Carnival

Today is Shrove Tuesday, when all our sins are forgiven, and when we need to eat pancakes and all the cream  before Lent. Husband and I celebrated early and had Norwegian waffles on Saturday.  Shrove  is the past tense of shrive, which means to confess one’s sins, repent, and be forgiven and absolved. Pancakes are powerful. Germans eat pastries called Fastnachts for the same effect.

We visited Montreal several summers and stayed in the Old Port. There we purchased carnival masks made in Venice in a lovely book store near the Notre Dame  cathedral.  We tried to find Renaissance Commedia dell’arte masks instead of the  fantastical masks you can find in more commercial venues.  We managed to get a zanni mask. A zanni is a servant who sometimes has a long  nose. The longer his nose, the more ignorant he is. The mask reminds me of a plague mask. His name is the derivation of our English word “zany”.

A couple of Harlequin (Arlechinno) masks. He is another zanni, but with a shorter nose. He is a somewhat clever servant character:

 

And two Columbine (Columbina) masks.  She is Harlequin’s love interest and a very perky, very clever servant.

 

Our local Catholic School district has  a major fund raiser they call Mardi Gras every year in February. It involves games, entertainment, and lots of good food. It is open to the community and region.  People are most unhappy since the new bishop in Bismarck decided a couple of years ago that all the money raised had to be sent to the diocese, and he would decide how much of the money should get sent back to the local Catholic schools and how much would be used for diocesan expenses.  Sounds like a perfect Commedia plot.  I am sure the clever servants would get all the money back, further any thwarted love interests, and show the bishop to be a fool.

What does the word carnival mean to you?  What is the appeal wearing a mask? What kind of mask would you like to wear?

38 thoughts on “Carnival”

  1. As objects, the masks are very cool. But something in my personality makes the wearing of masks, figuratively or literally, uncongenial. My disinterest/inability to engage in impersonation was in large part the reason I disengaged with the living history group, where many of the public activities entailed adopting a (supposedly) historically appropriate persona. My interest, I quickly recognized, was in research and not in play acting.

    I’ve thought about my aversion to masks and impersonation and why that might be. Either my sense of self is so settled and durable that no alternate self is sufficiently appealing, or my sense of self is so fragile that I dare not leave it. I’d prefer to think it’s the former, but who am I to judge?

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    1. To me, costume is a playful variation from ordinary identity. In a costume I am still me, but a me with new possibilities. Masks are more about denial of ordinary identity. Masks allow me to pretend I am not me. (“Who IS that masked man?”)

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  2. Masks seems to encourage misbehavior. While it is conceivable the mask allows one to behave correctly but anonymously (the Lone Ranger) it seems far more likely that masks encourage conduct one seeks to avoid responsibility for having done.

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    1. In that sense, the idea of absolution is a kind of mask. The misbehavior can’t be undone and one is never the same person as before the misbehavior, but the mask of absolution pretends it is so.

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  3. I don’t have a lot of experience with masks, but I do enjoy getting into all kinds of costumes, sometimes masks included. I wonder if the trying on personasis part of the perpetual “seeking of definition of self” that I experience.

    Joel also liked getting into costume, and we have a great photo of him dressed (mask and all) for a Halloween party as the Man in Black from Princess Bride, brandishing his “sword”.

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    1. When I was a kid carnivals were not only traveling entertainment groups but were associated with activities too unsavory for a group that did not travel. Carnivals used to feature freak shows and peep shows that flirted with any notion of what was tasteful. Circus organizations did some similar things, but I think circuses (is that the right plural?) respected community norms a bit more than carnivals.

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  4. Interesting comments on masks by baboons who it seems are solid citizens without them ;).

    Masks are also good defense mechanisms and can get you through some otherwise difficult situations, when you havew to show up in a place you really don’t belong.

    “Keep moving and look like you know where you are going” is an excellent mask and can keep one out of a fair bit of trouble.

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      1. Not really, Steve. But having worked in the arts most of my adult life, I find that I am usually among people who share my education level and a lot of “background”, but whose bank accounts look very different.

        Life is much simpler when they are completely unaware of the effort and creativity that goes into making myself “fit in”.

        In another case, I found a cheap pair of dark glasses kept most people at a distance when I needed to go into Manhattan on work-related shopping trips and was not quite sure where I was going, so needed to be looking for street signs. Suddenly, I did not appear as likely to be in need of whatever some huckster was selling, nor did I look like such an easy “mark”.

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  5. To me, carnival means Basler Fasnacht. Three days of insane revelry that I experienced only once. The Swiss are normally a pretty stoic people, but during Fasnacht there are no holds barred. Here’s a description of it that I found on the internet that describes it much better than I can: “Basel is turned upside-down during what locals call the “three best days” in the year. Everything starts on the Monday after Ash Wednesday at exactly 4 am – in total darkness. The popular “Morgestraich” then turns the city centre into a sea of illuminated, hand-painted lanterns, where thousands of costumed pipers and drummers accompany “their lantern” and “their theme” with music through the streets – until the “Endstraich” on Thursday, again precisely at 4 am. And you absolutely have to experience everything in between.”

    At the conclusion of the parade, it’s traditional to go to a restaurant and eat Zwiebelwähe, a savory onion pie, then you’re ready to party. Here’s a link to more information on Fasnacht that shows some of the fantastic costumes and masks. If you hurry, you can still make it to this year’s celebration, it’s the party of a lifetime:
    https://www.basel.com/en/Carnival-in-Basel

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      1. The whole thing was a riot, BiR. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much confetti in one place. We had confetti everywhere, in our clothes and shoes, in our hair, in our ears. You had to be careful not to laugh with an open mouth or someone was liable to throw a handful at your face. Annette, my roommate, and I spent every spare moment we had during those three days participating in all the fun activities associated with the celebration. Glad I got to do that once when I was young and had the stamina to go the distance.

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  6. Here’s a message that Barb Adams posted to FB about half an hour ago:
    “Missing Jim Ed and Dale on this very blustery morning. the goats have been despondent for years over lack of good milking music.

    In a Gadda Da Vida ….Albert Kuvezin, Yat-Kha”
    The video fits right in with today’s topic.

    Liked by 2 people

        1. While I was working at the alternative school, Huun-huur-tu performed at the Cedar Cultural Center. I inquired whether it would be possible to have them come to our school to give a demonstration to our students of throat singing. I offered them a small fee, $250.00 if memory serves, and we’d prepare lunch for the group. Surprisingly they accepted our offer. I had a couple of sleepless nights, worrying that this rather unique cultural experience would be lost on our student body.

          Huun-huur-tu showed up, changed into their native dress, and performed for about half an hour, after which we served them a lunch especially prepared for them. For days following the performance, students could be heard in the hallways practicing their throat singing. They were mesmerized by these humble men and their unique art form.

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  7. I need. A gas mask. Dr day for her. Sitting is very painful. Three hours of it. Came home to find them painting halls by us. Very allergic to that industrial strength late .

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  8. My grandfather had his First World War gas mask that he wore in the trenches in France. We used to play with it. It was somewhat suffocating to wear. I think it had a charcoal filtet

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  9. Evening all. I don’t really have a problem with the idea of masks, but I don’t like things touching my face. So masks are kind of out for me. As for the meaning of Carnival, that means state fair for me.

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