Monday, March 28, 2016

Slovak Easter Traditions...Whips and Water

How do you make sure that the women in your country remain young, fit, and beautiful all year round?  Apparently, in Slovakia you whip them with a small stick and pour cold water on them.  

I love the culture of Slovakia and find many of its customs interesting and fun.  But this one is a little unusual even for me.

On the Monday after Easter, men try to catch women to whip them with a small willow branch (named a "korbáč" in Slovak) decorated with ribbons.  The men use the whips to hit the women on the legs when they catch them.   

But the fun doesn't stop there, the men are also obliged in some parts of Slovakia to pour cold water on the women or even throw the women in a stream.

And after all this, what do the men finally get?  A slap on the face?  A trip to the local jail?  No, the women will then give them a decorated egg (or chocolate egg for a young boy) or alcohol for the adults.

The Slovak Spectator writes in one article:

“Pouring with ice-cold water belongs to pre-Christian habits,” Nádaská explains. “We know, for example, that all Slavonic tribes used to keep this habit. Water from a brook or a river was always considered “water of life”, i.e. that various positive features were attributed to it. In Slovak fairy tales, this water was even able to bring people and other creatures back to life, and this Easter tradition is based on “magic of the similar”; which means that the cold water from a brook or river, when used by a boy or man to pour over a girl, passes on its good features when touching the skin. Thus, women were believed to be made fit, rejuvenated, nimble, beautiful – all characteristics women needed in their lives.”...

Whipping is a similar case, she added. Young willow osiers were always used in western Slovakia to make the special whip, or korbáč. Willow is the first tree to get fresh new “sap of life” in the spring, and in the same way as the water, the good features of the young osiers were meant to transmit to the body of a girl or woman.  

So watch out ladies. I have my stick and cup of cold water ready for you.  But then again I am a little slow and you could probably out run me.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Slovakia Just Voted a Fascists in Its Parliament

Members of the People's Party Our Slovakia group, led by Marian Kotleba (pictured), wear black uniforms reminiscent of Nazi-era collaborators. Photo: Reuters

On March 5th, Slovakia held elections and voted a fascists party into its parliament. According to Foreign Policy magazine:
For the first time in the country’s post-socialist history, an anti-minority party with openly neo-fascist links, People’s Party-Our Slovakia, received 8 percent of the vote to gain 14 of the 150 seats in parliament. Even close observers of Eastern European politics (a rather small group) did not expect such a strong showing for the party led by Marian Kotleba, who has proudly donned the uniform of the country’s wartime fascists and has referred to Roma citizens as “gypsy parasites.” Instead, the experts had expected big gains for the established far-right party, the Slovak National Party (SNS), which has been trying to capitalize on Europe’s refugee crisis by indulging in xenophobic rhetoric. It seems, however, that many voters preferred the more extreme version on offer.

The magazine goes on to say:
 The elections in Slovakia are not just a one-off. Rather, they are emblematic of a broader trend: the far right’s growing appeal in Europe’s youngest and most vulnerable democracies.
On Monday, after it had become known that a fascist party had won seats in parliament, the first public demonstration took place in Bratislava.  Over a thousand people walked through the streets in silent protest of the fascist party and what they stand for.

Bratislava Protest March (Source: TASR)

The Slovak Spectator, an English newspaper in Slovakia, writes:

But repairing the damage these elections have done to Slovakia’s fragile democracy will take more than marching in Bratislava’s most privileged neighbourhood. It will take a long-term, nationwide campaign against extremism that visits schools, dominates media and resonates on social networks. It will require the vocal participation of many disparate groups, from sexual minorities to the church, from Roma to Muslims to Jews to mainstream Slovaks, from Holocaust survivors to the children of anti-communist dissidents. And in the end it will take many times more than a thousand people, because the true target of this protest is not Kotleba’s rabble, but the bitter, hopeless, cynical people who elected them.

The Slovak Spectator writes in another article:

Available data shows that many of voters of Kotleba’s party are young people who have never exercised their right to vote before, manual labourers and former voters of Smer party which have been at the helm of government for eight of ten past years. Just 8 percent of Kotleba’s voters said they backed the ĽSNS because of the migration crisis.
“Kotleba’s party in parliament is result of chronic social and economic insecurity, lack of perspectives and chronic lack of integrating values in our society,” Zuzana Kusá, a sociologist with the Slovak Academy of Sciences told The Slovak Spectator. “This situation has no simple or quick solution.”