Intangible Cultural Heritage in Austria

Anklöpfeln (knocking on doors) in the Tyrolean Unterland

Applicant: Joch Weißbacher i. V. Oberauer Anklöpfler
Province: Tyrol

„Anklöpfeln“ (dialect for “to knock”) is a practice cultivated in the Tyrolean lower Inn valley. Here, a group of mostly male singers dress up as shepherds and visit the neighbouring houses on the three Thursdays before Christmas (“knocking nights”). The singers are invited into the homes and strike up several songs to herald the Christmas message of the birth of Jesus Christ.


Specialities of individual pharmacies

Applicant: Kurapotheke Bad Ischl, Mag. Manfred Heimo Hrovat
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

Specialities of individual pharmacies have been part of local traditions for a long time and include knowledge on nature, cures and healing that had formerly been passed down orally, and have since been documented in recipe books. The making of these products requires certain special instruments, pharmaceutical resources and skills. Austrian pharmacists consider this transferred knowledge as part of their cultural heritage.


"Wampelerreiten" in Axams

Applicant: Daniel Klotz
Province: Tyrol

Wampelerreiten is a fixture of Fasching [Carnival] festivities in Axams and is held annually on the so-called “Nonsense Thursday” prior to Fasching Sunday. In focus here are the Wampeler from whom this tradition takes its name—young boys and men who wear voluminous white linen shirts stuffed full of hay. This gives the Wampeler their “Wampe”, a colloquial German term for a fat belly. Equipped with short red skirts worn over their pants, wide leather belts, and short wooden staffs, the Wampeler parade through the community in a bent-over posture. Their adversaries are the Reiter [Riders], who attempt to knock the Wampeler down and flip them onto their backs in order to dirty their white shirts. The sticks carried by the Wampeler help them to keep their balance and defend themselves from unfair frontal attacks. In the evening, after several rounds through the village, the best Wampeler (the one with the cleanest back) is determined at the village tavern. Axams’s Wampelerreiten event itself is accompanied by so-called Banden [gangs], who spend their fourth of four consecutive Thursday evenings moving from tavern to tavern costumed as traditional carnival figures and making music, dancing, and satirising local circumstances during their visits.


Mountain fires in Tyrol´s Ehrwald Basin

Applicant: Karlheinz Somweber, Erich Steiner, Martin Senftlechner, Gebhard Schatz, Ehrwald e.V
Province: Tyrol

Every year, the mountain fires at the Ehrwald Basin in Tyrol burn brightly around the summer solstice of June 21. Each participating group chooses a figure that is to be drawn, drafted according to the inclination of ground and built using different types of fuel. These figures, which are always topical and up-to-date, are not revealed before June 21.


"Bloch-pulling" in Fiss

Applicant: Verein "Blochziehen Fiss": Obmann Christian Kofler, Obmannstellv. Thomas Wachter
Province: Tyrol

The “bloch-pulling” in Fiss (“bloch” is the long trunk of a stone pine) belongs to the largest carnival traditions in the Alpine region. It takes place every two years, the “bloch-pulling” of the adults taking turns with the children’s “bloch-pulling” (for six to fourteen-year-olds). At the end of autumn, the fetching of the “Bloch” tree occurs, where a magnificent stone pine is felled, guarded and placed on three sledges two days prior to the carnival procession. On the day of the procession, the participating figures assemble at the village centre and – at the command of the wagoner – the “Bloch” is put into motion by numerous masked persons. Witches and devils (“Schwoaftuifl”) attempt to hamper the moving of the “Bloch”. Playful elements are not only an essential detail, but also serve as entertainment for the spectators. Once the “Bloch” has arrived at the school house, it is then auctioned off.


