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What Does Werner Herzog Have to Do With the Mummers?

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If you’re not familiar with the annual Mummers Parade in Philadelphia, you really should be.

A New Years Day tradition going back more than 100 years- with associated European ancestral traditions going back as far as the mid-17th century- the Mummers Parade is the oldest folk festival in the United States. It’s essentially a Northern, secular Mardi Gras in January, with music, beads, marching bands, tough neighborhood guys in makeup and dresses, and lots and lots and lots of drunk clowns. My kids love it.

Attending the parade Wednesday, I took in all the usual sights- highlights included a walking Christmas Tree, multiple drunk people on stilts, and a “Batmobile” consisting of Batman, Robin, and at least open container.

But one thing I saw at the parade jumped out at me: A certain phrase, written on buildings, that I saw lots of places along the route: ” “Werner Herzog Believes in the Mummers”:

werner1

 Quite a few people on Twitter and Instagram noticed too:

via nathank1989 on Instagram

via nathank1989 on Instagram 

Via @rorymcglasson on Twitter

Via @rorymcglasson on Twitter

Via @mattspolar on Twitter

Via @mattspolar on Twitter 

Via Dejesus24 on Flickr

Via Dejesus24 on Flickr

Werner Herzog, of course, is the macabre German auteur behind such classics as “Fitzcarraldo,” “Aguirre The Wrath of God” and the documentaries “Grizzly Man,” “Encounters at the End of the World” and “Cave of Forgotten Dreams.” The graffiti appears to be a humorous non-sequiter in the tradition of “Andre the Giant has a Posse,” as the 71-year-old Herzog has no known ties to Philadelphia or to the Mummers.

I contacted the editor of LOLadelphia!, a Tumblr blog that collects amusing images of Philly graffiti, and he directed me to a blog post from last July, connected to an earlier “I Believe in Werner Herzog” campaign that appeared in Philadelphia and the photographs that were later taken of it.

Theo Constantinou of Paradigm magazine is the author of the post, and while its unclear if he is claiming responsibility for the building markings or just the photographs, he states he was inspired to believe in Herzog after viewing “Burden of Dreams,” a documentary about the making of Herzog’s “Fitzcarraldo.”:

 Herzog’s tenacity and resilience gave me hope that I too could manifest my dreams in reality no matter how insurmountable the obstacles were that lay in front of me, this was the moment that led me to believe in Werner Herzog. 

How that ties in with the Mummers, exactly, and whether the same parties are responsible, remains mysterious. But I would love to see them return the favor, because a Mummer spring band presentation based on “Aguirre, the Wrath of God” is something I’d probably pay to see.

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