Switzerland Ethnography and Folklore

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Switzerland, small by extension, but dense in population, participates in the various civilizations of southern, western and central Europe. The Italian-speaking residents of the Ticino and Grisons Canton have united with the Alemannic lineages of German-speaking Switzerland, constituting the main nucleus of the population, and with the French-speaking Western ones, in a confederation that draws its democratic character. from the old traditions of popular local autonomy. The civilization of Ticino and the southern valleys of the Grisons is the closest to that of the Mediterranean area. The land for the vineyard, for the vegetable gardens and also for the fields, is arranged in terraces; the houses are built in stone and in the Canton of Ticino covered with stone slabs or tiles, with several floors and equipped with loggias. In the side streets of the The Engadine buildings, richly decorated with frescoes, also reveal the influence of that civilization. The irregularly arranged blocks of flats are leaning against each other; land ownership is very divided in the Canton of Ticino. L. Rütimeyer found that the Ticino nail plows are similar to the ancient Etruscan forms and also the irrigation systems arranged in the dry and steep slopes of the Valais are linked, for their archaic system of wooden showers, to the Mediterranean culture. Life is difficult in these high alpine valleys. Once the men of Ticino used to go abroad to work as masons and plasterers, while the women took care of the scarce fields and livestock. In these high valleys they usually work the ground themselves with a hoe. Even among the Vallesians, where it is not possible to use plow, women break up the ground with hoes, a form of agriculture perhaps already represented in the rock paintings of the Bronze Age in Liguria. The chestnut, which thrives largely in Ticino, provides the poorest with an important food. Unleavened focaccias are prepared with chestnut flour, cooked on red-hot stones. The local male costume can be considered disappeared and even the feminine one now reveals a certain affinity with the Italian fashions of the century. XIX. The local male costume can be considered disappeared and even the feminine one now reveals a certain affinity with the Italian fashions of the century. XIX. The local male costume can be considered disappeared and even the feminine one now reveals a certain affinity with the Italian fashions of the century. XIX.

Livestock farming with sheep and cattle grazing and the preparation of linen and woolen fabrics for clothing reveals a certain unitary character in the high Swiss Alps, even if in Valais home spinning and weaving was more developed than elsewhere. since the introduction of cotton. The main resource is given by the breeding of livestock; from Valais to eastern Switzerland, the exploitation of the mountain is made more profitable by the introduction of spring crops, the so-called fallows. While in western Switzerland herding is an individual profession, in the German Alps the entire community takes an active part in the surveillance of livestock. The departure of the cattle for the pasture takes place in procession, the leading animals are embellished with ornaments and, having reached the heights, the priest solemnly blesses the pastures. In this area the population is dispersed in small villages or farmhouses and in isolated houses. In Ticino and Valais the rooms used as dwellings are superimposed to form multi-storey houses. The kitchen known as “ca da föc” in Ticino is still very important in central Switzerland as a living and living room. Chimneys built according to Romanesque use are common in the Canton of Ticino. Here the rooms built with beams are generally attached to the built-in kitchen; but the massive log construction dominates the whole mountain area. In Ticino and Valais the rooms used as dwellings are superimposed to form multi-storey houses. The kitchen known as “ca da föc” in Ticino is still very important in central Switzerland as a living and living room. Chimneys built according to Romanesque use are common in the Canton of Ticino. Here the rooms built with beams are generally attached to the built-in kitchen; but the massive log construction dominates the whole mountain area. In Ticino and Valais the rooms used as dwellings are superimposed to form multi-storey houses. The kitchen known as “ca da föc” in Ticino is still very important in central Switzerland as a living and living room. Chimneys built according to Romanesque use are common in the Canton of Ticino. Here the rooms built with beams are generally attached to the built-in kitchen; but the massive log construction dominates the whole mountain area.

