Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Festival of the Bear

Built on the banks of the river Tech, surrounded by mountains, Prats de Mollo was one of the most important border towns on the French-Spanish border, and today still boasts much evidence of its rich past; architectural and traditional.
One such tradition is the Fete de l'ours, or the Festival of the Bear. The events, according to the legend, took place near the Col d’Ares, about 13 km from Prats de Mollo, at the foot of mont Falgas, Long ago, a young shepherdess fainted from shock when she stumbled upon a bear whilst tending her flock. The bear, actually the devil in disguise, took advantage of her swoon and spirited her away to the caves intending to seduce her and steal her virginity. The young damsel however, prayed to Notre Dame du Coral, nearby chapel overlooking the valley, to preserve her virtue, and the bear was unable to approach her.
Nowadays, sheep skins are worn by the ’bears’ and their faces and hands are blackened with a mixture of suie (soot) and huile (oil). The bears are also provided with a very solid stick.
The hunters are provided with shot guns filled with blanks and a gourd of ’good wine’.
Whether the 'hunters' wear Berruetas, I don't know, but there are many berets to be seen during the festival. 

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