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Kurents in Ptuj

Photo: Arne Hodalič

Kurents are typical carnival characters from Ptuj, the Drava Plain and the surrounding area, and during carnival time kurents perform at traditional kurentovanje celebrations.

Among the best-known carnival customs (and costumes) in Slovenia are the kurents  or korants of Ptuj, the most popular and widespread traditional carnival figure of the area of the Ptuj–Drava Plain and the Haloze hill region. 

Kurents don their bells and costumes after Candlemas and, leaping about with their bells clanging, start to summon spring into the land and bring a good harvest. At one time only unmarried young men could wear the kurent's costume, but today older men, children and women can be kurents too.

The kurent's headgear consists of a leather hood covered with sheepskin. Goose feathers are sewn on either side of the headgear, which is topped by two horns with pheasant feathers. The mouth is made of white beans, the whiskers are of sorghum, the nose is large and pointed and a long red tongue protrudes from the mouth. The kurent wears five cowbells on a chain around its waist. In its hand it holds a wooden club, to the end of which a "hedgehog" is fastened. The handle is covered by a strip of leather to which young women tie handkerchiefs. A red neckerchief is worn round the neck. On their legs they wear red stockings or gaiters. Their feet are shod in heavy boots. 

Every group of kurents is accompanied by a devil, whose headgear (much smaller than that of a kurent) is likewise made of sheepskin-covered leather. The devil has two cow's horns, whiskers, a small leather nose and a red tongue. The devil has just one small bell, in contrast to the kurent's five, and carries a pitchfork. The devil's costume consists of red or black overalls, to the back of which a death's head is sewn. 

The Ancient Slavs believed that in the beginning the world was a happy place where bread grew on trees. But people became wicked, so the gods decided to destroy them and sent a great flood. Only four people survived, one of whom, so the story goes, was saved by a god called Kurent. The survivor had to promise Kurent that he would always love two plants: buckwheat and the grapevine. That is why Slovenians still love wine and dishes made from buckwheat today. 

Text by Tanja Glogovčan