Experiential Knowledge Concerning Avalanche Risk Management

Applicant: Alpinarium und Gemeinde Galtür, Lawinenkommission Gargellen, Montafoner Museen, Österreichischer Alpenverein, Österreichischer Berg- und Schiführerverband
Province: Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg

The natural environment of the Alps forces its inhabitants to pay a great deal of attention to the highly complex phenomenon of the avalanche. Since the very beginning of human beings’ presence in the Alpine region, it has been necessary to acquire knowledge about avalanches in order to survive there. To this day, avalanches cannot be perfectly predicted or fully assessed by scientific means. Therefore, having experiential knowledge of how to deal with the associated risks is all the more important. Some of this experiential knowledge is site-specific and gets passed on by alpine organisations, within families, and/or by schools. In earlier times, such knowledge was acquired through close observation of nature and the painful learning process that avalanche disasters entailed. And for many hundreds of years, this experiential knowledge was conveyed and handed down orally from generation to generation. Since the beginning of the 20th century, and especially since the 1950s, such knowledge has been supplemented by scientific research. This has made it possible to successively improve the protection of inhabited areas and transport routes over the course of time, and today, knowledge about dealing with avalanche risks is taught and/or applied in the contexts of general safety, education, technology, and rescue services by local and super-regional communities.


Falconry

Applicant: HR Dr. Harald Barsch, Österreichischer Falknerbund und Zentralstelle Österreichischer Falknervereine (ZÖF)
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

Falconry is the art of hunting with birds. In a strict sense, the term “falconry” is understood as hunting with specially trained falcons. However, hawks, sparrow hawks and eagles have also been introduced to the discipline. Falconry also allows for the breeding of birds of prey.


"Schemenlaufen", the carnival of Imst

Applicant: Die Gemeinschaft der Imster Fasnachtler, Obmann Uli Gstrein, Mag. Manfred Thurner
Province: Tyrol

The carnival of Imst (Tyrolian Upperland) is a form of carnival procession with 26 different sorts of masks that takes place every four years.


Nassereith Carnival - “Schellerlaufen“

Applicant: Obmann Spielmann Gerhard im Namen vom Fasnachtskomitee Nassereith für die Gemeinschaft der Nassereither Fasnacht
Province: Tyrol

The Nassereith Carnival, also known as “Schellerlaufen” since 1951, is a carnival tradition that has been taking place every three years in the village of Nassereith in Tyrol on a day between Epiphany (6 January) and Ash Wednesday. The procession forms the heart of the Nassereith Carnival, distinguishing itself through its colourfulness and the typical wooden masks. Part of it is the “Schellerlaufen”, performed according to precise rules that have been passed down from generation to generation together with the know-how involved in making the masks, costumes and other carnival accessories. Its organisation is handled by a carnival committee, first elected in 1923 and serving for s ix years.


The Gauderfest in Zell am Ziller

Applicant: Tiroler Landestrachtenverband, Obmann Oswald Gredler
Province: Tyrol

Tyrol’s largest spring celebration arose from a “Kirchtag” or country fair. This folk celebration’s name refers to its traditional location, called “Gauderlehen.” The oldest known description of this celebration comes from 1862, although there also exist earlier notes in which reference is made to it. Once-important blood sports such as cow-baiting, cockfights and ram-baiting have by now been abandoned, with the action now centering instead on “Ranggeln” (a form of wrestling native to the Alps- see Hundstoaranggeln), with its contest for the winner’s title of "Hogmoar,” and a parade in traditional costumes. This parade is among Tyrol’s largest and always takes place on the first Sunday in May. At the Gauderfest, special attention is also given to young people: above all, the Saturday directly preceding the Gauderfest gives them the opportunity to show off their dancing abilities.


Confraternity of the Holy Sepulcher in Pfunds

Applicant: Heiliggrab-Bruderschaft Pfunds, Prof. Robert Klien
Province: Tyrol

Founded more than 500 years ago, the Fraternity of the Holy Sepulcher continues to uphold the tradition of setting up the Holy Sepulcher in the Liebfrauen Church at Pfunds on the Saturday before Palm Sunday as well as praying to the Eucharist continuously from Good Friday until Holy Saturday. It is a great honour to become a Brother of the Holy Sepulcher. This privilege is passed on from generation to generation without differentiating between hierarchy, education, social standing or wealth. The Fraternity of the Holy Sepulcher has always remained independent of the Catholic Church and the local government. It is made up of 12 groups, each consisting of 16 men, which also includes women and the young in their activities.


