City Life: Prague - Medieval Fertility Ritual Leaves Czech Women's Rights in the Dark Ages
Huggler, Justin, The Independent (London, England)
FOR SOME women in the Czech Republic, Easter is a time to dread. Because today, all over the country, men will be beating women in public, without fear of arrest or prosecution. They are upholding one of Europe's more bizarre - and controversial - traditions: the Easter beating of women.
It's an old fertility rite that dates back to the Middle Ages; the only thing is that, in the Czech Republic, it's not confined to the history books. It is a ritual still assiduously practised by Czechs today.
On the morning of Easter Monday, men and boys whip women of all ages, around the legs with special whips made out of twisted willow branches.
The women reward the men for this with a painted Easter egg. The symbolism is pretty clear: the whipping, say Czechs, ensures the woman stays fertile and beautiful.
No woman escapes: women of all ages get a whipping, from children to grandmothers. In fact, it's considered rude to leave one of the women in a gathering out, even if she's 70 years old. The whipping is supposed to be symbolic, more a gentle tap.
But a lot of Czech women complain that men are abusing the tradition. "I've hated Easter since I was a child," says Barbora Gomezova. "When I was 11 I was with a group of girls; we were attacked by a group of older boys, around 16 years old. They had been drinking, and, instead of willow branches, they were using electric cables as whips. They hit us a lot around the legs; I had bruises all over my legs.
"The worst thing was that I felt so powerless, they were hitting me with electric cables and I had no way to fight back."
Traditionally, women get their revenge for the whipping by chucking cold water over the men. This is supposed to ensure good health. But sometimes the women end up getting the cold shower as well as the whipping.
Vesna Brabic, 35, found that out a few years ago when she was unceremoniously picked up and thrown into a fishpond by a group of drunken Czech men on Easter Monday. Her stepmother was thrown …
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Publication information: Article title: City Life: Prague - Medieval Fertility Ritual Leaves Czech Women's Rights in the Dark Ages. Contributors: Huggler, Justin - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: April 1, 2002. Page number: 11. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.