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'Men of the forest' emerge to protect against avalanches

Local News // Oct. 24, 2016
'Men of the forest' emerge to protect against avalanches

The “Woldmanndli” (men of the forest) have emerged from the Gurschen Forest and entered the village of Andermatt, ringing cowbells and blowing goat horns, to carry out a 600-year-old ritual to protect the village from avalanches.

In the Middle Ages Andermatt, in canton Uri, was covered in trees, but the local population worked through them to build houses and to keep warm, increasing the threat from landslides and avalanches.

In 1397, the valley dwellers declared what is now the Gurschen Forest to be a Bannwald (avalanche protection forest).

The declaration was reaffirmed in 1717 and later, stated under threat of punishment “that no one shall take or carry anything from this forest, not even rowanberries or pine cones.”

The job of enforcing this fell to men, probably day labourers, known as Woldmanndli, who on Saturday would come down from the Forest in their work clothes, sounding their goat horns and cowbells.

They were enthusiastically received by the grateful villagers and the tradition has continued today, becoming noticeably more popular in recent years.

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