Applicant: Ing. Gabriele Pia Stuhlberger
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna


Charcoal burning

Applicant: Peter Wieser, Vorstandsmitglied im Europäischen Köhlerverein und Sprecher der österreichischen Köhler
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

Charcoal burning ("Köhlerei") is a traditional craftsmanship derived from rural life, which primarily serves the manufacturing of wood charcoal. Hermetically sealed wood is heated up by way of dry distillation and carbonised across a period of several weeks, turning it thereby into preferably pure carbon.


Telling fairy tales

Applicant: Helmut Wittmann
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

Storytelling is the art of entertaining people in a playful and intellectual way by recounting fairy tales. For centuries, fairy tales, sagas and stories have been handed down orally. In the past, people recounted stories while working; today legends and tales are told through narrating societies, cultural initiatives, schools and kindergartens. These stories reflect the graphic power of local events, conditions and characteristics. Furthermore, their common theme centers on the art of informing people about fundamental experiences in a playful and intellectual way. Fairy tales and sagas transmit the essence of the individual’s - as well as the community’s collective - cultural identity far better than any type of formal instruction.


Jew's harp playing in Austria

Applicant: Obmann Dr. Franz Kumpl für den Österreichischen Maultrommelverein
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

The Jew’s harp is one of the oldest musical instruments in the world, particularly common among the Asian Turkic peoples and in Europe. Made from a variety of materials including metal and bamboo, it produces a drone effect. Over time centres of production and unique styles have emerged and, each of which has grown historically and became embedded in the regional folk culture. Since the medieval times Molln in Upper Austria is such a centre, where they even established a guild of jew’s harp makers. Historically, the instrument played a key role in courtship and in convivial musical entertainment. In Austria, a style of play predominates where the player uses two to four instruments, differently tuned, either as a solo instrument or in a duet or trio, and mostly in combination with other instruments.


"Mullen" and "Matschgern" in the MARTHA villages

Applicant: Martin Kapferer i.V. Gemeinschaft der Muller und Matschgerer der Stadtteile Mühlau und Arzl bzw. der Dörfer Rum, Thaur und Absam
Province: Tyrol

“Mullen” and “Matschgern” (derives from “mask”/ “to mask”) is a century-old tradition, which is carried out on the night of Shrove Tuesday in the MARTHA villages north of Innsbruck. Each figure has a role allocated, the witches being precursors, other figures like the mirror-“tuxer” simply impressing with their imposing appearance, while others act as constables. The climax of the hustle and bustle is the so-called “Mullen” or “Abmullen”, a form of testimony of honour, where the bearer of the custom chooses a person from the audience to rub his shoulders and give him a little smack on the back.


Austrian Sign Language

Applicant: Helene Jarmer, Präsidentin des Österreichischen Gehörlosenbundes
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

The Austrian Sign Language forms the social and cultural foundation of the Austrian sign language community. It is the mother tongue of the deaf people in Austria and thus reflects an important part of their identity . Since 2005, the Austrian Sign Language has been recognised as a language in its own right, yet many of its users still consider themselves as a linguistic and cultural minority in Austria. The Austrian Sign Language is mostly used by deaf persons and occasionally learned by hearing persons as an additional language. It is used in all regions of Austria with variances in local dialects and correspondingly different vocabulary. The first Sign Language School was founded in V ienna already in 1779. Since then, the language has been cultivated and handed down in schools, associations and families of deaf persons. Additionally, it is passed on in the form of poetry, theatre and performing arts.