In the German region the settlements are more dispersed and in the high valleys, hamlets and isolated houses prevail. It is to be considered archaic the custom of raising various separate buildings for the dwelling and the various services, which only later were reunited in a larger building, in which the house with its hearth and the barn (deposit of fodder) has a special part. Added to this is the granary, a particularly solid construction in trusses, which in Valais and elsewhere rests on high poles. The similarities with the pole-mounted granaries of Scandinavia are evident. Other concordances with northern Europe are revealed in the hay and wheat desiccators, which in the southern Alps appear to be large abacus. In the canton of Grisons the villages have large, spacious houses, equipped with covered passages that lead from the house to the stable and warehouse. With heavy brickwork on the outside, the house is made of wood, the rooms as in other Swiss regions are made more graceful, rich and habitable by wooden cladding. The roof is flat pitched throughout, generally covered with laths held in place by stones; in the high mountains, slate plates are also used. In these regions woodworking has developed greatly. Especially the utensils for milk are various in decoration and shape; there are also milking stools, cow collars, fortresses and other objects, which the shepherds carve during their free time, without forgetting the alpine horns made from small pine trunks; empty the two halves rejoin by wrapping them in birch peel. Cattle own, a melody that has always aroused the nostalgia of the Swiss living in a foreign land. The furnishing of the old buildings with chests, drawers inserted in the wooden coverings, pompous beds, cradles, chairs, etc., gave them a patrician character, which has been partially preserved, since pieces with Gothic or Renaissance style characters have been handed down for centuries. The stove is an important piece of furniture in the living room; in the more affluent houses it is covered with tiles, in eastern Switzerland it is often in polychrome majolica. Winterthur was a manufacturing center for huge such stoves. In less well-off houses there are masonry stoves. Characteristic of the Bernese Oberland is the protruding platform used as a seat. Excellent material for the construction of stoves is also given by talc and serpentine,

Rütimeyer demonstrated how numerous archaic features still persist in the activity of these mountainous areas.

Resin candles wrapped in birch peel are still used, albeit rarely, and butter or tallow is burned in the lamps, according to an ancient custom of worship. In the Valais and elsewhere these lamps were prepared in the form of bowls or with a serpentine or soapstone pedestal, according to very ancient traditions; Pliny already gives us news of the use of these stones around Lake Como. Children still play with primitive toys, animals made with pine cones, branches or pieces of wood, shaped more or less in the shape of cows, oxen, bulls. Sheep knucklebones are also used.

The old custom has only survived in individual regions, for example in the Valais. Men wear rough loden jackets and cloaks in winter, but the fabrics (linen and wool) are woven at home and even the cut is old-fashioned and suitable for hard work. The women wear dark brown or black skirts, with deep pleats, and tight, high-necked bodices with a rough smock and apron, to which they add a jacket on Sundays. The ribbon hat that recalls the French fashion of the Second Empire does not suit you very much. In the Alps, women use, like men, trousers and short jackets for work. In the Appenzell the cowherds wear a traditional overcoat consisting of a kind of sheep’s wool coat with hood; of the ancient costume worn on holidays, eg. when the herds leave for the high pastures,

In Appenzell, artistic northern-inspired embroidery and lace reaches the innermost Alpine villages. Night engagements are in general use (Kiltgang) governed by strict rules under the supervision of male youth; couples are drawn by lot, who must accompany each other throughout the year in parties and dances, and also the young people organize fantastic masquerades. In Flums there are still wood carvers who prepare masks of demons and grotesque faces, used in carnival for processions and dramatic scenes, accompanied by mocking rhymes, etc. There is no shortage of figures adorned with foliage, branches and fir cones, in the May feasts and in the winter processions, which started for China Nicola and continue until the whole carnival. The green Christmas tree is being prepared in Switzerland until the feast of St. Nicholas. Primitive character reveal the demonic faces that the young people of the Lötschental in Valais carry together with goat skins in the noisy night parades of winter.

In the Lake Constance region fishing with pots and large nets is practiced extensively, served by entire teams. Ancient fishing communities also flourish on the shores of the other lakes. In the most favored areas, the cultivation of vines is accompanied by that of fields, especially in western Switzerland, where the life of the winemaker has given rise to numerous uses. The grape harvest festivals of Vevey, Montreux, etc. are famous. The houses in the Lake Constance region are of the Swabian type, that is, almost all with wooden and masonry compartments; those of the winemakers have a cellar and barn on the ground floor, and sometimes also an area formerly used for weaving. The house and warehouse are often built next to each other. The roof is sloping. A house of the Alemannic type has been gaining momentum in northern Switzerland, in the region that extends south-east from Lake Constance; it is a house similar to those of the Black Forest, in which, under an imposing sloping thatched roof, the house, barn and barn are united. In the part used as a dwelling there is, next to the kitchen and the room, also the granary which in many places stands isolated. The roof is supported by gigantic columns. In the canton of Bern, where the high mountain ends, the houses are a real jewel of wooden architecture, decorated with carvings, mottos and paintings. Elsewhere the brick houses are covered with tiles. In the Jura there are also Romanesque and German architectural forms. A considerable number of columns support large buildings covered by a sloping roof covered with stone slabs. It is a subspecies of the Alemannic unitary buildings. The funnel-shaped vaults of the kitchens in the regions formerly belonging to the ancient kingdom of Burgundy are also singular, then imitated with pyramid trunks also in the wooden houses; we can think of an Alemannic-type influence on the Germanic building of the Celtic hut-kitchen, which was, as we know, a circular plan. In the wine-growing regions of the west there are small towns of the city type. Pastures predominate in the Jura, metallurgy also thrives there, but especially the fine watchmaking industry. west, there are small towns of the city type. Pastures predominate in the Jura, metallurgy also thrives there, but especially the fine watchmaking industry. west, there are small towns of the city type. Pastures predominate in the Jura, metallurgy also thrives there, but especially the fine watchmaking industry.

