Lötschental Masks

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Although not as well known as the carnival masks of Venice, Switzerland does have its own mask traditions.  However, none are as peculiar as the ¨tschäggätta¨ from the Lötschental in the canton of Valais.

On certain evenings during Carnival, enormous demonic creatures take to wandering the villages in the Lötschental (Lötsch Valley), scaring the dickens out of whomever they meet.  The costumes, originally worn by unmarried males, consist of oversized goat or sheepskin tunics, a bell to ring noisily, a walking stick and, most importantly, a huge wooden mask with facial features that could only have been created from serious nightmares.  The true identities behind the ¨tschäggätta¨ schenanigans remain concealed, often even from each other.IMGP0643

It is unclear whether this custom is related to religion or just a severe reaction to cabin fever in the middle of a long winter.  The tradition is several hundred years old, and it was almost unknown to those outside the remote Lötschental until the early 1900s.  Even identifying dates and times to see these creatures is a relatively new concept, as common practice dictated that the ¨tschäggätta¨ act independently.

Today only about 30 mask carvers remain, and not many of them are willing to allow their creations to leave the valley.IMGP0549