Laufarija in Cerkno
If your home was a small alpine village a hundred years ago, you might have known the Innkeeper, the Woodsman, the local baker, that proper smiling bourgeois couple, perhaps the town drunkard. And what about the Basket man and Scabby Guy?
I met them all and more in Cerkno, Slovenia. On a winter bus journey, I hopped off and made it home for a few days, to join their ancient Carnival rite, Laufarija, or The Run.
It’s classic old-world, pre-Lenten ritual. All things rotten; human foibles, bad crop yields, and harsh winters, are contained in Pust, a lumbering, mossy green horned devil. Spring can’t begin till the devil is tried, judged by a town tribunal, and dispatched.
In Laufarija headquarters, costumes of straw, leaves, moss, burlap, and skins, meticulously hand-sewn, align on hooks and hangers like some feral boutique. The mask maker explains his art. Maskers zip about the warren of rooms in various stages of dress. Theres a dog or two and yes, beer.
As Cerkno’s twisting streets fill with visitors; order must be maintained. So the Flaxmen, with their goofy, oddly sinister masks, race about, shaggy threads flying, clearing paths with whips fashioned from hazelnut branches. (Hence The Run)
“Pa zacnma” –Let’s Start!
Poor Pust; bowed before the magistrate, weighed down by heavy wet greenery and his ceremonial tree; I feel pity. As do the tribunal of judges, carrying legal tracts, somber in their wigs, robes, and joke-store beards. After hours of recitation, he is found guilty, to be executed “by mallet”— a conk on the head from the Woodsman.
With Pust and winter dispatched, Laufarijans will dance and rejoice. Since I kind of have a thing for the guy, maybe it’s just as well that I’m headed out of town. Besides, I wouldn’t want to do anything to hold up spring.