KurentA fairytale creature that brings Spring
It’s Carnival season all over the world. Venice has a world-renowned Carnival Feast. So does Rio. And Slovenes can’t be left behind in this matter. We decided to pay a visit to the oldest town in Slovenia and witness the traditional parade with over 1800 masks, representing ethnographic characters including Kurent, Gypsies, Spearmen, Diggers, Plowers to name a few.
Who is Kurent?
Kurent (Korant, Korent, Kurant, Karant, Korat) is a fabulous or fairytale creature of Slovenian mythology, which is not known to other nations. In the narratives of the 19th century Kurent appears as a god of joy and wine. In some other narratives, Kurent is known as a creature who with the magical instrument persuades people, including Death, to dance, or as a patron saint of joy and life-giving, especially during the carnival time (St. Kurent).
Since they once celebrated the new year on March 1 (beginning of the Spring), Kurent was a pioneer and the initiator of a new life brought by the spring and patron of unlimited joy.
The most common belief nowadays is that Kurent chases away Winter, brings spring and abundance to the land.
It’s easy to recognise them by their typical attire known as Kurentija. The attire consists of a massive sheep skin suit, red knee-high stockings (green also), big bells attached to a chain around the belt and a Ježevka (a wooden club topped with hedgehog spines). Women give Kurent their handkerchiefs as presents and Kurent attach them to their wooden clubs. The head of a Kurent’s mask is a major work of folk art in Slovenia. The masks are made of leather, with two holes cut out for the eyes, and a single hole cut out for the mouth. The holes are surrounded with red paint. A trunk-like nose is attached, along with whiskers made of twigs and teeth made of white beans. The final touch is a long, red tongue which dangles down to the chest. The mask is the “face part” of a huge head dressed in sheep skin. There are two types of Kurt nowadays, “feathery” and “horned”, with the difference being mainly in the look of the head covering.
Kurent’s Bells are attached around their waists.
The Kurent travels throughout the town, moving from house to house to scare off evil spirits with the noise of their bells. A devil acts as the leader of the procession. He is covered in a net to catch souls.
Kurent is just one of the carnival schemes and masks. However, the ritual dates back to the pre-Christian era and is one of the few celebrations that the Church has failed to transform or give new content. Masks attracted the spirits of their ancestors, and at the same time, in addition to a higher mythological role, winter demons and ghosts were also extinguished.
Devil – the leader of the procession.
is one of Slovenia’s most popular and ethnologically significant Carnival events. It is the richest international Pustovanje (Shrovetide celebration) in the land. Kurentovanje takes place in Ptuj, the oldest town in Slovenia, which celebrates 1850 anniversary of the first written mention this year. The first Kurentovanje took place in Ptuj in 1960 and the festival developed and grew throughout the years. Today Kurentovanje is a very important local, national and international festive tradition. Many events take place in the towns squares and streets throughout the festival time, such as ethnographic and carnival parades, presentation of ethnographic characters, concerts and performances.
Prince Carnival with personal guards.
Every year new Prince Carnival is chosen as a sign of gratitude to an individual who works and lives in the spirit of preserving the rich traditions of Shrovetide customs in Ptuj. The Prince Carnival recieves the town key from the mayor of Ptuj and becomes the authority of the town and the carnival in the festive period. The Prince Carnival represents a historical figure with his presence, outfit and personal guards.
The name comes from the festival’s central figure, the Kurent. Door-to-door rounds of Kurents is a Shrovetide custom practised from Candlemas (2 February) to Ash Wednesday. Kurents practise their rounds through villages and nowadays also through the town of Ptuj. Groups consisting of Kurents and one or more devils run from house to house, form a circle in the yard and jump around the owners. According to their beliefs, the noisy bell-ringing and brandishing of the wooden stick chase everything evil away and bring happiness to those they visit.
Since 2017 traditional door-to-door rounds of Kurenti are inscribed in Unesco’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Men, women and children are actively involved in all activities associated with the custom. Kurenti normally form groups, and some even establish associations. One important bearer is the Federation of Kurenti Associations, which acts as the umbrella organization. Kindergartens and elementary schools assist in the safeguarding process, and some formal education courses and informal workshops help maintain respect for the practice.
Children are actively involved in all activities associated with the custom.