Saturday, 13 February 2010

Madrugada: the dawn parade

Today, my last day of Carnaval, was a mixture between the wonderful first night and the terrible second night.
(thanks to interstar for the picture)

It started brilliantly when I arrived at noon. The streets of pretty old Olinda were full of young people all dressed up and out for a day of Mucking Around. Almost everyone was in costume. The costumes, and the people in them, were so creative and playful with each other. Blocos wandered around making everyone dance and sing and laugh and the vibe was fantastic.

pic 1 from irishpolyglot
pic 2 from f. a. photography
pic 3 from alex

It ended on a bit of a downer. By 3pm, the party had mainly concentrated in just a few streets, too crowded to move in. Throughout the town, the streets had become messy, the crowds smelly, the faces ugly, the remaining rhythms blurry. The event had not peaked; it had gradually got drunk and melted.

It makes me think about Barbara Ehrenreich's writing on the removal of the ecstatic peak from European festivities. (Brazilian culture is heavily influenced by the Portuguese colonisers [Brazil has roughly three cultural roots; the Portuguese colonisers, the African slaves they brought over, and the indigenous Indians who were here to start with]). 

She writes:

"Inevitably, something was lost in the transition from ecstatic ritual to secularized festivities - something we might call meaning or transcendent insight. In ancient Dionysian forms of workshop the moment of maximum "madness" and revelry was also the sacred climax of the rite, at which the individual achieved communion with the divinity... Medieval Christianity, in contrast, offered "communion" in the form of a morsel of bread and sip of wine soberly consumed at the altar - and usually saw only devilry in the festivities that followed.

"...this relative secularisation may help account for the uglier side of European carnival tradition. Without a built-in religious climax to the celebrations - the achievement, for example, of a trance-like state of union with the divinity - they readily spilled over into brawling and insensate drunkenness." p93

I get stuck, though, when trying to imagine what a peak would look like. What if we were to have a London Carnival; how would we usher it towards a collective peak, and away from "brawling and insensate drunkenness"?

1 comment:

  1. Isn't it also interesting to consider the divinity of the ordinary moment as the positive effect or thought process behind the christian stuff? I know the whole bread and wine in church thing is about power and control of communion with god, but there's that whole reformation vibe of "you don't need a priest, you can talk to god directly any time you like"

    I'm wondering about carnival as one route to ecstay and mundane but profound revelation as another - is it possible to be ecstatic quietly?

    maybe calvin was a bhuddits?

    maybe bhuddists are calvinists?

    maybe that's what happens to me on the bus sometimes