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True Vinotok

The True Meaning of Vinotok
All that dies shall be reborn…

In our celebration of autumn, our cohesiveness through the cold months of winter, and the return of warmth and green in the spring, Vinotok commemorates all that is good in living in a place so close to wild spaces. We are subject to the riotous moods of our high mountain weather. Auspicious seasonal events should be celebrated. We are given the opportunity to get rid of our grumps, and make way for the new. It is a letting go, and being given the ability and the vehicle to do so. It is an event that connects us to our place, the harvest, the seasons, the cycles. Death and rebirth.

The date of Crested Butte’s Vinotok celebration is based on the exact occurrence of the autumn equinox, this year on September 22. This is the time when the sun crosses the celestial equator and day and night become nearly the same length. At this time, we celebrate balance. Last week we explored the storytelling and harvest traditions of Vinotok. This week, we delve head first into the symbolism of the festival itself, with its culmination of the mumming and the Trial of the Grump, all occurring on Saturday, September 20.

Mumming (5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.)
Mumming is a dramatic tradition that finds its roots primarily in medieval England and Ireland. Its etymology is thought to derive from the German language of the 13th century and means “a disguised person.” Traditionally, mumming plays were used to mark important stages in the agricultural year and were considered folk plays. They concerned themselves around themes of duality, battles of good and evil, and the resurgence or resurrection of life.

The Vinotok Theatre Troupe, composed of community members, will mum the restaurants and pubs of Elk Avenue, from the Ginger Café to Kochevars. They will perform a small “preview” of the bigger, and later, production, enticing guests of local establishments to join them in the streets for the feature presentation. As tradition dictates, both in medieval times and in Crested Butte, in exchange for their entertainment, mummers receive food and drink.

The cast and crew of Vinotok are important. They allow us to be transported to another world. Through their costuming and song and dance, a magic is created, we are drawn in to a place where reality and imagination cross paths. Become a part of the magic, even as a community member you can dress up and be in the streets…

The Trial of the Grump (7:30 p.m.-ish)
The Trial of the Grump takes place on an outdoor stage in front of the Eldo on Elk Avenue. Here we see the true battle of the mumming plays of yore. Sir Hapless represents the encroachment of the industrial world and technology. He is “progress” and the ways of civilized man. Sir Hapless is both foolish and destructive and can also be very dangerous.

To oppose Sir Hapless, the Dragon comes forth, a genderless character representing nature, deep earth, good fortune and everything wild. The dragon is powerful, unpredictable and fierce while also being very beautiful.

The two begin their frightful dual, until the Harvest Mother stops it. The Harvest Mother is Gaia, she is the mother of all, of the earth and all the deities. She is the symbol of fertility, and in the harvest season, of the earth’s bounty. She pronounces, “We can not survive without balance in this world.” When the Harvest Mother talks, people listen.

Meanwhile, the Green Man is frolicking his way through the 12 maidens, representing the 12 months of the year. The Green Man is a promise – that spring and vegetation will return once again. He is the masculine energy to balance the Harvest Mother. The Green Man is virile, vivacious and lusty. But even the maidens can’t sustain the Green Man’s energy, and he is dying.

The Grump becomes the scapegoat. Reminiscent of the effigies of Eastern Europe burned on the boss man’s lawn as a rib, The Grump is everything we want to forget and let go of. He is stuffed with our own grumps, grievances and woes. The Grump, even though given a fair trial by the Magistrate who is representing justice and fairness, is sentenced to burn and with it the negative energy of the community.

And so, as a township we parade to the crossroads of the 4-way stop to rid ourselves of the old, to make way for the new. We dance with abandon around the fire, a plea to the sun to return, to not forget we are here, as we head into the long, dark months of winter.

Vinotok. It is a passageway to help us with the transition from summer to fall. It is a way to bond together as a community, to forget our grievances against ourselves and one another. We come together at Vinotok to celebrate this wild place we live in, so close to the rhythms of nature. We come together to celebrate ourselves as a community, the bounty of an incredible summer with its harvests of wildflowers and warmth as well as a harvest of food. We gather to be thankful of all that we have been given. We dance around the fire to abandon, to let go, to begin anew in the ever cycling circle of life and the seasons. Burn Grump, burn.  –Molly Murfee

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