The Austrian folk dance movement

Applicant: Dr. Helmut Jeglitsch, Vorsitzender der Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Österreichischer Volkstanz
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

The Austrian folk dance movement is rooted in the research and collecting activity of a few persons at the end of the 19th century. It has borrowed much from rural traditions, despite the fact that these elements have mostly become indistinguishable. Concurrently to the systematisation and chronicling of the various dances, a concentration and alignment towards Austrian peculiarities was begun. Yet, instead of simply collecting and safeguarding the dances for posterity, they are increasingly taught and thus saved from extinction.


Austrian scythe-forging

Applicant: Sensenverein Österreich - Hansjörg Rinner
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

Prior to the mechanization of agriculture, the scythe was one of the most important harvesting implements worldwide. And even after the introduction of combine harvester and similar machinery, it remained important for small farms and thus for regional food production until well into the 20th century. Favorable economic and geographic conditions (iron ore deposits, wood and water) meant that as early as pre-industrial times, Austria came to produce a surplus of scythes, and the specialized knowledge accumulated over centuries of scythe production made the type known as the “blue scythe” a successful Austrian export. With the advent of mechanized harvesting techniques, however, scythe production in Austria began to stagnate. Of the 215 scythe forging manufactories that existed in Austria around 1900, only two producers have survived to the present day.


The Ötztal dialect

Applicant: Prof. Dr. Hans Haid, Ötztal-Archiv des Ötztaler Heimatvereins
Province: Tyrol

The Ötztal dialect (Oetz Valley, Tyrol), with its 900 years of unchanged tradition, represents the strongest of all components that make up the Ötztaler population’s local identity.


The Erl Passion Play

Applicant: Passionspielverein Erl
Province: Tyrol

For the past 400 years, the traditional passion play, originating from the Christian Easter Drama, has been taking place at Erl every six years. Despite its international reputation and its many visitors, this traditional Christian play owes its survival particularly to the inhabitants of Erl, as they – rather than professional actors – take on the parts on stage. The 600 actors are recruited one year before the performance. Committee members make the round of the houses asking all residents of Erl whether they wish to undertake an unspecified part in the passion play. People of all ages ar e involved in the pr oject. Due to the religious background as well as the participants’ wish for continuity, changes in text, music and costumes are only cautiously made as part of the continuous development and updating of the performance.


Perlaggen in Tyrol

Applicant: : Institut für "ALPENLÄNDISCHE TRADITIONSKARTENSPIELE -Watten, Bieten,Gilten und Perlaggen", Telfs - NOAFLHAUS, Hubert Auer (Vorstand), Telfs. Bernhard Moll, Imst und Peter Blaas, Mieming.
Province: Tyrol

Perlåggen is a card game that is nowadays played above all Tyrol. Two teams, usually consisting of two individuals each, attempt to communicate via secret verbal and nonverbal signals and win as many points as possible in the process. The game is played with 33 German-suited cards (Acorns, leafs, bells, hearts), of which up to eight—depending on the region and the situation—are designated Perlågg and thus given a special function. Fibbing and fooling one’s opponents are important elements of this game, which also involves the lingo known as Perlågger-Latein or Kårter-Sprech. This contains a number of words for certain moves, for special cards, and of praise or rebuke for other players’ actions. Perlåggen is played by people of all ages, classes, and genders, and games take place particularly at inns and in private homes. Local tournaments are held every year, and the past few years have also seen an all-Tyrol Perlåggen championship held, the location of which alternates between South and North Tyrol.


Ratschen during Holy Week

Applicant: Franz Ederer
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

Ratschen (ratcheting) is a noisemaking tradition that is practiced in many parts of Austria in various forms during the day preceding Easter. A central element is the so-called Ratsche (ratchet), a mechanical percussion instrument made of wood, the sound of which is meant to replace the tooling of the silent church bells from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday. In the most common form of ratcheting, children go through the community at various times, making noise and chanting according to an established sequence. The chant can vary from region to region and are either passed on from older children to younger ones or taught by an adult supervisor. The most common chant is the so-called "Eng´lisher Gruß", or Angels´ Greeting: "We ratchet, we ratchet the Angels´ Greeting, that every Catholic Christian must pray. Get down, get down, get down on your knees, say three `Our Father´ and an ´Ave Marie´." Following this ratcheting, the children are rewarded with money, sweets, or Easter Eggs in the so-calles "Absammeln" (collection).