In the average Switzerland, which is the region most open to traffic and in which the most important cities arise, customs and traditions are more prone to civic popular festivals, in which the ancient costumes of a rather bourgeois style appear. The feminine robes with colorful and highly ornate bodices have retained a more distinctly peasant character than the men’s ones, when the profession of cowherds does not give them a local character. The professional costume of the Bernese and Friborgian cowboys consists of a short brown or black cloth jacket, which on holidays is covered with embroidery.

Switzerland is very rich in songs, legends and even popular customs, which reveal even today – despite the greater uniformity of life, a consequence of improved communications and economic transformations during the century. XIX – a very great variety from place to place, perhaps further increased by the fact that certain uses survive only in certain places.

Many customs still alive today have a superstitious content and are connected with ancient beliefs. In particular, much attention is paid to omens and oracles are sought; many superstitions refer to diseases and their healing. Recent trials have shown that the belief in witchcraft is still alive today: hexes can affect both men and animals and against them they resort to amulets or spells.

The belief that babies are born because they are carried by storks is now widespread in the infant world and only rarely is there still talk of the origin of babies from water or large stones. We try to influence the character and fate of the newborn in various ways. The invitation to be godfather is sometimes still carried out with a determined ceremonial and the commitment of the godfather to give gifts to the godson lasts until confirmation.

Once upon a time, the marriage application was made through certain third parties; acceptance or rejection was expressed with the presentation of certain foods (especially old homemade cheese). The nuptials took place with a handshake and the purchase of wine (the betrothed ate and drank together). As a wedding token, the groom used to give the bride a gift, mostly a coin; the rings are of recent use. If the bridegroom is from another village, he must redeem the bride from the Knabenschaft by means of a gift (see below). Today it is still customary to solemnly bring the Brautfuder into the new house(the trousseau of the bride). The custom of hiding the bride or pushing a false bride forward has become rare. The wedding procession takes place according to an order and in meticulously pre-established costumes. The wedding was held in front of the church door. Important are the wedding dinner and gifts, the value of which is traditionally regulated.

Countless omens herald death. The body is often fully clothed. New mothers receive shoes because they have to go back to their baby. Even recently, food was placed in coffins. All sorts of distinctions are made between married and celibate dead: until recently only the latter received flowers, and, even today, sometimes a blue or white coffin. The custom of watching over the dead and offering refreshments to those who watch over him continues to this day. During the funeral procession, care is taken that nothing unusual happens, which would be a bad omen. The funeral banquet after the burial is still preserved in some places.

Regular meetings on winter evenings for spinning have become rare. The Knabenschaften played an important role in regulating relations between young men and girls, of which residues survive in most of the countries of the Confederation, especially in the Grisons. They are an organization of young bachelors with a presidency, a fund and statutes. Their activity has above all the character of a court of customs; the penalties are noises and other acts of popular justice. At one time these associations had a more military character and also exercised political influence. Above all, they kept foreign suitors away from the villages; in some places girls were raffled off. Kiltgang is also granted to young celibates, that is, the evening visit to the girls by individuals or entire brigades.

Most of the popular customs relating to law, agriculture and economic life in general have died out as a result of economic development. Thus, while once communal woods and pastures brought together the entire population of a village for common celebrations, today this rarely happens. Even the ancient custom of outdoor municipality meetings survives only in a few cantons. Only in the life of the high mountain pastures have some characteristic elements been maintained: both legal customs (for example, the notches), and uses relating to pastoralism. The cattle are still decorated and led in solemn procession by the cowmen to the hut or back down to the valley. In individual regions, cow battles occur at the beginning of the grazing season. In the Catholic regions the hut is blessed by the priest, Betruf (a blessing that is shouted on the alp). Feasts of mountaineers give occasion to dances and competitions, for example, lifting and throwing of stones.

