Slovenia Revealed
Originally, the spearmen were intended to drive away evil spirits who tried to prevent the wedding. Over the years, however, they have become an unmissable part of the Kurentovanje festivities. Along with other characters in the annual parade, they help make Slovenia’s pagan traditions come alive for the modern era. Foto: BoBo

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Slovenia’s Ancient Wedding Dancers

Slovenia Revealed
28. February 2018 ob 07:07
Ljubljana - MMC RTV SLO

The Ptuj Field, surrounding Slovenia’s oldest town, is a part of Slovenia particularly rich in folklore and pre-Christian traditions. When the Kurentovanje festival goes underway each year during Mardi Gras, kopjaši (“spearmen” or “lancers”) are among the most popular characters in the traditional parade. But they also have a year-round role: they accompany wedding ceremonies in the area.

The distinctive clothing of kopjaši makes them immediately recognizable. Their outfit is mostly black, with the only exceptions being a white shirt under the coat, a red tie, and a white-blue-and-red sash representing the Slovenian flag. In their hands, they hold a “spear” – essentially a long stick with multicolored ribbons at one end.

When the groom makes his way to visit the bride on wedding day, one of the kopjaši greets him by ceremonially raising a spear above his head, creating a symbolic arch for good luck. The spearman then takes part in the wedding procession by dancing and throwing his colorful spears in the air. But he also has to be careful, as village youths try to steal his spear whenever he sets it down. Traditionally, the spearman also keeps the bridesmaid company during the wedding.

All of the kopjaši must meet two requirements: they must be unmarried and have a sense of rhythm. Those who can throw their spears the highest are in particular demand, but sometimes the best friend of the groom suffices. In many villages, the selection of a spearman is one of the most important steps in the preparation of a wedding.

Originally, the spearmen were intended to drive away evil spirits who tried to prevent the wedding. Over the years, however, they have become an unmissable part of the Kurentovanje festivities. Along with other characters in the annual parade, they help make Slovenia’s pagan traditions come alive for the modern era.

Jaka Bartolj
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