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!