At the heart of symbolism

Carnival, an upside down world


Mask of Venice carnival

A reversal time

Carnival corresponds today to the period reserved to diversion, between Twelfth Night (Epiphany) and Ash Wednesday, first Lent day. It reaches its climax at the end of the festivities, which means on Shrove Tuesday (“carnevale” in Italian) and is followed by a sudden return to the ordinary life. How far do carnivals as known as those of Venice in Italy, Nice in France, Cologne or Munich in Germany, Bale ou Zurich in Switzerland, Binche in Belgium, Rio in Brasil or New Orleans in the United-States, reflect the origins and foundations of festivals which gave birth to them ?

Carnival and celebrations which gave birth to it constitute festivals of a strictly social character. These festivals do not aim at creating harmony of the being with the Cosmos, but the contrary as they systematically appeal to a reversal, an inversion of the cosmic world tendencies. Of course, such practices were an excellent catharsis for beings whose lives were rigidly regulated and offered a guarantee to the authorities regarding the maintenance of the social order. However, if these practices have fallen into disuse and if carnival is reduced today to an exhibition role where mocking the authorities is still a social outlet that is probably, as underlined by René Guénon, because the means of release, far from being limited to defined periods, have become part of the ordinary life. A life which has even taken on board the witch manifestations when the Halloween feast was brought into line with the style of the day, so far away from the upside down practices of the “Sabbath”.

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