Canton Valais (Wallis)
This is the Canton where Pirmin (a character in my Forest Knights novels) is from. If you’ve read the book, you know Pirmin is quite enamored with the opposite sex (and they with him!) so you can imagine how he would thrive in this particular festival which takes place in February:
Tschäggätta in the Lötschental in Canton Valais (Wallis)
(Lötschental mask© picswiss)
Young unmarried men and boys roam the streets of the villages of the valley, wearing demonic masks and tunics made of sheep or goat skins, and ringing bells. The name refers to the black and white colour of these tunics: “tschäggätta” means “piebald” in the local dialect.
By tradition the Tschäggätta wear gloves smeared with soot, and take the occasional swipe at anyone they meet (particularly young women).
The masks are handcarved, and each one is different. They normally feature crooked teeth and bulging, uneven eyes. It is said that they reflect the untamed nature of the valley. They have also been interpreted as an expression of anarchy and rebellion in a peasant society that was largely dominated by the church.
The tradition stems from the time the valley was cut off from the outside world in winter. Unlike other mask-related customs in Switzerland, the Tschäggätta were never formally organised in any way. Processions have only been held on specific dates since the late 1960s, when custom looked in danger of dying out as young men left the valley in search of work.