Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tickling society

Mardi Gras today - and the sun shone in the San Francisco Bay Area. On the radio (NPR, but I cannot remember the program name) someone was talking about the customs of Mardi Gras, as celebrated outside New Orleans, in small towns, in rural areas.

A day on which groups, in costume, go about the locale for the purpose of assembling the ingredients for a gumbo (or the means - money - to purchase such ingredients).

Any other day being accosted by costumed individuals demanding money in broad daylight would land same individuals in jail (unless the "costume" be designer suits and the individuals bankers - in which case they get enough to buy up all the gumbo ever made, but that's another story). On Mardi Gras, just hand over the cash (think of them as bankers).

It seems, if you take too much time to find your cash, the revelers have been known to take a shoe or other item of clothing. And you are expected to hop on your way in good humor.

The presenter likened the experience to being tickled. Tickling makes you laugh but, at the same time, a little uncomfortable (or a lot in some cases - I know two people who have tried to kill me when I tickled their feet).

Mardi Gras is like tickling society. It makes us laugh, but also gets under our tidy notions and makes us a little uncomfortable.

I think we need more of that.

1 comment:

  1. oh interesting. in New Mexico this fall, we attended a ceremony at an Indian reservation, the feast of Saint Geronimo. At a certain signal, all the vendors (there was the Best. Craft Show. Ever. going on at the same time) closed up shop, throwing a blanket over their wares, leaving one decent piece (not tacky, not too expensive) visible.
    The costumed guys ran through the crowds, grabbing each vendor-proffered item and small children, who were later baptized and returned, terrified, to their parents. (There's a small Catholic chapel on the reservation -- traditions are an interesting mix of the old and new.) They also went through the crowd, took hats from spectators, and used them as a stash for money they begged from the crowd. I think a few prepared people went home that night with sunburns.
    I was not surprised to learn the next day that Carl Jung had spent time in the area. If the idea of Trickster hadn't occurred to him before, it certainly would have become clear after seeing this ceremony.