Whipcrackaway

November 20th, 2005 | people I know

Susanne Gerber
Suzanne G, aka
Miss Wurzel Tod
on going
home again

One fine example for (Lucerne’s) amalgamated understanding of religion and rites is the so-called “Geisslechlöfpe” – a traditional form of whipping in the open air after nightfall. On one hand, the Catholic church sees this as a way to pay tribute to Saint Nicholas of Myra – patron of pharmacists, fishermen, sailors and thieves (sic!) – and a symbolised form of Catholic self-flagellation. On the other hand, people from more Alpine and rural parts of Lucerne clearly understand the act of whipping as a way to drive away demons, ghosts, succubi & incubi and most importantly, as a preventive measure to keep the dragon that lives on Mount Pilatus from stealing their children and young cattle. The sound of the whip is also said to protect the cattle from rabies and make the milk creamier. Furthermore, whipping is obviously still used as a form of emergency communication from one Alp to another – just like fires, Alphorns and the so-called “Alpsegen”.

And for me, it’s the sound that’s as essentially connected with the coming of winter as is snow, cinnamon milk and the cracking noise of frozen twigs.


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