Local History

Kleinbasel, 20. Januar 2020. Photo/Bild: TES.

Vogel Gryff, Leu and Wild Maa

The piccolos, drums and (march) music are similar to the Fasnacht. This tradition of Kleinbasel has a different origin.

Three centuries-old societies (Ehrengesellschaften) welcome their patrons Vogel Gryff (Bird), Leu (Lion) and Wild Maa (Wild Man) in January.

This tradition goes back to the thirteenth century when Kleinbasel and Grossbasel were two towns on the left and right banks of the Rhine.

The (wooden) Rhine bridge was built in 1225. This bridge connected the two Basels and led to significant growth of the trade and economic prosperity in Kleinbasel.  Rudolf I of Habsburg granted the town city rights in 1285.

Prominent citizens founded various societies: zum Rebhaus and Leu (1304 mentioned for the first time), zur Hären and Wild Maa (mentioned for the first time in 1384) and zum Greifen and Vogel Gryff (first mentioned in 1409).

The societies represented the interests of the citizens of Kleinbasel. The members guarded the city walls. The societies presented their weapons once a year on a march through the city.

The companies organise their parades through Kleinbasel on 13, 20 or 27 January ever since.

The three legendary figures Vogel Gryff, Wild Maa and Leu present a ritual dance to dignitaries and the citizens of Kleinbasel. They are accompanied by piccolo players, drums, the four Ueli (jesters) and three flag bearers of the societies.

The Members of the societies have a joint meal in the afternoon, the Gryffemähli.

The separation from Grossbasel is strictly maintained in this tradition. The parade never enters Grossbasel, but halts precisely in the middle of the Mittlere Brücke (renovated in 1905).

The figures always keep their faces to Kleinbasel and turn their backs to Grossbasel, like figures in Grossbasel stick out their tongues to Kleinbasel.  

The heraldry of the three societies is depicted on the windows in the cathedral  Grossbasel, however.

The societies march through Kleinbasel until late in the evening, accompanied by their piccolos and drums and the members of the three societies. (Source and further information: www.vogel-gryff.ch).