This French Pageant Celebrates Spring with Chaos, Wine, and Sexual Freedom

This text firstly seemed on VICE France.

One of the most first issues I realized concerning the pageant of Pailhasses is that strangers are not in point of fact welcome. The citizens of the small southern French village of Cournonterral would fairly other folks did not hit upon their annual pageant and by accident get harm—so from three PM to five PM each Ash Wednesday, the village is closed to incoming site visitors. Any curious customer who does occur to get in will briefly understand that the carnival is in point of fact designed with the entire involvement of locals in thoughts; it isn’t precisely a spectator recreation. Subsequently, if you wish to practice the unfolding chaos, you’ll have to take part, at your individual possibility.

In step with native lore, the pageant is a nod to a struggle that broke out in 1346 between the Pailhasses—the primary population of Cournonterral—and the within reach the city of Aumela over some stolen inexperienced oakwood. When the dispute was once in the end settled, everybody celebrated the truce via having an absolute rager of a bacchanal, throughout which casks of wine had been ripped open for everybody to roll round in.

The specifics of the pageant contain splitting the village into two groups, the Pailhasses and the Whites (the Aumelasses). From there, the very tough intention of the sport is for the Pailhasses to shield Cournonterral’s honor via chasing down the Whites and getting them grimy with no matter they may be able to in finding—thick wine being the principle weapon, but in addition filthy rags.


Lots of the citizens I spoke to mentioned they see the pageant as a unfastened expression of chaos, destruction, and sexual freedom. They’re very protecting over the way in which the custom is portrayed, particularly because the time a tv station had a helicopter hover over the village and picture the court cases with out any individual’s permission.

Fortunately, they agreed to have me alongside for the day. At the morning of the pageant, I joined some locals within the conventional breakfast of tripe and purple wine. Across the village, storefronts and houses had been safe with tarp. The empty streets within the hours main as much as kick off—coupled with the hauling winds—in point of fact performed to the apocalyptic vibe the village was once going for.


A breakfast of champions.

Casks stuffed with wine and lees had been scattered across the village. “It is a excellent 12 months since the wine is thick,” many of us made some extent of telling me. After breakfast, it was once time for the village to get into gown. That in large part supposed striking on sacks full of straw over their shirts, dressed in best hats full of goose feathers, and badger-skins throughout their faces. The outfit was once finished with a rag or mop to hold round and use to get the Whites grimy.

When it was once time to get began, locals marched during the streets, in the end arriving on the sq. in entrance of town corridor. As soon as the procession were given to the sq., everybody shaped a big circle. After they let each and every different’s arms pass, the sport began—the Whites ran away because the Pailhasses set about searching them down.

I fled, ahead of coming again two hours later to seize the carnage. The issue with my plan was once that to be blank at this level within the ritual is regarded as a grave insult to the locals—which supposed that I changed into an evident goal. A couple of citizens striking out in their home windows attempted pointing me down a side road they idea I might be protected in, however ahead of I spotted what was once occurring I used to be being chased via a number of Pailhasses. Happily for me, they had been all beautiful drained after a pair hours of working round, so I used to be in a position to escape.


Again on the sq., which was once soaking wet in darkish wine that coated the remainder of the village, other folks had began to take off their costumes—although many had been so under the influence of alcohol that they struggled to face, let by myself take away their outfits.

Later within the night time, the village used hearth hoses to clean the whole lot down. It was once at this level that I realized that the rumors of lifeless animal portions getting used as rags or being thrown into wine barrels had been true. Dying is a part of the ritual, I used to be instructed—its presence represented via a choice of animal heads: boars, goats, sheep, and rabbits.


If that wasn’t sufficient, the pageant ended with the ceremonial executions. The “executioners” set alight dummies of Whites and Pailhasses. Each camps are in charge, it appears—equals within the face of demise and the absurdity of our lifestyles.

Scroll down to peer extra pictures from this 12 months’s pageant of Pailhasses.


Two Whites ahead of the beginning of the pageant


Barrels of thick wine


Two guys looking ahead to their sacks to be full of straw.


The human ladder. The sheets had been full of wine and no matter disgusting subject material other folks may get their arms on.


The “execution”


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