History and Culture

The forest is a place of stories : tales and legends, stories revealing the challenges of daily life in the mountains …
Sometimes these stories meet History. Here are a few:


Made in  Bigorre and the Basque Country , for some ceremonies, the cake to the pin is made of spun dough and gradually wrapped around a rotating beech cone above the fire.

At weddings , the tradition was that the mother of the bride turns the spindle, and her daughter form the cake. Then, it is  decorated with ribbons and sweets.
At home, when served in the hollow mandrel , a pair of turtledoves or other wild birds would be displayed .
The bride would raise the cake and if the birds went south , the couple would be very happy…
For baptisms, same scenario. But with tits …


From 1829 to 1843, village groups of men dressed up as women in the Ariege region to fight against the decision of the State to take back the federal common ground and establish a forestry administration. Firewood collection, gathering, clearing and burning for cultivation of some parcels, gleaning, grazing, hunting, fishing, poaching… were prohibited. Franchises and ancestral use rights are removed and the farmers who continued to practice was considered « outlaws » and sentenced to heavy fines. Only authorized, was forest logging for commercial use. At that time indeed, the nascent industrialization and the recent railway required more charcoal produced in the forest.
For the villagers, who often lived in self sufficiency, the consequences disastrous. Disguised as women with long white shirts, scarves or wigs, blackened or hidden face, they began to attack, often at night, the big landowners, forest guards and gendarmes, the masters of ironworks and coal. In small groups of a few dozen men in each village, they operated independently on a country they know well. Farmers would lead this « war » with few weapons but with pugnacity: threatening letters, cupboards on public buildings, surprise attacks by small, highly mobile groups that were based in nature and within the population.

Sometimes the ‘Demoiselles’ would show in daylight, like the parade weapons and music during the festival village Balaguères January 24, 1830, or visit three days later in Massat when 500 Demoiselles entered the town of Massat to file their concerns: elimination of any tax on collecting firewood in the forests and especially the departure of rangers.
The central government found itself helpless in front of this « war of the ladies. » Amnesty measures would be taken and a more  relaxed legislation established.