Last Saturday the 29th Occitan Carnival took place in Beziers. I was curious, so despite the weather forecast I decided to give it a go, and I hope you’ll be glad I did!
The carnival procession was due to leave from Place de la Madeleine at 2pm, so I thought I’d get there a little earlier to check out what was going on. First thing I noticed when I parked, was that there were a lot of people on the Allees Paul Riquet and they looked as though they were part of the carnival. Yes they were, but the carnival was still starting on Place de la Madeleine and then meeting up with them. OK, so I snapped a few pictures for you – of the Animaux Totemique, the totem animals of various towns near Beziers.
Then Le Cerf de Servian – the Stag from Servian
The dragon seemed to be carrying King Carnival, I don’t think he belonged to the totem animal species.
This is the head of Le Poulain de Pezenas and I’m stumped to translate Poulain
Here we have L’Herrisson de Roujan – the hedgehog of Roujan,
and finally Le Pelican de Puisserguier. All these strange creatures are linked by legend to their town or village, and I’ve not yet had a chance to do much research into all those. Totem animals have been part of the Occitan culture for centuries, and usually play a role in all the festivals of their hometown.
So on I went to the Place de la Madeleine in search of Beziers’ own totem animal Le Chameau de Beziers – the camel. And sure enough it was there, surrounded by a group of participants, who looked like they were being briefed by the man in the multicoloured coat.
And then I spied yet another camel…
As more and more people arrived, so did the band which was responsible for the “warm-up”, and they did a pretty good job keeping everyone entertained! Here’s a little video clip.
And then they were off, the camel leading the procession through the roads of Beziers, to Place Jean Jaurres, to join the other totem animals waiting for them.
On the Allees Paul Riquet the atmosphere was great, with lots of children and their parents dressed up in costume. The carnival is organised by the Calandretas, the Occitan schools of Beziers and their parent-teacher associations. I loved the look of those two selling confetti!
After a little while the procession started in earnest up the Allees, led of course by the camel!
You might just be able to see it, there is a real live camel on the very left…. All the animals were followed by a band and groups of children, whose costume reflected the totem animal they were following. After the camel came the turtle with the lovely eyes!
and then the pelican from Puisserguier. He was a bit wild, swaying from side to side and trying to fly off!!
And most of the children accompanying the procession had bags of confetti, which were liberally thrown in every direction. Some seasoned carnival spectators had come prepared to ward off unwelcome confetti 🙂
But it was all very good-humoured, even though I got a bit of dusting of flour by some passing children, who had “cleverly” mixed their confetti with flour.
The stag from Servian was followed by the drum band we had seen earlier, and then came the Poulain from Pezenas. This is one of the more famous totem animals in the area, and it did have “star power”, dancing, swinging and running all over the place!
After the Poulain came a group of beautifully dressed dancing-girls – they did have a slightly scary look, but had put a lot of effort into their act!
There were a good number of people on stilts, and I didn’t see one of them tripping over!!
Somehow we missed the hedgehog, perhaps because he was so small, but there were various other animal costumes, frogs, snails and wait, is that a cow or a bull?
Outside the theatre the whole procession came to a stop, to pick up the dragon carrying King Carnival, and that’s where I got a good look at the real camel!
Great wig!! King Carnival was taken with the procession on to Place du 14 Juillet, where the children would be sitting in judgement, and of course he would be condemned to be burned on the spot. Out with the old, in with the new – a good old pagan springtime festival, tolerated by the catholic church over time…
One last gold hat, and the confetti, and we’re done with Carnival for another year!