The Reither Nikolausspiel – St. Nicholas Play in Reith

Applicant: Johann Hechenblaikner im Auftrag der „Bundesmusikkapelle Reith im Alpbachtal“ und von Max Feichtner (Besitzer des Nikolausspiel-Manuskripts)
Province: Tyrol

The Reither Nikolausspiel is held every seven years in the village of Reith, which is situated in a Tyrolean valley called the Alpbachtal. The oldest reference to this folk theater tradition is from 1868, and the basis for today’s version was already put into writing by 1875. Until 1919, this fundamentally religious and pedagogical drama was performed in homes, with local lay-performers going from farm to farm in Reith playing individual scenes. The Reither Nikolausspiel consists of twelve scenes typical of this play’s North Tyrolean variants (these are referred to as “Bilder” – lit. “pictures,” an antiquated term for “scenes”), in which the poor’s defiance of the rich and powerful, and also the battle between good and evil, are portrayed.


Sacramental Guards in Tyrol

Applicant: Karl Wurzer
Province: Tyrol

The Sacramental Guards in Tyrol were founded about 500 years ago based on the Spanish model of the Corpus Christi Confraternities. Their original duty of guarding and honouring the Eucharist at processions still stands. Over the course of their history, the Sacramental Guards in Tyrol were dissolved several times, yet their tradition was successfully upheld in the villages in Thaur, Hall, Volders and Schwaz. Only at selected ecclesiastical and secular occasions the four Sacramental Guards appear together, dressed in their historical attire and arms. The guards also accompany private ceremonies, such as weddings or funerals, and take on social and cultural duties within their communities.


Christmas caroling in Tyrol´s Villgraten Valley (Inner and Outer Villgraten)

Applicant: MMag. Robert Schmidhofer, Hermann Lanser
Province: Tyrol

Every year between Christmas and the Epiphany, the traditional Christmas caroling takes places in the Tyrolian Villgraten Valley. For two days, two groups wander from house to house to sing traditional New Year’s carols.


"Silent Night" - the Christmas carol

Applicant: MMag. Michael Neureiter i.V. Stille-Nacht-Gesellschaft
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

The song “Silent Night! Holy Night!” was composed in 1818 and has since become a focal point in peoples’ Christmas celebrations, both in the trusted circle of family and friends as well as ecclesiastic festivities, particularly the Christmas Mass. For many, “Silent Night” is the mother of all Christmas carols.


"Schleicherlaufen" in Telfs

Applicant: Fasnachtkomitee Telfs, Obmann Dr. Stephan Opperer
Province: Tyrol

Approximately 500 men participate actively in the “Telfer Schleicherlaufen“ tradition (an event with costumes and dance that centers around Shrove Tuesday); a number of chronicles report that many families have participated in this tradition for generations. The participants (all male) come together every five years to form new groups. Many people in Telf (Tyrol) are in close contact with each other during the preparations for Shrove Tuesday due to creating costumes and piecing together jewelry.


Transhumance – the driving of sheep in the Oetztal Alps

Applicant: Kulturverein Schnals; Verein Pro Vita Alpina Österreich
Province: Tyrol

The transhumance in the Oetztal Alps is a special form of sheep driving hikes. These hikes go over the peaks of Timmelsjoch (2494m), the Hochjoch (2885m) and the Niederjoch (3017m) and are the only cross-border transhumance in the Alps that leads across glaciers. They not only cross climatic but also national borders. Every year in early summer, around 5,000 to 5,500 sheep from South Tyrol are led to the Oetztal pastures and back again in autumn.


