The Limoux Carnival
This annual carnival has been held for centuries and its purpose seems to be to make fun of society and its rules. For 10 weeks, 3 times, each Saturday and Sunday leading up to the 2nd Sunday before Easter, different masked groups, representing various guilds, parade through the streets. The first parade, at 11am, is supposed to provide amusement and mock some local or national story from the past year. The last parade of the day, at 11pm, is torch lit and is more sombre and mystical.
We saw the 11am parade on Sunday 5th February. It was incredibly cold, and the snow started to fall during the parade. The musicians, wearing stunning red smocks, looked cold.....there was evidence of frozen moustaches, and clearly, some sore chapped lips attached to trombones, clarinets and various horns.
The actual characters in the parade we saw were monks, nuns, a priest, and a whore. The costumes were caricature like, all participants wearing expressionless masks. From the little we understood, and what we have read about the origins and purpose of the carnaval, it was referring to the Church's role in child abuse cases that have been in the news recently.
Haunting choral music flooded the square as a small crowd started to gather. This is February, it is incredibly cold, and tourists are thin on the ground, so I think we were the only non French observers.
Proceedings are carried out in the ancient Occitan language ( from Langue d’ Oc ..... the Languedoc ) of this region. To our ears it sounded a little Spanish, but some of it was basically comprehensible to our developing French understanding. For instance, it was clear, when the Priest character was being “judged” by the others, he was sentenced to being turned into a lapin, and then castrated.
In between set scenes, the masked figures paraded from cafe to cafe, in a stylised fashion, posing, tableau like and then furiously waving their arms above their heads. All through this the band followed them and played what varied from haunting anthems to almost fairground music.
No... we didn’t know exactly what was going on...... and apparently the origin of the carnival is lost in time, a pagan winter festival possibly, but one that runs for a considerable length of time and coincides with Lent. It has always made fun of local dignitaries, and has always included lewd and rude references..... and encourages members of the public to dress up in outrageous costumes to follow the parade.
This is a parade follower... dressed appropriately.
The priest turned rabbit is clutching his genitals here !
Whatever was going on.. I am so glad we saw it.