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 be harmonious.

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 as value.