S(v)ečan / February and the rites of kurentovanje

Just as the home had to be clean and tidy at the great celebration of the passage of the annual cycle, so it was at so called “Pust”; brooms were created from birch branches and places swept with them. Not only the dust and impurities in the material world, but also all the excess weight that we must leave behind in spiritual growth.

Each region in Slovenia has its own characteristic of these carnival masks, of which they are the most famous, or. the most traditional, from Cerkno, Drežnica, Cerknica and of course – Ptuj.

Kurent is considered the great god of Slovenes, who brings good will, new life and spring. He is the god of foolishness, the god of joy, wine, music, even sexual energy, where we could draw a parallel with the Greek Dionysus. In the old story, Kurent saves the last Slovene from a cosmic flood, and the Slovene promised him that he would keep the offered vine well. And to this day, the Slovene respects Kurent, who celebrates on Shrove Tuesday (and we also like to produce wine and appreciate a good drop). Even today, we are witnessing many carnival antics and parades in memory of the old days and thus respect for the past.

Carnivals with local specialties are found all over Slovenia, and they end with the burial, burning or drowning of Pust. There is a similarity between burning and drowning Pust which is often made out of straw and the ritual burning of Marzanna to say farewell to winter time.

An almost completely identical rite is also found in northeastern Italy, when a straw doll, usually made in black, is burned, marking the end of winter. The custom is called Femenute.

From 150 years ago we have a report on how in Gorenjska (region in north-west Slovenia literally “Upland”) on Kurent’s day ( 7 weeks before Ester on a Tuesday after Easter Sunday), they lit a bonfire and jumped around with poles wrapped in burning straw.
Such a custom was also widespread beyond region’s borders in the upper parts of Ljubljana. People had been preparing for such a bonfire for several days before, and the children also helped to light it. In some places, they also cut down a spruce tree and placed it in the middle of a bonfire. Everyone, including the children, prepared their brooms in this way, and when they set Pust on fire in the evening, they put the brooms in the fire and turned them so that they whipped them here and there and created sparks.
From 1900, we read how Carnival Tuesday night looked beautiful with so many bonfires which were sometimes even bigger than summer bonfires. Probably over 1000 of them burned.

Even today, they make a bonfire in Preddvor, in the Tuhinj valleys in the vicinity of Kamnik, around Komenda and Domžale. The old people in these environments say that some old “buckwheat goddess” would actually be burned, and that every year they burned the yarn in honor and threw it in the air. As high as it goes, so will flax grow. The yarn was later to be replaced with brooms and straw. Around Hrušica and Kresnice, they say that they chase witches with burning straw.

It is up to us to continue our old rites and traditions. It is up to all of us who nurture the spiritual path in the footsteps of our ancestors with the vibration of our space to also study the spiritual side of certain rituals.
For most people, al this is, unfortunately, only ancient folklore in a different guise.
With the help of historical sources, science, folk tradition and all modern knowledge, we can internalize everything through personal experience, that is given to us and truly understand the deeper meaning of a particular ritual. We understand it on several levels. It is very important that we know how to place it in this time, here and now. To follow the pulse of nature in such a way that, first as individuals and then as a society, we grow spiritually, we connect with The source from which we originate, to which we once, after several travels, return again.

May the carnival bring us good opportunities to clean up everything that weighs on us from the past, so that in the new year we can arrange a warm, friendly space for everything that awaits us. And so in good faith that the gods will take care of us.

written by: Irena Petrič (maiden name Urankar)
slovenian version: www.veles.si

the artwork: © Irena Petrič
The artwork can be distributed freely online but please display the authorship.
If you wish to use it for your commercial purposes please contact us: irena.svarunica@gmail.com

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