Tschäggättä, the Mountain Monsters of Switzerland
If someone mentions Switzerland, images of, Snow-capped mountains, cuckoo clocks and penknives with hundreds of useful gadgets will probably spring to mind. Not many people would conjure up images of Tschäggättä, terrifying monsters roaming the mountain passes wearing animal skins and huge cow bells. But that’s exactly what you’ll find you visit the remote mountain region of Lötschental.
The origins of the Tschäggättä are lost in the mists of time, but are believed to be descended from Pagan festivals celebrating the end of winter and the coming of spring. The carnival was banned in the 1860’s due to masked participants getting a bit carried away. They would often pour ash over their victims and even break into houses, steal and sometimes abuse the occupants.
Fortunately it’s impossible to banish a tradition like this completely and it came back, although without the excesses this time. One of the earliest written records from the area to mention the Tschäggättä is by a priest complaining about how difficult it is to enforce the ban.
A huge amount of work goes into carving and painting the wooden face masks over the winter months and competition amongst mask makers to see who can produce the best piece is fierce. Originally it was only the men who dressed up as Tschäggättä, but it’s much more open now and anyone can become a terrifying traditional Swiss monster if they want.
So these scary wooden masked monsters dressed in furs and animal skins aren’t what you would typically expect to come across on a holiday in Switzerland are they? If you do go there on holiday and end up getting chased around by Tschäggättä, don’t panic. The worst you can expect these days is a snowball. Or maybe just a little bit of soot…