continued, part 2
The Beautiful Ones
Opposed to the ugly ones are the beautiful ones. Their groups consist of
female and male figures. Female types show decorative structures
representing agrarian scenes under the arc. Male figures show a luxuriously
brilliant and colourful platform on which a wooden house in natural style
is built. Though all are factually young men, female types are dressed
like a woman and show also a corresponding mask whereas male figures wear
male clothing and huge flat bells (Treichle) on their front and back,
whereas females have a series of spherical bells (Schelle) mounted on a
leather girdle and producing higher sounds. At the right the farmer of
the house at right in front of his door. These beautiful figures are producing
a fairly miraculous atmosphere in the village environments.
The structure of the female types is a very refined art work with beautiful
colors of a rather baroque style with Asian influences. Interesting is
the compact lower part, the arch left empty and used for representation
like a small theatre and the outer repetitive design implying cloud-like
elements indicating heaven.
These gorgeous figures in this natural winter landscape are an impression
one will never forget. The visitor can also feel the pride of these peoples.
On one hand it evidently speaks of a social process of superseding. A farming
society with its own cyclic values of daily norm and festive antinomy
are combined with an elitarian urban historical element closely attached
to the basic ritual structure thus expressing an enormous contrast which
however produces extremely interesting and beautiful scenery. On the other
hand the motives behind this type of suprastructure is quite clear. It
corresponds to the fairly old urban history of devaluating the traditional
culture of the rural population imposing its own 'civilisation' (see
rural / urban dichotomy) and consequently also keeping the rural domains
under its own control.
The general pattern is the same. A group of the beautiful ones visits
a number of houses which are partly fairly distant from each other. The
figures post themselves in front of the door, making wild noise with their
bells. The farmer and his wife come down, offer some food and drinks. Some
chatting goes on. Then the group forms into a circle and sings som
harmonious chants of the gregorian type. The structure of the rite shows
a definitely polar structure in many respects and is related to the
transition from the old year to the new year. The latter is assumed to
It is amazing to see these strangely decorated figures walk through this
rural landscape using sticks against slipping on the ice covered streets.
The beautiful-ugly ones
The beautiful-ugly ones (die Schön-Wüeschte) seem to be
an autochthonous opposition to the ugly ones contrasting them with a primary
type of aesthetics (pro-portion) like in the case of this hat. It shows
a massive and heavy lower part, the well defined portion and a freely protruding
natural upper part the 'pro' of the lower 'portion'. This type of elementary
aesthetic principle is widespread practically in all cultures high and
low. And in most cases it plays an important role, often in the sacred
domain like e.g. the Acroteres of the Greek temple or in the capitals of
the Ionian and Corinthian columns as well as in the plant capitals of the
plant pillars of Ancient Egypt.
Some of the hats show models of mountain huts or typical farmhouses
of the Appenzell region. Materials are natural like in the case of
the ugly ones, but they are more artfully structured. Some figures have
elaborately decorated parts on their backs (see below). The figures
stand in front of the door and are singing.
Typical facade of an Appenzell house with a group of 'beautiful ugly ones'
and peoples from outside taking part in the rite. They listen to the chants.
In front two figures with elaborately decorated surfaces. Basically the
man wears a straw coat known from many traditional cultures. One part in
the front is decorated with snail shells, thus again alluding to an architectural
topic (German uses 'house' for snail-shell)! Note that the platform of
the hat is similarly curved like the one of the beautiful ones.
These clothes are lavishly decorated with materials we would not relate
to this type of use anymore. Lichen, pine twigs, dried ferns, small and
larger pine cones, dry flowers and so on.
The houses on the hats are clearly visible here. Most surprising is the
hat at the left with its cones partly fixed on the lower part of the hat
and six or seven cones fixed in a way that they are protruding into the
air. With our background of architectural anthropology t is not difficult
to recognize where the model for this surprising arrangement comes from.
It is derived from 'semantic architecture' , in particular from its autonomous
expression of categorical polarity and the corresponding harmonious structure.
So, in fact, the two entirely different hats, with elaborate houses on
the right and with pine cones on the left belong into the same great family
of architectural forms.
Any art historian would call this 'naive art' or 'primtive art'. But on
the other hand we could call the art historian naive. His narrow minded
perspective measures the values of such creations with his own Renaissance
idols like Lionardo or Michelangelo. He has not the least capacity to understand
the values of this society. He falls into the urban trap of apriori devaluation
which is doubtless a great offense against scientific objectivity. The
materials here indicate high age in the sense of tradition: the object
is made like in times immemorial. Originality is not subjective, but social
and temporal. The object represents the reinstitution of an original form
and this is valid for the whole of the festival. The naive representations
of farming life are an indication of cyclic contintuity, not any attempt
towards a glorious representation or invention.
Similar arrangement in the cloth of another 'beautiful ugly'. The surface
is made with nuts of different size and colour. The surfaces express a
very strange beauty and very ancient dignity.The rounded frame shows a
scene of cows migrating into the higher regions of the mountains.
We are also speaking of something which hardly is discussed in ethnology
or folklore studies: the high degree of local autonomy. But, in times of
an increasing and quasi total interdependence this is no more perceived