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The alpine dweller has developed customs and rituals to provide magic protection in dealing with nature, reluctant and unhelpful as it is, and its powers. With a prayer he has thus established a protective circular wall around his alp, his livestock, his hut, his pastures and his supplies. His popular beliefs keep him grounded. His prayers and pleadings give him support. Far from preachers and churches, the alpine dweller is his own and his circle's spiritual leader - the messenger to the creator.

In solitude we are likely to become more aware of our dark sides and to recognize more readily and profoundly the abysses of the “I.” Though perhaps, it is only here that they start to become so prevalent. Calls to stop and calls for safety or security remain unanswered. Maybe because tenderness is not available in the wilderness and the alp huts. TLC? How could taboos help here?


Skimming - Shaman

January 13th 2002 Wood, sheet metal and chamois horns, h 41cm, l 63cm

At one time this Ex Voto inspired gratitude for having cured an eye impairment.
Pilgrimage churches displayed many of them.
To have regained eyesight is of great import. But, the eye is also the source of evil looks.
The intimate rounded niche and the radiating chamois horns are a center of power.
Magic words and formulas are very close to prayers.
From the magic formulas of Merseburg to the horoscope.

The deftly hand-sculpted skimming ladle was once swiftly drawn over the milk's surface.
Now it has become a grimace that appalls even the cat.

Ueli Dubs


The Rosary that fell into the cow pie

During summer grandfather went to the alp; it was his passion, just as with father, who during his youth, had spent summer after summer there. After the cattle reached the alp, the site was blessed by a Capuchin monk in order to rid it for the summer of all evil ghosts - as the Alps bustled with many a poor, poor unredeemed soul. The Capuchin monk, a relative of the family, came with two new rosaries, one was for the prayers and the other for the protection of the cattle. Thus one was hung over the barn door and we were told it kept the animals together. It made the animals graze as if they were in a rosary formation themselves and so they would not get lost.

At times, by the alp behind Melchsee-Frutt, there was a frightening fog, wafts that seemed to emerge from hell, from a steaming fire. So we thought. It was far more than just an image. It was real. In those moments just one thing was possible: to say one’s beads and pour some holy water from the window. During these stormy thick wafts of fog even the cattle got lost. Why there were banks of fog that would not let you see further that a meter. Once, the herd got frightfully lost and the herdsman in charge was scared to death. Like Jesus, he had to pursue not just one way, but many to find his herd.

Only once, thank God, there was such chaotic confusion. It was unbelievable. The evil ghosts had won. But how could it have come to this? After all, the Capuchin monk had come in spring, and the rosary was hung over the barn door.
But, upon closer look, the herdsman in charge had the fright of his life: the rosary had fallen and fallen into the manure. That is why he was unable to keep his cows together.

The rosary was washed and hung again. The next day the sun shone and the cows laid peacefully and closely together on the alpine meadow. Even the dog had nothing to do and lay in the grass in the sun.


Al Imfeld


“To my grandmother”

August 1th 1999, Wood, iron and feathers, h 19cm, l 61cm

Here is one of my favorite poems.  I like to recite it by heart in the most appropriate and inappropriate situations:

“From your lips such mild goodness flowed!
Your prayers promoted our belief
Dispensing peace, like a white dove
From your lips to my youthful soul.

What gently glowed in my young chest,
Fell to the rational vultures’ quest
And has withered in life’s desert dust
All blossoms of juvenile lust.

Once loved by you, oh please return!
And once again, in the quiet of the eve, bestow us
The calm, blissful blessing of a child’s prayer!

Though, behold! The wound in my heart is too deep,
And the pretty land of childhood too far,
And you - you have long been hastily buried in the damp earth!”

Those who knew their grandmothers well, as I did, know what Heinrich Leuthold, the misunderstood Swiss lyricist
and contemporary of Gottfried Keller, meant in this poem. 

Evening prayers, unconditional love and kindness, practiced devoutness,
feelings of protection and a world view marked by maturity, experience and a variety of interests.
A sustained, sparkling vitality, on into ripe old age…

Ueli Dubs


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