EUROPE’S WILD MEN
Between December and Easter, tiny villages spanning all the way from Romania to Portugal become overrun with humans who shed their human form completely.
Dressed like bears, goats, stags and monsters, the people of the village jump, shout and reenact wild hunts as part of the annual festivals that celebrate the winter solstice and beginning of spring.
Most of the get-ups look menacing, with their sharp teeth, wild fur and weapon-like accessories, but the festivals are actually a way for humans to usher in spring and celebrate life.
Photographed by Charles Fréger’s, you’ll see people dressed as bears, which he explains was believed to be the pagan god before Christianity came into the picture. But the Wild Man, and its various names, is represented differently in almost every country he visited.
In Germany, the Reisigbar is a bear dressed in twigs and a wooden mask. In Poland, the Macinula is a clown-like figure covered in strips of multi-colored rags and paper. And in Spain’s Basque Country, people dress as the Zezengorri, a bare-skulled beast who carries around a pitchfork. In Bulgaria, professionals have cornered the market on crafting the masks made of skin and horns, and depending on what country you’re in, the traditional bells that are worn around the waist can cost anywhere from 50 to 500 euros.
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