been awed by the amazing costumes and masks, and highly entertained by the insane craziness of the parades (Fasching 2013;Fasching = Carnival;Fat Tuesday). It has been my dream to learn more. Yesterday I learned more.
As we integrate more into our town, I notice more things that peek my curiosity. Lately, really since fall, I noticed more & more people wearing warm, cuddly hoodies with neon green “Narrenzuft Muteheer” stitched on the back. I wanted one. They were from our town & they were cool.
Turns out I can’t have one (don’t worry, I’m working on it!). However. I did get an invitation to last nights initiation of the new active members. Passive members can participate in the parades, usually in normal clothing holding “our” Narrenzunft standard. Active members, however, must go through an intense and hilarious hazing.
First years are given a costume to wear. Our new first years were in Frog, Cow (milka cow!), and Racoon onsies. Oh! And a psychedelic 70’s suit. My eyes are still burning. Every year the hazing & requirements are a little different. This year the newbies must wear rose crowns (and only one is a woman, much to their dismay), and throw rose petals. The catch being that they have 1,000 rose petals but after Fasching (on Ash Wednesday) they must turn in 1,001. They are also in charge of rolling out the red carpet for all active members & loudly announcing their arrival. Germans are not naturally loud and outgoing.
After the initiation, the second year was given her new Hexen costume. She will get her own, amazing, fabulous, hand-carved mask next year. There was some hazing & drinking of magic potion. The details are slightly vague to me but there was lots of loud cheering and laughing.
Finally the masks for the new full members were handed out. I drooled (just a little). These masks are works of art. Hand-carved, the tradition passed down within families. After, we drank glühwein (and I bought some little bottles of the home-made alcohols to take home) and I got to know more of the members. I even managed to finagle an invitation to the local Narrenbäll next week!
Our local Narrenzuft has only been around since the beginning of last century, it was to separate from the Rhein Carnival celebrations and become it’s own south German tradition. While it revolves around the religious holidays of Three Kings (official start of Fasching and the parades), through the last big celebration on Fat Tuesday (the last day of Fasching, with Ash Wednesday the next day), it is not considered a religious celebration.
It is more based on the much older practices (there are cave drawings dating back 15,000 to 10,000 BC) of warding off evil spirits. Plus, it is always fun dressing up! Check me out trying out a Geister (ghost) mask last night! Note the hair is real horsehair, I have a marten pelt on my head (it’s eyes glow brilliant green) and the owner put a lot of time & effort into customizing it after the carving was complete.