A visual record of indigenous oral histories and traditional practices.
Myth is often transmitted through ritual, and this short film engages with the theme of Carnaval, specifically around the Pyrenees and through the Basque, Catalan and Occitan peoples. They have felt themselves to be colonised as were many earth-based spiritual practices throughout Europe, which left many people cut off from their roots, their lands and their traditions. In the middle ages, practices which had been passed down for millennia were outlawed and seen as evil. The term pagan was used by the Roman Christian church from the word paganos, which mean peasants - those that worked in the countryside and not in urban communities. These peoples needed to be attuned to the cycles of nature and to the life-death and re-birth cycle of the seasons.
Ritual offers an embodied way of engaging with the mythic. It also helps to create a sense of continuity between the generations and acts as a rite of passage for many involved. Carnaval, which is a form of ritualistic activity, can be found in many different countries and cultures, yet retaining the same core elements of dance, music, costumes, masks coloured by wild and anarchic energies.
From a Jungian perspective, many of the Carnaval practices and the bear’s cycle throughout the year reflect the alchemical process of the ascent and descent of the soul. The use of masks, in a sense, invites in a greater transparency as to what lies behind the masks we wear in daily life. Masks and Carnaval offer the opportunity for our hidden energies to be embodied and manifest. The psychological effects of taking part in a Carnaval helps us connect to something primordial. The physicality, the chaos, the transgressing of ‘normal civilised behaviour, allows for a free expression of the subconscious and releases some of our repressed psychological dynamics.
In the second part of this video, we will explore the role of the dead in Carnaval. In Ituren, for example, the Yoaldunak, who are the bell carriers, who keep order in time and are clearly organised from the eldest to the youngest initiates are closely followed by the Mozroak, the Wild Ones, who bring Chaos. They represent the dead that come back through the myth and through the action of the Carnaval. Rhythm is a way of controlling the dead - a form of Psychopomp. If you notice, people within the Carnaval always dance round in an anti-clockwise direction. That is because they are going back in time. They are turning the clock back. The world is recreated through the chaos and it is through the dead coming back that the world can be reborn. But because the dead are so uncontrollable, they bring chaos with them and that is why they need to be controlled by the music and the rhythm of the Carnaval.