The costume has almost entirely disappeared as everyday wear and still survives only as a holiday dress. Religious or civil feasts still give rise to collective demonstrations; among the latter we must remember the cantonal and federal holidays (commemorative feasts of battles, federal holiday of 1 August, etc.), and those of many associations and corporations (for example, the feast of the winemakers in Vevey).

Religious feasts are, in popular celebrations, linked to the unfolding of the seasons and to ancient beliefs. Thus winter was generally regarded as the season in which demons raged, which it was hoped to drive out with noise and with masks; but as the age of the spirits the twelve days were considered above all (Zwölftagen) around the winter solstice – that is, the time between Christmas and the Epiphany – and from these days we draw the auspices relating to the time in each of the twelve months of the coming year. Noisy processions already begin on St. Nicholas’ day (December 6) who was once the saint who brought gifts to children: a custom now transferred to Christmas, while the custom of the tree has spread almost everywhere for about a century. Christmas. On the various days of celebration, processions of children are in use, asking for gifts by singing songs and saying wishes.

Carnival means the beginning of spring. It is now celebrated with banquets, dances and masquerades. In some places the masquerades are organized by special societies; the carnival in Basel took on particularly characteristic forms. Only in individual cases the traditional masks carved in wood still appear. The use of wearing the mask often led to real carnival comedies, in which, for example, the old maids were mocked. The noise, which is mostly associated with the masquerade, the fires on the hills, the throwing of wooden discs and the burning of straw puppets (a usage still surviving in Zurich) date back to ancient agrarian rites. Also in the celebration of Easter and Pentecost some folkloristic elements are noticed. To the coal of the Easter fire and to the Easter water is attributed magical virtues; general is the custom of donating Easter eggs, which are presumed to be brought by hares, and games such as running with eggs are still frequent. On 1 May (in Grisons on 1 March, in other places only at Pentecost) children adorned with foliage and also with thunderous instruments go around and collect gifts. The feast of Corpus Domini has also become a popular spring festival. While winter and spring bring with them numerous uses, these are very rare in summer and autumn; and the federal holiday of 1 August eliminated, allowing them to survive only sporadically, the feasts and customs of midsummer (summer solstice, St. John). which are presumed to be carried by hares, and games are still frequent, such as running with eggs. On 1 May (in Grisons on 1 March, in other places only at Pentecost) children adorned with foliage and also with thunderous instruments go around and collect gifts. The feast of Corpus Domini has also become a popular spring festival. While winter and spring bring with them numerous uses, these are very rare in summer and autumn; and the federal holiday of 1 August eliminated, allowing them to survive only sporadically, the feasts and customs of midsummer (summer solstice, St. John). in other places only at Pentecost) children adorned with foliage and also with thunderous instruments go around and collect gifts. The feast of Corpus Domini has also become a popular spring festival. While winter and spring bring with them numerous uses, these are very rare in summer and autumn; and the federal holiday of 1 August eliminated, allowing them to survive only sporadically, the feasts and customs of midsummer (summer solstice, St. John).

Study materials and means. – The first studies on Swiss folklore date back to the beginning of the century. XIX. The ideas of Rousseau and Haller aroused the interest of foreigners and Swiss for the village population and songs and legends began to be collected. The interest in dialects and dialectal poetry was also aroused. Under the impulse of the mythological investigation in Germany, they were formed in the course of the century. XIX collections of legends for almost every canton; while the first popular songs published at the feast of the shepherds of Unspunnen (1805) were then added more and more numerous ones up to the recent collections. In 1896 E. Hoffmann-Krayer founded the Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Volkskunde in Basel, which takes care of the systematic collection of material in all regions and notable publications; in its manuscript collections there are about 35,000 French, German, Italian and Rhaeto-Roman folk songs; since 1932 also the collections of Enquete über schweizerische Volkskunde. Much valuable material is also found in dialect vocabulary. A real collection of folkloristic objects is in the “Europe” section of the Volkskundliches Museum in Basel. For its part, the Gesellschaft für Trachtenvereinigung seeks to revive the use of folk costume.

Switzerland Folklore