Last days in Donetsk were so sunny and warm that everybody thought- spring has finally came to us! In Poland 21 of March is officially recognized as the first day of spring, so volunteers from Poland decided to share one of their spring tradition, also known in some other Eastern Europe countries- making a Marzanna doll. Folk custom says that on that day Marzanna should be built and later drowned in the river to say goodbye to cold weather and invite spring time. This tradition is dating back to pagan times, when the beginning of spring was considered as a very magical time.
So, who is Marzanna? In Slavic tradition it was old goddess of winter, plague and death, also known as Winter Witch. To protect themselves from Marzanna and everything she symbolizes, at the end of winter season Slavs were organizing farewell ritual, called the drowning of Marzanna.
How the ritual looked like in the past? Local people carried Marzanna through every street, ending up outside the town. There, the doll was thrown into the river. After the sinking of Marzanna, the procession had to rush back home, without looking back, out of fear of provoking the world of angry spirits. The sunk puppet could not be touched or watched, those who disobeyed this unspoken rule could expect a curse or even death.
How Marzanna looks like: She is made of straw, cardboard, brunches and everything what is easy to find in the nature and what decomposes easily. Traditionally, she was dressed in a colorful skirt or dress with a scarf on her head, but now people are using mostly rags to decorate her. Later she is placed on the top of the long stick.
How the drowning looks like: people throw decorated Marzanna into a river or a lake, during this ritual they sing and saying the following words: Marzanna, Marzanna, swim across the seas. Let flowers bloom and fields turn green! With time, drowning of Marzanna lost its initial sense of magic and turned into play for children which will remain in Poland for a long time as the proper way to welcome the first day of spring.
Last Saturday event was not only a presentation of the well known in Eastern part of Europe tradition, but also girls prepared workshop- all the gathered people were building together Marzanna puppet. Next Saturday we are going to meet again and finish the ritual with throwing ready Marzanna to the river. So everybody is invited!