August 15th, the “Grosse Frauentag” (Assumption of the Virgin), marks the high-point of the month, as far as popular customs are concerned. On the eve of the feast, a ship procession, inaugurated on the occasion of the Marian Year 1954, sails on the Wörther See (Carinthia).
On the day itself, the “Kräuterweihe” (blessing of herbs), takes place in western parts of the country. In Salzburg (for example, Weissbach bei Lofer) a special ornamental arrangement contains up to 72 species, while in some communes of Vorarlberg (Hard, Meflau, Lochau, Höchst, Bizau), the blessing includes, in addition to herbs, also garden fruit and vegetables. The blessed herbs are used, like other blessed branches, for averting disease and thunderstorms and for protecting homes and livestock.
The high feast of the Virgin is also an occasion for processions and pilgrimages. Among the latter, the pilgrimage at Maria im Stein on Pass Stein (Styria), is noteworthy as an example of the custom of venerating Saints on exposed sites. The procession arrives at about 10.30 a.m., and is followed by public worship.
Since 1925, flute-players have been meeting every August 15th in the Upper Austrian part of the region known as Salzkammergut to play the “Seitelpfeife”, a six-holed transverse flute. The exact location varies from year to year. The meeting is preceded by musical training sessions on the Wurzer-Alm or in the Stifter youth hostel (both in Upper Austria) where "schwegeln", i.e. the art of playing the Seitelpfeife is taught to beginners as well as to advanced players.
The Prettiest Tuft of “Chamois Hair” Contest
The Sunday following August 15th is the date of "Gamsbart-Olympiade", a contest between the owners of tufts of chamois hair, objects of high prestige among hunters, and an important feature of Austrian and Bavarian regional costume (influenced by hunters' clothing).
Towards the end of August, on the weekend closest to the August 24th (St. Bartholomew’s), a pilgrimage brings participants across national borders. It starts at Maria Alm (Salzburg), crosses the mountains called “Steinernes Meer”, and eventually arrives at St. Bartholomä am Königssee in Bavaria, Germany. At the crossing of the border a special musical ritual has developed.