Mardi Gras: from ancient orgies to modern masked dances

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras, time of costume parties for excellence in Europe, a period in which “anything goes”, but origins of Mardi Gras are much more ancient and mysterious.

The etymology of the word “Carnival” from the Latin “carnem levare”, a medieval expression referring to the ecclesiastical precept to abstain from eating meat (from the first day of Lent, ie the day after the end of Carnival, until the Thursday before Easter).

Medieval testimonies, dating from the eighth century after Christ, describing the Carnival as a time when you enjoyed the food, drink, and sex without setting any limits.

At carnival every excess is worth

The social order was subverted, what was forbidden and repressed throughout the year was allowed, up to the final process, with inevitable condemnation, reading of the will, death and funeral of the Carnival King, a puppet representing both the king of a world of endless pleasures, both the scapegoat of the previous year's woes as well as the hope that the new year was beneficial.

Actually Carnival, which coincides with the period of the beginning of the agricultural year, when crops are at rest, had precursors in the festivities in honor of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, and the Saturnalia in honor of the god Saturn.

carnevale antichità

From orgies to masks

In both cases, were often joined states of intoxication and exaltation enthusiastic, which usually culminate in religious ceremonies that involved orgies and the temporary suspension of all relations of social subjection of the servant-master type.

Even demonic aspects are present in the Carnival, at least in its masks often characterized by a black face, with a wry grin. Much more recent are the origins of the Brazilian Carnival, which is also one of the most sensual and unbridled in the world.

carnevale da orge a maschere

Let's go to Rio for Carnival

The one in Rio de Janeiro, for example, was imported from the Brazilian bourgeoisie on the example of the Portuguese Entrudo festival, with the first carnival dances held in Rio in 1840. At the time they were polka and waltz, samba was only introduced in 1917.

From the first “cordoes” (groups of people parading through the streets of the city singing and dancing for Carnival) are derived today’s “blocos”, groups of dancers representing individual districts.

Characterized by the dance, the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro sees its culmination in the final four nights of the dance school parades taking place in the city’s Sambadrome. Also in this case, however, wine, sex, and evil aspects are not lacking, as in any self-respecting Carnival.

Tags: Catholic Church, Traditions