Until the 1900’s, only the valley’s inhabitants knew Lötschental’s masks. Over the next four decades, Tschäggättä masks gained recognition as works of art and a unique cultural heritage. After WWII, with recognition, the Lötschental Valley’s increased contact with the world, and greater demand, there was a golden age of Tschäggättä masks.
Tschäggättä masks are instantly recognizable. Their distinguishing features include:
- Large, smiling mouths, either with carved wooden teeth, or toothless (sometimes they have animal teeth
- The mouth is either s-shaped, curved up or rectangular
- They usually feature bulging, uneven eyes
Thomas Antonietti, curator of the Lotschentaler Museum in Kippel (and whose family has a collection of over 400 of them), said “Tschäggättä can be sourced back a few hundred years to portrayals of the devil–deformed, hairy, hook-nosed and horned, wild-haired and snaggle-toothed–in medieval church theatre.” They have over 60 masks on display at the museum.
Today, the remote Lotschental Valley has around 30 mask-carvers. While the masks are widely available for sale (if you go to the valley, don’t expect to see them lined up for sale like mini Eiffel Tower’s in Paris), I’ve seen ones at Geneva’s Plainpalais flea market. You sometimes see mask-carving workshops or lessons on Myswitzerland.com, www.loetschental.ch and other sites. What’s better than buying one as a souvenir, making your own mask!
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