Saturday, April 7, 2018

50 Shades of Czech Easter

Annual Ass-Whipping for Fun and Fabulous Prizes...

In the Western time-honored Easter tradition, children flock to the green gardens of suburbia in search of colored Easter eggs. Meanwhile, in Czechia, boys gather willow branches, weave them into switches, and chase women through the streets until they catch them and whip their butts reeeeeaaaallll gooooood. And the women give them colored Easter eggs and candy for the effort.

It's a pagan fertility ritual!” squealed my hippy-dippy California friend when he visited me in Prague in 1998. There was some truth in his wild guess. Most pagan seasonal rituals were eclipsed by the Mighty Church in an effort to quash them by substituting religious celebrations in their place. Both Christmas and Easter coincide with the pagan celestial celebrations of the winter solstice and the spring equinox. And that is not a coincidence.

More Easter Than Most Countries

In the West, we get a couple of days off to celebrate Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But in the grand old tradition of taking it easy and enjoying life, select Europeans get extra Easter holidays. They've got Ugly Wednesday, Green Thursday, Good Friday, White Saturday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday. All they need is Fat Tuesday and a bit of jazz and it could be Mardi Gras.

My wife and I took advantage of the long weekend to leave Prague and spend time pursuing one of my favorite pastimes: eating fried cheese and drinking beer in castle pubs. For all of these events to come to pass, all planets in the cosmos must align properly. And in the sleepy medieval town of Loket, all portents pointed to pleasure and I got my wish.

What Is the Meaning of This?

Be good and beat some butts!
The boys and men take great care in selecting willow branches with just the right bend and just the right 'spring' in the wood. They must be supple enough to be twisted and woven into braided whips capable of beating eggs out of the most resilient of booties. The ends of the whip are decorated with colorful ribbons, and the finished Easter Excalibur is called pomlázka. If the boys are all thumbs or too lazy to climb a tree, they can always buy them pre-assembled by senior citizens trying to make a buck.

Next they take to the streets in search of butts to beat. When they find a girl, they chant “Hody, hody doprovody, dejte vejce malovaný, nedáte-li malovaný, dejte aspoň bílý, slepička vám snese jiný…” which means 'Give me all your eggs and I'll return the favor by beating your bum with this here switch o' mine. Oh, and those eggs better be colored as well.' This is not assault, nossiree Bob. Recipients of the ritual beatings bear not only light red welts on their buttockal regions, they will also receive blessings of health and fertility. Traditionally, girls who did not get threatened at whip-point for their precious eggs felt neglected, undesirable, and were forced to join a convent. Holidays are harsh.

A Village Easter Monday Bristling With Whips and Wicker Baskets

Hold your whip higher, son. 
Up until last weekend, I'd never witnessed this ritual firsthand. Mainly because these secret pagan traditions are nowadays only practiced in small towns and villages, away from big cities and the prying evil eye of political correctness, cultural condescension, and general assault charges.

We stomped around Castle Loket on Easter Sunday, I ate my smaženy sýr and drank my castle beer, and I got some wicked castle shots for the old photo archive. Easter Monday we checked out of the B&B and embarked on a casual walkabout of the old village for a few hours before heading over to Karlovy Vary, then homeward.

The first punters presented themselves. Three Czech boys in their late teens swung their pomlázky like gunslingers at high noon. They sniffed, snorted, grunted, giggled, swigged their beers, and checked their smartphones. Hell, they're teens after all. Maybe they had a booty map app.

Young Whippersnappers

As we winded on down the road toward the village bus stop, we saw several boys ranging in age from 8 to 18, all armed to the teeth with whips and grins. Most of them carried wicker baskets full of colorful eggs plundered from village booties. But not a girl in sight anywhere. Were they hiding in their cottages with pillows on their sore rumps? Did they all become feminists overnight and start whipping boys' butts in revenge?

I didn't stay long enough to stalk the girls and ask them to comment for my bloggy-woggy. Instead, we switched venues to view another form of cultural oddity known as Karlovy Vary. It's not just a Czech spa town, the home of a film festival, and the source of Becherovka. It's also a weird kind of hybrid of Moscow and Hollywood, where uber-rich New Russians buy gaudy jewelry from store windows and prance about like Stalin's stallions.

But that's a story for another day...


photo: Gabriela Sarževská

When the Wide Body Jetsetter isn't busy eating fried cheese in castles and practicing Easter whip fu, he makes a modest living as a professional photographer and a freelance writer, which seems to explain an awful lot.


Anonymous said...

Nice photo of "pomlázka ninja" :-)

Craig Robinson said...

If Elvis were to visit Prague, he would say "Diky. Dikyverymoc."

- Big Sir