Carnaval de la Caitiviá – a revival of the spirit of Occitanie in Cordes-sur-Ciel

Carnaval de la Caitiviá took place in Cordes yesterday, after being postponed a week because of bad weather. It was, as good rituals should be, both festive and cathartic. School children in costume paraded through the villages of Cordes and Les Cabannes dancing and drumming to traditional Occitan music. They were led by a big cardboard effigy of Monsieur Carnaval, scapegoat for all the miseries of the participants, who was burned at the end.

The invitation to participate read (in Google translation):

“This Carnival will be that of the caitiviá (of the destitute), festive and demanding. Carnival-goers of all ages, disguised as destitute and excluded from all eras, will stroll through the streets of Cordes and Cabannes.

Loud and joyful, it will be accompanied by artists and musicians, including those from the music conservatory (Cordes and Carmaux branches), La Talvera and the Cantanha choir, themselves supported by children from surrounding schools who will have made their own instruments. The highlight of this Carnival will be the judgment and the cremation of Mr. Carnival, scapegoat for the miseries suffered by the carnival people who will judge him and celebrate his departure with a pantagruelic shared meal! So put on your most beautiful “petaçons” [pétassous] (destitute clothing made of pieces of patched fabric) or another disguise of your choice and join the procession!”

It was indeed loud and joyful!

La Talvera, the cultural association that organizes it, is dedicated to reviving the Occitan culture and language of the area. In addition to yesterday’s extraordinary event, they just published a new book of local legends.

It was a delight to follow the parade through the village and up the path to the meadow where the effigy would be burned.

I can imagine how much fun the participants, especially the children, had in preparing. The costumes were stunning.

Tom and I missed the judging, something we won’t do again, but when the parade reached the meadow, the dancing continued.

La Talvera, the band, lived up to its reputation as the best traditional Occitan band in France. We’re so fortunate to have them based here in Cordes.

The music and dancing paused as the wishes the participants had attached to the effigy were read aloud – let a cafe reopen at the center of the village, let me never be spanked, reduce the price of fuel – as M. Carnaval was wheeled to the pyre and installed.

Then it began again, the crowd swirling around the giant figure as the fire was started.

The fire grew and grew until it engulfed the figure.

A cheer went up as the head fell off!

This is the second year Carnival has been celebrated in Cordes. The revival of an ancient ritual like the Carnaval de la Caitiviá is just what this changing world needs.

We are so very fortunate to have it happening here in Cordes!


6 thoughts on “Carnaval de la Caitiviá – a revival of the spirit of Occitanie in Cordes-sur-Ciel

  1. Wonderful rendering of exactly what our times need! Thank you Eve! It is indeed through the re-creation of such old communal rituals that we build cooperation and creativity!

  2. What a blessing that you live in a village that sees the need to resurrect old rituals in renewed forms! Here on the Central Coast, the keepers of the oldest traditions are the Chumash, and they invented a new ritual last November with “Reunite the Rock,” celebrating the dismantlement of an old breakwater in San Luis Harbor whose material had been blasted from the sacred Lisamu, and which now could be lovingly returned. Youth of the Chumash Maritime Association brought these treasured rocks to the Morro Rock shore in traditional tomol watercraft they had learned to build and navigate in, and we formed a human chain to pass each rock back to its home. Now we are getting ready for the final push to designation of the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary, whose existence could provide the foundation for many community-building resurrections of tradition in the service of renewal!

  3. Jusqu’à une période assez récente, le carnaval avait lieu partout en France au moment de la mi-carême. En effet la pression mise sur les fidèles de la religion catholique pour ne pas boire d’alcool, se priver de certaines nourritures, etc…a donné naissance à cet exutoire où le peuple se déchaînait dans la rue pendant une journée où tout ce qui était interdit pendant les quarante jours du carême devenait autorisé, et bien plus même. Avec la désaffection progressive des rites chrétiens et des églises, cette fête est progressivement tombée elle aussi en désuétude, même si de courageux gardiens des traditions culturelles les remettent au goût du jour par endroits comme à Cordes sur ciel. Bravo à eux. Quelle fête !
    A mettre en rapport avec une autre fête qui se célèbre à peu près au même moment dans toute l’Inde à la veille du premier jour de l’année hindoue, sous le nom de “Holi”, pendant laquelle il est de coutume de se lancer des poudres et des liquides de couleur à la figure et sur les vêtements, dans une joyeuse pagaille. Comme au cours du carnaval, beaucoup des interdits sociaux sont levés ce jour-là. Un Brahmane m’a expliqué que cette débauche de couleurs sur le corps et les vêtements obligeait les participants à se livrer à une toilette poussée et à changer de vêtements pour entamer l’année comme des nouvelles personnes.

    • Good points. These traditions build on one another, taking something from here and something from there, but the underlying connection to the turning of the year – in ours, they were burning away the misery of winter and celebrating spring – and to human nature, runs deep.

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