Location: Town of Hlinsko and six nearby villages in the Hlinecko area (Studnice, Vortová, Hamry, Blatno), Czech Republic
Date: End of winter, during Shrovetide, which is the period just before the Christian Lent
Shrovetide (or the Pre-Lenten Season) is the Christian period of preparation before the liturgies of Lent begin. Apart from other customs it is first of all the opportunity for a last round of merrymaking before the start of the somber Lenten season. It is a „Carneval-type festival“ and therefore it is in general connected to other carnevals through the use of masks, rituals connected to winter-spring transition as well as harvest and fertility symbolics.
In the villages in the Hlinecko area men and boys, disguised in masks that depict traditional characters (red masks for boys and black for married men), go from door to door around the village, accompanied by a brass band. The procession stops at each house and four of the men perform a ritual dance, with the householder’s permission, to secure a rich harvest and prosperity for the family. In return, the masked men receive treats and collect a fee. A symbolic ‘Killing of the Mare’ ritual takes place after the last house has been visited, during which a mare is condemned for its alleged sins and a humorous and topical testament is read out. Following the ‘execution’ the mare is revived with alcohol, signalling the commencement of a dance as the masks frolic with onlookers.