Applicant: Waltraud Luegger
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna


The Ram Procession to Obermauern

Applicant: Bürgermeister Ing. Dietmar Ruggenthaler (Gemeinde Virgen), Bürgermeister Anton Steiner (Gemeinde Prägraten)
Province: Tyrol

The Ram Procession originated during the Thirty Years’ War when the inhabitants of the two East Tyrolean villages Virgen and Prägraten first embarked upon a pilgrimage with a ram to give thanks for the end of a devastating plague epidemic. To this day, the pilgrimage still takes place every first Saturday after Easter, the so-called “White Saturday”. On a alternating basis, the pilgrims from either Virgen or Prägraten bring along with them a festively decorated white ram to the pilgrimage chapel Maria Schnee; following Holy Mass, this animal is raffled off in front of the chapel.


The knowledge of hazel spruce as tone wood

Applicant: Kassian Erhart, Verein Forum Haselfichte
Province: Tyrol

Due to its genetically-encoded hazel growth, the hazel spruce (“Haselfichte”) can mostly be found in the forests of the Alps at an altitude of 1,200 meters above sea level. Only very few experts are able to identify this quality of wood on an upright tree. The hazel spruce is clearly identifiable by removing a small piece of bark from the part of the tree where small, longitudinal furrows run down its trunk. The hazel spruce has always been used for the construction of instruments, as its specific characteristics satisfy the high demands in wood quality.


Knowledge concerning the locations, harvesting, and processing the spotted gentian

Applicant: Gemeinde Galtür, Bürgermeister LR Anton Mattle
Province: Tyrol

The knowledge of where to find and how to harvest and process the spotted gentian (gentian punctata) has been passed on for centuries among the people of Galtür in Tyrol. Most of the time, the entire local population is involved in the process of digging up and harvesting the valuable root as well as its further processing into Gentian schnapps. Until today, lots are drawn at the annual parish fair to decide which families will take part in the extraction of the roots and the making of the schnapps. Since the 17th century, local regulations for root collection as well as general nature conservation rules have sustainably safeguarded the survival of this rare type of Gentian.


Knowledge of traditional seed cultivation and production

Applicant: Verein ARCHE NOAH
Province: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Vienna

Every culture has developed specific species and varieties of edible plants, with the associated knowledge and techniques being adapted to its dietary habits and the growing conditions at hand. By means of targeted planting, care, selection, usage and multiplication, farmers and gardeners have given rise to an enormous degree of diversity. The knowledge of seed planting, seed harvesting, selection, cleaning and storage was and continues to be passed on from generation to generation both in families and in communities. Farm and local varieties, which are ideally adapted to regional conditions, not only constitute the basis of families’, communities’ and regions’ nutrition, but also provide for common identities within such groups. It follows, then, that varieties of certain agricultural plants such as rye (e.g. Lungauer Tauernroggen), beets (e.g. Wildschönauer Krautingerrübe) and maize (e.g. Vorarlberger Riebelmais) are directly associated with local products and/or dishes.


Zacchaeus singing in Zirl

Applicant: Marktgemeinde Zirl
Province: Tyrol

Zacchaeus singing in Zirl is an annual fair tradition that takes place on the third Sunday in October starting at 4:30 a.m. Apart from the time of day, a special feature is above all the connection of religious and secular practice. Every year, around 200 people gather on the square in front of the church and sing the Zachäuslied (“Song of Zacchaeus”) along with the church choir and a group of wind players; this song was written during the 18th century by a sacristant from Zirl and has to do with repentance and penitence. Starting at the church, they proceed together to the next square in the village. There, the Zachäuslied is heard once more before the secular part of the fair begins. Musicians play, and people dance in the streets. Scouting groups and members of church youth groups offer doughnut-like pastries, which they make together the evening before. Zacchaeus singing contributes to a sense of community, with many individuals and associations involved in preparing for it. The
tradition in and of itself thus functions as a unifying element in this steadily growing town near Innsbruck, bringing together new arrivals with the people who grew up there.