40 Stunden Arbeit stecken in einer Zirbenholz-Maske
Devilishly beautiful!

The scary masks made by Timm Buckley are sure to give you goosebumps at festivals such as Perchtenläufen, Walpurgisnacht or Johannesfeuer. This Oberpfalz craftsman has taken the ancient tradition of Krampus masks one step further

Timm, the mask carver

From Rauhnächten and Hexentänze to Perchtenläufen: When the days get shorter and the nights get longer, demons and devils wander through the region around Neunburg vorm Wald. They rattle their chains and clash their horseshoes. Scary Krampus masks hide their faces.

What at first glance looks like a conventional mask is actually meticulous and detailed woodcarving – the ancient skill of mask carving.

Mit seinen Masken erweckt er alte Bräuche zum Leben

Rauhnächte and Krampus masks

Customs and traditions in which spirits and nightmarish figures work their mischief have roots going back hundreds of years in Bavaria. The Rauhnächte (literally “smoke nights”), for example, were first documented in the 16th century. Between Christmas and Epiphany, people look back over the past year and dare to take their first glimpse into the future.

When an icy wind whistles round the houses and the boundaries between this world and the next begin to blur, they smoke their houses with various plants to cleanse them and drive out evil spirits.

These rituals, along with devil figures such as the “Perchten” and “Krampusse”, accompany this magical time. Even today, Bavarians in many regions still indulge in these mythical practices, including in the Upper Palatinate.

Old tradition with individual influence

“They tend to be rather wild, extreme devil’s masks”

Timm Buckley has had many seasons as a terrifying Krampus. For almost all that time, he has been refining his skills in creating and restoring masks. Buckley has developed his own style over the years: “They tend to be rather wild, extreme devil’s masks,” explains the Bavarian free spirit.

With his creations, Timm Buckley is carrying on an ancient tradition while also introducing modern and innovative ideas into his work – a mixture that has brought him considerable success. They are particularly popular among the younger “Perchtengänger”. This is the name given to the elaborately masked groups who, at nightfall, move from house to house making a joyful noise in order to banish the winter demons.

Timm Buckley: Maskenschnitzer aus Neunburg vorm Wald

Restoration and mask carving

Damaged paintwork, broken horns or hair loss – it used to be no easy task for the mask wearers of the Upper Palatinate to find someone to repair their “Larven”, as these special masks are known.

“It came to me one day that I could simply do the refurbishment and renovation work myself – after all, I was trained as a joiner so I know my way around wood.” It takes him 35 to 40 hours to turn a piece of pine into a new mask. Elaborate extras require even more time.

In recent years, the interest in the old customs has noticeably increased. “There are now several Perchten groups, and more and more visitors are coming to the events,” says the mask carver.

They immerse themselves in the old myths and marvel at the scary figures with their shaggy fur, long horns and clanging bells. And they marvel too at the realistic carved masks of Timm Buckley, which send a shudder down the spine.

More about Timm and his masks: deiflswerk.de (only in German)

Rauhnacht: Schreckgestalten vor der Schwarzenburg

... from Timm

Walpurgisnacht at Thanstein Castle
On 30 April, scary witches and other figures make mischief in the ruins of Thanstein Castle. The arrival of May is celebrated there with a great Walpurgis show and atmospheric medieval rock music.

Johannisfeuer in Neunburg
The largest Johannisfeuer celebrations in Bavaria are held at the summer solstice, complete with music and fireworks.

Medieval market in Neunburg’s Stadtpark
The Middle Ages come to life at the end of July. Below the castle of the Wittelsbach dynasty, the former Hussite camp is turned into a lively market for the weekend.
hussiten.de (only in German)

Schwarzachtaler Heimatmuseum
This is one of the oldest and biggest museums in the Oberpfalz region and is housed in the Alte Schloss and the late Gothic watchtower.
museum-neunburg.de (only in German)

More stories about culture and customs

News from Bavaria

Get first-hand tips on stories, travel reports and events!