The Egetmann Parade
Aggiornamento: 2 gen 2021
Story and Photographs by Corrado Mariani
The Egetmann parade is a celebration that takes place every other year on Shrove Tuesday, the last day of Carnival, in a small South Tyrolean town called Tramin. It is an ancient tradition whose roots are difficult to reconstruct – but even if its beginnings remain shrouded in mystery, its ways clearly recall pre-Christian times, filled with pagan fertility rites and sacrifices to the gods.
From more than one point of view, the Egetmann is a symbolic representation of the eternal battle between good and evil, light and darkness, and the fertile springtime trying to fight off the winter that preceded it. In fact, the beginning of the parade is marked by the fight of the Schnappviecher, monstrous winter spirits twice as tall as a man and covered in fur, which take delight in racing through the town’s streets, preying on innocent people and scaring them by flapping their jaws.
They are usually closely followed by brave knights symbolizing the upcoming spring, whose task it is to catch the spirits, throw them to the ground and slay them with their wooden swords.
Indeed, the entire parade is a constant game of catching and being caught: walking through Tramin during the Egetmann, one may very well find himself covered in rotten fish, calves blood or black shoe polish – sure sign of an encounter with a Purgele, witch-like characters with blackened faces and hands, who keep skipping about town to cleanse the town (purgare, lat. for cleansing) from the last remains of the past winter.
The traditional killing of the winter spirits is followed by several different parade floats, showcasing not only the various traditional trades (among which threshers, tinkers, cobblers, fishermen, gypsies, coopers, millers and washerwomen), but also featuring a wedding carriage accompanying farmer Egetmann, the richest farmer in town, towards town square, where his symbolic wedding to a beautiful young woman (like all of Egetmann’s characters traditionally played by a man) serves as the main fertility ritual meant to bring a good harvest to the farmers all around.
The Egetmann’s strength and beauty clearly lies in its authenticity and how it was able to stick to its essence without adapting to modern marketing methods, tending to exploit tradition for profit’s sake. So, instead of ending up on postcards as a Disney-like tourist attraction, the Egetmann remains a present-day portal to the past, bringing to life ancient spirits and rituals from long lost times. Not surprisingly, the Egetmann’s application to UNESCO has recently been accepted, and it will only be a matter of time until it joins its ranks as a world cultural heritage site.