Bonfire, Czech, Hallowe'en, Historic injustice, James VI & I, Scotland, Slovak, Spring, Witches
There must be a story or two here.
On 30 April the Czechs have a custom called Burning the Witches. It’s a custom that’s alive and well. April 30 is six months after Hallowe’en, and comes right between between the spring equinox and summer solstice, so on this night Czechs say goodbye to winter and welcome spring by burning “the witch of winter” as an effigy on a bonfire.
In the best Czech fashion this has lost its magical appurtenances and is a good excuse for people to gather round the bonfire, listen to live music, cook sausages and – would you believe it? – drink beer.
The photos are of this year’s celebrations at Klánovice, on the easternmost edge of Prague.
Their neighbours the Slovaks have their own tradition of marking the end of winter by burning the effigy of Morena, the goddess of death and winter, and then hurling her into a river. (See the kafkadesk.org website for more info.)
It’s interesting to reflect on the comparison with the current campaign in Scotland to obtain pardons for the estimated 2,500 women who were executed under the Witchcraft Act between 1563 and 1736. For some reason the Scots killed five times more ‘witches’ than other European countries. King James VI & I was especially enthusiastic in this regard. (For information on the petition to the Scottish Parliament see https://petitions.parliament.scot/petitions/PE1855.)
Witches don’t have to be just for Hallowe’en … Any story brewing?
Photos: Ed Peacock