The Slavic Spring Doll – The ‘Madder’

It’s human nature to build superstition. Without making any bloated comment on the beliefs, rituals and practices of any culture or religion, let’s just look into our personal lives and those around us. Before an important exam, we re-do exactly what we did the last time we scored well, sportsmen wearing right knee pads first or carrying the same handkerchief in their pockets… you know what I am referring to.

Building superstitions is our way of creating a faith of safety around us, to avoid what we don’t like.

It is cute and intriguing at the same time, if you think about it. How our minds create fears and then also come up with solutions that have no actual sense in logical reality.

Instead of condemning it, we could just realize how neat this human behaviour is and how it has been forming communities around superstitions – communities that love to perform these together and in the process, the added smiles and further communal confidence strengthens the superstitions.

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As I am adventuring in Poland right now; I was introduced to one of the old Slavic Pagan traditions of this region.

It’s called Marzanioka.

The Polish people hate winter. They hate it.

Almost everyone in Europe does. It’s understandable because the winter is very severe here.

Many traditions in Poland are associated with the end-of-winter and the welcoming-of-Spring. Just like it is in many cultures across the world.

One of these is called the tradition of the Madder. The madder has many names like Śmiercichy, Morena or Marzanioka. It is a colourful doll made by the local groups and communities, sometimes families, or friends etc. This doll symbolizes winter, illness and death.

It can look like this:

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This tradition finds its roots back in the old Slavic pagan tradition and is now largely practiced on the fourth Sunday of Lent.

Putting this doll in the river, burning it, and watching it melt away symbolizes the welcoming of the Spring season.

Like this one below. This one wasn’t burnt or left in the river to avoid causing environmental damage and was pulled back by the thread you can see attached and then destroyed.

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Of course with time and with the onset of the machine-run 21st century, this tradition too, like many others, is dying and is now just a spectacle meant for kindergarten kids.

Superstitions are fun J

 

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