Pictures of the year: festivals
The witch carnival has been running since 2003 (file photo) Eric Vidal/Reuters

A group of revellers at a witches carnival in Germany badly burned an 18-year-old woman when they reportedly dropped her into a cauldron of boiling water on 3 February.

Police in the Black Forest say they have identified suspects alleged to have pulled the woman out of a crowd of spectators and carried her over to the cauldron, presumably as a joke, only to lose their grip and drop her knee-deep into the hot water.

The accident occurred during the traditional witch carnival in the city of Eppingen, a boisterous night parade which is celebrated in the week before Lent.

A pair from the group, who were all wearing witch masks, have been identified as suspects – the person who carried the girl over the cauldron and one who lifted the lid.

The woman was initially "handed over" to the group by other spectators, who were embracing the spirit of the event.

The cauldron was sitting atop an open fire on a moving carnival float making its way through the parade.

There are questions about whether such a fire should have been permitted at the event, which has been running since 2003.

The young woman was hospitalised after suffering severe burns to her lower legs. Police believe it was likely she was scalded by the steam coming off the top of the cauldron rather than being submerged in the water.

She was taken to a specialist hospital for treatment.

The suspects have been identified and are said to be cooperating with local police, Hugulhelden.de reported.

Social media users criticised the "Witchcraft Eppingen" event on its Facebook page, with many angered by the organisers' decision to upload photos of the carnival's happier moments while the woman was still recovering.

"You should put your ass in boiling water," wrote one. "Then you will know what kind of pain the young woman was in. Not to mention the scars she will have for the rest of her life."

Mayor Klaus Holaschke said the city would be meeting event organisers and the police to discuss how similar mishaps could be prevented in future. He did not rule out the possibility that the event would be banned.

Police appealed for anyone who saw the incident to get in touch without hesitation.