The Bizarre Pagan Ceremonial Costumes of Remote Europe

Across small snowy towns of Europe, strange animals dance atop the snow each winter as part of an annual celebration of the winter solstice and the coming spring.  These “strange animals” are the inhabitants of small villages that dress up each year to take part in the ceremonies, which occur from January to March.  While the spirit of the celebration is the same, the costumes practices differ between countries and towns.  France-based photographer Charles Fréger visited these ceremonies over the course of two years and captured the images of the costumes and the people for his book, Wilder Mann.  

Romania

Photo: Charles Fréger

Photo: Charles Fréger

 

While the costumes can be bizarre or even menacing, they are created with the intent of celebrating the fresh start and opportunity that comes with the thawing of the winter freeze.  Many animals are represented, including goats, deer, and even monsters, but the bear remains a common theme.  Fréger explains that the bear was the pagan god and was worshipped before Christianity was popularized in the region.

Slovakia

Photo: Charles Fréger

Photo: Charles Fréger

Sardinia

Photo: Charles Fréger

Photo: Charles Fréger

The costumes are often beautiful and appear intricate, but are actually created just days before the ceremony begins.  Fréger says “It’s a farming tradition, so they build it with anything they can find.”

Bulgaria

Photo: Charles Fréger

Photo: Charles Fréger

Switzerland

Photo: Charles Fréger

Photo: Charles Fréger

Austria

Photo: Charles Fréger

Photo: Charles Fréger

Basque

Photo: Charles Fréger

Photo: Charles Fréger

 

Basque

Photo: Charles Fréger

Photo: Charles Fréger

 

Basque

Photo: Charles Fréger

Photo: Charles Fréger

 

Basque

Photo: Charles Fréger

Photo: Charles Fréger

 

Schnappviecher, Tramin, Italy

Photo: Charles Fréger

Photo: Charles Fréger

 

Strohbär, Germany.

Photo: Charles Fréger

Photo: Charles Fréger

 

Babugeri and Chaushi, Bulgaria.

Photo: Charles Fréger

Photo: Charles Fréger

 

Zezengorri, Basque Country, Spain.

Photo: Charles Fréger

Photo: Charles Fréger

 

BurryMan, Scotland.

Photo: Charles Fréger

Photo: Charles Fréger

 

Macinula, Poland.

Photo: Charles Fréger

Photo: Charles Fréger

 

Wilder, Austria.

Photo: Charles Fréger

Photo: Charles Fréger

 

Boes, Sardinia, Italy.

Photo: Charles Fréger

Photo: Charles Fréger

 

MeChkari, Poland.

Photo: Charles Fréger

Photo: Charles Fréger

Fréger has photographed in other regions as well, and created this book to showcase that the root of different regions and cultures have a lot in common. “This project was to show that Europe is also very tribal,” he says. “These rituals are really connected to the same type of traditions in Africa and Asia or anywhere in the world. It’s just to say we didn’t really lose our pagan rituals and we have this in common with a lot of civilizations.”

You can see more photography of Charles Fréger here

Sources: wired, reddit