Slovak Heritage Live


Folk Customs are featured in book

European Contexts of the Folk Culture

You will find every town and village in the
Slovak Army 
Auto Atlas

Genealogical research

Ancestral Village Videos

Ancestral Village Photography

Journey Through Slovakia Videos

Folklore Videos

Get the history of any
village or town in Slovakia







"Our Marmuriena, where have you been?
There at the upper end, In the straw house.
What were you doing there? Embroiding bonnets."
(Oravská Poruba)

Taking out Morena-death belonged to the most important folk Spring customs in Orava. Merge of death with Morena led further to merging of Morena with sea, as her identity with winter. Originally this was a very dramatic custom that later on gained happy and funny character.

Straw figure was depicting Morena symbolizing death, sickness and winter. Most often she resembling a bride or a married woman, less often likeness of a man and in the area surrounding Sucha Hora, death, covered with white bed sheet. In some of the parts of the region we can find man and women variations together. In Northern Orava this custom wasn't practiced. There were different names for the women's figure: Marmuriena, Marmariena, Marmoriena, Mariena, Muriena, Mara, Death. Names for men's figure were Dedko, Dadko, Kysel, chuap, Simko.

Participants of this custom were grown up older and younger girls, and shortly married women. In the 30's of this century this custom started to fade and it was becoming of interest to 14-16 year old girls. Girls that used to get together for spinning took out originally Morena. This used to take place on Sunday two weeks before Easter, and also on Palm Sunday, week before Easter or on Mamuriena's Sunday, three weeks before Easter. Local name for Morena in some of the Orava's villages used to be the name for the Sunday on which they took out the Morena. Girls usually dressed up Morena in the house they met for spinning. They used their own clothing or borrowed some clothing from more beautiful girls. The goal was to dress up Morena so she look’s beautiful. Mostly in large numbered groups in some villages they were competing.

Girls walked with Morena in front singing through the village and somewhere they would also recite wishes.

"Marmuriena, marmuriena, Kysel's wife,
Where have you been?
In the spring, I was washing my feet.
What did they give you? Cut your bonnets.
Give it to the boys and girls.
When I go over the benches, Hold me tight,
When my mother will call me, throw me in the water."

They would stop under the windows of each house and sing always the same song, that had religious character, or they would put together two young people from the village.

"Hey, who are we marrying? Jana Nacikovie,
Hey, who will we give him? That Zuza Huckovie."
(Oravska Poruba)

During the wishes depending on the generosity of the house owners they would add blessings or express their displeasure for ungratefulness.

"Rye, wheat, rye, wheat, rye, wheat be blessed by lord!"

Similar character had a walk in villages where the women and men figures were parading together. Men carried the men’s figure behind girls.

"Kysel, Kysel, what did you thought, when you had to throw your wife to water."

After the end of the procession in some localities the girls would go to the end of the village to field where they would plant flax and that is where they would dance with Morena and jump high. In other villages they would sprinkle the straw from the figure over the fields. This way they wanted to assure rich and beautiful harvest of tall flax. Later they would strip the figure of it's cloth and the wooden skeleton covered with straw was thrown in water or burned at he end or the place of the water source of the village. During this act they would scream at the Morena: "Here you go, you witch!" Elsewhere they would call together: "So the spring will come sooner!" or Up summer, down winter!"

At the end of the ceremony in some villages, where the girls didn't go wishing on the way to water, they would go "asking" or "begging" on return trip. In lower Orava a girl that was voted queen would put Morena's cloth on and they would sing through the village again.

"Don't abandon our Queen,
they took her husband to the war,
she has nothing to feed her kids,
she has to visit good people.
Give her flower for buns,
Bacon, so your pigs will live,
Salt, so your bulls will live,
Sausages, so you will have lots of money,
Eggs, so your Janko will grow."

In the larger villages, where the girls get together in numerous groups for spinning, attached to certain customs they would sing and practice this custom inside in the houses. For their wishes they would be rewarded with eggs, bacon, flour, flax and occasionally with money.

After the ceremony they would again meet in the house, where they dressed Morena. In Lower Orava they made "sulance" hand made noodles cooked in water and served with scrambled eggs. Cooking of the noodles was to guarantee good harvest of wheat. In other villages they made mostly scrambled eggs with bacon or they would divide just the mixture. They would invite boys for the celebration, with whom they were getting together during the time of spinning.

Elena Benusova, ethnographer
Orava Museum
P.O. Hviezdoslava
027 41 Oravsky Podzamok


Published in the Slovak Heritage Live newsletter Volume 6, No. 2, Summer 1998
Copyright © Vladimir Linder 1998 
3804 Yale Street, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5C 1P6
The above article and photographs may not be copied, reproduced, republished, or redistributed by any means including electronic, without the express written permission of Vladimir Linder. All rights reserved.