Perchtenlauf, Eugene, Oregon, New Year’s Eve 2019

Once more, this past New Year’s Eve, we laufed throughout the city – a group of about nine monsters of various, mostly traditional types (including our very first Schnabelpercht!). Our route was even longer this year, winding through the artsy district, past bars and cafes, over to the higher-end shops and hotels, and then into the heart of downtown. We howled, we whistled, we drummed, we rang many bells, we stopped periodically to shout a chant and blow the hunting horn.

We encountered the usual Eugene weirdness – like a girl who stopped us to hand out sticks of lit incense (making our journey fragrant as well as noisy), and to my own personal delight, someone who recognized us as the Perchtenlauf!

Unlike previous years, this time we had a friend along to photograph us, so there are many more pictures, along with a few of a more surreal type taken with a waterproof camera by one of our troupe.

My costume was a wildermann type this year. I sewed scraps of fur and leather together into a sort of short cloak. My mask was a single piece of very curly black sheepskin with eyeholes. My hat (which is hard to see in the photos) was a peaked piece of brown felt with forest debris around the edges. Cedar branches were tied around my legs. I carried a staff with bells (the same staff I used in some of my earliest geros-type mumming), and the hunting horn.

Here are a few other portraits of some of our mummers:

It was forecast to rain all night (rain being the usual winter weather in Eugene, although we have been lucky in the past), but after some very heartfelt prayers and offerings to Perchta and other winter goddesses, we were granted a reprieve just long enough for our 2+ mile procession. By the time we reached our final stop downtown, it had just begun to rain lightly, before unleashing a downpour.

There is something deeply satisfying about performing these traditions, linked as we are with all the mummers down through the years, the centuries….across continents…. beyond language….. THIS is how we drive the dark away!

I leave you with this final image – monsters on the move, through the liminal spaces of the city, like spectres in the night….


12 thoughts on “Perchtenlauf, Eugene, Oregon, New Year’s Eve 2019

  1. Thank you for sharing this! Everyone looks great!

    This is one thing that no one ever “believed” me about with our Solstice mummings until they actually happened: it might have been raining or snowing that day, but I always guaranteed that if we actually did it, it would let up for long enough for us to do the outdoor portion of the observances, and if we actually did it, that never failed. However, on several occasions people would turn up and then say “No, if you do it outside, I’m not joining you,” and then the whole group decided not to, and what happened? It still rained/snowed/whatever. Our Ancestors endured far worse just to get through their average days, and now we can’t be inconvenienced for even twenty or thirty minutes with a little bit of cold and/or wet with the assurance of a warm house indoors afterwards…it’s really rather pathetic, I think. But, I’m glad it all worked out for your troupe!

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      1. Oh, that and much worse…

        “I don’t see why this HAS TO be outside.”

        “I’m sure the people in the past would have preferred to do it inside.”

        “I don’t think anyone really cares, so why should you?”

        And so on and so forth…I’ve heard ’em all.

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    1. I couldn’t agree with you more here, it has been a constant disappointment to me to see how little discomfort people are willing to endure for the sake of important activities, even spiritual ones! They expect the gods and spirits to hand out blessings but will not even risk getting rained on a little bit to do their part. Mumming, while extremely fun and exciting and all of that, also serves many purposes such as driving away the darker spirits of winter, and ensuring bounty for the community – surely that is worth a little effort! I’m very happy that our crew braved the possible rain for this – though like you, I have seen that most of the time, when we show up, the weather holds out for us.

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  2. how absolutely marvelous! what would the ancients have done when they encountered a troop like this? offered food or drink? tried to drive you away? a traditional response chant?

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    1. Well it depends on the tradition. In many places, mummers went (and still go) door to door throughout the community, and were offered food and alcohol and sometimes even money. There are also traditions like the Mari Lwyd in Wales which are more elaborate – it involves a riddle contest at the door for instance. But, those require the understanding of and participation by community members, which of course we can’t count on now in America (even with Krampus making a comeback), so we have to forego those parts and just do the noisy procession part!

      None of this is, per se, “ancient” exactly – I mean, obviously all the underlying stuff goes way, way, back, but the particular traditions and costumes we are drawing on here are at most a few hundred years old I think. Which is actually better, IMO – it means that people keep finding this kind of activity meaningful and powerful, even when the culture is ostensibly Christian.

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  3. Costumes are stunning. Was the person handing out incense just handing it out on the street? Was it attached to some form of cause? I’ve received Bibles and the like on offer, never incense.

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    1. They were just handing out sticks of incense. This is a very pro-weird town full of hippies (old and new) and other counterculture types and you never know what you’ll run into, which is one of the things I like about it. I have never been offered a Bible on the street here, but I have encountered roving Tarot readers, had a stranger give me a drawing of a rose, found all sorts of yarn-bombing… it’s just that sort of place.

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