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The Strange Swiss Custom of Dressing Up as a Bush and Throwing Women in Wells

Michel Schultheiss

Men in the Swiss village of Ettingen spent last weekend disguising themselves as bushes, sneaking up on unsuspecting women, and dunking them in nearby wells in an effort to make them more fertile.

However you spent your weekend, it’s probably safe to say that it didn’t include disguising youself as a bush, sneaking up on unsuspecting women, and dunking them in a nearby well.

Unless you happen to live in the Swiss village of Ettingen, where people did exactly that. It’s all part of a fertility custom so quirky that even most Swiss people haven’t heard of it: Men cover their bodies in beech brushwood, simulating fauns and forest spirits, before chasing random women on the street, picking them up, and subsequently dipping them into fountain wells.

The ritual, called “Pfingstblüttlern” (don't ask me to translate, it doesn't make sense anyway) has its origins in the 19th century. “When exactly it emerged is unknown, though,” says Constantin Stöcklin from the Association of Cultural History in Ettingen. After a short-lived revival in the 1930s, the Association finally fully revitalized the custom in 1976.

Besides giving village women rape nightmares, the custom is also supposed to help them get pregnant. Let's not connect these dots.