Sunday, 13 March 2016

Drowning Morana - the End of Winter

I always spend March in England, for a number of reasons including being with my mother on Mothering Sunday. For this reason I have never seen the Czech traditional ceremony that marks the end of winter. But my friend Hannah has and she gave me this photo of the ceremony taking place in a small village a few miles from my home.

Morana was the Slavic goddess of winter and so her ritual destruction towards the end of March every year marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. The girls of the village create an effigy of Morana out of straw and branches, dress her in old clothes and drape a necklace of eggs around her neck. On the day of the drowning, she is processed through the village to the river, to the accompaniment of songs and music. There she is set on fire and hurled into the river.

It is obvious that this ceremony predates the arrival of Christianity to the Slavic lands and may at one time have involved a human sacrifice. In this country, in which winter can be very harsh and where we do not have the early wildflowers that act as harbingers of spring in England, a sacrifice might well be thought needed to secure the death of winter. Nowadays of course no other reason is needed than the excuse to have a party.

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