How I am entranced by the swish of silk and shine of satins at the Fête des Gardians, held each year on the First of May in Arles. The women sway like tender reeds under the weight of their finery while the men clench their jaws as they guide their horses through the maddening crowds. We all gather and pull to catch glimpses of a past and present mingling, sighing wishes just for a little bit of better, a mist of more mystery. Our everyday garb says much of the times we are in--of uncertainty, of fatigue. So how wonderful to get lost in this particular dream.
While in years past (here and here), I have been swept up by the spectacle, I shifted focus, letting myself indulge happily in the beauty of the details, both masculine and feminine.
Can you hear the rustle and the horses neigh?
The drums beat out a Provençal tune of old.
Curious as to the what and the why's?
From my first post on this splendid fête:
"While throughout France it is often when labourers hold protest marches to demand better conditions, here in Arles it is the Fête des Gardians. Extending south of town down to the sea, the Camargue is a large marsh land where bulls and horses roam free. They are watched over and cared for by les gardians, our answer to cowboys. Or actually, maybe the cowboys copied their French counter parts, for their Confrérie or Brotherhood, was formed in 1512 (and is the oldest of its kind) and has gathered every May Day for nearly the past five hundred years. A mass is held in the Major Church just behind the Roman Arena, at the end of which horses and riders are blessed in the name of St. George, their patron saint. For the occasion, everyone is decked out in their finest traditional Provençal costume, which was strictly codified by the Marquis de Baroncelli in 1817 and has been proudly adhered to ever since. Everything has its place--the way a woman's hair is rolled, the pinned folds of the scarf on her shoulders, the placement of her jewellery, her shoes."