Death of a Slavic goddess

I notice the seasons here much more than other places I’ve lived in Europe. The weather varies much more between seasons than I’m used to – cold, snowy winters and hot, bright summers. Also, there are many events connected with seasons, the associated foods and their coming and going.

The end of winter is no exception. An ancient tradition here involves assembling a larger-than-life straw doll to symbolise Marzanna, the Slavic goddess of winter, rebirth and dreams. I couldn’t make the pre-party the night before, but reportedly eight hours of hearty drinking were needed to assemble this 3m straw and branch figure. Similar traditions take place in nearby countries, with Marena (Марена) in Russia and Ukraine, and Morena in Czechia and Balkan countries.

Leaving from the edge of town, a local group of friends, children and dogs snaked its way through the long grass that goes out towards the A4 highway overpass.

Three men carried the effergy up onto the viaduct abovea small river, from where it was set alight and launched off into the water below. Out with winter and in with spring. Cheers and applause.

We started a small campfire in a clearing to toast the obligatory kiełbasa (Polish sausages). Even young children were part of the fire building and maintenance. They learn quickly not to get too close.


In this town at least, the tradition is very well-known but doesn’t seem to be widely celebrated at the moment. It’s not without its controversies too, mainly because the some of the petrol used to set the straw figure alight probably doesn’t burn off before landing in the stream. Our group was aware of this though and quickly moved the ‘body’ up onto the bank.

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