Wednesday, February 09, 2005

A lamentable broth of damnable kettlings

Today is Aschermittwoch (Ash Wednesday) in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. Those with the proper affiliation credentials have their foreheads smudged with the ashen splotch that signifies they've complied with the religious tenets of their beliefs.

Using the kept ash of palm fronds burned on the previous year's Palmsonntig (Palm Sunday), the believer kneels before the priest as he makes the sign of the cross, dabs palm ash upon their forehead and says, From the dust you came forth, and to dust shall you return. Lent officially begins today with all the previous week's indulgences foresworn as the time of fasting and cleansing commences.

Last night was the infamous Monztercorso wherein all the KUF groups, Güggenmusig bands, civic clubs, the rogue independents, the zany fringe characters parade down the Luzern Bahnhofstrasse, across the Seebrücke to Schwanenplatz, along the Schweizerhofquai to Töpferstrasse, back down Hertensteinstrasse through Falkenplatz, surging down the final stretch on Löwengraben toward the endpoint in the crowd-choked Mühlenplatz where everyone just goes bonkers.

The music is one big monzterous voice emanating from the maw of the raucous finale as every Güggenmusig band that will fit joins forces to shatter the very stars with the proclamation that Fasnacht has drawn to a close. The air is charged with the scent of the many traditional foods, beery cheers, smoky fireworks, incense, tobacco, revelry, romance, and the happy wickedness of every sated being in attendance. In this manner is the Devil thusly driven out for another year, although his cloven hoofs can't be heard clopping away down the darkened cobblestones for all the riotous clamoring.

Karneval is over. Interestingly, the word carne + vale translates into meat, probably lives. Indeed. Meat probably lives. Another literal definition in the Latin vein is carne = meat + levare = to remove or raise. Hence, we have the meat removal contingent, or the meat raisers alliance. I prefer the latter in that it infers the meat raising of resurrection. Go figure.

Of course, carnevale found its origins in the roots of such historically proud ventures as the Roman Bacchanalia, Saturnalia, and the Lupercalia, all richly steeped in the frightfully colorful traditions of pagan superstition and European folklore. As the Roman Catholic Church was unable to stamp out these most nigglesome rituals, they were finally forced to accept many of these crude pantheistic galabrations by morphing them into the present day church rexicon.

Thus, from out of this quaint plethora of parades, pageants, and masquerades, emerged the medieval church-influenced, Feast of Fools, which included a mock Mass and a raucously blasphemous impersonation of the divinely incorruptible church officials. Not willing to have itself made fun of for too long, the will and power of the Church eventually manifested itself and carnevale was gingerly relieved of its most offending elements.

The Church continued to quash and relieve by such clever marketing strategies as the acclaimed Crusades, the held-over-by-popular-demand Inquisition, and the highly illuminating, well-attended witch burnings. By dominating, domineering, and domino-ing the traditional structures of the various carnivals, each became directly related to the coming of Lent. A rather nice trick, all in all. Well done!

But, alas, I progress. I had no idea this was going to turn into a history lesson marinaded in the bitter herbs of seasonings past mixed with my own lamentable broth of damnable kettlings. If thine blog offend thee, click it out! one might say.

So happy Aschermittwoch to all my friends and family in Switzerland, and know I am there in cyberspirit with you, side by side, in need of a damp terricloth towel to remove the stain on my forehead so I won't ruin my freshly laundered pillowcases. They don't have such luxuries as comfy pillows in Hell, I know, but I hear they keep the rooms nice and warm. Surely the buffet, one can safely surmise, is top notch with its ever-revolving, slow-roasting spits perennially loaded with freshly skewered meat, probably living.


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