Kurents

Februar 2006

Pust or Carnival is a time for tomfoolery. It is common to all the nations of Central and Western Europe. The Slovenian carnival heritage has undergone a lot of changes through the centuries, and in one of his books, the Slovenian ethnologist Niko Kuret wrote that when it comes to Slovenian carnival costumes, Slovenia is the richest among the European countries. A great variety of carnival customs and costumes can be found throughout Slovenia. This is also true of Styria where the most famous carnival figure is kurent, which is not only known in Slovenia, but throughout the world.

Kurentovanje stems from a hundred-year-old tradition of celebrating the Carnival in the areas of Dravsko and Ptujsko polje

Photo: Tomo Jeseničnik

Kurent (also known as korant) is the central traditional carnival figure in this part of the world, and the most popular and widespread traditional carnival figure in the areas of Ptujsko and Dravsko polje and Haloze. The Ptuj carnival, called Kurentovanje, which is the largest carnival festival in Slovenia, with a long tradition, was named after it. The Ptuj event is designed to preserve the cultural heritage and ethnographic tradition of the Ptuj region as well as of Slovenia. Kurentovanje,  which is one of the most important traditional events in Slovenia and Central Europe, stems from a hundred-year-old tradition of celebrating the Carnival in the areas of Dravsko and Ptujsko polje, and always brings magical joy and good humour. The present day kurent stems from folk tradition. In the old days, only unmarried men were allowed to put on the kurent costume, while today anyone, even a woman, a married man or a child, can wear it. The main role that kurents have today is the preservation of carnival cultural heritage and tradition. In the lowland as well as the mountainous part of Haloze in the Ptuj area, the kurent’s role has always been to drive away winter by jumping from side to side, bell-ringing and rituals, which is why they are thought to have supernatural powers. In the country,  the arrival of the kurent has always announced the beginning of the new life which comes with the springtime. Therefore, this creature has always been respected.

Variety of costumes

Photo: STO

There are two types: the one from the town of Markovci is covered in feathers; the other comes from the town of Haloze and wears horns. Each kurent wears a mask or a cap made from sheep skin, although sometimes rabbit fur is also used.

Its ears are made of bird wings, the nose is long and trunklike, and its moustache is made of maize, while white beans threaded on a string serve as teeth. A long red tongue of red cloth or leather is made to look as frightening as possible.

The other type looks the same, except for the cow horns and ears which are made of animal skin. Kurents usually wear a light coloured sheepskin, although they can sometimes be black. They continually whirl and jump around to sound the five cow bells that they wear fastened around their waists by metal chains. They also wear green or red leg warmers and heavy work boots. In their hands they hold a ježevka, a thin wooden bat with real hedgehog spikes at the top end which used to serve as a weapon. Ježevka is decorated with colourful handkerchiefs which a kurent has been given by girls.

The kurent with the most handkerchiefs is believed to be the most popular among girls. The greatest disgrace a korant could face was to have his mask taken off. At least one devil, who wears a red costume made from cloth, always accompanies a larger group of kurents. Devils can move more freely than kurents, so they help them in many ways. They also always frighten children.

It is possible to say that a kurent also known as korant is a mascot, a symbol and an ambassador of Ptuj, the Ptuj region and the whole of Slovenia. Kurentovanje in Ptuj is not just another festival, but an experience which one remembers forever.

Text by Kornelija Ajlec