Drowning of Marzanna in Polish tradition

Drowning of Marzanna is one of the few old Slavic rituals that is still cultivated today. According to folk tales, Marzanna is a Slavic goddess who symbolized a demon. The death of Marzanna, according to folk beliefs, meant the awakening of nature to life, and thus the beginning of spring. The symbol of Marzanna was a puppet, which was burned or drowned. It was believed that this ritual was a kind of sacrifice to ensure the future harvest.

What used to be the habit of drowning Marzanna? The puppet was made of straw, canvas and numerous decorations (beads and ribbons). Most often the puppet is stuffed on a stick, making it easier to hold it up.

Drowning of Marzanna in Silesia
Drowning of Marzanna in Silesia. Image courtesy

At first, all the houses in the countryside were limped by children, who additionally held juniper twigs in their hands. During this ritual, Marzanna was put into every passing water tank. At the end of the day, the puppet was taken by the elderly inhabitants of the village and led outside the village border, then set fire to it and thrown into the water.

The custom of symbolically killing Marzanna was for a long time considered pagan and even criticized by the Catholic Church. Despite this, the tradition has survived and is still cultivated in various regions of Poland.

The symbolic drowning of Marzanna takes place on the first calendar day of spring, March 21.

Most often, school children and youths or local folk ensembles participate in the rituals.

How is the drowning of Marzanna today?

In Silesia, apart from the typical drawning of Marzanna, the custom of “walking with a gaik" is also cultivated. Gaik is a pine branch decorated with ribbons and other ornaments. It symbolized the coming of spring and the blossoming of nature. After throwing the dream into the water, the villagers returned to the village with the gaik to bring prosperity to the farms.

Sometimes the celebration of the first day of spring ended with a feast.

Drowning of Marzanna is more fun than a ritual today. It is one of the ways to celebrate the arrival of spring.

In most places in Poland, a self-prepared puppet is carried in a group to the nearest water reservoir, possibly set fire to it and thrown into the water depths with traditional songs.

In many schools, this custom is usually part of the celebration of Wagarowicz Day (truancy day, when kids skip the school), which falls on the first day of spring.

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